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Subject: Fun But Too Easy: A Review of Rattenkrieg rss

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Chris Hansen
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If given the option, I would prefer to play with the green pieces, please.
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Rattenkrieg is a small postcard sized game from Turning Point Simulations, which is a sister-company to Against the Odds. Like the other games in the ATO Pocket Battles line, this game isn't an actual postcard and doesn't have room for an address or stamp. The game is distributed as a free promotional item included with orders from various game companies.

Rattenkrieg is the first of the ATO Postcard games to be specifically designed for solitaire play and as such is the first from the series that I've played. (It is hard to justify spending valuable game time with a face-to-face opponent on a postcard game) The game simulates the Battle of Stalingrad with the player taking the roll of the Germans and the game system handling the actions of the Soviet pieces.

The rules are simple and take only a few moments to learn. Once you've cut out the pieces you can be playing very quickly. All soviet pieces at the start of the game and that enter the game in later rounds are randomly selected and and placed on the map face down.

Units set up at start of game.

Once German units enter Soviet areas, the units are revealed. The soviet units range from regular infantry and tanks to unarmed mobs who ambush the Germans with Molotov Cocktails. Also included are snipers who don't fight regular German Units but do instantly kill Generals. Battles are conducted by comparing total German unit strength with total Soviet Strength (area strength plus unit strength). Whichever side has the greater strength will roll two dice and the lesser side will roll one. On ties both sides roll two dice. German players can use one of the limited Air Raids to add an additional die to their roll. The winner of the battle is the side who rolled the highest number so obviously having more dice than the Soviets greatly improves your odds of defeating them.

The results of the first battle. One German Victory and two Soviet Victories.

The game has some interesting mechanics to simulate the Battle of Stalingrad. As the Germans move from West to East, the area strength increases, shifting the battle odds more towards the Soviets' favor. Also, one German unit is reduced every time a battle is fought, regardless of whether they were victorious or defeated. By the time the Germans have fought their way across the map, they will be battle worn and fatigued when they attempt to take the west bank of the Volga River. However, the Generals get more experienced after they've fought a battle, which increases the total German Strength.

New Soviet pieces enter the board randomly by die roll and never move from the area they start in. The German player wins the instant there are no Soviet pieces left on the board and loses if there are ever more Soviet pieces than German.

A soviet victory - active Soviet units outnumber German units.

The Good

This game has a few things going for it. First, it's extremely fast playing. Depending on how many times the Soviets are able to ambush the Germans, you have approximately 12 rounds of battle to win the game. Each round of battle is fast and furious so the game can often be completed in about 10 to 15 minutes, which means you can play easily play several games in a row. The rules are well-written and easy to understand and after two games I didn't need to refer to them. The hidden soviet units create a great fog of war which means you never know if you are marching your units into an ambush or your general into sniper fire.

The battle mechanic is simple yet does a good job of replicating (in a very simplified way) some aspects of the frustration that the Germans felt in Stalingrad building-to-building fighting. It is not terribly uncommon for a battle involving a German tank, infantry, air raids, and general to lose against unarmed soviet troops simply because they have a large terrain bonus.

The Bad

This is obviously a very small game, so I don't necessarily expect a history lesson when I play, but there are some odd historical accuracy questions that arose during play. These are largely due to the Soviet deployment method. Because the Soviet troops are deployed into the area that is rolled at the start of each turn, most fighting in the game isn't done on the shores of the river (where the troops were historically deployed), but rather in the center of the city which contain the commonly rolled numbers 6,7, and 8. This means that Germans have many more positioning options from which to enter enemy territory and also allows the Germans to block new Soviets from entering the board just by having units stations on those areas which are most likely to be rolled. (Soviets can't enter a space that has either a German or another Soviet unit on it.)

