Recently, I was perusing the Osprey collection of books at a store and found the Campaign/Essential Histories of the Russian Civil War. I decided to pick it up, and expand my historical repertoire.
The Russian Civil War lies at the back end of the First World War and crawls its way towards the beginnings of the Second World War. This unique period in history, adorned with the almost mystical backdrop of Russia proved too interesting a subject not to look into it. Apart from some of the main battles in the Second World War, I am really ignorant about Russian history, and I thought it would be a challenge to learn the culture, geography and political machinations of a Civil War that didn’t involve the Blue and the Grey. But did involve the rather exotic, Red and the White.
The game is based on the AGE engine from AGEOD, but is a fan-inspired evolution of the usual formula. If you’re familiar with the AGEOD games, you should be more at home with this game. However, I had such an uphill struggle becoming acquainted with the AACW game, that if you stop playing AGEOD games for any length of time, it takes a while again to get back into the driving seat. With the addition of production and building components to this game, and the quite harsh limitations of the actual conflict, I did stumble my way along at first.
Still, if you start slowly and gently, you start to appreciate the draw of these sort of games. It is more apparent in this title, I feel, you’re actually playing through a period of history where events come thick and fast, and these aren’t just a little flavouring added to the mix. They’re actually quite dramatic historic mileposts that can change your situation and ultimately your decisions. Interactive History, I call it. I suppose wargaming hero of mine Bruce Geryk might coin the phrase “Touching History”, it would seem apt.
So, to start off, I chose a particularly small scenario, the “Ice March“.
Here’s the scenario’s accompanying text.
I choose to play the underdog, namely the White Volunteer Army.
Emotive recruitment for these Volunteer Army “Heroes-to-be”, the poster says “My son… go and save the Motherland!”
The objective list is fairly straightforward. Most of the Victory Point locations are under the Bolshovik Red Army’s control, although their point values are considerably lower. The Ukrainians have control over Kiev and at the start of the scenario, this are is not available for capture. Lastly, the White’s Volunteers have Novocherkassk, for a whopping 15 Victory Points! Even though the Ice March followed the arduous migration Southwards into the Kuban region, if we’ve got the minerals keeping Novocherkassk would be very advantageous, points wise.
Basically the Reds have to eliminate the White Volunteers. The White’s just have to survive by holding on to one of the strategic cities/towns.
Here’s the initial strategic map overview, Novocherkassk is the tiny white square in the middle. Rostov is the red square to its direct left. The Kuban area is around the Novorossiysk on the shores of the Black Sea, gateway into the Crimea. Kiev is the large yellow square in the North West. The large red square to the east is Tsaritsyn (later to become Stalingrad).
We start in the Early November of 1917, we have very little at our disposal. Basically a Cherkassk Garrison at Novocherkassk, one that is locked and cannot be moved. You can see from the wintery snow icons in the area, the River Don is frozen over and we have nasty weather conditions around the whole starting area. Novocherkassk seems to be quite a major rail hub leading into Rostov and down through Azov region into the Kuban. When the weather is better, there are a number of ports available for transport by water.
Looking at the Garrison, we can see they’re Cossack Reserve Line Infantry. Can’t really compare them to anything else yet, stats wise, but they look robust enough, with 60/60 cohesion.
Taking a step back, to see a bigger picture of the immediate area, you can see the strategic towns leading from Novocherkassk down to Novorossiysk. If we can mobilise our Volunteers and take as many strategic towns along this relatively short (in Russian terms) route, perhaps we can organise ourselves to hold out against the Bolshevik onslaught? The Victory Points along this route total another 15, with the cities yielding 5 each. Holding Novocherkassk as well would give us 30 VP’s! A pipe dream, maybe.
With very little to do this first turn, I look at the supply overlay for the map – showing some of the supplies available for production in each of the region. The icons are rather classy looking cheese wheels with miniature symbols for Money, Conscripts, War Supplies and VP value of Region.
Please understand that I am almost a complete novice with the AGE engine, especially one so evolved as RUS, but I hope I can harness my inexperience and naivety and show others at least some of the attraction of playing an interactive history such as this. Please feel free to fill up the comments section with corrections, tidbits, or help for others if you’re an RUS guru.
Its quite fortuitous that I embarked on the RUS adventure, because recently the Three Moves Ahead podcast covered this game in quite some detail, so for an entertaining overview and strategy gamers thoughts on its nuances, don’t forget to give episode 115 a listen as soon as possible.
Tune in for the next installment of my cold wintery slog of survival during Late November 1917, the Ice March.