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Subject: Is this game worth the price? rss

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Chris Buhl
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Hi,

The title is pretty clear, I reckon. I just heard about this game tonight, although it's been out for a while. My first thought was it looked interesting, then I saw the $65 retail price for a card game, and had a second thought (as you can see above). I know I can get it online for less than that, but still this is a higher price than I'd expect from a card game. There are a fairly small number of raters so far, but they give it a good score, so I'm intrigued. The two reviews make the game sound interesting, but again the question is, interesting enough to invest my very limited new game budget into? Any thoughts about that would be welcome.

If the game bears any similarity to Up Front, I should say that is my favorite game, period, of all time. So, being a card game doesn't deter me per say.

Thanks,

Chris
 
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Colin Hunter
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This is a tough game for me to like. It some ways it is fantastically clever, there is tons of depth, but it is also incredibly arbitrary. Luck plays a massive part in the game, there is still plenty to explore, but what effect your decisions have on the outcome of the game is limited. I'm still coming to grips with it, I'm sure others may be able to offer a more enlightened view. So for me is it worth it? Not exactly, but I do kind of enjoy playing it. It isn't that similar to upfront, except for the card aspect and the card randomization. I think CC:E is closer to upfront personally.

Also it is worth mention every game I've played has come down to the last dice roll, so that is a testament to something.
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Purely from a components perspective, I believe the price is worth it, and as you mention, you can get it cheaper than the $65 retail through online stores.

The card quality is good and that's important given the number of cards in the game. Considering that each player has their own deck, plus the events cards the price is justified. There are player mats for each player as well as a place holder mat made of thin card stock but still functional and better than just paper. Also, there are large location cards, also of good quality and essential to the game. Finally you have to add in the counter sheets which are of good thick quality. The rules are printed on glossy paper and nicely bound but they're in B&W. Fortunately, you can download a full color version for free as an option.

Overall, I found the game price to be in line with games of similar quality and quantity from other wargame publishers like GMT or DG. So, if you like non-CCG cardgames based on the theme provided, IMHO you won't go wrong with this one from a quality point of view.

Cheers.
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PAUL OCONNOR
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I just finished my second game tonight, and I am happy I bought The Hell of Stalingrad (got my copy through Boulder Games for a reasonable price).

Up Front is my favorite wargame of all time ... but it is similar to Hello Stalingrad only in that both games use cards. They really are very different experiences ... if I was going to compare this to another card wargame, a closer example would be something like Lightning: D-Day, except that Stalingrad is pumped up on steroids, full of skulls and flames, and much more fun to play.

This is a strange game in that it is random, fiddly, longish, turns on crazy dice rolls, repetitive, unapologetic about playing fast and loose with history in places, a bit on the expensive side, and it sprawls all over our largish table when we play it ... but I still really, really like it. It is that rare game that is greater than the sum-of-its parts. I shouldn't like it as much as I do, but when you stand back far enough from the canvas to hide the brush-strokes, what emerges is a pretty good picture of the Stalingrad experience, at least from an emotional and psychological point-of-view.

If you're looking the strict historical accuracy and you hate randomness in a game, then look elsewhere. If you like "experience games" and don't get crazy over the dice doing you in, and aren't concerned about playing competitively ... then I give it a thumb's up.
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David Hughes
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Paul and Colin pretty well nail it. Despite its length, price, randomness,garishness and historical nonsense, virtually everyone enjoys it - at least at first.

I wonder if there is less game here than meets the eye - if in the long term the essential randomness makes it not worth the effort to learn to play well.

However, few people have played it enough to know one way or the other
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PAUL OCONNOR
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Scotty Dave wrote:
I wonder if there is less game here than meets the eye - if in the long term the essential randomness makes it not worth the effort to learn to play well.


After my second game I'm starting to glimpse some better (if not best) practices to follow when playing the game. There's a lot of luck but like any luck-based game, I think you can manage the little things and put yourself in the path of success, especially against a player who isn't working as hard to stay on top of things. But even the best plan will succeed or fail at the pleasure of General Dice.

