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Subject: Reflections, observations and impressions of a chess-like game rss

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Steven Goodknecht
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The Russian Campaign really doesn’t need another review. Instead, I’m presenting a few rambling observations and impressions about this venerable game.

First, I want to get this out of the way straight off: I am not an East Front enthusiast. I can fully understand the interest in the campaign that many wargamers have, a vast expanse with an enormous scope and the opportunity for large mobile encirclements. The Russian campaign is one full of drama that provides both players with the opportunity to play both offense and defense. But despite all that, I’m still not sold. Nor does it have anything to do with the fact that it’s like watching a movie where all the characters are unlikable. Although once while setting up The Russian Campaign to play with a friend I did ask, “Which side do you want to be, Herpes or Hepatitis?”

I had owned and played Avalon Hill’s 1963 Stalingrad game but I knew that I would never play it again. But as a wargamer, I felt that I must be required to own at least one game on the Eastern Front. So I bought The Russian Campaign when it came out in 1976. I played it and to my surprise, I actually liked it. But I didn’t like it enough that it survived The Great Wargame Purge of 1988 when I quit wargaming.

Fast-forward to 2004. I had returned to wargaming in 2000 and once again I felt that I must own at least one East Front game. First I bought Barbarossa and quickly sold it. Then I bought Proud Monster and did the same. Realizing the amount of time and effort those two games demanded to learn and play decided the issue. My interest in the subject simply wasn’t high enough for the investment they required.

Then I saw that L2 had redone The Russian Campaign and really pimped it out. So I bought it. But the map was bigger. I have a nice antique drop-leaf table that I bought many years ago for the sole purpose of gaming. However, over the years, my wife has taken over that table. So playing with the bigger L2 map was problematic. I now have a spot that fits only a normal size one-map game. So I sold the L2 version and picked up a nice unpunched AH 3rd edition copy on eBay cheap.

When The Russian Campaign came out in 1976 it was exactly the game that fans of the older Stalingrad had always wanted Stalingrad to be: A game that was playable but with at least a modicum of history. Stalingrad was a good game and was highly playable but any resemblance to history was merely coincidental. The Russian Campaign added more history than Stalingrad but did it without sacrificing playability. It quickly became a best seller for AH and won the Charles S. Roberts Best Strategic Game Award in 1976.

Starting with the game components, there isn’t much good to be said. In a word: Bland. The map is bland, the counters are bland, the rulebook is bland; the whole damn game is bland. Okay, it was 1976 and lots of games were bland back then. But I think TRC is even blander than some of its contemporaries. Vanilla is the only flavor in TRC’s ice cream parlor. The kindest thing that can be said is that the components are blandly functional.

One thing I never liked was AH’s insistence on running the rivers down the middle of the hexes instead of along the hexsides. Perhaps a small gripe, but still, an unnecessary annoyance. It requires an example of play in the rulebook to clarify how it works. Even then, I recently came across a situation that I still wasn’t sure about. So while playing I have to think about the rivers and who is and who isn’t behind them. Old people shouldn’t be forced to think about stupid things that could have been easily fixed. It makes us cranky and our bowels get irritable.

I had originally bought the game during a period when I was buying, playing and shelving games in a sort of maniacal frenzy. I had played it a 2-3 times before moving on to the next new game so I never really became familiar with many of the game’s nuances. Replaying the game now, I saw a few things that had escaped me 35 years ago. I noticed that more than most other wargames I have played, The Russian Campaign has a chess-like quality. I know that the same can probably be said of any wargame. But I just don’t feel it in other wargames like I do in The Russian Campaign.

There are also gamers who have studied TRC the same way a chess player studies books on chess moves and strategy. It started in AH’s The General when, seeking the ‘perfect’ Russian opening setup, The Viipuri Setup was devised. When that defense was cracked, The Viipuri II was created. I recently found a website that contained several opening setups for TRC. For the Russians: The Minshew, Burkhalter, Gregario, Frydas, Kaplan and Red Case One. There were also German initial setups to counter the Russians. Among those are: Burkhalter vs. Minshew, Brown vs. Burkhalter and Hayes vs. Minshew.

More than previously, I also realized how much you needed to plan ahead in The Russian Campaign. A German player who advances blithely ahead in 1941 without paying attention to the onset of winter, will see his army melt away due to the supply line rules. Also, the Russian player will have to carefully plan his inevitable retreat in 1941. A fighting withdrawal, trading space for time and trying to avoid excessive casualties does require careful thought and planning.

The Russian Campaign feels like a ‘thinking man’s’ wargame. Planning is required before you start moving counters. Unlike a ‘monster’ game on the subject, there aren’t a thousand counters on the map. What you do with the fewer counters in TRC can be much more critical. Because of the scale, the movement of every unit can be important and the margin for error is low.

