(Note: an illustrated copy of this review appears as a Word-2000 file at http://www.sftribune.net/Reds4.doc )
"If it were necessary for us to go under to assure the success of the
German revolution, we should have to do it. The German revolution is vastly more important than ours. But when will it come? No one knows. And at the moment, there is nothing so important as our revolution. It must be safeguarded against danger at any price."
-- Lenin [*1*]
TROTS! Here is your wargame
All Trotskyists - real or imagined - should know that their wargame has
arrived. Even if they were not waiting for it, here it is.
_Reds! (The Russian Civil War 1918-1921)_ [GMT Games, 2001] portrays the Russian Civil War (including the concurrent war with Pilsudski's Poland) as a two-player boardgame. Wonderful to relate, it works.
I'm not bound to be pleased by a game purporting to model the Russian Civil War. It's too much like the old joke about the guy whose kid comes up to him and says, "Dad, why won't you come to my concert performance? We're playing all your favorite music." And the dad replies, "That's why I don't want to go to your concert."
I first approached Reds! in that spirit. I felt sure that poor Tinkerbell couldn't fly, no matter how hard I might wish. Evaluating Reds! would consist of giving it the old college try, while enumerating the many historical errors I was sure I'd find. Instead, to my surprise and delight, I didn't find anything wrong with this toy as history. Reds! offers a hand-cranked full-color interactive military atlas of the Russian Civil War, with finely crafted moving parts.
Any attempt to model the entire scope of the Russian Civil War faces
challenges. The RCW was class struggle at knifepoint; but even a merely
mechanical representation of military operations must deal with the uniquely chaotic nature of the RCW, its sudden successes and reverses and shifting lines over vast territories. The October Revolution wasn't like any other revolution, and its 1918-1921 sequel wasn't like any other war.
Reds!' game system manages to capture the unique 'feel' of the RCW without overburdening the players. Reds! lives up to GMT's advertisement as both a true "player's game" and a "realistic depiction of some of the most titanic and unusual campaigns of modern military history." I give Reds! five Red Stars, my highest rating. Being a Civil War game, it also deserves five White Stars from the counterrevolutionists.
You don't need to know a battalion from a belfry to play Reds!. Your job is to make higher-level strategic decisions to lead your forces to victory: How do you deploy your limited resources? Do you fall back and consolidate, or order your guys to attack?
Baron von Wrangel and the Chrome Nun
Reds! has more chrome than I have seen (or imagined) in an historical
wargame. Almost one-third of the game (by rules volume) is stuff other than
its basic mechanics. The heart of Reds! - its system of turns and movements
and combats and supply and reinforcements - is pretty tight. Little pieces
of chrome sitting on top of it must justify their existence by adding more
fun (in terms of historical color and accuracy) than trouble (for players to
take note of). They succeed, too, every one of them. Reds! doesn't have
any optional rules, and surely doesn't need any. Reds!' chrome alloys
integrally with all its cold steel and hot lead. For White's Allied
Intervention Force (AIF) to attack, she needs to roll the random event 'AIF
Offensive' (reflecting some relief from the various political pressures
against active intervention). For Red Armies to support each other, Red
wants the random event 'Red Leader' to happen early and often. The two
Random Events Tables aren't an extra to this game, so much as part of the
respective Orders of Battle (OBs) for the players.
A Red player who manages to get three leaders into play has an easy game.
But if Red doesn't roll a leader at all - or if White removes it through a
Political Intrigue event - it may be a cold day in Crimea before the
Bolsheviks capture Sevastopol. (In this game, you can't march across the
Kerch Straits). [*2*]
The game's internal logic induces players to do more-or-less historical
things for the same reasons their historical counterparts did (or ought to
have done). Reds! doesn't have any big Iron Maiden rules whereby players
are straightjacketed to keep ahistorical behaviors from getting out of hand.
[*3*] Things like Yudenich's relations with Estonia (rules 10.11 and 18.4)
are more like little chrome nuns. We Reds applied exceptional political
pressure against Estonia [*4*] to 'obtain' rule 10.11, so that deserves an
GMT rates Reds! as complexity '4' on a scale of 1-9, which seems about
GMT puts Reds!' suitability for solitaire play as '8,' which seems too
modest. Reds! is a "perfect information" game (players know 'everything'),
and its mechanisms lend themselves well to a single player (or team) playing
both sides in succession.
Hexes are numbered, and units uniquely identified. Play-by-mail (pbm)
would still face procedural obstacles, most significantly with 11.3 ["The
active player need not declare all attacks beforehand .."] and allocations
of aircraft support.
