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Stalin’s Final War: 1953 What If? An alternative history wargame intended to investigate World War III in 1953.
109 backers pledged $8,825 to help bring this project to life.

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Box Cover
Box Cover

Stalin’s Final War: 1953 What If? (SFW) is an alternative history wargame intended to investigate the strategic parameters that would’ve been in place during the first 10 weeks of operations had that dictator lived long enough to put in motion his plan to start World War III in 1953. Had he lived, the most likely start date would’ve been one closely coinciding with the signing of the Korean War armistice in July (in order to achieve a surprise effect).

His main goal in starting such a war wouldn’t have been immediate global conquest; rather, in Europe he would’ve been seeking to seize or thoroughly wreck the Ruhr – then, as now, one of the world’s main industrial regions – or otherwise abort the still young Federal Republic of Germany (“West Germany”) as an effective member of the Western alliance. In Asia, the then already long- sought conquest of the entire Korean peninsula would’ve been the objective, thereby putting Japan into what would’ve amounted to a geo-strategic vice given that the USSR already possessed Sakhalin Island to the north.

There are atomic warfare rules, but their use on the Communist side is constrained by the limited availability of the bombs themselves, as well as by their historic lack at that time of a fully dependable means to deliver them. On the Allied (a.k.a. “United Nations” or “UN” or “US”) side, the limitation is a cultural one. That is, the early 1950s marked the full blown emergence of the anti-imperialist (a.k.a. “hate America” or “third world” or “non-aligned”) movement onto the global media stage. If, therefore, the Americans were to try to win this war by using enough a-bombs to simply blow to bits the attacking communist hordes, they would do so much damage to the environmental and socio-political ecologies as to undo that battlefield victory in the broader grand strategic sense.

One map covers West Germany and its immediate environs; the other covers the Korean peninsula south from the Pyongyang-Wonsan “neck.” Each hexagon on both maps represents 10 miles (16 kilometers). The Communist units of maneuver are armies and corps, while those on the UN side are mostly divisions along with a few corps. Air power is represented abstractly, with counters and rules showing the effects of one side or the other gaining temporary air superiority above one or both theaters of operation. Each full game turn represents one week of ‘real time’ from late July to early October 1953.

Components

The game comes with two play maps, one of the region of Europe along the border region of the two Germanys, the other of the Korean Peninsula.

European Map
European Map
Korea Map
Korea Map


There are two counter sheets of large 5/8" counters depicting the forces involved in the conflict. Forces include the Soviets, Chinese, North Korean, United States, United Kingdom, France, South Korean, and West German.

Counter Sheet 1
Counter Sheet 1


And since it was expected that this war would be abundantly nuclear, a sizeable portion of nuclear use counters are included.

Counter Sheet 2
Counter Sheet 2

Example of Play

It’s late in the game, and the Communist player still controls only the three cities on the Korea map with which he began the war already controlling. When the die rolls give him a superiority (one MiG) and five Refugee markers, he decides to go big to try break open the front in a critical sector and get things rolling toward seizing the three other cities available there, and which would give him a win on the Korea map.

Even failing that, the US Player, whose prestige point total is getting low, may still be moved to use more atomic attacks to try stabilize the situation.

The Soviet airborne are dropped to jam up any US move by reinforcements coming up from farther south. That thinking also guides the Communist player’s placement of the five available Refugee markers. Their presence in a hex either increases US per-hex movement costs by one or causes a one-point reduction in that side’s aforementioned prestige point total for just moving through them without care. (If that point total reaches zero for any reason, it’s a sudden death Communist victory.)

Both sides’ units have suffered heavy attrition in earlier fighting. The only two-step units on the map are the newly arrived Soviet airborne, but they can’t attack this turn because they’ve just landed.

The Communist player uses all four of his available offensive support markers – the etile 33rd Independent Infantry Division, the Artillery Control Bureau and the 1st and 2nd Armor Control Bureaus. Each of those generates a one-time, one-right column shift on the odds chart. He also commits his one available air power marker for a total of five right column shifts.

The initial odds of the Chinese attack into hex 4610 is 1:1 (eight Chinese attack factors versus eight US defense factors. The river then shifts it one column left to 1:2, but the five Communist rightward shifts then move it back in that direction to 5:1, which will be enough to guarantee the Communists will seize the hex and a two-thirds chance of destroying both the already reduced US units.