The Second Impulse rule was what really made this game popular back in 1976. It also makes planning what you can do and what your opponent can do in the Second Impulse, even more important. It is yet another facet of the game that makes planning necessary.

In other words, The Russian Campaign is not a game for ‘counter pushers’. We’ve all seen them, the guys who are pushing counters around the board without really thinking or planning ahead. That guy will have his head handed to him in The Russian Campaign.

One of my favorite aspects of the game is the ‘Worker’ units. Some start the game in various cities and others arrive as reinforcements. They are how the Russians receive replacements from the ‘dead’ pile. Once placed, they cannot move or retreat nor be replaced so the Russian player will find himself fighting hard not to lose these valuable units. Protecting them keeps the Russian player from just huddling his army around Moscow to prevent a German victory. The ‘Worker’ units are one of the keys to a Russian victory.

My only complaint with the game has to do with major cities. Units that begin their turn in a major city and adjacent to enemy units are forced to attack. What about the major sieges of Leningrad and Stalingrad? They won’t be happening in the game. I’m sure some players have devised their own house rules for this and I would be interested in hearing what they are.

Yeah, The Russian Campaign is one of those ‘combat factor counting’ games. You will spend a lot of time counting combat factors, trying to come up with the optimum results on the CRT. But even that seemed to take on a more chess-like feel than in other games where I had done the same thing before. Whenever I’ve counted combat factors in an SPI quad game, it never felt chess-like; it just felt like a low-level wargame. It’s hard to explain but in TRC, it feels more like an overall strategy and not because it’s a low-level wargame. It’s a part of the overall strategy of optimizing.

Is The Russian Campaign historically accurate? Well, it’s as accurate as the designer John Edwards wanted it to be. The salient features of the campaign are well represented. You will feel the might of the German blitzkrieg in 1941 and if the Germans are unable to win in late 1941 (unlikely), then push comes to shove in 1942. There will still be Germans counter-strokes and a chance for them to win but it will be much tougher as the game goes on and the Russian colossus grows. The game can feel like the actual campaign but it does this without providing a lot of detail.

If it’s detail that you want, move along; this is not the East Front game you are looking for. TRC is a ‘broad stroke’ strategic level game. The weather in Leningrad will always be the same as the weather in Sevastapol but the simple weather rules do convey a feeling for the problems faced by the actual combatants. Instead of a hundred counters representing the whole German Luftwaffe, German air superiority is represented early in the game by three powerful Stuka units, which the German player must use effectively. Russian Partisans consists of just three units with simple rules that allow them to cut German supply lines and woe to the German player who doesn’t plan properly for them. The simple supply and combat rules effectively show what happened to the Germans in the winter of 1941.

Edward’s utmost goal in designing The Russian Campaign was to create a game that was both balanced and competitive. In that, he succeeded admirably. I would describe it as clean and elegant design. Reading the rules, it seemed like yet another simple wargame. But once I began playing, I quickly realized that it possessed a depth of play. Granted, it is more game than simulation; it’s a design-for-effect game strung together with several simple rules that taken as a whole, presents a challenging game that will allow you a zoomed-out picture of this massive campaign. TRC is a ‘players’ game.

It’s easy to understand why The Russian Campaign became an immediate favorite as a tournament game. It plays fast and it rewards the player who can plan ahead, see the big picture, stay focused and optimize. You really do need to see the ‘big picture’ while playing this game. Players will need to devise a plan and stick with it. Running all over the board helter-skelter will usually produce defeat. Either side can win and victory will invariably go to the player who can best meet the demands that this game makes. The keys to victory are planning and optimizing.

What I like about The Russian Campaign is that when I sit down to play, I study and ponder every move just like I do whenever I play a game of chess. Truth be told, I like the idea of chess more than I like chess itself. The Russian Campaign presents that very same idea but in a way that I like much more than in actual chess. I still have to study, plan and ponder but in a much less abstract way.

In Ingmar Bergman’s film The Seventh Seal, Max von Sydow played a game of chess for his life with Death. Instead of chess, Max and Death should have played The Russian Campaign.

My next plan is to get my wife interested in playing the game. That won’t be too hard. Then I’ll show her pictures of the L2 version and when she falls into a swoon, I’ll reacquire a copy. The game is so beautiful she’ll be eager to play and I’ll get my table back at least occasionally. Diabolical.
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Gary Barr
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Hi

Great read and sums up my feelings about this venerable game exactly (although I do fall into the 'counter pusher' category way too often !)
I have the same 'feeling' of playable history with No Retreat The Russian Front which uses even less counters but whose use of cards kind of takes it out of the 'strict' chess like category.

