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The Hell of Stalingrad» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Hell Hath No Playing Board – A Components Review rss

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Adam Parker
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The Hell of Stalingrad caught my eye the first time I saw it listed as "hot" at the Geek. It definitely looked intriguing and I'm no stranger to card driven war games. So on first glimpse at my local game store I hoisted it up with some already pre-developed excitement. Then I saw its price tag. At $100 Australian which fairly much equates to the current US asking price of $72 ($84 USD for the "rest of the word") I quickly put it down. Fighting in Stalingrad attracted me but was this game really necessary for my collection?

Many times thereafter I’d see it in my store. In stock at times. Sold out on others. But today they had a sale and a stack of HoS boxes to boot. At $50 AUD I grabbed the opportunity! I really wanted to see what this game was all about. What exactly was in that box?


Opening the Tomb

A regulation sized bookshelf box opened easily to a pleasantly fresh smell of ink and the curiosity of some orange flame and bright color.

The first thing that made me smile were some gorgeously chosen dice befitting the mood of the game. Blood red with black pips. Germanic black with red. Small sized, not too light in feel and 5 of each made a set.

Putting these aside, I grabbed at the pyrotechnic color sheet underneath. Called "Stalingrad Buildings and Killing Grounds" I recognized it simply as a map methodically detailing the battle’s various sites and their proximity to one another. Color-coded, it's probably one of the best summary maps of the battle I’ve ever seen.

However, note when I call this a "sheet" because that's what it is. A glossy sheet of Kodak Photo paper stock. Its rear side stained with black by the next document in view.

This was a photocopied Clash of Arms advertising blurb heralding a forthcoming game with a price list on its rear. That it left black residue on the former sheet, suggests that omitting it may be a better idea. Players can be referred to the web instead.

Then came my first grimace.

The Hell of Stalingrad is a game without a map. Instead "Game Mats" and "Building Cards" form the playing field on which players place their cards and various chits. Well, after the advertising blurb came the 3 very colourful - but central to the game - Game Mats. Yet these were printed on the same flimsy "Kodak" photo paper as the Killing Ground sheet! Why oh why? My feeling is that these mats will form key playing tools during the game. At the money being charged (remember the original asking price was $100 AUD), was there any reason why these could not have been provided on thick, durable, even laminated card stock? Though their corners were not dog-eared having survived the shipment to Australia, their gloss clearly showed some finger bending caused by the packing process. For longevity, will I need to have these laminated or crazily, play with them under plexiglass? A very cheap design decision that made me worry about what else I had exactly bought.


The Rest

4 decks of player cards followed. These thankfully are very durable, solid to the feel yet, not linen coated. Full of period art, they look to impart a heavy mood on the player which is exactly what I was looking for. Being so durable, I feel that sleeving them will not be necessary. Accordingly, they fit perfectly into Ultra Pro Card Boxes for storage or alternately if desired, will suit Ultra Pro 2 5/8 x 3 5/8 Card Sleeves.

Next came a shrink-wrapped set of 36 oversized Building Cards - 4 1/5 x 6 inches in area. Again to my sincere relief these were printed on thick card stock. Good thinking as these are the arteries of the entire game.

Two sets of counters then appeared. These are thick, almost Euro style beasts. Connected to their sprues at the corners, players will need a sharp hobby knife to prise them free (they’re not completely Euro as in drop out ready for play - how many war games are?). However, cleverly most are printed on a white background meaning little touching up once cut and trimmed.

Lastly came the rule book. Glossy-paged, slightly thinner than the Kodak mats, profusely illustrated... but black and white! Once again, I asked - at $100 AUD and no huge playing board included, is this reasonable value here? There’s no way I’m going to print the now available full color rule book from the game’s website.


Conclusion

I am still excited to have purchased this game and have added it to my list of things to play in the near future. However, had I bought this game at the full asking price I would have felt ripped off - paper just does not cut such an exorbitant investment.

