Pavlov's House: a solo board game AAR

Hmph.

And that’s from being stored flat for decades.

Ah, jeez, yeah, sorry – you must have Counter Gnomes…

I’ve heard if you clip the counters, the gnomes can’t hold onto them because they’re too smooth.

The game flow is as follows: first, the player (me) draws four cards from the Soviet deck. Each card has two possible options on it, OR it could be a deadweight Fog of War card. The player gets to take three actions, no more than one from each card.

Then, the German deck goes to work. You draw three cards (one at a time, resolve, then the next, etc.) which will place various obstacles and such onto the board. You can interact with these using your board assets (i.e. defend yourself).

Lastly, you move three counters in the house, and then perform three counter actions. Movement and Actions are separate.

Note: there are a couple situations that increase the number of card actions or counter moves you can make. I will point them out as we go.

The game ends when the German deck is exhausted, or when a zombie gets in the house.

The game starts with the four initial counters (soldiers) in the reserve box in Pavlov’s House. I will get to move these in a bit. First, though, I draw four Soviet cards. This deck has three Fog of War cards in it, but otherwise is not “seeded” in any way.

I can use three of these actions, only one per card. There is an entire player aid that outlines the Soviet card actions, a player aid that outlines the Wehrmacht (German Army) card effects, and a third one that enumerates the counter actions. If you look in a previous post, you can see I have arranged these cards left-to-right closest to me, The Player. Handy!

The point of the right-hand operational display is to build up assets that will defend you or resupply you or otherwise be beneficial. One of the “extra ability” conditions is that if I ever have all four Signal Communication tokens (guy on a telephone pole, numbered 14-17) placed at the beginning of my turn, I can take FOUR actions. I like that, so let’s place a token on 14.

Looks like a genius move already. But even though I have three of these signal cards available, I have multiple issues that need addressing. Something that I know is going to happen to me (because I read the rules) is that I am going to get hit by airstrikes. I can mitigate this somewhat by preparing anti-aircraft defenses. So I use another card to place an AA token on space 9.

Lastly, I have a 13th Guards Infantry Division action available. My feeling is that if you can take this, you should, because this is how you get reinforcements. I can choose six “points” (those little yellow dots in the lower right corner of each counter) worth of help.

I want to get some heavy weapons in the house before the board starts filling up, so I choose a machine gun as well as two men to crew it. So Bondarenko and Jonathan Chait grab their DP28 LMG and head over to Pavlov’s House, along with Majishashvili. The game has hard distinctions between counters – partly for gameplay reasons, I’m sure – that prevent soldiers from being too multifunctional: to crew a machine gun, you must have the “G” ability. Note that neither Bondy nor Chait has any numbers next to his portrait like Masijashvili has, so neither of them can ever attack, nor can they ever suppress. Conversely, Masi can never crew a weapon.

They get placed in the Reserves box of the house map, and will still need to be deployed by a move.

Now for the Wehrmacht deck (three cards)…

The Wehrmacht deck – unlike the Soviet deck – is seeded with separate “waves” or something numbered 1-5. The composition of the deck goes from “softening up” with air and artillery to direct assault by armo(u)r and infantry. I did not pay too much attention to the exact composition of each wave, or maybe I did, but I set up the deck days ago and I have since mostly forgotten. In between each wave will be a “Resupply” card that requires me to have one “Food” token inside the house for every five soldiers. Again, a hat tip to the pioneering influence of zombie games such as Rebuild 2. Any extra soldiers become casualties. I only have two foods in the house right now, which kind of puts a cap on my crew at ten soldiers, until I can get the Volga boatmen to deliver some more supplies.

One thing that the game uses to enhance the effect of the Wehrmacht deck is something called “tactics cards.” These are cards that are drawn once per turn (so they affect the three Wehrmacht cards drawn for that turn only). HOWEVER, if you look at the rules, you will find this admonishment:

Ouch. This is the first game I am playing. Thus, I cannot use these cards. Now, the owner of this website has referred to things like this as being “baby mode” (in the appropriate tone of voice) and would likely just ignore this. However, there are places, such as in certain excessively rule-following blue states, where failure to observe these restrictions can result in fine and even imprisonment. Thus, I will not be doing this. For those who would like to see how the game would have turned out in an alternate universe, though, I am going to draw a tactics card for each turn, and simply not use it. You can thus see how things might have been different, if not for an excessive regulatory burden.