Must look out for the L2 version..........

Cheers
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Steven Goodknecht
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Gary,

Thanks for the comments and glad you enjoyed the review. I would recommend the L2 version. I'm sorry now that I let my copy go but it seemed at the time like I wouldn't be able to play it.
 
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Will Green
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No Expectations wrote:
[i] Vanilla is the only flavor in [b]TRC’s ice cream parlor.


This is one of the best lines that I've read on BGG in some time! Worth the price of admission! Enjoy the GG!

Cheers,

tyvek
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Steven Goodknecht
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Will,

Glad you enjoyed the line and thanks to you and all the others who tipped the review!
 
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sacha cauvin
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i have switched to No Retreat too.
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G. Harding Warren
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A fine review and I agree on all points. I was particularly intrigued by your comments regarding factor-counting. I notice that doing these mathematical exercises often "takes me out of the moment", as it were, and makes me quickly forget the narrative. Games like Stalingrad, D-Day and Afrika Korps (though I rather like them) would be classic offenders. Even with all the factor counting in TRC, somehow I just don't stray from the game's story. I cannot explain it. I'm glad to hear someone else voice a similar opinion.
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p55carroll
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I never got the fascination with the eastern front either. But as a wargamer, it got to where I just had to have this game. I put off buying it till 1981 or so. Then, right away, I saw what everybody else was seeing in it.

Some wargames just have a certain something that makes them stand out head-and-shoulders above the rest. And this is one of them.

I guess the pre-1970 Avalon Hill games are often called classics, but half of those are, IMO, forgettable. The other half do have that "certain something," and I'd say they're great wargames even by today's standards.

That "certain something" didn't die out in 1970, though. TRC attests to that.

I've toyed with the idea of acquiring another copy myself, to replace the one I sold--along with all my wargames--years ago. If I wanted to pick a good "thinking-man's wargame" and delve into it, TRC would be a good choice. However, two things prevent me from going that way:

1. When my honeymoon with TRC wore off years ago, one thing I asked myself was, "How is this so very different from The Battle of the Bulge?" There are many differences, but on the whole it felt a lot like that other classic wargame: the Germans start out strong and seemingly unstoppable, then get stopped and pushed back. The two games are similar in complexity level as well. The scale is very different, though, and I decided TRC moved along a little too fast to feel vastly strategic. Today I own a copy of Bulge, and that keeps me from feeling I need a copy of TRC. (Interestingly, L2 developed both of these games, Bulge morphing into Bitter Woods.)

2.
Quote:
"Truth be told, I like the idea of chess more than I like chess itself."
Maybe I do too--but I'm not sure yet. All my life I've periodically come back around to chess again. I'll get frustrated and discouraged and quit, but after a rest period I'm back again. And when I'm in my best frame of mind, the kind of thinking I do in chess is deeply satisfying. It's more satisfying than that kind of thinking would be in any wargame, because wargames are all topical--each covers only a particular battle or campaign. In wargames, part of me is always worrying about how good the simulation or model is--how different the real-life events were from what's portrayed abstractly in the game. In chess, there's none of that to worry over. In addition, chess (the way I play it) is a much shorter game than TRC. And I can play chess against a competent computer AI.

I've gotten to where I play wargames for something other than that chess-like experience. I want a wargame to be more like a war book or war movie: I want it to capture my imagination (not just my intellect) and facilitate a self-indulgent session of make-believe. Oh, I'll do some thinking too. And I'll probably learn something. But mostly I want to have fun blowing stuff up or conquering enemy territory.
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Kev.
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No Expectations wrote:
The Russian Campaign really doesn’t need another review. Instead, I’m presenting a few rambling observations and impressions about this venerable game.

First, I want to get this out of the way straight off: I am not an East Front enthusiast. I can fully understand the interest in the campaign that many wargamers have, a vast expanse with an enormous scope and the opportunity for large mobile encirclements. The Russian campaign is one full of drama that provides both players with the opportunity to play both offense and defense. But despite all that, I’m still not sold. Nor does it have anything to do with the fact that it’s like watching a movie where all the characters are unlikable. Although once while setting up The Russian Campaign to play with a friend I did ask, “Which side do you want to be, Herpes or Hepatitis?”

I had owned and played Avalon Hill’s 1963 Stalingrad game but I knew that I would never play it again. But as a wargamer, I felt that I must be required to own at least one game on the Eastern Front. So I bought The Russian Campaign when it came out in 1976. I played it and to my surprise, I actually liked it. But I didn’t like it enough that it survived The Great Wargame Purge of 1988 when I quit wargaming.

