The Kickstarter campaign of the Kremlin remake is moving forward like a Soviet judge cuts through purge victims, and the Kremlin community has rightly become hugely enthusiastic about the remake. In my tiny capacity as a Member of the People, I hereby aim to drum up support for Kremlin with Kremlin...
Having played a relatively epic 10-turn game, I have decided to collect in this series the wheelings and dealings of the fictitious Soviet government our four-player cadre created. The report will be written in fiction form-- Kremlin did once dominate the thematic game charts here and has a strong narrative.
One more word: I am aware that I have issued a call for the flavor text of politicians to be uploaded to the site. There is plenty of discussion about whether it is permissible to do that, but from what I know it is alright to privately distribute to a limited and non-profit extent. To further develop the personalities of characters, I do urge Comrades to send me via Private Message the resumes of our 26 buffoons. There will be no uploading of this in any way for the public, but I will see if I can incorporate the text into the work.
Now, let's begin!
Ch.1: A Frail, Shaky Voice (Introducing the Politburo)
A frail, shaky voice spoke up. "Comrades, I call this meeting to order," said Nestor Aparatschik. The statement was met with scattered applause from around the table. The newly "elected" Party Chief, 82 and sick, was trying to take control of a meeting which he was clearly not enjoying.
"I would like to congratulate you, Comrade Aparatschik, for your election to Party Secretary and on your sound management of this first Politburo meeting you chair. But the administration of the government is at hand here, and I'd rather we ignore the ceremonial in favor of the practical." The KGB Chairman, Lech Schukrutoff, said. There was a certain undertaker's tone in his voice, the voice of grim determination in seeing away one's rivals.
The Foreign Minister, Viktor Wasolin, nodded ever so imperceptibly at Schukrutoff's statement. The two had been political allies since a tenure together at the Red Army bases of Siberia, both had a keen interest in not going there as purge victims, and both were Red Army militarists.
"Of course, of course," stammered Aparatschik, fearing that if he started another argument he might collapse and suffer a stroke.
Boris Karrienko, the reformist Defense Minister, took in the information thoughtfully, and snapped up a cigarette offered by the Party chief of ideology sitting next to him, Yuri Nikotin. He lit it calmly, staring down the two Red Army men who preferred smuggled vodka added to Army rations. "Nevertheless, if we are to ensure the smooth administration of government, it is vital Comrade Aparatschik assumes direct authority over the people through symbolic gestures. The Politburo must affirm our General Secretary's leadership in public and clearly."
"Ah, yes," mumbled Antony Talksalott, Industry Minister and Andrei Purgemoff, Economy Minister. Of the two bureaucrats, the latter spoke particularly loudly as Purgemoff knew nothing about how the Soviet production system worked and wanted the General Secretary's confidence. Ludmilla Patina joined in the chorus, the Sport Minister being the only woman in Politburo but the one who frequently demonstrated the most cunning.
The five Candidate members of the Politburo dared not speak, for fear of offending their powerful superiors. As members of the bottom rung of the top echelon in Soviet politics, they were more vulnerable than everyone to purges: Petr Niewitko, economy bureaucrat; Karel Krakemheds, the notoriously hardline brute who had somehow made it to the top through positioning himself as a "Hero of the Soviet Union"; Nikolai Shootemedsky, a more junior and mild ally of Krakemheds'; and Boris Badenuff and Ulan Putschnik, two young turk politicians looking to move up the Soviet ladder.
Sitting beside two prominent politicians were their secretaries, the faceless but influential mandarins of the Orient of Europe, Soviet Russia: Leonid Bungaloff, secretary to Nestor Aparatschik; and Wassily Protzky, secretary to Boris Karrienko. The two men studiously observed the Politburo, feverishly minuting the happenings for their bosses; and preparing for the storm clouds that they somehow sensed would soon surround the Kremlin.
It's been some time since I updated-- hopefully I haven't lost any readers just like that. We begin chronicling Turn 1, the Purge Phase. This may well span two chapters, but the watchword for the installment: decoy protagonist.
