Posts tagged: Boardgame
While I’m probably not the biggest buff when it comes to the Eastern Front of WW2, the Battle of Stalingrad has always been one of my favorite battles to learn about. Given this, it shouldn’t come to much of a surprise that I’ve picked up quite a few Stalingrad based games to try to re-enact the desperate struggle that took place in the streets and houses of Stalingrad. Battles were waged not just over whole houses, but between the basement and the 2nd floor, between the same floor but different rooms. The rat war as the Germans called it slowly wore down the Blitzkreig.
But most wargames cover operation uranus, the flank attack on the Germans which captured the 6th Army within the City. Or the many attempts to break out the 6th Army from the city. Although it is interesting, I really would like to try the fighting within the city. Without getting as complicated as some of the rules for Advance Squad Leader. Storm Over Stalingrad, although it might not exactly be building by building, is as close as you can find without a huge rulebook.
The game is deep but simple. The city of Stalingrad is split into different regions, with each region having a defense value printed on it from 1-3. This is how the victory conditions of the game are decided, as the players declare before the game how many of those +3 areas they will hold at the end of the game. The higher total takes over the Soviets. Each player gets a certain number of action cards with special effects on them depending on the turn.
Each unit has two sides. It’s normal side in which it has an Attack/Defense/Move values, and a spent side which has a defense value. On your impulse you can fire, move, pass or play a card in place of your turn. If you fire or move, the unit is flipped to it’s spent side after it’s done. Firefights are done by either units firing into an adjacent region or units from the same region firing at the opposing sides units. The Germans can’t just dispute control of a region, they have to actually drive the Soviets out.
So you add up all the firepower values, roll two 6 sided dice, add that together and you have your fire value. You then subtract that from the other sides defensive value (highest defending units defense value + defense value of region) for the number of flips the defender is going to have to take. The defender can retreat units, flip units to their spent side, flip units to the eliminated box or any combination of those three.
The Soviets have a number of units that are simply there to hold space. They don’t have an attack value. So as the Germans move in, if the Soviets can keep those units in the region it not only holds the region, but allows units further back with higher firepower to fire on the Germans. But this relatively simple gameplay gives itself to a deep game that is also relatively quick while holding a lot of tension.
The game play is as tight as you would expect over the Battle of Stalingrad. During one of my first games I thought I was making headway as the Germans. Then when I had spent all my units my opponent began firing back, decimating my units. With it being one of my earlier games I was still able to get close to capturing enough +3 regions, although in the end I fell short. There shouldn’t be too many big mistakes in the game that will throw the game to one side or another irreparably.
I believe Storm Over Stalingrad might be out of print now. But if your interested in the battle for the streets and houses of Stalingrad this is as close as you can get. It’s simple enough that you can probably consider it a beer and pretzels war game. But it’s not the dice rolling fest that’s a specialty of that genre. I’d highly recommend the game if you can get your hands on it. It might be a good pickup for people that are new to wargames but have an interest in the East Front or the Battle of Stalingrad.
I played Bootleggers live earlier today on Justin.tv and here is the video:
Part 2 after the jump:
While one of my favorite subjects is the American Civil War, I do tend to concentrate on the eastern theater of the war instead of the west. I think it’s mostly due to the personalities, and something about Stonewall Jackson that captured my imagination. Of course there was Nathan Bedford Forrest out west, but most of the other personalities were in general solid, able commanders who died for their commanders blunders. I’ve read up on the defenses of Bragg, but in the end it still appears that he hurt his own cause more then he helped.
So other then Pea Ridge and Shiloh, I haven’t played many western battles of the Civil War. Not too long ago I got “War of the States: Chickamauga & Chattanooga” on a relatively cheap deal. I’ve managed to do that quite a bit with titles from Avalanche Press, but so far I haven’t had a complaint about them. Then again I’m not expecting much when I’m not paying a lot for a game. I’ve always considered myself leaning more towards the beer & pretzel or bucket of dice kind of game, and WOTS:C&C is both.
There is one major problem that you will notice right away looking at the map:
That’s the setup at turn 1, and the Brown roads that run through the borders (and the rivers for that matter) tend to make it tough to tell where some borders start and end. For me though at least the folds for the map tend to stay down and don’t upset the counters unlike a lot of other maps. Speaking of the counters they are beautiful, but are somewhat tough to differentiate for setup. The setup charts don’t tell you which symbol is for the corps and which is for the division, so I tended to reverse the division/corps number for the counters.
The game is rather easy to teach. Each unit has a fire and morale rating. The fire rating adds into the number of 6 sided dice a side uses with 6 being hits. The stack with the better morale adds another dice. I should mention I am always bad at teaching games. That’s why I try to stay away from the rules when reviewing games. Each general has an initiative rating, it’s importance being that both sides roll a dice at the beginning of the turn. The side with the higher roll (using initiative as a DRM) goes first for that turn. So Rosecrans and his 5 rating tends to go first before Bragg who has a 3. Then you would roll and whatever amount you roll under the initiative. So if Rosecrans rolls a 3 he can activate 2 corps, and if Bragg rolls a 2 he can activate 1 corps. So the Union tends to get more moves and the South ends up reacting more.
People have complained about the system, but in my opinion the Army of Tenseness tended to have poor overall commands and some commanders who would flat out refuse to listen to Bragg. The Battle of Chickamauga itself was lost more because of a poor command from Rosecrans (which opened a hole in the front line) then anything the Confederates or Bragg did. Bragg even managed to fumble the victory, as it took 21 different assaults to finally force back Thomas. Those assaults were haphazardly thrown together instead of one concentrated assault that would have easily destroyed Thomas.
The game plays quickly, although the one in six chance of a hit tends to be frustrating. Sometimes you can role ten dice versus four and just have luck go against you and take two hits while giving none. I’ve never really complained about luck in a game though, because I think luck is always something important in a battle. People have also complained about the high amount of casualties, mostly based on the multiple counters for each division. Most divisions have 4 counters with weakening strength on each side. So if you stand your ground instead of retreating for step hits you can run through counters quickly.
I also liked Across 5 Aprils, just to give you some background on the type of civil war games I do like. I tend towards the lesser heavy simulation games (For example I dislike The Gamers Civil War Brigades Series) and this felt pretty solid. There is some trouble reading the rules that I had mentioned before, and some ambiguous moments.
But a lot of the complaints about the game seem to be complaints that are common among avalanche press. But so far in my experiences I haven’t had a problem with their games yet. I still have some that I have to play. After playing this I want to give a try with the first game of the series which is based on Gettysburg. I think I also have some of the series that this is based on, War of the Empires, a Napoleonic era game.
There are probably better games out there , and better games covering Chickamauga and Chattanooga. I think I paid 15 bucks for the game and felt like I got my money worth. I’d also love to sometime try the campaign that combines both battles into a massive game. I wouldn’t tell you to go out and particularly look for the game. It would definitely be one of those things you keep in your peripheral vision.
Blackbeard is an Avalon Hill released board game based on the Golden Age of Piracy. I’ve heard both good and bad about the game over the years. But until Merchants and Marauders was released it was considered the top pirate board game. Being as old as it is and a part of the Avalon Hill family makes it a tad interesting when it comes to being a pirate game. The board itself is a map of the Carribean along with the shore of North America, Central America and most of North South America. On a secondary board is the Gold Coast of Africa and Arabian Sea. It is possible to travel between all three locations The ocean itself though is a hex grid, very much like most AH wargame releases of the day. Movement is a six sided dice roll + ships speed modifier. Which means you never know exactly how far you might go from turn to turn.