My first DVG (Dan Verssen Games) title was Pavlov’s House and it is still among my favorite positions from that publisher. It is not only engrossing, difficult, truly solitaire experience. You can twist the game conditions to increase the difficulty or change the challenge main focus. All this makes this game very re-playable and interesting
With so many games on my shelf, once I put a particular title on the table it is not for a one session. I am not removing it until I played at least couple of times – kind of the binge gaming 🙂 That allows you to immerse yourself in the game and familiarize with it much better. With above in mind I decided to explore the Operational Support and Tactics Card variants for Pavlov’s House.
Operational Support Cards
Once you are familiar with the core rules of Pavlov’s House, you can add the Operational Support cards to the Soviet Card Phase. The Operational Support cards represent other key Stalingrad battlegrounds. By allocating limited resources to these battlegrounds, the 62nd Army leaves the defenders of Pavlov’s House more vulnerable.
In order to satisfy the requirements of a Operational Support card, you must remove the tokens indicated on the card from the game. In addition, the areas identified on the card cannot have Disrupted Tokens on them. That is easier said then done – and usually possible almost entirely at the early stages of the game. You also deprive the defenders of the House of some very valuable materials like ammo, food, medical equipment. But you get so needed VPs!
While Operational Support variant provides you with possibility to score additional points, Tactics Cards allow you to try the game with increased difficulty. Tactics cards represent strategic planning by the elements of the German 6th Army that are assaulting Pavlov’s House.
On the Veteran difficulty you draw one new card each turn, at the Elite difficulty level, two Tactics Cards will be in play during the Wehrmacht Card Phase. If you are unlucky enough for the Tactics Cards to reinforce each other plus drawn Wehrmacht cards you will be in serious trouble. But that is exactly the point – you are facing much better led and coordinated German attack.
The Pavlov’s House set-up is pretty standard – only once the cards start being played, each games evolves into its own narrative (click on below pictures to enlarge gallery):
Session 1 – Veteran difficulty (one Tactics)
During the Game #1 I only added one Tactics Card. Initially, everything went smoothly and to the plan; there were not too many combos for Germans – simply, I was drawing Tactics Cards which usually did not reinforce the drawn Wehrmacht ones. I managed to build-up full signal battalion (my usual tactics), well manned Anit-Aircraft positions, decent number of House defenders.
And then the disaster struck. Wehrmacht and Tactics resulted in double infantry deployment. Both units went to position 4 and although I thought I still have some time to deal with that threat, Germans entered Pavlov’s House and I immediately lost. What a brutal finish it was…
Session 2 – Veteran difficulty (one Tactics) + Operational Support
The Game #2 was again played with one Tactics Card plus Operational Support. And I must say that was much better performance from me then the first attempt. True, I had some some lucky rolls but also invested heavily into AA batteries (initially) and signal battalion (as a follow-up).
The Operational Support was a really good thing for me – allowed for many VPs at reasonably cheap price. And while Germans were getting the great combos of cards from time to time, the defenders of House were able to repulse them. Especially my Artillery was devastating, obliterating both infantry and tanks alike.
When the game ended and I started to calculate points I was amazed by the result – 55 VPs and title of Hero of the Soviet Union. My best result so far!
Session 3 – Elite difficulty (two Tactics Cards) + Operational Support
Time for a real challenge – Game #3 with two 2 Tactics Cards and Operational Support. That was a very tough session, very difficult and… very rewarding! I love higher difficulty levels and the thrill coming with it.
Again, I invested heavily into AA batteries – they were really useful, although at times most of the strategic map was obliterated. Signal battalion was second priority and even allowed for full, four card play from time to time. I managed to provide supplies to other theaters three time and score points for this.
All in vain – a great combo of Wehrmacht and Tactics cards, plus three (!!!) two rolls in a row resulted – like in Game #1 – in Germans entering the House. Just see below on the pictures. That was painful
Playing Pavlov’s House with additional variants and increased difficulty level was a tremendous fun. It is such a great game, very thematic, full of suspense and requiring forward planning. Should you have a chance to play it, definitely check the optional rules once you are familiar with the base set. Strongly recommended!