Air Superiority in Gulf Strike

In Scenario 1 of Gulf Strike (VG, 1983), the Iranians are set to invade the Gulf Council States. With the US presence in the area growing more powerful each turn, Iran has to move very quickly to gain control over and consolidate its hold on the Straits of Hormuz. Time is of the essence and an Iranian player who does not move quickly will almost certainly lose the game.

One of the keys to keeping your armies moving is to gain and keep air superiority. Iran’s army has a lot of ground to cover in its march through the region, so its long supply lines that are quite vulnerable to attack from enemy aircraft. Even a rusting pile of junk is able to fly interdiction missions that will create havoc among your ground forces and slow your advances considerably. Yes, you have air defenses and aircraft – but they cannot be everywhere at once. As Stanley Baldwin once said, “The bomber will always get through.”

With that in mind, the Iranian player needs to have a solid strategy for knocking out the enemy’s air forces before they have a chance to do any real damage. To that end, the Iranian player needs to dedicate his fixed-wing air units to the task of eliminating enemy airbases until they have achieved supremacy.

The scenario setup gives Iran the following air units:

  • 10 x F-4 Phantoms
  • 8 x F-5 Tigers
  • 3 x AH-1 Cobras
  • 2 x CH-47
  • 1 x C-130
  • 1 x P3
  • 1 x S-3

The AH-1 Cobras should be the only aircraft dedicated to ground support for the early turns. The Iranian army is strong enough to take care of itself without needing to call on tons of CAS, especially when dealing with Kuwait. Plunk an airbase down in 1140 and put these guys on Offensive missions.

As for the other planes, we’ll focus entirely only on combat aircraft. That’s the F-4 and F-5s.

The Phantoms are excellent fighters with a “6” rating for anti-air. However, they are also your best bombers with a “5” bombardment rating. The F-5 Tigers are poor bombers (“3”) and decent fighters (“5”) so this should be a no-brainer. The F-4 Phantoms will deliver your air-to-ground ordnance and your F-5s will escort them or be sent on air superiority missions. Of course, the F-5s have a much shorter range than the Phantoms and here’s where things get hairy. In order to gain and keep air superiority, the Iranians will either need good luck and a lot of patience or they’ll need to make some incredibly aggressive moves from the first turn onward.

To Strike or not to Strike

On the first turn of Scenario 1, the Iranian player has the choice of either restricting their attacks to Kuwait or going all out. If they keep their units out of the other countries, the Gulf Council States will mobilize on Turn 2. On the other hand, moving into or attacking any countries besides Kuwait will result in the GC states mobilizing immediately.

Although the former may sound like a good way for the Iranians to catch the other countries with their pants down on Turn 2, I’ve come around to thinking that it hurts Iran more than helps it. If the Iranian player wants to win the scenario, they need to go all out from the very start. Turn 1 should be about taking out Kuwait as fast as possible while beginning the process of dismantling enemy air. My buddy Mark has written about Kuwait at length over at Boardgaming Life and the article is so perfect that I have little to add. On the subject of airpower, though, I think there is room to consider a possible approach.

The Opposition

Let’s go country by country and look at what we have to deal with:

Saudi Arabia

The Saudis have, by far, the most powerful air force in the game outside of the major powers and Iran. They have:

  • 2 x F-15 Eagles
  • 3 x F-5 Tigers
  • 1 x Lightning

The F-15 Eagles are better than your Phantoms with an impressive “7” anti-air rating. The F-5s are certainly no joke here either. Coupled with the AWACS for early warning, these become deadly interceptors.

Kuwait

The Kuwaiti Air Force is very small but can still throw a punch. The single Mirage squadron has a “6” anti-aircraft rating. With only one airbase and one scramble opportunity, they won’t be able to do much though. The two A-4 Skyhawk squadrons are poor fighters with only a “2” rating. They are probably more effective at making ground attacks for the short time they manage to stay alive.

Qatar

A single Mirage squadron. Not too much to worry about in the first turn but should be taken care of soon. These long-range aircraft are able to provide air cover for its small army. They might also be used for interdiction as the Iranian army marches down the peninsula.

Oman

Oman has an antiquated air force with only a single squadron of ageing Hunter aircraft (“1” bombardment and “2” anti-aircraft) and Jaguars apiece. The Jags have a very decent bombardment rating (“5”) so shouldn’t be underestimated. Not likely to do much against your armies in the early game but would almost certainly be used for strike missions against eastern Iran or enemy ships that stray too close to its shores.

