Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Solo Wargaming #1 - "Rattenkrieg"

During the Battle of Stalingrad the Russians responded to the German combined-arms strategy by keeping their lines as close to the German lines as they could, effectively "hugging" the Germans and forcing the infantry to fight alone or risk casualties from friendly-fire.

The bitter fighting at Stalingrad was fought over every ruin, street, factory, house, basement and staircase, even in the sewers beneath the city. The Germans referred to this as "Rattenkrieg", or "Rat War" and are said to have joked about capturing the kitchen but still fighting for the living room and the bedroom. It's difficult to imagine the conditions that the soldiers of both sides endured during this battle, yet it is a period that is often gamed and written about.

Rattenkrieg, Assault on the Traktor Factory is a solo "postcard" wargame by Turning Point Simulations that offers up a fast and simple set of war-gaming rules to represent the uncertain battle-lines and the close quarters fighting at Stalingrad. 

Rattenkrieg Front & Back
You take on the roll of the Germans in a race against time to maneuver your infantry and tanks in and around the ruins of Stalingrad to hunt down the Soviets and wipe them out before their reinforcements become too strong and outnumber your German forces.

The Rules
Having been written to fit on one side of a postcard, the rules are straight-forward and easy to follow. I like to play about with the game and components as I'm reading through the rules, but this is difficult when they are on the flip-side of the map, so I ended up scanning and printing a spare copy for my walk-through. note that you'll need 5 D6s to play Rattenkrieg. 

Set-up assigns a random five soviet counters to be placed face-down in areas marked on the map with red shields. The player picks up the German forces and sets them up at full strength (white-side up) in the map areas with grey arrows.

Rattenkrieg Map

Each round is made up of a Strategy Phase and a Combat Phase. During the Strategy Phase the Soviets roll for reinforcements (Soviet Infiltration), the Germans move (German Movement) and surprise attacks occur (Deadly Surprise) for Soviet snipers and ambush counters in a contested area. Once the surprise attacks are resolved we move into the Combat Phase for each contested area on the map.

Combat is handled area by area in contested zones and is simply a case of creating a dice pool by totalling the German iron crosses vs. the Soviet stars (including any defensive stars in the shield for that area). 2D6 are assigned to the side with the most crosses/stars and 1D6 goes to the side with the least with ties giving both sides 2D6 (Dice Determination). The Germans can use their four Air Strikes to add a single dice in any area (Air Strike).

The dice are rolled and resolved for each area with units being depleted or eliminated as required (Hellish Combat / Bloody Aftermath). A quick victory check is made and if the Germans haven't wiped out all of the Soviets and the Soviets haven't got more units than the Germans, then Rattenkrieg continues for another round.

How It Plays
I've played it through three times now and had two clear victories and one slight victory which was by far the most interesting of the three to play. My strategy was to strangle Soviet reinforcements by covering as many areas as I could since during the Soviet Infiltration they roll 2D6 and add a random counter to the area if no unit is already there

However with limited units and the need to attack with strength, I settled for covering the high shield value areas as I captured them. This meant that if the Soviets did get reinforcements that they would appear on the less favourable terrain, which also happens to be the least likely to be rolled (2,3, 11 and 12 areas on the map)

I can understand why it was done like this, but for the Soviets to have a fighting chance they absolutely need to get good reinforcement rolls and bring a unit back onto the map almost every turn. 

I love the idea of postcard games and thoroughly enjoyed clipping, learning and playing Rattenkrieg.

It's a short game and lasts only 5-10mins when you are familiar with the rules. Unfortunately it's just too easy from my playing experiences so far, so a house-rule or two may be needed to increase it's longevity. e.g. The Soviets can reinforce areas with one cross Germans as well as empty areas during their Infiltration step.

All-in-all it's a nice little freebie. Give it a try, but consider using a house rule to make it a little more challenging.

Rattenkrieg was designed by Steven Cunliffe (see also The Hell of Stalingrad). Check out BGG for some other Against The Odds pocket battle games.

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