Ch.2: Succession Planning
Gathered in the private office of Nestor Aparatschik were three Politburo members: Lech Schukrutoff, Boris Karrienko, and Andrei Purgemoff. All three were heavyweight politicians in the government: Purgemoff by his experience, Karrienko by his post, and Schukrutoff by both. Aparatschik was, strangely, politically the weakest of the four. "Comrades," he said feebly, "my persistent cold is no secret to you, and I know perfectly well that I will not last more than three years in my position. If I kick the bucket soon--"
"Perish the thought, Comrade General Secretary," said Purgemoff and Karrienko immediately. Schukrutoff stayed quiet.
"Thank you for your goodwill, Comrades. But realistically, we do know that the Soviet Union cannot function under another short-lived General Secretary, not under the situation now. Succession planning for the Politburo after me needs to begin now."
The three men fell into deep thought. Schurutoff and Karrienko had the most to gain or lose in the plan, for both men had substantial followings in Politburo. Each was contemplating the protégé of their most fit for the job.
"The comrade due to succeed you must be sufficiently highly-ranked and command respect among the Politburo," said Lech Schukrutoff, "of course, he must enjoy the benefit of youth as well."
Immediately after the last syllable, the ruthless but often also reckless Head of the KGB realized he had misspoke. By identifying the highly-ranked, 51 year-old Foreign Minister Viktor Wasolin as his nominee and by extension his ally, he had also marked Wasolin as the target of the other three men.
"Comrade Wasolin, you mean?" Aparatschik might be sick, but in a position of weakness he was more inclined than ever to think carefully and fight for survival. "He is certainly in his prime in terms of age, but if he ascends soon, he will have twenty years in my shoes at the minimum. He rose to Foreign Minister from a mere functionary in four years. Can he command enough respect among our Comrades, then?"
Boris Karrienko contemplated Aparatschik's comments for some time, then spoe up. "And the reflections I have received from responsible Comrades at the Foreign Ministry are, shall I say, not entirely desirable."
"Yes, yes. This is his fifth post in four years. If he does not accumulate some experience in this appointment, then his genuine expertise in all the portfolios he has held will be called into question. Handling the balance of power when I depart will be a good challenge for him, wouldn't you say?"
"Of course, of course," said Schukrutoff, "Comrade Wasolin needs to develop his skills some more before he becomes a fully mature candidate for the succession-- of course, I'm sure you will afford him the time." He laughed uneasily at his own joke, but Aparatschik merely muttered an "I hope so".
"Within the Politburo, there are very few quality candidates for the succession," continued Aparatschik, "Comrade Nikotin is competent as a bureaucrat, but tainted by scandals and too technocratic to be a competent ideology chief, let alone a General Secretary; the old men of the Politburo would never accept a woman. So that puts Comrade Patina out of the running. Comrades, I was thinking of two of the Candidates."
"Comrades Putschnik and Badenuff?" said Karrienko emotionlessly. Lech Schukrutoff turned bright red, as none of the two was his ally.
"Yes," said Aparatschik.
Andrei Purgemoff, being poor at his brief of the economy, had also taken on the role of an informal arbitrator of disputes and personnel chief in the Politburo while letting his subordinates take care of production affairs. "Comrade Putschnik is a very kind man. He has genuine ideals for our nation, and does not seem to have a particular sympathy for any particular radicals." Through this, he was assuring his comrades that he belonged to no major political faction that he knew of. "Comrade Badenuff is not particularly gifted in administrative skill, but what he lacks in talent he makes up with effort. Both, I would say, are very sound candidates."
"I am thinking, Comrades, that the two should be nominated to full membership of the Politburo within the year to groom them for key future postings. What do you think?"
Karrienko assessed carefully the implications. Neither of the two threatened his power-- they were both politically moderate and junior. But he had a long way to go in the Politburo, even if his age and the enemies he made as chief of Russia's politically charged spy investigations made him unviable as a party chief candidate. But if he could function as mentor to the two men, he would be guaranteed a firm standing in the Politburo for the rest of his career. "I wholeheartedly support your planning, Comrade Aparatschik." Purgemoff nodded. And with no other voice supporting his opinion, Schukrutoff had no choice but to join in. And with that, the meeting was dismissed.
