Alternative Titles/Edition History:
1st Edition, 1997; 2nd "Retro" Edition, 2012; 3rd Edition (Tractor Works), 2014; 4th Edition (To the Volga 1), 2018
Critical Hit (1997, 2nd "Retro" Edition, 2012; 3rd Edition, 2014; 4th Edition, 2018)
Country of Origin:
1st Edition: 4-page rulebook, 22" x 34" historical map, play aid cards, 2 campaign games, 4 scenarios.
2nd Edition (i.e., Retro Dzerhezinsky Tractor Works): 22" x 34" historical map, 8-page rulebook, 5 scenarios, 2 campaign games
3rd Edition (i.e., Tractor Works): historical map formed from 4 12" x 18" light cardstock map panels; 6 scenarios
4th Edition (i.e., To the Volga 1): historical map formed from 9 glossy 12" x 18" heavy paper/light cardstock map panels, 8 pages rules, 1 1/2" countersheet (280 counters) and 1 5/8" countersheet (176 counters) for 456 die-cut counters total, 11 scenarios. SEE ENTRY FOR CONTENTS OF SUPPLEMENTS/VARIANTS.Commentary:
The Dzerhezinsky Tractor Works is a historical module depicting the German 305th Infantry Division’s attack (with supporting elements) on the Dzerhezinsky Tractor Factory, defended by the 37th Guards Rifle Division, in October 1942. It features a large, very attractive hand-painted historical map of the Tractor Works area. Some have criticized the hexgrid because it too was hand-drawn, but this doesn’t seem to pose any real problem. A greater problem is that the hexes are small, which can lead to counter crush. Two campaign games are included, CG-TW1 (The Volga Corridor), with 6 CG dates, and CG-TW2 (Seizing the Factory), with five CG dates, as well as five scenarios. The Red Barricades module is needed to play this module as well, as its special rules and several other rules are referenced in the DTW rules.
The main attraction of this module is the chance to play on this striking historical map, although the enjoyment is lessened somewhat by the small hex sizes. This is an issue in the campaign games more than in most of the scenarios (however, some people were disappointed that only four scenarios came with the module, although a fifth, very meaty, scenario appears in Critical Hit Magazine’s special Stalingrad issue). An SASL mission appeared in Vol. 5, No.1 of the magazine.
Opinion on this game is sharply divided between detractors and fans; in the end, it may come down to subjective and individual preferences. The map was re-used three more times, once in Valor of the 37th Guards, with larger hexes but a smaller map area, once more in Stalin’s Fury, which uses just a small portion of the map with very large hex sizes, and again in Ivan’s War, which re-uses the Stalin’s Fury version of the map.
2nd Edition (i.e., Retro Dzerhezinsky Tractor Works) Commentary: In 2012, Critical Hit released a reprint of the Tractor Works module, allegedly spurred by finding more cases of the original maps in their warehouse. Consequently, this reprint includes the original map, plus new versions of the rules and scenarios (the 4 original ones plus the 5th that appeared in Critical Hit Magazine). There’s probably no reason for owners of the original version (or Valor of the 37th Guards) to purchase this, but newer ASLers who are Stalingrad fanatics might possibly be interested.
DTW Retro Action Packed Scenario Set comments: Although one might not think it possible for these incestuous relationships to grow even more intertwined, in 2012, Critical Hit reprinted six re-named scenarios “ported over to the full map from Stalin’s Fury.” These scenarios have more lives than a Hindu cat.
|DTW AP#1||Too Close for Comfort||Appeared as On Yeremenko’s Orders in Valor of the 37th Guards and as Ivan’s Way in Ivan’s War|
|DTW AP#2||Cut in Two||Appeared as Yards Measured in Blood in Valor of the 37th Guards|
|DTW AP#3||Progress Measured In…||Appeared as Back to the Front in Valor of the 37th Guards and in Ivan’s War|
|DTW AP#4||Stalingrad Street Fighters||Appeared as Burgerbraukeller Boast in Ivan’s War and as Beer Cellar Boast in Valor of the 37th Guards|
|DTW AP#5||Killing Zones||Appeared as Panzer Graveyard in Ivan’s War|
|DTW AP#6||Four Men and a Baby…MG||Appeared as Gonychar’s Stand in Ivan’s War|
Tractor Works comments: In 2014, Critical Hit released yet another product retreading various Dzerhezinsky components. This map artwork has been used not only in Dzerhezinsky Tractor Works, but in Valor of the 37th Guards, Ivan’s War, and Stalin’s Fury, almost all of which had multiple editions or variants. With the same scenarios, often with different names, appearing in multiple versions of these different products, things are so incestuous that it is really difficult now to know whether a new iteration is a descendant of one or another of them. Tractor Works (TW), the latest of this painfully endless series of re-treads, has been placed here, under Dzerhezinsky Tractor Works, rather arbitrarily, based on the name and the use of a large map area.
