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David G. Cox Esq.
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The Russian Campaign (4th Edition)
The War in Russia from Barbarossa to Berlin



A Historical Simulation for Two Players
Playable in Six Hours
Designed by John Edwards
Published by L2 Design Group (2003)



I have been playing The Russian Campaign since 1980. I have played the Jedko, Avalon Hill and L2 editions of the game. As a veteran of these countless campaigns in Russia, I have many stories that I could relate - however, I will try to limit myself to just three.

In the early 80's I had a regular wargame opponent. We had a series of weekends where we played TRC. On one of these we had been playing almost six hours. I was the German and he was particularly slow. I had captured Moscow and Stalin was in Archangel. I sent a large Axis force towards Stalin. ray asked why. I told him that there were automatic victory conditions - if I held Moscow and killed Stalin I would win. To my surprise he did nothing to protect Stalin. I killed Stalin and claimed victory. Ray said that the win didn't count because they were silly victory conditions - from memory that was actually the last time I played Ray.

In the late 80's I was practicing for a tournament to played TRC against Bob. We used a chess clock as they would be used in the tournament. Bob takes his time making his moves - I suspect he is searching for perfection. On this occassion I took less than 30 minutes while Bob took over nine hours. The highlight of the game was when Bob asked, after taking nearly an hour to make his move, if he could move his pieces bakc and do it all again - even though I had a good book to read my answer was still no.

In the early 90's I was discussing TRC with my friend Ian. He felt that the Russians couldn't lose. I disagreed. We put it to the test. I had great weather in the first summer and made good advances. Ian fell back behind his river defences but lost his patience. He came out for a late winter offensive (on the assumption that the weather dice rolls would even out - as I had great weather in autum it only made sense that he would get great weather in spring). It was the wrong decision - the weather cleared and the Panzers just rolled through his forces and the game was over. He declared that he had been in error - it was true, in his opinion, that if the German player got good weather rolls in the first autumn, good weather rolls in the first spring and got good combat rolls then there was a chance, just a slight chance, that they might be able to steal a win off the Soviets.

Anyway, enough of reminiscences. TRC is a great game, despite its age. It was innovative at the time with the introduction of a double impulse system, to allow the simulation of the Axis breakthroughs that occurred early in the war, and the use of air units. To say it is great does not mean to say that it is perfect. It is a poor choice as an introductory type game. The game is unforgiving of mistakes - a new player taking the Soviets would easily become demoralised. In the early stages of the game the Axis player turn takes quite some time while the Russian player has little to do but watch their pieces be destroyed.

All of the Jedko editions are rough diamonds. Avalon Hill improved the rules, added sudden death victory conditions and provided ID numbers on the counters that made it a lot quicker and easier to set up the game. L2 has made the map and counters bigger and classier - they have also added an expansion, which can be bought seperately, to bring the Caucuses into the game.


Components

Map The map is not mounted but it is on thickish board and has large hexes. It looks great and is easy to read.



Counters – The counters come on two sheets - they are larger than the Avalon Hill counters and are also very, very easy to read. A nice touch is that players may choose either NATO symbols or shillouettes for their armoured counters. I prefer the shillouettes.



Set-up Cards – one for the Axis and one for the Soviet – very clear with useful information regarding ‘special’ reinforcements.
Rules – The fourth edition rules are basically the same as the previous Avalon Hill edition.



Innovative Features

Double Impulse Movement – The game was, to the best of my knowledge, the first game to feature a ‘double-impulse’ in the sequence of play. This means that the Axis play has his July turn and then follows immediately with his August turn – depending on the weather, the movement capability of units will vary and may vary from the first impulse to the second impulse. Then the Soviet player will have two consecutive turns. The implication with this type of system is that good defence must be deep. It is possible to punch a hole in a front-line in the first month’s turn and then use that hole to envelope enemy troops during the second impulse.

Headquarters, Air and Over-run – The Axis player has several air units that can be used to give significant advantage in combat. These units are limited to operating with a certain range from one of three Headquarters units. This tends to cause the Axis player to think in terms of Army Groups (North, Centre and South). If the attacker can create a situation where he has 10-1 odds he may choose to over-run the defending units. This can contribute to causing a breakthrough which allows other units to exploit through the hole. It is a decision that is not made lightly, however, as units who create an overrun during the first impulse are not allowed to attack during the second impulse. Units eliminated by over-run may not be rebuilt - I have participated in some games where so many Soviet units were totally destroyed and were not allowed to be rebuilt that the Soviet player ran out of units that could be built and suffered a slow and ignominious defeat.

