EAST FRONT is a historical game of World War II combat on the Eastern Front. This game, whatever its other qualities, is probably best known because of its use of non-traditional hexagonal-shaped game counters. EAST FRONT was designed by Stephen G. Bettum and Christopher Allen, and published by The Control Box, Inc. in 1976.


At 0300 hour on 22 June 1941, a massive German offensive — codenamed Operation Barbarossa — opened along the entire length of the western Soviet frontier from the Baltic to the Black Sea. The Russo-German War had begun. This war would rage for four long, bloody years, from 1941 to 1945. It would ultimately see fighting all the way from the desolate tundra above the Arctic Circle in the North, to the craggy passes of the Caucasus Mountains in the South. The initial German onslaught would carry the Wehrmacht to the gates of Moscow in the fall of 1941, and yet, three and half years later, it would end among the ruined buildings and rubble-choked streets of Berlin. The Russo-German War would turn out to be the largest and most brutal military conflict in modern European history. It would also, by sowing the seeds of a generations-long post-war struggle between East and West, be instrumental in completely transforming the political landscape of Europe.


EAST FRONT is a grand tactical (corps/army level) simulation of the Russo-German War, 1941-45. One player controls the armies of the USSR and the other player, the forces of Germany and its Axis Allies. The game map covers all of European Russia from the tip of Finland in the North, to the Caspian Sea in the South, and from eastern Germany in the West, to central Siberia in the East. EAST FRONT utilizes the familiar KURSK Game System: first Movement Phase, Combat Phase, and Second (mechanized, cavalry, and artillery) Movement Phase. Besides the standard rules governing movement, supply, and combat, the game also incorporates special rules dealing with rail movement, sea movement, overruns, Russian Unit Production, Russian Unit Promotion, rebuilding German kampfgrüppen, partisans, fortifications, counterattacks, German tactical withdrawal (the familiar “Hitler stand-fast” rule), and even German frostbite. In addition, the game design also offers an extensive menu of experimental (what-if?) optional rules for the players to try.

EAST FRONT offers seven historical scenarios: the Poland Scenario, the Campaign Game Scenario, the Barbarossa Scenario, the Stalingrad Scenario, the High Water Mark Scenario, the Kursk Scenario, and last but not least, the Destruction of Army Group Center Scenario. Each of these standard scenarios is presented with its own historical set up. However, players may instead opt for free deployment, or they may choose to incorporate one or more of the many optional rules into a scenario in order to add variety and excitement to the game situation, or just to fine-tune play balance.


Sometimes a game designer’s willingness to think outside the box can produce a genuine breakthrough in the hobby. Titles like, but not limited to, LOST BATTLES, KURSK, PANZERBLITZ, LEIPZIG, SQUAD LEADER, Gama Games’ NAPOLEON, THIRD REICH, PANZERGRÜPPE GUDERIAN, and even CIVILIZATION, have all, because of their innovative new game systems, radically affected the future growth and trajectory of the whole wargaming hobby. On the other hand, some alternative design ideas have, in the immortal words of the movie character, Borat, turned out to be: “not so much.”

The basic rules system and game mechanics of EAST FRONT are neither particularly innovative nor are they unusual. It is the eccentric choice by the game’s designers to use hexagonal-shaped unit counters instead of the more traditional ½” squares that really sets this title apart from other war games. Only a limited number of copies of EAST FRONT were ever sold. And of those copies, I can — based on personal experience — state unequivocally that far fewer were actually played. The hexagonal shape was a nightmare to print and to die-cut because of centering problems; but it was an even bigger nightmare for the prospective players to punch out and trim. Moreover, it turned out that, once the pieces were actually in play, the hexagonal shape also made the unit counters extremely awkward to manipulate, either when adjacent to each other or when in stacks. Despite this genuine playability issue, however, EAST FRONT — probably because of its unique place in game design history — has become something of a sought-after collectible. So, my suggestion to World War II game collectors is this: if you ever stumble across a copy of EAST FRONT that is still in very good, or better condition, grab it; such a copy is already worth a surprising amount of money. Who knows? It might even continue to appreciate in value, as time goes on.

