Managing Pavlov’s House at the Micro- and Macro-Levels
Experience the multi-tiered strategic battle of Pavlov’s House both up close with individual units and from further afield.
Onto Pavlov’s House! It was no surprise to find my curiosity piqued after finishing a few plays of Castle Itter. Indeed, there were some very familiar concepts as I started to set everything up. Although I’m not particularly drawn to every historical battle, being able to learn more before and during play drew me right in. I was ready to be on the defensive!
The awesome and unique aspect here is the split map that shows 3 different levels. Individual units are controlled, the area around the building is managed, and far-off elements like supplies and communications are included. It may look like a lot, yet it’s not particularly complex.
January 22, 2021
January 22, 2021
1 Hour & 30 Minutes
38" x 22"
The left side of the map depicts the interior of the building where individual units must be positioned. This is the most reminiscent of Castle Itter with the actions.
Aside from positioning the right units within the correct line of sight areas, though, supplies must be kept in stock.
Too little food during forced resupplies, and units perish. A lack of suppression tokens can crowd the neighborhood far too much, making survival unlikely in the long-term.
This micromanagement of units is extremely important, though it’s not the only element of gameplay!
Around the Block
Enemy units slowly start to advance on the building from many directions. Note the colors: These all help with line of sight and make it easy to match up with friendly units.
The sapper spaces closest to the building offer strategic ways to plant mines as the last defense. Very powerful… But also very risky when it comes to supplying sappers.
This way of slightly zooming out keeps things simple, but still provides plenty of options during each round.
Don’t stop here, though! The map further zooms out for even more management and planning…
Stalingrad from Afar
This high-level view is all about minimizing bombing runs, supplying the units, and managing problem areas.
Transporting supplies involves stocking them in the staging area and making the treacherous journey across the Volga. Keep an eye on the sky, though!
Bombs constantly fall, often disrupting operations and limiting the available actions. Anti-aircraft units certainly help, though they’re far from guaranteed to be successful.
Even with this trio of mini-maps to manage, gameplay is still very smooth with card choices and dice rolls.
Perhaps the most interesting element during certain situations is the choice of units. There are a lot of them, though each serves a unique purpose in the battle.
Anti-tank, machine gun, and mortar crews can operate special weapons to do extra damage. Some units offer command or inspire bonuses, as well.
But even the standard units are helpful! Being able to attack or suppress regularly is vital early on.
The small dots indicate the cost to deploy, which makes the decisions even more difficult: Who is best right now?
It didn’t take long for the bombs to start falling. Since it was so early, I didn’t have a chance to deploy any anti-aircraft… So all 3 of these bombers flew right through.
At first, a few of these tokens don’t pose a major problem. Yet they can stack up very quickly! And if too many accumulate, it’s an immediate loss. Not good at all.
I floundered a little bit as I tried to figure out the best way to defend. Then again, this was my first play: No worries!
With so many options, I thought I would be overwhelmed. Not at all: I truly enjoyed the decision-making process.
Just before the end, a bomber knocked out my perfect line of communication! When unbroken with all 4 tokens, an extra action may be taken during a round’s first stage.
I don’t know if this provided a useful enough benefit this time around. There were minimal disruption tokens…
But the rest of the map didn’t look so nice! Storm groups never took off, which represent the main source of victory points. So I played about as poorly as I possibly could. Ha!
Then again, it’s never a problem when I don’t do well during my first few plays. No one masters a game like that.
The Packed Streets
See this? Absolutely horrible management of the enemy! It was a wonder they never overran the building.
Not enough sappers were available, though it was nice to see a few tanks roll over the mines. Small successes!
I gave myself a little leeway because I originally placed the units incorrectly. When I just needed to place a single token, I was sometimes placing 2-3 at once. Way too hard!
Playing so defensively was interesting. Infantry units were easy to manage early on, but I neglected to move in anti-tank units until very late. Can you tell by all the Panzers?!
Castle Itter or Pavlov’s House?
I still think it might be too soon to offer a full-fledged recommendation, although both of these titles share similar mechanics. Castle Itter almost feels like a better starting point, though, since it provided me with a foundation for some of the elements here. There were some small flaws for me personally, though I now want to return to it!
Perhaps it comes down to the sort of battle. Is it all about individuals, or is a sort of macro-level desired? I felt more invested in this battle as I managed the reinforcements and supplies. It felt more satisfying, as if I was in charge of the successes. Maybe it boiled down to responsibility: This was all on me, even if I failed miserably.
However, playing through Pavlov’s House makes me want to return to the former title. The games share some similarities, yet I think I can appreciate the individual battlefield some more. There’s a lot to be said for simple rules! And I have a lot of challenges ahead with some of the higher difficulty levels. Lots to explore with both games still.
To the Storm Groups
Naturally, I reset to build upon some of my knowledge to do a little better. This time, I didn’t ignore the powerful storm groups. 29 victory points were quite a lot!
However, these maneuvers to take other buildings were costly. The number of casualties expanded and I had to call for reinforcements many, many times.
The best part was getting the final storm group going, though. Anti-artillery to the rescue to clear the red area!
I was a lot happier with this outing. More casualties… But also a lot more success in practically every respect.
Play Number: 1 and 2
Solo Mode: Designed for Solo (Included in the Base Game)
Play Details: Standard Difficulty Level
Outcome: -21 and 30 (1 Win and 1 Loss)
Quite an improvement! Pavlov himself guided a few storm groups and survived. Oddly enough, I had no need for all of the suppression tokens. At least that worked out… It looked a little dicey for a few rounds. This was a great experience! Maybe not the perfect sort of game for me, yet the history here was excellent. As always, definitely check out the companion book at Digital Capricorn. Fascinating!
Price & Value
Challenges & Mechanics
Design & Theme
Components & Rules
Achievement & Enjoyment
Distinctness & Randomness
+ Pros (Positives)
- Managing the different levels offers a lot of control and responsibility without adding unnecessary complexity.
- There are many places on the maps, but they all connect in cohesive ways over the course of numerous rounds.
- Line of sight is simple to understand with a color-coded system that requires no additional thinking.
- The dual-action cards provide plenty of decisions about how best to manage the macro-level around Stalingrad.
- Individual units provide their own unique benefits and abilities that must be utilized at the optimal times.
- Many options exist for defense, from standard attacks and suppression to advanced sappers and anti-artillery.
– Cons (Negatives)
- The luck of the dice can be somewhat overwhelming and unfair at times, although this is a part of the system.
- Although most of the elements are simple, looking up information in the rulebook happens pretty frequently.
- It can be tricky to keep the special weapons units near the necessary weapon with the size of the individual boxes.
- Some variety exists with the standard difficulty mode, but plays may feel repetitive at a certain point.
Score 20+ Points
- Overall Goal Progress 100% 100%
Goals and Milestones
Score at least 20 points.
Win at least 1 game at the standard difficulty level.
Continue the Conversation
What do you think of Pavlov’s House? I thought it might be a lot to manage operations at so many levels, yet it was a surprisingly smooth experience! Most rounds flowed nicely, aside from the dice rolls. Do you like simple dice mechanics, or do you prefer something more complex? This was a great way to learn more about a piece of history!