Wargames To Go 19 - Operation Barbarossa
Mark Johnson
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As always, I keep a geeklist to organize the games I plan to play (or sometimes merely mention) for my next Wargames To Go podcast. Comments & suggestions from listeners and everyone else are welcome!

I've wanted to dive into the WW2 Eastern Front topic for a long time. It's arguably the most significant part of the most significant war in human history, yet I didn't know much about it. A true wargaming blind spot!

It's such an enormous subject, however, that it took me a while to figure out how to go about it. Obviously, it's impossible to understand the eastern front by playing a half-dozen games. Military historians can spend a lifetime researching this vast conflict. After being lost for a while, I eventually settled in on something manageable for me. It's really Operation Barbarossa that I'm trying to focus on--the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union.

As you'll see below I break that focus a little bit. Depending on the title, games sometimes stretch into the Soviet counter-offensive, Case Blue, or even the entire theater culminating in the taking of Berlin. It's rare for a game that I'd like to play covers so much ground, however. After all, I'm still trying to stick to games that can be played on a weeknight.

-Mark




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Mark Johnson's irregular podcast about small wargames
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26. Board Game: Barbarossa Solitaire [Average Rating:6.22 Overall Rank:15875]
Board Game: Barbarossa Solitaire
Mark Johnson
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Santa Clarita
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I downloaded, constructed, and played this game several years ago.
 
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27. Board Game: Der Kessel [Average Rating:5.57 Unranked]
Board Game: Der Kessel
Mark Johnson
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Santa Clarita
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When I find I've got a Minden Games title already onhand, I usually want to give it a go. Though since I'm zooming out my focus on the entire theater, not just one famous battle, I think I'll skip it this time.
 
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28. Board Game: Robot Barbarossa: Russian Front 1941 [Average Rating:6.33 Unranked]
Board Game: Robot Barbarossa:  Russian Front 1941
Lou Coatney
Norway
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Akershus
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This may wreck you for most all other Barbarossa games, Mark. It did me, and it's my own (for not much longer, still free print-and-play) design. devil Its blurb:

This would be a very conventional 11 hexes Warsaw to Moscow monthly turns corps-to-army level Barbarossa game ... except for its either-way solitaire and unknown OVERALL Russian tank and strengths and order of battle mechanic, which can throw either Axis or Russian plans and play to the wind.

Before the game, you sort the Infantry and Tank units into 3 separate upside-down/secret arrays each and pull one each out (not knowing which one) so you have left (for each branch):

a Strong + Weak = Medium - "Historical," sort of :-) - overall or
a Medium + Weak = Weak overall or
a Strong + Medium = Strong overall strength.

OR you can just blindly Bell-Curve select 36 (of the 54) Russian rifle/infantry armies and 18 (of the 27) tank/mechanized korps and tally up their strengths at the end of the game to find out how strong over all they *were*.

Of course, in one game the tanks may be Strong and the infantry Weak, etc., etc.
And even a live Russian player doesn't get to know his overall infantry strength until the game is over ... although after the 4th or 5th month he may have a good idea.

At the end of the game when the strengths are discovered (and/or suspicions confirmed) compensatory victory points are awarded if the Russians are found to have been Strong or Weak in their rifle/infantry and/or tank forces.

The point of this being that the Axis historically didn't know the overall strength(s) of the Russian units when they invaded - how hard to push and take risks - and an Axis (or Russian) player shouldn't in a Barbarossa *game* either.

There are 3 army group - Army Group North, Army Group Center, and Army Group South - and front - Northern, Western, Southwestern - sectors, to keep the robots' advancing/attacking and defending operations in line. A team can therefore be as many as 3 (cooperating) players.

It still can be a good little 2-player (or 2-team) game or you could even have the game play itself and move the pieces for it. :-)

(Writing the rules - Robot Directives - for a solitaire hex-and-counter game is VERY challenging ... a designer's holy grail.)

If you are the/a "live" Axis player, watch out for the 2-factor ("T-34&KV-1") Russian mechanized corps, which by the rules take down the German panzerkorps in the exchanges - even on an X/2 result - and you don't know whether you'll be facing 2, 4, or 6 of those. :-)

Note the stand-up mechanized korps pieces for "live" Russian players.

—description from the designer
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29. Board Game: Barbarossa Fast, Jun-Dec41 [Average Rating:8.20 Unranked]
Board Game: Barbarossa Fast, Jun-Dec41
Lou Coatney
Norway
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FREE print-and-play VERY fast and family&friends simple/introductory point-to-point game of the Nazi German invasion of Soviet Russia, plays in 40-50 minutes.

Designed as a solitaire game, but as good if not better with live Russian player. Large, 3 (army group) player team 3-piece map table size or small single player(s) 11x17/A3 map (and smaller pieces) "travel" size - with single-sided pieces, VERY easy to assemble.

The base map is the *actual* OberKommando Heeres (OKH) campaign planning map (albeit the 1943-44 edition with corrections made) in the public domain on Ft. Leavenworth's Command and General Staff School's Combined Arms Research Library's Digital Library for anyone to see/use.

