#RockyReads for #Wargame – Stalingrad – The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943 by Antony Beevor (Viking Press, 1998)

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Stalingrad – The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943 by Antony Beevor is two books in one – the first is a political and military treatment of the events leading up to the Operation Uranus and the second is the story of the very human tragedy of the encirclement of the German Sixth Army.

A Real Wargamer’s Book

Why do you play wargames? Personally, I play wargames to engage with the history and gain a better understanding and appreciation of a topic. For me, the first part of Stalingrad – The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943 by Antony Beevor is very much a book that I use to play a wargame. The first part of Stalingrad is a military-oriented treatment of the political, and especially military, situation and events from the end of 1941 through the German offensive that reached Stalingrad in September 1942 and continuing through the Soviet counteroffensive that cut off Paulus’ Sixth Army in November 1942. I can use this part of Stalingrad to better understand the historical flow of events and see what I might of done different when playing a wargame like The Dark Valley: The East Front Campaign, 1941-45 by designer Ted Raicer from GMT Games. I can even use it to better understand the situation as presented in David Thompson’s Pavlov’s House: The Battle of Stalingrad from Dan Verssen Games.

The second half of Stalingrad – The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943 inevitably follows the military activity, but that is not the main focus. Antony Beevor pivots from a story of the military action into the immense human tragedy that befell the German defenders of Stalingrad and, to not so much a lesser extent, the surrounding Soviets.

Arguably, the second half of Stalingrad is more important to wargamers than the first. It is very easy for wargamers to push counters or tokens or little minis around a map and forget that those are humans. It’s exhilarating to roll a natural 12 on a Combat Results Table and get that “DE – Defender Eliminated” result. It means nothing more than removing that little piece of cardboard from the map and casually throwing it into the “dead” pile, all while pumping your fist and smirking at your opponent.

Reality is not so fun. In Stalingrad: The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943 author Antony Beevor reminds us, no, shouts at us that we must face the terrible human cost of war.

Yes, we play war GAMES for fun, but at the same time we need to remember that our “fun” is a depiction of war far removed from the brutal reality. Sometimes we need to learn that lesson and a wargame is not always the right vehicle. Antony Beevor’s Stalingrad – The Fateful Siege: 1941-1943 is the right vehicle to remind us of the brutality and horror of war.

Wargame Application

Read it. Read it so you better understand what the CRT really means.

Citation

Beevor, Antony, Stalingrad – The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943, New York: Viking, 1998.

Using The Road to Stalingrad: Stalin’s War with Germany, Vol. 1 by John Erickson to enlighten The Dark Valley: The East Front Campaign, 1941-45, Deluxe Ed. (@GMTGames, 2018)

HAVING RECENTLY PLAYED Pavlov’s House: The Battle of Stalingrad (Dan Verssen Games, 2018) I pledged to learn more about the Eastern Front in World War II. Although I have long studied and played wargames about WWII, I previously focused on various naval campaigns, tactical armored combat, air warfare, and the Western and African fronts. Before playing Pavlov’s House, the closest I really got to getting ‘into’ the Eastern Front was playing Panzer 1st Ed (Yaquinto Publishing, 1979), Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear, 1941 – Operation Barbarossa 2nd Ed. (Academy Games, 2012), Panzer 2nd Ed. (GMT Games, 2012), and Conflict of Heroes: Storms of Steel – Kursk 1943 3rd Ed. (Academy Games, 2019). I had dabbled in the naval conflict using the Baltic Arena scenario book for Command at Sea (Admiralty Trilogy Games, 20XX) and in the air war using the campaign game found in Wing Leader: Blitz, 1939-1942 (Wing Leader Expansion Nr 1) (GMT Games, 2018). What I have not done in the past is look at the Eastern Front at a theater or campaign perspective.

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Courtesy goodreads.com

The first step in my ‘education’ was to look at my bookshelf. I discovered that, like my wargame collection, my book selection was also lacking in a similar manner. Looking to rectify the situation, I payed a visit to McKay’s Used Books (Manassas, VA). I was very fortunate to find a classic of military history, The Road to Stalingrad: Stalin’s War with Germany, Vol. 1 by John Erickson in paperback for less than $3. The book is a bit dated (original copyright 1975) but my version was printed in 1999 and includes an updated preface dated 1993. I see many comments that this telling of history, from the Soviet perspective, has not changed much even in the past 20 years. For myself, it is a good first ‘deep read’ into the Eastern Front. However, it is not without some issues. The foremost issue that I have with the book is a lack of maps. Maybe it’s the wargamer in me but I really need to see the battlefield. In the case of The Road to Stalingrad I have only a minimal familiarity with the geography meaning if I am to make any real sense out of narrative I must have a map!

