Head Up, Shoulders Back!

Decisive Campaigns III design blog #8

It’s about time we discussed the nitty gritty of Operational Command. The game’s basic unit is the division. They are grouped together in Armies, or Panzergruppes in the case of the fast divisions.

Which is pretty standard fare for a wargame. Shuffle your divisions around the map and keep divisions from the same army together as there is bound to be a bonus in there somewhere for doing so. Armies serve mainly as a container for your divisions and a means of keeping everything reasonably tidy.

However Decisive Campaigns 3 takes a different approach. Armies are your main focus. In a reversal of the standard wargame design, your armies are what you consider first and foremost. Your command decisions revolve around your armies, not your divisions.

There are lots of divisions. The AI needs a certain unit density for optimal outcomes. While there might be a few units on the map, managing them is straightforward. Divisions are uniform. Sure there are differences to accommodate a diverse TO&E but overall they are of a standard configuration. Deliberately so. For the Germans, you could narrow it down to only three main types of divisions – Infantry, Panzer and Motorised.

The games focus isn’t on excessively detailed units, each one unique from the other where you need to spend time optimising your on-map moves. Instead there are standard division types with enough variety to allow for the major differences within the forces but no more.

There are no artillery, air or ancillary support units cluttering up the picture. They are dealt with in a different, and detailed, manner, but one that maintains the streamlined, micro management free design ethos. The only thing you’ll find on the map are combat divisions and HQ’s.

Another factor that keeps the ‘counter-shuffling’ to a minimum is having the battlefield separated into three theatres. Each is it’s own mini-campaign. You’re coordinating and allocating resources between theatres. But within each theatre the unit count is low and the ‘shuffling’ involved is manageable. To give you an idea, the Germans, in Army Group North (the smallest), have only 23 divisions in three Armies (excluding the Finns). AGC has less than 50 divisions in four Armies.


The four Armies of AGC

None of this is to infer the game is simple. Not the case. There is a significant amount of depth here. What the game isn’t about is having a map jammed full units that need to be moved each turn. Instead it aims to put you in the shoes of the man who was charged with carrying out the invasion of Russia. This was a man who spent his time making decisions, COMMAND Decisions, not getting bogged down worrying about the 155th Anti-Tank Regiment and which division to attach it to.

Which brings us back to Armies. While the base unit is the division you’ll be thinking in terms of Armies. You set your air and artillery support on an army basis. You can dedicate staff time and theatre resources to a particular army. You determine a posture for each army.

An army is represented by it’s HQ. It exerts a command presence a certain distance from this HQ and any subordinate division that is outside of it’s parent HQ’s Command Radius will suffer adverse effects.

This isn’t a new idea. It already exists in many games, including the previous Decisive Campaigns. What’s different is the extent of the effects. As an example if the Army is suffering from an overall ‘Limited Ammunition Shortage’, any division outside of command range will have this upgraded to a ‘Severe Ammunition Shortage’. Tactical Air Support, Direct Fire Artillery or Counter Battery Support aren’t available to any division outside of the command net.

Within the game the Command Radius is set at 5 hexes which translates to 150 km’s. Given the communication technology of the day this is probably overly generous, even more so for the Russians, and may be dropped down a notch by the time the game’s released.

As a player this becomes a very basic, turn by turn, decision. Moving a division outside of it’s Army Command range is, on occasion, is a necessary evil, but you are choosing to isolate that division from all forms of support and placing the division beyond the reach of the Army’s organic resupply capabilities.

pos_21st Army and the extent of it’s Command Range

Armies are the key. This blog is about Army Postures. Head up, shoulders back, soldier. A-a-a-ttention!

An Army, taken as a whole, is configured for either an Offensive or Defensive posture. To round things out I’ve added a Neutral, or Balanced, posture.

Think of a boxer in the ring. When attacking (offense) he is on the front foot, advancing, leading with his left or right hand, jab – jab – jab, aiming to create an opening for a combination that will end in a knock out blow. This is very different to a defensive stance where he might be leaning back against the ropes, ducking and weaving, hands and arms configured to protect his face and body. In one posture he is aiming to hurt his opponent, in the other he is trying to prevent himself being hurt. One posture burns up energy while the other conserves it.

Armies are no different. Within a particular posture there is scope for both offense and defence at any given time but, from an Army level perspective, you are configured one way or another for an overriding purpose.

In game turns you have the ability to set postures on an army by army basis. Whatever posture a particular army has will be reflected in identical posture settings for all it’s subordinate divisions.

