Recently I started to eagerly discover games by not-so-well-known to me publishers. One of them definitely was DVG (DanVerssen Games). I was especially interested in their “tower-defense” series, which currently encompass:

  • Castle Itter (based on fantastic, true story I got to know from the novel The Last Battle)
  • Pavlov’s House – which will be subject of that article
  • and recently announced Soldiers in Postmen’s Uniforms – you may be sure that I will get that game – not only from patriotic reasons but also because I like the system mechanics

Today I am focusing on second position as it was one of my birthday presents this year. And believe me, what a great gift I got!

Historical background

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Pavlov’s House today

Pavlov’s House was a fortified apartment building used as a strongpoint by the Soviet 62nd Army during the pivotal Battle of Stalingrad in WW2. Soviet defenders held out for almost two months from a constant German assault. The building’s name was drawn from Yakov Pavlov, a sergeant who led the initial storm group assault that resulted in the capture of the building from the Germans. The story of Pavlov’s House was a key piece of Soviet propaganda and was used as a symbol of the incredible resistance of Soviet forces during the Battle of Stalingrad.

The Game & components

In Pavlov’s House, we take control of the valiant defenders of a Soviet strongpoint in Stalingrad as they hold out against constant German attacks for almost two months. We also control the key leaders throughout the Soviet 62nd Army that made the defense of Pavlov’s House possible.

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Object of the Game
The goal of Pavlov’s House is to last until the 7th Company, 3rd Battalion, 42nd Guards Rifle Regiment of the 13th Guards Division is tasked with storming a key German strongpoint during the Battle of Stalingrad. In the game, this is depicted by playing through a deck of cards representing elements of the German 6th Army.

Components

I must admit that the components I got with the game are different in many ways from what I was used too, but… that was a really great change which showed me another way to achieve great effect! The board is thick and shiny, but when you sit next to is there are no reflections from the lights. The counters are solid and all those pictures of Russian soldiers – they simply make the game so real and not a academic exercise. The rulebook is also great as it guides you through all the important game mechanics and is printed on very good paper.

First session & rules explanation

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Entire map at the end of my initial game

The Pavlov’s House map is divided in three key sections, each having its own rules as well as cards deck and interacting with others:

  • strategic perspective – on the right side of the board is a depiction of the Volga River and operational-level elements of the Soviet 62nd Army, which were critical in the defense of Pavlov’s House.
  • tactical perspective – in the middle of the board is a view of the area immediately surrounding Pavlov’s House (primarily, 9 January Square). This portion of the board is used for tracking Wehrmacht Counters, as well as the deployment of Soviet Sappers in the defense of Pavlov’s House. The Wehrmacht emblem circles are where German counters are placed and advance in direction towards Pavlov’s House.
  • operational perspective – on the left side of the board is a view inside of Pavlov’s House. The colored square areas are combat positions used by the Soviet Counters. This portion of the board is used for tactical-level movement of the Soviet Counters.
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End of game situation of 62nd Army

The 62nd army provides different supplies like ammo, water & food (yes! very important in the game!), munitions, medical kits  plus artillery support. In order to be able to deliver it, it has to fend off constant German bombardment (thus Anti-Aircraft battalions) and prepare better communication to be able to use 4 instead of 3 cards per turn (places numbered 14-17).

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End of game situation of the strong-point vicinity

As you can see above, there was about 6 German units when the game finished. None of them reached the house (automatic victory for Germans) but each of them is counted as minus 3 VPs for Russians during final scoring.

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End of game situation in Pavlov’s House

The situation in the stronghold itself was not so good – by the end of the game the supplies were running low, the house defenses were in shambles but I managed to man two anti-tank teams as well as one Machine Gun team.

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Causalities on the Soviet side

The causalities were high – first, especially due to sniper – oh, how I was stricken by the loss of my 4-attack sniper as I did not have medical supplies to save him. Secondly, during the assaults on sectors without Germans, which even if won, seriously.

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Last look at the Pavlov’s House at the end of the game.

Despite all the causalities, some rules misinterpretations, my defenders held and in the end I reached 5 VPs which equals to minor Soviet victory.  I am not sure if I played everything fain (I know two rules all got wrong, one which helped me and the other completely opposite) but I will for sure try again!

The Impressions

Let me now share my initial impressions of the game:

  • I love good, solitaire games about WWII – especially those which are created with dedicated solo mode in mind as major way to play not an addition at the end of the development. Pavlov’s House fully falls into this category.
  • I love fantastic components – they are new to me as far as graphics are concerned, but I find them very thematic.
  • The game is not easy. Which is good and inspires you to do whatever possible with your limited options.
  • Limited luck factor. You may smile to hear this – because you roll for many elements in game. Still, the amount is enough to get the probabilistic results and definitely, there is no situation like “one roll ruins the whole game from the start”.
  • Optional rules – there are additional options to play the game, like Operational Support or Tactical Cards. They can really enrich the game as well as make it much harder 🙂 Both are very good to extend longevity of the game!

Summary

I am really glad I familiarized myself with Pavlov’s House. I will not deny it – I would never know about the game has it not been for The Player’s Aid and their article. I had a great time with my initial game and will for sure son try more!