VolgaFront (VF) is an expansion kit for
Columbia Games' popular EastFront (EF) game
(WWII Germany vs. USSR). VolgaFront consists of a copy of the second
edition EF rules, a brief rules folder that details how
to merge VF into EF, six hypothetical
scenarios, and a map. The map is half the size of the EF
map: it abuts the eastern edge of the EF map, extending
the board almost to the Urals. The components come in a plastic folder
instead of a box, and fit into the EF box without too
VF is not a stand-alone game. You must own
EF to use it, and it will not really be applicable in all
EF scenarios. The six scenarios included with the
expansion kit are hypothetical because the Germans never reached the
VF map. It is possible that you may never need the
VF map over many games of EF. The question
that springs to mind, then, is: does VF enhance
EF significantly enough to warrant spending another
The answer depends on your attitude toward EastFront.
This reviewer personally considers EF to be one the best
ten wargames ever made, and is the game of choice when nothing else is
clamoring for my attention. In my case, the answer has to be: yes,
VF is worth the price. If you only play EF
three or four times a year, the answer would probably be no.
The map covers east to Ufa and Izhevsk, if you have an atlas handy. In
the south, it reaches to the western shore of the Aral Sea. Since the
Caspian Sea is covered east to west, rules are provided for sea
movement on the Caspian.
There are 12 production points shown on the map (14 for Germans, due to
their need for oil). Most of these are cities, however: tough to
take. The northern part of the map is thickly forested: tough slugging
against even minimal resistance. I can't imagine the Germans really
going for Archangel, even if it is two PP!
The VF map then, has little in the way of PP to attract
the Germans. Any drive that reaches the VF map has got
to extend the German lines precariously thin. Why, then, is the
extension worth the money?
Two reasons: the first is simply that it truly was the goal of the
German army to reach Kazan and Kuibyshev, both shown on this map. This
provides a better historical simulation, when you can see - and perhaps
aim for - authentic targets. But the second, and more important
reason, is simply what it can do for your strategic goals in general,
even if you never come near Kuibyshev.
The first time we played VF, I doubt that I, as Germans,
ever got more than two hexes onto the VF map. But it
made an enormous difference in my outlook. We jokingly refer to
VF as SupplyLineFront around here, because
that's the change in focus the supplement provides. For the first
time, I saw clearly the advantage of surrounding Moscow instead of
plowing through it. For the first time in an EF game I
took part in, Stalingrad was simply cut off and starved out of
existence. For the first time, the German threat to punch either east
of Stalingrad or south the Caucasus area was taken seriously by the
Russians. The Germans, having the interior lines, have tremendous
Command Control advantages over the Russians, who have to guard against
an eastern bulge going north to cut off Moscow, or east to the Urals,
or south the oil fields. The German can switch directions in a single
turn - the Russian has to plan well ahead.
But it's a long supply line for the Germans . . . Just as encircling
Moscow and Stalingrad become viable options, so does a lightening
strike by the Russians to a key rail junction inside the German lines.
Such an action can isolate a quarter of the German army if carefully
executed. The first game of VF we played saw the German
starving 15 Russian units in the Moscow area, while 15 German units in
the Stalingrad-Saratov pocket starved simultaneously.
SupplyLineFront indeed. We resembled two men strangling
each other, each trying to hold on until the other blacked out.
The next time we played, we were both more cautious of our supply
lines. The game still was much different than any previous
EF game we had ever played, though: the strategic
objectives are simply different when you can see the bigger picture.
Every game we have played with VF has been tense and
exciting, and no one could tell who would win until the game was
The scenarios included with VF are an interesting mix.
All are hypothetical. Three are the Winter '42, Summer '43 and Winter
'43 scenarios as if the Germans had somehow not gotten bogged down in
Stalingrad or gone for the Caucasus, but pushed on wholeheartedly,
purely offensively, to the east. The other three cover the same time
period, and the same assumptions about not going to the southern oil
fields, but assume a more cautious advance to the east, more concerned
about possible defense than merely gaining ground.
I tend not to like Winter scenarios in EF. This is
personal taste, of course: I like free-wheeling games with a lot of
movement, and Russian winters were not the time nor place for such
action. EF is true-to-life in its depiction of Russian
winters, and the scenarios tend to be cautious small actions with
little gains for either side. That said, I will confess that I haven't
played the four Winter scenarios in this game!
We did play the Summer scenarios, however, as well as playing a few
campaign games with the VF map attached. All were
interesting, challenging, and added new depth and strategies to
EF. Most of the games were marginal victories, but for
which side varied. All made us reevaluate our supply line logistics,
and revealed previously unseen flaws in the other side's lines.
The VF map itself doesn't quite match the color of the
EF map. This is true not only for the first edition of
EF, but the second also. You can even see it in the
picture on the back of the VF package. This is
acceptable to me, but perfectionists should take warning.
The second edition rules are handy to have, especially if you have
first edition EF. There are some changes from first
edition, some of which (such as fortress rules and "exit zones") can
change your EF strategy. Others, such as Winter '41 and
Winter '42 being easier on the Germans, will change the course of a
typical campaign game. All in all, they haven't changed much, and
EastFront is still one the best wargames ever made.
All in all, I consider VF to be a valuable asset to my
wooden block game collection. The expansion kit significantly expanded
my view of EF, and enhanced my pleasure in the game.
There are no component problems; the rule sheet clearly details any
rules changes necessary if using VF (largely Russian
Production Points, Caspian Sea movement, and rail exit hexes); the
expanded terrain view augments your strategic goals; the game deepens
your appreciation for supply lines. Recommended for those who enjoy
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