An Offensive posture grants all divisions within the Army a +40% Offensive bonus. It’s a sizable amount and makes the divisions of any Army with this posture 40% more powerful when attacking. Why wouldn’t you set all your armies to Offense and be done with it?


Well, just like the boxer who is geared up to hurt his opponent, an Offensive posture sacrifices the ability to effectively defend yourself. There is an associated -20% Defensive penalty. If you are steamrolling your Panzers through stunned and panicking ranks of Red Army troops this isn’t a concern but perhaps it might be if the shadows flitting through the twilight snow have Siberian names.

If you chose to reconfigure an Army over to a Defensive Posture (Has the Führer approved this? Gott im Himmel man! Does he even know what you are doing?) then these would be reversed. Now you have a -20% Offensive penalty and a +40% Defensive bonus. A Neutral posture grants no bonus or penalty, it’s just, well, neutral.

Postures are important decisions. Changing an armies posture even more so. Historically it took around a week to switch an army over from one posture to another as there were a significant amount of internal changes, dispositions, staff, administrative and logistical reorganisations that were involved. But once set to the new posture there is that very tempting +40% bonus.

pos_4Note the cost (PP’s) to switch to a Defensive posture. You can petition the Führer to lower the cost. 

All German Armies and Panzergruppes commence Barbarossa with an Offensive posture. You can change postures at any time but there is a period of disruption as everything reconfigures. Rather than a full week which would equate to 2 turns I’ve reduced it down to a single turn (4 days) to enable greater flexibility.

During this turn your Army will be vulnerable and labouring under a combined -20% Attack and a -20% Defence penalty. There is also a moderate movement penalty (-30 AP). Ideally you’d aim to pull your Army out of the line while this is going on but ‘ideal’ never went to war, he only read about it.

This isn’t the whole story. Whenever an Army is set to ‘Offense’ it, like the boxer, is burning up more energy than normal. If it’s a slow, Infantry, Army then it’s divisions will accumulate fatigue. Leave them on an Offensive posture for too long and they’ll become combat ineffective, keeling over from exhaustion.

There are options available to rest individual Divisions or even an entire Army but you’d want them well to the rear before you exercise these as you can’t expect much from a man when he is asleep in a bunk. A Neutral or Defensive posture won’t accumulate any more fatigue nor will it dissipate what’s already there. To do this you’ll have to authorise a Rest.

Imagine walking from the Polish border to the Gates of Moscow carrying a weight equivalent to a heavy rucksack. That’s a distance of over 1000 km’s, largely cross country.

Perhaps you could sell this in a travel brochure as an ‘extreme sport’ holiday. Perhaps. Throw into the mix some seriously adverse weather, refuse to issue proper protective clothing or decent hiking boots and the only customers your fledgling travel company will get are crazies who have forgotten to take their meds that morning.

Now tell the few crazies that have signed up for the tour that the natives will be actively trying to kill them and that they are going to have to actively fight their way to Moscow. Turn up next morning and there will be a bankruptcy notice pinned to your door. Clearly the Travel business isn’t for you.


What’s described, however, wasn’t far from the reality of a typical German infantry soldier. Sheer exhaustion was never far away.

Panzergruppes, instead of fatigue, burn extra fuel when on Offense. Nobody advances their Panzer, into enemy held territory, in a straight line. For each Panzergruppe there is an additional 1000 bbls of fuel, per turn, expended. This doesn’t sound like much but it adds up. AGC has two Panzergruppes, that’s 2,000 bbl’s per turn to keep all those Panzers belching terror and confusion.

If there isn’t enough fuel available (at the point of use, not sitting back in the Main Depot) then the Offensive bonus is canceled for the turn.


The Germans found that the fuel expenditure of their mechanised forces in Barbarossa were way beyond anything they had experienced in their previous French and Polish campaigns. To reflect this you’ll be presented with an event, fairly early on. You can choose to continue pushing hard but at the cost of increased fuel consumption (the 1,000 bbls per PG jumps to 1,500 bbls) or you can scale back your Offensive ambitions to a more appropriate combination of fuel expenditure and bonus.


If a division loses contact with it’s Army then that big 40% Posture bonus won’t apply. Unlike the penalty. Lost sheep stories usually don’t end well.

“Like I keep telling you, son. If you keep slouching, you’ll end up at the chiropractor.”



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17 Responses to Head Up, Shoulders Back!

  1. Roy says:

    Looking good and sounding even better!

  2. Jafele says:

    I find interesting that idea about postures. However, a neutral posture has no bonuses and a defensive/offensive one has +20% (overall). Players will tend to choose defensive/offensive since neutral is a bit in dissadvantage. Wouldn´t it be better in this way?

