Nicolas Michon
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Joined: Sun 06 Sep 2020, 21:18

[ALPHA] The Other Side: some thoughts on how to portray the Soviet army

Sun 13 Dec 2020, 16:51

[cross-posted from FB]
Since the game allows one to also play PCs from the Soviet side, and since it is always good to have opponents that are realistic and not cardboard cutouts, below please find a few thoughts on things that could be added to the base game ... or form the basis of a future expansion.
First, a couple of possible inconsistencies (which I have noted in the Dropbox):
the Soviet army is described as "highly motivated ..." and then there is the (fully accurate) mention of it being made up mostly of draftees & involuntary reservists ;
the Soviet Navy is, also accurately, depicted as a secondary branch (except for the subs), but then, in the UK section, there is the (widely criticized) notion that a Soviet "armada" had been able to land the UK.
The first inconsistency could be solved by taking the "highly" out of the equation, and explaining that, post-coup, efforts have been made to improve morale (which has moved from "abysmal" to "mediocre").
Second, it would be neat to give players who may not be familiar with the Soviet system a primer on the completely different structure of the Soviet army (The Bear Went Over the Mountain and FM-100-2-3 have fascinating tidbits in this regard):
- initiative is discouraged: officers at the ranks of captain and below are typically conscripts, who are distrusted by the upper echelons, so battalion commanders had to spend a lot of time doing things that should have been delegated, and there have been many instances of upper echelons insisting upon a report from their subordinates at the most inopportune times. Likewise, FM-100-2-3 reports that, in tank units, only platoon leaders were issued maps ....... so what happens when the lead tank is blown up?
- Political officers have enormous influence, sometimes more than career officers, which can lead to seriously bad decisions being taken.
Third, some sociological pointers would be neat:
for instance, one of the plagues of the Red Army was the so-called "dedovshkina" system, a breed of hazing coupled with outright racketeering, whereby the older conscripts lorded it over the ones that had just arrived (military service was two years, and there was an overlap). All militaries have some form of hazing (we currently have a trial of 4 trainee officers accused of negligent homicide of another one during a "transmission of the traditions at Coëtquidan), but the brutality and racketeering aspects were, apparently, out of proportion
another important point that is often glossed over is the diversity of the Soviet Union .... and the fact that soldiers coming from the non-Ethnic-Russian parts of the Soviet Union were subjected to outright racism by the other ones (people from the Caucasus were referred to as "black asses", etc.) The Soviet anthem makes an explicit mention of Russia as the "big brother" of the Republics, and the only Sovietologist who predicted the fall of the Soviet Union (but was completely wrong as to how and when it would happen) focussed on precisely this issue (Hélène Carrère d'Encausse, L'Empire Eclaté).
Since there are places where space could be spared (see, e.g., the duplicate weapons & stats in the weapons section), could we see a bit more background along those lines ? I'll be happy to contribute, but there may be others with even better information. Likewise, if our Swedish friends could give more details as to military life / traditions / issues for Swedish conscripts, that would also help bring the world to life. Carl Hicks Jr. could also maybe expand upon his "Military Life for Civilians" document. In every country, the military is a world apart - and while there are similarities (the routine, the insularity...) there can be significant differences, which can give depth to the setting and to the PCs / NPCs.
 
omnipus
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Re: [ALPHA] The Other Side: some thoughts on how to portray the Soviet army

Mon 14 Dec 2020, 00:43

I think it's a good idea to have some more background, if possible. From the perspective of a roleplaying game, it would probably be more useful to have general background of life in the Soviet Union in general, rather than whatever foibles of the Soviet Army. Even there, the concepts of above may apply, but the Soviets were well aware of these problems themselves and were taking active steps to revise doctrine and so forth by the early 80s, in particular looking at training systems, initiative of more junior commanders, etc. If we accept that manpower-wise and equipment-wise the Soviets did not collapse as they did historically then it would also make more sense to extrapolate these changes in perspective that were already happening for 10-15 years prior to 2000. (It's also fairly likely that veterans who have survived to the year 2000 have "learned on the job" and that the situation dictates a different sort of thinking. People who are not capable of adapting to that probably do not survive very well.)
 
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Vader
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Re: [ALPHA] The Other Side: some thoughts on how to portray the Soviet army

Mon 14 Dec 2020, 14:31

Looking at it from the other side, then... "VDV — Greetings From the Sky!"

Post-soviet VDV, to be sure, but the differences don't strike me as all that marked...

BTW, that's his own uniform, and rank insignia. And medals.


[EDIT: I think this may be better resolution]
[i]Before[/i] clicking that response button — [i]are you sure you actually [b]read[/b] it?[/i]

...[i]and[/i] checked if something more was posted after it? ;)
 
Nicolas Michon
Topic Author
Posts: 49
Joined: Sun 06 Sep 2020, 21:18

Re: [ALPHA] The Other Side: some thoughts on how to portray the Soviet army

Mon 14 Dec 2020, 20:30

I think it's a good idea to have some more background, if possible. From the perspective of a roleplaying game, it would probably be more useful to have general background of life in the Soviet Union in general, rather than whatever foibles of the Soviet Army. Even there, the concepts of above may apply, but the Soviets were well aware of these problems themselves and were taking active steps to revise doctrine and so forth by the early 80s, in particular looking at training systems, initiative of more junior commanders, etc. If we accept that manpower-wise and equipment-wise the Soviets did not collapse as they did historically then it would also make more sense to extrapolate these changes in perspective that were already happening for 10-15 years prior to 2000. (It's also fairly likely that veterans who have survived to the year 2000 have "learned on the job" and that the situation dictates a different sort of thinking. People who are not capable of adapting to that probably do not survive very well.)
Hello, fair points but, reading "The bear went over the mountain", it looks like the impact of these changes was limited, outside of the airborne / spetsnaz troops. Hyper centralization and emphasis on political loyalty are consubstantial to orthodox communist systems, which will always stymie efforts to relax it. The way all of this will interact with the Twilight War will be ... interesting at the lower unit levels, since, as you point out, there will have been a lot of "on the job training"
 
omnipus
Posts: 338
Joined: Mon 22 Jun 2020, 20:58

Re: [ALPHA] The Other Side: some thoughts on how to portray the Soviet army

Mon 14 Dec 2020, 21:14

The most obvious and interesting story thread there is the slim thread of survival of political officers. These guys may or may not have any actual contact with Moscow -- but every reason of basic survival to pretend that they do. Units that lost (or "lost") their political officers would seem far more likely to have gone rogue, lost morale entirely, or (on the other hand) be free now to act under the authority of a more skilled commander.

Anyway the fact that the Soviets were allowing publication of internal systemic criticism outside of dogma within their army leadership journals in the '80s suggests they were taking it seriously, and/or the spirit of glasnost was being accepted there as well. Given the backstory, I guess you can do whatever you want with that after the coup!

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