 

Now, I could easily go online and find a map, but I am a wargamer and in 2019 I acquired Ted Raicer’s The Dark Valley: The East Front Campaign, 1941-45 Deluxe Ed. (GMT Games, 2018). The game uses two 22″x34″ maps to depict the Eastern Front. So, I laid out the map to ‘follow along’ with my reading. As is usual, one thing led to another.

Book I in The Road to Stalingrad is “On Preparedness: Military and Political Developments, Spring 1941.” This ‘book’ covers the Soviet preparations from 1940 to the start of Operation Barbarossa. As I read the book and was locating place names on the map I also found different units referenced. At this point it made sense to grab the unit counter and place it on the board just ‘to get an idea’ of what was where. When I reached the end of Book I the mapboard looked much like the set-up for Scenario 17.1 – Operation Barbarossa. Not exactly, but close.

Close enough that I can play. Hmm….

Book II of the Road to Stalingrad is “Halting the Blitzkrieg, 22 June 1941 – 19 November 1942.” This corresponds nicely to the Operation Barbarossa and Fall Blau scenarios of The Dark Valley, covering Game Turns 1-17. My intention at this point is to read a chapter in the book then play the corresponding turns of the wargame. Roughly speaking, each chapter is one or two (usually 2) game turns. At least, I’ll start out this way because I know that my game will diverge from history. I think it will be an interesting experiment and I wonder how much I am ‘contaminating’ the experiment by ‘reading ahead.’ Will reading ahead help to avoid the mistakes of history, or will the same situations happen because they were inevitable?

I aim to find out.


Feature image courtesy GMT Games

 

 

After #SpringBreak Di$ney it’s time to get back to #wargames

I have not played a wargame or boardgame in over a week now. Not because I have stopped playing; instead I have been off playing with the RockyMountainNavy Family at DisneyWorld. Now fully recharged I am ready to get back to the gaming table!

ZQXOtLiRS4yH9j7lKgkrigBefore Spring Break, I had several opportunities to play @HBuchanan2‘s Campaigns of 1777. These days I am becoming a sucker for the chit-pull mechanic in games as they make the game very solo-friendly even without a dedicated solitaire version. I am also a sucker for wargames the American Revolution era. After driving from Virginia to Florida and passing by several Revolutionary War sites, I really hope he goes ahead with southern campaign version too!

sru0+D2iRSaTaHyp5osoWwAround the same time Campaigns of 1777 arrived I also too delivery of my GMT Games P500 order of @tdraicer‘s The Dark Valley Deluxe Edition. This is in many ways a modern monster game covering the complete Eastern Front campaign in World War II. I bought into the game based (once again) on the chit-pull mechanism that I enjoyed in the previous Ted Racier/GMT Games title, The Dark Sands. I have to admit that I want to get this one to the table soon; as I was inspecting the game and had the board laid out Youngest RMN and I started looking at the geography and talking in general terms about Operation Barbarossa and Eastern Front. Historically I have avoided anything above tactical-level games about the Eastern Front; looking to change that with The Dark Valley!

Y0BIfKqBQvWvDsPxZeosHgFinally, on the day before we travelled, a relatively new publisher, Canvas Temple Publishing, delivered their Kickstarter for WW2 Deluxe. This is supposed to be a game where one can play the European Theater (or Western Front) in World War II in an evening. First pass through the rulebook and components looks promising!

We actually took a few boardgames with us on vacation but were lucky and had not bad weather days so the games remained unplayed. The RMN Boys did play a few games of Ticket to Ride or Battlelore or 1775: Rebellion on the iPad but I didn’t get to play (something about driving and playing at the same time just doesn’t work!). We had considered taking Villainous with us but thought that would be too much Disney. So, with vacation behind me and now emotionally recharged, it’s time to get back to wargaming and boardgaming.