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Defiant Russia: Operation Barbarossa, 1941
Games You Can Play! series
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When two people sit down over a table to play a historical board game, they're not looking for the same thing every time. Sometimes they want an in-depth study of an event; sometimes it's just the desire for competitive fun. Defiant Russia leans heavily toward the latter.
The topic is the 1941 German attack on the Soviet Union. The map portrays the western Soviet Union from the Polish border to the area east of Moscow, and from the Arctic regions on the north to the Turkish border on the south. It's divided into hexagons, at a scale of 45 miles across each.
Players control the actual units that fought in this campaign. Axis units mostly represent army corps. These include German, Finnish, Italian, Hungarian, Spanish and Romanian units. German tank units provide the real striking power for the Axis, and these are the strongest units in the game.
The German infantry is also numerous and strong. The other Axis units are not usually as powerful as the German ones, though the Hungarian unit is good and there is a Romanian cavalry corps.
Soviets are generally armies. Some of these are able to stand up to the Germans, but most cannot. The Soviet player must place his or her forces carefully and choose the time and place for counter-attacks. The Soviet player does have the aid of fleets in both the Baltic and the Black Seas, allowing landings behind enemy lines and sometimes support in combat. The Red Army of Workers and Peasants has many tank units, but they are not as strong as the German panzers. It can counter with paratroopers and shock troops, special units not available to the Axis.
Defiant Russia isn't a very large game. The map is 17x22 inches, and fits easily on a small table. There are 140 playing pieces, and it comes in a small box that's easy to store. The game plays very quickly, concluding in about 90 minutes, with a minimum of charts and tables to consult. It's suitable for ages 10 and up.
The actual campaign took place in 1941, when Nazi armies and their accomplices launched a surprise attack on the Soviet Union. The Soviets reeled back at first, then fought to defend Mother Russia with ferocious determination. Eventually they would march into the ruins of Berlin and bring an end to Hitler's evil regime. The game covers the first vital months of this campaign, when the Germans tried to capture Moscow but failed. The Axis player must try to do better than this, while the Soviet player must defend both Moscow and the other key Soviet cities.
Red Vengeance, the sequel to Defiant Russia, reverses the roles as the German player tries to fend off the vengeful Red Army in the war's final months, 1944 to 1945. Play is just as fast and fun!
Time: 90 minutes
Ages: 10 and up
Weight: 216 grams