Stalingrad 42 - Operation Uranus and game design

Stalingrad 42 Gold looks positively great.  The new map graphics and unit tiles are splendid. The gamplay sounds pretty good too. 

I want to play Operation Uranus from the German perspective.  I have three options on my laptop (isn't technology great):  War in the East, Decisive Campaigns: Case Blue and John Tiller Software's Stalingrad 42.

Tonight, I want to get really granular, so I choose the JTS title.

Each game turn represents two hours of historical time.  This scenario has 306 turns (25+ days of battle)!

Turn 1:  Stavka catches the Sixth Army and supporting forces by surprise (not really) and begins a steady bombardment along the front from west to east and around Stalingrad. followed by a mass advance of infantry and tanks in every direction. 

At the 35 minute mark of the AI processing the Russian player of turn, I switch to "Fast AI" processing, the Russian turn lasts an additional 11 minutes.

At the 39 minute mark of actual game time AI processing for the first Russian turn the casualties are above.

Somewhere around the 46 minute mark, the first Soviet turn stops processing and finishes (I clearly should have chosen Fast AI processing sooner).  

Russian casualties for two hours of combat are: 1 gun, 0 vehicles and 350 men over a front hundreds of kilometers long.

German casualties are: 137 men, 0 guns and 10 vehicles (those Romanians!)

Something seems off and it isn't just the casualties total...(projecting the same rate of loss over the full scenario: 107k losses for the Russians and 32k for the Germans).

Can you imagine the development time that went into a scenario this big?  The OOB research alone would be killer. This is one scenario (albeit the largest) of a large game covering operations in and around Stalingrad.

How many people do you think will finish a 300+ turn scenario with a processing time that slow?

I don't blame the game engine or my computer for that (this was a big battle!), I blame the scenario designers for giving me Operation Uranus as a scenario for this game and more importantly as a gamer I blame my own expectations for forcing them to do so.

Had I bought this title and not seen a Uranus scenario, I likely would have blogged about it.  I bitch about a lot less in gaming and omitting this portion of the battle would have been a glaring error by JTS. 

Heck, I've actually said aloud and written on this blog and in forums, why aren't there more scenarios in this Stalingrad 42 game that cover the late summer/early fall period of the Stalingrad campaign. My guess is, that this scenario is a big reason why.  

The game designers had to have put a lot of work into the signature scenario that no one can play/finish. Oh I am sure people have finished, but I don't think it was fun for anyone. 

So what is the point of this blog?  I humbly submit the following:

To gamers:  (Myself included) Cut designers some slack.  Design concessions are made and should be made for gameplay purposes.  Historical chrome is great, size is great too, but if the game descends into an unplayable hell, no one wins.  

To designers:  (And I humbly count myself as a newbie one) Design scenarios and choose a historical focus that makes your game engine shine.  Don't try to be everything to everybody, be really good at one thing: gameplay.

There are a number of really good, medium length scenarios in this title and the Gold version is going to be worth every penny when it is released.  Just avoid this Operation Uranus scenario when you play, and focus on the others.  

If I could recommend one to start, begin with "Hoth's Gamble," it is my favorite.


Casey said…
I wouldn't mind the massive scenarios if I was able to delegate responsibility to the AI for certain units. For example task the Northern Regiments to the AI with a given goal while I focus on the Southern forces.

Command Ops does this well as you can give orders to just an HQ and watch as the plan is executed well, sometimes better than if you'd done it yourself. I just don't have the patience to micromanage a thousand counters when I'd be perfectly happening calling the big shots.
Chris said…
Hi Casey. Thanks for your comment. I agree. I love Command Ops for that reason. I wish there was an official release of an Eastern Front game for it.
Marco Diaz said…
Damn, it's exacltly what I was thinking. I started a game in this scenario with another dude a few months ago and it burns out pretty quickly for me, the scope is great but moving companies in an OOB of +30 divisions becomes a work in itself, and it's unbelievable that the game doesn't have a delegation feature as Command Ops to move the troops. Also the artillery still doesn't convence me, it seems as the king of the battlefield is nerfed in these PC, and it favours the clash of rifles and MGs as the ones who do the real damage (in opposition of the reports of real warfare). I'll perhaps try a smaller scenario, these campaigns are too much counters too far.
Anonymous said…
Any gamewithout option of dekwgating things to AI with the current CPUs is a flop. It would be much easier and more realistic.
Jimmy said…
I would like to see wargames move in the direction of Command Ops, or Decisive Campaigns Barbarossa which had a layer of political decision making and a lot of abstracted elements to simulate that campaign. Focus on UI, interesting gameplay/decision-making mechanics, and AI over OOBs and giant maps and unit counts.
rithkhmer said…
! thank for good post and sharing......
Anonymous said…
If you don't like the larger scenarios then just play the many smaller ones! I enjoy the larger scenarios myself.
Chris said…
I am glad I now know someone who likes the larger ones...:)

And I do play the smaller ones!
Anonymous said…
You can move the units you wish to and then click the "Activate A/I" and that will kick in and finish up the turn.

I prefer the monster games, and not using the AI myself. ;-)
Grognerd said…
You would have liked Case Blue - Well designed war game (mostly). As I play mostly from a historical perspective the fact that the Soviet AI was programmed aggressive and not historical gave me a bit of an issue. Have played the Tiller series, they are a bit tedious though. Command Ops seems to nail how I like to play mostly.

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