But as Leonid Bungaloff passed Lech Schukrutoff's office as he walked to the Soviet Archives to preserve the Politburo's minutes for the previous meeting, he heard a deep, rumbling voice. "The KGB files for Ulan Putschnik and Boris Badenuff, please."
- Last edited Sat Apr 27, 2013 3:07 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Sat Apr 27, 2013 3:17 am
Interlude: Kremlin Strategy
I can't claim to be very good at this game, as my gaming group consists only of family and friends, and thus is not very adept at giving me beatdowns. But over around a year of playing this game I have amassed some thoughts on strategy, and am putting it here as an interlude and break from the fiction. It will finish, I assure you. For starters Danny Stevens' "Some Quick Tips" is excellent and where I learnt my acumen, but there are some points where we differ and where I felt he did not elaborate enough.
Effective Influence Placement
Good influence placement is key to winning the game-- even if you can try to engineer a victory out of a sorry situation, it can be painful to try.
Assess the board situation and state of the players at the beginning of the game. Identify players who sprint to victory by controlling the KGB and Defense Minister, and those who like to go the long run. In games with multiple players it is better not to take any sharks head-on, and with the long runner contemplate outbidding them in members of the People, or investing in members they might not favor.
An old KGB Head or Defense Minister may not be worth too much in influence placement, so leaving him alone or gambling a small number on him are both viable courses of action. A young KGB Head absolutely needs a 10, a middle-aged one possibly needs an 8 or 9 as well. A 10 on any young 1st Level politician is not a bad idea if you are confident in being fast enough to win any tie. Generally, the Foreign Minister is worth less immediately regardless of age, but if you value your own alliance-building ability greatly consider assigning 6 or 7 in anticipation of an appointment to KGB or DM.
Typically, putting a 10 on the Second Level or the Candidates is alright. If you have an Intrigue Card on either the positive or negative side of a Second Level portfolio, consider influencing the job-holder because a positive card can shield him against dangerous years and a negative card is a safeguard against someone else taking control. While sometimes overlooked, a politician being strong in his post can make a big difference.
The Candidates are the most vulnerable of all the politicians, because they are not powerful in any way but are at risk of being purged or condemned. If they get sent to Siberia by bad luck, try to use him as a late game sleeper agent. Overall having 2-3 of Second Level/Candidate Politicians on your list is not a bad idea.
I describe general patterns for influence placement when I describe the People. The bottom four values are likely to pay off if you invest them in the oldest Politicians, because they won't be too popular with the players. This rings true even for Candidates and the Second Level. The youngest members of the people, especially if you suspect Intrigue Cards propelling them to the top are in play, are likely to be worth a lot. Consider sparing the two youngest People, but you'll have a fair chance for other People.
Always remember, Kremlin doesn't deal in differences. Bidding 10 on someone otherwise uninfluenced controls him, as is winning a tie with only 1 influence point. When you place influence, you are betting against a whole lot of things: the other influence placement lists, purges, trials, health rolls and so on.
I will not describe declaring influence at length here. Generally, resist the urge to declare where the politicians are not doing anything, and declare when the 1st Level are up to something. If your man is the oldest, declaring on the Foreign Minister may be unnecessary; there is no point in fighting to vote "no" in votes where the die is already cast.
The KGB Chief holds a huge deal of power. Put it to good use.
If the Party Chief is about to win, he may be worth taking a snipe at. But otherwise, the purge priority list is more or less as follows: emptying a hostile Second Level; purging young Candidates (perhaps do this first if it seems easier); emptying the Second Level or Candidates for future promotions from your faction; and aggressing enemies in the First Level. Generally, keep going until you stop, but if the old and ill are all that're left, then take a break.
Investigations are a very straightforward matter. If someone you don't like looks like they're going to survive for two turns or more, investigate them. If they'll croak soon, no point in ageing one year. Trials are a weapon to be used sparingly and only when success is certain. Sanatorium residents are highly vulnerable, so take a jab if their faction is weak inside the Politburo but have grudges with many. Otherwise, gauge players' relationships and alliances before starting a trial. Failures are costly and uncalled for. Condemnation is actually not that useful as it ages you quite quickly, so don't jab blindly-- use that one shot to take out someone who is very likely controlled.