So, after all that:

Apparently the tactics card got mixed up in here from the CS:GO boardgame, but the actual Wehrmacht card is a Stuka. The top number is how many Stukas are attacking. The bottom number is the Stuka defense strength. Normally, I would roll 3d6 three times (once for each Stuka) to attack the assets on the board numbered 3-18. However, since I have an anti-aircraft counter on the board, I can choose to remove it and roll two dice against the raid. Each “hit” (equal to or greater than the Stuka defense strength) nullifies one Stuka. If I had multiple AA counters, I could remove them for more dice. But I just have the one.

I roll two dice…

One hit and one miss. The Stuka strike goes down from three planes to two…

Area 11, an artillery emplacement, gets a Disrupt counter. In order to ready an artillery piece in that area, I will first have to spend a card action to clear the Disrupt.

Now for the second Stuka…

A 12. That disrupts an AA emplacement. If I had had a counter there (readied AA), it would have been removed. Since there is no counter there, it gets a disrupt marker instead.

That’s just the first Wehrmacht card. Two more to go.

I gotta hand it to you, Geryk, you have hit on the single worst solution to this conundrum.

Okay, that’s pretty cool. I am liking this operational system.

-Tom

AIUI, that’s a 267th card rather than a 1083rd card so the AA token should go on one of the top two AA sites. Not that it made any difference.

Absolutely right, thanks for pointing that out! I had a 1083rd Regt card that I was using (fourth card in my hand) but I picked up the wrong card to photograph. Thanks for making the point that the card designations DO matter.

The second Wehrmacht card … is also a Stuka.

I don’t have any more ready AA counters, so I will just have to take the airstrike. Note, though, that this is a two-plane raid, not three like the previous one. (Terminology-wise, I doubt that this is actually just two aircraft, but whatever the unit involved (Staffel? Gruppe?) there are just two of them this time.)

Also note that the tactics card (pictured), which we would be using if we were in a more business-friendly state, wouldn’t have changed, as it remains throughout the three-card Wehrmacht deck phase.

I roll an 11. (Btw, for the rest of the game, I will not be including pictures of the dice tower with dice in it. You can just use your imaginations.) Space 11, though, already has a Disrupt marker on it. The rule is that if you need to place a Disrupt marker on a space that already has one, go to the next-higher-numbered space. Which in my case is 12, and which already has a Disrupt marker. So we have to go to 13.

I roll a 15 for the second Stuka, and place a Disrupt marker there.

Btw, when I said that spaces with a Disrupt marker push you to the next-higher-numbered space, there is one exception. If you ever have to place a Disrupt marker on space 18 (62nd Army HQ) but cannot, because there is already one there, you immediately lose the game.

Coincidentally, this means that the chance of losing the game on two consecutive die rolls just happens to be exactly the same chance that you have in AD&D to get a character with Strength 18 and Intelligence 18. I actually had one, once, and became a multi-class Fighter/Magic-User. But then I was still restricted to the magic-user armor limitations, which I thought was really dumb for a fighter, until I did some more research and found out that the reason magic-users can only wear cloth armor is that they have to be free to make magical gestures! This makes perfect sense and is also historically accurate, so I’m ok with this now, whereas in junior high school it was just disappointing, especially after rolling 18 twice in a row.

Anyway, next card…

… is 150mm artillery.

Here is what some people asked about upthread. Artillery does damage to the building. Each part of Pavlov’s House has a defence value. They all start at “6,” noted by the green shield counters over the current defense value (see arrows below).

To hit, the artillery needs to roll at least once equal to the defense value of that part of the house. The number of successes is irrelevant. Thus, if the current defense value is “5,” any roll of 5-6 is sufficient to reduce the defense by one (and only one, for that card).

