TURNING POINT: The Battle of Stalingrad is an operational level game (based on the KURSK Game System) of combat on the Eastern Front. TURNING POINT was designed by James F. Dunnigan and published by Simulations Publications, Incorporated (SPI) in 1972. Despite its simple graphics, TURNING POINT’s improved game mechanics and free-wheeling scenarios make this an excellent addition to any East Front game collection.


TURNING POINT is an historical simulation, at the operational level, of the Soviet winter offensive in November 1942 (Operation Uranus) that led to the encirclement and surrender of the German 6th Army, part of the 4th Panzer Army, and the Romanian 3rd and 4th Armies in Stalingrad. This defeat was rooted in the strategic dispersal of Axis forces across southern Russia in fall 1942, and in the German High Command’s fatal underestimation of Soviet strength and capabilities during this stage in the war. Thus, as the battle is about to begin in November 1942, the Axis military situation in southern Russia is far more precarious than German commanders realize. As the SPI game description observes: “NOVEMBER 1942. The German Sixth Army grinds block by block through the rubble of Stalingrad. In the Caucasus, Army Group A closes in on Maikop and Batum, the oil cities, source of fuel for Soviet armies and industries. Suddenly the Red Army strikes, shocking the German High Command. Soviet troops envelope the Sixth Army in Stalingrad and threaten to isolate Army Group A to the south.” The smashing Soviet breakthroughs on both flanks of Paulus’ 6th Army confront the German commander with the stark choice either of obeying Hitler (and standing fast) on the Volga, or of abandoning his soldiers’ hard-won gains in an effort to retrieve the steadily worsening situation through mobile operations. This is the historical situation presented on 19 November in TURNING POINT: The Battle of Stalingrad.

Despite its age, if I personally had to pick one East Front game to own and play: this is it! In fact, I like the game so much that, at one point, I owned three separate copies. The action is fast and furious as clashing mechanized forces maneuver to encircle and cut each other off in one mobile battle after another. Fortunes can swing wildly with the outcome of a single attack. TURNING POINT shows — in game terms, at least — how big a gamble the Soviet attack actually was; and how, with a less lethargic and more decisive leadership, the Wehrmacht might have turned the tables on the Red Army.

TURNING POINT offers sixteen different scenarios: the historical November 19th Breakthrough scenario (turns 1-7), the December 16th Relief scenario (turns 15–21), and the November 19th Campaign scenario (turns 1–21); in addition, there are five optional Breakthrough scenarios, three optional Relief scenarios, and five optional Campaign scenarios. The different scenarios vary as to orders of battle, deployment restrictions, and reinforcement arrivals. The game also offers two optional rules: Russian Army Integrity and the German Insanity (or Hitler “stand fast”) rule. To appreciate the difficulties confronting the two armies, I highly recommend that both optional rules be used.

Design Characteristics:

  • Time Scale: 2 days per game turn
  • Map Scale: 16 kilometers per hex
  • Unit Size: division/corps
  • Unit Types: panzer/tank, panzer grenadier/motorized infantry, infantry, cavalry, supply units (Soviet only) and air units
  • Number of Players: two
  • Complexity: average
  • Solitaire Suitability: above average
  • Average Playing Time: 2½–3 hours

Game Components:

  • One 22" x 28" hexagonal grid Map Sheet (with Turn Record Chart, Reinforcement Chart, and Combat Results Table Incorporated)
  • 200 ½" cardboard Counters
  • One 5½" x 11" map-fold style Set of Rules
  • One 8½" x 11" November 19th Set-up Sheet with Scenario Instructions on reverse side
  • One 3½" x 8½" Customer Complaint Card
  • One small six-sided Die
  • One SPI 12" x 15" x 1" flat 24 compartment plastic Game Box (with clear compartment tray covers) and clear plastic game cover with Title Sheet

Recommended Reading

See my blog post Book Reviews of these titles; both of which are strongly recommended for those readers interested in further historical background.

THE WEST POINT ATLAS OF AMERICAN WARS (Complete 2-Volume Set); edited by Brigadier General Vincent J. Esposito; Frederick A. Praeger, Inc. (1959); ASIN: B000MTBTEU


  • Nice review! I have not put this one on the table in YEARS. I might have to reconsider that!


  • This is the best game of the old SPI Divisional series, in my opinion, followed by BREAKOUT AND PURSUIT. The Soviet counteroffensive historical scenario, interestingly enough, is the best one to play--very wild and wooly, quite tension filled. I like playing without the "Stand Fast" rule so you can see what risks the Soviets ran, but then we would not play with the "integrity rules" for the Russians. Yes, Joe, you are right--it's best to play with those optional rules to get a handle on the limitations of both armies, but sometimes you have to mix things up!

    Conversely, the German relief effort scenario, isn't nearly so much fun--typically the offensive goes nowhere fast (not too unlike real life).

    Even after so many years, this is still a contender on this particular subject. The only other game that compares in my mind is MMP's old STALINGRAD POCKET--and the remake, STALINGRAD POCKET II, isn't the same (although it is still good). But this old SPI title is simple and fun. If only the rest of the Divisional series were of this caliber.

  • Good Morning Eric:

    Obviously, I consider this title to be one of the very best East Front games to ever see print. And like you, I have not found among its many successors any game that can really match it for gut-churning tension and sheer excitement.

    So far as the optional rules go, I found -- in my many outings as the German -- that the "stand-fast" rule actually had very little effect on my own play. And as you say, most of the games that I played tended to turn into wild free-for-alls. A truly great design: simple, elegant, and always great fun.

    Interestingly, the subscription site "Hexwars" offers this title as an option. Regrettably, the many other demands on my time have kept me from trying it as an online game. maybe, some day.

    One final thought: when WAR IN THE EAST first appeared, I and my wargaming friends really hoped that it would basically be this design platform writ large; unfortunately, Dunnigan instead decided, in the case of his first "monster game," to play it safe. It's really too bad.

    Best Regards, Joe

Post a Comment