Fast-forward to 2004. I had returned to wargaming in 2000 and once again I felt that I must own at least one East Front game. First I bought Barbarossa and quickly sold it. Then I bought Proud Monster and did the same. Realizing the amount of time and effort those two games demanded to learn and play decided the issue. My interest in the subject simply wasn’t high enough for the investment they required.

Then I saw that L2 had redone The Russian Campaign and really pimped it out. So I bought it. But the map was bigger. I have a nice antique drop-leaf table that I bought many years ago for the sole purpose of gaming. However, over the years, my wife has taken over that table. So playing with the bigger L2 map was problematic. I now have a spot that fits only a normal size one-map game. So I sold the L2 version and picked up a nice unpunched AH 3rd edition copy on eBay cheap.

When The Russian Campaign came out in 1976 it was exactly the game that fans of the older Stalingrad had always wanted Stalingrad to be: A game that was playable but with at least a modicum of history. Stalingrad was a good game and was highly playable but any resemblance to history was merely coincidental. The Russian Campaign added more history than Stalingrad but did it without sacrificing playability. It quickly became a best seller for AH and won the Charles S. Roberts Best Strategic Game Award in 1976.

Starting with the game components, there isn’t much good to be said. In a word: Bland. The map is bland, the counters are bland, the rulebook is bland; the whole damn game is bland. Okay, it was 1976 and lots of games were bland back then. But I think TRC is even blander than some of its contemporaries. Vanilla is the only flavor in TRC’s ice cream parlor. The kindest thing that can be said is that the components are blandly functional.

One thing I never liked was AH’s insistence on running the rivers down the middle of the hexes instead of along the hexsides. Perhaps a small gripe, but still, an unnecessary annoyance. It requires an example of play in the rulebook to clarify how it works. Even then, I recently came across a situation that I still wasn’t sure about. So while playing I have to think about the rivers and who is and who isn’t behind them. Old people shouldn’t be forced to think about stupid things that could have been easily fixed. It makes us cranky and our bowels get irritable.

I had originally bought the game during a period when I was buying, playing and shelving games in a sort of maniacal frenzy. I had played it a 2-3 times before moving on to the next new game so I never really became familiar with many of the game’s nuances. Replaying the game now, I saw a few things that had escaped me 35 years ago. I noticed that more than most other wargames I have played, The Russian Campaign has a chess-like quality. I know that the same can probably be said of any wargame. But I just don’t feel it in other wargames like I do in The Russian Campaign.

There are also gamers who have studied TRC the same way a chess player studies books on chess moves and strategy. It started in AH’s The General when, seeking the ‘perfect’ Russian opening setup, The Viipuri Setup was devised. When that defense was cracked, The Viipuri II was created. I recently found a website that contained several opening setups for TRC. For the Russians: The Minshew, Burkhalter, Gregario, Frydas, Kaplan and Red Case One. There were also German initial setups to counter the Russians. Among those are: Burkhalter vs. Minshew, Brown vs. Burkhalter and Hayes vs. Minshew.

More than previously, I also realized how much you needed to plan ahead in The Russian Campaign. A German player who advances blithely ahead in 1941 without paying attention to the onset of winter, will see his army melt away due to the supply line rules. Also, the Russian player will have to carefully plan his inevitable retreat in 1941. A fighting withdrawal, trading space for time and trying to avoid excessive casualties does require careful thought and planning.

The Russian Campaign feels like a ‘thinking man’s’ wargame. Planning is required before you start moving counters. Unlike a ‘monster’ game on the subject, there aren’t a thousand counters on the map. What you do with the fewer counters in TRC can be much more critical. Because of the scale, the movement of every unit can be important and the margin for error is low.

The Second Impulse rule was what really made this game popular back in 1976. It also makes planning what you can do and what your opponent can do in the Second Impulse, even more important. It is yet another facet of the game that makes planning necessary.

In other words, The Russian Campaign is not a game for ‘counter pushers’. We’ve all seen them, the guys who are pushing counters around the board without really thinking or planning ahead. That guy will have his head handed to him in The Russian Campaign.

One of my favorite aspects of the game is the ‘Worker’ units. Some start the game in various cities and others arrive as reinforcements. They are how the Russians receive replacements from the ‘dead’ pile. Once placed, they cannot move or retreat nor be replaced so the Russian player will find himself fighting hard not to lose these valuable units. Protecting them keeps the Russian player from just huddling his army around Moscow to prevent a German victory. The ‘Worker’ units are one of the keys to a Russian victory.

My only complaint with the game has to do with major cities. Units that begin their turn in a major city and adjacent to enemy units are forced to attack. What about the major sieges of Leningrad and Stalingrad? They won’t be happening in the game. I’m sure some players have devised their own house rules for this and I would be interested in hearing what they are.