Sequence of Play & Rules

I. Mutual Air Superiority Phase

II. Communist Player Turn

  • A. Communist Movement or Combat Phase on the Korea or Germany Map 
  • B. Communist Combat or Movement Phase on the Korea or Germany Map
  • C. Communist Movement or Combat Phase on the Germany or Korea Map
  • D. Communist Combat or Movement Phase on the Germany or Korea Map

III. Communist Refugee Removal & Replacement Phase on the Germany or Korea Map.

IV. United Nations Player Turn

  • A. United Nations Movement or Combat Phase on the Korea or Germany Map
  • B. United Nations Combat or Movement Phase on the Korea or Germany Map
  • C. United Nations Movement or Combat Phase on the Germany or Korea Map
  • D. United Nations Combat or Movement Phase on the Germany or Korea Map V. United Nations Franco-German Emergency Mobilization Phase

VI. United Nations Overseas Reinforcement Phase

VII. Mutual Administrative Phase

To read the rules in their entirety, you can download them here.

Product Information

Complexity: 6 out of 10
Solitaire Suitability: 8 out of 10
Time Scale: 10 one-week turns
Map Scale: 10 miles (16.2 km) per hex
Units of Maneuver: armies, corps & divisions
Players: one, two, three or four
Playing Time: four to eight hours

Contents

Two 34x22” large-hex maps
Two counter-sheets of 5/8” (16mm units (456 total)
One Rule Book
Charts and Tables Sheet
Dice
Full-sized Box

Stretch Goals

We know that almost all Kickstarter campaigns have stretch goals. This one does not. Certainly we could think up expansions or add-ons to this game, but all that would entail lots of extra play-testing, art development, and associated work that would translate into long (potentially very long) delays in the production of the game. We don't want to do that. If this campaign completes successfully, we'll be going straight to press. So no gimmicks, games, or non-sense to get you to support this campaign. We are offering a solid game for a good discount. That's the deal.

We considered adding mounted maps, but due to the added weight that would entail, it's really not feasible from a shipping stand-point. It's already expensive to ship as is. So our approach was simply to deliver the best quality within tolerable shipping parameters out the gate.

Time-frame for Delivery

We are planning a fast turn-around for SFW. At this point all of the game development and art-work is complete. The time spent from the successful end of this campaign forward will be on ushering the game through the press process. Although we hope to fulfill sooner, we are estimating February/March of 2019 for delivery.

A Note About Shipping Costs

US shipping is based upon medium flat rate shipping.

Our international shipping price is based upon a 3.5 pound package (what we estimated the game would weigh if it had mounted components in a box) to non-EU overseas destinations. The USPS charge for that at the time of this writing is $50.11 first class international. We are charging slightly less than that.

EU shipping is based upon calculating the following 4 items:
1. Cost to bulk ship EU orders to the EU
2. Per unit VAT fee for that shipment
3. Per unit shipping fee of European fulfillment house
4. Actual European postage based upon a four pound package

In estimating the numbers, this adds up to $32.

We understand that other companies charge lower shipping amounts in their Kickstarter campaigns. After researching that, we found that they are doing this by amortizing that cost in the price of the game itself. We thought about doing that as well, but two factors stopped us. The first is that what is going to happen in a KS campaign is unknown, and each scenario we looked at had risk over certain number ranges. Because we are essentially a small operation, we do not care much for risk. However, we also simply felt it was unfair to others to make them subsidize shipping costs that are not their fault. And that is why the shipping costs are what they are.

A Note About One Small Step

OSS Games is a small company. We are composed of no full-time staff, but rather are a group of individuals who enjoy producing games in our spare time. Our MO is to produce small print-run games with consistently high production values. We try to bring you the highest quality product possible for a reasonable amount of money. We do this because we enjoy it.

That said, we are a game publisher, not a PR firm. We limit communication to essential announcements. Therefore, we will not be posting constant updates about everything little thing. Our posts will be limited to essential milestones, such as the game going to press, the receipt of press samples, or when the game begins shipping. The press process is often one of waiting punctuated by occasional back and forth on minor issues. If you don't hear from us in the updates section, this is simply because we do not have any update that changes status of the previous one.

Also, because each of us has a day job, we are not able to monitor the Kickstarter page at all times. Thus, if you need a rapid response to a question, please email us at orders@ossgames.com

Risks and challenges

This is our fourth Kickstarter project as One Small Step, but we have been publishing games since 1996. We have experienced just about every possible way a project can go wrong and we have overcome it. This project will be no exception.

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