I can see myself getting 5+ plays out of this game which makes it more than a bargain as wargames go. Happy to have it.
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Colin Hunter
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goldenboat wrote:
Scotty Dave wrote:
I wonder if there is less game here than meets the eye - if in the long term the essential randomness makes it not worth the effort to learn to play well.


After my second game I'm starting to glimpse some better (if not best) practices to follow when playing the game.
There is a lot you can do to play efficiently. I think it is actually quite deep. It is just even if you play very efficiently and put in tons of effort you may be only rewarded with a single dice for resolution or you may just not hit a river in time before the game ends. In some ways this makes it exciting and improves its feel. As a commander you are kind of doing the best with what you can. I've won two games now, both of which I shouldn't have to be honest I was out played, but I managed to get it close enough that the dice and river cards could do the rest.
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David Hughes
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I have half a dozen games under my belt; I play better every game. Nevertheless, the suspicion remains that it is too random to reward good play. Now, that's fine for say, a duel of Magic, which might take 20 minutes or less, and where you can have 15 or more duels per game day. But with THoS taking 2 to 3 hours, then it's much less fine.

And the more I play, the more the lack of history grates.
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Chris Buhl
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This is why I love BGG. Thanks to all of you for your thoughtful and precise responses. You managed to do exactly what I was hoping, paint a picture of the game for me to weigh against my own internal price / value thought process. This one will remain on my "interested" list for sure, but I will definitely have to play it before deciding to make it a buy. Thanks again,

Chris
 
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Steven Cunliffe
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I have half a dozen games under my belt; I play better every game. Nevertheless, the suspicion remains that it is too random to reward good play. Now, that's fine for say, a duel of Magic, which might take 20 minutes or less, and where you can have 15 or more duels per game day. But with THoS taking 2 to 3 hours, then it's much less fine.


I had no idea you have played as many games as you have of HoS. I guess I owe you an apology as well, I thought that you disliked the game for superficial reasons but it is clear to me it is just an honest difference of opinion.

You have valid points, the game may at times appear random but I playtested over a dozen different versions of the game and the Break Test was the only way to make it a nail biter to the very last turn. More than anything I hate games which are decided an hour before the end. I would rather a game "appear" to be random than have a player die of boredom half way through the game. The better player will still win more games but I understand where you are coming from. It took me a while to believe in what I had created, HoS is a feeling game as much as it is a thinking game.

Unfortunately the cost of the game is not negotiable. I more than anyone would love to see the game sell for $40 or $50 but it is simply not going to happen anytime soon. Maybe if a major game company bought HoS and all the components were outsourced to China could the price of the game be dropped dramatically but then a major company would never have taken a chance on a game as different as HoS, (we offered the game to several large companies but were turned down).

The truth of the matter is that Clash of Arms is the only publisher with the insight and the courage to make a game so radically different from anything else on the market. I am sorry so many object to the cost of the game, but HoS is overflowing with components and by paying that little bit extra you are ensuring that Clash of Arms and future companies will continue to make quality boundary pushing games for years to come.

I love historical wargames but for too long they have been in a mold that has become familiar to veteran players but also restricted their appeal to new audiences. I am sure within a few years you will see many new historical wargames built along the lines of HoS, all of which will be at a much cheaper price, but I am proud to be among the first to introduce a new style of wargame.

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And the more I play, the more the lack of history grates.


Saving Private Ryan was full of historical inaccuracies but it is still my favorite WWII movie. It may not have been 100% perfect but it captured the FEEL of War better than any other movie out there. HoS is not a historic simulation but instead a game that grabs from the emotional gut instead of the head.

I know it is can be confusing because I have never played a game quite like it either. It took me a while to understand what I had created as well, so I will give the advice it took me a year of playtesting time to fully come to grips with. When you play HoS set aside your intellect and give yourself permission to feel, instead of think. Having a good time, releasing the inner critic and feeling the game is as big a part of winning the game as rolling the dice.






