In the Vol. 17, No. 6 (March-April 1981) edition of The General, Joseph A. Angiolillo presents a detailed analysis of what he argues are the “best of the best” Russian STALINGRAD openings to have appeared in tournament and PBM play over the years. For anyone like me who is still interested in this venerable old classic, his survey of the favorite defenses of many past STALINGRAD masters is a fascinating study. Moreover, I suspect that his article probably provoked more than a few readers to think to themselves: “This essay would have been even better if it had just included one more Russian set-up: mine!” And here is where having one’s own blog is an advantage; unlike all those other disappointed General subscribers, I finally have the opportunity to rectify Mr. Angiolillo’s unfortunate oversight.

Which brings me, directly, to the purpose of this short essay: having spent most of the previous post talking about ways to improve the German player’s prospects in STALINGRAD, I could not resist including one of my own favorite Russian set-ups, just for a little balance. I cannot confidently claim that this is the best possible opening for the Russians. However, I can say that, using this set-up or some variation of it, I have NEVER lost with the Russians, even when playing matches using play-balance options intended to substantially improve the German player’s chances.

'STALINGRAD' Russian Opening Set-up

2nd Rifle (4-6-4) U18
3rd Rifle (7-10-4)AA15
4th Rifle (5-7-4)S18
5th Rifle (5-7-4)S18
8th Rifle (5-7-4)V18
9th Rifle (5-7-4) Z16
10th Rifle (5-7-4)BB15
11th Rifle (4-6-4)BB15
12th Rifle (5-7-4)EE12
13th Rifle (5-7-4)EE12
14th Rifle (5-7-4)GG11
16th Rifle (4-6-4)CC14
17th Rifle (4-6-4)CC14
22nd Rifle (4-6-4)KK14
24th Rifle (4-6-4)KK14
27th Rifle (4-6-4)LL14
28th Rifle (7-10-4)FF11
29th Rifle (5-7-4)KK14
35th Rifle (5-7-4)NN14
36th Rifle (5-7-4)NN14
37th Rifle (5-7-4)NN15
42nd Rifle (4-6-4) LL14
64th Rifle (5-7-4)J31
65th Rifle (4-6-4)G34
2nd Cav (2-6-6)Z16
4th Cav (6-9-6) AA15
6th Cav (5-7-6)S18
1st Tank (4-6-6)A38
2nd Tank (2-3-6)X15
3rd Tank (4-6-6)D37
4th Tank (4-6-6)V18
6th Tank (4-6-6)JJ12
7th Tank (2-3-6)BB15
15th Tank (2-3-6)NN15

The Soviet defense presented here is constructed so as to contest every sacred foot of Holy Russia. Only one 2-3-6 Tank corps is offered as a sacrifice on the first game turn; every other Axis attack will require one or more soak-offs. In addition, this opening attempts to limit the number of attractive low-odds gambles available to the Germans during their opening round of combat. Thus, it is not a passive “delay and defend” type of set-up. The Germans and their allies, attacking into the teeth of this defense, will be obliged to fight for every inch of ground that they gain, particularly in the first few critical game turns. Moreover, the Red Army has relegated Finland to the status of a strategic sideshow. Thus, this opening leaves only the bare minimum in the far north to contain the Finns and their German allies; instead, every unit that can be spared is set up on the Polish and Rumanian borders. These extra three to five rifle corps are deployed on the main front both to cause additional Axis soak-off losses, and to help power Soviet counterattacks when such opportunities inevitably present themselves.

I am, of course, sure that readers who take the time to examine this Russian opening will find aspects of it that they dislike or would handle differently. Nonetheless, despite its undoubted imperfections — in all the years that I have used it — this defense has never once let me down. Now, if only I could track down Joe Angiolillo …


  • My board has no markings to identify hexes...Where is A1 and A2, so I can work it out from there?:)

  • Greetings Hipshot:

    Thank you for your interest.

    Your game board is not an outlier; none of the early Avalon Hill game maps had pre-printed grid coordinates. In fact, it was only with the rise of "postal" gaming (PBM) that preprinting such coordinates became common practice among game publishers. In the meantime, we all had to handprint our own maps. That being said, on to the process of gridding your 'STALINGRAD' map.

    By the way, because it is always possible to mess up, I recommend that you at least start by marking your game map with pencil.

