By Mike Bennighof, Ph.D.
Red Victory seemed at first a pretty simple concept: use the playing pieces from our old Red Vengeance game on the wonderful map from the new edition of Defiant Russia. It didn’t turn out to be quite that easy, because the Defiant Russia map covers a larger area than that of Red Vengeance.
The easy solution would have been to restrict the playing area to roughly the same as that of Red Vengeance, with a brief special rule saying no one can go north of X or south of Y. And I probably should have done that. But I didn’t. Instead I designed some new pieces so that we could use all of the map, because I wanted to.
Red Victory comes with 180 playing pieces: 140 of them from Red Vengeance and 40 brand-new ones. You also get to use a handful of pieces from Defiant Russia, because they’re already there (and you have to have Defiant Russia anyway, for the map).
Reinforced Red Army
On the northern edge of the map, Red Victory now includes the summer 1944 campaign against Finland. The Finns come right out of Defiant Russia – units in the two games are valued pretty much by the same measure, and the Finnish Army did not change enough between 1941 and 1944 to show up at this scale.
But the Soviets who fought them in 1944 for the most part don’t show up in Red Vengeance (one unit appeared later as a reinforcement, having been transferred out of the Finnish front). So we’ve added three more Soviet armies to fight the Finns.
In addition to the Finnish front, the Soviets get a few options that, being options, may or may not appear in play. The Danube Flotilla appeared in Daily Content, giving the Soviets some help along the riverbanks.
The Red Army also picks up two additional leaders: Konstantin Rokossovsky, who planned the war-winning Operation Bagration, and Rodion Malinovsky, conqueror of Romania and Hungary. Each of them adds a little to both offense and defense. The Germans receive no additional leaders; it’s my opinion that the old Red Vengeance game favored them slightly so this helps redress that.
Poland and the Baltic
Red Vengeance included the Polish contribution to defeating Nazi evil, with two Polish armies appearing in the course of the game. More Polish recruits became available as more Polish territory became free of Nazi terror, and so the Soviet player has the option of bringing a third Polish army into play.
Polish patriots also can now rise up against the Nazis through the Home Army, which attempted to free Warsaw from the Hitlerites in 1944. These brave Poles will fight for the Polish capital, and if they’re successful (it’s kind of a long shot, unless the Germans leave Warsaw un-garrisoned) they’ll take the field as a new Polish army and march on Berlin with their brothers.
The German Navy finally participated in the war during the Soviet drive along the Baltic coast, and now they do so in the game as well. The German Baltic Fleet isn’t a whole lot of help – the biggest problems are far outside their reach – but every little bit helps.
Some Damned Things in the Balkans
Red Vengeance included much of the Balkans in play, with a major front in Yugoslavia and Tito’s partisan armies to fight the Germans there. In Red Victory we add a lot more of the factions, most of them murderous scum.
The Croatian National Army together with the fascist Ustache militia fielded a great many troops (perhaps 200,000, though mass desertions make it difficult to fix an exact figure). Still more served in German uniform in three German-officered “legion” divisions. Most of these weak divisions and brigades are folded into the game’s German pieces that begin the game in occupied Yugoslavia, but some remained under Croatian command so we’ve added a separate NDH (Nezavisne Države Hrvatske) piece to account for these additional forces. The Croats are limited in where they can deploy, but that’s not going to be much of a problem, since they’re not really strong enough to stand against the Red Army.
The Germans get additional allies and enemies within Yugoslavia: the Chetniks, who depending on the time frame and wind direction will align with either side. The Chetniks are not very tough, but they do provide another wild card in the confused Yugoslav conflict.
Those German occupation forces included troops in Greece and Albania, which aren’t on the Red Vengeance map but is covered on that from Defiant Russia. The German Army picks up two weak infantry corps that covered this additional ground, but has to face the divided Greek partisan movements – Communist and Royalist, who despise one another.
The Greeks can’t leave Greece – they have a civil war to fight – but the Albanians are somewhat more mobile (historically they invaded pre-war Yugoslav territory, as some factions sought to incorporate Kosovo into Albania).
The Germans aren’t the only Axis occupiers of the Balkans – much of this onerous duty was performed by the Royal Bulgarian Army, which usually fails to receive credit for their contribution or well-deserved blame for the widespread atrocities and war crimes they committed in Macedonia and Greece. Mostly that’s because Tsar Boris was wise enough to switch sides at the opportune moment, and Bulgarian troops marched alongside the Red Army until the end of the war.
Red Vengeance included a nominal Bulgarian unit; Red Victory has the full complement of infantry corps plus a weak “Rapid” corps.
Finally, we have a pretty cool optional scenario: Operation Zeppelin, the fictitious Western Allied plan to invade Greece and the Balkans propagated as part of the Bodyguard series of deceptions. A great deal of effort went into its planning, with some actual units detailed for the operation and others made up out of whole cloth (literally so, with tanks constructed out of fabric-covered wooden frames).
The Allies fabricated a pretty extensive order of battle for the operation, and now you can land them in Greece or Yugoslavia and try to snatch the region from the Germans before the Soviets can get there. There are strong American and British contingents, as well as Poles, Canadians and Indians. They’re well able to smash the weak Nazi occupation corps and their collaborationist henchmen.
So why didn’t the operation – pushed, naturally, by Winston Churchill – take place? The map tells the story: it’s a really, really long way from Sparta to Spandau.
And those are the new toys for Red Victory.
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Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and award-winning journalist, he has published over 100 books, games and articles on historical subjects.
He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children and his dog, Leopold.