Steve

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David Hughes
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Stalingrad Steve wrote:

I had no idea you have played as many games as you have of HoS. I guess I owe you an apology as well, I thought that you disliked the game for superficial reasons but it is clear to me it is just an honest difference of opinion.


I don't dislike the game. I dislike aspects of it. I fear it might lack depth, but always say that I need more play to know for sure.


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I love historical wargames but for too long they have been in a mold that has become familiar to veteran players but also restricted their appeal to new audiences. I am sure within a few years you will see many new historical wargames built along the lines of HoS, all of which will be at a much cheaper price, but I am proud to be among the first to introduce a new style of wargame.


The distinguishing feature of what I call a wargame is an attempt to model some aspect of the history, so THoS doesn't really fall into the wargame bracket for me. But if it is a bridge into wargames for non-grognards, then good luck.



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Colin Hunter
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You have valid points, the game may at times appear random but I playtested over a dozen different versions of the game and the Break Test was the only way to make it a nail biter to the very last turn. More than anything I hate games which are decided an hour before the end. I would rather a game "appear" to be random than have a player die of boredom half way through the game. The better player will still win more games but I understand where you are coming from. It took me a while to believe in what I had created, HoS is a feeling game as much as it is a thinking game.
This explains a lot and is incredibly disappointing for me personally, that this was an actual design intent. For the record this isn't the appearance of randomness, this is the definition of randomness in games. Making the game come down to the final dice roll every game regardless of who played better, is random, not just the appearance randomness. Don't get me wrong, you have done a great job realizing your design intent, it is just I really don't share the same philosophy in gaming.
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Steven Cunliffe
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Don't get me wrong, you have done a great job realizing your design intent, it is just I really don't share the same philosophy in gaming.


If you are looking for an apology for HoS... well keep looking.

I made the game I like to play. Some people will jell with my vision others will not. Quite simply there libraries of games that are almost exact clones of each other. In most of these generic wargames the end is determined long before the game is actually over. Personally I like games where the journey is half the fun.

I have been playing The Hell of Stalingrad for four years now and ever game is different. I never know when I sit down to play a game if I can win or not. Despite knowing every trick, I can still be beaten by a good player and I like that in a game.

I think it is incredibly fun to talk with my opponent as we play cards against each other. I have laughed more playing The Hell of Stalingrad than I have any other wargame and strange as it may sound I appreciate the joy it has brought into my life.






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Colin Hunter
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Stalingrad Steve wrote:

If you are looking for an apology for HoS... well keep looking.
I'm not looking for one, I was just giving you the benefit of the doubt up until now is all. Obviously you have to design the game you want to, I would never suggest otherwise, but it doesn't stop me feeling that a very clever design didn't quite do it for me, its taste right? we all have different things we like.

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I made the game I like to play. Some people will jell with my vision others will not. Quite simply there libraries of games that are almost exact clones of each other. In most of these generic wargames the end is determined long before the game is actually over.

This depends. If you play badly yes, the game can end early, that is true of many games not just wargames, if the criticism goes beyond this I would strongly disagree. Many wargames do come down to the end, especially if played by good players, but this misses the point of gaming that you state in your very next sentence.
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Personally I like games where the journey is half the fun.


