Barbarossa (Historical Photograph Edition) Review

Barbarossa (Historical Photograph Edition) is a game by Atsuo Yoshizawa, distributed by Japanime Games. It is for 2-5 players. In this game, players control a division of the German army set to invade Russia during World War II. They will have to build up their army, create strategies and gain support to be able to deploy their troops and attack different key sites on the battlefield. Each victory will gain them victory points which can help them win, not only the war but the game. In the end, the player with the most victory points will be declared the winner.

To begin, the Supply cards, Strategy cards and Army cards should be separated and placed into their own individual piles face up. They should then be placed in rows according to their Supply cost in the middle of the play area. All the Support cards are then shuffled together and placed face up to the right of the play area. The same thing is done with the Event cards, except they are placed face down beside the Support cards. The Fortified Hill and Strategic Position cards are placed in their own piles face up below the Event cards. The City cards are shuffled together, except for the Moscow card. This is placed with the other Site cards face up. The shuffled City cards are then placed face up on top of the Moscow card. Each player is given 6 Horse-drawn Transport cards and 2 Grenadier Regiment cards, which they will shuffle together to form their starting deck. One pile of cards is randomly selected from the Supply, Tactics, Army or Support area and removed from the game. It’s recommended that for the first game, the Support pile is removed. Each player draws the top 4 cards of their deck. The first player is chosen and play now begins.

The game is played over several rounds. Each round, players will take their turn performing a series of 4 separate phases, before passing to their left. Those 4 phases are the Starting Phase, Tactics Phase, Reinforcement Phase and Clean Up Phase. The first phase is the Starting Phase. In this phase, the player will reactivate any units that were exhausted in a previous turn. Supply cards may be played during this phase. However unless one of a player’s cards indicates it, no cards may be played or abilities activated. In the first turn of the game, this phase is skipped.

The next phase is the Tactics Phase. In this phase, the player will play various cards from their hand to gain the effects. Initially, the player is granted 1 Tactic Point. Unless they play other cards that give them more points, this is the only one they get. Most cards cost 1 Tactic point to play. However Supply cards cost 0 points and are able to be played during this phase, for as many as the player would like. When playing a card, it is placed into the player’s play area. Cards have several different icons and abilities which can allow the player to gain Draw Points to draw cards with, Tactic Points to be able to play more cards or higher cost cards, Supply Points to recruit new cards during the Reinforcement Phase, Reinforcement Points to be able to recruit more cards with and Attack Points to use during combat. Also during this phase, a player may initiate combat against a Site card. I’ll go over combat a bit later. For now, all that you need to remember is that the player must have enough Attack Points to meet or exceed the defense of the Site card to conquer it.

The third phase is the Reinforcement Phase. In this phase, the player uses Supply Points that they gained during the previous phase to recruit new cards with. The player starts off with 1 Recruitment Point each turn. This allows them to recruit 1 card. Just like the Tactics Phase, if the player doesn’t play any cards that give them any more points, then they will only be able to recruit 1 time. Regardless of how many Recruitment points the player has, they must have enough Supply points to be able to pay for any cards they recruit. Newly recruited cards are then sent to the player’s discard pile.

The final phase is the Clean Up Phase. In this phase, the player places all the cards that they played during their turn that were not Deployed, more on this in a bit, into their discard pile. Once this is done, if the player has any cards left in their hand, they are allowed to keep 1 but must discard the rest. The player then draws 4 cards from their deck. At this time, any unused Supply, Tactic, Reinforcement and Attack points are lost. Play then passes to the next player in turn order, who follows the same 4 phases.

Just a moment ago, I mentioned cards that were Deployed. In a player’s area is what’s known as the Front Line. This section is devoted to cards that are Deployed. Some cards have an effect on them that states, “Deploy this card.” To Deploy a card, the player places it in their Front Line. These cards are not placed in the players discard pile during the Clean Up Phase. The remain on the Front Line until a card effect removes them. Once the card is Deployed, only the text box in yellow is relevant. It should be noted that there are no Tactic Points required to activate abilities of Deployed cards. Also of note is that a player can have any number of cards in their Front Line.

Earlier I mentioned that combat can take place during the player’s Tactics Phase. However, to be able to declare combat, the player must have army cards deployed into their Front Line. A player may declare combat against either a Site card or a City card. To attack a Site card, such as the Fortified Hill or Strategic Position, the player simply calculates the Attack Points that the Army in their Front Line has. The player is also allowed to return any previously conquered Fortified Hill or Strategic Position cards to lower the defense of the chosen Site card. If the player’s Attack Points are greater than or equal to the defense value, then the attack succeeds. The player takes the top card of the pile and follows the instructions written in red on it. To attack a City card, there are a few changes. Once a City is chosen as an attack target, the player must flip over the top card of the Event deck. They then add the number in the upper right corner of the card to the defense value of the City. The player then may decide to return Fortified Hill and Strategic Position cards to lower the defense value. They also are allowed to choose activation abilities from cards on their Front Line. Cards may not be played during combat. The player then adds up their Attack Points. If their attack is greater than or equal to the defense value of the City, the attack succeeds. The player then takes both the Event and City cards and follow the instructions written in red on them. If the player’s Attack Points are lower than the City’s defense, neither card is won. However, the player must still follow the instructions written in red on the City card. The City card remains where it’s at, but the Event card is placed on the bottom of the Event deck. Unless otherwise noted, combat may only be declared once a turn and only 1 Site card may be conquered.

