Monday, December 2, 2013

Book Review and some FoW Intel analysis...

Greetings tankmen!!

Today I want to introduce you to the the book "T-34 in Action: Soviet Tank Troops in WW2"
 Drabkin and Sheremet
By Artem Drabkin and Oleg Sheremet.  This is an account of oral histories, and yes, that should give the serious reader some pause.  Drabkin and Sheremet address that issue, admitting that oral histories, often decades after the fact (even minutes after the fact), tend to be a little "incongruent with other established facts". Relax, in this instance the "drift"isn't so bad as the the value of this book isn't necessarily in the details of where and when, but the what and how of these men's experiences.  

The book offers12 chapters, each focusing on the wartime experiences of 12 Red Army tank men of various ranks, from driver to battalion commander, how they entered the tank forces, their training, and their experiences at the front.  There are many parallels in each man's story, most were called to tank training after having some automotive or technical/mechanical experience. They were often whisked away to training centers, and/or deposited at the factories to assist in the assembly of their own tanks. With limited tactical training, they were swiftly left to their own devices facing down the panzerwaffe, often with dismal, grisly results. Most men have lost many friends and crewmates, as well as having several tanks shot out from under them.  Supplies were often scarce, having to do for themselves in many cases. The road west toward Berlin was a terrifying and torturous one, but they were survivors.  Even though their stories were sanitized and polished for the best possible effect, meaning nearly everyone was dutiful, dashing, brave, competent, and bold, one can find the nuggets of truth and piece together a picture of a tank man's life, short as it may have been.  Each story is entertaining, and can be riveting if the reader can sympathize with the storyteller.  As a former tanker, these stories are a bit richer and fuller in my view having shared many of the experiences they speak of. 

OK, so what about the "intel analysis"?  Having finished, I find a bit more clarity to the new changes to Soviet lists in Flames of War. Desperate Measures "luckier, smarter, sharper" is taken directly from ch 9. The book goes on and on about replacement vehicles and crews, how the new commanders never lasted long, and those who did survive went through a gauntlet of fire to get there. They continue in describing the horrendous losses they suffered, and how they kept battering the Germans with everything they had, despite how often they had very little to work with.

Clearly, much of the inspiration for "DM", from the Soviet perspective at least, is taken from Drabken and Sheremet, and if players can't wrap their heads around the new changes coming to the Red Army lists, I highly suggest reading this book. For the casual Soviet player, or opponents of Soviet players, much of the new changes may be a shock and make little sense. Agreeably, there are many preconceived notions about Soviet armor, and much of that may be the fault of a 'top-down' approach to research and game design. However, I was always struck by how 'bottom-up' FoW is, and how it is in constant struggle with 'top-down' game designs and 'top-down' game thinking. I can't say this is a whole new design perspective, using turret-side combat accounts versus the General's report to High Command, but in this case it may appear to make the Soviet forces a bit more realistic, and perhaps a bit more competitive with other LW lists.  Regardless, "T-34 in Action" was very entertaining, and enlightening.

I would give it a rating of  8 out of 10 spare track links. 

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