Review: STAVKA-OKH (PC): Being Middle Management for Hitler Sucks

hitler-stalin-2-473x326STAVKA-OKH is an odd duck, to say the least. Honestly, I'm not sure if I have the ability to properly do justice to this game with words. I’m gonna give it a shot anyway. Why? Because this title is perhaps one of the bravest, most thought provoking pieces regarding war and the human condition in this medium and I want to share it with you.

I suppose the easiest description would read thusly: STAVKA-OKH is a free, single player strategy game played across the entire Eastern Front of World War II that puts you in the shoes of a military advisor to either Stalin or Hitler. It is easily accessible to the most casual of gamers, while strategy vets will appreciate the transparency of its systems, if not the systems themselves. A full game can be completed in less than 10 minutes.

It is a simple game, both in form and function. Some will consider it unpolished, especially in light of the professionalism exhibited by the modern “Indie” genre. Game assets are displayed at a fixed resolution regardless of window size. A quick press of the backspace key expands the game to full screen and should resolve any resolution issues encountered. There is no sound. It is, however, technically sound. It runs well and plays fast. I have not had a single crash. Given the sparse presentation, I would liken it more to a ‘proof or concept’ or ‘alpha’ version. The only glaring technical gaffe is the use of dark gray text on a black background when playing as the OKH.

Upon launching the game you are unceremoniously dumped onto the only screen of the game and randomly assigned to either the Russian (STAVKA) or German (OKH) forces during the summer of 1941. There are no setup options, no alternate scenarios, and no say in whose army you are fighting. For our example, the coin toss of destiny has aligned us with STAVKA. Darn… and after I wrote such a catchy title. Oh, well. Can’t exactly choose our parents, can we? We’re here now. It bears noting that this lack of choice and control is one of the central themes of STAVKA-OKH. Let’s take a look at the situation.


There are three fronts in this theater: North, Center, and South. We will need to push through Center to win. Holding an advantage in either North or South will make progress through Center much easier for you and more difficult for the enemy. The Russians will need to capture Berlin to win the war. The Germans will be victorious if they capture Moscow as well as either Leningrad or Stalingrad. The war will end in an armistice if neither side has won by Spring 1947.

We have 100 Supplies, replenished each seasonal turn, with a large bonus for reinforcements in either the summer (for OKH) or winter (for STAVKA). The Germans will cease to gain reinforcements after the Allied invasion of Normandy in the summer of 1944.

We have Glory. This starts at 0, “the war begins”. You accrue Glory by recommending battle plans that are approved by your leader that lead to progress. You also gain Glory by fully supporting your leader’s party, either Nazi or Communist. Likewise, you will loose Glory if you have a plan approved that causes your side’s front to fall back or if you choose to not support the party. Glory is used to determine your own personal Fate, win or loose, after the war. Your Fate is always shown at the bottom of the screen.STAVKA-OKH fate2

This is our situation. Three avenues of attack: North, Center, and South. Two variables to to track: Supplies and Glory. Simple. We have two decisions to make:

Firstly, each turn our staff cooks up three possible battle plans. Each plan allocates Supplies to the three avenues of attack. Each plan also includes a percentage chance of being overruled by your leader. An overruled plan causes your leader to take all the cheers or jeers for himself while your Glory remains unchanged.

STAVKA-OKH results2Our second decision is whether or not to fully support the political party of your leader. Supporting the party gains you an extra 20 Glory, while not supporting the party causes you to lose 20. Supporting the party will also display the death tolls from the various genocidal events that occurred during this time is history in your results window each turn. Elect not to support your party and you will be spared these grizzly details. They still occur, but you don’t have to know about them.
Again, simple. Pick one of three possible plans, choose whether or not to support our leader’s party, and rack up Glory while driving the enemy across Europe to become the next leader. In any other game we would be home free. It doesn’t take long to realize that STAVKA-OKH is most certainly not like any other game. Let’s play!

The initial German onslaught was costly both in terms of men and land. Not even our civilians were safe as small red blooms of innocent death erupted across Russia. Our glory plunged as Stalin let us take the rap for it, our allegiance to the Communist party the only thing keeping us from being shot on the spot. The day our winter reinforcements arrived gave a much needed boost to supplies and we were able to shove the German front back to its starting position. A game of cat-and also-cat erupted across the Eastern Front. We lead our Communist forces in a flanking move across the North while the Nazis sweep south. This tit-for-tat may seem equal except that it is once again summer and time for the enemy reinforcements. That’s okay, I’ve got a idea: Pick the dumbest plan our staff can cook up and let Stalin take the fall!

It fails. My staff isn’t quite the idiots I’d hoped for. Neither is Stalin. The only option here is throw all of our Supplies into Center and pray it’s enough to hold off the Nazi reinforcements. Stalin’s not gonna touch this one with a 10-foot pole. We take our lumps, but, miraculously, keep the Germans off of the front porch.

The next year passes swiftly. All of our plans lately have been accepted. The OKH forces have been pushed back across Poland, finally granting a respite to what’s left of the massacred population of Ukraine, and reinforcements are here. Things look good for a change. Except… None of those three plans is what we should be doing! I have a hammer and a clear shot at the opposing force’s spine and they’re handing me three shields to choose from! Where are all my SMART planners? On vacation? They probably got sent to the font in the last batch of reinforcements… Sigh… At least I’ll have some Supplies in reserve for later.STAVKA-OKH results3


The Germans forces once again march South. More red circles flare across the Ukraine. Our Glory takes another hit. The genocide statistics are starting to bother me. Our Fate as a victor seems bleak.


What do I do now? Try to throw the war? The Allies just landed in Normandy. It seems unlikely the Germans will have the strength to push us all the way back to Moscow. Stall? The armistice is a crap shoot that could very well lead to me being hung in Red Square. I guess I could, ya know, WIN the war. Looks like that’ll get me killed too. If only they had LISTENED to me back in ‘42! Its not my fault! My staff is to blame! I could’ve wrapped this whole mess up last year, but high command hired a bunch of idiots. The Glory of my greatest victories was stolen from me by Stalin! How is that fair? And then there’s the actions of the Communist party. I can’t take hearing about them anymore, but I’m too far down the creek to turn my back on the party now. I need every point of Glory I can get my hands on thanks to Stalin. Why… How did I end up here? It’s not my fault… I was supposed to be German in the first place! It… It’s not my fault! …right?

This is what STAVKA-OKH is about. You are not the man in charge. You are not the man fighting the war. You are not the man making the plans. You are not some detached, omnipotent being pushing pieces around on a table. You are just some poor schmuck stuck at a desk in middle management while a maelstrom of blood and insanity swirls around you. Can you survive? At what cost?

We decide to go for it. If Stalin can keep his grubby little mitts off of claiming our victories, we just might get out of this with our heads. Oh, and victory for the great Soviet Union, so I guess that’s good too. Our guns are just within range of Berlin when the armistice talks start. We managed to accrue just enough glory ‘proudly’ waving the Communist flag in the final push to avoid the hangman’s noose. After the war we manage to eke out a secluded life full of fear and guilt, hounded by the KGB. The last communication from STAVKA reminds us of the price the world paid for our miserable existence:


STAVKA-OKH was created by Rod Humble, the CEO of Linden Labs, creators of the infamous online world Second Life. You can, and should, download STAVKA-OKH for free.

Reviewer Rating: 4/5 Stars – Good 4star

No comments :

Post a Comment