The game continues until Moscow is conquered from the City deck. Once this happens, the game ends. Players then add up all the Victory Points from their Front Line, play area, deck, hand and discard pile. Players compare points and the one with the most Victory Points is the winner.

This game consists of a large stack of cards. The cards are really great quality. I absolutely love the photographic images that were used for the game. Each one has some great photos from World War II showing real people, equipment and weaponry. You really get a great sense of how things were from looking at the different pictures on them. History buffs, like myself, will really enjoy the artwork chosen for the different cards. I’m really glad that there were several different images chosen for each card type too. They could have just used 1 image for each card type, but they chose to make several so you didn’t get tired of the same old image all the time. It really breaks up the look of the game in my opinion. The iconography takes a little bit of time to get used to. However, after playing a couple of times you tend to remember what each one does. I really like the design and look of the game. Even the box gives you a really great thematic feel to the game. Overall, I’m thrilled with the look and feel of everything.
9 out of 10

The rulebook that is included with this game resembles those from other deck builders from Japanime Games. It’s the size of the card box and is black and white, with no color anywhere. There are lots of great pictures and examples. As a matter of fact, there’s a 3 page section devoted to an example of gameplay. All the different symbols used on the cards are explained in great detail. Each of the different card types is also explained as well. The book really does a great job of explaining how to set up the game, as well as explaining different areas, cards and keywords used in the game. The different phases of the game are explained in a step by step process that should be easy enough for pretty much anyone to understand. I didn’t find anything too difficult to understand while reading through the book. It’s really easy to pick up and find whatever you’re looking for in terms of rules while playing the game. I had to keep it at my side for the first few play throughs. I found it to be a great reference. Overall, it’s designed really nicely. I just wish there had been a little bit of color to the book.
8 out of 10

Dominion and Tanto Cuore players will most likely find the mechanics of this game pretty familiar. Of course, there are a few little nuances that are subtly different. For the most part though, it’s not a whole lot different. Granted, there’s no combat in Dominion or Tanto Cuore, so there’s that. I do see the similarities between the Front Line for this game and the Private Area for Tanto Cuore though. The War Zone layout of cards is quite similar to the Town for Tanto Cuore and Dominion’s layout as well. However, all the cards except for 1 stack are on the table at a time, as opposed to there only being 10 card types in those other games. I do tend to like this one a lot better though. I really like the combat aspect of the game and how you have to have an army deployed into your Front Line before you can actually attack anything. It kind of makes it more thematic in my opinion. As I’ve mentioned earlier, I really like the look of the game, especially this version. I’m not against manga and anime style artwork, but the Historian in me absolutely eats this kind of stuff up. I’m especially intrigued by anything that deals with WWII. Probably because my grandfather fought during the war and was one of the first soldiers to step foot on Japan after the bomb. I used to love listening to stories of the war from my next door neighbor, who also fought during that time. I think it’s for those reasons that this version really resonates with me. Needless to say, I really enjoy the game and love how great it looks. History buffs and fans of Dominion or Tanto Cuore will most likely enjoy this one. Deck building fans will like it too. I’m really thrilled with the game, and look forward to playing it many more times.
9 out of 10

Barbarossa (Historical Photograph Edition) is a deck building card game in the same vein as Dominion or Tanto Cuore. The game doesn’t take too long to play. Most game sessions last about an hour or so. The cards look great. I really like the design and I love the historical photographs that were used. They really help convey the thematic look and feel of the game. The game isn’t all that difficult to play. It can be a bit tricky at first as you’re trying to learn all the different icons and what they all mean. However it doesn’t take but a couple of play throughs to get it down. Players familiar with Dominion or Tanto Cuore will find a lot of similar mechanics and should have no trouble with this one either. Fans of those or other deck building games should really enjoy this one. History buff will also be thrilled with this one too. I love the new look of the game and can’t wait to play it more. I highly recommend this one. It appeals to me on many different levels. You definitely need to give this one a look.
9 out of 10


For more information about this and other great games, please check out Japanime Games at their site.

About Gaming Bits - Jonathan Nelson

I'm a happily married man with 2 wonderful kids. I love my family very much. I'm a big fan of board, card and RPG games and have been playing for over 20 years. As a board and card game reviewer, I'm hoping that this blog will inform, educate and entertain you. If you like it, please tell your friends and have them join in on the conversations. Thanks and GAME ON!!
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1 Response to Barbarossa (Historical Photograph Edition) Review

  1. Pingback: El Alamein (Historical Photograph Edition) Review | GAMING BITS

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