War Not So Civil
A Preview of
By William Sariego
The roots of Red
Russia’s design go far back
in my personal history. While many have seen
the classic movie Dr. Zhivago directed
by David Lean, I actually read the novel by
Boris Pasternak. In high school I watched
Warren Beatty’s Reds, and the
brief fight scene at the end stirred my interest,
featuring cavalry, armored trains and tachankas.
What wargamer would not have their interest
piqued! I then managed to get a used copy
of The Russian Civil War by SPI. For
many years that was the only game available
on the subject. My interest in the conflict
has never cooled off.
subject is fascinating and complex, and still
arouses passions in the Rodina to this day,
as most of my friends born in the former Soviet
Union will attest. It was one of the most
brutal, no-quarter-asked (and none given),
internal conflicts in history. Our American
Civil War was a most genteel affair by comparison.
The Russian Civil War has been the subject
of several game designs over the years, beyond
the moldy-oldie mentioned above.
Enter the Red Goblin
The complex political and military situation
in post-Great War Russia demanded a multi-player
format in addition to playability by two people.
My original vision was a game that could be
enjoyed by five players. One would be the
Bolsheviks, and the other four would represent
the counter-revolutionary forces: Siberian
and Southern Whites as the most powerful;
along with the Allied interventionist forces
and a player who would combine the Central
Asian and Northern White forces. In addition
to these major powers vying for control of
Russia you have various minor factions representing
nationalist and independent power blocs, who
may ally with the big boys under certain circumstances.
At this point I had decided on what I wanted
to do with the game. The major obstacle was
figuring out how I was going to do it. Originality
is a good thing, and I could have started
from scratch, yet I had an idea and promptly
sought the ear of our Fearless Leader.
Avalanche Press’s Soldier Kingsseries
is possibly my favorite grand strategy system.
For simplicity and elegance of design, it
cannot be beat. I asked Dr. Bennighof if Rob Markham would be upset if I used his basic system
as a starting point. The answer was no, and
I had my green light to begin!
Dr. Zhivago Operates
The basic system in Red Russia is similar to the Soldier series games. Yet I added a lot of variations
to account for both the new technologies and
the unique situation of Russia in 1918. The
first and foremost difference will be apparent
is in the counter mix. In previous games playing
pieces represented armies and fleets. Here
you have a bit more differentiation. The Russian
Civil War was the last conflict in which cavalry
played a decisive role, and this is reflected
in the game by separate pieces. The early
tools of modern warfare are also present,
with air power and armor being represented
in small numbers. Fleets are present for support
on the fringes as well.
The map area is large, befitting this huge
country. The Bolsheviks with their central
position are strong, but can be overwhelmed
if the Whites can work together. The nature
of the situation keeps this from happening
often and quite a tense game can result. Special
rules for key leaders and random events (55
cards of wonderful chaos to be exact) add
chrome to the situation. A key goal of mine
was to make the game equally playable in both
a two-player and multiplayer format. With
developer Kevin Canada’s excellent help,
the latter succeeded better than I thought
During development the game was pared down
to four rather than five players. Even in
my alpha testing I knew the Allied Interventionist
player was the weakest faction. In the end
Kevin thought it best to drop them as a separate
faction, their forces being available as aides
to the other White players. This worked out
much better — and in today’s fast-paced
world, finding four player’s for a game
is much easier than five, anyhow!
Fans of both the Soldier series and the Russian Civil
War should be pleased with the outcome. Kevin
did a sterling job as developer and I can
honestly say this was a fun game to design.
(Not something that can always be said, trust
me!) The components are up to the excellent
Avalanche standard, even better. The counter
art turned out magnificent! Purchasers will
get a darn good game for a price that is affordable,
thanks to the Avalanche Collective. Besides,
if you want a game on the Russian Civil war
you need to buy one designed by a real Bolshevik!
I actually had to reign myself in a bit
while designing Red Russia. The temptation
to go heavy on chrome and “gonzo”
rules was quite strong. In the end, I concentrated
on not making too many changes to an already
fine system, excepting the needed adaptations
for more modern warfare and the conflict itself.
I’ve seen too many good systems borrowed
by other designers get snowed under with special
rules and exceptions.
As always, I hope you enjoy our game.
Order Red Russia now!