Tractor Works contains no rules, just a few lines on one of the scenario cards giving a couple of terrain examples and explaining that Red Barricades is needed. The map, which is labeled STALL II, though it portrays a larger area than that in Stalin’s Fury II, is printed on 4 12″ x 18″ map panels made from glossy thick paper/light cardstock (about the same thickness of official overlays). The four slightly-overlapping sections must be assembled to form the full map. This can be annoying, as can the reflective glare of the glossy finish, but the colors and graphics do pop from the map. The hexes are decent-sized.
The product comes with six scenarios, four of which come from Stalin’s Fury and two of which are cannibalized from scenarios appearing in DTW and Ivan’s War.
There is no reason to get this product over any of the other endless versions. Michael Keaton proved in the movie Multiplicity what happens when you clone something too many times. And, at $39.95, it is significantly overpriced (by at least a factor of two).
4th Edition (To the Volga 1: Battle for the Tractor Works) Comments: In 2018, Critical Hit used the Tractor Works map design as the basis for an ambitious series of ASL-compatible products, which it dubbed the “To the Volga” series. Similar to Critical Hit’s Normandy Series of modules, the goal of the “To the Volga” series is to present all the city fighting at Stalingrad at the ASL level, something achievable because of the unique layout of Stalingrad: a long, narrow city pressed up against a long stretch of the Volga. The first stage of this project involved recasting the Dzerhezinsky Tractor Works module and Critical Hit’s Hill of Blood module as “To the Volga” products with new artwork. The second stage will involve creating new modules for other stretches of Stalingrad, including those featured in official modules such as Red Barricades, Red Factories/Red October, and Valor of the Guards, as well as areas never before explored in ASL historical modules.
Ambitious, indeed, and it is a shame that it is Critical Hit and not some other publisher that is attempting to accomplish it, as Desperation Morale has no confidence that Critical Hit will be able to produce developed, playtested products worthy of the ambitious goals.
Certainly of all the To the Volga products, To the Volga 1 is the easiest for Critical Hit to produce, and, having the oldest heritage, probably the one with the most value for players, as some of the scenarios are old enough possibly to have been actually playtested.
To the Volga 1 is based on the attractive hand-painted map artwork created by Don Petros for the original Tractor Works product, artwork that Critical Hit has re-used countless times in numerous products (see above for a recounting). However, here Critical Hit finally abandoned Petros’ version for a new, computer-drawn version of the same map. No credit is given to the artist (nor is Don Petros given credit; indeed, for that matter, none of the original designers and playtesters are given credit except for Pete Mudge). The map uses Red Barricades-sized hexes (1″) rather than the smaller hexes of the original map and is formed by assembling 9 glossy 12″ x 18″ heavy paper/light cardstock map panels. Assembling so many panels can be a pain but most scenarios only use a portion of the map and the map is indeed attractive.
For the To the Volga series, the map has been given a different hue than the original, replacing the yellowish hue with a more orange hue that is designed to ape the look and feel of the Red Barricades artwork. Generally speaking, the artwork for the To the Volga 1 map is very good. The new building artwork is crisp and very detailed, with nice attention to minutiae–some of the buildings with corrugated roofs, for example, have some of their corrugated metal panels detached and hanging. There is fine attention to detail on the water towers as well as the factories–even the tall smokestacks cast shadows. Many of the buildings are labeled with their names or functions. The only aspect of the artwork which is not top rate are some of the wooden buildings, which appear to be older Critical Hit artwork imported onto the map. These buildings are easily distinguishable from the newer artwork additions by their lack of detail and interior fuzziness. One could also criticize all the machine parts yard hexes, as each and every one of them uses identical artwork. It would not have been very time-consuming to vary that up. Overall, however, there is little to complain about regarding the map and it would not be surprising if some ASLers bought the module for the map alone.
To the Volga 1 comes with 8 pages of rules, which include a lengthy historical summary. The rules primarily deal with terrain: Railroads and (hard-to-see) Railcars, Machine Parts Yards, Fountains, Factories, Wooden Fences, Storage Tanks, Gravel Piles, and so forth. There are also rules for Command Tank AFVs, Fanatic Strongpoints, MG Crew Fire Direction, Manhole Elimination. All the rules are short and sweet. Red Barricade rules are also in play.