At half price however, I do feel vindicated in my purchase. The bulk of components seem to be sturdy and therefore the desire to put them into use is strong. However, who’d have counted on a store sale to satiate a niggling urge borne of such a unique looking game design? As I said, it took me a long while to steel up the nerve to answer this curiosity.

What does this game appear to offer me now that I have it? A very humbling reminder of the hell that was Stalingrad. We're talking Building Cards with rats! Playing chits with blood and skulls. Flames aplenty. And of course, those gorgeous looking dice. Yes, I'll be playing this one soon. I know the rule book may not be immediately intuitive but who can give this war gaming opportunity up? But why those cheap Kodak Playing Mats?

Why?

Happy gaming,
Adam.
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Andy M
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I think you're too focused on material value. If the game is awesome, then surely it's worth $100? if it sucks, it isn't, regardless of how many bits of paper and card you get.
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Adam Parker
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Hi Andy whilst I think that the material quality of a game goes a very long way to my enjoying it, my focus here is purely on longevity - collectibility - and playability. All summarised as "value for dollar". These are Game Mats we're talking about, not game charts:

1 How soon will they wear and tear?

2 Will they survive in order for me to pass onto the next generation of war gamer?

3 Will they look good and be functional on my gaming table?

Imo these game pieces should have been extremely sturdy-cardboard mounted, or roll 'em up cloth. Might as well have cut costs further and told gamers to print their own!
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Marc Dabros
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A couple of thoughts:

I suspect that, as a small company, Clash of Arms had to make some trade-offs regarding quality of components vs price. If that is the case, I much rather they skimp on the quality of the game mats - which I can laminate if I want - then the various card decks and building cards, which as you correctly point out are really the key components of the game.

Personally, I tend to play most of my games solo and as such, I find that I have yet to even use the game mats, making them even less of an issue for me.

I think price is always an issue in this hobby, and at approximately $75 CAN for the game, I too was on the fence about picking this one up. Ultimately, I was drawn to this game by the solo rules and received it as a Christmas gift. I find the game plays well solo and the replayability value is very high, which for me equates to great value. I can compare this to a number of games I have with gorgeous bits, but remain unplayed and therefore represent questionable value.

HoS is a very unque design and really evokes that sense of "mood" the designer was striving for. Game mats aside, I hope you enjoy playing the game.

Cheers,
Marc
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Steven Cunliffe
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Marc,

You are very much correct sir, Clash of Arms is not a big publishing company which can be both wonderful and very frustrating.

On one hand this game would never had been made by a larger company (because it was essentially a new system and I did try to shop it around).

On the other hand cost is always an issue for all aspects of production.

I personally am proud of the way the cards turned out, I have played over 100 games with my first set of HoS cards and they have held up all this time and are still in amazing condition!

Would it be better if the play mats were of a better material, it was not my decision but I found out was much less of an issue once I laminated them.

Ed, the publisher of Clash of Arms is to be congratulated with taking a risk with an entirely new style of game. The success of The Hell of Stalingrad allowed me to successfully argue for some higher quality components for the next game in the series, The Fires of Midway (being released in a few months).

Very Special thanks must also be given to everyone who has purchased games from small publishers. We may not have all the money right now to throw thousands of dollars away on components and marketing but we will work harder for you to pack as much value into the games as possible.

If you would like to see more durability, I would recommend emailing Ed at sales@clashofarms.com and letting him know that he should have better quality play mats. Trust me it helps if fans take an active roll in voicing their opinions by talking the man who can make the decision.

My most sincere appreciation goes to everyone who purchased The Hell of Stalingrad!!!

Because of you The Hell of Stalingrad is already the best selling game Clash of has produced in the last five years and the sequel has been green lighted and is about to be released this Spring!

- Steve





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David Hughes
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Adam

Can you tell me the game store you found THoS at half price?

Thanks

David
 
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Adam Parker
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Hi David, it was Milsims in Melbourne. They've got a sale running until the end of Feb (in store and web) 20% off all board games and I found their stack of HoS games all pre-discounted but at different rates.

2 boxes were $60, a few more were $75 and the remainder were $80.

I managed to get one of the $60 boxes and as I spent significantly a lot more there they gave me an extra thanks.