Foreign Ministers love this phase. If you have another ally in the Politburo, by all means nominate him if eligible. But if it fails, chances are it will be due to a colourful cast of underdogs at the second level. Consider two types of people for the nomination: the young Turk from a smaller faction, or a doddery old fool. The former will be rejected in your favor, the latter will do less damage as party chief.
Personnel and the Party Chief
Honor your agreements with other players, else they can join up and bring you down. Otherwise, however, try to control the KGB head. The Foreign Minister is a helpful carrot for allies, as is the Defense Minister for those with a taste for risk. If you want to send someone on sick leave next turn, value their deputies for their actions. Furthermore, shift as many politicians to positions of weakness as possible, to age them or at least draw influence declarations from others to stop the action. Yours, of course, go to their strengths where possible. Don't demote if the victim returns to his post by age at the end of the phase, but do it to anyone you don't like. For promotions, help comrades cross the dangerous ranks if the Candidates by using a first level man to promote him to second immediately after the party chief. The Party Chief must try to wave, but near the end consider swapping this for a long sick leave backed by friendship with the KGB. Try to win by being last man standing if the game has dragged on for too long. And instead of spreading the goodwill, use a single man for rehab. Giving him up for two to three of your own men and perhaps one of thy our allies' is worth it, but spreading around health risk for two or three politburo members is not.
- Last edited Sun Apr 28, 2013 2:44 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Sun Apr 28, 2013 2:20 pm
I have the game since 1989 (the fall of the Berlin wall). The game tends to be a bit dull with the time because many persons put IPs on KGB. A friend and me have introduced a variant that we play everytime cause it's very fun.
The rule about Nestor Aparatchik stay the same.
Now players put their IP BEFORE putting the politicians on the map (exception for Aparatchik).
Now they will try other strategy as, for example, putting IPs on very old politicians to surprise the others and trying to do a fast win or, putting their IPs on politicians that have their strong side on KGB or Foreign or defense, etc...
With this option, the more talented players have to excel to win and by experience, that is the case. They must use cunning to level up the politician from the people to first level. If the KGB is controlled by nobody (theorically) or someone else, you must promote several politicians and even those that have not an IP on it. Hope that the KGB player don't send to siberia your politician!
In some cases, starting politicians will not have any IPs on it. in this cases, the players may league themselves to remove the politician ex.: the KGB) by any means...
We do not use this variant on the revolution add-on cause some politician, as Stalin, is too much powerful.
Yes, the KGB tends to be a magnet for influence. Sometimes I don't bid on a very young KGB Chief just because I don't want to get control too quickly and put the game to a rapid end, and perhaps because I know someone else will give a ten and declare it first.
Influencing the old is a favored tactic of mine, even in the normal game, but I would say the strengths and weaknesses are not vital to influence placement decisions. The variant you specified seems fun-- I will see if I can try it next time.
I suppose promoting several red herrings could work, but it is certainly quite costly in terms of age. But I would disagree with grand coalitions to depose of uncontrolled ministers if you are playing a waiting game.
Ch. 3: Falling Stars in the Party
"Comrades, over the past few days I have been thinking about the future of the Politburo after us. The Soviet state must go on, even if our lives do not. With Comrades Schukrutoff, Karrienko, and Purgemoff, we have identified two Candidate members of the Politburo as suitable candidates-- pardon the pun-- for promotion to Politburo, as preparation for more important postings in the future. They are Corades Ulan Putschnik and Boris Badnuff." It seemed to be Aparatschik's best day since his appointment to Party Secretary, and an air of confidence emanated from him. The Communists from around the table nodded in agreement.
"I am but an honest functionary of the Soviet Union, Comrade Aparatschik, and I understand our decision in the previous meeting was unanimous," Schukrutoff stayed cool and calm, but seemed to speak with a natural dominance. "But it has occurred to me that there are severe problems with both members."
"Pray tell," said Purgemoff, swiftly contemplating a change in position.
