HISTORICAL BACKGROUNDOn 17 July 1942, elements of Colonel General von Richthofen’s Luftflotte 4 began a massive bombing effort against the defenders of the Russian city of Stalingrad. The raining down of high explosive and incendiary bombs by the Germans would, over the next few months, leave the entire city little more than a pile of charred rubble. While the Luftwaffe bombed, the Wehrmacht drove east. By the end of July, the German Sixth Army was only a dozen kilometers from Stalingrad, and the Fourth Panzer Army, farther to the south, had also wheeled northwards and begun to battle its way towards the outskirts of the city. Finally, during the last days of August, German ground forces battered their way into Stalingrad’s suburbs. The first Soviet ground unit to see action defending the city proper was, ironically, the all-women 1077th Anti-Aircraft Regiment. This volunteer unit resisted the advancing 16th Panzer Division’s advance tenaciously, ultimately losing all thirty-seven of the regiment's Anti-Aircraft batteries in the fighting. By early September the Germans had launched the real struggle for the city; shelling and shooting their way forward one meter at a time. Only now would the brutal house-to-house fighting for which the battle would ultimately earn its “meat-grinder” reputation finally begin.
Statistics by themselves cannot begin to tell the story of this epic conflict. During the height of the battle for Stalin’s city on the Volga, an individual Russian infantry replacement could typically expect to survive an average of twenty-four hours, while a newly-arrived Soviet infantry officer might — if he were lucky — last for as long as three days before he was killed or wounded. When the butchery had finally run its course, the casualties for both sides would be appalling. Over two million Russian and Axis troops would be killed, captured, or wounded in the Stalingrad battle area between mid-July 1942 and February 1943. The battle finally (mercifully) ended on 31 January, when Field Marshal Friedrich von Paulus, the commander of the surrounded and starving German Sixth Army, at last formally capitulated to the besieging Russians. A few German pockets fought on, but by 2 February, the city was completely in Soviet hands. Only ninety-one thousand men, of the 250,000 Axis troops that had fought their way into the city in September, survived to become Soviet prisoners; the rest were dead in the rubble of Stalingrad. Other battles would follow on the Eastern Front, but nothing would again match the ferocity and human cost of Stalingrad.
TURNING POINT: STALINGRAD (2nd Edition) is an area-impulse simulation, based on Courtney Allen’s highly successful STORM OVER ARNHEM Game System. The decisive Soviet victory at Stalingrad made it the World War II battle that, in the eyes of many military historians, represented the turning point in the Russo-German War. In TURNING POINT, one player commands the German forces while the other controls the Soviets. The game is played in weekly installments of seven game turns. Each game turn represents one twenty-four hour day and is, in turn, composed of a (theoretically) indefinite number of day or night “mini-turns” called impulses. A typical game turn begins with both players checking the Game Turn Record Track for arriving reinforcements. Once this Reinforcement Phase is completed, normal play begins. Players alternate moves and or attacks with a “fresh” unit or units from any one area during a given impulse. Units that move or attack suffer some form of Disruption (level one through four) at the end of their action. In addition, a clear supply path is required to restore Spent or Disrupted units. Players may not act twice in a row unless the opposing player opts for no action by declaring “pass” at the beginning of his impulse turn. At the start of each impulse, the German player rolls a die and applies the appropriate Die Roll Modifier (DRM) to see if the game turn continues with another day or night impulse or alternatively whether it changes (Day to Night/Night to Dawn).
No player may have more than ten combat units in an individual Map Area whether moving, attacking, or defending. The objective of the game is for the German player is simple: capture Soviet-controlled Map Areas, thereby gaining Victory Points. The goal of the Russian player is to prevent the German from amassing enough victory points to win at the end of any weekly game installment. To assist with these missions, players may call upon off-board artillery and, in the case of the Germans, the Luftwaffe. Engineers can be used to clear rubble or to construct fortifications, both of which affect the Defensive and Entrance DRM of a given Map Area. The most powerful single tool available to either player is the player Advantage. The player who possesses the Advantage may force a combat result or any other die outcome to be rerolled, or prolong Day or Night game turns. The only limit on the possessing player is that the Advantage may only be used once per date, and that it must be surrendered to the opposing player after its use.
TURNING POINT: STALINGRAD offers an introductory scenario, the Kuibyshev Sawmill, that uses only part of both armies’ available forces and that fights over a limited section of the game map. Once players are familiar with the game system, the “basic” game is played in weekly segments starting with the week of September 13th. At the end of each week, the German player checks his current Victory Point total against that required for an immediate Axis victory; if his victory point level is too low, then the game continues for another week. It should be noted that Avalon Hill, much to its later regret, did not included reinforcing units for play past the third week of the Stalingrad battle. Interested players were encouraged to purchase an Expansion Kit in order to, essentially, complete the game’s components. The copy of the game described here, is of the standard game of TURNING POINT: STALINGRAD, without the Expansion Kit. The game also presents players with a surprisingly limited number of Optional Rules. These additional rules are primarily concerned with alternative (card-driven) combat results, and player bidding for preferred sides, prior to play.
- Time Scale: 24 hours per game turn (with an indefinite number of player “impulses” per game turn)
- Map Scale: Area movement; each inch = approximately 500 meters (with Area ID numbers and Terrain Effects Modifiers for each of the Game Map’s seventy-four Areas)
- Unit Size: platoon/company (armor, mechanized, and panzergrenadier); company/battalion/regiment (infantry, guards infantry, motorized infantry, machine gun, engineers, etc); division/army ( off-board artillery assets)
- Unit Types: various types of armored units, infantry, motorized infantry, anti-tank, tank destroyer, pioneer (engineer infantry), engineer (infantry), artillery, panzergrenadier, machine gun (anti-tank), anti-aircraft, anti-aircraft (FLAK), armored recon, front artillery group, anti-tank rifle, Luftwaffe, and information markers
- Number of Players: two
- Complexity: medium
- Solitaire Suitability: above average
- Average Playing Time: 2-30 + hours (depending on scenario)
- Two 16” x 22” area movement, hard-backed Map Boards (with Turn Record Track and Day/Night Impulse Track incorporated)
- 264 ⅝” back-printed cardboard Counters
- 130 ½” back-printed cardboard Counters
- One 8” x 11” Rules Booklet (with Area Exit/Entrance Chart, Interdiction Points Table, Attack MF Costs, “DV” and “OV” Tables, Mistaken Attack Table, MF Costs, Crossing Table, Disruption penalties Chart, Retreat Priority, Rubble Creation, Rubble Entrance DRM, Rubble “DV” Table, and Casualty Points Table incorporated)
- One 8” x 11” back-printed German Setup Card (with various “quick reference” tables and charts incorporated)
- One 8” x 11” back-printed Russian Setup Card (with various “quick reference” tables and charts incorporated)
- four six-sided Dice (two white and two red)
- One 5½” x 7” Customer Response Card
- One 8½” x 11½” x 2” Bookcase style Game Box
Recommended ReadingSee 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