The hot dog and the bun go together
Reds!' physical hardware is beautiful to regard. Of course, a meal must be
eaten before it qualifies as fine dining. Mere assertion that "form
follows function" ignores the dialectical relationship between function and
form. A fork functions as an eating utensil, but only in a culture using
forks to eat with. [*6*] The hardware of Reds! comprises a notational
convention for the software of Reds!. [*7*] It looks right and works
Reds! comes as a complete package with everything you need to play the game
(and to pick up your toys afterwards) included in the box. Ten little
plastic bags for storing the game counters are included, as are two dice.
One die, and Red's player aid card, are red; the other die, and White's
player aid card, are white. (Unfortunately, Red's player aid card is so red
that it boggled my tired old eyes. Still, I deem it right and proper that
the card was bright red instead of a wimpy pink). Your own random events
are good for you, or bad for your opponent - unless they prove ineffective
(which happens more often to White). This is how you get armored trains,
partisans, or aircraft.
The game includes 224 cardboard counters. Most are status markers or
special "funny" units. The entire Red Army, at peak strength, has twenty
regular combat units. The counterrevolutionaries will eventually muster
twice as many units, but the units are smaller and are divided among seven
different White factions. The 5/8-inch counters are multi-colored and
back-printed. Color and die-cutting registrations are crisp and precise.
Regular combat units are infantry (movement rate '3') or cavalry (rate of
'4'). [*9*] Combat capability is expressed in three dimensions: a 'manpower
value' [size]; an 'offensive modifier'; and a 'defensive modifier.' Either
modifier can be negative (or zero).
Reds!' regular combat units have two sides: full strength and "disordered,"
a form of step loss (partial elimination). Some units (in the process of
being formed) will start the game in a disordered state. A disordered unit
has lower combat modifiers; it will die if it suffers a second disorder
result. This makes the unit a lot more vulnerable. Disordered units can
sometimes be rallied (returned to full strength) if they have supplies.
Red's OB centers on the sixteen Red Armies organized by Trotsky, identical
in composition. An undersized Turkestani army operates from Tashkent. The
Latvian Rifles division appears as an individual unit. (Reds!' game
mechanics give the Latvians a more important role than mere combat value
suggests). After the first year of war, the Reds will develop a cavalry arm
superior to White's Cossacks.
The White OB is a collection of factions: Denikin and Wrangel have a big
army. Yudenich has a little army. Admiral Kolchak wields a dog's breakfast
of forces, from the veteran Czech Legion to the dispersed Constituent
Assembly's [*10*] indifferently motivated "Peoples Army." A tiny White
Islamic Army joins the heterogeneous crusade against godless Bolshevism.
The imperialists themselves are represented, of course, subject to political
restrictions. Eventually, Pilsuski's Poles will also fight the Red Menace.
One artful touch is that units have unobtrusive visual reminders of the
special rules that apply to them. For example, Cossacks can't move more
than 8 hexes (about 500 miles) from their home range (krug), so their
movement factor appears in a yellow box. [*12*]
The unmounted 22-in. by 34 in. map uses a scale of about 65 miles per
hexagon from Poland to Siberia, and from Central Asia to Murmansk. The top
of the map is Northeast, not North. Every hex on the map is unambiguously
whatever sort of terrain it is. The overall effect is both aesthetically
pleasing and precise. Everything you need is there, yet the simple and
clean appearance of the map lends itself to standing back and taking in a
strategic overview of the whole situation.
The Red player's greatest weapon is her rail network, and Russia's
extensive system of inland waterways is also vital in keeping the Red Army
supplied. Veteran grumblers of World War II Eastern Front wargames might
expect a familiar map to be transposed to the East, only to be surprised at
the absence of features like the [southern] Bug River. This is not your
grandfather's Russian Campaign. In 1918 Russia, rivers aren't Panzer
barriers. (On the scale of Reds!, only the mighty Volga sometimes impedes
movement). Rivers are mostly arteries of communications and supply (12.5)
or highways for strategic movement (10.3). The Bug River isn't navigable,
so it doesn't appear on Reds!' map. Likewise, where railroads exist, it
would be redundant to depict a river in the one or two hexes of the Kuban
that are navigable. Not until the 1930s will the USSR begin building canals
linking the Moscow River to the world. (The link between the Volga and the
Don/Donets won't be completed until 1952).
Forested hexes on Reds!' map represent something close to primeval
wilderness. Most of the forest hexes are east of Archangel, or in
out-of-the-way places like Karelia and the tip of the Courland Peninsula.
