Stalin's War is a unique Card-Driven Game (CDG) on that most-gamed of subjects, the Eastern Front in WWII. The use of CDG mechanics adapted from Paths of Glory and WW2: Barbarossa to Berlin to a hex-grid land wargame allows players to experience both the broad range of strategic and tactical options of a CDG, and the operational armored maneuvering of a typical hexagon East Front design.
The large hex map stretches from Berlin to the Urals and Murmansk to Baku, allowing the full range of strategic possibilities open to both the Axis and the Soviets. Terrain types include clear, rough, forest, swamp, mountain, desert, city, major city, fortress, river, major river (the Dnepr, Volga , Don), and rail lines. Turns are seasonal (with a special turn for June 41) running to Summer 45.
Axis units are armies (which can have up to four steps on two counters) and corps. All the panzer units are represented as corps (controlled by Panzergroup/Army Headquarters which give the Germans certain advantages in waging blitzkrieg on the Russian steppes). Soviet units are armies and fronts, along with their large (but irreplaceable) 1941 mechanized corps, and late-war Guard cavalry-mechanized corps.
As in WW2:BtB both sides have their own deck of 55 cards, subdivided into Blitz and Total War cards. Cards contain Operation Points (OPs), Replacements, and Events. Unlike PoG or WW2:BtB, OPs are not generally required to activate units for movement but are required for combat. When you declare an Operations Round you can move all units and then conduct combat for those with a combat marker. After combat mechanized units (including Soviet Guards) may Exploit, ignoring enemy Zones of Control, and creating the great pocketing battles and deep armored thrusts of these campaigns.
ZOCs in Stalin's War are "sticky." Except during Exploitation or Advance after Combat (or Combat forced retreat), you can't leave an enemy ZOC unless you leave a unit in the hex being exited OR you spend an OPS to activate that hex.
Stalin's War models the logistical constraints of this vast contest in two different ways. First, the map is marked with Logistical lines that affect the Axis ability to operate deep in the USSR (especially in 1941). And both sides are affected by the concept of Consecutive OPs rounds, where each friendly OP round taken after the first costs one additional OP from the card being played. So for example if you take two OP rounds in a row, the second will reduce a 4 OPS card played to a 3. If you take three in a row it will reduce the card played in the third round by two OPs (so a 4 would be a 2). By the 5th round you are subtracting 4 OPS, and since 5 OPS is the highest card, 6 consecutive rounds (even spread out over two turns) are not possible. In practice while taking two OPs rounds in a row will be quite common, taking 3 or more consecutive rounds will require an excellent reason (and good cards). This allows the easier play of Events and also shows the increased strain of continuous operations.
And there are plenty of Events to play, representing leaders, weapons, reinforcements, and the effects of the war on other fronts. The 1944 Warsaw Uprising, Manstein’s Backhand Blow, Stalin and Hitler’s meddling, the Battle of the Bulge, Soviet Amphibious Invasions, Airborne Corps, even Soviet mice (which nibbled through the wiring of dug-in German Panzers in the fall of 1942) are included.
Stalin's War allows players, for the first time, to combine the best of WWII operational play with the strategic depth and tactical chrome of CDG designs. A genuinely new look the most important theater of WWII, this a game both fans of CDGs and WWII “panzer pushers” will want to play again and again.