Joe and I are playing the recent GMT re-release of Reds!, a game covering the Russian Civil War. After a 2 - 3 turn practice game we started a campaign game this week, and I'd like to offer some impressions and some During the Action Report (DAR) commentary.
First, the topic (no, Marshall and Matt, I'm NOT playing the Bolsheviks!): Anyone who is even vaguely familiar with the Russian Civil War knows it was a chaotic, multi-faction conflict with fluid (or non-existant) front lines, shifting objectives and loyalties. You have the relatively cohesive Soviets strongly deployed around Moscow, and a host of enemies surrounding them: monarchist Whites, nationalist Cossacks, unpredictable Anarchists, intervention forces from France, the US, ... you name it. Its a desperate struggle from the first move.
So, how the heck do you make this a two player game? Another game (and favorite) on RCW, COA Triumph of Chaos manages it through a complex, exception-laden rule set, two distinct card-play sub-systems, a multi-variate faction tracker, and more. It works, but is a life-style commitment. Reds! accomplishes it in a much simpler fashion, but it works as well.
First, the Whites are broken up into 6 or 7 factions, the Reds into about the same number of Fronts. A chit pull mechanism activates each faction / front, and leaves the players pretty much out of control of which moves when (unless s/he is the initiative player, when you get to pick your first chit ... or the Red player has a Field Staff chit that allows activation of any unactivated Front).
Whites have the advantage of smaller units that can stack more punch into a hex, but the Red armies are generally much more powerful. Another subsystem is the Random Events. Each turn each player rolls up an event. These can add nifty units to the mix (armored trains, airplanes, etc.), advantage players in various ways. And, when Red leaders enter through the Random Events, the number of Fronts s/he can activate increase ... and, Leaders allow the Reds to build bigger stacks and thus more power in their offensives.
The Combat system is unique (at least I've never seen it). You calculate combat odds based on the number of manpower points in the fight, THEN you roll a die and multiply it by the number of units... the more units in the fight the greater the multiplier. And each unit has modifiers. All added together you have a differential between attacker and defender that is indexed against the odds. Results vary from disruption of one unit (flip it to a weaker side, or eliminate if disrupted) to disruption and retreat of all units.
Finally, the end of WW1 (around turn 6) means a slew of White troops arrive, and more importantly, the Polish army appears and the Ukraine is opened up behind the retreating Germans. A game-changing moment.
Taken together, all these factors yield enough chaos, uncertainty, and prevent the White player from acting in coordinated concert with the many whacky factions. Some combats are predictable, but many more are not. Supply constrains movement tightly, forcing real supply-line-conscious movement. Units are much more fragile than you'd think, and grand offensives evaporate suddenly, overmatched defenders hold on, etc.
The turn sequence in pretty standard, except that every 4th turn is a Strategic Turn. This is when reinforcements and replacements arrive. Movement is simple, and the other mechanics of the game are clean and easy, keeping out of the way to let the more important mechanics of chit pull, etc. take control.
Victory conditions seem difficult: Reds have to capture ALL cities on the board (outside Poland and some other areas) or all Resource Citys (key locations like Moscow, Kiev) and defeat Poland. Sounds impossible but the Reds are very resilient ... and if they take enough resources from the Whites the Allied nations will withdraw, and along with them troops, tanks, airplanes, etc.
We've gotten through several turns, and are about 1 turn away from the end of WW1. We learned from our first game that over-committing and attacking with disrupted troops will quickly turn the most impressive looking offensive into a shattered mess. So, a bit more thought and caution led to better strategic play. Due to supply / movement constraints, it's possible to screen a large force with a smaller one and keep them out of position.
Joe did a good job of smashing the White Siberian Cossack faction, concentrating on units that can't be re-generated through replacements. A powerful Red army group is now grinding eastward, close to capturing the two resource citys in this Front. The shattered Siberians are falling back towards their supply base at Omsk, hoping to hold out until the end of the Great War sees a fresh wave of troops.
The South is a different story. Interestingly enough, the city of Tsaritsyn, Red Verdun (later known as Stalingrad) is a key and central point in this struggle. The White forces in the south (known as the Armed Forces of Southern Russia) combined with the Don and Kuban Cossacks has steadily pushed northward. The Red armies in that Front are in retreat. With more Siberians arriving with the end of WW1, the White forces are a very real threat, ready to march north into the very heart of Red Russia around Moscow.
And finally, all eyes are cast westward where soon the powerful Polish army will appear, along with various national armies of Baltic States. The power vacuum left by the retreating Axis will open the resource-rich Ukraine, allow the Poles to enter the war against the Reds, and allow movement into many now-inaccessible neutral areas.
This one map game is very special, taking a monstrously complex topic and distilling down to a small, not-overly-complex game that works, is engaging and fun to play. With so many variables, its hard to make one mistake so profound that it impacts your chances of winning. So, the field is wide open for unorthodox, risky, whacky strategies that just MIGHT work. I'll let Joe comment, but for me, this is a keeper, and I suspect it will be shifted to that pile of games I like to revisit over time.
If you'd like to see some pictures too, see the bottom of the article at:
Fueled by the Void
I'm surprised no one has replied to this. Your session/review is nicely condensed compared to the other threads on Reds! while mentioning the most important details.
Thanks for your contributing! I can't wait for my copy to arrive!
My copy arrived this week after I took advantage of this years GMT fall sale.
I picked it up for 50% off and am very pleased I did. I haven't played it yet but I am more thoroughly combing through the threads here on the game.
A bit soon yet I know but this game seems like it might be an under appreciated gem. I can already see a new historical subject asking to be studied... When I grew up this period was not well known. Especially the western reactionary intervention.
Of course this designer has a great reputation and is one of my favorites. Why isn't there a Ted Raicer micro badge?
Thanks for your session report/review.