    Aggresive: +40% (attack)/-20% (defense)
    Defensive: -20% (attack)/+40% (defense)
    Neutral: +10% (attack)/+10% (defense)

    Or even:

    Agressive: +30/-30
    Defensive: -30/+30
    Neutral: 0/0

    Just a suggestion.


  3. Cameron Harris says:

    Hi Jafele,

    The actual numbers for the various postures have gone through a few iterations. Originally they were set at +20 / -20 but it was found this wasn’t enough to make a meaningful difference.

    +30 / -30 didn’t give enough scope for changes brought about by the ‘Excessive Fuel Use’ event.

    Having an equivalent Off / Def bonus was also dropped as it tended to negate the bonus.

    Neutral is there to act as a holding pattern. You can’t leave you Armies on an Offensive bonus for too long due to fatigue buildup and fuel expenditure. You might not want to change over to a Defensive posture (or you might not be able to afford to due to a lack of PP’s) so the option is there to change to an interim posture.

    There are a few other game mechanics that revolve around posture. I was planning on discussing these next blog as it’s a natural progression on from the discussion above.

    Vic’s done a lot of work on the back end so it’ll be set up to be easy to change any of the key variables in the game if you would like a more personalised experience.


  4. Rasputitsa says:

    So far this appears to be one of the best aspects of the game design, requiring realistic planning and not just pushing units around, which moves the game into a different level.

    Nice to see that the key variables can be adjusted, we will all have a different view about what is historically accurate and experimentation will be a useful aspect to the game system.

    I thought before, that as each blog comes out, the game looks better and better and so it continues. Army posture is such an important part of the equation, would the German position after Kursk have collapsed so quickly if they had been in a defensive posture, rather than being caught still in offensive posture as their own Kursk attack came to an end.

    Catching an opponent as they come to the end of their offensive power, with a counter attack, is a strategy used by both sides, but especially in Manstein’s well timed back-hand strategy. Two thoughts, you have chosen to make the posture change work over one turn, is this something that could be a variable option in the released version, as this changeover time could be critical to the realism/playability balance of the game. Also, you hint at superior command (Has the Führer approved this? Gott im Himmel man! Does he even know what you are doing?), will there be constraints on how you play these posture cards and if so, will there be options to adjust any superior control effects to allow for variability in games (Hitler assassinated button).

    Regards, BJ.

  5. morvael says:

    The game looks lovely. I would buy several copies already, if they were available :-) I have one question: all dev diaries to date focus on the Axis side, and I started to wonder whether the Soviet side will be playable at all? This would rule out PBEM/multiplayer and would be a bit disappointing. Please clarify this (and maybe do a dev diary about the problems faced by the other side during the game).


  6. Cameron Harris says:

    Hi BJ,

    Changing posture involves a full turn of disruption. Making it two turns is probably overkill because, while it took an Army a week, the period where it was off balance and vulnerable was less than that and akin to the 4 day span that I’ve simulated.

    The effects are moddable but the time period to changeover is a true/false flag which isn’t amenable to different values without tweaking the code.

    The cost of playing a posture card is an obvious constraint. The Germans start the campaign with the Defensive Posture card at five times the cost (in PP’s) of the others to reflect the ridiculous notion, at the time, of an Army switching over to the defence.

    On my list of outstanding Decisions, yet to be done, is something that revolves around the Führer’s willingness to confront the on ground reality of the later part of the campaign.


  7. Cameron Harris says:

    Hi Morvael,

    Yes, the Soviet side will be playable, both vs. the AI and PBEM.

    I’m working on the Soviets at present and the aim is to create a very different experience to that of the Germans, almost asymmetrical. There’ll be a different set of game systems and mechanics that apply.

    To give a quick example, as the Germans you’ll be playing the role of F.M Franz Halder, the operational commander of Barbarossa. You have subordinates and superiors and have to deal with the ‘whim of the Führer’. As much as you might like to focus solely on winning the war you’ll have to juggle this with internal politics.

    Playing the Soviets, on the other hand, sees you in shoes of Stalin. You’re god. Where your omnipotence falls over, however, is in the poor quality of your angels. You’ll have to knock back a Vodka for breakfast and do your Ruthless, Dictatorial best to bring some order to the chaos descending upon you.


  8. Rasputitsa says:

    Thanks for the response, the design decisions, as you are explaining them, make sense and you have already said that there will be options on some features.

    (On my list of outstanding Decisions, yet to be done, is something that revolves around the Führer’s willingness to confront the on ground reality of the later part of the campaign.) – I hesitate to pre-empt the choices that you may make, but strongly support the trend to give options, there may be an historical sequence to Fuehrer Directives, but this is one area where a change of policy might have created large differences in outcome.