7 monthly turns. 6+2 German armies, 10+1 panzerkorps, and the 3 Luftflotten. No peripheral Finnish or Rumanian fronts/forces (so Odessa is left out).

Has hidden Russian individual and overall strengths with just Strong (1-factor) and Weak units - no armor vs. infantry combat arms differentiation.

Similar to my more detailed wargame Robot Barbarossa: From the 48 Strong and Weak Russian units, 3 groups - Strong, Medium/"Historical," and Weak - are pre-sorted and only 2 of these unknown groups are selected and mixed. At end of game, compensation victory points are adjusted up or down for the arrays having been found to be Weak or Strong.

(If the pre-game secret selections *were* Strong and Weak, they combine into the Medium/"Historical" array, although that is still 20 Strong and 12 Weak units, after play-balance playtesting.)

2 "Siberians" arrive later, and risk arriving sooner than December if Moscow is too threatened.

Combat is (for simplicty and playing speed) DICE-LESS - the unknown units factor giving unpredictability, strategically as well as tactically.

''—description from the designer''
 
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30. Board Game: Moscow vs. Barbarossa, 1941 [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Moscow vs. Barbarossa, 1941
Lou Coatney
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Blitzkrieg vs. Russia, 1941 *attempts* for the Barbarossa campaign, to be what Frank Chadwick's classic little Battle for Moscow, 1st edition is for that battle: a basic, relatively fast and simple, very conventional hex-and-counter introductory wargame.

It is the same scale - 13 hexes from Warsaw to Moscow - as classic old SPI Barbarossa and might be used with that. Stalingrad *is* on the southeastern edge of the board, thanks to canting. And it fills to the maximum an A3/11x17 mapboard, although halves are provided for a larger, 17x21 one and larger pieces can be made from the single-set sheet.

Monthly turns, 37+2 German and Axis units, 30+5 Russian units. Russian units hidden until adjacent/engaged with a couple blanks/dummies.

Blitzkrieg mechanics for the Germans, pressed attacks, factory evacuation and massive replacements for the Russians, on one of my more beautiful maps.

(I figured out how to make the background other than stark, glaring white. This is fields of Russian grass light green.)

—description from the designer
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31. Board Game: Barbarossa Brief, 1941 [Average Rating:0.00 Unranked]
Board Game: Barbarossa Brief, 1941
Lou Coatney
Norway
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Brief as in both speed of play and File or Case or ... Dossier.

VERY small footprint Barbarossa game. Like Philip Sabin's classic Eastern Front, only **3** hexes from Warsaw to Moscow, although a different configuration of those.

4 2-month turns, basic hex and counter dice-resolved combat odds system. But lots of combat options including Pressed Attack, No Retreat! - isn't there a game by that name? - Siberian Reserve Gamble, etc. NO Zones of Control.

Playing time: est. 40 minutes.

Germans: 3 army groups, 1+1 infantry armies, 4 panzer groups, 2+1 panzerkorps. Romanian army group. Russians: 10 infantry fronts, 4 operational tank groups, the Siberians. +3 Russian tank factories (in Leningrad, Kharkov, and Stalingrad). So 31 pieces total.

Unlike in Phil Sabin's Eastern Front, rivers and hills/mountains *are* specified. At such a small scale, the Sea of Azov had to be tortured to fit, but all the surrounding areas/hexes relate properly, so .... (It *could* be done ... sort of ... Phil! )

Very adaptable to fast, easy solitaire play, as obviously as problems arise for both sides.

—description from designer
 
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32. Board Game: Postcard Barbarossa! [Average Rating:7.20 Unranked]
Board Game: Postcard Barbarossa!
Lou Coatney
Norway
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This is definitely "a game to go" (in the mail), Mark.

VERY fast and simple hex-and-counter Postcard Barbarossa! postcard size/format boardgame about the 1941 Nazi German invasion of Russia. 4 bi-monthly turns.

3 !! hexes Warsaw to Moscow. Plays in 30? minutes.

3 German army group, 4 panzer group, 2 army, and 1 panzer korps pieces, plus a Roman(ian)s army group piece. 4 Russian operational tank groups - Rokossovsky, Lelyushenko, Katukov, Vatutin - 8 fronts, and 1 Siberians pieces. Icon or NATO map and unit versions, as you choose.

Simple, basic mechanics, but with lots of basic combat options.

Unlike Barbarossa Brief from which it was adapted, PB uses a simple factor differential/comparison combat system which can be (and usually is) made nightmarishly unpredictable by a Special Factor Pressed Attack or Desperate Defense rule. devil Its simplicity, compact size, and unpredictability makes it a great SOLITAIRE game too.

NOTE: As long as you keep (only) my copyright statement, its Dedication, and my war&history quotes on it, you are - ANYone is - free to print off copies of my English language edition in postcard - 4"x6"/A6 or 5"x8"/A5 - format to send to family and friends or whomever.

Of course, for your own personal copy, you will want to photocopy-enlarge its pieces and especially its mapboard.

Russian and Chinese translations are being worked up - the former in Volgograd/Stalingrad!

—description from the designer
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