A Brief Review of Moscow Burning- The Next Russian Civil War
by Mark Mokszycki
I will not go into mechanics in this review, as that has already been done in Seth's review here at BGG. Instead, I'll focus on general impressions of the game after my first playing- it's merits and it's faults.
Like many Ty Bomba games, what this game lacks in detail and historical realism, it makes up for in sleek gameplay and fun factor. Overall, this is a decent game.
I like the chaos introduced by the random setup allegiances, random reinforcement allegiances, and random events. This chaos, along with a complete lack of ZOCs, helps capture the feel of the earliest stages of civil war unrest. As the designer explains, this type of combat is more akin to drive by shootings from riot squads than to conventional warfare.
The game system is simple- extremely simple- and initially this seems to be a plus. I found that I was up and playing within about 30 minutes, with very little rules referencing. This would lead me to think that it would be a good game to introduce non-wargamers to the hobby. However...
The game is not without problems. For one, the unit density feels too low. Way too low. On some turns, there is little or nothing going on, simply because you only have a small handful of mobile units on the map (80% of the units on the map are immobile militia which basically just mark city control until attacked). Sure, you get some reinforcements as the game progresses, but not very many... too few for the action to ever really kick in. Bascially, the reinforcements will trickle in as your other units are "spent", so the overall density is likely to remain very low throughout the game.
Next, the counter mix provides counters a whopping SIXTY-SIX Heavy Divisions (with tanks shown on the counters), yet the game begins with only 6 such counters in play. A few more such counters *might* enter the game later, as a random event, but there's only a 1 in 9 chance that you'll pick that random event. And the game is only 10 turns long! And even if you do pick the random event that allows for more Heavies, only 1-6 enter (roll a single die). So on average, you'll maybe see 3 or 4 more enter the game by the time it ends. So why on earth do we need 66 of the things in the counter mix?!! Is there a typo somewhere? Did I overlook a rule? Or did the printer just get overly zealous?
Now for the strategy. There is some, to be sure, but a lot of it is of the "build killer stacks and stomp out resistance, one Moscow hex at a time" approach. Perhaps this is a drawback of the simplistic combat system. I kept feeling inclined to utilize other portions of the large map, since there are cities spread out everywhere. Problem is, Moscow is worth 30 points (and other cities are worth between 1 and 6, most being worth just 1) so there is little reason to do anything except make a line straight for Moscow and jump into the fray.
The map, while crisp and functional, is rather plain jane. This is probably another reason the game doesn't receive highter ratings here on BGG.
Even with it's handful of faults, I found the game to be fast, playable, and relatively fun, with good replay value due to all the randomness. As a simulation, it is probably quite laughable, and thus it won't be to the liking of historians or grognards. But taken as a light beer & pretzels distraction from more serious wargames, it works reasonably well. There is even a bit of "black comedy" thrown in just to ensure that it's not taken too seriously. Elvis and flying saucers, for example...
My overall rating: 6 / 10
Complexity: 2 / 10 (about as complex as Risk)