Victory Considerations – There are a variety of victory conditions which contribute to the game being extremely interesting to play. Either player can win by either eliminating the enemy leader counter AND occupying the enemy capital; or by controlling every city on the board. In addition you may choose to play with Sudden Death victory conditions where, at the start of the game both players select an objective for each year of the game. If one player controls both his objective and his opponent’s objective they will immediately win the game. It is possible for the game to finish without a victor as it is possible for neither player to achieve their objectives. One of the nice aspects of the game is that both players get a chance to be the attacker and both players get a chance to be the defender.

Reinforcements and Replacements – each player receives scheduled reinforcements during the game. The Axis player receives a small number of replacements from eliminated units once per year. The Soviet player receives a growing number of replacements at the start of each turn. The implication is that the Axis player must be very careful to conserve forces and not suffer unnecessary losses. The Soviet player wants to wage a war of attrition as losses are not particularly significant to the Soviet player, as long as he can keep control of enough cities with factories to allow him to replace his losses effectively


Playing the Game

I find it an exciting game to play. The Soviet player needs to put a lot of thought into the initial set up of his units – the Soviet units are allocated to a specific region and can be place, as the Soviet player wishes, within this limited area. There are many different ideas regarding the initial set-up. The Axis player, too, needs to look carefully at the Soviet deployment to work out how to best defeat it. Some of the options are:
1. attack on a broad front and just try to take out as many as possible;
2. attack in several narrow areas and try to breakthrough, hoping to isolate Soviet forces and have them die due to lack of supply during their turn;
3. put significant forces into Finland to take out Leningrad and force a rapid withdrawal by the Soviet forces.


Regardless of the option chosen much thought has to be put into how to most effectively make progress and utilise your three Headquarters so as to give maximum support to the troops where you most want to make progress. As the war progresses there are a series of river-lines which provide excellent defence for the Soviets. Also, the winter time is not a pleasant experience for the Axis. The Soviets still have to be careful when contemplating a winter offensive as it is always possible that the weather may clear, unexpectedly, and allow the Axis their own counter-offensive against exposed Soviet units.



Negatives
One of the negatives of the game is that in the early stages of the game the Axis player has most of the game time. He has the majority of units and needs to be very thoughtful about his campaign. The Soviet player has very few units initially and it won’t take long to work out where they need to go. It is not uncommon for the game time for the first quarter of the game to be in the ratio of 5:1 in favour of the Axis player.

Conclusion
As you can tell from the review, I like the game. I have played it over 50 times and am happy to play it again. I find it well balanced and exciting and with massive replayability. I have heard complaints that the order of battle is not especially accurate. I don’t see this problem. I see that the game creates a situation where both players have to balance a range of factors which seem realistic to me. As the German Commander you have to make effective use of combined arms and should be thinking in terms of Army Groups and their axis of advance rather than thinking of individual units and you also need to be thinking in terms of where to apply your force as you don’t have enough units to be strong everywhere. As the Soviet Commander-in-chief you have to find, initially a defensive war where your front-line units will die as you try to produce units which can be deployed in the rear at the same time as the front-line troops are giving their lives for ‘Mother Russia’.

And, if you insist on buying a copy of The Russian Campaign, do yourself a real favour and buy the L2 edition. Yes, it is more expensive. Yes, you do get what you pay for.

In the words of Josef Stalin, "Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas."



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Bob
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Nice job David! thumbsup
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David G. Cox Esq.
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Ashitaka wrote:
Nice job David! thumbsup


Thank you Bob - I appreciate your support.


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Wendell
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Great review David. I've never played this game, but it's on my list.

BTW, you must be a saint to have played Bob with a 9 hour to 30 minute discrepancy! That would drive me batty. I wiffed with a great guy in Tokyo who was a bit deliberate, but nothing like that!
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Bill Lawson
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Just for the record this is not the first game with double impulse movement. We can thank Jim Dunnigan for that Barbarossa: The Russo-German War 1941-45.
Nice review!
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David G. Cox Esq.
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wifwendell wrote:
Great review David. I've never played this game, but it's on my list.

BTW, you must be a saint to have played Bob with a 9 hour to 30 minute discrepancy! That would drive me batty. I wiffed with a great guy in Tokyo who was a bit deliberate, but nothing like that!


