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Kharkov follows its predecessor Salerno (link) as the second installment of the Variable Combat Series (VCS). It covers the failed Soviet offensive to recapture that city and the subsequent German counterattack during the spring of 1942, which produced the last great pocket of Soviet prisoners. The game is based primarily on "Kharkov 1942: Anatomy of a Military Disaster" by David Glantz, with some order of battle enhancement by George Nafziger, and maps based on post-war USGS surveys (themselves taken from wartime Soviet surveys). Players conduct operations as either Soviet commander Semyon Timoshenko or German commander Fedor von Bock. The Second Battle of Kharkov is the perfect gaming situation to entice players into the world of strength chits. It's a battle not often covered by other titles, and features actions where both sides were attacker and defender. Game scale is 3 miles per hex and one day per turn. Units are primarily German regiments and Soviet divisions. Components include two 22" x 34" maps and 700 1/2" counters, including over 350 units.
#1 Northern Pincer: This historical scenario uses a portion of one map as an introduction to the full campaign. It provides players a look at one thrust of a two-part plan designed to capture Kharkov. The goal of this scenario is to study the true threat to German intentions posed by the Soviet forces east of the city. 6 turns (12-17 May), one map.
#2 lzyum Salient: This is the full historical campaign, covering both offensives, as the battle flows back and forth across the steppe. You can use all the bells and whistles for this one. 16 turns (12-27 May), both maps.
#3 Aggressive Timoshenko: This is a hypothetical situation that assumes the Soviets are ready to attack on the original planned kick-off date. The scenario plays the same as the historical campaign, but is shifted to 8 days earlier. The initial setup is slightly modified and some German reinforcements take longer to arrive. 20 turns (4-23 May), both maps.
#4 Passive Timoshenko: This is another hypothetical situation that places the Soviets on a stronger footing. The scenario postulates that Timoshenko did not propose his attack plans to Stalin who himself was more occupied with other sections of the front. In this case, FRIDERICUS is launched as planned by the Germans against a dug-in and defensive-minded Soviet force. Will there still be a pocket? 10 turns (18-27 May), one map.
New rules include:
• The effect of rain, mud, and swollen rivers on the early stages of the battle.
• Now with the use of two modes, artillery loses its ability to move freely and still provide support to any unit within range. You now must plan how and when to move your artillery forward to support an advance.
• Stacking of Soviet units is different than that of Allied units in VCS Salerno.
• The addition of headquarters is used to portray the Soviet command structure in a more accurate way.
• Air missions are expanded to cover more options.
• Soviet doctrine restrictions reflect the rigidity of the Soviet command structure in the early years of the war.
Game Design: Greg Blanchett, who has a Kharkov folder on Consimworld (link) and also a game page on BoardGameGeek you might like to visit (link).
*Note: the image above is playtest art.
preorder: March 28, 2017
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