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Finnish landscape


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I'm making a scenario set in operation Polarfuchs, which takes place around Kuusiniemi, currently in Karelia, Russia.

I've got the topography mostly done, but it seems that everything that is not under water, is forest. There are no fields, no open spaces, it's all just forest. Therefore, to people who know that area, some questions:

a) How do I get a nice representative landscape? Will endless forest do?

B) How did these people make a living? Fishing in the lakes, then eating the fish with yummy tree-bark?

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It is pretty much wilderness out there. Without a human interference you would either get old pine forest, marsh or lake, although even then you would get some breaks - fires renew the forests every now and then, so you might get areas of scarce trees or just brush.

This is a part of Karelia that was never part of Finland and would have been very scarcely populated (as was the nearby area within Finnish borders). Where dwellings existed, rye and potatoe was grown but definately the dinner table relied heavily on all of the critters of the forest and the lakes. From bears to elks to rabbits to wolverines to anything that is edible. Even barkbread. Apart from that, forestry provided income where there were good water routes to lumber or paper mills. None operated as far north as this at the time, though.

In the 1940's there were twice as many people living in the northern parts as today on the Finnish side of border. The development is probably similar on the Russian side. Ethnically the people living in this area would be Viena Karelians, pretty much inseparable from other Finns in Kuusamo and the surroundings. So you would have tiny villages far apart, with little farms where they might be able to sustain themselves inbetween. Soviet collective farm system tried to change this, although I doubt you'd be able to see the effects in the north, in so little time.

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I've been using Google Maps Street View on the Finnish side of the border, and all I see are endless birch forests. Should I use tall pines, or wil forest tiles be OK?

I'ts going to be a big, boring map this way. It's starting to become obvious how a bunch of light infantry can completely dominate armor-heavy troops in these circumstances.

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You can use tall pines or forest, it's all up to you. Older forest tends to become pine-dominated at these latitudes. But there is always local variation. You can also sprinkle some scattered trees, rough and other features at places because no forest is completely homogenic.

Forest is also something that can be transformed into a defensive strongpoint easily. Cut down trees to create some firing lanes (use brush or scattered trees, there's still concealment but little cover), dig trenches and build log bunkers, place mines on the flanks. The defensive position needs to be all-around because flanking was the standard Finnish tactic in the wilderness.

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One of the nice things CM1 does is to leave a little gap in between different types of tree tiles. If you cover a 10x10 tile area with, say, pine trees, you get a 100 tile area unbroken and completely inaccessible to vehicles.

But if you were to alternate pine and woods like this:

PWPWPWPWPW

WPWPWPWPWP

PWPWPWPWPW

WPWPWPWPWP

PWPWPWPWPW

WPWPWPWPWP

PWPWPWPWPW

WPWPWPWPWP

You would get a checkerboard tree pattern (obviously) with a narrow grid of open ground running between all squares. In a less extreme application, you can use this to make "forest trails" that vehicles can negotiate slowly. I really like this feature as an alternative to 20 meter highways or open meadows through rural forest. Of course, there's a time and place for those too.

One other note on LOS, the last time I checked (several years ago), wire emplacements were treated like open ground for LOS purposes, no matter what terrain they were set up on. This lets your defenders extend their LOS in the forest a bit as well.

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It shouldn't be a vehicle-friendly environment, anyway. Forests in these northern parts are mostly ancient, untouched. The forces also weren't tank heavy in the Salla region (and the tanks weren't heavy - a Panzer II or T-26 would have great trouble advancing in thick forest) so I think making the map tank-friendly shouldn't be a high priority. If defenders had tanks, they could prepare tracks for them - use brush or scattered trees.

The areas north of Lake Ladoga were a bit of exceptional in that even in 1944 Soviets were using T-26s there as some were captured in Ilomantsi. One explanation might be that the roads and bridges in the area couldn't support anything heavier. The other explanation is that they were favoured as tracked radio vehicles.

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