A Brilliant Strategic Puzzle! Fortress Sevastopol Board Game Review
Fortress Sevastopol Board Game Review. Publisher UGG.DE Designer: Christian Diedler Price $65.00
Passed Inspection: Beautiful map and counters, organic turn sequences, great value for the price, good replay value
Failed Basic: some rules confusion, initial set up needs to be more clearly described in the rules, combat results system could be more streamlined, what are the purple colored German units as these are not in the rules
Sevastopol is the largest city on the Crimean Peninsula and a major Black Sea port and, as such, was a tempting target for German military during World War 2.
“The Siege of Sevastopol …was a military battle that took place on the Eastern Front of the Second World War. The campaign was fought by the Axis powers of Germany, Romania, and Italy against the Soviet Union for control of Sevastopol, a port in the Crimea on the Black Sea. On 22 June 1941 the Axis invaded the Soviet Union during Operation Barbarossa. Axis land forces reached the Crimea in the autumn of 1941 and overran most of the area. The only objective not in Axis hands was Sevastopol. Several attempts were made to secure the city in October and November 1941. A major attack was planned for late November, but heavy rains delayed the Axis attack until 17 December 1941. Under the command of Erich von Manstein, Axis forces were unable to capture Sevastopol during this first operation. Soviet forces launched an amphibious landing on the Crimean peninsula at Kerch in December 1941 to relieve the siege and force the Axis to divert forces to defend their gains. The operation saved Sevastopol for the time being, but the bridgehead in the eastern Crimea was eliminated in May 1942.
After the failure of their first assault on Sevastopol, the Axis opted to conduct siege warfare until the middle of 1942, at which point they attacked the encircled Soviet forces by land, sea, and air. On 2 June 1942, the Axis began this operation, codenamed Störfang (Sturgeon Catch). The Soviet Red Army and Black Sea Fleet held out for weeks under intense Axis bombardment. The German Air Force (Luftwaffe) played a vital part in the siege, its 8th Air Corps bombing the besieged Soviet forces with impunity, flying 23,751 sorties and dropping 20,528 tons of bombs in June alone. The intensity of the German campaign of airstrikes was far beyond previous German bombing offensives against cities such as Warsaw, Rotterdam or London. At the end of the siege, there were only 11 undamaged buildings left in Sevastopol. The Luftwaffe sunk or deterred most Soviet attempts to evacuate their troops by sea. The German 11th Army suppressed and destroyed the defenders by firing 46,750 tons of artillery ammunition on them during Störfang.
Finally, on 4 July 1942, the remaining Soviet forces surrendered and the Germans seized the port. The Soviet Separate Coastal Army was annihilated, with 118,000 men killed, wounded or captured in the final assault and 200,481 casualties in the siege as a whole for both it and the Soviet Black Sea Fleet. Axis losses in Störfang amounted to 35,866 men, of which 27,412 were German and 8,454 Romanian. With the Soviet forces neutralized, the Axis refocused their attention on the major summer campaign of that year, Case Blue and their advance to the Caucasus oilfields.”
Udo Grebe Game Design’s (aka UGG.DE) “Fortress Sevastopol” is a divisional to battalion level strategic game using a point to point system to simulate this iconic battle of the Russian Front.
The game contains:
• One fully mounted 24” x 33” map
• One sheet of 9/16” full color, double sided counters (228 counters)
• Two Player Aid Cards
• One 24 page Rulebook
• 4 six-sided dice
The game features stunningly designed components by Andreas Bertram while Dirk Blech’s beautiful mounted map is a true work of art. The map is divided in to 29 areas with each area having information on its identifying number as well as its terrain modifier. The scale is 1 centimeter equals about 5 kilometers. Terrain includes buildings, ports, rivers, trenches, the sea, woods and such. Rail lines are abstractly represented with the Russians able to immediately use rail movement while the Germans have to have engineers adjust from the Russian standard tracks to German standards. The urban core of Sevastopol is shown on a different scale which provides more information for the city battles should the Germans manage to get that close.
The rule book is logically laid out with plenty of illustrations and a glossary of terms, table of contents, designer’s notes and optional rules. I did find the rules on initial set up to be a little confusing (for example German units with a U on their counters set up in Ukraine but I didn’t see this explicitly spelled out in the rules) plus there are German units with purple counters and I couldn’t find what these units represented. Also while artillery units may bombard, I found no rule stating what the range of the bombardment is. I assumed it was in the same area or areas adjacent to the artillery.
Each unit is rated for its attack factor, defense factor and movement as well as movement type and whether it can withdraw. Some units such as Engineers and Anti-Air units have different special abilities noted instead of attack factors. The front side of the unit counter represents the unit in a “fresh and ready for action” mode while the rear shows that the unit has already performed an action and is “spent”.
Various counters are provided to track the weather, the location of improved positions, areas in which construction workers are preparing improved positions, whether a bridge has been captured by the Germans or has been destroyed, the location of German raid heads and out of command markers for units suffering from logistical issues.
