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Shattered Empire
Picking Up the Pieces in Red Russia
By David Meyler
October 2015

As in its sister games Soldier Kings, Soldier Emperor and Soldier Raj, the game pieces are the graphical highlight of Red Russia. Based on period illustrations, the counters stand out dramatically against the stark background of the map. I therefore thought it fitting to give a brief introduction to the main players in this conflict — a particularly brutal war in a century of brutality — as well as some tactical hints for their use in battle.

Cavalry: The Last Hurrah

Strengths: Movement, intimidation. Just seeing this unit on top of a stack should give your opponent pause.

Flaws: You never have enough. High cost in both manpower and money to build and repair.

Elite Cavalry: 5-2 and 4-2.

The Russian Civil War is one of the last conflicts where cavalry played its traditional role as the mobile strike force. The 5-2 is the strongest unit in the game (except for the Allied 3-2 tank on attack), and only the Bolshevik gets one after the Red Army Reforms go into effect. The 4-2 will be the cutting edge of most offensives. They can provide a hard-hitting unit for any attack, while providing the usual cavalry support.

A single elite can also range around sieging weaker garrison towns (1 and 2) with little danger of harm. As well, an elite can lead an all-cavalry army, perhaps the most dangerous force in the game — fast, strong and hard to pin down (assuming you have enough horsemen for such a concentration).

The Reds, with up to nine cavalry, including two 4-2s as well as the 5-2, have the greatest cavalry resources. The Southern Whites and Siberians get only one 4-2 each.

 

Cavalry First Line: 3-2, 2-2.

The 3-2 is almost as good as a 4-2, and at least one (or two if you have them) line cavalry unit should support each main infantry force. A single cavalry unit will prevent a pure infantry force from withdrawing, and likewise, your cavalry can screen the withdrawal of you army (unless opposed by a superior force of enemy horse). You can also gang a stack of 3-2s and 4-2s together with a good leader to form an all-cavalry army; very dangerous indeed.

The North/Asian Whites have only four cavalry, but it will form their best striking force. A single 2-2 cavalry can act as a mobile garrison, especially useful to guard a flank.

 

Cavalry Conscript: 2-1.

Weak on defense, the conscript won’t last long in combat. As with the 2-2 cavalry, a single unit makes a good garrison. It will prevent an enemy from besieging a space you control unless at least one gold is spent for a Probe. Backed up by the friendly garrison, you then have the option of attempting hold out for one round if the enemy is not too strong (and if you survive, that single conscript unit can prevent an enemy siege until next turn), or if the foe appears in overwhelming numbers, your cavalry can withdraw (assuming you have kept a retreat path open). Remember, an all-cavalry force can always withdraw regardless of your opponent’s strength in cavalry.

Infantry: The Proletariat Goes to War

Strengths: Cheap and plentiful.

Flaws: Slow.

Elite Infantry: 5-2 and 4-2

As with the elite cavalry, only the Reds have access to the single 5-2 unit, with up to four 4-2 infantry available. The Southern and Siberian Whites have only one 4-2 each — and the Siberian elite represents part of the Czech Legion, which has this nasty habit of going home when you can least afford it. The North/Asian faction doesn’t get one at all.

 

Infantry First Line: 3-2 and 2-2

If the elite provide the cutting edge to your armies, these guys provide the mass. If you are not in a hurry, a single 3-2 or 2-2 can be used to besiege weaker or secondary garrisons. With a defense of 2, they will not easily take losses (a garrison would need to roll two 6s, not likely with a 2 point garrison, and impossible once it is reduced to 1 point), and they will eventually wear the garrison away.

 

Infantry Conscript: 2-1

What can you say but “cannon fodder”? Use them for offense, since they attack as well as a 2-2, but with a defense of 1 they won’t last too many rounds of combat. Use these hapless masses to buffer your better units. Keep one 2-1 with your air unit (think air base defense) so it can take a loss first and maybe spare your precious aircraft.

Tanks: A Wrench, a Wrench, My Kingdom for a Wrench!

Strengths: Attack bonus.

Flaws: Mechanical breakdowns, slow (these are not the Panther or T-34, boys and girls).

The Bolsheviks have the numbers and dominate with cavalry, but they fall behind on the technical side. The Allied 3-2 tank is possibly the strongest attacking unit in the game. With the armor bonus on an initial attack, it has a one-in-three chance of scoring a hit on a single roll. That gives slightly better odds of scoring a hit with three rolls than a 5-strength unit which only scores a hit on a roll of 6. The problem with Allied units, though, is getting them to where you can use them.

The Allies also have a 2-2 tank. The only other powers to field armor are the Southern Whites and the Poles, each with a possible single 2-2 tank. On defense, tanks are no stronger than infantry. Tanks lack the mobility of cavalry, and are prone to break down any time you move them to engage the enemy.

 

Air Forces: Death or Glory Boys

Strengths: Air strikes.

Flaws: Money, money. Expensive to build, takes three seasons to build.

Air units get to attack first, as opposed to most combat which is simultaneous, so aircraft can theoretically kill an enemy before he has a chance to strike back. But air units, like armor, are rare, and they have only two attacks (a 1/3 chance of scoring a hit, but only a1/36 chance of scoring double hits).

The Southern Whites and the Allies have the two single strongest air units, both 2-2. This is a key unit for the Southerners, so make sure your air force is where you will need it. The Siberians and North/Asia faction can build a 2-1 air (the Red air force, a single 2-1, cannot appear earlier than the spring of 1920).

As with all 1-defense units, they will not last long in prolonged battles, and air fleets are expensive to repair and even more expensive to rebuild. Of the minors, only Poland has an air force, a single 2-1 unit.

 

Fleets: Remember the Potemkin

Strengths: You don’t have to build them.

Flaws: Restricted use, and you can’t rebuild them once they’re gone.

The Civil War will not be won or lost at sea. Fleets can be important in taking or defending an important regional objective like Sevastopol, but they are overall peripheral. The biggest advantage is you start with them on the map.

The Red navy starts with only a 2-1 fleet at Petrograd (with the optional Black Sea fleet at Odessa for a second 2-1). The Southern Whites have a strong 2-2 fleet in the Black Sea, but the Allies have naval dominance with fleets along all the coasts. An Allied fleet is in Murmansk, which can help the North/Asia Whites.

 

Red Russia is available now!