The module also comes with 11 scenarios, including TW2 (On To the Volga!), a 25-turn monster scenario using the whole map that is provided in lieu of any campaign game. It features a German force of 60 squads, 9 guns, and 20 AFVs (as well as toys such as no less than 6 flamethrowers) attacking a Soviet force of 86 squads, 15 guns, many fortifications, and 14 AFVs (including 2 flamethrowing tanks). Most of the scenarios have been recycled many times before by Critical Hit in various incarnations and under a variety of names–some as many as half a dozen times.
To the Volga 1 also comes with two countersheets. The first is a standard Soviet Infantry/SW countersheet that includes no new counters. The second is a sheet of 5/8″ counters, half Soviet and half Germans (though the German counters appear in Critical Hit’s variant “feldgrau” color and are thus not compatible with official German counters). Neither countersheet looks as if it were designed for this module.
Now, here is where things get really confusing. At the same time as Critical Hit released To the Volga 1, it also released, for separate purchase, a huge number of map-related accessories for To the Volga 1. Unlike most other Critical Hit products of this era, where such accessories simply consisted of either larger-hex versions of the original maps or alternate-palette versions of the original maps, in this case, some of these accessories may also contain scenarios or significant map feature alterations as well. One cannot help thinking that much of this was deliberate on the part of Critical Hit in order to get compulsive ASLers to buy a number of these expensive accessories.
Here are the accessories created for To the Volga 1:
- Volga 1 Gutted!. Price: $79.95. This add-on (NOT an independent product) provides a variant version of the To the Volga 1 map that adds more shellholes, debris, rubble and gutted buildings to the original map artwork. It provides no instructions for use (such as saying that scenarios set on the Volga 1 map after Date X should use the Gutted map instead). Critical Hit claims this product also includes a “new copy of the Volga Special Rules on their own card for both systems,” whatever that means, but the mystery turns out to be irrelevant as the product does not actually include such a card. Gutted! also includes “6 brand new scenarios.” The historical descriptions for these scenarios (TW17-TW22) are plagiarized from the Stalingrad Battle Atlas. It appears that the scenarios here were either created based on the fragmentary mentions in the Battle Atlas or conjured up out of whole cloth, but given a historical description related to a passage from the book. It is unlikely that they were playtested.
- To the Volga 1a: Gutted Barrikady (aka Volga GUTTED! 1a). Price: $59.95. It is not at all clear what this is. Is it half of the above accessory? Something else? Critical Hit claims it includes “12 new scenarios” and a “Special Rules card.”
- To the Volga 1b: Gutted Barricady (aka Volga GUTTED! 1b). Price: $59.95. Again, just not clear what this is. Includes “12 new scenarios” and a “Special Rules card.”
- To the Volga 1 Monster Map Set. Price $89.95. An extra-large hex version of the map; seems to use 20 12″ x 18″ map panels to create.
- To the Volga 1 Uber Monster Map Set. Price: $99.95. An extra-extra large hex version of the map, requiring 40 12″ x 18″ map panels to create.
- To the Volga 1: Stalingrad Winter Stand. $59.95. An alternate version of the To the Volga 1 map that includes 1) winterized terrain and 2) more rubble and devastation (suggesting that this is actually a winterized version of the Gutted alternate map). This accessory also includes “4 bonus scenarios set on the winter map.”
- To the Volga 1 Winter Monster Map Set. Price $89.95. An extra-large hex version of the winterized version of the map.
- To the Volga 1 Uber Monster Map Set – Winter. Price $129.95. An extra-extra large hex version of the winterized version of the map.
If you can imagine the inherent compulsive collectorness of many ASLers, you can see how it might be difficult for some of them to resist purchasing the gutted maps for the new terrain or the Winter Stand product for the “bonus scenarios.” To not do so might leave an aching little black hole in their hearts. However, if someone were to buy all the To the Volga products and accessories for all the anticipated To the Volga modules, they would in the end be forking over literally thousands of dollars for no real reward.
Konrad Heumann says
Critical Hit is a joke. A very expensive, nonsensical joke. It’s what happens when someone floods the market with crap in an effort to make a buck. No love for the hobby – just greed.
Konrad Heumann says
Also, if you want a good laugh, look at the Critical Hit errata page.
[Hint: there is none – and that’s with 160 pages of crap products]