Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Stalingrad Musings

This post was more to collect my thoughts than anything else but I figured I'd share some of my thoughts with you all out there who happen to be the best historians in the business!  (wargamers usually always are).

I've always dreamed about starting a Stalingrad project in 15mm.  The brutal infantry slugfests in and amongst the rubble of a shattered major urban area is incredibly appealing from a wargaming standpoint.  Not only do you get to flex your creative muscles with creating or preparing terrain, forces, orders of battle, and scenarios, but you get to participate in and possibly change history!

To me, Stalingrad has everything a gamer could want, including that "win or die" approach where just one more big push might finish the enemy off, or, if you're the Soviets, today might be the day of the big counterattack.

It's important not to lose sight of the fact that Stalingrad is a graveyard for an entire German army and countless Soviet Divisions.  Any project would be taken on in the spirit of faithfully recreating the battles as best I could on the wargaming table.  So now that you have a rough idea of my objective, I need your help!

What rules to use?  Isn't that the question it always comes down to?

Personally, with the scope and scale of the battle, I'm not convinced that a Company level rules set would work and that leads me to think RAPID FIRE is the set for me for this project.  Still though, I'd pose the following options:

Rapid Fire
Battlegroup Kursk (think much smaller engagements with a company on each side)
Bath-tubbed Bolt Action where a group of 3 stands represents a platoon.
Flames of War at its intended scale

Right now I'm thinking the winner is Rapid Fire, simply because I still get a feeling of "playing with toy soldiers" but can fit entire Brigades on the table.  The large Stalingrad game I played at Fall In 2017 was a Rapid Fire game, and I pushed 3-4 battalions and reached 2 out of my 3 objectives!  It was exciting, tense, and a brutal, grinding slugfest.  So far, it's my first choice.

Battlegroup might be a really fun game to push with Stalingrad, and the folks over at "The Acceptable Casualties" group on facebook, who really inspired this project, are working on a Stalingrad summer project now.

Bath Tubbed Bolt Action?  you're probably wondering what the heck I mean by that.  That's OK I'm not quite sure, either.  I've played Bolt Action games where a stand is a squad equivalent and they were always much fun.  And SIMPLE.  Bolt Action is a very easy game to play and with a battle like Stalingrad, the simpler the better.

Flames of War?  Yeah - there are tons of scenarios for historical Flames of War Stalingrad battles out there and no shortage of resources.  One of my thoughts is to use the Steven's Balagan take on CROSSFIREGRAD (from Dr Phalanx fame) and reverse-engineer it as a Flames of War game.  I think that would be fun.

Originally, when I bought packs of Soviet Naval Infantry and Soviet infantry in greatcoats, my intent was to play a Stalingrad Crossfire game and based on the BATREP from Steven's Balagan of "Crossfiregrad" I'm not sure I could resist the urge to play some awesome back and forth infantry action!

Here are some Stalingrad resources I'm using for inspiration.  I'm happy to hear anyone and everyone's take on this new and awesome project:

Tigers at Minsk Stalingrad Scenarios

Pour Morale Stalingrad Campaign Game Supplement

Steven's Balagan CrossfireGrad

Dr Phalanx CrossfireGrad

Flames of War Stalingrad Campaign Game

and also this:  Flames of War Stalingrad Mega Game

Dzershinsky Tractor Works

Operation Hubertus


  1. I think you could take any one of those systems and have some really good game sessions that give a feel of the subject. I like the idea that Crossfiregrad fits into such a small space as this gives greater focus to the importance of individual buildings and in Stalingrad, fighting over a single building was often the entire focus of a single battle.

    Rapid Fire almost pretends to be one level higher than it is, as regardless of what the individual soldier represents in the rules, the game is often played in a very tactical way (grenades etc), which in effect is a great way to have bath tubbing done as a natural outcome of the system, plus the fact your own experience is that you have enjoyed playing these rules in this setting before, so you know they work to get the sort of game you want.

    Yet …….. I suspect Battlegroup is your favourite set :-)

    PBI2 (Poor Bloody Infantry 2 - from Peter Pig) would also be a contender, it plays on a 4' x 4' marked out in an 8 x 8 square grid.

    For rules, I would say Rapid Fire because you know they work for this setting or Battlegroup because of your familiarity and enjoyment of the system, while referencing CrossFireGrad as a guide and for inspiration.

    It would be interesting to get a map of Stalingrad, put some circles down for key battles and then link all the circles to nearby circles by lines and then use this as the basis of a campaign, with each circle representing a single battle on the table. Go for an odd number of circles so that a there is never a draw at the end of the campaign.

    Individual batttles can have orders-of-battle worked out on the day by points feel or whatever, though an alternative is to give the entire campaign a set force, so that casualties from a battle feed into the entire campaign, so sometimes it is wise to give up a position or call off an attack, to preserve a force.

    At the end of each battle you could have a limited pool of reinforcements either bought or drawn blindly from a cup, so this could be a platoon of T-34 or platoon of engineers or some artillery allowance, etc, the point is as casualties mount to the original force, the reinforcements start to shape the capability of a side and influence how the battles work out, so in the end one side will struggle to have enough infantry or tank or anti-tank capability and so a natural imbalance gets introduced into the scenarios.

    Beevor's Stalingrad would make for a good read prior to play, as it would give helpful game material, set the scene and also deliver that context of how awful all of this was.

    1. Wow thanks, Norm! Yes Battlegroup is probably my favorite set of commercial rules out there. My only concern is would it capture the scope or scale? As you said though, fighting for individual structures were battles in and of themselves and battlegroup would do a solid job of recreating the rat race.

      I am loving the idea for a campaign as well. Ill have to start gathering up resources for research and first stop is my bookshelf where a battered copy of Beevor's book sits! Probably need to check out Glantz as well.

      Thanks very much for your insight and encouragement, Norm!

  2. As an aside, here is a ink to a 13 page download for the administration of a campaign that I put together for the TaM rules, the section on force management highlights my points above.


    1. Thank you sir! This is very helpful! Helps lay everything out in a very logical way.

  3. I think you've hit most contenders there, and I am a fan of Rapid Fire - though it does have limitations.

    If it helps, I'm looking at 'Field of Battle WWII' for an Arnhem game, with open and town areas.
    In this - a single base (3" x 1.5") is a company, and there is no requirement to model MGs etc. and it would therefore allow larger sweeping actions with units up to division.

    The card mechanic is very elegant.

    I can email some details if reqd.

    1. Darren that might be the trick. It's hard to ignore the fight at the battalion level in Stalingrad so it makes platoon or even company sized stands a viable option especially if you want more of the city on the table. Divisions were tasked with capturing and clearing districts so imagine the frontages! Probably makes my 6x4 table a worthy size for a stalingrad battle.