Red Barricades Factory is one of the better scenarios included in the East Front expansion for Memoir ’44. It’s a tough scenario for both sides, as they need to be aggressive in the face of daunting odds, and they absolutely need luck to be on their side for this aggression to pay off.
By mid October the fighting amidst the rubble of the Red Barricades Factory Complex in the northern section of Stalingrad had drawn in more and more of the German 6th Army’s forces. On the 22nd the 79th Infantry division, supported by engineers, tanks and artillery, launched an intense attack over the Railroad embankment toward the Barricades Factory.
Under heavy fire from dug-in tanks and Russian snipers, the German troops slowly made ground toward the Factory. The Soviet line finally broke, but by day’s end only a corner of the factory had been taken.
The stage is set, the battle lines are drawn, and you are in command. The rest is history.
There is no consistent point of engagement. This is a long battle, and at some point every hex of the map will be involved in one way or another. The Germans need to push the Russians back evenly, move up, and break their enemy in a single sector for the victory. The Russians need to bleed the Germans on the front line for a few medals, and then prevent the final German advance. The decisive engagement can happen in any sector, but due to the terrain and the opening balance of forces it is most likely to occur near the Red Barricades factor.
This map rewards aggressive play. The Germans can, of course, try to grind down the Russian front line with plinks from artillery and units on the embankment. This is only really effective if the German player has a really excellent hand, though, as he or she begins play with a few units that are dangerously exposed. Unless they are moved into engagement quickly, they become easy targets for the Russians, and their loss makes the final push very difficult. Most of the time, the German player will be rewarded for a quick and comprehensive attack. It gains the German player a few quick medals with potentially few losses, and it will draw the Russian tanks forward, which in turn allows the German player to destroy them with his own superior armor force. With those down, the map opens up for the final attack.
The Russian player, too, is rewarded for an aggressive defense. A Russian player may be tempted to withdraw his units from the front lines, to get them out of 2-dice artillery range. However, this will allow the Germans to occupy forward positions with almost no loss, and allow the Germans to better use his or her superiority in Armor at almost no risk. A German force that gets set up around the first Russian line of defense is almost impossible fro the Russian player to dislodge. Forcing the German player into a grinding close-combat battle around the front line by throwing forward his infantry from the center is the best way to take advantage of his or her greater ability to take losses (thanks to starting the game with three victory point medals).
This need for aggression gives a big advantage to whichever player is luckier. The player that gets the better of the die rolls, and that can more consistently move up large numbers of units, is the player that wins.
This puts me at a serious disadvantage playing this map, as I am not a very lucky player. I played this map five times in preparation for this writeup, and was pummeled badly in every game by bad cards and bad dice, and corresponding good cards and hot dice by my enemy. The three times I played as Germans, I lost 10/5, 10/7, and 10/6, and only in the last game was the final outcome ever in doubt. Thinking back, I cannot say if I have ever won on this map. Consistently unlucky players should avoid it.
General Evaluation – 4/5 – This is a good, reasonably balanced map. Both sides have things to do, and the outcome often comes down to the last few moves.
Balance Evaluation – Mostly Balanced – The Russians win 55/45 according to the battle reports on DoW online, which seems about right.
First-Turn Win Possibility – None – With a 10 medal victory condition and a ton of units on the board, this scenario is long enough that any early advantage can evaporate.
Plink-Fest Danger – Moderate – A German player with a good hand can, on occasion, create a game-state where the Russian player cannot advance or retaliate, and must sit and absorb long-range fire from the Germans. Likewise, a German player whose opening offensive is badly beaten might end up with a force that is insufficient for any further attacks, thus becoming reliant on artillery and long-range tank attacks. This is what prevents me from giving this map the highest mark.