in Defiant Russia
By Doug McNair
Having recently written a strategy article
on our new Red
Vengeance game, it seems appropriate
to look at its predecessor, Defiant
Russia. The two games share the same
system and are bookends to the war on the
Eastern Front, so many of the same factors
that drive Red Vengeance also drive
Defiant Russia. However, since Defiant
Russia takes place entirely on Russian
soil, and starts at a time when Russia was
previously untouched by war, there are other
factors that present Defiant Russia players
with a different set of challenges.
The railroads are vital to the Red Army
of Workers and Peasants.
There are no rail lines in Red Vengeance,
but the Defiant Russia board is
crisscrossed with them. By 1945, four years
of war had done extensive damage to the rail
network of eastern Europe, and retreating
Germans could be counted on to destroy rail
lines to slow the Russian advance. But the
1941 Russian rail network is intact in Defiant
Russia, so the ability of both players
to use strategic movement is greatly enhanced.
The Russian player can move up to six units
per turn by rail, and can move them an unlimited
distance through Russian-controlled rail hexes
that aren’t blocked by Axis units or
Zones of Control (ZOC). This is extremely
important for the Russians, because their
forces are dispersed at start and must be
able to plug breaches in their defensive lines
quickly. Rail movement lets them do this,
plus form entirely new lines along the rails.
The Germans can move up to three units per
turn by rail, and can also move them an unlimited
distance through German-controlled rail hexes
with no Russian units or ZOC. It is therefore
very important for the Germans to advance
their lead units along rail lines, so that
rear-echelon units can follow the moving front
quickly by rail.
Just as in Red Vengeance, each unit
must be able to trace a supply line in order
to move and fight at full capacity. But in
Defiant Russia, supply lines run along
rail lines to friendly board edges. So, players
can cut enemy supply lines not only by surrounding
enemy units, but by moving far behind them
and occupying enemy rail lines with units
and ZOC. This means that large numbers of
enemy units can be put Out of Supply just
by occuping a few key rail junctions.
Also like Red Vengeance, the weather
plays a major role in Defiant Russia. The
Germans in particular need Clear weather conditions
in order to advance through breaches in the
enemy line using Exploitation Movement and
Combat. The rules recommend that players use
the random weather table to generate weather
each game turn (historically, the weather
in late 1941 was unusually pleasant). After
the first two turns, chances are good that
Light Mud or Mud conditions will slow the
German advance. So, the Germans must do all
they can to advance as far as possible early
in the game before winter closes in and slows
their movement. Of course, if the weather
in the game turns out like the weather was
in 1941, they’ll have a much easier
time of it.
The Russians get no reinforcements until
the third turn, and it takes two replacement
points to bring a dead unit back into play
at half-strength. So, it’s very important
for the Russian player to spread his step
losses out among units to keep as many units
on the board as possible. It’s also
important for him to avoid the temptation
to stand his ground and absorb hits to keep
the Germans in Germany. Russia is big, and
there’s a lot of room between Warsaw
and Moscow. The Russian player must carefully
weigh the costs and benefits of retreating
versus taking losses so that his army doesn’t
melt away just as the Germans are nearing
The following summary of a recent game illustrates
the importance of these factors.
Turn 1 — June
“Artillery is the god of war.”
– J.V. Stalin.
All units are in supply at the start of Turn
Axis: The Axis player goes first
each turn. He gets 6 Air points in the June
turn, and these can be used to support any
The Finns would like to be able to launch an all-out attack
southward on Leningrad, but that would put
them at risk of having the rail line to Helsinki
cut off by the Soviet 23rd Army to the east.
So they send two corps eastward to attack
the Soviet 23rd, and send their other two
armies down toward Leningrad. The Finnish
attacks push the Soviets back, but they don’t
The German Army Group North attacks due east
toward Riga. They roll 28 dice against the
Soviet line, but score only 3 hits. The Russians
also score 3 hits and take all 3 as step losses.