Setting up the game is pretty fast although, as stated before, I had a few problems figuring out where to put the units with the “U” on them. After setting up the board and the counters, put the Event Chits in a cup or bowl as these will be used throughout the game to add an organic flow to the turn sequence. The Event Chits are drawn each turn in an amount dictated by the turn. In addition, players can use their Supply Points to purchase Event Chits during the Refit Phase of the turn. Event Chits have a significant influence on the flow of the game. They provide everything from extra-artillery to extra-moves. Use them wisely!
Each turn is from 3 weeks to one and a half months. The basic turn sequence is as follows:
1) Draw Event Chits
2) Preparation Phase – each player resets their air bombardment and artillery units to their active sides, reset HQ units, etc.
3) Operations Phase – in this phase, the players pick one of the following actions:
• Strategic Movement
• Infiltration (Soviet only)
After a unit moves and/or attacks, flip it over to its “spent side”.
The length of the turns is variable. In order to illustrate this concept, I have included these quotes from the rule book:
Per the rule book “The end of each game turn is variable.
During the Axis Impulse, the first dice roll (DR) for
any purpose also doubles as possible Turn End and
Weather Change. If this DR is lower than the number of the position
of the Advantage marker on the Impulse Track, the
Operations Phase of the turn ends after resolving all
remaining actions of this Impulse.
If the DR is equal to the number of the position
of the Advantage marker on the Impulse Track, a
weather change occurs. If the current weather is
Clear it becomes Rain and vice versa. If the current
weather is Snow it becomes Heavy Snow and vice
If the DR is greater than the number of the position
of the Advantage marker on the Impulse Track,
move the Advantage marker on the Impulse Track to
the next higher number, after finishing the Impulse.
Turn End during an Impulse without a DR: If
there is no action which requires a DR for the Axis
player (including a Pass Impulse), then perform a
DR only to check if the Impulse ends or a weather
change takes place
Turn End and Weather Change during a
Double Impulse: If the Advantage marker is used
to take a Double Impulse, the first DR is
also used to check if the turn ends and if a weather
change takes place. If the weather changes, this
condition will last until the next weather change. If
the DR would end the turn, the second Impulse will
be executed, before the turn ends.”
This concept takes some getting used to for players of more traditional war games. Very often I had to flip back to these rules to remind myself how they worked. Once I got the hang of this, the game really came to life and the turn flow felt much more organic then in most strategic war games.
4) Chit Discard Phase – the players must keep one unused chit in their “hand” so to speak. All other unused Event Chits are put back in the cup for drawing later.
5) Refit Phase – rebuild bridges and reconstitute units which are “spent” or have casualties or units that are disrupted by spending Supply Points or use Supply Points to purchase the “Advantage Marker”
6) Administration Phase
Combat is simply handled with the attack making a die roll and adding that amount to his attack factor while the defender also makes a die roll and adds that to his defense value. Each value is modified by terrain or conditions of the combatants. If the Attack Total is greater than the Defense Total, the defender must remove Casualty Points
equal to the difference between the Attack Total and the Defense Total. All assaulting units, except supporting field artillery, become Spent at the end of the Impulse. Units are degraded as follows by “spending” the Casualty Points:
1) Unit becomes spent
2) Unit becomes disrupted
3) Unit becomes double disrupted
4) Unit is eliminated
While combat is simple, figuring the casualty levels does tend to slow down the game. In my opinion, a more streamlined approach could have been used to avoid bogging down game play.
There are rules for retreats, amphibious landings, artillery, air strikes, supply lines and command and control issues plus optional rules which add more details to the game.
Three different scenarios are provided with the full campaign taking around 6 to 8 hours to play. The shortest scenario can be played in less than 3 hours.
While the game is set up for multiplayer, the use of the Event Chits and the nature of the campaign lends itself quite well to solo play.
The strategic choices presented in this game are fascinating. If you are playing the German and Romanian Axis forces do you advance along the coastal areas and open your forces up to bombardment from the Russian Black Sea Fleet? Do you cut south through Aleksandrovka and Novo Tsaritsyno which will avoid the Russian naval bombardments but will take longer to get you to Sevastopol while opening up your supply lines to be ravaged by the Soviets? The Russians have an edge in that their reinforcements can land at the ports in Sevastopol plus they can use their rail lines to and ports along the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov to move units quickly and efficiently towards the front.
I really enjoyed this game and can’t wait to try out some new strategies for both sides. This game gives you a lot to think about. If you are interested in the Eastern Front of World War II, this game must be in your library!
More information on this fine game and other UGG.DE designs can be found at:
Armchair General Rating: 92 % (1% to 100%)
Solitaire Rating: 4 (from 1 to 5 with 1 being not solo at all while 5 is perfect for solo)
About the Author
A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in board game design, video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!