Yeah, The Russian Campaign is one of those ‘combat factor counting’ games. You will spend a lot of time counting combat factors, trying to come up with the optimum results on the CRT. But even that seemed to take on a more chess-like feel than in other games where I had done the same thing before. Whenever I’ve counted combat factors in an SPI quad game, it never felt chess-like; it just felt like a low-level wargame. It’s hard to explain but in TRC, it feels more like an overall strategy and not because it’s a low-level wargame. It’s a part of the overall strategy of optimizing.

Is The Russian Campaign historically accurate? Well, it’s as accurate as the designer John Edwards wanted it to be. The salient features of the campaign are well represented. You will feel the might of the German blitzkrieg in 1941 and if the Germans are unable to win in late 1941 (unlikely), then push comes to shove in 1942. There will still be Germans counter-strokes and a chance for them to win but it will be much tougher as the game goes on and the Russian colossus grows. The game can feel like the actual campaign but it does this without providing a lot of detail.

If it’s detail that you want, move along; this is not the East Front game you are looking for. TRC is a ‘broad stroke’ strategic level game. The weather in Leningrad will always be the same as the weather in Sevastapol but the simple weather rules do convey a feeling for the problems faced by the actual combatants. Instead of a hundred counters representing the whole German Luftwaffe, German air superiority is represented early in the game by three powerful Stuka units, which the German player must use effectively. Russian Partisans consists of just three units with simple rules that allow them to cut German supply lines and woe to the German player who doesn’t plan properly for them. The simple supply and combat rules effectively show what happened to the Germans in the winter of 1941.

Edward’s utmost goal in designing The Russian Campaign was to create a game that was both balanced and competitive. In that, he succeeded admirably. I would describe it as clean and elegant design. Reading the rules, it seemed like yet another simple wargame. But once I began playing, I quickly realized that it possessed a depth of play. Granted, it is more game than simulation; it’s a design-for-effect game strung together with several simple rules that taken as a whole, presents a challenging game that will allow you a zoomed-out picture of this massive campaign. TRC is a ‘players’ game.

It’s easy to understand why The Russian Campaign became an immediate favorite as a tournament game. It plays fast and it rewards the player who can plan ahead, see the big picture, stay focused and optimize. You really do need to see the ‘big picture’ while playing this game. Players will need to devise a plan and stick with it. Running all over the board helter-skelter will usually produce defeat. Either side can win and victory will invariably go to the player who can best meet the demands that this game makes. The keys to victory are planning and optimizing.

What I like about The Russian Campaign is that when I sit down to play, I study and ponder every move just like I do whenever I play a game of chess. Truth be told, I like the idea of chess more than I like chess itself. The Russian Campaign presents that very same idea but in a way that I like much more than in actual chess. I still have to study, plan and ponder but in a much less abstract way.

In Ingmar Bergman’s film The Seventh Seal, Max von Sydow played a game of chess for his life with Death. Instead of chess, Max and Death should have played The Russian Campaign.

My next plan is to get my wife interested in playing the game. That won’t be too hard. Then I’ll show her pictures of the L2 version and when she falls into a swoon, I’ll reacquire a copy. The game is so beautiful she’ll be eager to play and I’ll get my table back at least occasionally. Diabolical.

I used to own the original Jedko version, from way back in the day.
Great game. I now own and love the L2 version. No Retreat beckons and PM sits menacing in the corner.
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Lawrence Hung
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Quote:
One of my favorite aspects of the game is the ‘Worker’ units. Some start the game in various cities and others arrive as reinforcements. They are how the Russians receive replacements from the ‘dead’ pile. Once placed, they cannot move or retreat nor be replaced so the Russian player will find himself fighting hard not to lose these valuable units. Protecting them keeps the Russian player from just huddling his army around Moscow to prevent a German victory. The ‘Worker’ units are one of the keys to a Russian victory.


My quibble with the Worker rules was that I was not sure whether the number on the unit represented the number of dead units that could be returned or the number of strength points that could be returned. That was a point I couldn't make clear of even today. It is because if the number means the number of units returning, the game makes the Russian too strong at a superhuman replacement rate. If the number refers to strength points, the Russian might be too weak to defend the motherland and most of the time the German would win the game. The replacement system, to me, is wrong in either way. The Germans would have to dash for sudden death in the first few turns. Otherwise, the game is all over when the German could not win in 1941. There is no point to go on as the Russian is guaranteed to win the game. Worker units, on the contrary, are the weakest feature in the game.
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Steven Goodknecht
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The total number of the Worker numbers is how many combat factors may be taken from the 'dead' pile every turn. The Germans may only take replacements once a year.

My play of the game isn't nearly as extensive as some others but I have won with the Germans in 1942. But if the game goes into 1943, my experience is that the Russians will eventually win.
 
