Mark came over yesterday for more gaming. After the drought of April/May, June is pretty busy. The game du jour was the new CDG Stalin’s War, which I got on preorder recently.

Mark volunteered to take the Soviets (who are supposed to have a really tough learning curve), and I gave him the beginner’s balance of 3 Replacement Points. This was a surprise, I was already expecting to take the Soviets. The other surprise wasn’t as good; Mark hadn’t had time to go over the rules, something we try to avoid.

The game got off to a poor start for the Germans, my initial 6 cards were a 4, a 3, three 2s and a 1 CC. The bright spot was that the 4 was Winter Uniforms. That left me with a 3 OPS June attack, and that’s where things actually went poor as I got ‘1’s on two of my attack rolls (my choice of attacks was probably not the best either).

I drew another 2 to fill out my hand, and had a hard time getting any momentum going as one or two OPS at a time with a need for constant breaks wasn’t cutting it. I managed an initial breakthrough near Minsk and was on my way to the vastness of central Russia. With my units in his rear, I started to encircle the entire southern half of the front on turn 3, greatly aided by some breakthroughs directly in the south.

And that is where things started going wrong.

Keeping those forces locked down for the bulk of the turn was a great strain. While slowed down, they are not immobile, and I didn’t want them causing havoc on my supply lines by sitting on top of the rail roads, so units sat trying to keep things together while Mark tried to reestablish supply to some of them. Worse, in the north Riga turned into big problem as he kept sniping away the overextended panzer corps that were trying to keep it cut off. I sank too many reduced units and too few OPS into Riga, and I lost valuable units to it for no gain. In the mean time I did take Smolensk and send a unit temporarily across the Paulus line.

The fourth turn did not see anything go better for me, with the added complications of Odessa and Sevastopol. Both are ports, so it is impossible to simply starve units out them (without cutting supply to all the other Black Sea ports… and even then they’re fortresses, which always allows limited supply). I spent too little effort on them, and so had more units in my backfield that I couldn’t get rid of. Combined with Mark’s very successful efforts against my panzer corps, much of my offensive punch was worn down, even with most of the winter effects negated.

I battled my way into Kharkov regardless, and immediately found myself overextended. Mark did a great job locking up the flanks of the advance and keeping me desperate to recover the situation. In the end, things were somewhat stable, but my armies were starting to take alarming losses, in no small part thanks to his shock armies fresh from Siberia.

The day ended at the end of turn 5, with me having made good on the opportunity to play two replacement cards, and actually start to get the German Army into fighting trim again. But, the offensives were over for the rest of the game, and it was now going to be the long struggle to last the game, which would not be easy. VPs were already down to 6 (from the starting 7). One point of that was Kiev, which Mark had snuck into at the end of the turn, though it would not last. Another was for it being Spring 42 without play of Hitler Takes Command, which I hadn’t even seen yet (that and Luftwaffe Support were the two cards left in my draw deck). So I freely consider this a Soviet victory.

The biggest problem is letting the panzers get too weak and get picked off. After that is figuring out how to deal with Soviet out-of-supply units until actually die at the end of the turn.

Between an hour from Mark running a bit late and I having to go over the rules with him, and Mark unexpectedly having to leave an hour early, it was a fairly short day. But we still got through 5 turns on our first go. Looks like this one will play pretty fast once we get to it. (Best PuG time is 6 turns on a long game, this would have probably hit 7 on a normal day, and should easily speed up to 8-10 later for a single afternoon.)