On June 22nd, 1941, the German invasion of Russia began. Codenamed ‘Operation Barbarossa’ to commemorate the 12th century expansionist German king and Holy Roman Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa (literally ‘red beard’), it was a huge military undertaking, involving, at its outset, more than 3 million German Wehrmarcht soldiers and 3300 tanks. Like Napoleon’s invasion of Russia more than 100 years before though, the attack was to fail. Although the Wehrmarcht had great success at the outset, annihilating the Russian air force while its planes were still on the ground, and advancing 200 miles in the first week using the Blitzkrieg tactics that had served them so well in Western Europe, they would eventually be defeated. A combination of logistical supply difficulties, the harsh Russian winter, and the ruthless tenacity of Stalin’s generals led not only to the repulsion of German troops from Russian soil, but to a counter invasion of Germany culminating in the fall of Berlin and the end of the war for Germany.
It is this period of huge tank battles and desperate fighting that is brought to life in Combat Mission: Barbarossa to Berlin. The game, a sequel to the Western Front-centred Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord, depicts every part of the Eastern Front conflict, as the title suggests, from the first movements of Operation Barbarossa in June 1941 to the fall or Berlin in May of 1945.
Gameplay is described as a hybrid between real-time and turn-based styles of strategy control. Players plan the movements of their units over the next 60 seconds. When both players (or the player and the AI) have made their decisions, the orders are then executed simultaneously. Many features are brought together to bring the player a many-layered experience which aims to introduce realism into the game. Factors include 3D line of sight, errors in target identification, morale and leadership, detection of the enemy by sound alone, armour penetration systems, as well as spreading fires, wind and other weather. The game includes seventy plus single player scenarios based on wartime events, but its possible to generate new missions and there’s even an editor to design your own. There are seven nations represented, Germany, Russia, Finland, Italy, Hungaria, Romania, Poland, and the game has authentic unit type for each, and allows you to battle controlling a small platoon or several battalions. With its fetish for total historical accuracy, along with a carefully thought out tactical system and pleasing graphics, this is surely a gift for historic strategy game lovers.