First, you roll to see which part of the house is targeted. That’s on the artillery card. I roll a “4” which corresponds to the red area. (Actually kind of pinkish, but whatever.) Like I said above, each area starts with a defense of “6.” The 150mm (15cm) artillery rolls five dice (which is the “5” on the card next to “Attack Building.” All it needs for success is a single “6.”

Which doesn’t happen!

The barrage either hit but had no effect, or was full of duds, or just sailed overhead into the Volga. Pavlov’s House isn’t very forthcoming with the role-playing explanations for what happens, so you’ll have to invent your own. If this came up in a game of Stormbringer, and I were the DM, I would say that the rounds were eaten by Mother Russia.

That’s all the Wehrmacht cards for this turn. Now I get to move counters, and finally take counter actions.

For the counters, I first make three Moves. (Exception: if I have all three counters with the “C” (Command) ability in the house and manning a position (i.e. not is Reserves), I get an extra move.)

Then, I can take three Actions. Moving does not Exhaust counters, but Actions can. So…

My moves are as follows: I want to get the machine gun deployed as soon as possible, so I move Bondarenko and Chait from the reserves to green/red position 1-2 (top left corner of house). One of them takes the machine gun. Pavlov moves to blue-purple-whatever position 1. That is three moves. (The machine gun is free, carried by one guy, let’s say Bondarenko.) Moving does NOT exhaust counters.

Now I want to lay down some suppression in case the Germans start an advance next turn. I have 10 suppression markers in the Supplies box. The machine gun has an Attack/Suppression rating of 2/3, meaning it can attack for 2, or suppress for 3. Since there are no Germans to attack, I choose suppression and move three (due to the suppression 3 rating) grey cubes from the Supplies box to the Suppression box corresponding to the colo(u)r(s) to which I have line of sight. Since I am in a green/red box (as I am in the corner of the building), I can place suppression either into the green area or the red area. Since the red area has a 50% chance of getting any new Germans in it, I will place the suppression there. This represents expenditure of ammo (which came out of my supplies, and will have to be replenished). Because it takes two counters to crew a machine gun, I have to Exhaust both Bondarenko and Chait, and this counts as two counter actions.

They also get marked with a “Suppress” token, which I won’t do because it doesn’t matter (as it will just come off at the end of the turn). But what I specifically can’t do is use Pavlov’s “C” (Command) ability to issue a Recover command to Bondarenko and Chait, because they are marked with an action token (Suppress) and thus can’t be flipped pack to unexhausted this turn. However, next turn Pavlov can flip them for free if he so chooses. He will just become Exhausted as a result.

That’s the end of Turn 1.

For Turn 2, I added a Fog of War card to the deck because I placed a Disrupt marker on my communications last turn.

Also, a reader pointed out that the Suppression I placed could have been split between green and red, as the machine gun had line of sight to both areas and thus could distribute suppression markers between them i any way I wished. That’s a good trick to know.

I draw a new Soviet hand with the extra FoW card added to it …

You lost me at “Chinese Wuhan virus.”

…and here is my hand:

I feel like I need to use that 62nd Army HQ card, because that is the only way I can load supplies onto the staging area for transport to the house. What should I load, though? The action allows for five tokens. I feel like ammo is going to be important, since I used a third of what I have already just in one action. So I load two: that will become ten. Also, food. Probably need one of those. And sapper. Probably could use a sapper at some point. Finally, first aid. That’s five.

I still have two actions left. I could ready some artillery, but I don’t have any way to actually use it yet, since I have no soldiers in the house with the “F” (Forward Observer) ability. I’m also unhappy with the disruption on the 267th AA Battalion, because any rolls on those will cascade up to the signal comm spaces. So while I have the cards, I might as well clear them.

Done with the Soviet card actions. On to the Wehrmacht deck.

First card is …

… another 15cm (150mm) artillery strike.

Note that there is a new tactics card this time, which I remind you: we are not using. But this would enhance any scouts placed during this turn.

The artillery location roll is a “3,” which targets the red side of the building. (Although I think the whole building is Red, in a sense.) This time I am not so lucky, and I roll at least one “6” on the five dice. That reduces the defense of that side by one, and it is now only “5.”

