Scenario Review – Pavlov Hero of the Soviet Union

Pavlov – Hero of the Soviet Union is another grueling Stalingrad map for Memoir ’44‘s East Front expansion.  The Germans have to fight through a ton of rubble, but the promise of a ton of medals makes the fight worthwhile.  Pavlov’s House was one of my favorite maps on Red Orchestra, so I was super excited to try out this map – and it was a worthwhile experience.

The fighting for control of downtown Stalingrad raged on for days. Battle lines vanished. The armor-supported mobility that the German soldiers had been accustomed to during their rapid progression across the Russian steppe soon degenerated into the utter chaos and madness of urban combat as Soviet troops “hugged” their enemy to death. Each street leading to Red Square became a battlefield… and each building surrounding the square a fortress.

The ?9th of January Square?, just north of city center, was one of these lethal, vicious hot spots. Soviet troops, under the command of Junior Sgt. Yakov Pavlov, barricaded themselves in a four-story apartment building – surrounding themselves with minefields and barbed wire. Each time German infantry or tanks tried to cross the square, Pavlov’s anti-tank gunners laid down a withering fire, beating back one assault wave after another. After each German attack, his men had to run out and kick down piles of German corpses to keep clear firing lines across the square. Sgt. Pavlov was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union for his actions and, months after the battle, Chuikov would still joke that “more Germans died trying to capture Pavlov’s House than died capturing Paris”.

The stage is set, the battle lines are drawn, and you are in command. The rest is history.

This scenario was originally included in the Sword of Stalingrad battle map pack, and as such is not available online.  Given the incredibly limited print run these scenarios had, and the fact that they’ve been out of print for years, Days of Wonder should really make them available online.  Here’s my bad photo of the layout.

Pavlov's House

The Germans start out with a moderately superior force, but it’s jammed up against the baseline in fire range of the Russian artillery and snipers.  The German left flank is in a particularly ugly position, with a number of units in the second row that cannot retreat.  If the Russian player is rich in multi-regional cards, he or she can tear the German force to pieces before the attack even begins.

However, a strong assault by the Germans on their right flank can quickly turn things around for the Germans.  They have the units and the firepower to quickly push the Russians out of their front-line positions.  Once that happens, the German can leverage their superior firepower to wear down the Russian forces around the square, and then move in to take a number of victory medals.  In particular, if the German player can take out the Russian artillery unit fortified behind the square, then he or she is quite likely to win.

On the other hand, if the German player suffers from bad dice or a bad hand at the start, things can quickly turn ugly.  Every turn the Germans are stuck engaging the Russian front-line forces, their chance of victory pulls further and further away.  It is entirely possible for the Russian player to beat the Germans on their baseline.

We played this game three times, the first time with me playing Russians, and the second two times with me as German.  A video of that first game will go up shortly.  I lost all three games.  The first game was very tight.  The German player made substantial progress on the German right flank, but I took a serious lead in medals.  However, the German player moved up with his tanks to take medals in the Russian backfield, and my bad hand didn’t allow me to either repel the Armor advance, or to get the final winning medal off long-range artillery plinks.  The second and third were pathetic humiliations.  My German forces had decided to pack rubber bullets, which did minimal damage to the Russian forces.  Both games were brutal Russian romps, where were not in doubt after the third turn.

This is a good map.

Overall Evaluation – 4/5 – If the German player does not have at least average cards and dice in the first two turns of this game, he or she will likely lose in a slow and humiliating manner.  This super-critical early game prevents me from giving this otherwise excellent scenario the highest marks.

Balance Evaluation – Slightly Russian Favored – For the reasons explained above.  DoW Online has this at 55/45 Russians, which sounds about right.

First-Turn Win Possibility – Moderate – As I said, a bad German opening makes victory almost impossible.

Plink-Fest Danger – Mild – Russian artillery and snipers give the Germans an incentive to move up quickly, but in the late game it’s quite likely for the deciding move to be a long-distance plink given the ability of both sides to pull back and hide behind terrain.

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