We have done several interviews with Ty Bomba on his various different designs over the past 5 years. In fact, I think that he is our most interviewed designer and that is mostly because he is very prolific and is also working on at least 4 or 5 designs at any given time. Recently, I saw a what-if style design on the hypothetical Operation Storm that was planned to have the Soviets pre-emptively launch an assault against the Germans as they massed on the East Front for Operation Barbarossa in 1941. The game is called Operation Storm: Stalin’s Barbarossa and is currently available for order on Kickstarter. I reached out to Ty and he was willing to respond to my questions.

If you are interested in Operation Storm: Stalin’s Barbarossa you can order a copy from the Kickstarter page at the following link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/warandpeacegame/operation-storm-stalins-barbarossa/?ref=kicktraq

Grant: What attracts you as a designer to these what-if style games?

Ty: I enjoy working on straight-up historic topics, and the majority of my work over the years has been within that genre. On the other hand, I see it as equally legitimate to use wargames as a tool to investigate the parameters in which other events – had different paths been chosen by key historic decision makers – could have been resolved. Or, similarly, to use them to investigate the possibilities inherent in situations developing in our time.

Grant: What is your upcoming Operation Storm: Stalin’s Barbarossa about?

Ty: It’s an investigation into the much debated proposition Stalin was intending to start the Russo-German War with a massive Red Army assault into the Third Reich. This campaign could have resulted had Stalin agreed to General Georgy Zhukov’s plan for a preemptive attack against the Germans. The Soviet player will be on the offensive, winning the game by seizing key objectives within the Third Reich. At the same time, the situation allows for—and often demands—counteroffensives by the German player.

Grant: What were the strategic considerations from history that led you to believe this attack was possible?

Ty: Those who want to read up on this topic can get a good start by going to the Wikipedia article about it at the following link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_offensive_plans_controversy

The article itself provides an excellent summary of the various historiographic factions, pro and con, within which the debate has been carried out since Russian analyst Viktor Suvorov first broached the idea back in the early 1980’s.

There’s also an excellent bibliographic section at the end of the article. It will allow anyone who wants to do so to go as deeply down any of the many ‘rabbit holes’ inherent in the proposition as they like.

Grant: What do you believe the outcome of such an attack would have been in 1941?

Ty: Some combination of savage combat action and whipsnake maneuver, all leading to the deaths of millions and the physical destruction of Central Eastern Europe. All of it leading to the eventual destruction of one or the other of the regimes involved.

Grant: What is the scale and force structure used for this design?

Ty: Each hex equals 20 miles (32.4 km) from side to opposite side, and each game turn equals from two weeks to two months (depending on time of year) from early June 1941 through to the end of that calendar year. By sliding the time scale, the movement and combat capacities of the units can be held as a constant. The game map illustrates the militarily significant terrain found in the border area between the Third Reich and the USSR in mid-1941 when viewed at these scales. Units of maneuver are primarily divisions for both sides, along with some separate regiments and brigades.

Grant: How many maps are used in the game? What does the map look like and what area does it cover?

Ty: There are two 34×22” sheets. When joined – which is necessary for play; there are no one-map scenarios – they cover on their north-south axis from the Danube estuary to Memel. On their east-west axis they cover from the western edge of Romania to 40 miles west of Bydgoszcz (a.k.a. Bromberg at the time) in Central Poland (a.k.a. the General Government at the time).

Grant: What is the anatomy of the counters?

Ty: The counters used are standard NATO-style layout, with attack and defense factors (left and right, respectively) across the bottoms and historic identities across the tops. Movement factors are not on the counters, as they are all determined by supply state combined with nationality and movement class (all of which is shown on a Movement Factors Table). All are one-step units.

Grant: What are some unique units or divisions that are found in this game?

Ty: You have met most of these units before this, in historic Barbarossa games. Here, though, since it’s the Soviets getting the first jump rather than the Germans, the 21 separate regiments of heavy and super artillery they had up front – and which were quickly overrun before they could be deployed in the historic event – are available. Similarly, the 16 separate Soviet airborne brigades are also available for that kind of mission rather than being immediately engulfed in conventional ground fighting.

In regard to set-up, I found a copy of the German “Lage Ost” map that showed their units’ positions a few days prior to the historic start of Barbarossa, just before their final move forward to their jump off positions for the start of the war. The Soviet player is – Stalin like – pretty much free to deploy as he wants.

Grant: How did you go about assigning attack and defense factors to the various units?

Ty: What I always do is, first, get my overall order of battle in front of me on paper. Then I give what I judge to be the weakest unit (or weakest class of unit) a “1” for a combat factor. Then I just work up from there, back-tracking to fine-tune as necessary (meaning as revealed through playtesting).

Grant: Why have the Bulgarians been omitted from the game?