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Lawrence Hung wrote:
My quibble with the Worker rules was that I was not sure whether the number on the unit represented the number of dead units that could be returned or the number of strength points that could be returned. That was a point I couldn't make clear of even today.

TRC 3rd ed. rules:

22.4 The sum total of all worker units in the
game equals the Russian replacement capacity
for that turn. He may replace units whose
combined combat factors do not exceed this total

providing he includes no more than one Armor
and one Guards unit among those units recreated.
(A Guards armored unit counts as an armor
unit—not a Guards unit.)


Seems pretty clear to me.


Quote:
It is because if the number means the number of units returning, the game makes the Russian too strong at a superhuman replacement rate. If the number refers to strength points, the Russian might be too weak to defend the motherland and most of the time the German would win the game. The replacement system, to me, is wrong in either way. The Germans would have to dash for sudden death in the first few turns. Otherwise, the game is all over when the German could not win in 1941. There is no point to go on as the Russian is guaranteed to win the game. Worker units, on the contrary, are the weakest feature in the game.


Well, lets see.
Many, if not most people that have played this game extensively, seem to think it ends in a draw too often - at least too often for their taste.
My own experience of about 100 games played, almost all solitaired, indicates a perfect balance. I once kept track of 10 games which ended in 4 draws and 3 each German and Russian wins.

True, most German wins happen fairly early (so what?), for obvious reasons, but I've won games as the Germans in all years, including 1945 (but never actually in 1941), if memory serves.
For the Russian side, it's practically impossible to win prior to the second half of 1944, at the earliest, again for obvious reasons.
All this assumes two more or less equally skilled players (or, as in my case, solitaire).

Furthermore, the claim that most German wins happen in 1941 is patently false.
Even under the best circumstances for the German side, all the Russian player will do in 1941 is retreat the Stalin counter to Gorki or Archangel, or some similar place, and any German win will be delayed until 1942, at the earliest, often until 1943 or later.

Listening to people talk about this game over the years, I also get the impression that there is a feeling among many players that, if the German attack does not result in victory in 1941 or 1942, that the rest of the game isn't worth playing.
To them, it seems that the only fun part is the initial German attack.

This tendency to focus almost exclusively on the German side of things carries over to many other games as well, a number of which don't even bother to include the last year of the conflict, instead ending sometime in 1944. Russian Front is a good example.
It is beyond my comprehension why someone would want to play a game depicting this epic war and yet not allow both sides the chance of ultimate victory, not just the Germans. By "ultimate victory", I mean capturing the opponent's capital.

Another example that bears out this sentiment focusing on the German view of things are the tournament games, which use the initial 1941 invasion scenario exclusively.
Why is it that this scenarios is used in tournaments, since it is one-sided in the sense that the German side is doing almost all the attacking and the Russian side almost all the defending?
It seems to me a better tournament choice might be the 1943 scenario, which would allow both sides to attack and defend.

In any case, I'm amused by the various opinions expressed about TRC, which are all over the place.
While some people complain there are too many drawn results, others complain that if there is no early German victory, an eventual Russian victory is assured.
Yet others complain that the game is simply grossly unbalanced for one side or another.
They can't all be right, but they can all be wrong.

My suggestion is that, if one is not ready to commit about 12 hours to playing this game, then don't bother. That's how long it takes to play a typical game of TRC, if it goes the distance, again assuming two experienced players at a casual pace (or solitaire).
I don't put much value on someone playing the first half dozen turns and then quitting with the notion that the rest of the game isn't worth playing for some reason or another.
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Not surprising that any game that has been as widely played as TRC over the past 35 years would see opinions running the gamut.

As I stated above, my experience with the game pales in comparison with some other players. I really only 'rediscovered' the game in the past few years.

But I do find it hard to believe that the game is unbalanced. At least I haven't found it to be so. The simple fact that it was so popular as a tournament game would seem to disprove that also. And as I stated in the review, I believe Edwards when designing the game put balance and competitiveness foremost.

It is a very nuanced game that does require much attention to detail. If a player overlooks the nuances or plays sloppily, he will suffer accordingly. I was surprised at how hard the game can be to actually play well.

It does requires concentration and attention to detail. Hence, my comparison to TRC and chess. The moves in chess can be learned in less than ten minutes but mastering the game is much more demanding. The five pages of rules in TRC belies the depth of play that the game possesses.
 
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No Expectations wrote:
It does requires concentration and attention to detail. Hence, my comparison to TRC and chess. The moves in chess can be learned in less than ten minutes but mastering the game is much more demanding. The five pages of rules in TRC belies the depth of play that the game possesses.

