History's Mysteries: Could Nazi Germany Have Taken Moscow?

Michael Peck

Key point: Capturing Moscow would not have necessarily resulted in Berlin's victory.

After seventy-five years, the question remains so tantalizing: What if the Germans had captured Moscow in December 1941? Would the Soviet Union have collapsed or continued to fight? Would the Russian war machine have been so crippled that Germany could transfer its armies west to crush the Anglo-Americans, or would the Eastern Front continue to bleed the German armies dry?

As it was, German spearheads may have reached as close as ten miles to the Soviet capital, perhaps even glimpsing the spires of the Kremlin. Seizing Moscow may or may not have won World War II for Nazi Germany, but it certainly would have made the Third Reich’s defeat more difficult.

Drive on Moscow is a computer game of Operation Typhoon, the German offensive to capture the Kremlin. Available for the iPad and PC, it puts two players in command of the German and Soviet armies.

The map, divided into spaces like Risk, stretches from Bryansk and Rzhev in the south, to Kalinin and Kursk in the east and west, and then north to Moscow. The terrain offers advantages for both attacker and defender: a mixture of open country ideal for panzers, forests and cities that shelter Soviet infantry, plus rivers that hamper offensive operations.

The Germans start with all of their forces on the map, with about fifty infantry corps and assorted panzer and motorized infantry divisions. The Soviets start with fewer troops, but they get plentiful reinforcements over time, including elite Siberian troops trained and equipped for winter operations. Each unit is marked with one to six dots representing strength points, which denote how many times a unit fires during combat, and also how many losses it can absorb.

The mechanics of Drive on Moscow are simple and abstract. Players activate a single area at a time by clicking on it with a mouse or tapping a touchscreen. Once activated, all the units in that space can move or fight. Infantry can move one space and mechanized units two; the catch is that armor only moves two spaces if it travels along a road or railroad, which tends to channel the German advance along transportation lines.

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