The Germans do not advance.
Center attacks east toward Minsk. The northern
flank of the German attack is crushed by the
Soviet 13th Army and 6th Tank Corps, which
score 4 hits to the Germans’ one. Guderian
then puts three German air points into his
attack on Brest, but he scores only 2 hits
to the Soviets’ 3. Once again the Soviets
take the hits as step losses, and there is
no German advance. German attacks just to
the south of Brest do little better.
But then (finally . . . ),
three German tank corps plus a Mountain Corps
and an Infantry Corps attack two Soviet armies
and two tank corps around Lvov and do 9 hits
on 26 dice. This is more than the 8 steps
the four units have, so they are all destroyed
with no hope of retreating. But they do 3
hits in return to the Germans, and to advance
the Germans must take them all as step losses.
They do, and advance one hex eastward into
the sole breach the Germans have made thus
far. Finally, the German and Romanian attack
east of Bucharest is repulsed.
The Germans have made only one breach in the
Russian line, but it’s a good one. Neutral
Hungary is due south of it, and no Russian
units are there to oppose the advance. But
there’s no Exploitation Movement on
Turn 1, so the Germans can’t move beyond
their initial one-hex advance. Still, it’s
a good deal for the Germans, because the Soviets
will have to send their reserve units south
to plug the breach at Lvov rather than reinforce
the Russian line to the north that has thus
far stopped the Germans cold.
Soviet: Now the Soviets take their
half of the turn. They send their reserve
units up to Leningrad and southwest toward
the German breach. They take up defensive
positions on the eastern banks of rivers and
in swamps and forests. Soviet units that can’t
rail-move stay on the rail lines when moving
so that they’ll be able to rail-move
Then the Soviet units in the Baltic Military
District attack the Germans whose attack they
blunted earlier. They kill two steps worth
of Germans and drive back a third. The Russians
advance to a position on the east bank of
the Newman River.
The Soviets of the Western Military District
throw the Germans all the way back to Koenigsberg,
and advance westward.
The Soviets then attack Guderian at Brest
but are repulsed. However, the Soviet attack
on the German breach near Lvov does better
and drives back the invaders.
Turn 1 is over, and the Germans have taken
19 step losses. They haven’t advanced
anywhere along the line except one hex at
Lvov. The Soviet line has held (and even moved
west in places), and stretches from the Baltic
at the Neiman River southward to Odessa on
the Black Sea. But they’ve paid a high
price for holding the line — 30 step
losses to be exact.
Hungarian Csaba armored cars invade
the Soviet Union.
Axis: All German units are in supply.
The Germans get 8 air points (they’ll
need them . . .). Axis reinforcements appear
in Hungary (which enters the war on the Axis
side now), and the Axis player places the
rest of in the board-edge rail hex northwest
of Lvov (to support the only German advance
thus far). The Germans need to make some big
gains soon, because the Russians start getting
massive reinforcements in August.
The Germans decide to cut their losses and
maximize their potential gains by relocating
their forces southward, hitting the weakly-defended
Romanian front along with the Russian forces
east of Lvov. The terrain east of Romania
is clearer as well, so it makes for better
country in which to use exploitation movement.
Army Group North pulls back westward, while
Army Group Center and South send units southeast.
German tank corps move eastward into Soviet
ZOC to put some Soviet units near Lvov out
Starting at the south of the board, the
Germans destroy two Soviet units on the west
bank of the Dnestr River near the Black Sea.
Then Guderian hits the Soviet 24th Army and
10th Tank Corps two hexes southeast of Lvov
(both of which are outof supply due to the
aforementioned German tank advance). The Germans
roll 28 dice to the Russians’ 3. The
Germans kill both Soviet units and advance
eastward. The German attack into the Kiev
Military District northeast of Lvov is thrown
back, except for the northern German flank,
which advances. Then Army Group Center northeast
of Brest pushes the Soviets back and advances
In the Exploitation Movement and Combat phases,
the Germans surround the Soviet 9th Army east
of Kishinev, putting it out of supply and
destroying it easily. Guderian then spearheads
a tank advance eastward through the breach
and moves along the rail line to within 2
hexes of Kiev. The rest of the German line
to the north engages the weakened Soviet line
in the swamps south of Minsk. The swamp provides
excellent defensive terrain and the Germans
are stopped, but Guderian destroys a Soviet
army just south of the swamps and advances.
