Conducting Blitzkrieg offensives

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Introduction

This guide looks at the art of Blitzkrieg, or lightning war: defeating an enemy through rapid advances of armoured spearheads in co-operation with encircling infantry and dive bombers. It’s a style of gameplay commonly associated with Germany, but while Germany is indeed particularly good at it, many countries can ‘blitzkrieg’. There are quite a few reasons why you’d want to:

  1. It gives the game a nice ‘historical’ feeling and makes optimal use of generals’ abilities. Some of them (like Rommel, Patton or Guderian) are only really happy when commanding tank columns.
  2. It allows campaigns to be concluded very fast; for instance, attacking Poland as Germany, with a good Blitzkrieg offensive the Polish military will be crushed and much of Poland occupied within five days.
  3. It destroys enemy forces, rather than pushing them back. Before I began to ‘blitzkrieg’ properly, for instance, I found that I was fighting largely the same Russian forces in the Caucasus that I’d fought in Poland. This is dangerous because it allows the enemy to gather experience, allows them to fight you every step of the way, and even retain a possible numerical advantage over you.

That being said, you need two things for this strategy:

  1. The industrial power to build largish numbers of armoured divisions and planes.
  2. Good terrain (preferably plains) and infrastructure (80% or above). In practice, this means Blitzkrieg is particularly suited to Europe; the infrastructure of much of Africa, the Americas and Asia is too poor to allow rapid advances.

I’ll explain Blitzkrieg by the example of Fall Weiß, the German invasion of Poland. This guide applies to version 1.3a and has not been tested for Doomsday.


Infrastructure and installations

Blitzkrieg relies heavily on the ability of your forces to advance and occupy ground fast. Therefore, make sure the infrastructure in the provinces you’re attacking from is as good as possible. In the case of Germany, this means that you should increase the infrastructure in Oppeln to 100%.

You’ll also need good airbases close to the fray. I tend to build airfields up to level 10 in both Küstrin and Oppeln, but this is up to you.


Forces needed

Armoured divisions are obviously key to the entire operation so you should have a good number of them. For the composition of your spearheads there are three possibilities in general.

  1. The first one prefers speed over everything else and uses 3 armored divisions (medium armor) with self-propelled artillery or unbrigaded armor. This one is the fastest but has often problems with outrunning their own infantry-support and getting cut off by retreating enemy units. The use of motorized infantry as following units usually solves this problem though.
  2. The second one still prefers speed but uses heavy armor to increase toughness and firepower. If your enemy has strong defenses in second line, they are you choice as they can solve strong enemy resistance without losing too much organization.
  3. The third composition mixes motorized and armored divisions in a relation of 2:1 (or 1:2) to get the "Combined Arms" bonus in combat. Unfortunately that bonus is inferior to a pure tank corps and the motorized infantry will also slow your tanks down. So you should only use it if lack of mobile forces and want to increase your number of mobile forces by mixing motorized infantry and armored divisions.

Finally, give the corps fancy names and appoint competent commanders; in our example, Guderian, Hausser, and von Manstein are excellent. Don’t miss out on Rommel; he only becomes available in 1939. Concentrate the tanks in two or three provinces. I usually create five armoured corps, three of which I deploy in Oppeln and two in Stettin.

Infantry is also best organized in three-division corps. Brigade them, too, but since speed isn’t as important for the infantry, you can give them cheaper artillery rather than self-propelled artillery, etc. It makes sense to have specialized corps for certain tasks; one might choose to keep a mountain corps, an airborne corps and a marine corps ready. There’s nothing wrong with using them as regular infantry; this way they’ll gain experience to do the stuff they actually specialize in. Keep infantry in every border province to block possible counter-attacks; don’t forget to also garrison Ostrava after gaining the Sudetenland. Motorized infantry is generally useful, but unnecessary for Fall Weiß. During later campaigns, however, motorized and especially mechanized infantry should be the backbone of your forces. Cavalry may look rubbish (and the game’s description makes it sound it, to boot), but it’s actually quite good as fast reinforcements for your tanks. HQs are essential; consult the excellent guide HQ Units in Action for their effects and deployment.

Your air force should consist of a good number of close air support (CAS) and tactical bombers (TAC). They require escort fighters (ESC)! Deploy them in formations of four, e.g. two CAS and two ESC. If you have Doomsday or Armageddon, where ESC are now a brigade to attach to aircraft, rather than a separate unit, you can simply deploy four TAC in a group and then brigade them with ESC. Note that CAS cannot accept ESC brigades! Put each formation under the command of someone capable – tank busters are good, carpet bombers not so. I tend to have three formations of CAS, one in Königsberg, one in Küstrin, and one in Oppeln. Aim to have an equivalent number of TAC in equivalent groups. Having a few fighters to gain air superiority wouldn’t hurt, either.