UAE

The UAE has a pretty decent air force with two Mirage squadrons that could do well enough as interceptors or ground attack aircraft. They also have a Hunter aircraft that would almost certainly be assigned to interdiction.

Aircraft comparisons

AircraftAnti-airBombardmentRange
F-4 6510
F-5534
F-157510
Mirage648
Hunter212
Lightning315
Jaguar153
A-4235

As you can see from the table above, there are only really three types of enemy aircraft that pose any real threat to Iran’s air force: F-5, F-15, and Mirage. Two of these three aircraft are owned by the Saudis. Consequently, the bulk of our air activity in the first turns should be dedicated to destroying their air force. There are just two problems:

  1. The AWACS provides long-range detection of Iranian aircraft, allowing the Saudis to scramble far in advance of our arrival over target. Since we cannot club the Saudi Air Force over the head with better aircraft, Iran will have to rely on good ol’ quantity to get the job done.
  2. If the Saudis set up their air bases in a defensive area around Riyadh (thereby ceding air defense of the other allied nations around it), the airfields will be out of range for Iran’s F-5 aircraft to use as escorts for the F-4 Phantoms. Thus, the Iranian Air Force will be forced to pair up the Phantoms and use them exclusively against Saudi Arabia. It will take several turns to knock the Saudis completely out of the air. The Iranian Air Force will be hurting by the end of it.

This dilemma reveals the true limitations of Iran’s air capabilities (namely, its limited range) and highlights the need for a much more aggressive strategy based on the fact that Iran, if it is going to survive the game, will need to take drastic measures early on to capture and seize airfields. This will play a key role in keeping the Americans out of the Gulf and the Soviets in a position where they will be able to protect Iran’s gains in the region.

The options in the early turns include capturing Bahrain immediately with a marine landing in 2157 (after sinking their FAC, of course). It’s also a supply source. You might try for a foothold on the Saudi coastline by landing near Al Kubar in 1957 but the enemy Corvette and Frigate will both need to go first. A safer option might be to grab Al Hufuh at 1760. This could also be captured by a C-30 airlifted brigade in the first turn. The only problem is that reinforcement in subsequent turns can only be achieved by air.

In my experience, achieving at least two of these three objectives will at usually get the ball rolling. From the second turn, you’ll be using C-130s and your ships to transport your airbases into the newly captured airfields. Start ferrying your air units down there next. This will give you a huge advantage from Turn 3 onwards. You’ll hopefully have two dedicated airbases that can be used to launch F-5 escorted region-wide strike missions with your Phantoms.

You’ll also have a place to hang your F-14 Tomcat EW aircraft. These bases will help protect your ground forces as they move south from Kuwait. They’ll also be a great staging area to move your airmobile and naval forces east when you’re ready to attack the UAE and Oman (which should be very soon).

If the Soviets can be handed a toehold for their MiG-23s based at 4458 at the tip of the Strait of Hormuz, the Iranian forces will have a chance of pulling off a win. The key to this game is air superiority and any strategy that begins with considering how to achieve this will win over a commander who focuses only on the ground war.

Dawn’s Early Light: Southern Thrust – Soviet Setup Options

In my previous post, I talked about two different setup options for the NATO player for the scenario, “Southern Thrust” in LnLP’s brigade level WW3 game, “Dawn’s Early Light”.  In this article, I’d like to look at the Soviet setup.

The Soviets get a big advantage here since they set up after the NATO player.  Therefore, a smart Soviet player is going to need to watch carefully how the NATO player splits his forces in order to find a weakness and exploit it.

In the previous article, I gave an example of a static “forward defense” setup for NATO that probably won’t work.  If the NATO player decides for this kind of setup, the Soviet player can easily just split his forces evenly and drive for Eisenbach on the right and the three cities on the left.

The Soviet player sends the 33rd Motorized Rifle Division down on the left.  They should have the Canadians either defeated or badly hurt by the afternoon of Day 1.  After that, it’s a simple matter of splitting up your brigades into two separate forces.  One force should rush for the cities.  You’ll probably take Jungweiler without much of a fight and then grab Schneiderberg and Mittelbaum without much resistance.  The other Soviet brigade should be sent down towards the southwest to cut off NATO reinforcements entering the board.  A more cautious Soviet player may want to keep a couple of token units from the 33rd MRD up near Stahlhammer AFB just to protect it, but it’s probably not even necessary.