Note that this makes it more vulnerable to further attacks. The soldiers on that side are, however, unhurt for now. They would become casualties only if the defense were at “3” and had to be reduced further. Since it cannot go lower than 3, it would then cause casualties to the units on the affected side.

Next Wehrmacht card…

… a Stuka.

This is only two “aircraft,” but I have no ready AA, so I’m just going to have to take it.

The die rolls are “12” and “16.” The first one undoes part of the disruption clearing I did on my card phase, and the second adds yet another Fog of War card to my deck.

Last card of the turn…

… is another Stuka.

Results later this afternoon!

Yeah, I winced at that, too. Joking around ain’t what it used to be. :(

I’m liking this card system!

So far this tactics systems seems kind of dumb. It’s just arbitrarily strengthening something that might not even happen? It sounded like it was going to be a modifier to the cards somehow, but it seems more like a totally random event that’s so random it might not even happen. And furthermore it seems like such a peripheral part of the design that the developer just shrugged and decided you can skip it if you want to play baby mode. Boo! Seems like a bit of pointess cruft?

So when does the actual shooting start? When do the Nazi zombies arrive?

-Tom

Once again, I have no AAA, so I have to take the dice hits.

The rolls are 10, 17, and 7.

So the Stukas take out my last artillery position, meaning I will have to clear a Disrupt, then place an artillery, then get a forward observer, all to get a working artillery barrage. The roll of 17 places another Disrupt on my communications, and I shuffle yet another Fog of War card into my deck. I started with three, and now have six! It also means that until I clear it any roll of 17 will place a disruption on 62nd Army HQ.

But the worst thing, I think, is the 7. This disrupts a space of the Volga flotilla, meaning I have one fewer space to use to transport supplies. The key is that each space can only transport one cube. Thus, I just had my transport capacity reduced by a third, plus I have to use a Volga card to clear it. You know what I shoulda done? I shoulda counted how many cards of each type are in the deck!


[*edit: I noticed a little after I posted the above pic that I had drawn an arrow to area 12, not area 10. It has no bearing on the game but it might have made the presentation slightly confusing.]

So now we move to the moves/counter actions. My move will be to simply bring three soldiers out of reserve, so that I can lay down some suppression along other approaches.

Masijashvili moves to the red/purple corner (5-6), Aleksandrov moves to the center of the purple wall (position 3), and Glushenko moves to the middle of the green wall (position 4). One of the things about soldier selection (when the building gets attacked) is that while the sides all have 1-6 selection positions, if there is no one in the selected space, you choose the position that is numbered higher. Thus, having anyone along the purple wall protects Pavlov from being selected unless a 1 is rolled, since a “2” would be pushed up to “3” (or up to the “5-6” if Aleksandrov were not there). This is a neat way of showing that the enemy won’t fire on the back of the building if there are are guys up front.

Now for three counter actions. Glushenko and Aleksandrov both put suppression into their respective areas and are exhausted as a result. Both of these soldiers have a 1/1 rating, meaning 1 attack/1 suppression. I take 2 grey suppression cubes out of the supply box in the house and put one in the green suppression box and one in the purple suppression box.

My last action is with Pavlov. He has the “C” (Command" ability, which means he can issue three “free” Recover actions to others. However, he cannot issue them to counters with action markers on them, so he could not flip Glushenko or Aleksandrov, just as he could not flip Chait or Bondarenko last turn. But he can flip Chait and Bondarenko THIS turn, and he does. That’s two free recover actions. The third is lost as there is nowhere to use it.

The result is that Pavlov himself is exhausted.

On to Turn 3.

Looks like we have reader mail…

Yeah, I’m not a big fan either. It seems like a bit of “extra difficulty” which – as you pointed out – might not even make the game more difficult in the end. I would rather put extra text on the card itself, and have rules for how it gets used.

My guess is that it will be … soon! Maybe Turn 3!

Just wait until that 41st year, you reckless Thomas! Anyway, drinks, anyone? I’ve put a selection of beer, wine, soda, sacrificial goat’s blood, hard liquor, motor oil, shampoo, and diluted yogurt in tall, easily tipped cups on the board game table.