Stalingrad 42 – Game Review (PC)
Ok, I have to admit I have a thing for the Red Army. Maybe it was the huge poster in my barracks in basic training, during the good old "bad days" of the Cold War. The poster had a Soviet Naval infantryman in full battle dress, with the words "This is the Enemy" below it. Yeah, he was "the Enemy," but he looked cool. Since then, I’ve read just about everything I could find on the Red Army of World War II, from David Glantz’s outstanding works to the more recent but somewhat lighter Ivan’s War by Catherine Merridale. So, when I was given the change to review HPS’ newest episode in their Panzer Campaigns series, Stalingrad 42, I jumped at the chance.
Stalingrad 42 (St42) is another strong game from Tiller and Company, and lives up to the excellence of the previous Panzer Campaigns entries. As with other HPS games, St42 is a traditional hex- and turn-based game focusing less on pretty sounds and flashing lights than on deep historical accuracy and depth of play.
This is one monster of a game. There are a total of 42 separate scenarios for St42 and these vary from a short tutorial (highly recommended for new players) to the grand-daddy of the Stalingrad campaign, the Soviet counterattack (Operation Uranus), which weighs in at a massive 306 two-hour turns. And these turns can go for a long time, even with ‘Fast AI’ toggled. In my review game as the Soviets, the Axis artillery fire took a good ten minutes to resolve. What made this a ‘good’ thing is that the ten minutes were filled with the AI targeting, firing, and resolving the artillery fire, not just processing information.
Anyone already familiar with the Panzer Campaigns series can jump right into the game with ease. For new players, the system is fairly intuitive, easy to learn, with a wide variety of options for units in the simulation; expect to spend several scenarios just learning what units can do what. For example, there is a substantial difference in capabilities in the Soviet engineer units-bridging units can have pontoons while others have boats; combat engineers can clear minefields, etc. The result is that the player must carefully plan his assaults based on where these specialized units are needed, versus just sending out a generic ‘engineer’ unit that can do everything. Kudos to Tiller and gang for adding this level of realism to S42; it forced me to actually study the map, make notes, and sketch out a series of actions which had to take place before I even touched the keyboard.
As to units, the huge variety makes this an awesome game. In the Operation Uranus scenario, there are Penal Battalions for the Soviets, elite but understrength German panzer and infantry battalions, Romanian cavalry, Hungarian and Italian tank battalions, and the list goes on. Sheer variety of forces gives the game a replayability factor not often seen in traditional hex-based games. It was quite entertaining to throw Soviet naval infantry against the Italians, or to watch my horse cavalry exploit a breakthrough in the Axis lines and overrun the Romanian’s artillery support.
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