Michael Eckenfels, 30 October 2019
To put it in a, as Bob48 would say, “smart-arse” way, a P500 is a landmine of fun where you bet your credit card number on possibility of getting a GMT game that you’re pretty stoked about. When the game’s goal is met and goes to the printer, you get an email saying your CC is about to get charged for a game you, likely in a haze of the past (because who remembers what happened yesterday, let alone six months ago), jumped all in to get.
I’m not speaking of Kickstarter, of course – which is, I’m happy to say, something that’s not yet gotten its claws into me. Though, I can no longer now say that about P500 games. Oh sure, I’ve signed up for plenty of them in the past, but I usually end up going back and cancelling them later. What seemed like a great idea at the time ends up being masticated in my head a bit more, and suddenly no, I decide I don’t need a game about wizards in submarines (which isn’t a thing…yet).
I’m currently in on The Hunted: Twilight of the U-Boats, 1943-1945 and Mr. President, two games I’d really like to get my hands on – especially the latter. I did just yesterday add SpaceCorp: Ventures to my P500 list. SpaceCorp is a fantastic game and you should certainly check out the AAR that I wrote in 21 parts.
The first P500 I ever ordered, though, just arrived last night. I unfortunately did not have time to do a video, nor do a punch-and-clip, but I did have time to take a lot of pictures and throw them together into an article for your reading pleasure. The P500 in this case is Stalingrad ’42.
This game is a division-level simulation of the Axis 1942 summer offensive against southern Russia. For some reason, it is among one of my favorite campaigns to read about and play games about, though I am sorely lacking in the game department when it comes to that particular part of the War. This one was designed by Mark Simonitch and is apparently very similar to Ukraine ’43 (one I was interested in but missed out on). Mark also designed Ardennes ’44 and Holland ’44, of which I own the latter but have yet to get to the table, strangely enough (shut up, mirth).
This game, Stalingrad ’42, is apparently in the mid-range when it comes to solitaire suitability and on the slightly higher end of complexity, but that’s okay with me. The irony of having Holland ’44 and not yet playing it, despite it being a fantastic game, is not lost on me. I had been hoping that this one would be a kickstart of sorts to get me going on this system.
But first, I have to get the bloody thing open. The shrink wrap on this puppy is a bigger PITA to remove than that one relative that joke-wraps your Christmas gift sixteen times just because (hint: that’s me, so, karma I guess). I had to break out some scissors since it didn’t want to cooperate with me.
Inside lay the veritable Ark of the Covenant. Or Stalingrad ‘42’s components. Your mileage may vary depending on what this period of history and gaming possibilities do for you. Me, my palpating pulse precedes pontification of what I find here…okay, okay, it’s not THAT big a deal, but I was truly excited to open this one up.
First up is the rule book.
Yep, it’s a rule book. Standard GMT fare with two column format and color examples. I can’t recall offhand how long the manual is, but you can find a PDF version of it online if you’re interested. Hint: it’s 32 pages long, which I painstakingly researched for the good of journalism for you, dear reader, by clicking that link and finding the “Final Rules” item on that page.
Next up is the Play Book, which is a great compendium and typical of any GMT game these days. Inside you will find a lot of examples of play to help clarify how the game system works, which is very helpful whether you’re an old man yelling at clouds or a newbie whom until recently thought board games only included Monopoly and Parcheesi.
A tray for your counters (suitably rounded as forum member Barthheart would demand, of course) is included as well. Personally, even though it’s a bit messier for storage’s sake, I like baggies to organize counters. Just looking at this one counter tray, though, makes me wonder how well I’ll manage to organize the nearly 900 counters in this game (three sheets’ worth at about 292 or so per sheet, if my calculations are correct – and I was an English major, so don’t quote me on that).
Hey, lookie here – two CRTs! Yes, the age-old wargaming ratio combat determiner is here and alive and well. Not that it was dying out or anything. I attribute this attitude to playing a lot of games that aren’t always wargames, which admittedly has poisoned the well a bit for me. Regardless of that it will be nice to be put back on the correct path of gaming, which of course is all about wargaming!
Looks like we have several player aid cards that organize counters for the scenarios included in the game. According to the website, there’s five scenarios, but the Final Rules only list four. The ones in the rule book are, Fall Blau (8 turns, one map), Caucasus Campaign (18 turns, two maps), Operation Uranus (uh-huhuhuhuhuh, 9 turns, two maps), and the full Campaign Game (36 turns, all maps).
The Soviet side has a counter set-up sheet as well, which is most welcome.
A Turn Record Track is included as well, which looks like it tracks reinforcements as well as withdrawals. If I were playing the German side I might be tempted to ignore withdrawing units – after all, I’m the general here, right? Who’s going to argue with me when I play this solo, other than myself? In which case, there’s a whole different aspect of things to worry about other than playing the rules correctly.
Oh yeah, there’s the counter sheets. And my Oregon Laminations 3mm counter rounder. Heh-heh.
And here’s the kryptonite of the game – all four maps. FOUR maps. Not three, as the website said. I don’t know if I should be thrilled or upset. I’d only say ‘upset’ because I’m upset with myself; now I must go and purchase a new gaming table, because the one I have only has room for one map. And that’s not including the player aid sheets! This is but a small price to pay to put the full Campaign Game through its paces.
And when that’s done, hopefully a review will be forthcoming, though as this was a personal purchase and not a review copy, that might be a bit down the road. Especially when you have college-age individuals looking to come home at Christmas and play Gloomhaven. I must work on converting them to the true way of gaming.