Swamps act like forests. Lake Ilmen (hex 1812) is depicted as swamp, which
is correct in terms of the game's scale and terrain definitions. In parts
of the board, the terrain channelizes maneuver as effectively as in any
"area movement" game. (For example, there's only one effective axis of
advance through the Central Asian desert).
Both players want to take and hold resource cities. (Resource cities
represent aggregated economic power - not every industrial city counts as a
"resource" city). White's replacement capacity is limited, and it will
pretty much disappear after the Allied interventionists leave the game. To
maintain support from his imperialist sponsors, the White player needs to
control an ever-increasing number of resource cities.
Some cities on the map are "Red cities," where the Soviet government enjoys
the inherent support of the urban population. If White doesn't occupy a Red
city with (at least) a garrison, it reverts to Red control - and White
forces get no combat advantage for defending a Red city. The Donets River
doesn't appear, but the map accurately portrays the demographic and
political composition of the Donets Basin. When the Central Powers leave,
four new cities (including two resource cities) become Red-controlled, by
virtue of 'being' Red. Prior to the Great War, this region was the source
of virtually all of Russia's iron and coal - and therefore, steel -
production. The Bolshevized proletariat is strong in those parts. [*13*]
Other cities do not love the Bolsheviks. Izhevsk, the scene of an urban
Vendee, has a strong White garrison. A "neutral" Kiev garrison happily
collaborates with Whites.
Near Gulai-Pole, the anarchist Nestor Makhno rules! Makhno can change
sides during the war - as he did historically. (The petit bourgeoisie is
volatile!) Makhno fights the Whites unless the Reds are closer to him, in
which case he becomes White and fights against the Reds. [*14*] Trotsky
called Makhno's band "a bunch of kulaks on horseback." Although an apt
political characterization, that doesn't qualify it as a cavalry unit in
game terms. Instead, Reds! makes Makhno's unit a partisan, with a few
differences: Its attacks aren't restricted to garrisons; it's stronger than
other partisans; and it's limited to a 200 mile radius around Gulai-Pole.
The Red player earns replacements for controlled resource cities,
especially Moscow (political-demographic-rail center of Russia), Petrograd
(cradle of the October Revolution) and Tula (home of Russia's pitiable
armaments industry). [*15*] The Red Army can more than regenerate all of
its units over the course of the game (provided only that its rate of losses
doesn't exceed its replacement rate for very long).
Reds!' sequence of play is complicated enough that it's reprinted on the
back of the rulebook for the sanity of new players. After players are
familiar with the system, the turns move quickly. Experienced players can
manage two games in one sitting. In play, Reds!' low counter density is
complemented by segmentation of both players' operational moves. You can't
move all your pieces at once, and your turns don't come in a fixed order.
Instead, randomly chosen chits, representing White's different factions and
Red's separate Front commands, allow both sides the possibility of a
localized double-turn - moving towards the end of one turn, and again near
the beginning of the following turn. Players must take various risks, not
knowing things which would be 'fixed' in the rules of other wargames - like
whether the opponent has a chance to resupply ('rally') before a
The same rules apply to both sides, but - owing to the different "shape" of
each army - implications differ. Both Red and White have unique strengths
and weaknesses. To win, you have to seize every chance to maximize your own
advantages while mercilessly exploiting your opponent's vulnerabilities.
The Combat Results Table (CRT) for Reds! is deceptively simple. It's not
hard to 'crack' the CRT; it's just that cracking it doesn't do you any good.
Battles vary. Bigger battles vary in a bigger way. An attacking force can
have Good Things(tm) happen at combat odds as low as 1:3, while Bad
Things(tm) can sometimes happen even at odds of 4:1 (the lowest and highest
columns, respectively). The CRT by itself is bloodless: no unit
eliminations can occur, 'only' disordered results. You eliminate units by
disordering them after they are already disordered; by cutting off or
blocking their retreat routes; or by putting them out of supply and waiting
for them to starve.
Reds!' strategy notes are worth their weight in Tsarist gold. When the man
says, "Supply considerations dominate maneuver," you'd better believe him.
Your supply line can be no more than one hex from a railhead (or river).
Supplied units may never voluntarily move out of supply; unsupplied units
get disordered in a Logistics Segment.
Those simple rules can offer unpleasant surprises. Game mechanics often
keep Red from advancing unless a leader (or the Latvian Rifles) is around.
White doesn't have that problem, but White "gets" to go first during the
Logistics phase. So when players really mix it up and manage to put each
other mutually out of supply, White gets the first opportunity to die of
starvation - which might then restore supply for Red!
