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Posted on Feb 5, 2020 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

“Advance at all costs!”  The Battle of Stalingrad by Turning Point Simulations – Board Game Review

“Advance at all costs!” The Battle of Stalingrad by Turning Point Simulations – Board Game Review

Rick Martin

The Battle of Stalingrad Board Game Review.  Publisher: Turning Point Simulations  Designer:  Hjalmar Gerber and Jim Werbaneth  Price $33.95 (Ziplock Bag) or $39.95 (Boxed)

Passed Inspection:   Beautiful Components, interesting perspective, broad scope, Axis objectives are different each time you play adding replay value, unique way of tracking unit strength and combat effectiveness

Failed Basic:    extremely large footprint, manual was a “dry” read, takes an hour to set up, needs an index, rules don’t address how to swap out or upgrade assets, couldn’t find where to put the Axis allies

This game is the 20th game in Turning Point Simulations’ Decisive Battles of History Series.  Like all the other games in the series, the game comes either in a zip lock bag or, for a few dollars more, in a box.  The cover artwork is a stunning painting by Terry Leeds of a Soviet soldier standing in the ruins of Stalingrad with a hammer and sickle overlaid in to the image recreating the artistic style of Communist propaganda from the 1940s.

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For those who need background information on this campaign, I’ll present this background from Turning Point Simulations’ web page on this game:

“The Battle of Stalingrad

Pivot on the Volga

Out of all the most horrific battles of WWII, one name stands out above the rest:

Stalingrad.

It became the focus point for everything else on the Eastern Front. Once they battled into the city, the German troops called it the “Rattenkrieg,” the “rat’s war,” and joked that they had “captured the kitchen but were still fighting for the living room.” The joke had more than an element of truth, as the bitter fighting went from block to block, then building to building, and – literally – room to room. Soviet soldiers in the city said, “There is no land on the other side of the Volga.”

Stalingrad was the living example of the Unstoppable Force meeting the Immovable Object, as “Advance at all costs!” orders from Hitler ran into “Not a step back!” orders from Stalin. And then came Operation Uranus, when Hitler and Stalin reversed those same orders.

But the battle for Stalingrad-the-city was only part of the German 1942 campaign, with its multiple priorities of political objectives (like Stalingrad) and resource objectives (like the Caucasus). Now, you can face the same questions and try to do better.

Each player will take the role of the operational theater commander. You still have leaders with short names and shorter tempers looking over your shoulder and telling you what to do (handled in game terms with directives and procedures that turn your decision making choices as much into “How do I please him?” as “How do I beat the enemy?”) Counters represent mostly Soviet armies and German corps, with “assets” that can be attached to both, and minor Axis allies represented as well. Map scale is 55km to the hex, with 2 turns per month.”

The game components include the following:

Map: Full color, 11” x 17” mounted map board with integrated strategic movement track


Pieces: 216 full color double sided 9/16″ die-cut counters


a 12 page Rulebook


Charts and Displays: Six player aid charts

Each unit is an army detachment, army or corps and includes data on the unit’s movement (both tactical and strategic as well as Axis Logistics Zone movement). In addition, some units are marked with hex numbers which impart where a unit starts.

Each unit is also represented on a chart by a unit strength tracker.  As the unit takes damage, its overall strength and unit cohesion begins to downgrade.  In addition, each unit has an asset tracker – you assign different tank formations and anti-tank assets to the unit in order to increase its strength.  Unfortunately, this unique way of tracking a unit’s effectiveness means that all the charts take up an awful lot of play space making for a very large footprint for this game.  It also makes game set up rather long – it took me an hour to set up for game play.

At the start of play, the Axis player has to draw Hitler’s Directives for the campaign.  These chits include primary, secondary and tertiary objectives.  So even though this game is called The Battle of Stalingrad, you may not actually have Stalingrad as a primary objective.  While this adds to replayability, I think these directives should have been optional with a “Historical Scenario” provided in order to play the campaign as it was actually planned.

The turn sequence has some minor differences depending on whether you are paying the Soviets or the Axis (mostly the timing of when reinforcements arrive).  Basically though it is:

1) Victory Check

2) Axis Movement or Soviet Reinforcements

3) Axis Attacks or Soviet Replacements

4) Axis Reinforcements or Soviet Movement

5) Axis Replacements or Soviet Attack

6) Axis Adjustment of Victory Points or Soviet Operation Uranus (Turn 9 or later)

7) Housekeeping

Instead of traditional zones of control, the units have to enter an enemy occupied hex to actually battle.  When a battle occurs, you add up the participating units’ strengths and assets dividing the attacker’s total by the defender’s total to come up with a quotient which is then referenced on sub-tables on the back of the rule book.  Terrain and fortifications can modify the results.  A six sided die is rolled and the defender then degrades the defending unit’s strength by the final number from the table. Sometimes units are forced to retreat or be destroyed as well.  Some units are flipped over to a weaker side when enough damage accrues.  I would have liked to have seen the combat results table as a cardboard players’ aid instead of printed on the back of the rule book.

Ah, the rule book – it is a very dry read and badly needs an index. I’m still not sure how the “Trans-Caucasus Front” part of the map is used. I found myself flipping through the book over and over again to double check a rule or try and find a rule.  I also couldn’t figure out where to start the Axis allies so we house ruled that they come in as reinforcements at the Axis player’s discretion.

The Soviets start with weaker units and very few effective tanks.  As the months progress, the Soviets get better assets to augment their units including T34s and KV series tanks.  A good strategy to use would be for the Soviets to fall back and let the Axis supply lines get drawn out.  Then when you have more powerful assets, engage the Axis and try and cut their supply lines.

Later in the game, in response to the growing Soviet strength, the Germans get heavy tank battalions to try and blunt the Soviet forces.

We couldn’t find a rule in the book to allow the units to swap out their assets for more powerful assets so in our review plays, we house ruled that assets could be swapped out when the unit wasn’t engaged in combat.

As a two player game, the Soviet player will have some fun trying to figure out what the Axis’ primary and secondary objectives are.  As the Axis player, will you perform an elaborate feint in order to throw off your opponent or will you just plow forward and take your chances with a brute force attack?

How does it play solo?  There are no bots so you’ll have to play the old “changing hats” method of solo play.  Since the Axis player has to keep his objectives hidden, it’s easier to play solo from the Axis side and just have the Soviets react to your movements.

I’ve played quite a few Eastern Front themed war games over the years going back to the late 1980s with Avalon Hill’s The Russia Campaign which was one of the first war games I ever played.  Turning Point Simulations’ The Battle of Stalingrad just didn’t “do it” for me.  While the game has some very interesting and innovative design concepts I didn’t feel emotionally invested in the game. Maybe that was just my mood on a cold winter day but can I actually say I might play this game again?  I honestly don’t know.  If we play the game again and I reassess my opinion, I’ll make sure and update this review.

The price of the game isn’t bad so if the Russian Front is your cup of vodka, give this game a try and see how you like it. 

Armchair General Rating:  83% (1% is bad, 100% is perfect)

Solitaire Rating: 3 (1 is not suitable, 5 is excellent solo play)

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 video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer. He designed the games Tiger Leader, The Tiger Leader Expansion and Sherman Leader for DVG.  In addition, Rick can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!

cover
big footprint
tracking Russian damage and assets
tracking German strengths assets and reinforcements
game board
a battle near Kharkov

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