"I have visited my Comrades in charge of personnel and corps morale within the KGB in the past. I have discovered that Comrade Putschnik is afflicted with a severe personality disorder, one that must not impair the leadership of the Soviet Union!"
"Truly? What would that be?" Asked Viktor Wasolin in mock curiosity, ready to draw out an ad hominem attack from Schukrutoff.
"It cannot be hidden any longer-- Comrade Putschnik suffers from paranoia! He is notorious for having started a reign of terror in the Baltics during his tenure there, I have recently been told."
"I do not believe he would do such a thing," said Wasolin calmly, "certainly there is some kind of misunderstanding. Indeed, I trust not even Comrade Purgemoff with his tenure at the security branch of the Defense Ministry has heard of the matter!"
"I have, I have," replied Purgemoff, "on the other hand, I might not have heard very clearly."
"Alas, Comrade Wasolin, you are mistaken. It has come to light that Comrade Putschnik silenced the newspapers with brutal, violent purges. Do you remember the unexplained death of the Baltics bureau chief of Pravda years ago? He'd been assassinated with Comrade Putschnik's approval for writing an intelligence report in complete confidence to the General Secretary, Comrade Aparatschik, then KGB Chairman if you will recall, and Comrade Talksalott, then the Candidate member in charge of propaganda work."
After speaking, Schukrutoff considered his tactic-- by using Wasolin as shill a second time, he had presented Putschnik as a direct threat to the Politburo's decision-making and information. Furthermore, he had implicated several key members of the Politburo in the discussion, leaving them to feel outraged by Putschnik's suppression and prepared to support a purge.
"Comrades, I do not believe Comrade Putschnik is suitable for the succession-- in power, he shall be ruthless and tyrannical, throwing the Soviet Union into a new Dark Age. I propose an assignment to the clerical offices of Siberia for Comrade Putschnik, so as to better facilitate adaptation and learning to the Soviet environment for him, not to mention an opportunity for recovery of his mental disorder."
"I second that!" Cried Viktor Wasolin. The matter was now a fait accompli, with the third-most powerful Politburo member endorsing Putschnik's ouster. No members dared speak against the KGB Chair's powerful command of the security apparatus. And with his successful revelation, Schukrutoff turned to dealing with Boris Badenuff.
"And Comrade Badenuff," he continued, "I do not believe his predicament is as serious as Comrade Putschnik's. But it has been revealed to us that his addiction to hunting has placed him in the anti-Party influence. I have received word that in order to sell illicit vodka and other contraband, Moscow gangs have bribed him with opportunities to hunt game in forests. These gangs are the same that organize protests against local governments. Comrades, I believe that this addiction and his connections with subversive elements will severely hamper any attempt to govern the Union effectively. Thus, I have already discussed the implications of such a matter with him. Comrade Badenuff has proved articulate and cooperative, and has already requested an appointment to wildlife observer in Siberia. My last note for the day is that Comrade Nikolai Shootemedsky has recently written a confidential report of his abuse of Soviet chemical supplies. He has requested resignation, and work with Comrade Badenuff as a chemical technician at the same laboratory as his."
The news of the two purges, no doubt "approved" by the two victims after harsh interrogation, came so calmly by Schukrutoff that it was almost impossible to raise objections.
I am where I need to be when I need to be.
“A prince must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves."
A life, some would argue, is a series of problems. There’s no denying the truth in that – but why get lost in it? Why not rise above the truth… and lead a good life? Shouldn’t we all look at problems as a chance for us to find… solutions?
I like your story thus far. I do note some differences in the names of some characters from the version I have, as well as additional rules / positions. The version I have always played with is an old german edition of the rules we painstakingly translated. I believe it is the first edition.
In my experience the KGB chief is not always placed at a 10, even if he is young, as the first KGB is often a target of other players. I personally like using the defense minister to put anyone 'too young' under investigation and begin their aging process. I also tend to strike at the KGB this way.
I usually make sure I have at least one person in the 'Volk' with moderate to high influence, just in case the entire starting rungs get purged or perish in the course of the game.
Viktor Wasolin is also almost always a target of my aggression. If he is amongst the candidates or on a lower rung of the politburo I usually try to send him to siberia early.