Players can't know when a Logistics Segment will happen. The worst case
can be pretty grim, if coupled with a (localized) double turn by your
opponent. On any single battlefront, you might suffer an enemy attack
placing you out of supply; then suffer two disorder attritions dissolving
your army into nothingness; then see your opponent move through the holes
where your armies used to be; and only then be able to move your survivors,
if any. (You might be doing the same to your opponent in another theater).
Any self-respecting wargame depicting Russia needs rules for weather. In
Winter, river flotillas hibernate, lakes freeze up, rivers can't be used for
strategic movement, and the Baltic and White Seas can't be used for naval
operations. Bad weather impedes both movement and the tempo of combat
operations. To reflect this, Reds! uses a system like GDW's A House
Divided: Each turn during Winter and Spring represents two months rather
than one. Players aren't loaded down with a bunch of different movement
rules for Russia's Winter snow and the Spring thaw (rapustitsa). The
sucking sound of boots and hooves plunging through mud doesn't change how
you conduct your turn; it just makes the calendar pass more quickly relative
to what you get to do.
a Crisis of Leadership
The game reflects leadership (or its lack) at several levels. The White
army has more veteran NCOs and officers. This is reflected in the stacking
rules and by the smaller composition of individual White units compared with
the stronger but 'clumsier' Red Armies. White units frequently must stack
together to concentrate adequate power .. but since the combat system
rewards the number of units, irrespective of their size, that isn't wholly
disadvantageous. The Red player suffers from serious command and control
restrictions. On any given turn, Red won't be able to activate units on all
six Fronts. This allows White to create more problems than Red can answer
at one time.
Red's solution lies in the Red leaders. Five generals can automatically
activate a Front; and four of them also allow Red Armies to stack together.
Red leaders appear due to Random Events (and are by far the most important
resources on Red's menu). Reds! includes bold Tukhachevsky
("Tukhachevskii"), brilliant Frunze, energetic Vatsetis, disobedient Yegerov
("Egerov") and the barely-competent Kamenev. Trotsky didn't think highly of
Kamenev, and the designer doesn't either: Kamenev is the only Red leader who
can't stack Armies together. [*16*]
Collective leadership has its advantages. Any Red leader (even Kamenev)
can be assigned to command "Field Staff" instead of a Front, raising Red's
chance of gaining the initiative every turn from 1/2 to 7/12 (which is a lot
more than it sounds like).
On a random event roll, White's AFSR (Armed Forces of South Russia) faction
might get to purge Denikin and replace him with Baron Wrangel. This raises
the morale of AFSR units, making it easier for them to rally.
Finally - and by far the coolest depiction of leadership - is the RED
(TROTSKY) TRAIN, which "represents both the presence of Leon Trotsky and the
logistical support of his famous 'Red Train'." The TROTSKY TRAIN rides
rails between battlefronts, publishing commie propaganda (and train
newspaper En Route), giving stirring speeches, shooting recalcitrant
commissars, and providing boots and munitions to troops. The TROTSKY TRAIN
automatically rallies all disordered Red units adjacent to it. This makes
TROTSKY TRAIN the most valuable piece in Red's inventory. The TROTSKY TRAIN
serves its historical role as sort of mobile fire brigade on whichever Red
Front is in deepest trouble. The difficulty of planning ahead means that
battles sometimes move away from the TROTSKY TRAIN, leaving Trotsky nothing
much to do. Other times, a crumbling front will stabilize after Trotsky's
mere presence makes several Red Armies combat-worthy again. The TROTSKY
TRAIN can never die. Urra!
Chrome and Color
At the start of a Reds! game, White controls the seas, each of which gets a
little White fleet (naval flotilla, not to be confused with a river
flotilla). The naval units are invulnerable in game terms - they remain as
long as Britain and France do - and can be used once per turn to support
combat along their coasts. After the Allies leave, the Red player can gain
control of the Baltic, White, or Caspian just by controlling a port on those
seas. (This reflects light forces like torpedo boats).
Tsaritsyn is the "Red Verdun." (The name was a 1919 version of our modern
sound-bites, comparing it to the bloody battle of 1916. The Reds played it
up). As long as Red continues to hold Tsaritsyn, Tsaritsyn is easier to
hold. Both players get armored trains, and probably river flotillas. White
is 50% more likely to get a partisan unit - and White can always stir up
some peasants, while Bolshevik partisans can appear only in White cities.
