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Red Vengeance: Nuts and Bolts
William Sariego
August 2013

It has been a few years since I previewed Red Vengeance. Now that fans have had a chance to play, enjoy, or rant against it, I have decided to come back with an attempt at some proper designer's notes. While not definitive, I hope this brief insight into my mindset will help player's get a feel for what I was trying to accomplish. I would also like to take this time to make my appreciation known to all those whom put forth effort in helping my ideas reach print. Following up Defiant Russia with a sequel was no mean task.

Comrade Sariego redecorates the Reichstag.

I've stated this before but it deserves to be said again: Big, hyper-realistic games are cool and I've both collected and played many. Streets of Stalingrad, Red Parachutes, and The Longest Day have all seen playing time in my life. Yet when Pushkin comes to shove, it always seems that it is games like Battle for Germany, Panzer Grenadier: Airborne, and The Russian Campaign that I keep playing over and over.

Red Vengeance was designed with my love for playability in mind. Simple and playable does not have to equate with simplistic, however. Despite the simplicity of Defiant Russia and Red Vengeance, both games have a lot of chrome around the solid core. In Red Vengeance I wanted to once more highlight things that often get overlooked at a corps/army level game set in the ETO. Hence you have the rules for naval operations and leadership. And trust me, the 140-counter mix limit caused me to eliminate a few cool “gonzo” units! Stay tuned for a May Day variant for Red Vengeance that will include my madness with a free web download.

Changes abound between Defiant Russia and Red Vengeance. This is both an attempt to improve the system and respond to the changing wartime situation. Shock armies operate in an improved manner and German infantry has deteriorated. These are reflective of the changed historical situation. Winter hurts the Soviets also. The Red Army has hardly deteriorated in this aspect, yet they were at their ropes in logistically as 1945 dawned, and the onset of snow and its affects were but another way to slow them down and reflect this without elaborate supply rules. Gone are the railways (in part due to the feedback I've received) and in its place comes Strategic Movement and simplified supply rules. These are just a few of the more obvious modifications. The Red Fleet proudly sails once more, and this time the Kriegsmarine makes its presence felt in a big way.

When Defiant Russia begins, as the whole world collectively holds its breath on June 22nd, 1941, we have a static situation. In Defiant Russia the Soviets set up first and the Axis got the first turn. I should have just started the game with the Axis Combat Phase! June 22nd, 1944 represents a different and more fluid situation on the eve of Operation Bagration, as the armies have hardly been exchanging love letters prior to game start.

I wanted an interactive setup. Originally the Axis deployed her infantry, then the Soviets their infantry and Guards, followed by Axis panzer and last by Soviet tank and shock units. This lasted all of two alpha playtest sessions. With the Soviets deploying their power units last, first turn movement again became largely irrelevant. Movement became part of placement as the Soviet player could simply place the powerful units were they needed to be.

So, in one last “tip of the hat” to Foreign Armies East, I gave a small advantage to the Germans during setup. After the German leg units are set up, all Soviets are placed. This gives Germany a slight flexibility on where her panzers are needed. The Soviet player can counter this to a point by using the first turn movement phase to redeploy for attacks. I’ve even given an opening gambit for STAVKA. Hex 2208 should have a small Soviet bridgehead, but at the scale of the game I didn't want to force Soviet deployment there, with a suicide attack on those Axis mountain start positions. Leaving the hex unoccupied by an Axis unit is enough and has several ramifications on the first turn. Still, if the Soviets want to shove a tank army across so its powerful combat strength will not be negated by the river, and follow up with a cheap infantry to “soak off,” that is an option that is available during movement. I think the opening turn of Red Vengeance is much more interesting and dynamic than its parent game.

Let the friendship forged in the anti-fascist struggle never be broken.

