:: World War II: Barbarossa 1941
Infantry elements of Lopatin’s 37th Army hid in the woods, waiting for the rumble through the trees to materialize. They could hear the Panzers of 14th Panzer Division, and they knew that infantry would support them. It was just a matter of time. The rumble was everywhere, but suddenly, a platoon of Panzer IIs crashed through the woods, out onto the road. Swarms of German infantry followed, but the Soviets bade their time. As the Panzer IIs pulled closer, the hidden 37mm Anti-Tank gun opened fire. The sound was deafening. Panzers burned in the roadway, but the infantry swarmed forward. On the right flank, a Soviet heavy machinegun opened up. The battle of Rostov had begun.
My friend Dave and I sat down and played out this scenario with the new Barbarossa 1941 game from Zvezda. The company is known for its extensive line of 15mm (1:100) and 1:72 scale models. They’ve leveraged that here with a board game, played on hexes, but with stands with models on them as the playing pieces. Infantry are 1:72 scale troops, 5 to a stand. Anti-tank guns are 1:72 scale, but the armor is 1:100 or 15mm scale. They don’t look bad together. The key is that they fit in the hex. If the tanks were 1:72 as well, the game would be just too big. The aircraft are 1:144 scale, but that seems right, as airplanes look smaller when in the air. The look is stunning. Unpainted, the Germans are in gray and the Soviets are in olive drab. As these are miniatures, you could paint them as detailed as you like, and the sets I’ve seen painted are quite remarkable.
The game played well. Dave and I finished our game (six stands per side, with a mix of armor, infantry and the Germans had a Stuka dive-bomber) in a little over an hour. They provide cards with a plastic coating that are good for keeping track of the status of the units on the board. You mark them with a non-permanent marker to set ambushes and record the hex that the unit is in, or to set orders for the turn, etc. It’s easy and it keeps the board uncluttered with chits or markers. The game plays quickly and easily, and I had no problems teaching the game to people who came by.
The preparation time from opening the box to playing may be a bit slow. You have to assemble the models and mount them on the bases. I recommend using super-glue. It’s just a little longer than opening a standard board game and punching out the cardboard. There’s more to it here. The result, however, is a much nicer looking game. The models are really fantastic, and set the mood nicely. The boards are well done, and the rules are reasonably straight-forward. I learned the game within an hour, and had the kinks worked out by the end of my first game. The second and subsequent games all went considerably more quickly.
Zvezda is bringing out expansions all the time. They’re starting to branch out into the early war desert campaign, and that looks interesting to me, too. They’re adding Soviet, German and now British assets for the game, each one coming with its own card, ready to play (once assembled, of course). I’m not in a hurry to paint mine, and I still get people drawn to my game to see what all the cool toys are about.