Trucking our way to an Early Retirement

Decisive Campaigns III design blog #7

This is a continuation of the invasion of a deserted Russia. We are field testing the logistical systems. For the first part refer to the previous blog post ‘Russia on Ten Barrels a Day’.

By D+12, the 4th July, 1941, Hoepner’s 4th Panzergruppe has crossed the Dvina River and taken Dunaberg and Riga. As you can see from our status report below, their fuel situation is still reasonable, a comfortable full quota remaining.

Guderian and Hoth’s (2nd & 3rd PG’s) in AGC are racing down the main highway to Moscow and have captured Minsk and Vilnius. With over two fuel quotas on hand they are in excellent shape. As AGC has the largest fuel allocation and they have clocked up the smallest mileage to date this is to be expected.

Down south, however, Kleist’s 1st PG are within 120 km’s (there’s a game option, ‘Imperial Measurements’, for those that don’t speak Metric) of Kiev but their fuel reserves are down to half a quota. Next turn, unless they call a halt, they’ll run dry.

This situation warrants further investigation.

Not a Russian in sight! You can see the SS Motorised Divisions, ‘Wiking’ and ‘Adolf Hitler’ closing in on Kiev. Will they get there before they splutter to an ignominious stop? Probably not.

Let’s check the Daily Log for AGS and see if our staff have highlighted any discrepancies.

Ahhh! Our Forward Supply Base hasn’t moved forward. It’s still back across the border at Krakau, in Poland. I thought that I’d sorted that out during the last blog (‘Russia on Ten Barrels a Day’). Apparently I only talked about it and forgot to issue the appropriate orders.

Which is unfortunate, as can be seen from our staff notes above, there is no rail component in use. Because our Forward Supply Base is still back at our Main Depot (the AGS depot – remember each theatre has it’s own independent logistical system) everything is being transported by truck columns. These are effective only up to 300 km’s.

Kleist's 1st PG HQ has advanced so far eastwards that it's not even on the map (there's a second map covering the eastern half of the theatre). Note that our FSB is still residing back at the Main Depot.

By forcing our Truck Columns to travel excessive distances (there is an exponential penalty once the distance exceeds 300 km’s) Kleist is receiving no fuel, up at the front line, where he needs it.

Worse, the large distances involved, plus the fact that Kleist has positioned his HQ off a main road (see the unit pic up above) has caused excessive wear and tear on our truck columns. Indeed, reading our report above, this increased +10% last turn with all of it being due to the poor quality roads (+8%) and the high accumulated mileage (+5%). The mobile repair workshops were overwhelmed (managing to fix only 3% of the damage). If this situation continues deteriorating shortly we won’t have any functioning truck columns left.

Note on Roads: There are a number of different types of roads shown on the game map in addition to various rail types. Any hex without either a road or rail displayed is assumed to have local roads/trails of some form (unless it’s adverse terrain, eg. A swamp such as the Pripet Marshes). As the established roads in Russia were of a very poor quality the local roads can be taken as nothing more than goat tracks. By positioning Kleist’s HQ in an open hex with no established transport network we are forcing our Truck Columns to shake, rattle and roll down rough country lanes in order to reach him.

All is not well in the world of trucks. We thump the desk, kick the nearest staffer in the backside and demand to be shown the latest Truck status report.

As a result of our negligence in not relocating our various Forward Supply Bases in line with our rapid advances we have all three theatres being forced to run their Truck Columns over the 300 km threshold. The problem is most acute in AGS with a crazy distance of 600 km.

Already we have 69 Truck Columns down for the count with mechanical problems. Each Truck Column represents around 20 individual trucks. In fact AGC has almost double that number out of action but they started with a larger pool of trucks and are still managing to get enough through to Hoth and Guderian’s HQ’s.

Have a look at the distance penalty for AGS. Ridiculous! We would need over three hundred Truck Columns, fully functional, to provide a fuel delivery service to Kleist’s 1st PG.

This is because the columns need to cover the 600 km’s for the delivery and another 600 km back to their Forward Supply Base to pick up their next load of fuel. As each turn covers a 4 day period the underlying algorithms calculate the amount of fuel that can be transported, taking into both account time and distance. The greater the distance traveled, the fewer deliveries can be made in the time allowed.

The game engine will calculate the most optimum transport route and tally up the cumulative total of each hexes ‘route difficulty’ (road or rail quality). There is no hiding from the Logistical Auditor.