I love supporting these guys. They've kept wargaming in my city and I'll do whatever I can to show them thanks too. They're open all week!
 
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Adam Parker
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Stalingrad Steve wrote:


If you would like to see more durability, I would recommend emailing Ed at sales@clashofarms.com and letting him know that he should have better quality play mats. Trust me it helps if fans take an active roll in voicing their opinions by talking the man who can make the decision.


I can do that Steve. Thanks for your reply too. It's interesting that you had to laminate yours. Maybe I can get mine photo-transferred to cloth!
 
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David Hughes
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Thanks Adam, I wondered if it was Milsims, or Tactics in Perth, which seems to have great bargains if you go on the right day.

Yeah they do have a good sale, I ordered Struggle for the Galactic Empire from Milsims on Saturday, for $56; that's even less than they were selling it for at CanCon.
 
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David Hughes
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By the way, I have played my copy of THoS about 10 times, and

(1) The components are still like new

(2) I have never used the play mats

Even without the map, it still has a big footprint - as big as a standard two-mapper. I think all the component cost is in the cards. The various decks are sleeved, of course. The building cards are the real worry. I guess the answer is either to laminate them, or to randomise them without shuffling - which is a pain anyway, given the size of the cards.
 
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Ray Brown
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While this game may seem pricey compared to other games, I would have gladly paid $100 for it-This game is that awesome! Play it a couple of times and you will see that it is worth the money you spent on it and more.
 
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Aman Aman
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As has been ponited out by the game designer, the cost-cutting measure was decided by the publisher.

At full price, you would be shocked at how little goes to the publisher, and even less of course to the designer. Glad you got it on sale!

Personally, I haven't had any problems with my components. Also, game prices are such that HoS represents real value for the money compared to any comparable game in terms of physical components, etc. Euro games are regularly in the $50-100 range, and I have them but occasionally feel like they weren't a great buy. Still, as other have said, if you enjoy the game it is worth what you paid v. even a cheap game that you don't like and don't play.

Of course, I just dropped $50 on a hardback book of army lists for Flames of War, so obviously my values are skewed.
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Jason Martin
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moss_icon wrote:
I think you're too focused on material value. If the game is awesome, then surely it's worth $100? if it sucks, it isn't, regardless of how many bits of paper and card you get.


I disagree. I won't buy a game I suspect won't be good, so I base the price I am willing to pay SOLELY on component quality.
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David Hughes
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Anjohl wrote:

I disagree. I won't buy a game I suspect won't be good, so I base the price I am willing to pay SOLELY on component quality.


I can't see how this makes sense, unless you think good components correlate to good games.

There might be a correlation, but it's neither very strong nor necessarily positive in my experience.

But each to his own; nothing wrong with choosing a game based on its components.
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Jason Martin
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Scotty Dave wrote:
Anjohl wrote:

I disagree. I won't buy a game I suspect won't be good, so I base the price I am willing to pay SOLELY on component quality.


I can't see how this makes sense, unless you think good components correlate to good games.

There might be a correlation, but it's neither very strong nor necessarily positive in my experience.

But each to his own; nothing wrong with choosing a game based on its components. :)


No, I only buy good games, ergo, all games have roughly the same 'value" gameplay wise, thus the only determination of price left to use is component quality.
 
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Mike Wall
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Though they are thin, I've found the play mats perfectly durable.

The buildings cards are substantial and their size and thickness makes successful shuffling of them well nigh impossible. As a result, I've used an ordinary pack of cards, allocating the appropriate number from each suit to represent each building from the four sectors of the city.

This makes the task swift, easy and ensures that the actual building cards don't get damaged in trying to shuffle them.

 
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Colin Houghton
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Just played my 9th game. no discernable issues with any of the components..

..and I have to say that it still plays out fresh and excisting.. the game mechanics are superb. Up there with Warrior Knights, Arkham Horror and (yes!) SmallWorld.

Original and exciting gameplay that works, and with acceptable or better components. My world continues to be rocked. Must investigate the follow up soon...
 
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