Barbarossa developer Notes #3: Who Is Going To Make My Cup Of Coffee In The Morning?

continued from developer notes #2

The Chain of Command

This is a little trickier than it first appears. Yes there is a Chain of Command. But where does the Player sit within it?

Most military simulation type games answer this by having you, the Player, being at the very apex of whatever Chain of Command exists. It’s an easy way to do it. You are the guy in charge. You make all the decisions. There is no need to worry about the implications of a hierarchy.


There are multiple subordinates who willing carry out your wishes. They are typically portrayed as a collection of stats. Their main purpose is to apply those stats as bonuses to various game mechanics. They have no opinions or agendas of their own. Their raison d’etre is to carry out your orders as invisible, one dimensional characters, who are there in the same way as a mountain is there.

Of course not all games are like this. There are some excellent examples in other genres but they are rarely found in the world of military simulations.

Back to the topic. The game takes a dual approach to the Chain of Command. For the Germans the Player is placed within the hierarchy whereas the Soviet Player finds himself representing the man at the top, Stalin. This allows the game to present two very different Command experiences.

Traction equipment lacking: Tests now in progress to determine serviceability of French traction equipment. Only limited mobility. Will have supply vehicles, but tactical mobility cannot be achieved (no ammunition columns). Two batteries are put on self-propelled mounts, to serve as heavy tank destroyers. “Traction Bns., motorised” could be formed, but chain of command and control would be very difficult in practice.

F.M Von Halder’s War Diary, 27th February, 1941

If you’re Stalin, you’re not going to be fussed about politics. Or opinions. You’re a ruthless dictator. Anybody steps out of line and you’ll have them lined up in front of a firing squad in short order. There is a directness and simplicity in being able to do exactly as you wish.

Is this then, the typical war game approach as mentioned above? No. People are still involved and while they aren’t going to argue the toss they will present other challenges. Still, once you put the Player at the head of the hierarchy the people aspect becomes less important. They tend to fade into the background. There needs to be a different focus.

What that focus might be did indeed present a design challenge. The approach I settled on was to make it an internal one – Stalin’s state of mind. More on this later but, for the Soviet Player, the role of the people involved, all of them subordinates, is not themselves but in what affect they have on Stalin himself.


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2 Responses to Barbarossa developer Notes #3: Who Is Going To Make My Cup Of Coffee In The Morning?

  1. Titaniumtrout says:

    One thing I really enjoyed about Command Ops was that your subordinates might not listen, might not be able to. The game felt more like a story than just a simulator. Watching those units jump to action right in the nick of time was very satisfying.

    Though watching the Shermans sit idly while the infantry was slaughtered felt aggravating, but also drew me into the game.

    I always thought it’d be great if a particularly confident General did something different with his Division than I ordered. Maybe I’ll be surprised? Or maybe we’ll have to plug a new hole in the line. As those counters represent men, not bits and bytes.

  2. Cameron Harris says:


    Subordinates do indeed present obstacles within the game.

    They don’t deliberately disobey orders but they will obstruct and obfuscate if your relationship with them is poor. The worse your relations are with your three Theatre Commanders, the more effort (PP) you have to put into making them do something.

    Command friction is present and can see the Armies, and Panzergruppes, under each of your Theatre Commanders, gaining movement bonuses and penalties dependent, once again, on your relationship levels.

    Additionally they’ll find ways of NOT providing Command Focus (gives advantages) to one of those new fangled Panzergruppes if you aren’t on speaking terms.

    It goes both ways though. As the German Operational Commander you are subject to interference from above from both your immediate boss and Hitler. The degree and frequency of this depends on your relationships and the overall strategy you have chosen.

    Stalin is a little different.

    If you’ve got subordinate troubles you can, if you wish, have Commissar Khruschev pay them a visit. Problem resolution in the Red Army in ’41 was of a terminal nature.


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