Design Characteristics:

  • Time Scale: 2 game-turns per month (3 turns in December)
  • Map Scale: 55 kilometers per hex (estimated)
  • Unit Size: corps/army
  • Unit Types: tank/panzer, mechanized/panzer grenadier, rifle/infantry, cavalry, artillery, and information counters
  • Number of Players: two (appropriate for team play)
  • Complexity: above average
  • Solitaire Suitability: average
  • Average Playing Time: 3-20 + hours

Game Components:

  • Two 21½” x 28” hexagonal grid Map Sheets (with Unit Holding Boxes and Terrain Key incorporated)
  • 800 ½” hexagonal cardboard Counters
  • One 8½” x 11” Rules Booklet (with Scenario Instructions, Game Charts, and Combat Results Table incorporated)
  • One 22” x 28” Turn Record/Reinforcement Track (with all Game Charts and Combat Results Table incorporated)
  • One 8½” x 11” Errata Sheet (Dated 20 July, 1976)


  • Yes the counters are hard to handle.The 3 shades of green used for the 3 thypes of forest were a nightmare except under direct light and I swear I still don't think I had them right(me being color blind wasn't helping any).

    I had problems understanding the 2nd Step upgrade until the F&M and Campaign magazines explained it beter then it was easy. I wish a little more other units used for more "What IF" forces instead of the Poles being in there but still had fun with the game

    Oh and that Massive Chartland that was a size of a normal game map-That sure didn't help any.Why they didn't make a couple of smaller charts I don't know.

    But still East Front has a special place in my game libray-it must,I have 3 copies!

  • Greetings Kim:

    Actually, I personally kind of liked the map. The choice of map colors was never a problem for me; I had a 4' x 8' felt-covered game table (for "monster" or "near-monster" games) with two drafting lamps attached by clamps, so I could adjust the lamps for more light anywhere I needed it.

    As I indicated in the game profile, however, the hexagonal shape of the counters -- at least for me -- made it an absolute nightmare to manipulate stacks of units (even with tweezers) when those stacks were adjacent to each other; and they often were. The thing that made moving them even worse, in my case, is that I always rotate my units as I move them (so as not to accidentally move a unit twice); thus, trying to extricate a single unit from a stack without messing up the orientation of the other counters in the stack just drove me crazy! That's the downside.

    The upside is that, when I finally decided to sell my partially-punched copy of EAST FRONT on eBay a couple of years ago, it fetched over $220.00. That being said, I suggest that you take good care of your copies of the game as they should be worth a lot more than you originally paid for them!

    Still, I know how easy it is to accumulate multiple copies of a favorite game. At one time I owned two copies of WAR IN THE EAST (1st ed.), one copy of WItE (2nd ed.), one copy of WAR IN THE WEST, and (as if I needed it) one copy of WAR IN EUROPE (1st ed.). Moreover, until a few years ago, I still had four copies of THIRD REICH and even three copies of ANZIO.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • The Game is great!, the system and supply line about as good as any East Front game.
    There was one shade of Green which was hard to pick up, NOT IMPOSSIBLE THOUGH.
    a REDO OF THE GAME DONE IN LARGER size and maybe suare counters would help the not so nimble fingers.
    I have the original edition and will not part from it.
    Go out and get it.
    bob james

  • Greetings Bob:

    Thank you for visiting; I appreciate your interest.

    I don't know if I would go so far as to say that this "one of a kind" design was great -- I personally found much of the game's basic architecture pretty derivative -- but it was certainly a decent enough "first" effort for a new, and very short-lived game company. No the problem that I had with the game then, and still do today, is that the game's uniquely-shaped unit counters were just a nightmare to actually play with. And take it from a player who, through the years, managed to master the manipulation of 10+ high unit stacks in some of the GDW "Europa" series of monster games, it wasn't for lack of trying.

    Nonetheless, as I indicated in my post, if you already own the game (or can get a copy that is in reasonably good condition) then serious collectors absolutely should hold onto it.

    Best Regards, Joe

Post a Comment