Product: Russian manufacturer Zvezda, an increasingly big player in the plastic model world, has produced several board games for the home market in recent years. Now it merges those worlds with World War II Barbarossa 1941, part of the company's new Art of Tactic game line.
Barbarossa is a two-person turn-based strategy game that combines a hex-based board with scale miniatures. The latter come as kits.
The basic game comes with six double-sided game boards, 30 double-sided terrain hexes, and six plastic elevation pieces that allow players to easily change up gameplay.
The set features 21 German and Soviet units — infantry, mortar and machine gun teams, anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns, tanks, trucks, and a Stuka — as well as fortifications. Each unit has a corresponding plastic-coated card with erasable whiteboard markers to write on them. The figures are 1:72 scale, the vehicles 1:100, and the aircraft 1:144, so each fits into the hexes. Zvezda has designed the game to be expandable and have already released several new unit types for both sides.
The kits are molded in a soft, flexible plastic that is colored — gray for German units, dark green for the Soviets — and the parts snap together. The aircraft feature a stand and decals.
There are also 10 six-sided dice, and a rulebook along with a scenario booklet.
The main set comes in a hefty, flat box.
Gameplay: One mechanic that sets Barbarossa apart from other turn-based strategy board games is that all orders are issued in secret and occur simultaneously. Everything you need to play the game is printed on the cards; there’s no constant checking tables or charts to determine movement or combat limitations.
Players select units based on their Force Point value and then place them on the board. Afterward, they secretly record their orders on the back of each unit’s card with erasable markers. Different unit types are allowed different kinds of orders — move, open fire, defend, lay mines, deploy smoke, ambush, etc. Some unites may take longer than others to perform the same tasks.
With orders complete, the players flip the cards and orders are carried out.
The hardest part of the game is learning what the symbols on the cards mean, but once you’ve played the game a couple of times, it becomes routine and gameplay progresses very quickly.
Combat is a matter of dice rolls and units lose strength progressively. The game also takes into account unit morale; soldiers who have been attacked must roll for fortitude, and if they fail they become ineffective and unresponsive to orders.
I liked the gameplay with the numerous variables giving the game a very realistic feel.
The models are nicely detailed for the scale, although fitting some of the more delicate parts such as soldiers’ arms and controls on the artillery pieces was difficult. I secured some parts with a little liquid cement. They’d look even better with careful painting and weathering.
Marketing: Take advantage of the crossover potential. If you sell models and games, World War II Barbarossa 1941 gives you a footing in both markets, especially if you emphasize the ever-expanding models available for the game.
Build and paint a few of the units to display. That’ll show modelers that these are not rough facsimiles of the vehicles, but rather reasonably detailed replicas. And the inexpensive models may prove a good gateway to gaming for modelers.
Conversely, gamers drawn to the realistic strategic simulation may become interested in building models after playing the game. At the very least, offer them paint and building supplies to finish the miniatures for a more realistic game experience.
If a customer questions the seeming complexity, show them the cards and let them know that almost everything they need to know is on the unit cards rather than in the 24-page rulebook. Tell them that the rules are intuitive and easily learned during play.
More than anything, emphasize the mix of fun and history that is at the game’s heart. And remember that once they have the basic game, they will likely return to your store to buy additional units.
Product: World War II Barbarossa 1941
Stock No.: 6134
Availability: Alliance Game Distributors
Realistic game play