A few years back, there was a poll on BGG that asked people what they considered the turning point of the war with Germany. Which event marked the watershed for the Axis forces? Well, nobody agreed with me then so I doubt anybody agrees with me now, but I said it was the battle for Moscow.

While it’s correct to say that El Alamein was the first major defeat for the Axis powers, I think Moscow was the real turning point. That was the first time the Russians had stopped them in their tracks (with the help of General Winter and conveniently ignoring Leningrad for a moment). Yes, the next year they went on and made great headway in the south towards the Caucasus, but, to my eyes, that’s deceptive.

Soviet_Offensive_Moscow_December_1941 - Drive on Moscow

By that time the Russians were generally pulling back, rather than being routed as they had done the previous year. It was (mostly) controlled and deliberate; they bided their time, inviting the enemy deeper into hostile territory and exposing the German flanks and precarious supply line while they improved and increased their manufacturing capabilities and amassed troops and supplies. Add Hitler’s dismissal of his commander-in-chief and his assuming control of all future military decisions, effectively removing the one advantage he had, experienced and forward thinking leadership, and they’re left with a war of numbers, which they could never win. While the Russians did make some early mistakes, such as the initial counter offensive, they learned quickly.

At least that’s my very simplified take on it, and I wanted to use the environment to show that this was quite a monumental event. This is where the German steamroller was stopped and the Red Army began to use its numbers, technology, and newly acquired tactical and strategic skills to great advantage. There are just those few tantalising steps to apparent victory for the Germans but a massive hammer blow is about to drop them. The Russians, and General Winter. I wanted to communicate all of this in the splash screen image for Drive on Moscow.

Now before you all shout at me about a. the weather and b. the location of Red Square … I know. Consider it artistic license.

And for those that don’t know why I may be shouted at:

A. Most accounts from the German side talk of searing heat and smothering yellow dust, then men and horses sinking up to their necks in mud, then white outs, blizzards, -50 degrees at night, -30 during the day (that’s colder than our freezer), no winter clothing, no food, no ammunition. Quite a variety of environments and conditions.

The Russians on the other hand, especially the Siberians, were used to it, planned for it, and were equipped for exactly this kind of weather.

B. Red Square is in the middle of the city, next to the river, surrounded by housing, apartments, and industry for maybe 30kms in each direction. Yes there’s un-confirmed stories of a German recce company getting close enough to see the domes of Saint Basils but that’s most likely wishful thinking or propaganda. Even if they had, they would have had to get high to see over the 25kms or so of buildings and trees. Of course, there were still the blizzard, smoke, and clouds blocking view.

Drive on Moscow Splash Screen

So, what’s this splash screen meant to show? Firstly, most video and photos I’ve seen of the area and the battle show vast flat expanses, hemmed in by deep, foreboding forests. The road…well that’s the (muddy and rutted) road to Moscow. Red Square is there as a symbol of what the Germans were trying to achieve, tantalisingly close and apparently easy to reach for what turned out to be an over-confident and ill-prepared modern army with the massing, heavy, ominous cloud of the Red Army and the weather ready to crash down on them.

Bare in mind that this came on the heels of El Alamein’s splash screen which was very clearly orange desert, so creating another blue/green snow scene didn’t worry me too much. Now that El Alamein is scheduled for release after Moscow…well it’s not quite so ideal. Anyway, I wanted to show Moscow itself and suggest what was waiting for the Germans, and, since they only got close to it during the winter…well, here we are.

I know some of you like to see a little of the process, so, I thought it might be interesting to show some of the images that were comped together to create the final. You may recognise the one at the bottom from Bulge.

Drive on Moscow Splash Screen sources

These are a mixture of royalty free images that are made available for use and a few that were bought from stock companies.

And no it’s not cheating!

Any comments or questions then feel free to shout out here or on the forum.

(Note: Originally Published on the Shenandoah Studio Blog)