Soviet: All Soviet units are in supply.
The Soviet player starts getting replacements
this turn, so he puts them into the armor
units guarding the swamp line, and brings
in a reformed dead unit at Kiev. He also gets
two reinforcement armies, so he puts them
in Sevastopol (to hit the south flank of the
German advance) and at the east board edge.
The Soviets pull back east to reform their
line from the Newman River at the Baltic southward
to Odessa. They attack Guderian only, but
are repulsed back to Kiev. Soviet armor moves
in the Exploitation Movement Phase to reinforce
the new Soviet line.
The Germans have now taken 29 step losses,
and Guderian has pushed 4 hexes east of the
German start line. The Soviets have taken
49 step losses, and their line is still holding,
but for how long?
Rockets of the Proletariat.
Axis: The German player rolls a 2
for weather, so it’s still Clear. This
is very good — he can still conduct
exploitation movement and combat to speed
his advance eastward. All Axis units are in
supply, and the units to the south get replacement
points to strengthen the German advance there.
The German player gets 8 air points and 2
more reinforcements (which appear in the board-edge
rail hex in Hungary).
The Germans advance as many units as possible
up to the Soviet lines south of Lvov, and
attack in strength. Infantry only attacks
through the swamps (armor is halved on attacks
there) to guard Guderian’s northern
flank and generally keep the northern Soviet
units busy so they can’t move south
to block the German advance.
The Axis attack on Odessa is stopped, but
the forces attacking across the South Bug
River east of Dnepropetrovsk score 7 hits
on the Soviet 19th Army and 7th Tank Corps,
destroying them both with no hits taken in
return. They advance across the South Bug.
Guderian hits Kiev and takes it, and his line
advances while taking no damage. The swamp
attacks to his north bog down, however.
In the Exploitation Movement and Combat Phases,
the swamp attacks come out mixed, but Guderian’s
forces south of the swamp destroy all Soviet
units around Kiev except for the 22nd Army
one hex east of Kiev.
Soviet: The Soviets now get only
5 replacement points, because the Germans
have taken Kiev. They need to maximize the
number of new units on the board this turn
to block the German advance, so they bring
in two dead units and flip a third to full-strength.
They also get 7 reinforcements this turn,
and place them in major cities in the south
and central sections of the board.
The Black Sea Fleet transports the Soviet
44th Army from Odessa (which has already been
bypassed by the Axis advance) to Novorossisk
to the east. The Soviets pull back the rest
of their line eastward and rail-move their
reinforcements to create a new line east of
Kiev. They try an attack to free an unsupplied
Soviet army, but it dies in the process (along
with a German tank corps).
Soviet Exploitation Movement and Combat
sees two Soviet tank corps killing the one
remaining German tank corps east of the Dnepr
and southeast of Kiev. Most of the Soviet
line there is now on the east bank of the
The Germans have taken 32 step losses, and
their easternmost units are 2 hexes southeast
of Kiev. The Russians have taken 64 step losses,
and their line now runs S/SE from the Newman
River on the Baltic to Novorossisk.
Axis: The Germans roll a 1, and the
weather is still Clear! This is outstanding
for the Germans (and makes up for their lousy
performance in June). All Axis units are in
supply, and German replacement points go to
strengthen the southern advance. They get
7 Air points and 2 reinforcements.
The entire German line now advances to the
attack, with 4 of Guderian’s tank corps
plunging eastward into gaps in the Soviet
line (seeking to put ZOC behind the Soviets
and make them out of supply). The Soviet line
holds at the rivers, and the swamp lines are
perforated but not broken, so some German
tanks may be out of supply themselves soon
if the Germans can’t break through to
them in the Exploitation Movement Phase. The
Finns are repelled from Leningrad.
