The battle for Stalingrad is over

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I’ve now completed scenario one three times (plus a couple more false starts when I completely screwed things up) and have yet to attain a victory for the attacking Germans. This is not entirely a surprise, as online comments suggest that the eight VP target is unattainable, with 6 a more realistic goal. Well, I got to 5 once…

First off, the balance does not concern me. The first scenario is skewed to playing in a certain way that will not work in the campaign. Instead, my goal was to enjoy the play while learning the rules and some of the tricks and traps.

However, having done that, I find myself with no enthusiasm for the longer campaign scenario. Strange. My best guess is that this is one of the games that, while I can play solitaire, it’s not worthwhile doing so for an extended period. In other words, the one turn scenario is perfect for solitaire play, but the longer campaign is not. Indeed, as I ponder this, I can see the attraction of playing it with a face to face opponent.

There’s a lot to like about this game: the situation, the different operational methods for each side, the clean (and deadly) combat system, and the chaos. I don’t like the (apparent) lack of command and control and formation systems.

The whole design for effect philosophy of the designer, John Hill, is on show. For example, given the time scale, the movement allowances are minute. But that is what works in the context of the game. As another example, the wholesale slaughter of units is not realistic, but the effect balances out because of the recovery of units from the dead pile.

You either get the design for effect, or it passes you by. I think it works well in this game, but am not as impressed with the way it fits together as I was when it first came out. It would be interesting to see how one of today’s active designers went about recreating this situation.

Before moving on, a word about the Excalibre Games reprint. Generally, the package was OK, but it’s fair to say that Excalibre did not maximize the opportunities from the reprint. For example, the combat results table appears once, on the back of the rules booklet. At the very least, there should have been a separate play card with this (and the terrain effects chart).

Also, while I can forgive the minor errors – like missing labels for different combat strengths – I am less impressed by them printing the map and rules with known errata. Both errata are helpfully provided – but why not fix the map and the rules? Also, I believe it would have been better to have the rules in a column format, as the single wide lines are way too long for the best reading and comprehension experience.

I think Don Johnson gets the credit for putting together the rules supplement booklet which has detailed setup and game sequence, as well as the already mentioned errata, plus strategy (‘operational’) articles and analysis. This part is well worth having and certainly adds much of value.

In summary, it’s been fun. But it’s time to move on.

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Sorting out Stalingrad

Battle for Stalingrad is still on the table.

Mamayev Kurgan has fallen!

Mamayev Kurgan has fallen!

It’s quite tricky getting used to the interaction here of unit types, terrain types, fire types, and so on. It’s gradually seeping in, as I amass a veritable mountain of dead cardboard warriors. What a bloody combat system! (More bloody than I remember, for sure, though this could be a failing memory, or increased concern about casualties!)

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Battle for Stalingrad

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On the table is the Excalibre Games version of John Hill‘s Battle for Stalingrad.

The game is about the 1942 German offensive to take the city. It has battalion and company sized units, with a ground scale of 600 meters per hex, and each turn representing one week. It uses an impulse system with a variation. The Germans move until the Soviets react by drawing the appropriate chit from a special pool. Then the Soviets go until they stop, or roll a ‘6’ in a combat. Mastering that system is key to success, though there is lots more to the game.

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This version has 600 half-inch counters, one standard sized map, a rule book, and a separate book with articles about the game.

I played the original (1980) SPI version when it first came out, and was glad to be able to acquire one for my collection, even it’s not the original.

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So far, I have set it up, read the rules, and that’s it. There is a one turn scenario that seems a perfect place to start, though the perceived wisdom is that the victory conditions are impossible for the Germans. That will not trouble me too much, as the first aim is to get to grips with the rules. It doesn’t look that complex, but in this version the layout is poor, and things are more opaque than they need to be.

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