Title: The Bull in the Field
The Russian Campaign had been around since 1975 but vigorous debates continue to rage regarding optimal openings and defenses. This treatise examines the merits of the “Massive Odessa Overrun (MOO)”, a German strategy that involves a turn one assault against the Russian Odessa Military District (OMD) that results in the Bug River being breached in the vicinity of Odessa after the 2-7 Russian cavalry unit is overrun on the second impulse. (As previous literature on The Russian Campaign has demonstrated, breaking this river line is a key Axis goal on turn one and severely compromises the Russian turn two defenses.)
When confronted with the MOO, a newcomer’s reaction is probably “how in the world did that happen”, “what can I do to prevent it”, and “what do I do now?” The ANGRY newcomer will likely also be thinking thoughts of “this is ahistorical or unbalancing, let’s make it illegal”. Fear not, TRC scholars and neophytes alike, I will try to sooth your anger and instruct you in the path to becoming a MOO-Master.
In summary, I will review the MOO, a smaller version which I will dub the “Mini-MOO”, and various ways to implement it, preempt it, or defend against both of them. Changing the rules of the game to explicitly prevent the MOO, directly or indirectly, is not advocated and out of scope for this analysis.
The Cow in the meadow; the Bull in the field:
From an end of turn one game board perspective, let us first look at what a MOO looks like. As the Russians, if you find yourself in a situation like either depicted below, you have been MOO’ed.
|<Picture of MOO>||<Picture of Mini-Moo>|
If you find yourself in this situation you, again, have been MOO’ed.
In case you believe that it can’t happen to you, here are just a few of the Russian OMD setups that are susceptible to the MOO. As you can see, most modern defenses are vulnerable to having the German ‘animal’ bursting through your OMD fences and on to the green fields beyond the Bug River.
The implications of being MOO’ed are significant. The obvious outcome is that the Russians will have to fight, and win these fights, to defend on the Bug on turn two. Barring that, they will need to defend further back in the South and expect much worse attrition because any forward defense will be from undoubled positions. What would otherwise sound like a cow ‘moo-ing’ will quickly become a rampaging bull if the Russians do not respond appropriately. A negative implication for the Germans, as recently highlighted by Gary Dickson in an eloquent post on ConSimWorld(2), the Russians will generally have a lot more combat factors on the board after the German assault due to the fact that the Germans will have a significant reduction in their opening assault firepower since so much armor is just idling in front of Odessa.
The distinguishing feature of the MOO is a breach of the Bug River in multiple hexes. More specifically, this means that the Germans have more than one panzer corps on or beyond the river line. In practice, the portion of the Bug we are talking about are the three hexes nearest to Odessa. When the ‘full’ version of the MOO is executed it is extremely unlikely that the Russians can mount a credible counterattack. There is slightly more difficulty in achieving the full MOO and, in general, the Russians should never give up a full MOO unless they already have experience defending against it. For all intents and purposes, the Bug line is fatally broken once multiple Wermacht units are across it.
This ‘smaller’ version of the MOO is characterized by a breach of the Bug River in only ONE place. In this variant, the bridgehead is sometimes susceptible to a 1-1 attack and thus gives the Russian player more options when defending. Defending in the open ground between Odessa and Dnepropetrovsk is greatly simplified when faced with the mini-MOO but, make no mistake about it, the Red Army defense in the south is still significantly compromised when the Bug line has been breached.
Building the Perfect Beast
So how did this happen? Here is some analysis to help you prepare to launch, thwart, or otherwise defend against MOO.
- There are ten German panzer units (AGN = 2, AGC = 5, AGS = 3)
- “Standard play” mandates that a minimum of 3 panzer units be used against the BMD and WMD. (I will not delve into “Crazy Play”, the working assumption is that you want to actually win the match as opposed to maximizing your MOO!)
Working backwards, it should be clear that the key element of MOO is having 40 Axis factors to attack Odessa on second impulse. The specific composition of this assault is largely tied to the number of hexes that you will have available from which to attack Odessa. If you only have two hexes, that will require a minimum of FOUR panzer units. If you have three hexes to work with, you will need THREE panzer units. Thus, to implement a full MOO with three panzer units on or across the Bug, you will need to be willing to commit at least SIX armor units to the deep south. If you’re willing to settle for Mini-Moo, you will need FOUR. That’s a lot of armor!
An important feature of MOO , from the German perspective, is to limit the Russians reaction to it. Reaction comes in three general forms: railed replacements, walking replacements, and shifting forces.
- The German can’t easily stop railed replacements but, on the other hand, the Russian rail net can’t put these in a position to cork up the Bug breach. (Railed Russian armored units could intervene on second impulse though.)
