About game:

Enemy Action: Kharkov (EAK) is the second game in John Butterfield’s acclaimed Enemy Action series of card-driven games simulating pivotal battles in World War II, playable by two players or one player controlling either side in the conflict.

The game portrays the Third Battle of Kharkov, the key Eastern Front engagement in which the German Army ended a string of Soviet victories which begun at Stalingrad. In the late winter of 1943, Soviet Operations code-named Star and Gallop drove the Germans from the city of Kharkov and threatened a complete breakthrough, only to be driven back by the German counteroffensive known as Von Manstein’s Back Hand Blow.

While Enemy Action series is probably one of the most detailed and somehow complicated of the John Butterfield’s games, it is at the same time very much rewarding and exciting. The Ardennes proved to be a great position, with special rules for solo German, solo American and 2-players. We are getting similar system in Kharkov installment – it is like 3 games in a box!

Would you stand-up to the task and manage to crush the ongoing string of Soviet successes? Or maybe playing as Russians, you will ensure that the momentum is not lost and total success achieved?

Number of players:

Fantastic title for solo play – in Germans and Soviets distinct versions – with very well implemented two-player variant.

Playing time:

Of course, it depends 🙂 The initial scenarios should be playable within 1-1.5 hours (quicker in two-player variant, slower in solo). The whole campaign will easily take up to 4 hours.


We need to differentiate between two player rules and solo ones. The former ones are pretty straightforward, making it medium-complexity game. The latter ones are definitely more complex, taking into account various schematics for AI actions. Still, this is pretty well manageable with plenty of examples.

What I like:
  • So if you are familiar with the hex & counter games it will be reasonably easy for you to quickly get into the game; the rulebook for 2-players is shortest one and most straightforward – here, you should have no problems with quick start.
  • Additionally, what we are getting in this title is a very neat activation mechanic which is based on cards. There is no typical “I-go-You-go” all front movements which usually caused long downtimes; instead each side uses cards to move specific armies / corps / units, i.e. small segments of the troops under their command. That also creates fog of war as you do not know which part of enemy forces can still act in a turn. I really like it!
  • Another solution which I would like to call-out is the battle resolution procedure. No CRT, no terrain modifiers – just drawing the chits which are applicable in particular situations – like type of terrain, forces ratio, status of opponent battle tactics played – and resolving the net score of hits vs. defender and attacker. That proved to be a great solution which we loved from the start (although sometimes a bit time-consuming). 
  • I have to admit the components quality is great – just see the clipped counters, the clear, colored designation for fronts and armies, beautiful rulebooks, clearly readable map.
What I do not like or would like to see in the game:
  • One thing I really wished for was a mounted map  – probably two-sided to reduce cost, which (the cost) is pretty significant as for the Wargame.

  • Let us be honest, the solo rules complexity level is high; having experience with multiple types of wargames this as pretty ok for me but it might be too much for some of more casual wargamers. But remember – the rules complexity makes for a fantastic bots which are rally hard to beat.
For whom?

The two player mode can be suggested and recommended to every wargamer with some, even minimal, experience. The solo one definitely requires much more exposure to solitaire titles and might be a little daunting at first. Still, with time it becomes pretty straightforward.

More about the game:

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

Unboxing of the Enemy Action: Kharkov
Look at full map, initial set-up and beautiful box.
Close-up on the situation at the beginning of the game, when successful Soviet “Star” & “Gallop” operations took place.
In the middle of the frontal assault on German Bot. “Stavka” is one of the strongest USSR cards in play, allowing for pretty broad activation.
Example of concentrated attack and the use of battle chits to come up with the final result.
Great Storage Solution from Cube4Me!


It is probably obvious from my description that I enjoyed the game immensely. It is beautifully produced, has unique combat resolution mechanic as well as great card-driven activation system; it has like three games in one box, as each of them plays differently and gets separate rulebook. While not a title for a completely green wargamers, this is definitely position which one day should land on your shelf!

More reviews to come!