ERIC GOLDBERG’S KURSK is an operational level game, based on the original KURSK Game System, of combat on the Eastern Front. This version of KURSK was designed by Eric Goldberg and published by Simulations Publications, Incorporated (SPI) in 1980. This game is interesting, not only for the situation it portrays, but also for its usefulness as a benchmark against which the progress of both game design and graphics can be measured when it is compared to its predecessor, published just nine years earlier.


KURSK is a historical simulation, at the division/corps level, of the decisive battles between the Wehrmacht and the Red Army that occurred in southern Russia in the spring and summer of 1943. The encirclement and destruction of the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad had shown incontrovertibly that the Red Army of 1942-43 was a very different and much improved force from that which the Germans had smashed in 1941. At Kursk, the Germans would find out just how different. This battle would destroy the cream of the Wehrmacht’s mechanized formations; it would also force the Germans to begin their long inexorable retreat westward.

ERIC GOLDBERG’S KURSK uses the familiar KURSK player turn format with some interesting innovations. The typical game turn begins with an optional Joint Air Warfare Phase after which the phasing player executes his move. The player turn sequence proceeds as follows: the Administrative Phase; the Movement Phase; the Combat segment (which is composed of a Gun Segment, a First Combat segment, and a Second Combat Segment); the Mechanized Movement Phase; the Disruption Removal Phase; and the Organization Phase. This version of KURSK also adds to the player’s sense of increased realism with the use of a greatly improved game map, unit step losses, an enhanced role for artillery and anti-tank guns, partisans, and most importantly: headquarters-based organizational and administrative command and control.

KURSK offers three scenarios: Von Manstein’s Plan: The German General Staff Plan, 1 May 1943; Hitler’s Plan: The Battle of Kursk, 4 July 1943; and The Beginning of the End: The Soviet Summer Counteroffensive, 1 August 1943. In addition to the three scenarios, the game also includes several optional rules to enhance realism or improve play-balance. These optional rules cover factors such as Limited Intelligence, Disengagement from Entrenchments, SS Corps Integrity, and the previously mentioned Air Warfare sub-routine.


When I initially published this piece some years ago, I had only begun to blog and, hence, wasn't really sure as to what my readers either wanted or expected from "Map and Counters". Not surprisingly given my own inexperience, I decided to be conservative; that is: to keep the individual posts short and my personal opinions to a minimum. Needless-to-say, a lot has happened since those early days, and now that I have a clearer understanding of the gaming interests of my readership, I have decided to go back and add a bit of additionl material to this altogether too short profile of ERIC GOLDBERG'S KURSK.

Graphically speaking, ERIC GOLDBERG'S KURSK is, I suppose, reasonably attractive to the eye. The Orders of Battle of the two armies, given what the designer had to work with at the time, are actually very good. More recent work by researchers like Glantz, et. al., have shown that some of the game's Soviet units and their deployments are wrong, but this is hardly something for which the designer, doing his work over thirty years ago, can really be faulted. I personally found the game counters well done although some players have criticized the unit "color-coding" which is actually required by the game's operating system; however, neither I nor any of my friends found this element of the design either awkward or troubling. The appearance of the game map is also interesting, if for no other reason than because of the colorful approach that Redmond Simonsen took in depicting the various belts of the Soviet defensive positions.

Where, at least in my opinion, the game tends to disappoint is not in the area of physical components, but in the area of replay value. Stated simply: refighting the various scenarios over and over again tends to produce repetitive, relatively uninteresting outcomes; of course, these results may just indicate that I and my opponents were unimaginative in our several approaches to the game; my peronal view, however, is that the designer seems to have adopted a fairly rigid narrative arc for his simulation, and it is mainly for this reason that very little in the way of genuine variability seems to be possible. Part of my discomfort with this game, of course, may well come from the fact that I and the designer appear to disagree on one or more of the key factors that influenced the actual battle and thus determined its outcome. The inability of Model's northern pincer to achieve any kind of real progress, for instance, seems largely to be baked into the game. In the historical battle, the deep penetration of Manstein's southern spearhead demonstrated that the Soviet defensive works could be overcome; thus, it is not unreasonable to suggest that the fact that the Germans in the north stalled after only one day's fighting was more a product of Model's lack of commitment to the overall goals of the "Zittadelle" offensive and his poorly thought out battlefield tactics than to any defensive features peculiar to the northern shoulder of the Kursk saliant. Model was, without a doubt, a brilliant defensive commander; but, for this battle, his lackluster peformance would seem to suggest that Guderian, Hube, or even Kliest would any of them have been a better choice when it came to planning and executing the attack in the north.