The game's biggest drawback is how easy it is to win. This was mentioned in another review and another BGG user even suggested some variants to increase the difficulty. The first two games I played I misunderstood the rules and thought that the Germans took a reduction if they lost a battle and then took another reduction that is required at the end of every battle. I still won both of those games, even with this heavy handicap. When I realized my error, the game got even easier. I've played about ten games and lost only one (which was the game I used to take pictures to illustrate this review - so now I'll never forget it!) Even with the Soviet area strength bonus, it is pretty easy to bring in greater German strength. The air raid bonus can also serve to even the odds during those instances where the Germans find themselves out-gunned. In most games I've played I was able to win with minimal German loses. Obviously there was some good luck involved since I was frequently able to win battles in only one turn but the ability to block new Soviet units from entering the board created a huge advantage. The game I lost was mostly because I kept rolling uncommon numbers like 4 and 12 to place new Soviet units, which were in areas I didn't have blocked.

Verdict

Is this game worth taking the time to cut out the counters and play? I've made several print-and-play games so I may be desensitized to the process, but I'd say that the counter-cutting shouldn't be considered as a hindrance to play. There are only 20 counters which can be cut out in just a minute or two.

Overall the game is fun for a couple plays and is worth the time if you happen to get a copy. I wouldn't necessarily recommend going out of your way to seek one out though. The game can occasionally be tense but as I mentioned before it is generally pretty easy to win and that can get boring quickly. Overall, I'd give the game a 5. I won't mind pulling it out occasionally, but I think it will largely be forgotten soon since there are much better Stalingrad games out there.
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Bill Lawson
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I just got a copy of this with DAK2 that I ordered from MMP. Its the first one of the Post Card games that I have been tempted to play. I like the topic. Thanks for your review!
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sacha cauvin
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I've played Rattenkrieg 4 times solo tonight. A fun little game. Nice functional graphics where you can see the germans get weaker everyturn just as they did then. I agree that i havent seen a single soviet win so far as the germans can easily block most of the soviet reinforcement.My games lasted for 5 minutes each. that's fun too.
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Ben Delp
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Just got this a couple of weeks ago with my copy of King Philip’s War. This is the first of these postcard games I’ve been tempted to try. Your review has swayed me; guess I’ll give it a go.
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Chris Hansen
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If given the option, I would prefer to play with the green pieces, please.
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delp1871 wrote:
Just got this a couple of weeks ago with my copy of King Philip’s War. This is the first of these postcard games I’ve been tempted to try. Your review has swayed me; guess I’ll give it a go.

It's definitely worth a try. If you don't like it you've only wasted 15 minutes.
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Jeffrey D Myers
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After one play, agreed that it seems too easy.

Edit: But after five games, balance has been good, with three wins and two losses.
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Steven Cunliffe
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Yes the game is too easy but to be fair my original rules were changed slightly without my knowledge in the printed version to make the game easier. Fortunatly that problem has been corrected and the next installment of the Rattenkreig postcard series, The battle for the Barrikady Factory will be a bit more ... challenging devil
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Chris Hansen
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If given the option, I would prefer to play with the green pieces, please.
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I have two new 9 Card Games: 300 Spartans and Franky's 1st Christmas
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Stalingrad Steve wrote:
Yes the game is too easy but to be fair my original rules were changed slightly without my knowledge in the printed version to make the game easier. Fortunatly that problem has been corrected and the next installment of the Rattenkreig postcard series, The battle for the Barrikady Factory will be a bit more ... challenging devil

Thanks for the comment! I'm sorry to hear that your rules were changed. I look forward to your next game. Do you know when it will be released?
 
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Steven Cunliffe
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Yes it should be out in a few months...
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Marcelo Prado Silva
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Stalingrad Steve wrote:

... my original rules were changed slightly without my knowledge in the printed version to make the game easier.

Can I please have a copy of the original rules?
It's alright if you can't or won't send me them though, no problem, realy.
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Steven Cunliffe
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I will see what I can do, I only have a copy of what I sent to the pubisher and it is different than the final version ,hold tight.
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Mike NZ
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Any news on those original rules please
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Steve Kling
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Any update on Barrikady??
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Steve Kling
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Apparently, the game has been submitted and will be published in the spring though the release decision is the publishers and it is subject to change by them.
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todd sanders
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i think i am going to retheme this with some adjustments/upgrades as a fantasy quest style game and use some of kwanchi's melee counters as the units
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