STALINGRAD is a corps-level simulation of the critical twenty-four month period, between June 1941 and May 1943, when the Germans and their allies fought to destroy the Red Army and to subjugate European Russia. The stakes for both sides could not have been higher: control of the vast natural and agricultural resources of the Soviet Union. An Axis victory would have destroyed the Soviet State and plunged the Russian people into conditions of indescribable misery. A German victory would also have established Nazi hegemony over virtually all of mainland Europe, and vastly prolonged, if not changed the course of the Second World War. It should be noted that, in the years since the end of World War II, many observers have commented that the Russo-German War essentially pitted one murderous scoundrel, Hitler, against another, Stalin. Be that as it may, history also shows that however desperate the condition of the Russian people was under Stalin, it would have become immeasurably worse under a vicious, racist, and exploitative German occupation.
The game begins in June 1941 with the start of the massive German offensive, code-named “Barbarossa,” against an out-numbered and ill-prepared Russian Army. One player commands the Red Army; the other controls the Wehrmacht (German Army) as well as small contingents of Finnish, Rumanian, Hungarian, and Italian forces. STALINGRAD is 24 game turns long and follows a simple game turn sequence: the first player (German) brings in any scheduled reinforcements and/or replacements, and then moves and initiates combat; then the second player (Russian) repeats the same sequence (except that there are no Russian reinforcements, only replacements) ending the game turn. The German player wins by either eliminating all of the Russian units on the game map, or by occupying Leningrad, Moscow, and Stalingrad, at the same time and for two consecutive player turns.
Three design features gave STALINGRAD its own unique flavor when it appeared in 1963. The first was the introduction of replacement rules: units eliminated in combat could now be resurrected — through the expenditure of replacement points — and returned to play. The German replacement rate was dependent on Axis control of Warsaw and was constant. Soviet replacements were dependent on Russian control of three replacement cities: Leningrad, Moscow, and Stalingrad. In addition, the Soviet replacement rate increased on a set schedule as the game progressed. The game's second clever design feature was the introduction of weather rules. These rules incorporated different seasonal effects, and were further enhanced by the introduction of random, die-controlled weather changes during the spring and fall. Weather suddenly had a dramatic influence on the operations of both armies because of its effect on movement, and also because of its effect on the traversability and defensive characteristics of some lakes and rivers during snow months. The third innovation was the introduction of simple (strategic) rail movement rules to augment those of regular ground movement. Virtually all of these rules, seen from a vantage point almost fifty years removed from STALINGRAD’s first appearance, seem incredibly primitive and colorless.
Nowadays, younger players looking at the old STALINGRAD rulebook for the first time are prone to ask: Where are the partisans and where are the planes of the Luftwaffe? Where is the Russian Black Sea Fleet, the NKVD, or the German SS? How about the “special” weather effects for the first Russian Winter? All of these, and countless other history-based embellishments to the rules for games about the Russo-German War, have now become commonplace and, for the most part, these newer games are better for them. But does anyone remember the original source of inspiration for John Edwards’ THE RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN? No. Here’s a hint: it came from the "Boys in Baltimore". What contemporary gamers seem to forget is that there actually had to be an original game design before subsequent designers could start the inevitable process of improvement and refinement. STALINGRAD, for better or for worse, was that original design.
Some players dismiss STALINGRAD as being a poor simulation (which is certainly true) and being unbalanced (which is also true, although not nearly as much as most people think). I admit that I have played simulations with far more detail and historical accuracy than STALINGRAD, but I have rarely encountered expert play in these other games. That is this classic game’s greatest appeal: a lot of us grognards have been battling over STALINGRAD’s blue-toned and crudely-drawn map of European Russia for an awfully long time. A veteran gamer may not be familiar with every game in a friend’s collection, but I guarantee you that, if he is a long-time player, he will know this one. And although the Standard Game is slightly biased (assuming expert play) in favor of the Russians, it really doesn’t take much tweaking with the replacement rules, or with the game length to transform this old “standby” into a finely-balanced contest between the Red Army and the Wehrmacht.
STALINGRAD offers only the Historical Game. There are no scenarios (although a number have been presented in the pages of the General over the years), and almost no optional rules. Like most of the Avalon Hill classics, the rules to STALINGRAD can be learned in a few minutes, but mastery of this old “warhorse” only comes with study and a lot of practice.
- Time Scale: 1 month per game turn
- Map Scale: 33 miles per hex (estimated)
- Unit Size: corps
- Unit Types: armor, mechanized infantry, cavalry, and infantry
- Number of Players: two
- Complexity: below average
- Solitaire Suitability: above average
- Average Playing Time: 2-4 + hours
- One 22” x 28” hard-backed hexagonal grid Map Board
- 117 ½” cardboard Counters
- One 5½” x 8½” Rules Booklet
- One 6” x 9” back-printed STALINGRAD Instruction Supplement
- One 5½” x 8” STALINGRAD Battle Manual
- One 5½” x 8½” back-printed Weather Table and Order of Battle Reference
- One 8½” x 11” back-printed Turn Record Chart
- One 8¼” x 10” Combat Results Table
- One six-sided Die
- One Avalon Hill combined Order Form and Mailer
- One 5½” x 8½” sample General Order Form
- One 5½” x 6½” Customer Response Card
- One 11¼” x 14½” x 1¾” flat cardboard Game Box