In the Exploitation Movement and Combat phases,
Guderian does break through to his advance
tank units, which take Kharkov. To his north,
the broad German attack shreds the weak Soviet
line in the swamp, while to his south the
Axis advance stalls at the Dnepr.
Soviet: The Soviet 34th Army just
east of the swamps is out of supply due to
German exploitation movement. The Soviets
get 1 Air point this turn, but the Partisans
do no damage. Ten Soviet reinforcements come
in, plus General Zhukov, who starts in Stalningrad.
The Soviets use rail and regular movement
to mass forces in and around Kursk under Zhukov,
blocking Guderian’s advance as best
they can. The Soviets try to attack the Germans
at weak points in their line, but the attacks
bog down or backfire.
The Germans have now taken 42 step losses,
and their units have advanced as far as Kharkov
and Dnepropetrovsk. The Russians have taken
88 step losses, and they have an every-other-hex
line running south/southeast from the Neiman
on the Baltic to the Sea of Azov south of
Dnepropetrovsk, with a large bulge running
out to Smolensk, Bryansk, Kursk and just southeast
Turning their own weapons on them. A
Soviet artillery battery uses german
75mm anti-tank guns as light artillery.
Axis: The weather stays Clear! The
Germans are ecstatic. Two German corps southwest
of Smolensk and east of the swamps are out
of supply. The German player puts a replacement
point into an armored corps in the swamps
southwest of Minsk, hoping to move it up to
Minsk and break through there, bringing Army
Group North up behind it and through the breach.
He puts his other replacement point into an
infantry corps near Kursk. He gets 6 air points,
and gets no more reinforcements for the rest
of the game. The German line advances, with
two armored corps moving just south and southeast
of Kursk to hit Zhukov’s rear guard
east of Kursk (maintaining a column to the
east to protect the supply line for the easternmost
armored corps by negating the Kursk units’
Guderian then has his forces hit the units
guarding Kursk’s northern and eastern
flanks, putting all his air points into the
attacks. They do 3 hits each, destroying the
one army that occupies each of Zhukov’s
flanks with no hope of retreat. Guderian’s
forces advance into the ex-Soviet hexes, surrounding
Zhukov in Kursk and putting him out of supply.
Then Guderian’s three remaining tank
corps plus one infantry corps hit Zhukov in
Kursk. They roll 19 dice to Zhukov’s
3 and do 4 hits vs. zero. All units in Kursk
are destroyed, and the German rolls a 1 on
the leader casualty die, killing Zhukov!
The German armored advance on Minsk destroys
the Russian unit there, leaving nothing in
the area but a few Russians around Smolensk.
The German advance south of Kursk pushes the
two remaining Russian armies there south toward
In the Exploitation Movement and Combat
Phases, the Germans wipe out all Soviet units
south of Bryansk. The German tank corps which
took Minsk moves eastward to within 1 hex
Soviet: Two Soviet units southwest
of Smolensk just east of the swamps are out
of supply. The Soviets get 2 air points but
only 3 reinforcements this turn, and the partisans
do no damage. The reinforcements go in Moscow,
Smolensk and Gorki.
The Soviets pull back and make a ragged,
thin line running southeast from Riga thru
Smolensk and Tula down to a point 2 hexes
east/northeast of Voronezh.
The only thing that can save Russia at this
point is the weather. It doesn’t. The
Germans roll a 3, and the weather stays Clear.
The Germans can move at full speed, and will
reach Sevastopol and Rostov this turn. They
have already taken Minsk, Kiev, Karkhov and
Bryansk, so that’s 6 Victory Points,
which is all they need. The Red Army is in
tatters, and doesn’t have the power
to mount a counterattack anywhere on the line.
The Germans win!
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