Aircraft are 50% more likely for White, too. Aircraft play the same role in
Reds! as they did in the Russian Civil War: They appear episodically, their
commitment usually doesn't decide the battle, and about half the time
they're too fragile to survive the experience. Tanks are available only to
White, and only before the imperialists bug out. Counters showing a
rhomboidal tankety-tank (British Mark V?) cancel the effect of Red Verdun.
White will always get von der Goltz's Freikorps, but a Freikorps random
event is needed before it can leave the Baltic states and really run amok.
As White, I sometimes change my mind about whether an Amphibious Invasion
marker is more valuable than a Cavalry Raid. Cavalry raiders get to run
around cutting Red's supply and placing White garrisons behind the front
lines, which is really neat. But the ability to conduct an amphibious
invasion is a potent threat. Whenever I crush a proletarian democracy, I
like to keep my Amphibious marker in hand, where the mere prospect of it
might induce a couple Red Armies to remain immobile. Cavalry raiders are
admittedly more fun. If your opponent's communications aren't well
protected, a cavalry romper can offer satisfactory results before it dies
(which it surely will).
Typhus (White gets to disorder one Red unit) is usually kind of a Random
Events booby prize. But there just might be a local situation where it
Red might get to declare Red Terror, which turns any Red-controlled city
into a Red city for the duration. (There's no political penalty for Red
Terror. Like the White Terror, it's already subsumed into the game. War is
The Semenov Cossack Raid lowers morale of the Siberian (Kolchak) faction,
making it harder to rally. White Corruption lowers morale for all White
Russians - Islamists, Allies, and Poles aren't effected.
the Beginning of History
The Allies' early and instinctive opposition to the Bolsheviks was
confirmed by what imperialism considered a declaration of war: the Soviet
Republic's repudiation of the Tsarist 'national' debt on 28 January 1918.
In that prisonhouse land of combined and uneven development, the foreign
debt was two-thirds of the wealth in the entire Russian Empire - 80 billion
gold rubles - much of which was owed to French finance capital. French
imperialism, in turn, was heavily mortgaged to the House of J.P.Morgan.
The young Soviet Republic is surrounded by enemies. Central Powers hold
the Ukraine under the Brest-Litvosk treaty. From Pskov to Rostov, Russia's
best agricultural land and the industrial Donets Basin are occupied by
Germans, who help the Whites form counterrevolutionary armies. White Terror
slaughters 100,000 Finnish workers - one-quarter of that country's tiny
proletariat - placing Mannerheim firmly in power. The Bolsheviks can't
appeal to Finnish workers 'over the head' of Hitler's future collaborator,
because there isn't any more working class to appeal to. British, American,
Serbian, and Greek troops occupy Murmansk and Archangel. From Siberia, the
Czech Legion and Admiral Kolchak march on Moscow. Don Cossacks threaten
Tsaritsyn on the Volga, and Denikin organizes an army in the Kuban Basin.
Under the guise of "saving the Czechs," Japan and USA will occupy
Vladivostok, keeping their wary imperialist eyes on one another. [Finland
and Eastern Siberia aren't part of this game. Limiting the scope exactly
this much seems right for this war over the Russian heartland]. The Great
War ends, German troops leave Odessa - but the French occupy it. A German
Freikorps appears in the Baltic, and two more White 'armies' join the
Reds! begins with the August 1918 opening of the shooting war [*17*]:
Players first must see what happened when Whites captured Ekaterinaburg in
July. On a die roll of '1', White hums "God Save the Tsar" and places
Nicholas II (with a fuzzy Russian hat) into the Tsar Status Box. From that
vantage point, the last of the Romanovs can exhort White Russian infantry to
rally (until his imperialist sponsors abandon him). The other 83.3% of the
time, the game follows the course of actual history: Bolsheviks shoot the
Tsar (and the Tsar's dog) then flip Nicholas' marker over to reveal a cute
little tombstone where the autocrat of all the Russias used to be.
The first turn usually sees White re-enact Colonel (later General) Kappel's
daring raid on Kazan to seize Russia's gold reserves. (Grabbing the gold is
easy enough. Getting it to relative safety in Siberia can be tough).
the First Casualty of (Class) War
On world historic events, everybody gets an opinion. The imperialists
understand the importance of the Battle of Warsaw, albeit from the other
side: "Once before, in 1683, the Poles had helped to save Europe and now, in
August 1920, had they not stood firm before Warsaw, Germany certainly, and
no doubt other countries as well, would have suffered the malice and
oppression of the Bolshevik hordes." [*18*]
Inaccuracy isn't always the creature of partisan distortion. Peoples
Almanac(tm) Book of Lists tells us that "Three years before he joined Lenin
and the Bolsheviks in creating the first Communist state [sic], Trotsky
played the part of a nihilist in the 1914 Hollywood spy drama, My Official
Wife." [*19*] Never mind that Trotsky's life is well documented (or that
the actor in question doesn't particularly look like Trotsky). Such
pseudo-details are characteristic of modern urban legends. (This one was
already debunked by Isaac Deutcher in _The Prophet Armed_).