The 1st Guards Tank Division to the east can easily outmaneuver the US armor elements.  Simply send a brigade or two to tie up the Americans while the rest of your armor slips around them and heads towards Eisenbach.  The Soviet player can also send some reinforcements over the bridge in the center of the map just to help out the 33 MRD in the unlikely event that it runs into trouble or delays in taking out the Canadians.  It might be worth sending a couple of units down towards A17 where the NATO player can send in reinforcements.

With this kind of approach, it’s highly likely the Soviets will be able to win.  Use your artillery assets to take out Eisenbach and the other cities and if you get the 2nd Airborne, land them into any newly captured cities, which frees up your other units to attack any stubbornly-defended NATO cities.

Let’s look at another possible NATO setup and some possible moves for the Soviets.

The above NATO setup creates considerable problems for the Soviet player.  Although reaching the objectives is going to be much easier this time, there are some careful NATO traps set for the Soviets.  Furthermore, NATO basically has control over the bridge in the center of the map, which makes it harder for the Warsaw Pact units to help each other out, while making it easier for NATO to do the same.

With the standard two-pronged attack as outlined above, the Soviet player, unless he is very lucky, will probably not take 3 of 4 cities on the left flank.  NATO’s tighter defensive positions around Jungweiler, Schneiderberg and Mittelbaum probably mean that the 33MRD will need to commit all of its brigades to taking thos cities.  This means that NATO reinforcements will enter the map from the southwest with no resistance and then damage the 33MRD beyond repair.

On the right flank, things don’t look so rosy either.  Sure, the Soviet player will get forces down to Eisenbach easily and probably even take the city.  However, the NATO player will probably send his full-strength armor units down to slaughter the 1GDT tanks and men as they assault on the city. There’s a very good chance that the Americans will re-take the city at some point after inflicting some horrifying losses on the Russians.

The ideal approach for the Soviets here may be to simply abandon one of the flanks, set up a defensive force around Stahlhammer AFB and put the combined strength of the 33 MRD and 1GDT together for one big push. Personally, I would recommend hitting the right flank and going for Eisenbach.  The left flank with the forest and rough hexes are slow-moving and the units are hemmed in between the mountains and the edge of the board.  The right flank near Eisenbach has plenty of open ground for maneuver.

In this situation, the 1GDT goes directly for the tanks of the US 5th while the 33MRD goes straight for Eisenbach.  The 1st Guards Tank will probably defeat the US armor, while the Canadians will probably rush straight east to defend the bridge crossing hexes or even Eisenbach itself.  Either way, things work well for the Russians.  Eisenbach cannot be held under an assault by a full division.  The US 5th will be tied up by the entire 1st Guards Tank Division and, if the Soviets can manage to crush the US armor quickly enough, they can rush the survivors over the bridge to take the now-undefended cities to the west.

The NATO player could counter this kind of approach a few different ways.  A savvy US player will see the Soviet trap after setup and withdraw the US 5th tanks east across the river and defend the crossing.  The Canadians could let the 33MRD take Eisenbach and focus all their defense efforts on the bridges.  A particularly daring NATO player can send NATO reinforcements up towards Stahlhammer AFB to try and steal it from under the Soviets’ noses and garner a victory point.

As you can see from this article and the previous one,  using different setup options in DEL and abandoning the tired static defense/standard attack patterns makes the game much more interesting for both players.  Good players of DEL will immediately recognize the importance of controlling the bridges on the map and throwing the opponent off guard by taking some gambles during setup.  Of course, selecting and using assets, having your different forces work together, and determining where and how to commit reinforcements are other important aspects of the game and I’ll be covering these in future articles.

Dawn’s Early Light: Southern Thrust – NATO Setup Options

“Southern Thrust” is the name of scenario 3 for “Dawn’s Early Light”, LnLP’s brigade-level combat game set in the World at War universe where the Soviets are rolling through West Germany in 1985.

In “Southern Thrust”, the NATO forces, consisting of the US 5th Armored Division the 4th Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group (4CMBG), are harassing the Soviets on their southern flank in the Eisenbach gap as the Soviets push through towards the Rhine and on towards France and world domination.  The Soviet 33rd Motorized Division and the 1st Guards Tank Army are sent to take care of these pesky varmints and have a few objectives to complete on the way.