The report tells us that to adequately cover the 600 km distance we’d need at least 310 Truck Columns. As we only started the campaign with 300, have already lost 69 to breakdowns, have another 100 dedicated to resupplying the other Armies in the theatre, 15 to handle PG ammunition and supply requirements and would need an additional 17 columns to allow for the poor roads, it appears we have an unsolvable problem.

We could, if we wish, reduce the number of truck columns allocated (100) to supplying the line infantry Armies and Artillery. Doing so runs the risk of them suffering from ammunition shortages but it would free up more trucks for fuel deliveries. There are political implications with this decision.

Yet all we need in order to adequately supply Kleist’s 1st PG are a meagre 15 Truck Columns. How many do we have available? Zero. Nor are there any truck columns getting through with ammunition.

The advance of 1st PG across the steppes of the Ukraine has effectively come to grinding halt on day 12 of the campaign. This is despite the fact that there isn’t an angry Russian to be seen anywhere.

Before we slink out of the Command Centre in disgrace, we’ll take a quick look at the Logistical Report for AGS.

You can see that 1st PG HQ has 3,646 bbls of fuel remaining on hand. This is the aforementioned half a quota and Kleist’s panzers will be running on empty before the turn is done.

Unfortunately we have exceeded the reach of our Truck Columns and subsequent turns will see the desperately needed fuel stockpiling up at our Forward Supply Base with no means of getting it from there to where it is needed (Fast Divisions draw their fuel, not from a global stockpile, but directly from the amount that resides at their relevant HQ, in this case 1st PG).

To rectify the situation we will have no choice but to halt the advance of 1st PG and wait until our Forward Supply Base is relocated. Because we are way over to the east this is probably going to take another 16 days (4 turns). By moving the FSB we will be able to shift the main transport burden off the shoulders of our Truck Columns and onto those of the Rail Network (which, as can be seen above, is idling with nothing to do).

Worse, by the end of the current turn we will have trashed close to one hundred of our Truck Columns, a third of our starting pool. Trucks are in short supply and the shortage will severely curtail our future ability to operate Panzers any further than a stone’s throw from wherever our Forward Supply Base is located.

However are we going to explain this to the Führer?

Feeling a mite queasy, it’s about now that we pick up the Bat phone and call the Luftwaffe. We request an emergency Air resupply of Fuel (we could also do the same for Supply but not both in one turn).

Luftflotte Four has, it turns out, the capacity to airlift 3,021 bbls of fuel, around 2/3rd’s of a full quota. This is a substantial amount that would have enabled 1st PG to remain operational for another four days. Perhaps there is a glimmer of hope with continual airlifts covering the gap while we wait for our Forward Supply Base to relocate?

Unfortunately the weather (drizzle, poor visibility) and, mainly, the excessive distance from the main AGS airfield whittled this down to a paltry 375 bbls.

For receiving this pittance we have managed to dilute Luftflotte Four’s ability to provide Tactical Air Support by a third. Not a good exchange.

Memo to self. Remember to roll the main airfield eastwards as well as the Forward Supply Base when advancing.

As you can imagine, our relationship with General Wagner, the man in charge of all Truck related matters, has suffered a sharp deterioration in the space of less than a fortnight.

Having General Wagner offside so early on in the campaign will crimp our ability to rebuild our logistical pipeline. General Gerke, as can be seen above, is happy to work with us but he’s the man in charge of Trains, not Trucks.

All in all we (hey, you’re reading this, you can take some of the blame) have made a mess of our advance in the South. Through our negligence it has come to a grinding halt and, even when it resumes, will continue to struggle with ongoing logistical and relationship issues.

I was hoping to cover a lot more ground with this post and was keen to see how close to the Urals my panzer columns could get before everything collapsed in a big heap of smoking trucks and trains. Instead I disappeared down the rabbit hole and got distracted by one part of the bigger picture.

There is a lot more to see, logistical wise, that I haven’t covered yet but that will have to wait till another post.

If you’ve read this far it’s worth remembering a few things. Firstly, the logistical system, while detailed and involved, is fully automated.

Your input, as a player, is in deciding when and where to relocate your FSB, how far ahead you are willing to advance your Panzergruppes, how far you are willing to deviate from the main transport routes and in knowing how far you can stretch the individual components that make up the three independent logistical pipelines.

There are also a multitude of logistical decisions (such as the ‘Tires’ one in a previous blog post) that require your attention, all of which have a meaningful impact. These have been omitted as they probably require a post each in their own right. Nor have I mentioned the equally important relationship aspect of managing your logistical situation, except to provide a brief update at the end.

As you can see there is a lot going on and all the various components – logistics, relationships, decisions – are intertwined. There is very little, if anything, that you can change without there being a flow on effect on some other, related, aspect.