In the end, I am left (as a reviewer) in the peculiar position of suggesting that, while there are a number of elements about ERIC GOLDBERG'S KURSK that I at least find interesting, the game, when considered as a whole, somehow just doesn't really deliver what I personally would like to see in an operational treatment of The Battle of Kursk. The design has its good points, certainly, and it really isn't a truly terrible game. However, much like SPI's TYPHOON, Goldberg's design seems both to be somehow too small and surprisingly limited in its scope. This is unfortunate because, at the time that it was published, I was really looking forward to a "state of the art" conflict simulation of "Zittadelle". Alas, after sitting down and playing through ERIC GOLDBERG'S KURSK, it was soon abundantly clear to me that this game wasn't it.

Design Characteristics:

  • Time Scale: 2 days per game turn
  • Map Scale: 10 kilometers per hex
  • Unit Size: division/corps (with some brigades, regimental battle groups, and battalions as well)
  • Unit Types: Headquarters (army/corps); panzer/tank; panzer grenadier/mechanized; infantry/rifle/air landing rifle/motorized rifle/untried rifle; heavy tank destroyer; propaganda/security; kampfgrüppen; artillery; anti-tank; partisan; air points; and information markers
  • Number of Players: two
  • Complexity: medium/high
  • Solitaire Suitability: average
  • Average Playing Time: 3½ - 4 hours

Game Components:

  • One 22” x 34” hexagonal grid Map Sheet (with Game Turn Track, Victory Points Tracks, and Terrain Key incorporated)
  • 600 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 8½” x 11” Set of Rules (with Game Charts and Scenario Instructions incorporated)
  • One 22” x 28” Combined German and Soviet Deployment Display
  • One small six-sided Die
  • One flat 20 compartment plastic tray (with clear compartment tray cover)
  • One SPI 9” x 11¾” x 2” bookcase-style cardboard Game Box

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


  • I think I need more plays with this game. Back then I would try and play and enjoy it but never could get fond of the whole thing.Spoiled with thee 71 version,maybe but the '80 ed just didn't grab me

  • Greetings Kim:

    Actually, I think that Eric Goldberg captured the attritional aspect of the historical battle pretty well. In my mind, the biggest problem with the game was that the battle space was considerably smaller than that of the old KURSK. This meant that even if you played with the free set-up option, neither player could really deviate all that much from their historical battle plans. You could move your points of attack around a bit, but it really didn't make that much difference. The variously colored pieces (for the higher HQs) were actually kind of neat, but what I really liked, was the way the map displayed the different terrain types; if only it had covered more of the front and opened up the battle area!

    Best Regards, Joe

  • This was a game with a horrendous set up time. First you needed to form stacks for each division, then find the correct unit in the stack for each location, then find that location on the map. I wanted to like it, but the setup was a killer.

    Eric was considered by SPI to be an unknown and they wanted to compare it's sales against John Hill's Battle for Stalingrad, as John was considered famous. So this game was the control in the title experiment of highlighting the designer's name.

  • Greetings Don:

    I know what you mean about the set-up time; however, because I and my friends had already color-coded (army group and army) the German units in both WItE and DNO/UNT, this didn't seem particularly awkward to us. No, my main problem with this game was that the strategic options of both players were severely limited. In other words, much like TYPHOON, ERIC GOLDBERG'S KURSK just had the feel of a smaller, more limited game thn the map size or counter mix might other wise indicate.

    Your point about SPI's so-called experiment is reflective of the company's sometimes slip-shod planning. Apparently, no one at SPI had ever take a graduate course in experimental design: this is obvious from the fact that, just as soon as the editor received an inquiry about the new Kursk game, he immediately eliminated any possibility of either experimental validity or reliability by explaining the whole purpose (and eliminating the "blind" test part) of the project.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • I really wanted to like this game when it came out. The problem was that it was really a matter of "the juice wasn't worth the squeeze." The graphics were fine, the system was intriguing, but you definitely felt confined by the situation. Definitely felt more like World War I at this scale, which is--I suppose--part of the point of the design. It just took a lot of work as a player to achieve this feeling. I sold off my copy of this game a few years ago along with my old 1971 edition. Maybe Kursk as a battle at this scale is better read about in books than gamed. I've played other titles and none grabbed me all that much either. Now, once you change the scale some--focus on the southern drive or get into the tactical battles--it gets a lot more fun!

  • Greetings Eric:

    Yes, I couldn'd agree more: the game just feels "small" compared to the scope of the actual battle. Moreover, even at the time, I felt intuitively that the attrition rate among armored units was too high. Now, based on more recent research by Glantz (who else?) and others -- information that was unavailable to the designer at the time the game was published -- it looks like Manstein was not nearly the hopeless optimist that critics have usually branded him as: after the fifth day of the battle, it appears that his mechanized losses were much lower than previously claimed by the Soviets and that he still had a significant amount of combat power with which to meet Zhukov's mechanized reserves!

    Best Regards, Joe

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