Wouldn't it suck if, by the time you finished reading the rules to a game, you knew all there was to know about playing it? Just reading Hoyle from cover to cover would make you the master of a whole bunch of traditional games. And there'd be no need for all the literature that chess has generated, or all the articles on TRC.
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No Expectations wrote:
It started in AH’s The General when, seeking the ‘perfect’ Russian opening setup, The Viipuri Setup was devised. When that defense was cracked, The Viipuri II was created.

I'll have to tell Dick Jarvinen he's still famous when he comes over this evening.

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Sphere wrote:
No Expectations wrote:
It started in AH’s The General when, seeking the ‘perfect’ Russian opening setup, The Viipuri Setup was devised. When that defense was cracked, The Viipuri II was created.

I'll have to tell Dick Jarvinen he's still famous when he comes over this evening.



And when you do that, would you please ask him just what the heck 'Viipuri' stands for? Inquiring minds want to know!
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No Expectations wrote:
And when you do that, would you please ask him just what the heck 'Viipuri' stands for? Inquiring minds want to know!

I'll do better than that; I'll send him an email and ask him to explain here why he chose that name. (He's done so before, but it's more fun this way.)
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Viipuri is now Vyborg, it's a city near Leningrad in the Karelian Isthmus. It was the largest city in Finnish Karelia until the area was lost to the Soviet Union in the Winter War (and then again in the Continuation War).

Good review!

Best regards,
Jaakko
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Yeh, what Jaakko said!

Plus, it was the site (or very nearby, anyway) of the only Finnish tank attack in the Winter War.

Never mind that only six Finnish tanks were involved; it was the thought that counts.

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Da Debil wrote:
Lawrence Hung wrote:
My quibble with the Worker rules was that I was not sure whether the number on the unit represented the number of dead units that could be returned or the number of strength points that could be returned. That was a point I couldn't make clear of even today.

TRC 3rd ed. rules:

22.4 The sum total of all worker units in the
game equals the Russian replacement capacity
for that turn. He may replace units whose
combined combat factors do not exceed this total

providing he includes no more than one Armor
and one Guards unit among those units recreated.
(A Guards armored unit counts as an armor
unit—not a Guards unit.)


Seems pretty clear to me.


You are quite right. It is clear to something of a mystery for 30 years. Obviously, my copy of Chinese edition doesn't do the translation right, or it was done based on the first edition rule. Is 22.4 always there? My game only comes with the Chinese rulebook and there is no English version included.



Quote:
It is because if the number means the number of units returning, the game makes the Russian too strong at a superhuman replacement rate. If the number refers to strength points, the Russian might be too weak to defend the motherland and most of the time the German would win the game. The replacement system, to me, is wrong in either way. The Germans would have to dash for sudden death in the first few turns. Otherwise, the game is all over when the German could not win in 1941. There is no point to go on as the Russian is guaranteed to win the game. Worker units, on the contrary, are the weakest feature in the game.


Da Debil wrote:

Many, if not most people that have played this game extensively, seem to think it ends in a draw too often - at least too often for their taste.
My own experience of about 100 games played, almost all solitaire, indicates a perfect balance. I once kept track of 10 games which ended in 4 draws and 3 each German and Russian wins.

True, most German wins happen fairly early (so what?), for obvious reasons, but I've won games as the Germans in all years, including 1945 (but never actually in 1941), if memory serves.
For the Russian side, it's practically impossible to win prior to the second half of 1944, at the earliest, again for obvious reasons.
All this assumes two more or less equally skilled players (or, as in my case, solitaire).

Furthermore, the claim that most German wins happen in 1941 is patently false.
Even under the best circumstances for the German side, all the Russian player will do in 1941 is retreat the Stalin counter to Gorki or Archangel, or some similar place, and any German win will be delayed until 1942, at the earliest, often until 1943 or later.


I think what you are referring to is the secret objectives rule, capture of (and hold) cities in the specific year in order to win. This is one of the best feature in the game. So we are talking about different thing. If the rules are not used at all, and the German don't win by taking Moscow, the game would have to go into the long struggle in between 1942 to 1944, too long to wait to see the final outcome which is destined to be a Russian Victory.

Da Debil wrote:
Listening to people talk about this game over the years, I also get the impression that there is a feeling among many players that, if the German attack does not result in victory in 1941 or 1942, that the rest of the game isn't worth playing.
To them, it seems that the only fun part is the initial German attack.

This tendency to focus almost exclusively on the German side of things carries over to many other games as well, a number of which don't even bother to include the last year of the conflict, instead ending sometime in 1944. Russian Front is a good example.
It is beyond my comprehension why someone would want to play a game depicting this epic war and yet not allow both sides the chance of ultimate victory, not just the Germans. By "ultimate victory", I mean capturing the opponent's capital.

