About game:

Recently I started to eagerly discover games by DVG (Dan Verssen Games), with special interest on Valiant Defense series. Today I would like to present the second installment in the series.

In Pavlov’s House, we take control of the brave 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.

The goal in Pavlov’s House is to last through all the German attack waves, inflicting in the process as many casualties on attackers as possible. In the game, this is depicted by playing through a deck of cards representing elements of the German 6th Army.

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. 
  • 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.

Would you stand-up to the task and manage to defend against relentless enemy?

Number of players:

This is one of the best solitaire games I played and simply shines solo. Still, the designer equipped us also with 2 and 3 players variants. The former is really fun, with one side commanding Soviets and the other Germans.

Playing time:

The game is not overly long – first game might take you up to 2 hours, but with experience you can finish in 1-1.5 hour. Of course, provided you survived till the end!

Complexity:

While the game’s rules are not overly complex – you get used to the strategic, tactical and operational actions pretty quickly – mastering all of them, punting into right sequence and trying to foreseen what would happen next can be challenging.

That is definitely one of my favorite game types – with moderate entry barrier but hard to master. 

What I like:
  • I am fan of good, solitaire games about WWII – especially those which are created with dedicated solo mode in mind as a major way to play. Not as an addition at the end of the development.
  • I love fantastic components – 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.
  • Pavlov’s House is not an easy game to win. It is brutal & challenging and after each failure you just want to try once again.
  • I would like to stress this – there is limited luck factor. You may smile to hear this – because you roll for many elements in game and draw cards. Still, the number of roll is enough to get the probabilistic results and definitely, there is no situation like “one roll ruins the whole game from the start”.
  • What I really appreciate and what makes me come-back to that game time and time again are Optional Rules. There are additional modes to play the game, like Operational Support or Tactical Cards. They can really enrich the game as well as make it much harder – your choice 🙂 
  • Additional Multiplayer Modes – you can play the game solo, but also with two or three players, cooperatively or competitively!
What I do not like or would like to see in the game:
  • A frustration stemming from each unsuccessful attempt – yeah, I know the game is exactly about it. Still, each situation where my strategy almost worked and suddenly collapsed is painful!
  • I think Operational Support gives a little too much points comparative to its price. It is Optional Rule anyhow so you can tweak it as you wish.
For whom?

This is a fantastic position for each and every wargamer – especially the fans of solitaire experience would be glad to get this title. A moderate experience in that type of games is needed – as I mentioned above, rules are not overly complex but mastering them can be hard. 

More about the game:

And now let us have a look at the components – all pictures taken during my plays:

High level board overview – with previously mentioned 3 sections
Germans converging on the Pavlov’s House and breaching it!
Another close-up – this time on the House itself
A rare but important element of game – Soviet offensive against the nearby German strongholds
Tactics Cards – a great way to spice-up the game!

VERDICT:

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With the current situation in the world, I started to appreciating the solo designs much more then before pandemic. Pavlov’s House was a present for my birthday in March this year, just couple of days before first lockdown. And I am so glad I get it then 🙂

I cannot express enough how I like it and appreciate this design – the game is immersive, difficult, beautiful, re-playable, with various options and modes. You really have a feeling of being surrounded, lonely, with no way of escape, fighting sometimes almost with only bare teethe to stay alive. Strongly recommended!

PS. The third installment in the series – Soldiers in Postmen’s Uniforms – is just now on Kickstarter. Make sure to have a look at the campaign and definitely back it up!

See you in another game review!