Osprey publishing has been continuing their releases for Bolt Action campaign specific books and Ostfront covers the broad Eastern European front from the Russian invasion of Finland, Operation Barbarossa, up to the final attack into Berlin. As with previous books, it covers special units and scenario specific rules, all along with some historical background text.
One particularly interesting section is the Japanese-Soviet conflicts between 1938-39. And the beginning of this book highlights a few key battles along with some special army lists and units, including Japanese cavalry. It’s a pleasant addition to shake up what you’d expect to be a typical Russian/German book. The book also dedicates some scenarios illustrating the Finnish-Russian conflict at the onset of WW2.
Both Russian and Germans get a few special units including Soviet partisans. At the beginning are some generic units for all periods in the manner of Japanese and Soviet flag bearers. These units allow for improved rally orders and can affect quite a few units (up to 12” from the model). Also rules for horse-drawn limbers are now available and a welcome addition as these artillery run tows are more historically accurate for the time.
Similar to other campaign books, the material is sectioned into parts with historical information presented first, along with a few scenarios depicting that engagement. Some additional rules and terrain effects are also provided to reflect the conditions of these battles. One change is that there are some lists of generic Bolt Action scenarios from the original rulebook that are suggested as something which could be considered a typical combat engagement for that period. Combined with special rules for supply, terrain, and theater selector forces, you’d have a decent twist on your regular game of demolition or hold until relieved.
Rules for minefields and dug in units are presented again, along with some special rules for deep snow and other weather effects. Of course, you couldn’t have an Ostfront book without some rules for city fighting and there are plenty of additional rules to cover rubble and sewer fighting too. One aspect of city fighting is the lack of effective command. As fights progress, leadership gets bogged down and hinders orders given to units. This really can shake up your typical games especially if you are needing to move units up and capture objectives.
Overall 12 scenarios are provided. Most of them have victory conditions that revolve around capturing objectives, moving into enemy deployment zones, or destroying the most enemy units.
The Good – The book gives a decent overview of the Eastern Front from right before the onset of WW2 up to the Battle for Berlin. There are additional units and options to provide a theater selector feel that’s appropriate. The artwork and photos are plentiful and of good quality.
The Bad – As with some of the other campaign books, I really would have appreciated more maps and figures of a typical scenario terrain layout, or photographs of full table layouts. You get a written description that’s functional, but having some more details would have been better. Most of the scenarios still are firmly planted in the generic fight camp, and more detailed scenario objectives and force composition are absent. In the end it offers a representation of these types of battles instead of presenting lots of options for reenacting a historical battle or engagement.
The Verdict – Battleground Ostfront is a good book. Like it’s Normandy predecessor, it provides games that give a certain flavor over depicting a true historical battle. I still wish there were more detailed historical scenarios along with the generic battle options provided. However the layers of terrain and supply effects do offer a wrinkle in play. The presentation of the material is also much better. All the terrain and special scenario rules are off in a rear section, making it much easier to reference during a game.
It’s still a Russian/German heavy book. But the Finnish and Japanese campaigns are a great addition highlighting some more lesser-known parts of WW2. Of course what also stands out are the snow and city fighting rules. Easily something you could port over to mimic the Battle of the Bulge or Monte Cassino.
For a player that is interested in the Eastern front and a Bolt Action fan, they’ll find this book indispensable. If you aren’t there are still a few interesting rules and options that you could find some value (with a few caveats, say like running a Pacific game). Compared to some of the other Bolt Action campaign books, I’d consider this superior and worth picking up if you are looking to add a little spice to your games.