- Walking replacements will be the units the Russian builds out of Kiev, Kharkov, and Stalino. Usually one will see Russian armor and cavalry built out those cities being thrown into the fray. There are two mechanisms to limit this reaction form: (A) Surrender as many of these units as possible on the first turn (cavalry in particular) and (B) Not killing these units in other parts of the board. Option (B) is very subtle but it really hurts the Russian’s ability to stuff MOO if he has no dead cavalry to rebuild!
- Shifting forces are those units from the KMD that the Russian can bring to bear. Ideally, the KMD will have a lot of ‘fast’ units (7 MP over both impulses) that can screen the Bug. An attentive German player will attack the hinge between the KMD and the OMD and ensure that the KMD will have problems surviving, let alone plugging the Bug River break. This will generally require two or more armor units getting into the KMD-OMD gap on second impulse. Failure to limit the KMD shifting units to the west of Kiev just makes it that much easier for the Germans to go on the rampage on turn 2 in the south.
Here are some typical dispositions for setting up the MOO. Note that at least HQ is used, sometimes two are warranted.
There is much to say about the composition of the units that will be breaching the bug. Here are my general precepts: More is better, account for the Russian Reaction force, and limit your risk.
- All things being equal, the MOO is superior to the mini-MOO. Not only is the MOO less vulnerable to counter-attack, the threat it poses is MUCH more significant. (Remember: MOO features at least two panzer units breaching.) When given the choice, don’t use 6 factor panzer units. It only takes two fast Russian units to mount a counterattack at 1-1, you want to force the Russian to use three units when counterattack. Seven factors is about right, the eight-factor panzers might be needed to assemble the 40 factors against Odessa.
- Account for the Russian Reaction. If you know what the Red Army can marshal against you, you can use this information to properly dispose of your forces. Don’t put an eight factor Panzer unit on the river if a seven factor will suffice! Don’t put an HQ into a position in which it can be surrounded or attacked head on! If you can force a counter-attack soakoff against a doubled position, use a seven factor Panzer, not a six! (< 1-6 odds attacks are illegal so you are minimally forcing him to use a 3 factor unit to soak off with.),
- Limiting your risk is a general stratagem that is applicable in any situation where the balance of the game is unknown. In TRC, from the German perspective, that means don’t expose yourself to losses unless you have a darn good reason. In practice this means not advancing as far as you’re allowed to, factor-counting when assessing counterattacks, and assuming that the opponent gets the rolls he needs for things like retreating forwards, sea invasions, and the like.
With these lessons in mind, here are some are some typical good ‘Breaching Positions’:
And here are some bad ‘Breaching Positions’ that violate one or more of the precepts previously discussed:
At this point you should know what a MOO is and how to implement it. The decision to actually execute the MOO is different issue and I will address that later on.
The next logical developmental step is to look at how to prevent it. Analytical minds will logically start of at the beginning: The Russian initial setup. I will first examine OMD setups that PREVENT the MOO and then present a broader picture that reviews defensive thoughts on deterring the MOO.
The Strong Fence
One approach to physically preventing the MOO is to deploy the three units of the OMD in such a way as to prevent German armor from being within range of the Bug River. The proposed “Strong Fence” defense does just that. Note that there are some requirements regarding the linkage to the KMD – should you ignore that, Katy, bar the door, the Russians are open to a nasty FIRST impulse stampede in the OMD! Note that the 3-7 and 3-5 are specifically placed to account for the fact that the forward unit is least likely to be killed; the Russians generally WANT their cavalry to be attacked on turn 1 because they want to be able to rebuild them and use them to set up their turn two defenses.
As with any defensive setup in TRC, there will be trade-offs. In this case, the KMD is susceptible to being ‘wedged’ by armor units from AGS. This vulnerability was classically exposed in an early AH Series Reply. (3) In a nutshell, preventing MOO protects the lower Bug line but opens up a hole on the UPPER bug. The diagram below illustrates one possible result from usage of the “Strong Fence”.
Another way to prevent the MOO is to make the cost to the Germans prohibitive. In this context, ‘cost’ refers to the number of armor factors and units that must be deployed to achieve the desired result.
The Picket Fence
- An OMD setup that counts on combat luck to prevent it.
- Setups in the BMD, WMD, KMD that make the MOO less desirable
- How to defend vs the Moo
- How to defend vs the Mini-Moo
- Do you really want to defend against the MOO?
- When do you want to use the MOO? Applicable in all scenarios?
- Conclusion: MOO is important to know, from both sides, but understand your opponent before deciding.
Credits: I’d like to thank George Karahalios and John Ohlin for providing me with much of the foundational knowledge necessary for this article. Over the course of several discussions over the past few years, they demonstrated what it looks like, how to quickly implement it in a face-to-face competitive gaming situation, and how to account for various defensive nuances.