I fully agree with this, in fact I think the journey is the fun, not just half of it. Given that the result is not necessarily the most important part, why does it matter if you can't win because you played badly? Surely if the game is enjoyable it will still be fun to play regardless of the result? Why do you have to script a game to ensure that it comes down to the end regardless of player decisions? My issue is not that the result is random, but that this limits the impact of your decisions and hence the journey is less interesting, for me personally. For you obviously it is different and I will probably continue to play regardless, because games are much more than pure design principles.
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I have been playing The Hell of Stalingrad for four years now and ever game is different. I never know when I sit down to play a game if I can win or not. Despite knowing every trick, I can still be beaten by a good player and I like that in a game.
Absolutely fine, we all have different preferences, I'm not stating that you and I should agree on preference, in fact the world is better if we disagree. I'm a big fan of OCS, but some of the design intent behind it I disagree with, but I love playing it. So it is easy for me to overstate disappointment I guess. When I played HoS, felt something was missing, my decisions often had little impact, not on the final result, but how things were unfolding in real time. It felt like so much thinking, was not rewarded well enough. This isn't really a line in the sand thing, more my personal judgement, I could see you feeling that there was enough control, I think we all have different tolerances with regard to this.
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I think it is incredibly fun to talk with my opponent as we play cards against each other. I have laughed more playing The Hell of Stalingrad than I have any other wargame and strange as it may sound I appreciate the joy it has brought into my life.
That is the great part of gaming, I find that with all games and I'm glad you enjoy playing it, as a musician who writes music I understand the joy out of creating something and then utilizing it yourself, it is satisfying and fun. I'm not being critical of this. In fact I'm not being critical of any of this really, I'm just saying for my tastes, this fundamental intent is hard for me to accept. Now having said that, games are way more than simple design philosophies and the proof is in the pudding so to speak. So it doesn't matter what your intent is to me as a consumer, it matters how it plays. I should probably remember this, but a part of me was disappointed to hear the intent despite this, it may have been a weak part of me, but still...
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Steven Cunliffe
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I guess we are not playing the same game after all.

The outcome of the Hell of Stalingrad comes down to the last turn IN EVERY SINGLE GAME! Not one out of ten games, not one out of four games, not even half of all the games played but the end is in doubt EVERY GAME. I have never even heard of a game that brings the level of intensity HoS reliably unveils every time the box is opened.

If you have a game that is more fun please enjoy it but unless you can honestly say that you know of a game where the end is ALWAYS in doubt until the last die roll other than HoS we don't have a lot to talk about.

Now if I could just bottle the nail-biting formula I used for designing HoS and sell it to major league sports I would never have to worry about money again..
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David Hughes
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That "the outcome is in doubt till the last turn" isn't such a big claim. The same could be said of many childrens' games such as Snakes and Ladders. It is also virtually a tautology - for the vast majority of games, the outcome is in doubt until the outcome stops being in doubt - at which point reasonable players stop playing.

Anyway, each to his own. My last comment for now - I like playing THoS a lot more than I like reading Steve's comments about it.
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Colin Hunter
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Stalingrad Steve wrote:
I guess we are not playing the same game after all.

The outcome of the Hell of Stalingrad comes down to the last turn IN EVERY SINGLE GAME! Not one out of ten games, not one out of four games, not even half of all the games played but the end is in doubt EVERY GAME. I have never even heard of a game that brings the level of intensity HoS reliably unveils every time the box is opened.
I won't get into if it is better or worse than other games, but I 100% agree with you so far, it has always come down to the last dice roll. As I said in my first post, HoS as a design has a lot to be proud of.

So yes I think we agree. I will continue to play it I'm sure.
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Steven Cunliffe
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Anyway, each to his own. My last comment for now - I like playing THoS a lot more than I like reading Steve's comments about it.


Awwwwwww and I thought we were getting along so well... I am touched that you like playing HoS... we should definitely get together for a game sometime.

devil



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David Hughes
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Stalingrad Steve wrote:
[ we should definitely get together for a game sometime.


Well, we're just coming into summer, and Sydney has a beach on every doorstep...

I forgot to say, I wrote the review in the upcoming Battles mag devil
 
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Just because you write reviews doesn't mean I am not going to call you are overly critical to the game.

Anyways have fun everyone I am going to be off line for a long while working on Midway and Legion of Honor.

Steve
 
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Stalingrad Steve wrote:
The outcome of the Hell of Stalingrad comes down to the last turn IN EVERY SINGLE GAME! Not one out of ten games, not one out of four games, not even half of all the games played but the end is in doubt EVERY GAME. I have never even heard of a game that brings the level of intensity HoS reliably unveils every time the box is opened.

If you have a game that is more fun please enjoy it but unless you can honestly say that you know of a game where the end is ALWAYS in doubt until the last die roll other than HoS we don't have a lot to talk about.