The Warsaw Pact forces start north of row M on the map while NATO sets up south of row I for a classic north-south battle where the Soviets will try to capture Eisenbach along with any three  of four cities to the west of it.  If they can inflict some serious losses on the NATO units along the way and preserve their own force, they can earn some extra VPs.  The Soviets also need to keep hold of Stahlhammer AFB, which they captured on their initial push through the gap.

Both sides start out feeling the pressure.  The scenario is only two days long, which puts the pressure on the Soviets to move fast and get quick results while NATO has only limited resources to deal with the Soviet push south.  The fact that both sides start with a reduced number of armor brigades doesn’t make it any easier for either side.

I’d like to look here at a few possible set up options for NATO and the Soviets.  Since the NATO forces must set up first, I’ll look at them.

With limited resources to start out with, the NATO player has to be a bit crafty and play the odds that the Soviets are going to try a two pronged approach from the south to try for both Eisenbach and the four cities west of the river near Eisenbach.

A basic NATO setup that might work is to just set the 4CMBG to the west and the armor of the US 5th on the right flank, stack some infantry in the cities and hope for the best.  This isn’t a bad strategy and it has worked for me on occasion.  The problems with this setup are twofold:

1.)  The 4CMBG will probably be crushed by the Soviets rather quickly.  With only three units (albeit with tough infantry), the Soviets will probably apply enough pressure to come down through the forest and rough hexes, overwhelm one or two Canadian combat elements and then saunter down to capture the cities to the east of the river.  They will probably also send a nice little force to the southwest in order to stall or block your reinforcements from arriving in a timely manner.

2.)  The US 5th Armoroed Division tanks will probably fall and even if they don’t, it really doesn’t matter.  There is enough open ground south of hex I to tear a a pile of brigades down towards Eisenbach and take it while the rest of the Soviets in 1GT tie up the remaining American tanks.

The beauty of this setup for the Soviet player is that he/she doesn’t need both plans to necessarily work.  If one fork succeeds in its push towards its goals, it will apply enormous pressure on the NATO forces on the other flank.

So how about an alternate setup?

I find that the above setup, although not ideal, is much more realistic for the NATO player and provides a much greater chance of preventing the Soviets from achieving their goals.

First off, the Canadians are set much further back in a defensive position that centers around three cities, Jungweiler, Mittelbaum, and Schneiderberg.  With the road network that exists between the cities, the infantry and tank forces can move much faster to block approaching Soviets and reinforce cities where NATO resistance is crumbling.  Keeping the two very tough Canadian infantry brigades in closed defensive city terrain certainly makes the Soviets’ job much harder.  The Canadian tank unit can be used to move up quickly on the roads and strike at isolated Soviet units.  To make up for the Canadian lack of numbers on the left flank, I usually direct any airstrike or gunship assets to this side of the board.

On the right flank, the US 5th has set up next to the river, keeping the door wide open for the Soviet tank forces to rush at Eisenbach.  The plan here is simple.  The Americans will let the Soviets approach the beleagured city and then rush at their forces, closing the gate in the process.  The Soviets have a major disadvantage when attacking Eisenbach, which is the difficulty in surrounding it due to the river.  The Americans have purposefully set up near a bridge to block Soviet access to the western bank, forcing them to take a bad approach to assaulting Eisenbach.  While the Soviet forces pile up on the east bank, the US will send its M1s to hurt vulnerable units.

By using movement, defensive terrain, and smart use of assets, the NATO player will have a much better chance of keeping the two prongs of the Soviet attack from linking up by using this setup rather than the more obvious (but highly vulnerable) “forward defense” setup proposed in the first part of this article.  Next up, I’ll examine the Soviet setup options!

Corps Command: Dawn’s Early Light – NATO Fire and Movement

This is (probably) my final article dealing with strategy in LnL’s Corps Command:  Dawn’s Early Light.  As I mentioned in my previous post, the key to Soviet victory is finding a NATO weak spot while maneuvering your other units around the other defenders to either prevent NATO reinforcement or to protect your own breakthrough elements.

For the NATO player, there are some essential points to keep in mind in order to successfully defend against a Warsaw Pact invasion.

The first point is setup and formation.