The task of the navy in Blitzkrieg is support; its importance is generally not great, but it can be used offensively by landing task forces of marines in undefended enemy provinces.

Conduct of the campaign

Blitzkrieg is pretty counter-intuitive. Rather than advancing on a broad front (as I used to do), it is based on hurling tanks deep into enemy territory whilst leaving your infantry to mop up enemy forces caught in pockets behind your rapidly advancing front. It looks weird on the map, but achieves incredible results.

Wait for the ‘Danzig or War’ event – otherwise Danzig won’t be one of your national provinces later. When war is declared, immediately use your air force. CAS should be used for ground attack, TAC for interdiction. Use your planes in Küstrin to cover the Poznan area; those in Königsberg to attack East Prussia; and those in Oppeln to bomb the Cracow area. Runway cratering is very effective in grounding enemy aircraft as they wont be able to repair and reorganize. You do not need to worry about your troops being unable to use that airfields as any airfields/ports will suffer 100% damage when your troops enter the province. Your fighters should gain air superiority in Poznan and Warsaw. At dawn, attack. Ideally, attack Bydgoscz, Czestochowa, and Przemysl at 00:00 and the rest at 0500. The Poles often begin retreating immediately and the Panzers need to cut them off before they leave the province. Don't forget supporting attacks from OTHER adjacent provinces. It adds 10% for a flank attack. Put your armoured spearheads on an offensive supply footing (the little green arrow). Then attack the enemy with three armoured corps and whatever infantry you have available in Czestochowa from Oppeln, and with two armoured corps and infantry in Bydgoscz from Stettin. You also need to attack Przemysl from Kosice, to close the door on Cracow's defenders and get a straight shot for your armor to Lublin. These are your Schwerpunkte, or focal points, where all available force is used to achieve a breakthrough along a narrowly defined sector of the front. Remember to leave each province bordering the enemy garrisoned by at least three divisions. Your spearheads should achieve a rapid breakthrough. After taking Bydgoscz, have your armoured corps take Lodz, then move on to Radom. Crossing rivers slows down the panzers; better to load troops in Elbing, take Torun with support from Königsberg, then cross into Lomza, providing another front to attack Warsaw. Danzig – now a pocket – tends not to be garrisoned by the enemy, and could be taken by an infantry division – but why not use this as practice for your marines? Carry out an amphibious assault.

In the south, after taking Czestochowa, have one of your armoured corps advance straight to Lublin via Kielce or Radom. It might be better to do this from Kosice, as there are no rivers to cross. You’ll have noticed by now that the Poles were concentrating all their forces on your common border; after achieving a breakthrough, therefore, you can pretty much advance at will. Besides the corps advancing to Lublin, have the other two armoured corps move to Kielce (a must, as its a backdoor for Cracow) from where one, supported by the other, is to attack Przemysl. Always remember to follow up the armoured offensive with infantry to hold the newly conquered province.

Once you’ve taken all these provinces, you’ll notice something. Three enemy provinces – Poznan, Cracow and Warsaw – should be encircled, and all should have substantial enemy garrisons, whose retreat you’ve cut off. It’s time for your infantry to shine. Mop up all the pockets; have just one corps attack, while all others support the attack. It doesn’t matter that your poor foot soldiers will take ages to get to those provinces. You’ll have wiped out about twenty-five Polish divisions. After that, you can advance at will; the enemy will be too weak to mount an effective resistance. There are few victory points in eastern Poland anyway. Annex them the moment you can.

Realistically speaking, of course, the encircled pockets won't happen at the same time; Poznan will likely be cut off first. It makes sense to crush a pocket the moment you can - in the case of Poznan, attack once you've taken Bydgoscz, Lodz and Czestochowa. One word of warning, though: don't get too obsessed with envelopments or you'll lose tactical flexibility and might overlook opportunities.

Overlooked is the needed attack on Cracow at 0500 hours. FIVE provinces border so use a division from the other 4 to support for the ENVELOPMENT through flanking bonus. Lastly, Warsaw can be a tough nut to crack and armor sucks in that urban terrain. I use mountain troops with engineer brigades from out of Elbing to attack from Torun and Lomza AND cavalry with engineer leaders who come thru Czestochowa-Radom-Lublin to hit Warsaw from the rear. Supporting armor/HQ's from Radom and Lublin can boost your odds then.

With certain modifications (allowing for greater distances, more enemy armour and aircraft, different terrain, etc.), this basic strategy can be used against most of Germany’s continental enemies, excluding those with a difficult geography, like Denmark and Greece.