In an epoch of decay, our rulers' own experts needn't be limited to mere
facts. The Pilsudski apologist can offer history "like a blotter paper:
absorbing everything, but getting it all backwards" to credulous readers:
"Both Lenin and Trotsky were determined upon a universal, proselytizing
ideology. Lenin thought this could best be achieved under conditions of
peace, but Trotsky (who was War Minister) felt it could be more quickly
gained by Bolshevik bayonets. Trotsky's views seem to have prevailed .."
Reds! surprised me not so much by its historical accuracy as by its
political honesty (in the sense that E.H.Carr is honest, compared with
Pipes). Seen by the light of historical materialism, the game does not
fail. That's all we can ask from a wargame.
No, wait - we could also ask first-rate publishers like GMT to do a
substantially better job of proofing their productions, especially with game
rules and (in Reds!' case) the Player Aid cards. (Incredibly, names of the
culprit proofreaders are included among the credits, like with a computer
game). Comrade Grundy and Major Payne produced an unofficial Errata for
Reds! (http://www.sftribune.net/RedsErr4.doc ) more comprehensive than GMT's own.
".. maybe there have been isolated cases when more backward Red Army men .. have torn the hearts out of captured Polish soldiers." [*21*]
David R. Stevens
Tribune, San Francisco
_Reds! (The Russian Civil War 1918-1921)_ GMT Games, (c)2001.
Design by Ted Raicer; Development by Volko Ruhnke, Andy Lewis; Art by Rodger MacGowan, Mark Simonitch; Original map by Ted Raicer, Steve Kosakowski.
GMT Games, PO Box 1308, Hanford, CA 93232-1308 USA
www.gmtgames.com (As of December 2005, Reds! is out of print,
but GMT accepts P500 pledges for a reprint).
[*1*] paraphrased by Trotsky, My Life pp 381-382.
[*2*] For the entire game, White will control the Black Sea/Sea of Azov.
The Turkish Straits are under an 'international' regime of the Allied
imperialists. Using an Amphibious Invasion random event, White could cross
the Kerch Peninsula. But not by marching.
[*3*] Avalon Hill's classic Third Reich (prior to A3R) prohibited the USSR
from attacking Germany during 1939-41, regardless of game developments.
[*4*] [17 October 1919] Trotsky to Lenin: "If we save Petrograd, as I hope,
we shall be in a position to make an end of Yudenich. The difficulty will
be his right of asylum in Estonia. Estonia must close its frontiers to him.
In case he does enter, we must retain the right of invading Estonia on
Yudenich's heels." After Yudenich's Northwest Army was routed, Estonia
interned its surviving "fourteen thousand Whites .. stricken with typhus."
[*5*] Supposing _Monopoly_ or _A House Divided_ to be around '2', Reds! may
be twice as difficult. If _Advanced Third Reich/Empire of Rising Sun_ is a
'9', Reds! is less than half as complex. Presumably, a '1' on this scale
would be like Candyland or Bertie Ullman's Class Struggle.
[*6*] Jacob Bronowski, _The Origins of Knowledge and Imagination_, (Yale
University, New Haven: 1978) cited by Henry Petroski in _The Evolution of
Useful Things_, (Random House, NYC: 1992), LC 93-6351, ISBN 0-679-74039-2,
p. 18. .
[*7*] Whether any set of features is assigned to hardware, software, or
both, is merely an implementation detail.
[*8*] Of course, GMT might have elected to print the Red player's counters
in purple and the White player's in green. Asserting that such a game, even
with identical rules, would be as correct as Reds! would be to ignore the
subjective element. Red pieces being red and White pieces being White shows
the right aesthetic (as well as good mnemonics).
[*9*] At this scale, infantry units contain organic artillery and cavalry,
plus dedicated support troops like signals and engineers. Similarly, not
everyone in a cavalry unit wields a saber.
[*10*] _nominally_ the Constituent Assembly. Right-wing SRs controlled the
Samara government until Kolchak overthrew his own front men in a coup.
[*11*] During the Russian-Polish War, the Chief-of-staff for the armies of
independent Poland was ... French General Weygand.