Setup Advice:  Where should the US player set up?  In the first scenario, the US is tasked with defending the southern sector of the board.  The West Germans get the north part to defend.   The amount of clear terrain from the board’s eastern edge to the city of Eisenbach poses some real problems.  American reinforcements take a long time to get to the front and the US doesn’t have many units to use as defense.  Even with an activation number of 5 (6 MP), the US reinforcements will take at least two impulses just to get to Eisenbach.  By the time they arrive at the front further northeast, the battle is usually already lost for the Americans.

To help with reinforcement issues, the Americans should set up far forward to the northeast of the city of Eisenbach and then slowly pull his forces back towards the Soviet objective.  As the NATO player, always try to make the Soviet units come to you.  Not only will this take away the ability of the Soviets to use their recon units and artillery assets in assaults, but the Soviet player cannot use gunships to hit units that are not adjacent to his units at the beginning of his impulse.  A slow backwards moving defense removes the Soviets greatest advantage by taking away assault bonuses, which keeps your own units alive much longer.  By the time your units have pulled back to the Soviet objective and are defending it “Alamo style”, your reinforcements should be arriving to save the day.

Formation:  There are several possible defensive formations that the US can use in its defense.  Let’s examine them and the possible advantages and disadvantages.

Line:  The most common formation for beginning players to use for American defense is the line formation.  The line formation looks exactly as it is described.  The forces are lined up across the map and the defender rushes at the line in an attempt to break it.  The major disadvantage is that the attacker is going to find a weak link at some point and a good attacker, as already stated, will easily exploit the space between units to prevent movement and reinforcement.

Vee:  In a vee formation, units on the flanks are kept forward while units in the middle are moved slightly back.  The formation looks and acts like a “catcher’s mitt” and the hope is that the enemy will go straight for the middle of the pocket and get hung up there.  The problem is that a smart attacker will go straight for the vulnerable flanks, surrounding them and quickly destroying them.  Probably not the optimal defensive formation.

Diamond:  In the diamond formation, the flanks are kept back and the middle units are sent forward slightly.  A rear unit hangs out behind the friendly forces, ready to reinforce damaged units or catch enemy units that slip through friendly lines.  For a variety of reasons, the diamond formation is probably the best formation for a defender in DEL to adopt.  Although it’s not invulnerable, it’s versatile enough that units can easily move together and support one another if friendly NATO units starts taking serious damage.  And since the key to defense in DEL is to keep it mobile, this is a great formation to adopt.

US units in diamond formation.

In the picture above, the player is defending in a good spot, not too far from Eisenbach where it’s hard for reinforcements to reach but not so close that the city is in imminent danger.  The US has created lots of problems for the Soviet player, first by using the US Cavalry Squadron not as an attachment to existing forces but rather as an additional independent force that can project friendly ZOC.  He (or she) has also kept one of the armored battalions from the 2nd brigade sitting back in reserve to prevent a breakthrough should any of the Soviet units be successful in destroying the American units.  They can also use those tanks to reinforce any units in trouble or they could even rotate out a damaged front line unit and move those tanks in as a replacement.  The tanks can even rush back and reinforce Eisenbach in the lower left if there’s a real sudden emergency.

Focus:  This brings me to my last point, which is fire focus.  For the Soviets, concentrated firepower is everything.  Damaging a NATO unit is extremely difficult and if it’s only damaged and not completely destroyed, little has been gained for the Russians.  NATO has the opposite problem.  Completely destroying Soviet units is all well and good but there are always more units on the way.  The best thing the NATO player can do is to spread out their damage to slow down the Soviets.

When Soviet units take damage, they actually lose initiative, which means they don’t activate as often and that, in turn, means they don’t attack or move as often.  The more units that are damaged, the less units you’ll have to deal with trying to break through or sneak around your units and that makes your job much easier as the defender.

You’ll find that even though you can’t stop the Soviets, you can control the pace and direction of their advance with smart placement and movement and this, along with good use of assets, is the key to NATO victory in Dawn’s Early Light.

Happy Hunting!

Dawn’s Early Light: Some Thoughts on Strategy

I’ve been getting back into Corps Command:  Dawn’s Early Light recently and here are some things I’ve started to understand about different Soviet and NATO strategies.  I’m writing this article as advice for beginners to the series.  I’m definitely not a tactical genius (as my opponents will surely attest) but I think this is a good basic guide for those who are interested in this under-rated gem of a game.

