Posts such as ones with the following title will be examples of my viewpoint on certain aspects of the game.
First of all, tactical encirclements in the game are very rare. There are limited opportunities for doing so, due to the lack of troops at hand as well as other reasons.
For the Southern Whites these other reasons usually mean simply a lack of time and replacements for doing so. When playing the Southern Whites’ side, the player must be extremely cautious and have an ability to foresee the development of the situation a few turns ahead. Any defeat may be the last one, since a defeat or victory at a high cost may deplete the resources of the Southern Whites(this will be discussed further in another post in the future). This causes the Southern Whites player to avoid clashes with enemy forces at all costs, until the last one comes when the final blow has the opportunity to win the war.
This creates a situation in which the Southern Whites are hardly able to make an encirclement of enemy forces that would benefit them, except the army of Sorokin in the beginning of the game. An encirclement, in order to be successful, must end for the encircling side in either of the two ways: a final assault when the enemy troops are surrounded and have nowhere to go(the victory over Sorokin in this game), or the eventual destruction of the encircled army due to a lack of supplies. Here the Southern Whites’ player must swim between Scylla and Harybda: a victory where he can lose a solemn number of deficit troops which they are not be able to replace, or a great deal of time spent on the troops encircled, which for the Southern White faction may mean losing time for an offensive. Not speaking of the possibilities of an enemy breakthrough or help from the exterior which even further increases the chance of too heavy losses.
If there is one problem a player notices throughout the game: it is a lack of troops, especially from the Southern White side. This has a very sensible effect on encirclements. One could propose encircling with single unit detachments, yet this encirclement will not remain intact even for one turn, since it can be easily broken. Thus, you need to have troops in formations of at least a few brigades to a few divisions size, depending on the period of the game you are playing. Yet even then, you will not have enough divisions in the single stack to hold back the enemy onslaught on a single region, if the enemy has his number of troops anywhere comparable to your overall encircling army.
What is the solution then?
Corps. They can support each other and their army reserve if they are in neighboring regions, this is called in the game “Marching to the sound of guns”. So when the enemy attacks one corps, the neighbors try to enter the battlefield to give aid in repelling the enemy troops. As an example from my current game: when Sorokin attempted to break the encirclement through Tikhoretsk, Sidorin’s corps met him and the neighboring General Krasnov’s corps also helped by coming from the neighboring region. This division in corps size units allows a certain possibility of an encirclement to exist. Yet very rarely is there a region with the proper perimeter for this to occur. The region of Kugoyevskaya(Kuban theatre, where Sorokin was destroyed) in this sense is a pearl, since it is surrounded by only 4 regions which allows the Whites to establish a relatively dense encirclement. Yet regions such as that are quite rare in the game. Other regions may be surrounded by 7 regions, which doesn’t allow the player to create an encirclement dense enough to withstand an enemy breakthrough attempt. The player, even if he is playing for the Reds, will simply not have enough corps commanders to do so, not even speaking of a proper quantity of divisions to protect the occupied territory.
Even if he does have enough commanders and troops to PROTECT(as in defend if attacked and not attacking the enemy yourself, in the game expressed as defensive posture) the region with corps he may not have enough troops to occupy the region well enough to forbid the enemy from breaking the encirclement. There is a remarkable aspect of the game which has to do with postures: if a force enters a region of which it controls less than 6% and has a defensive posture(this posture orders to defend in case of an attack from the enemy but not to start combat yourself) it switches to an offensive posture(that orders to attack the enemy regardless of whether he is attacking you himself or not) thus making the troops that wished to only defend themselves and generally avoiding battle, to attack the enemy troops in the region. This is vital for encirclements, since if you have a region nearby occupied by enemy troops de facto, but de jure being still under your control, you can simply slip away past the enemy troops in a defensive posture that allows you to take advantage of the terrain in the region and not fight the encircling enemy. There is of course a chance of this even when the region is 100% occupied by the encircling force, yet in order to pass by these troops the encircled must take a passive posture, which implements combat penalties and often makes the troops not follow orders due to an enemy attack or threat of an attack, and can be easily intercepted by placing the encircling troops in a attack posture. With the lack of troops the White player has, the use of encirclements is very limited.
The Reds also have trouble doing these, since although they may have enough troops they lack enough corps commanders. This makes every force on its’ own, offering the Whites an opportunity to inflict serious casualties on a certain detachment with barely any consequences.