Ty: They sat out the actual event, content to simply provide a garrison for occupying the portion of Yugoslavia allotted them by the Germans. Then, when the Soviets got to their northern border late in 1944, they switched sides without first firing a single shot. I saw no reason to disturb that pattern in this altered situation.

Grant: How is Airpower determined and what did you base these availabilities upon?

Ty: This is the great “known-unknown” of this what-if campaign. That is: if it had been the Soviet Air Force conducting a massive surprise assault on the forward Luftwaffe bases at the start of this war, rather than the other way around as occurred historically, how large and how lasting an effect would that have had on ground operations? We will never know for certain. So I randomized it, via comparative die rolls after Turn 1, and provided instructions in regard to how players might alter that process to better serve their own biases in answering the question.

Grant: What special rules are in force on Turn 1?

Ty: I sought to model a degree of tactical and operational surprise that is, broadly speaking, about the same as that achieved historically by the Germans. Turn around being fair play, eh? Here are those rules.

1. None of the normal phase sequence column shift penalties or bonuses apply. Instead, all Soviet attacks receive a two-column-right “strategic surprise” shift bonus and all German/Axis attacks suffer a one- column-left penalty shift.

2. All units of both sides are automatically in supply the entire game turn.

3. The Soviet player chooses the German phase sequence, announcing it at the start of the German Player Turn.

4. All German and Axis movement factors are halved, and they may not make any momentum attacks
or mobile assaults no matter the phase sequence dictated for them by the Soviet player.

5. No airpower markers are placed on the map, but the Soviet side is otherwise considered to have air superiority for all purposes.

6. Soviet units crossing any Hungarian border hexside during Turn 1 must pay one extra movement point to do so.

7. The Soviet phase sequence is always fight-move on Turn 1.

8. The Soviet player must set up his tank and mechanized divisions as corps. That is, the single mechanized rifle and two tank divisions that make up each such corps must be set up stacked together in one hex. Once play begins, there’s no advantage or disadvantage in regard to maintaining that corps stacking; however, the stricture must be met during set up. Also note two complete corps might be stacked together, or a single corps might be stacked with other non-corps Soviet units within normal staking limits. The corps affiliation for each such division is to the left of their unit type boxes on their counters. For example, the 1st Mechanized Corps is made up of the 1st and 3rd Tank and 163rd Mechanized Rifle Divisions.

In regard to point 8 above, the logic of the rules system would seem to dictate there should be a bonus in Soviet combat power if the corps integrity of those formations were maintained during operations. No doubt the Soviets hoped for that very thing; however, only the divisions of one of the corps had spent any amount of time training together in field exercises prior to June. In the historic event, then, the divisions operated uncoordinated as corps, and those corps organizations quickly lost all significance.

Grant: What are the Danube Transport Corridor and the Pripyet-Notec Transport Corridor and what role do they play for the Soviets?

Ty: The Soviets would not have had – due to a total lack of Lendlease trucks – the cross-country logistical capacity they had when attacking into this area historically in 1944-45. They were therefore planning on using a river-and-railroad based logistical system, one in the north (Pripyat-Notec) and one in the south (the Danube River valley).

During this initial campaign, the distances in question are short enough to allow for the Soviet player to use a general supply trace to the east map edge; however, that wouldn’t be the case for any subsequent campaign deeper into Reich territory. So Soviet control of one or both of those corridors at the end of the game brings with it a victory point award.

Grant: How does combat work in the design?

Ty: Combat is voluntary but is resolved on a differential, rather than an odds-based, combat results table.

Grant: What are the various victory conditions?

Ty: The Soviet player begins on the offensive, winning by seizing important areas on the map while causing heavy casualties. The German player wins by preventing the fulfillment of the Soviet victory conditions. Unless a player capitulates, victory is only judged at the end of Game Turn 10. There are no “sudden death” victories in this game. There are seven possible Soviet victory points, based on territorial captures and causing heavy German casualties, which the Soviet player can gain for his side. At the same time, there are three German victory points that are subtracted from the Soviet total (again, for territorial captures and heavy Soviet casualties). If the Soviet player ends the game with four or more points, it results in a victory. Three is a draw, and two or fewer are German victories.

Grant: When can we expect the game to be fulfilled?

Ty: One Small Step Games is planning a fast turnaround for Operation Storm. At this point all of the game development and artwork is complete. After the successful end of this campaign, hey will usher the game through the production process. Although they hope to fulfill orders sooner, they are estimating January of 2022 for delivery. However, COVID-19 is still a factor and they cannot be certain that production facilities may not still be impacted.

If you are interested in Operation Storm: Stalin’s Barbarossa you can order a copy from the Kickstarter page at the following link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/warandpeacegame/operation-storm-stalins-barbarossa/?ref=kicktraq

The project closes on June 27th, so if you are interested you had better act.