    It will be argued that Hitler was always destined to make the decisions that he did, but the game will benefit if it provides options, to avoid playing through the same sequence each time. There needs to be an historical sequence, but an advantage to have credible alternatives.

    Regards, BJ.

  9. Cameron Harris says:

    Hi BJ,

    There is an ‘Historical’ switch in the games option settings. Leaving this off allows for a wider range of possible outcomes including a number of ‘what-if’s’.

    The game has been built from the ground up with replayability in mind.


  10. Rasputitsa says:

    Thanks, good news, again the more we find out the better it gets.

    Regards, BJ

  11. morvael says:

    Cameron, thanks for the explanation. I await the game even more eagerly than before. I hope it won’t be too long (although I enjoy the dev diaries a lot).

  12. Rasputitsa says:

    You have mentioned that the Soviet side will work to a different mechanism, in terms of supply, how will this be handled in the case of army ‘posture’. Will the Soviet side have similar selections.

    The point being, that in a report on the reasons for the disastrous performance of the Red Army during the initial stages of ‘Barbarossa’, it was noted that several cities had been lost without a fight and that they would have been a good basis for defence, which proved to be the case later, in the Siege of Leningrad and at Stalingrad. It was stated that Soviet strategic policy and all training had been concentrated on attack, with the intention of carrying the fighting into enemy territory, immediately hostilities commenced. There had been not attention paid to defensive strategy and tactics.

    The first orders issued from Moscow on the night 21/22nd July, were for all Fronts to launch counter attacks to restore the State borders, with the South-Western Front specifically instructed to drive deep into Poland, closing pincers around Lublin by 24th July. Units attempting to make these forward movements, instead of consolidating a defence, were shredded by the German attack and played straight into Hitler’s hands.

    How will you set the posture options for the Soviet side, in the initial stages of the game, when the Red Army had made no provision for defence, which included forward deployment of air units and stocks of supplies, all positioned in vulnerable border areas.

    There is a lot of discussion, in other East Front war games, as to how historical they should be and whether Soviet players should be able to make a run for the interior, saving as much force as possible, or be forced to fight hopeless battles on the frontier.

    The thought here, is how the Soviet AI with be set, historical forward deployment with an attack mentality, a more sensible conservation policy, or options for several eventualities ?

    The same applies to the Axis side, when the first winter arrives and Hitler’s historical ‘hold fast’ order.

    Regards, BJ.

  13. Cameron Harris says:

    Hi BJ,

    The Soviet side of the game is still being put together. I’m reluctant to talk about it until it’s been finalised. All of what you mention is, however, under consideration.

    Overall I’m aiming for the Soviet side to be a very different experience to that of the German.


  14. Rasputitsa says:

    Thanks, will further comments on this subject help, or is it just distracting from the main task ?

    Regards, BJ.

  15. Rasputitsa says:

    Got the dates completely wrong in the earlier entry, corrected paragraph:

    ‘The first orders issued from Moscow on the night 22/23rd June, were for all Fronts to launch counter attacks to restore the State borders, with the South-Western Front specifically instructed to drive deep into Poland, closing pincers around Lublin by 24th June. Units attempting to make these forward movements, instead of consolidating a defence, were shredded by the German attack and played straight into Hitler’s hands.’


  16. Jeff says:

    Shaping up nicely Cameron.

    I’m wondering about such strange things as replacement pools and refit modes and vehicle reliability. What say you about those things ?

    Apologies if they’ve been covered already.

  17. Cameron Harris says:

    Hi Jeff,

    Mechanical Reliability is modeled in a fair amount of detail. I think I’ve touched on it a few times in previous blog posts but the short version is that the further you drive your panzers the more likely they are to breakdown. Mileage is tracked for each mechanised Division. There’s also the option to pull a Division, or an entire Panzergruppe, out of the line and order a refit.

    Replacement pools and the like are the last major game system I have yet to do for the Germans (the Russians, as a whole, tended to form new armies in ’41 rather than replenish damaged ones).

    My research has the Germans having a series of replacement pools that they catergorised numerically (there was a technical term for each that I can’t recall at present). ‘Wave’ (?) 1 consisted of trained, ready to go troops whereas by the time they got to ‘Wave’ 5 they were scraping the bottom of the barrel.

    All good stuff that could feed into the Decision system. ‘Do you authorise the release of rehabilitation battalions?’ ‘Which theatre has priority for experienced replacement officers?’ ‘Are you willing to shorten the training cycle for NCO’s?’, etc.

    See how I go. It’ll probably come down to available time.


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