This is said as if it's a plus point. Personally I prefer my games where the actions I have taken up until the last die roll will determine the result more often than not.
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Stalingrad Steve wrote:
Just because you write reviews doesn't mean I am not going to call you are overly critical to the game.

Anyways have fun everyone I am going to be off line for a long while working on Midway and Legion of Honor.

Steve


Wow, I just have never seen a game designer have such a negative impact on how I think about a game - ever. You carp at everyone who doesn't love your game the way you do, act like their specific criticisms are invalid WITHOUT EVER responding to them directly, then throw a hissy fit and "leave the room?" Talk about immature behavior. And to think, the vast majority of people posting here and the other similar thread said they basically liked the game, but were disappointed by some specific aspects of it. What would you do if someone flat out didn't like it?
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I really think this game is good value for money. Admittedly, I was a bit hesitant when I saw the price but I was won over by the design and unusual mechanics. The play is brutal and captures the feel of the battle superbly. I think the excellent photos of soldiers and buildings add to the impressionistic feel as do the card icons. You will see from this that I do not share the views of some that the components are garish. The break die mechanic is really innovative. The quality of the components is excellent and the rules are well set out. The game is incredibly finely balanced and we have found that the the two sides win about equally.I like the element of unpredicatably.This is a game where each side must do their utmost to ensure they have the advantage in units and formations and snipers etc to maximise the break roll but ultimately as in real war, nothing is guaranteed. I confess to being a little surprised at some of the criticisms made, although I am glad to see that in general it seems to be appreciated. This is rapidly becoming one of my most favorite games. In fact, I'm off to play it now.
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Peso Pete wrote:
fatgreta wrote:
Stalingrad Steve wrote:
Just because you write reviews doesn't mean I am not going to call you are overly critical to the game.

Anyways have fun everyone I am going to be off line for a long while working on Midway and Legion of Honor.

Steve


Wow, I just have never seen a game designer have such a negative impact on how I think about a game - ever. You carp at everyone who doesn't love your game the way you do, act like their specific criticisms are invalid WITHOUT EVER responding to them directly, then throw a hissy fit and "leave the room?" Talk about immature behavior. And to think, the vast majority of people posting here and the other similar thread said they basically liked the game, but were disappointed by some specific aspects of it. What would you do if someone flat out didn't like it?


I'm not going to make excuses for Steve. He is more than capable of sticking up for himself, but I can appreciate being sensitive about your own game design. There is hardly any money to be made in designing a wargame and it takes years before your design is ever published, so wargame designers design wargames for something other than monetary reasons. As a result, that makes most of them rather protective of their game designs.

That doesn't excuse the behavior, of course. His response to Colin (who I know to be a reasonable and thoughtful geek) was regretful since Colin was trying to be respectful in his posts. However, the responses to Steve's comment about every game he has played coming down to the last roll of the dice were unfortunate as well since (if we are being honest with ourselves here and not being defensive) we want a game that has play balance.

I guess what I am saying is that I see both sides of the discussion. It is just unfortunate that it ultimately never answered the OP's question. For myself, I got the game at a con in September, but haven't had the opportunity to play it yet, but I am hoping to soon. I'd say the components are worth the expense, but that is just my subjective opinion.


I completely understand feeling defensive, hurt, angry, or any such thing about criticisms of something you pour your heart into. I'd just like to have seen the designer have a bit more professional, and as I said, specific response to specific "complaints." He seemed to take an "anyone who doesn't love my game the way I love it is being foolish" type of attitude, that's what really bugged me.

I'm still very interested in playing this game, it sounds like something I would enjoy. I'm not looking to buy it yet, I need to know for sure I'll like it, but it may end up in my collection one day.

PS - I completely understand Steve's and other's responses about the cost of the game. It looks like a game that's costly to produce, and I wasn't trying to criticize the price, only determine if I should consider buying it "sight unseen."
 
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Peso Pete wrote:


the responses to Steve's comment about every game he has played coming down to the last roll of the dice were unfortunate as well since (if we are being honest with ourselves here and not being defensive) we want a game that has play balance.


Who is this "we" you are talking about? And who are you to impugn other posters' honesty?
 
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