Another example that bears out this sentiment focusing on the German view of things are the tournament games, which use the initial 1941 invasion scenario exclusively.
Why is it that this scenarios is used in tournaments, since it is one-sided in the sense that the German side is doing almost all the attacking and the Russian side almost all the defending?
It seems to me a better tournament choice might be the 1943 scenario, which would allow both sides to attack and defend.

In any case, I'm amused by the various opinions expressed about TRC, which are all over the place.
While some people complain there are too many drawn results, others complain that if there is no early German victory, an eventual Russian victory is assured.
Yet others complain that the game is simply grossly unbalanced for one side or another.
They can't all be right, but they can all be wrong.

My suggestion is that, if one is not ready to commit about 12 hours to playing this game, then don't bother. That's how long it takes to play a typical game of TRC, if it goes the distance, again assuming two experienced players at a casual pace (or solitaire).
I don't put much value on someone playing the first half dozen turns and then quitting with the notion that the rest of the game isn't worth playing for some reason or another.


The opinions offered are quite true and widely accepted, as you well pointed out, time available to play the whole game is pretty much the issue that led to the opinions. Having said that, perhaps people are not saying that they don't like the game but only telling the truth. On the contrary, they obviously LOVE the game despite all that, including me. The Russian Campaign 3rd edition is obviously the mother of all games on the campaign. The recent No Retreat! The Russian Front resolves most of the problems that The Russian Campaign had, with a perfect pace of game time, dissecting the campaign into stages construed to historical milestones, and a balanced, meaningful victory conditions. Sure, it is a game at more strategic scale than The Russian Campaign. Thus, it is more chess-like than The Russian Campaign in comparison. I am sure there will be more analysis-paralysis opening and mid game moves out there.meeple
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Lawrence Hung wrote:
You are quite right. Obviously, my copy of Chinese edition doesn't do the translation right, or it was done based on the first edition rule. My game only comes with the Chinese rulebook and there is no English version included.





(3rd edition rules are in the files section.)


Quote:
I think what you are referring to is the secret objectives rule, capture of (and hold) cities in the specific year in order to win. So we are talking about different thing.

Nope. I was referring to the normal campaign game, 1941-45.

Quote:
If the rules are not used at all, and the German don't win by taking Moscow, the game would have to go into the long struggle in between 1942 to 1944, too long to wait to see the final outcome which is destined to be a Russian Victory.

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>It is beyond my comprehension why someone would want to play a game depicting this epic war and yet not allow both sides the chance of ultimate victory, not just the Germans.

Because the fighting to defend the Russian capital in 1941 and 1942 is real; the Soviet is trying to win the game by winning the war, whereas the fighting to defend Berlin in 1945 is completely artificial. The real German victory condition was not to hold Berlin past say May of 1945 but to not lose Berlin at all and games that say the Germans win if only they hold on past the last turn encourage very unhistorical strategies.
 
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polarbear91406 wrote:
>It is beyond my comprehension why someone would want to play a game depicting this epic war and yet not allow both sides the chance of ultimate victory, not just the Germans.

Because the fighting to defend the Russian capital in 1941 and 1942 is real; the Soviet is trying to win the game by winning the war, whereas the fighting to defend Berlin in 1945 is completely artificial. The real German victory condition was not to hold Berlin past say May of 1945 but to not lose Berlin at all and games that say the Germans win if only they hold on past the last turn encourage very unhistorical strategies.

In a sense, the war was lost only when (and perhaps because) Germany officially surrendered. What prompted that surrender was not strictly military; it was social, political, and economic too. IOW, there was more to it than can possibly be simulated in a wargame.

But wargames don't have to simulate that, and they usually don't pretend to. They only try to model the military aspects of the war. To do that, somewhat arbitrary victory conditions have to be set for the game to work. Likewise, artificial deadlines are often set in order to make for a better game.

Wargame design is a balancing act, and part of the balance is between simulating war and creating a good game. Ideally, you want both. But each of those aims somewhat undermines the other.
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polarbear91406 wrote:
The real German victory condition was not to hold Berlin past say May of 1945 but to not lose Berlin at all and games that say the Germans win if only they hold on past the last turn encourage very unhistorical strategies.

Understood, but in my opinion this is a good example of an instance where game takes precedence over simulation.
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Da Debil wrote:
polarbear91406 wrote:
The real German victory condition was not to hold Berlin past say May of 1945 but to not lose Berlin at all and games that say the Germans win if only they hold on past the last turn encourage very unhistorical strategies.

Understood, but in my opinion this is a good example of an instance where game takes precedence over simulation.


Not necessarily. The military objective is often the taking of capital city - there is no "gamey" over that.
 
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