EastFront is a fresh treatment of a classic wargaming
topic: the German/Russian conflict, 1941 to 1945. It is strategic in
scale: the map covers from Poland to Stalingrad, Finland to Turkey.
Units represent corps for the Germans and armies for the Russians.
There are two turns and one production phase each month.
At this point, resemblance to any other Eastern front game ceases.
There are no cardboard counters in EastFront. The game
has handsome wooden blocks and an attractive thick cardstock (not
Two important game mechanics arise effortlessly out of the wooden
blocks: limited intelligence ("fog of war") and step reduction. When
in play, a block stands on end so the opposing player cannot see the
unit type or current strength. As a unit takes hits, the block is
rotated from the highest number around the edge to one less, until
Game mechanics are thus relatively unobtrusive, yet still provide
realistic and enjoyable results. There is no "number crunching" in
this game; no looking around for one more attack factor to achieve a
safe 3 to 1. You simply decide what your objectives are (there are
plenty to choose from) and allocate your forces the way a real general
Command Control is of vital importance in EastFront, and
handled beautifully. Each player has a number of headquarter units
(HQs), which are also wooden blocks. During his turn, a player must
first activate as many HQs as desired by flipping them face up in
place. An HQ has a command radius equal to the number currently at the
top of the block: any piece within that radius may move. In addition,
each side has a High Command HQ which allows some units to move whether
in command radius or not.
Active HQs also can support battles within their command radius, which
allows a better chance of success. The battle phase begins after all
movement is ended. An HQ may call an Air Strike into one battle hex,
which is resolved first. Then the defending units get defensive fire,
and finally the attackers get offensive fire. If both sides still have
units in the hex, the battle continues the next turn. However, it
might stalemate, as battle reactivation is optional after the first
Combat resolution is simple and tends to minimize luck. Instead of a
single die roll that decides the outcome of a battle, players roll a
number of dice for each unit equal to the combat value: the number on
the top edge of the unit. Terrain and unit type affect what
constitutes a hit: "single fire" means that one hit is scored for each
"6" rolled. Double fire means a hit is scored on either a 5 or a 6,
and so on. Terrain can also award double defense, which means the unit
only takes one hit for every two hits scored.
At the end of battle, each HQ is reduced one level and stands back up.
The expenditure of an HQ level represents, in an abstract way, the
material, time and effort required to deploy troops. Once again the
game mechanics simplify a task that many wargames make overly
detailed. HQs may also "blitz" - drop two steps in one turn - to
exploit a breakthrough. HQs and regular units may be built up in the
production phase; production centers are thus major objectives.
EastFront's rules are a model of clarity. While the game
is on the low end of moderate complexity, in a wargame that still means
you have to hunt up a rule now and then. The rules appear to have been
written unambiguously in direct response to my questions - a remarkable
achievement! While there are a few minor omissions, an errata sheet is
available from Columbia Games. As of the fall of 1997, Columbia is
planning a "final" version of all their Front games, probably due out
in early 1998.
On the whole, this is a superb game. In addition to a learning
scenario, there are eight full scenarios (4-6 hours each) which can be
linked if desired. We actually prefer to play the Barbarossa scenario,
and see how far we can get. Play balance is achieved by handicapping
the appropriate side a certain number of victory points. The game
provides the right mix of tension and elation that is the hallmark of a
great wargame. High replay value (due to the limited intelligence),
quality components, smooth game mechanics and clear rules make it well
worth its price tag. For those who like (or would like to try) a
low-to-moderate-complexity wargame, this game is among the best. Well
Read the review of the expansion set for EastFront, VolgaFront
Go to Columbia Wooden Block Games Page
Back to SOS' Gameviews
Back to Steffan O'Sullivan's Home Page