It’s also pretty obvious how quickly it can go pear shaped after seeing how I’ve managed to get all tangled up in knots, by forgetting a few basics, after only 4 turns on an empty map.

The logistical aspect of the game, while being micromanagement free, does require your full attention. The nature of the campaign is that you will, when playing as the Germans, confront increasingly severe problems the further you advance but not normally so major at such an early stage.

This part of the game can’t be delegated however there is a more forgiving option of ‘Easy Logistics’ available.

The design aim has been to provide a detailed, interesting, micro free, decision space that is easy to manage but challenging to get right.

It’s also a lot of fun.



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12 Responses to Trucking our way to an Early Retirement

  1. Rasputitsa says:

    Breath taking, bearing in mind the importance of logistics in major military operations, it is surprising how little attention it gets in most games. There can be huge detail on which motorcycle regiment should be available and on what date, but supply is often barely covered, especially the need to create adequate stockpiles before any major operation can succeed.

    Very impressive, especially like the presentation of options for different scales of control .

    How is one fuel quota defined (e.g. fuel for one turn, or by quantity) as the fuel and supply needs for each turn will vary depending on what is going on each turn. If you only have a part quota left, you would still be able to move some units, so close attention to logistic costs for proposed moves would be needed.

    Still trying to understand the full implications of what is proposed, but could there be some form of graphic display of fuel available, against fuel used, so progress can be easily monitored for each Army Group, as you can see trends and quickly appreciate how your strategy has affected your supply situation and predict future requirements.

    Thanks. BJ

  2. Jafele says:

    Totally agree. The game concept is amazing and an alternate way to learn WWII history. This supply system (a golden mine) could be a good start to new wargames (napoleonic, medieval, future, WWI, etc.). In military history supply was the key to success. Will the AI be able to work efficiently? Only time will tell.

    Sadly, there are no wargames in the market with deep inmersion in logistics, even those ones that many people consider “realistic”. Furthermore they are extremely boring due to a system full of micromagaments. Not a game but a hard work.


  3. Cameron Harris says:

    Hi BJ,

    Historically a ‘Quota’ meant many different things. For the Wehrmacht in Barbarossa a ‘Quota’ was (from the information I have) the amount of fuel required for a Panzergruppe to travel a regulation 100 km’s (65 miles). It served as a quick means of ascertaining mobility.

    In game terms it equates to the amount of fuel required for a Panzergruppe (tanks, halftracks & trucks) to expend it’s full movement points (100 AP) in one turn. It’s calculated dynamically and takes into account any changes in vehicle numbers.

    With a full quota, or more, you can be confident that you can freely move a particular PG that turn. With less, you’re going to have to think about which divisions have priority. It also provides a simple way of figuring out where you stand on fuel stocks rather than having to delve into the numbers. ‘Yep, three quota’s on hand, nothing to worry about here’.

    The ‘Panzergruppe Summary’ report (shown above) gives a quick breakdown on quotas by theatre and is one of a few ‘need to know’ reports that pop-up at the start of your turn.

    A point of interest is Army Group Centre where there are two PG’s instead of the normal one. With AGC, for logistical purposes, both PG’s draw from the one fuel stockpile. This allows you a degree of flexibility whenever you are running low on fuel as you can choose whether to move Guderian’s 2nd PG before Hoth’s 3rd PG (or vice versa), in effect allocating your limited stocks to one over the other.

    It also creates some interesting decisions as the central theatre is funnel shaped with the greatest breadth being at the Moscow end. As you advance you’ll need to coordinate your two PG’s with the positioning of your Forward Supply Base as the distance component (eg. FSB to PG HQ for the truck column calc’s) is averaged between the two PG’s.

    Operating both PG’s at opposite extremities of the central theatre is going to place a lot of stress on your logistical pipeline. It’s doable but requires careful management of tempo’s and positioning.

    The Stats tab has the graph facility that’ll be able to visually track the rise and fall of each theatre’s fuel stocks.


  4. Cameron Harris says:

    Hi Jafele,

    The logistical system is aimed at the Player. It’s too much for an AI to cope with so they are given a much more simplified method.


  5. Rasputitsa says:

    Thanks for the reply, looking better and better with each blog.

    Regards, BJ.

  6. Jeff says:

    I do think you have an interesting concept going, however I also think that a larger audience will be reached if the text based information is somehow replaced with or augmented with graphical information. Oops just read the “stats tab comment”.

    Also, some sort of player utlity for determining rough requirements for rough objectives could also go a long way to bring in players who might otherwise get turned off by a “nerdy” logistics layer to a traditional ‘counter shove’ type game.

