When I reviewed the new version of Tide of Iron from 1A games, I found the game to have great components, unique scenarios, and solid mechanics that blended well together to create a memorable tactical war game experience.
It isn’t a game for the general gaming audience, rather a game that is best enjoyed over and over again with the same people. Even though there are plenty of scenarios in the box and online, players could eventually grow tired of playing as American and German forces across northwestern Europe.
Fear not! There are four expansions you can purchase that add new locations and Soviet and British troops to your arsenal. Today, we will be looking at one of those expansions, Tide of Iron: Stalingrad. This expansion allows players to battle as either Soviet or German troops in urban warfare. Let’s get into what this expansion brings to see if it is worthy of adding to your war gaming experience with Tide of Iron.
The Stalingrad expansion has almost as much content and pieces as the main game. It includes all the bases, figures, tanks and everything else that you need to build your Soviet troops. These maintain the same quality as the miniatures in the main game. There is also a few new vehicle units for the German player, as well as some specialization tokens to give your units even more personality.
The other components add the dense urban terrain to the game. These show the heavily built-up areas within large cities that look decimated by war. There are also tiles that can be placed on top of the map to show railways, collapsed buildings, fountains and bombarded terrain. All of these new additions look fantastic on the table and blend in well with the components in the main game. I also like that the game comes in a shelf friendly box like the new edition of Tide of Iron. Despite the enormous amount of bits in the game, there is plenty of room in the smaller box.
Just like in my review of Tide of Iron, I won’t be going over every detail about what is included in this expansion. I’m going to highlight what I think are the three major additions to the game that make this expansion unique. If you want to look at more detailed overview of everything included, I suggest you read the rule book here.
The first thing I want to go over is the new troops being added to the battle. The Soviet forces have similar move and fight values as their American and German counterparts. Besides the troop bits are also new specialization and restriction tokens to add mounted units, submachine guns, unarmed units, snipers, and few others to a player’s arsenal.
The game also adds campaign rules for four linked scenarios included in the game. While each of these scenarios can be played by themselves, using the campaign rules adds a new experience. This campaign doesn’t follow a single unit, but focuses on key skirmishes of the overall battle. There are new command decks for players to purchase and use, but the major change is how command objectives are handled. There are now three types of command objectives to represent ammunition, supply, and morale that players can earn command points during the game. These command points will be used to use cards from the new command decks.
The format during the game is played like regular scenarios except that there is now a Campaign Phase in between each scenario. Players will earn Campaign Victory Points that will determine who won the scenario. Players will then total the number of command objectives in each of the three types they have accumulated this scenario and those determine what benefits or restrictions a player will have to deal with in the next scenario. They can also use these points to buy additional resources. The player with the most Campaign Victory Points at the end of the four scenarios wins.
The last thing I want to mention is about the effects urban terrain has on game play. Differing types of terrain you would find in a city during war-time are littered all over the board. All of these additions like fountains, collapsed buildings, and bombarded terrain have varying movement cost and cover values for the units in them. However, there are two new additions that I want to focus on and those are buildings and sewer movement. The buildings are assigned a level limit token at the start of the game that add up to three levels that players can send their units upward. These buildings provide advantages for troops shooting at others in the city. These buildings can also be destroyed by players that choose to attack it with tanks and other vehicles in the game.
The Soviet player can also use their unit’s knowledge of the sewer system to their advantage. A unit can enter a sewer spot on the board and gain a set amount of movement each turn. These units will move slower than on the city streets, but they can also pop up behind enemy lines and gain the upper hand.
Game Experience with Expansion:
Tide of Iron has an incredible amount of replay value with just the content in the base game. The different scenarios and objectives keep the game fresh as you have to adjust your strategy accordingly to deal with those new wrinkles. For me, a problem arises because it’s always the same type of setting on a rolling field. When I started to look at the components for the Stalingrad expansion I could tell the problem would go away very quickly.
This dense urban setting breathes new life into Tide of Iron. The artwork on the map and tile pieces makes the ruin city tiles pop off the table. It also does a nice job of conveying the dreariness of war in an urban setting. One concern I had with this new setting was if the new rules would muddle up the game play. Thankfully while the rules do take some time to learn, they don’t add much complexity to the game. Why not? The features in the city that dot the landscape are replacements for the obstacles you have in the base game. The hills, ponds and forest are replaced with buildings, fountains and collapsed buildings. They are all very similar in their effects on movement and cover, however the new additions are not just reskins of old terrain.
Even though these new terrain features are nice additions, I would have been upset with the game had it not included at least some new game play elements. Thankfully the Stalingrad expansion did just that.
The addition of sewer movement and buildings add some excellent variability to the game play. The sewer movement allows the Soviet player to employ more deception by using their local knowledge of the septic system. I enjoyed using this element when I was playing as the Soviet player. While the movement is slower than on the surface, it forces the other player to constantly wonder where and when those troops would show up.
The buildings in the game adds more than their hill counterparts did in the base game. It gives some of your troops and vehicles another thing to shoot at, always a plus, and also adds a new place for your troops to explore. It lends itself to what I feel is a better narrative story of exploring a building and a shootout with other troops. I do appreciate that these new mechanics add a new wrinkle to the game play without causing a large wave of confusion.
The rulebook in Tide of Iron: Stalingrad has the same format, detail, and clarity as what was found in the new edition of Tide of Iron rulebook. There are plenty of visual examples and explanation to make all of the new rules, terrain, and tokens implemented very quickly. It is one of the rare rulebooks I think over explains the rules, but I would rather have it that way.
Everything above would make this expansion decent, but not a must buy in my opinion. What saves it from this rating is the addition of a campaign setting. When you play a scenario, you don’t have to think of the consequences of your decisions outside of that one game. The campaign rules add brand new command objectives that give players access to new strategy cards. With each objective now earning you either ammunition, moral, or supply command to be used with the initiative board or to activate cards from their respective strategy decks. I find these cards to be very helpful in your scenario and worth the time to send troops to achieve enough command to use them. It gives players another thing to think about as they play the game which is something I enjoy.
However, the best thing about this new campaign is how the command objectives make each scenario feel like a small battle in a large assault. With the total amount of command you have of each type either gaining you an advantage or forcing you to make sacrifices with your troop resources. These are not necessarily game breaking consequences, but they are not insignificant. They are constantly in the back of players minds as they spend the command during the game. With the addition of the different types of command adds a whole new level to the game.
I will come out and say it, if you like Tide of Iron then you will like what this expansion has to offer. It gives you new locations and terrain that breaks up the traditional battle landscape included in the base game.
The Tide of Iron: Stalingrad expansion also adds a new campaign mode for players to experience and I found it to be my favorite addition to the game. Adding a sense of scope beyond the one scenario gives players a different perspective of the battle and the decision they have to make. The artwork is stunning and another solid rule book makes picking up and playing this game very easy. If you want to add some spice to your traditional Tide of Iron game, I think should add Stalingrad to your collection.
If you are interested in getting a copy for yourself, it’s about $60
• Campaign mode adds a fascinating new way to play
• Easy to integrate into the main game
• Component quality on par with the base game
• Doesn’t make that game more accessible