Review – The Barbarossa Campaign from Victory Point Games

 

Review – The Barbarossa Campaign from Victory Point Games

Designer – Gary W. Graber with additional development and design by Alan Emrich and Carl Paradis

Art – Alan Emrich and Tim Allen

A copy of this game was provided by Victory Point Games

There are a ton of games out there on the Russian Front during the 2nd World War. The Barbarossa Campaign is a solitaire game for age 14+, and is a re-implementation of the original game published by Minden Games in 1999. I’m more of a Western front fan myself in my gaming choices as I feel like the Eastern front has been kinda done to death but I’m alway interested in a different take and on the surface, it looks like Victory Point Games had a bit of a unique game in this one so let’s have a look.

This is very much a strategic game which looks at the huge struggle on the Eastern front but all in a small package compared to other games covering similar. The original version of this game by Gary Graber has very little information on Boardgamegeek but it looks like a much more basic game. If anybody can get this huge struggle from its basic form into a game that rocks, and still in a small concise package, its Victory Point Games so let’s see how they’ve done.

Unboxing

– a 11″ x 25.5″ color map ( larger than the usual VPG maps)

– 5 Scenario displays (the main campaigns are available to play as smaller games)

– 3 Economic display maps (this is about grand strategy, not just about the boots on the ground)

– 1 Events tables card

– 100 double sided 1/2″ square pieces

– 40 color 5/8″ square pieces

– 90 color 1/2″ round pieces

– 56 color 5/8″ round pieces

– 40 Event cards

– 16 page rulebook (this is a big rulebook by VPG standards which surprised me but as a solitaire game covering a fair amount of aspects of the Eastern front, it’s to be expected I guess)

The map is central but has a number of supporting tables and displays. It is presented very well. The counter artwork is serviceable which is sufficient for the needs of the game. This isn’t a game about particular units but all about the big picture so it seems to me that the artistic decisions seem to work very well. Just keep in mind that there is a lot here to take in.

Gameplay

As this is a solitaire game, you are playing through a system. So there are a number of aspects to the process.

Setting up the game, each side has a single contiguous line of units from north to south, adjacent to the enemy front line, representing the front which must be maintained throughout the game by adding or taking away units. Very interesting and pretty different to other games I’ve played and it certainly keeps things focused and simple. It becomes very clear that the front lines are the be all and end all of the movement of forces.

Game sequence

Events – Consult the game turn track Events if any and draw 1 or 2 (in summer turns) event cards which provide information about an event. They also have information about Soviet initiative attacks and Soviet City capture bonuses. the rules cover in detail what the Events are.

Economics – during this phase, Economic counters are drawn to track Armor production, Industry and Lend-Lease and this will have an effect on Initiative

Axis Redeployment – you can reposition your units between hexes on the Axis Front line

Axis Blitz Combat – Panzer and Luftwaffe supported German non-Panzer units may attack (skipped on winter turns). The combat results are mostly about advancing so the Front will continually have an ebb and flow to its shape.

Axis Regular Combat – similar to Blitz combat. All uncommited Axis units can perform combatregardless of supply status (normally on turns when the Axis are not in “collapse”.

Axis Encirclement resolution – All of your isolated units are eliminated unless: they are in Major Cities, they are Axis units in Minor cities and can be air supplied by the Luftwaffe, they are Axis units on the Baltic coast or Soviets on the Black sea coast.

Receive Axis Winter Build-up (winter turns only)

Soviet Counter-attack phase – The most engaged Axis units are attacked first, and then so on (cool AI mechanic this one…)

Soviet Initiative Combat phase (another nift mechanic) – only conducted on turns when the Soviets have the initiative. In effect its a Soviet land grab. The cards are used to show where the hex captures take place, pushing back the front line toward Germany.

Calculate initiative Index – this may include markers giving bonus initiative points caused by Tenacity, Experience, Partisans, etc. The victory Point track is then adjusted

Set the Axis Strategic Mode – this is set according to which side has the initiative and each mode has effects

Housekeeping

I have to say that I was a bit concerned about all the steps needed but II found that as I got into it, things moved smoothly and the feel, is that of the strategic leadership having all aspects of total war. What’s more, it feels to me like an ios game with solid AI that punches its weight. The tendency may be to take on the whole war but it may be a good idea to try the scenarios first just to become familiar.

The system is pretty solid by all accounts. There is a lot of depth here for a solitaire game and it takes you beyond the mechanics to give you a feel of the strategic process. Its all about the big picture and the mechanism give you a very good view and feel for the flow of punch/counter-punch on the Eastern front.

A very nice design, clever in its implementation with a nice feel where you don’t just feel you are playing a system on rails.

Did it work for me?

The Barbarossa Campaign is a very good solitaire game. You have plenty of decisions to make, the system takes the strain to help you enjoy the experience, feel the tension of the shifting initiative, and manage the strategic picture with key focus beyond the Front line. Withinn 2-3 turns you will find yourself becoming comfortable as the games engine starts to purr along. The AI is strong and pushes you, stretches you and slaps you (but in a good way).  I wouldn’t call it elegant as there is a fair bit to go through but it works very well.

A very nice design with just enough strategic meat and mechanics that work nicely together. What seemed a bit daunting at first, turned out to be a hidden gem. And its darn good fun!

Attention Alan and Co. at Victory Point Games! This game should be a great opportunity for an  IOS game. I would really welcome the opportunity to try an IOS version.

Boardgames in Blighty rating – 8.5 out of 10

Family friendly?

Nope. Its a war gamer’s game.

For more information go to – http://victorypointgames.com/

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