Art of Tactic

Overview

Barbarossa 1941 is a historical ‘hex and model’ war game based on the ill-fated German invasion of Soviet Russia during WWII, it is written by Konstantin Krivenko and released by the miniatures company Zvezda. It is stated on the box as a 2 or more player game for ages 10 + and takes 45 to 90 minutes to play, for my part this is a little fanciful, as I have played this game several times with different opponents and even though we were still new to the game it took at least three hours to play and I feel it is slightly too complex for a ten-year old to grasp (unless they were Zhukov or Von Manstein maybe!) This is due to the realism of the ‘simulation’ aspect of the game in which command and control features heavily and using real-world tactics is generally rewarded with success.

The box contains:

  • 21    German and Soviet unit sprues
  • 1      set of fortification sprues
  • 6     double-sided game boards
  • 30   double-sided terrain hexes
  • 21    units cards
  • 4     group cards
  • 10   6-sided dice
  • 2     water-based marker pens
  • 1      set of decals
  • 1      game rules booklet
  • 1      scenario booklet

The components are of a very high standard and the whole package is very well done, with great-looking graphics on the high quality card-stock boards and terrain hexes as well as nicely designed and easy to assemble plastic models (More models can added to the basic game with the reasonably priced packs which can be found in most model shops). The one sticking point for me and it is only subjective, is that the ‘scales’ in this game are a little all over the place with 1:72 infantry, 1:100 vehicles and 1:144 aircraft all vying for space on a game board which places the ground scale at somewhere nearer 1:600! I simply don’t use the miniatures as, although they are very nice, I prefer to use 30mm round counters which I have made myself, allowing the boards to set the scale of the battle and making it easier to ‘stack’ units in the same hex.

Playing the game

Each unit has a unit card on which one side holds the stats for unit strength, defense, morale, ammunition, offensive capabilities (range & roll to hit) and any special rules, whilst the other side is used to write orders for each turn. There is a heavy use of icons which allows the cards to hold a wealth of information and provides easy recognition when navigating the rule book (as the corresponding icon can usually be found at the top of the section explaining what it means) and recording the orders and current condition is quite easy to do once you get used to it (though a quick play sheet of some description would help a great deal with this) allowing players to perform realistic actions which would take a great deal of complex rules in most other systems.

The game turn itself is cut into two phases, the Planning Phase in which players write down the orders for that turn and the Execution Phase which is broken down into 12 steps, each one allowing both players to perform the relevent orders simultaneously, for example, Step 1. Order – Defend: all units with Defend Orders take actions.

This game is also very ‘scenario-centric’ and to this end the scenario booklet contains 8 scenarios to get you started, each page of the booklet sets out a background of the battle, a guide to setting up the board and any extra terrain hexes and a break down of the forces, along with their starting places and objectives. Each group (of which there could be several) within an army  consists of a ‘Main Detachment’ which contains units which the player must take and ‘Additional Forces’ in which the player may take up to a set number of force points chosen from the available units. A better idea of the layout of the scenario pages can be found Here. I have played the first two scenarios to date and have played scenario 1: ‘Bridge on the River Bug’ several times, always enjoying the challenge that they provided.

Overall thoughts

I am very happy with this game and hope to enjoy many more games of it in the future. The steep learning curve is well worth the effort and provides what I believe to be a very historically accurate representation of the bitter fighting of the Eastern front. There are a some errors in the scenario booklet but nothing that cannot be navigated with a little common sense, indeed the only problem I have found which causes any real consternation for me is an inexplicable icon on the Stuka card of which the rule book contains no enlightenment! (I have still to get in touch with anyone who could shed some light on this but hope to do so soon) All in all this game is more of a ‘simulation’ game to be played by historical gamers who have at least three hours to get a result and is not really the light-hearted war game that it seems to be portrayed as.

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