  7. Cameron Harris says:

    Hi Jeff,

    I have, admittedly, gone into a fair amount of detail on the logistics.

    While the game can be played at this level you could just as easily switch on ‘Easy Logistics’, ignore all the details and deal with it as a series of high level decisions where you choose options from a menu of choices.

    As far as a player utility goes the ‘Quota’ system is as good as any as a quick reference. Two quotas on hand? That’s enough for two turns with all divisions going flat out. It’s the same system the Germans used along with ‘Issues’ of ammunition.

    How much will you need to take Moscow? That’s a much more interesting question and one that the game won’t answer.

    There’s no big global pool of fuel you are drawing from. Instead fuel arrives at the border in incremental amounts and has to be transported to where it is needed. Today you’d probably describe it as a version of a ‘Just in time’ Supply chain.

    When the Germans were conducting a feasibility study of the invasion of Russia their own experts told them they had enough fuel stocks on hand for a three month campaign. Barely.

    Ammunition stocks were even more depleted. The expected reach of their logistical pipeline was Smolensk, no further. Beyond was all on a wing and prayer. Hence a quick campaign heavily focused on destroying the bulk of the Russian Army before it could retreat into the interior.

    So historically, if you asked how many Quotas of fuel were needed to take Moscow the answer from the experts would have been ‘None’ because they didn’t expect to Panzergruppes to get that far. If you asked the High Command Staff they would have said there was ‘ample’.

    The answer, on the day, turned out to be somewhere in the middle.

    The game design provides enough space for either outcome and attempts to give a sense of the challenges involved in invading such a vast, hostile, country as Russia. To cater for different audiences you can play it either with your Logistician’s Hat pulled on tight or with your command baton making majestic sweeps through air.


  8. Rasputitsa says:

    I think a common theme is a dislike of too much micro-management, which apart from some hard core players who like wading through statistics, puts many people off. However, a respectable amount of information is necessary for a meaningful game. The ‘sweet spot’ is having the choice to go deep into the detail when you want to, or leave such things to an automated staff, when you want to concentrate on higher matters. The point is that when you have a choice (options), the demands of the game are not so much of a chore and it becomes more enjoyable.

    So far, what is presented looks very encouraging and we are trying to judge a game from small samples, but the worry might be – can a game breaking situation arise, without me noticing, whilst I am occupied with other issues. Like your situation, forgetting to move the FSB forward, maybe this becomes obvious as you become familiar with the game, but quick reference graphics and ‘staff’ warnings to highlight potential problems are useful.

    The detail in the reports is great, adds to immersion, but players may be daunted by amount of information, although re-reading the blog the answer to my earlier question was in the report. Familiarity with the system will probably mean quickly scanning the important data and moving on.

    On the fuel situation, it’s clear that when the reports say ‘ample’, there is no problem, the head-bender is how to cope when the fuel stocks are low and knowing how many units you can move, or how far, when you are on the limit.

    It’s going to be fun finding out.

    Regards, BJ.

  9. Rasputitsa says:

    In considering the supply situation, is there any provision for supply from the sea. A principle element of Directive 21 and ‘Barbarossa’ was the emphasis Hitler placed on capturing Leningrad and the Baltic coast, over and above any other objective.

    The logistical restraints were well known and a sensible response was to ensure the capture of sea ports, including Leningrad, as a priory, so that at least AGN could receive some supply from the sea and relieve the pressure on the truck and rail services to the other two army groups.

    Regards, BJ.

  10. Cameron Harris says:

    Hi BJ,

    Yep, Baltic Sea Convoys are part of the logistical mix for AGN. If you decide to run them further up the Gulf of Finland you’ll probably need to hive off some Luftwaffe resources to protect them.


  11. Rasputitsa says:

    Just finished ‘Hitler’s War on Russia’ – Ian Drury, Charles D. Winchester, refers to the fuel supply carried by German armoured units at the start of ‘Barbarossa’. Noting that a Panzer Division carried one ‘load’ of 430 tons, with an additional stockpile, accumulated especially for this attack, of 400-500 tons, sufficient for an initial FIGHTING
    advance of 250-300 miles, before further supply would be required.

    Regards, BJ.

  12. Cameron Harris says:

    Hi BJ,

    That ties in with the information I had (“Supplying War” by Van Creveld) and Halder’s Diary. From what I understand the ‘stockpile’ was largely containerised (jerricans) and was carried by the truck columns that kept in close contact.

    Roughly 300 miles gets you to Smolensk. After that it was on a wing and a prayer.

    Interesting stuff.


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