Stalingrad is a magnum opus by Ken Wright, a number of whose previous works have been reviewed in these pages.
Play takes place on a scrolling map representing south eastern Russia, including the Sea of Azov the tip of the Crimea, and much of the Caucasus.
The player controls the German forces - the 6th Army, plus an extra Panzer corps, and some well dodgy Rumanians which are represented on screen by square 'counters' in black, with an icon representing their unit type marked on them. The Russians are depicted with yellow counters.
The Germans have infantry, mechanised troops and tanks. While tanks may move fast - up to 12 of the squares which the map is divided into - they are vulnerable, so don't get conned into driving deep into enemy territory without adequate infantry back-up somewhere on the horizon! As the poor old foot soldiers only move at a third of the speed of the tanks, that can difficult.
Each of your seven divisions is divided into groups of three units. You do not give orders to individual units, but to each trio. By accessing the move order menu, you get a cursor on screen: you move this cursor to where you want the left and right flanks to be, and instruct the commander to act aggressively, defensively or use his own initiative.
When one of your units is next to an enemy unit, you have combat. Each unit flashes in turn, and a number appears indicating what percentage losses they have suffered
Our glorious leaderette - the editor - wanted me to include some hints on tactics. Unfortunately, until I've worked out whether I have a bugged version or not, or whether something is happening which hasn't been properly explained in the rules, I can't really do that. I will, however, essay a couple of suggestions.
First of all, don't let your armour disappear into the distance. If your tanks get surrounded by Russkis, that's the end of your punching power. Armour is only any good when it's mobile. Second, keep something in reserve, even if it's only the Rumanians. You may need them to contain a Russian breakthrough. Third, keep an eye on the Russians, and hit them where they are weakest. With luck and judgement, you may be able to break through their lines and surround pockets of their troops. If you can cut them off from their supply depots, then you have a good chance of wiping men out.
On the whole, I like the look of Stalingrad; but my wholehearted approval for the game has to be withheld at the moment. For a game as complicated as this one is, the publishers have to make a special effort to ensure that the rules are as simple as possible. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened here. To be honest, the rules as they stand at the moment are about as clear as most computer manuals. They've been written by someone who already knows everything there is to know about the game, and so uses a sort of personal shorthand.
A sophisticated exciting game but rules don't help you get to grips with the tricky bits - you're on your own.