[*12*] "... Denikin found it very difficult, and in fact impossible, to
bring the Cossacks out of their province of Kuban." [_My Life_, p.453].
Unfortunately for the Bolsheviks, their high command obliged Denikin by
attacking the Cossacks in their nest. "Our offensive put the whole Cossack
population on its feet. We were expending our time and energy, managing
only to drive all those capable of bearing arms directly into the White
[*13*] "In Kharkhov, thirty thousand miners organized, adopting the
preamble of the IWW Constitution: 'The working class and the employing class
have nothing in common.' Dispersed by Cossacks, some were locked out by the
owners, and the rest declared a general strike." -- John Reed, _Ten Days
that Shook the World_.
[*14*] The way Makhno switches sides (16.1, 16.2) tends to follow
historical lines. Simple as the rule is (and silly as it may sound), it
works well in practice.
[*15*] "... the counterrevolution moved up on us from the border regions
which are without any really viable heaths of the Revolution. Hence derived
the wild sweep of operations and monstrous retreats without mortal danger
and without mortal consequences to the Soviet Republic. To the extent that
the Whites drew closer to Petrograd, on the one hand, and to Tula, on the
other, our place of arms acquired for us an unconditionally vital
significance. We cannot surrender Petrograd or Tula or Moscow in order to
'maneuver' on the Volga or the northern Caucasus." -- Trotsky [1 Apr 1922],
to Voroshilov and other one-sided advocates of maneuverist 'doctrine.' _How
the Revolution Armed Itself_, III/2
[*16*] This is S.S. Kamenev, former Tsarist general (no relation to L.B.
Kamenev, Trotsky's Bolshevik brother-in-law). Despite what Trotsky wrote in
_My Life_, Natalia Sedova was to call Sergei Kamenev "a valued colleague."
[w/ Victor Serge, _Vie et Mort de Leon Trotsky_ (1951); English trans. by
Arnold K. Pomerans (Basic Books, NY: 1975) ISBN 0-465-03942-1, LC 75-3759,
[*17*] The peasant party split: Left SRs recently left the Soviet
government. The Right SRs now appoint Kolchak (for what they vainly hope
will remain 'their' counterrevolution) and go for terror in a big way. [30
Aug 1918: Right SRs assassinate M.S. Uritsky, President of Petrograd
Chekha. Fanny Kaplan takes three shots at Lenin, seriously wounding him].
[*18*] William Seymour, Decisive Factors in Twenty Great Battles of the
World, (St. Martin's, 1988) p. 325
[*19*] David Wallechinsky and Amy Wallace, The Book of Lists: the 90's
Edition. (Little, Brown; NYC: 1993) ISBN 0-316-92079-7, LC 93-17197, p. 66.
[*20*] Wm Seymour, p.329
[*21*] Trotsky [Army order of 17 July 1920], cited by Wm Seymour, p. 328
County: West Yorkshire
Not a game I am ever likely to play, but congratulations for all the hard work that has gone into this review - you could submit it as an academic dissertation!
Dukes we despise, Kings we cannot be, Gamers are we!
Slava Tribune! This is the very model of a review. I had just P500'd the game myself this week simply because of the subject. Now I hope they hurry up with it so I can get a copy and actually play. Anything reviewed this well with this much historical accuracy must be a winner. And the Carr vs. Pipes contrast does my Old Bolshevik heart good. Thanks!
Re: Trots! Here is Your Wargame (a review of GMT's "Reds!"
Great strategy guide and survey of the game mechanics.
It's only natural in a game like this there will be disagreement over certain "interpretations" ;~) With that in mind I'm bound to state:
1) The Makhno rules are an unconvincing and ahistorical simplification but perhaps a pragmatic solution given it's a 2-player game (though I think they could be much better - look at "Rossyia 1917").
2) Makhno's forces never "changed sides" during the civil war - they strove to maintain the autonomy of the people (mainly peasants) in their areas of influence from central state control. They were anarcho-communists! To this end they fought against Austrians, Germans, Whites, Ukrainian Nationalists, Poles and Reds.
The Makhnovists joined with the Reds on several occasions when White armies threatened from the south (out of class solidarity with the ordinary Red soldier)...only to have the Red leaders turn and stab them in the back once the threat was over and renewed fighting breaking out. They NEVER formed any pact with the Whites during the war (despite lies to the contrary coming out of Moscow). Thus the rules don't allow the historical reality of the "Reds" and "Blacks" (anarchists) fighting side-by-side as they did for limited periods.