Thus, the most probable faction able to do this is the Siberian faction, this will generally pertain to the area in the quadrilateral formed by Nizhniy Novgorod, Kazan, Syzran and Penza, though it could be used for other regions too. One of the main reasons of this is the river Volga, on which the Siberians have a huge advantage in the face of the river fleet allowing to prohibit the enemy from crossing the river. Also, they have more troops, time and resources than the Southern Whites and a sufficient number of corps commanders, unlike the Reds. As well, the character of their theatre differs from the plains of the south, often involving rivers and occasionally forests which decrease the mobility of troops. As well, cities are far less abundant, as well as depots being further away. This presents the Siberian player more opportunities than anyone else to make an encirclement.
The same to be said about pursuing the exhausted enemy in case he manages to break the circle of hell. If on the Southern theatre, the enemy often has the opportunity to slip away to a depot in the same turn the encirclement is broken, the Siberian theatre is different, providing this opportunity only if the enemy uses his railway points, and not always allowing the enemy to reach a railway connected to the rear railroad system in the same turn he broke the encirclement.
As well, the resources of the Siberian player also are far greater in number, due an abundance of cities giving a good amount of money and conscripts. This broadens the opportunities of the Siberians and allows them to cross swords with the Reds a few times, and even in case of defeat replenish the losses, though in the general scheme the Siberian player is unable to win using a war of attrition strategy. Yet even for the Siberians, an encirclement is rare.
There is also another opportunity for an encirclement dealing with not who is encircling but with who is encircled. This generally deals with troops having armored trains, or in the case of the Reds: Trotsky as the commander. The presence of such movement restricted troops allows the encircling side to cut off all routes of retreat by covering just two regions, by taking control of the regions where the railroad leads. Once the enemy recognizes this fact, he must decide whether he should entrench and hope that he will repel the enemy attack, charge at the enemy or leave the expensive elements behind while saving the rest.
There is also another notable aspect, though dealing with UNSUCCESSFUL encirclements: if all regions but one are uncovered by the enemy, the encircled may leave the territory behind and retreat, allowing the encircling side to gain some territory. This may be useful in a case when you urgently need territory, as the Whites do in the beginning of the grand campaign, yet are unable to make a proper encirclement.
Yet even if you manage to successfully encircle the enemy, your horrors are not over yet. You must occupy the region fully, otherwise there is a chance that in case when you launch the final attack, the enemy may slip away in one of the regions you previously occupied.
Overall encirclements are very hard to come by. They can occur only when the enemy or you have no far going plans, and most of your desires being limited to capturing the control over a certain grand region, in the Southern case this would be the Kuban, in the Siberian this would be the Volga grand region. This may also only happen when the enemy has all his troops in a single stack, this often occurs when two nearly equal forces are in a stalemate position when neither is able to destroy the other yet if they separate even a tiny detachment they could be defeated. In such a case, an encirclement is an invitation for the enemy to attack your detached troops in a state of being well defended in the occupied regions or an invitation to give up the currently protected territory, threatening with the destruction of his army.
But if you are willing to conduct an encirclement I would satisfy the following requirements:
1. You should be ready for an external force coming to save the encircled troops, or know that it will not arrive.
2. You should have enough time to hold the enemy in the bag, otherwise there is barely reason to make an encirclement. This generally applies when you are in a state of a continuing offensive against the troops of your opponent.
3. There must be a reason for the encirclement. If an encirclement is aimed at destroying the army, predict what you will gain by destroying this army. Often there isn’t the luxury to destroy all enemy troops on the map, and if you destroy one force, even a one that is very large, yet do not approach closer to victory or the main objective, you are not repaying the losses you have taken.
4. You must be well prepared for an attempt of a breakthrough or even a successful breakthrough. Try limiting the enemy in choices. For example: The most vulnerable position planned in the encirclement of Sorokin was Salsk, where most probably the Reds would be headed since sound hopes would be only for the Kuban cavalry brigade protecting this sector which left it barely protected. In case of a successful breakthrough here, the Reds would have rather limited abilities to protect Kuban and would have to go either to the Caucasian or Tzaritzyn theatre, in either case leaving Ekaterinodar unprotected and the Taman army unaided.
Judging by my experience, there was only successful tactical encirclement that regularly occurred in the game: was for the army of Sorokin by the Southern Whites. There were a few unsuccessful ones on the Siberian front, which yet had high chances to be successful. But this only applies to tactical encirclements, when the troops you command occupy all provinces that neighbor the one occupied by the enemy. I find there is another type that I call “Operational Encirclements” when the enemy army has the railroad lines that could provide supplies and a road to retreat is blocked, yet in this case it is generally not planned to destroy the enemy army by one attack. Of it I will speak later on.
For united Russia!