How to represent the Western Allies became a design issue early on. Ending the game at the conclusion of the April turn avoided this becoming a real stickler, but lacking extra counters it had to be a general rule rather than an actual game presence. One problem noticed early was the tendency of German players to attempt to hold a few powerful units well out of Soviet reach in hopes of a desperation last-turn counterattack to retake a VP city. Rule 11.5 helps negate that to a point. And to clarify, these die rolls do take place along the entirety of the western map edge. In addition to the “Western” allies think in terms of Yugoslav partisans and the Czech uprising. These dice are rolled during the Combat Phase. If using the optional rule that allows variable weather, and April proves to be clear, these dice are also rolled during the Exploit Combat Phase.

Yugoslavia presented another huge design issue. My first thought when brainstorming the game was to ignore it and Bulgaria. But Marshal Tito is one of my favorite historical figures and I decided quickly that this would not do at all. If I was to include Yugoslavia, how to make it more than a sideshow? I originally gave the VP just for Belgrade, but that was far too easy. Making it for both Belgrade and Zagreb forced the Allied player to fight for it heavily and made it far from a foregone conclusion. The complex relationship between Tito and Stalin came next. Originally when Belgrade was the objective, Soviets were prevented from entering. When the objective became split I allowed limited Soviet entry and the ability to attack across the border. This could aid against Belgrade and help on a drive to Zagreb obliquely.

How many Soviets should I allow? My initial rule said Yugoslavian units must outnumber Soviets. Thus with the Yugoslavians at full strength, three Soviet units could be across the border. This seemed out of proportion still, so by allowing two Soviets to be in the country, they would be outnumbered 2:1 by a Yugoslavian army at full strength. That seemed right. During my last alpha test before submitting to 119694_avalanche, stalwart playtester John Herrington tossed me a curve ball. He hightailed it north with the German units, abandoning the Yugoslavian VP, and those units proved of immense worth in denying Vienna until very late, and the thus the Red Army never even came near Prague! The rule was changed to permit Tito and the boys to move north if the Germans have no presence left in Yugoslavia. Bulgaria was easier. It is of nominal value to the Axis but when she defects another unit becomes available on the southern front for the Allied player.

I hope these brief notes will enhance your appreciation of the game. The historical situation isn't for everyone. Both Defiant Russia and Red Vengeance feature one side on the strategic defensive. Unlike Defiant Russia, there is no chance for the Axis to reverse the verdict of history. A good Allied player can effectively destroy the German army by turn five. Yet the weather and narrowing front will lessen the German need for units, and constrict the Soviet advance. The Thousand Year Reich is doomed, but a game is still possible.

I liken Red Vengeance to one of my favorite scenarios from Avalon Hill's ancient Cross of Iron. The Finns swept across the board in that one, decimating the Soviet invader. The victory conditions, however, were so strict that the Finnish player often lost! That is the situation in Red Vengeance. If you like a desperate struggle against overwhelming odds, Red Vengeance belongs in your collection, and more importantly on your gaming table. Solitaire play value is also good, which is a plus for many gamers.

Comrade Sariego and his alpha testers liberate Vienna, May 1945.

I'm hardly familiar with every game ever published, but I honestly don't think Bagration to Berlin has ever been done before. I leave it to better designers to deliver a more “realistic” game. While I can never measure up to my designing idols (John Prados and Jack Radey), what I can do is give you a nice two-hour diversion from the present day and offer an escape to the past. I'm basically a reclusive individual, so you will not find me in chat rooms or forums; but your ideas and comments will eventually work their way to the Bluegrass State. Comments and criticisms may find themselves reflected in the next game in the series, so let us know what you think. I sincerely hope you enjoy my game.

As a gratuity to our favored customers, accept a free download with these notes. I've already hinted at a May Day variant, but this is a practical download. These markers will aid game play (some can be used in Defiant Russia!) and I'm sure the Out of Supply counters will be especially welcome.

You can download the new markers here.

Make War No More,

The Red Goblin

Click here to buy Red Vengeance now!