3) The Maknovists were a revolutionary insurgent army of ordinary peasants, not "a bunch of kulaks on horseback". "Petit bourgeois" is probably a term more appropriate to that bureaucrat, Leon Trotsky ;~)
4) The size and composition of the Maknovist army varied considerably during the conflict from anything between 2,000 and 40,000 men and often had a high degree of organisation with infantry, cavalry, artillery, machine gun and even armoured car and train units together with support services. The infantry were mostly highly mobile, riding on carts and tachankas so perhaps the "partisan" status used in-game is inappropriate.
5) I've got a copy of "How The Revolution Armed: The Military Writings and Speeches Of Leon Trotsky Vol 2 1919" (phew, what a Trot title!) so I know what he has to say on the matter...
- Last edited Sat Mar 3, 2007 7:00 pm (Total Number of Edits: 3)
- Posted Thu Feb 8, 2007 12:21 am
Do what yhou wilt shall be the whole of the Law." - Aleister Crowley
"I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine." - John Galt
Comrade Stevens: This is probably the best review I have ever read on BGG. Tip of the hat to ye, laddie.
I'd love to have that illustrated review, but the linked site no longer exists. Could you post it again?
David Stevens forgot to mention but this game is fun!
I'd love to have that illustrated review, but the linked site no longer exists. Could you post it again?
Yeah, that would be nice!
Wow! Best review I have ever read on a wargame.
Now I'm seriously entertaining the idea of buying and enjoying this game (only drawback: price).
All power to the soviets!
Excellent review comrade. I'll certainly be picking up the game. I don't suppose you happen to be a Spartacist?
To the friend of Durruti - why on earth would you spend time defending Makhno. I would have thought it has been established beyond doubt that Makhno fought alongside the whites. Next thing you'll be bringing up Kronstadt and trying to argue that those guys were in no way allied to imperialism.
Wow, great review for sure !
I purchased a bargain new copy of 2nd edition REDS and will pick it up today. This fine review makes me much more excited to get it on the table.
Echoing several replies above, I think this is probably the most informative, erudite and well informed review I have ever read on BGG.
My copy of this arrived this week and I am reading everything I can find on the game in preparation for play.
Your review is the most impressive article on what looks like an under appreciated, impressive simulation.
I've just ordered the game simply on the strength of this fantastic and informative review!
Well done! GMT should give you a cut for such excellent promotion .
Perhaps those who appreciate all history should play it. Ive had a few drinks and will read the other guys review anon. I think after the first game turn and a gentle slide into the madness of the period this game delivers with a couple of dice and the movement of a few key pieces. This game rapid turns into an addictive growing snowball. I just bought this game for 50 bucks, a bit expensive but I had to buy it, it was a vibe and a geek recommendation. . I am more than pleased. This game is not just a game, Its the most perfect history lesson, for gamers, of a part of the 20th century we should probably all try to understand. And its fun. An aside, the rally rule is something of a lottery and will drive anal compulsive gamers to distraction. Not me, I would rather learn than win, I'm getting older, and this game provides, its a winner. . Stu
I had forgotten, or never knew, Ted Raicer made it with the Volko.
- Last edited Sun Jun 26, 2016 7:29 am (Total Number of Edits: 21)
- Posted Fri Jun 17, 2016 10:34 am
Were they anarchists and nutters in the first place? Random bombers. Take a burning explosive in your hand and throw it? Anarchists have a lot to answer for. Capitalist and socialist, stop me from laughing verily out loud. We are the two roads tipping our hat to the maker on the corner. That old soul, the giver and not the maker. Its all about the maker. Stu
TROTS! Here is your wargame
Amazing review! Definitely one of the best I've ever read and you sold me on getting the game. Thumbs up plus the biggest tip I've ever given a review.
This games is marvellous for Trotskiests and non Trokyiests alike. It was this game that got me hooked on Wargaming again after a long hiatus. Like the reviewer I expected all the usual distortions (see Crusade and Revolution: The Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939).
Lenin would never have played Reds or any wargame, he spurned chess because it drew his time and attention from the revolution. With 100th anniversary of the heroic 1917 Bolshevik revolution this game is must play and the politics that fuelled this conflict have never more prescient.
We get huge Burn style documentaries on the American Civil War but the Russian Revolution can only merit pathetic propaganda pieces. For those interested in 1917 China Mieville's book 'October' released this year (2017) is a must read.
I am delighted that this wonderful game has the best review I have read on BGG. I am hope the Doctor's 2nd edition of Triumph of Chaos v.2 (Deluxe Edition)is released this year from Clash of Arms. If it's half as good as Reds it will have done well.