Soviets:  I used to lose as the Soviets all the time.  The reason was that I would basically just run up to NATO units and hammer away on them until I destroyed enough units to make an advance.  If you’re very lucky, this strategy might work but the inherent NATO firepower advantage means that you’re playing into their hands by adopting this strategy.  You might take out a few NATO units but your Soviets will be so utterly decimated by that time, you won’t have enough strength to take your objective.

In order to win, the Soviets have to move.  A good NATO player will try to slow down the Soviets from reaching the objective through interlocking zones of control (ZOC).  A good Soviet player will use a “5” activation to maneuver his units out of those NATO ZOCs and towards the objective.  If you ever have to decide between attacking and moving, always always choose to move.  The Soviets need to have a laser-like focus on the objective in order to win.  During night turns, always opt to move rather than repair units.  The Soviets usually have reinforcements coming in behind them so don’t worry about repairing your losses.

For the Soviets, the most powerful asset is artillery.  It gives you a much needed bonus for assaults, especially when you’ve got a recon unit to add its bonus to your attack.  Soviet units always take a pounding and lose strength due to defensive power so artillery can basically mean the difference between winning and losing.  Sure, it’s only available for one impulse but used correctly (ie. at the objective), it will help immensely.

When you reach the objective, your setup is crucial.  For obvious reasons, most of the first units that reach the objective are the most damaged ones.  Take the extra impulse to maneuver these units to the rear of the objective, even if it means you can’t attack immediately.  This helps to make way for the fresh units coming up behind you to get to the objective and hit them hard.  There really is nothing more frustrating than pounding away at a stack of infantry in a city with a “1” strength tank unit while your fresh infantry reinforcements sit uselessly behind you.  If time is an issue, however, you may have to just take your lumps and run headlong into the objective.

Try to split objectives up by regiment.  The Soviets can stack three units from the same division in one hex while they can only stack two units from different divisions in one hex.  Obviously this makes a big difference, especially in the aforementioned situation when you want to bring maximum firepower towards an objective.

Lastly, the 2nd Airborne is a really great asset because it can be dropped pretty much anywhere on the map.  This asset is most effective when NOT used.  It keeps the NATO player guessing when and where you’re going to use it and it can effectively prevent NATO from sending rear units forward to help reinforce the front.  In the first scenario, the 2nd AB asset basically forces the Americans to keep some units near Eisenbach and the 1st Panzer to keep a brigade of tanks sitting uselessly at Stahlhammer AFB.  They can best be described as the land equivalent of a “Fleet in being“.

NATO:  The most important thing for NATO is to just keep the Soviets at bay for as long as possible.  With limited numbers of units, their best hope is to delay and hope for help in the form of reinforcements.  Assets that help damage the Soviets (artillery, for example) are fine but the Russians are usually being reinforced with new waves coming behind them.  It’s best for the NATO player to have assets that help him keep the initiative.

Signal jamming, for example, is a great chit that allows the NATO player to select his own activation number.  This means that you can use the chit to select a high activation number and speed your reinforcements from the rear to the front.  Alternately, you might choose a lower activation number to juggle your infantry around as the Soviets get closer to city objectives.

Airstrikes are a great way to reduce entire stacks of units and should almost always target anything with a recon brigade.  Recon units help give the Soviets a slight edge in damaging your units so removing this hard-to-kill threat as soon as possible is essential.

NATO units at the front should remain largely static until damaged.  Locking up Soviet units through zone of control forces the Soviet to choose between moving one measly hex or attacking.  Ideally, the Soviet player is going to lose lots of units to defensive fire and in the course of the average game, this will happen a lot.  To really seal the deal, however, you need to think carefully about terrain and how your units work in different places.  Inflicting defensive fire on 2,3 and 7 will certainly help wear down the Soviets until they reach the objective.

Lastly, it’s important to use the last couplet of every day to return damaged units away from the front and recycle undamaged units towards it.  If your units are in a zone of control during the recovery phase at night, you can only recover on a “6”.  But if you have damaged units out of that recovery zone, there’s a much better chance (“5” or a “6”) to get your units strength back up.

Make the Russians fight for every single inch of ground and only concede it when your units are heavily damaged.  Even a -2 Panzer brigade is much more use to you than a dead one.