    In addition, as reference points for you to double-check your work, I have included the correct grid coordinates for four cities: Helsinki - J26; Moscow - S34; Warsaw - Z13; and Stalino - II27.

    Now to the job at hand ...

    The actual task of "gridding" the 'STALINGRAD' map is a bit tedius, so the following instructions may seem a bit convoluted; however, trust me, experience has shown that they need to be.

    To superimpose a PBM-style grid on the 'STALINGRAD' game map, start with top row of complete hexes and designate the northeasternmost (upper lefthand corner) hex as "A" and continue lettering across the top row from north to south until you reach hex "Z" which will be just south of the vertical map-fold. Next, resume lettering the hexes in sequence, but this time with "AA", "BB", etc., until you reach the southeasternmost hex which should be jointly designated as "XX/33". Next, continuing down the right side of the map designate each hex in descending order "32", "31", etc., until you reach the number "1". Your will notice,if everything is correct, that the bottom-most row of hexes (which, in my own case, I also lettered for ease of play) has no numerical values: this is correct, and has no effect on play. Finally, return to the upper left-hand corner of the game map and, starting with the hex DIRECTLY BELOW that designated as "A", mark your descending file of hexes "57", "56", "55", etc. until you reach hex number "26" which is left of and just above the word Sweden.

    Although I know that all of this looks convoluted, it really isn't; it is only the fact that the bottom-most row of hexes receives no grid coordinates that makes all this somewhat counterintuitive.

    I hope, having taken you on a trip "all the way around Robin Hood's barn", that this will help you grid your own 'STALINGRAD' game map.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Joe!
    Thanks so much. I intended to cheat a bit and use plexi glass, and a chalk pencil.
    But after reading this....hmm, perhaps a scan of the game then edit it in Adobe. Print and slap that bad boy on my wall and play with magnetized units.!!!

    I am doing similar here:

    I'm looking forward to being reacquainted with Stalingrad. When I was 15 I found this game, but it was quickly superseded by the new Jedko TRC that came out I think around '76-'77. IT was "new", so poor old Stalingrad never got the sort of playing it deserves based upon these fabulous articles your write. Now is the time to correct that!
    Oh my name is Kevin, but the wordpress profile would not log me in.
    P.S. may I reblog your article to share with my little audience? I have already posted a link to my facebook readers. Keep up the wonderful work.

  • If I was stuck on the proverbial desert island, and could only have one war game, it would be the first Avalon-Hill edition of "Russian Campaign". :-)

  • Greetings Kevin:

    I'm glad that I was able to help and that you have rediscovered this truly superb old "classic". 'STALINGRAD' may not have much going for it in the "simulation" department, but it is an excellent game for those who enjoy the Chess-like aspect of conflict simulations.

    So far as your reblogging my articles is concerned, I have no objection: the more readers who see these essays the better; after all, my main goal in presenting this material is to rekindle popular interest in the many older games that, justly or unjustly, have been superceded by newer, flashier titles.

    Best Regards, Joe

    PS: I visited your site this morning and, based on what I saw, I have added it as link in my sidebar.

  • Greetings Preston:

    I remember my first encounter with the Australian (Jedco) version of 'THE RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN' back in 1976 -- what a shock it was to see the German panzers dashing across the map after the 'dreaded" Stukas helped blow holes in my carefully prepared defenses. One thing was clear right at the outset, 'STALINGRAD' it wasn't. That being said, although I played the Avalon Hill version (in all three of its incarnations), I never developed the affection (and interest) in the game that I did with 'STALINGRAD'. The older game certainly couldn't match John Edwards' creation when it came to simulation value or sheer excitement; but it somehow lacked the "cache" and precision of the older game. I guess, when everything is said and done, I just didn't care that much for those darn Stukas!

    When it comes to my own choice of a single game with which to spend my days on a desert island, that is a tough question to answer. Certainly, the Avalon Hill "classics" -- WATERLOO, AFRIKA KORPS, BULGE '65, and STALINGRAD -- would all be in the running; and, of course, I could also attempt to finally solitaire WAR IN EUROPE all the way through to the end. All of these titles certainly have appeal, however, I suspect that, when it came to actually making a final choice, I would probably fudge a little and choose one of the SPI Quadri-games (e.g., BLUE & GRAY I, NAPOLEON AT WAR, or NAPOLEON'S LAST BATTLES).

    Best Regards, Joe

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