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.