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Red Vengeance: A Preview
By William Sariego
November 2014

I never saw myself as a game designer, yet alone the designer of a series of games. I have always enjoyed playing wargames first and foremost, and then tinkering with them a bit with variants and such. Scotland the Brave was designed almost on a dare by an old friend, and for the longest time appeared to be a one-shot 15 Minutes of Fame type deal. Not too long after would see me take pen to paper and come up with Ragnarok, a roleplaying supplement. It went on to be nominated for three Origins Awards, but like the Mighty Casey of baseball fame, I struck out! That got my confidence up, however, and an excessively cold Kentucky winter back in 2001, which gave me little else to do with my time, resulted in what would be Defiant Russia.

A little over a year after that was published the sequel, Red Vengeance, saw publication. With Defiant Russia having sold well, and launching a new mini-game genre at Avalanche Press, Herr Dr. Bennighof and company encouraged a follow up, the exact nature of which was left to my design taste. I was in the middle of another project, also involving Russia, so the sequel was put off a few months. When I began, many would express surprise at my choice of time frame. Defiant Russia deals with Operation Barbarossa, the start of the war between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Socialist Republics on June 22, 1941. It seemed like a cool idea for the follow up to deal with the conclusion of the war. Operation Bagration would likewise begin on June 22, three years later. Taking place just weeks after D-Day in France, this was clearly Nazi Germany’s last gasp: the Gotterdamerung, if you will.

This presented an interesting design issue. At this point, with the two-front war in full swing (okay, three counting Italy) a glaring fact stood out for game play. The German player would realistically have no chance of “winning” in any conventional sense. There would be no dramatic turning of the tide, the Ardennes and Lake Balaton offensives not withstanding. It was an interesting design issue for a non-professional game designer; how to make such a losing situation for one player into a good game.

An SU-85 destroys a German Panther during the 1944 offensive.

Since these Designer’s Notes come as a preview of Red Vengeance, I don’t want to give away too much to ruin any surprise value. To win, the Soviet player is going to have to pretty much sweep the map by the end of the April 1945 turn, something not required of the Germans in Defiant Russia. The number of Victory Points possible are six; scoring for control of key cities (Vienna, Prague, Berlin), liberation or not liberation of Yugoslavia, Hitler’s state of health (like the point for Stalin in Defiant Russia), and casualties. With six Victory Points a draw is possible, reflecting the Cold War aftermath.

Germany starts out with a good army on paper, with a lot of Panzer corps. Now most of these units were Panzer corps in name only, but I gave the German player the benefit of Hitler’s fantasy world as the reality was pretty scary, at least for the Hitlerites. You will see the Nazis melt away soon enough. The Red Army is quite strong and quality is much improved over 1941, but that won’t stop horrendous casualties as the Germans put up a stout defense. Like Defiant Russia, naval factors are not ignored, and some effects of the war in the west add nice chrome.


Some changes to the basic rules make this more than a Defiant Russia clone. Gone are the railways, along with their map aesthetics. They are replaced by new rules for supply and strategic movement. Air power has an interesting twist, and weather effects for winter turns hurt both sides.

How does it play? Fun and fast would be my answer. The Germans frantically try to rebuild new lines of defense along the Vistula and later the Oder as the Soviets steadily advance westward. Fighting in the Balkans and the economics of the oil fields comes into play. Just when the Soviet player may be smug enough to feel assured of victory, game effects in January 1945 reflect the logistical problems facing the USSR at that moment, including reduced replacement and strategic movement.

Is it balanced? The Dice Gods tell all, but using history as a judge, as the game ends at the conclusion of the April turn, the Soviets have a 4-2 win. The USSR had captured Vienna, liberated Yugoslavia, scored the casualty point, and Hitler had taken the coward’s way out. The Germans still “held” Berlin and controlled Prague. In our alpha testing, before turning the game over to the Avalanche gang, a 3-3 result was quite common. Only once did the Soviets run the table, and I witnessed more than one 4-2 German win!

I hope you enjoy my game. It has been a pleasure to design it for you. I am moving beyond the Rodina now for different historical eras.

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