Bob's a really nice guy with a heart of gold - he is slow as he thinks that if he looks long enough he will find the perfect move. As I become older and less tolerant I try to find games that don't give him the opportunity of taking so long with his moves.


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Iain K
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Nice review, a classic I love but have never been able to justify turning in my worn AH copy for the lovely L2 edition.

I believe you misused the chess clocks though. The idea is that you both get some amount of time, per turn or per game. When your time has elapsed you're done. You don't get to move any more.

I need to get some chess clocks

Check out my TRC turn summary in the files section:

http://files.boardgamegeek.com/file/download/1tqlq6dh0u/The_...

Also available in Xcel format.

My least thumbed contribution to the Geek can you believe it shake


Question, in the L2 edition, are counters marked with the TURN NUMBER they enter as reinforcements?

It sure looks that way in your photo of a game in progress above.

If so I might buy the game just for that. The thing I hate about the AH version is that reinforcement "batch" numbers do not coincide with the turn numbers .... arrrrgh!

PS - you've forgotten my personal favorite strategy, overwhelm the Ukraine, to the point of stripping panzers from AGC & AGN - the goal being to eliminate as many Soviet worker units as possible ... they are the key to the resurgence of the Soviet war machine.


Thanks.
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David G. Cox Esq.
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citizen k wrote:
I believe you misused the chess clocks though.

Question, in the L2 edition, are counters marked with the TURN NUMBER they enter as reinforcements?


Regarding the chess clocks - in the tournament situation your comment is valid - both players are given a finite amount of time. In the situation with Bob I was practicing for the tournament - he wasn't. We decided that only I would be limited with time. If Bob had been limited by time I doubt we would have finished three turns in 3.5 hours and that would not have helped me in my preparation at all.

Regarding reinforcments - turn 5 reinforcements all have '5' printed on them - all of Army Group North units have 'N' printed on them. Hope that answers your question.
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Iain K
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The map image above posted by Jaakko W shows it very well. Reinforcement ID numbers are now "equal" to their turn of entry. They did not used to be, i.e. on turn 2 reinforcements with "1" on their counter entered, on turn seven German units with a "5" entered and Soviet units with a "6" entered ... an awful system.

The previous reinforcement scheme is shown here on the 3rd Edition board:



As I say, the approach taken in L2's 4th edition is more logical.
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James Lowry
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da pyrate wrote:
A nice touch is that players may choose either NATO symbols or shillouettes for their armoured counters. I prefer the shillouettes.

Heresy!

wifwendel wrote:
I've never played this game,

Heresy!



I need to get my own copy of this....
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I love the stories! That is what wargaming is all about. Can you imagine remembering a particular game of Dominion a month from now let alone 30 years from now?!

P
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Iain K
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You're not listening David. The reinforcement numbering systems are NOT the same.

Look at the German reinforcement card, the L2 has no "5" or "6" on the card.o There are no counters with the reinforcement number "5" or "6" on them, because the Axis receives no reinforcements on those turns.

The AH style has consecutive numbers, numbers that have nothing to do with the turn number. So it has units with reinforcement number "5" on them, but it is not a turn number - it's a "group" number.

Take a close look at the counters and reinforcement cards.

The L2 and Ah are different, and IMHO the L2 approach, putting the turn number of the reinforcement is better.

You sure you've played this 50 times and never had the old number style bother you?!

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David G. Cox Esq.
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citizen k wrote:
You're not listening David. The reinforcement numbering systems are NOT the same.

You sure you've played this 50 times and never had the old number style bother you?!



Sometimes I shoot from the hip when I should just shut my mouth.

And yes, it is one of the few wargames I have played over 50 times. The numbering system on the AH game never bothered me or my opponents. When you are up to your waist in snow with artillery shells going off around you there are more important issues...

As a matter of interest, when playing Russia Besieged (very similar to TRC and also by L2 Group) I am much more disturbed their graphic design decisions regarding font and alignment of names on the map.
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Russell Gifford
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Well, I'll say I played it 25+ times, and the 3rd Edition numbering never bothered me, either. Trust me, you are looking for the troops, the card tells you when they enter, and you are not likely to forget them! It isn't like this is a speedy game! There is plenty of time to take notice of troop deploymnets!
 
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tim allen
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If you count solo then I've probably played RC around 20-30 times as well, almost all of them the older AH 3rd edition. Never had a problem with the reinforcement numbers.

When setting up the game I always used the OB chart to hold the reinforcements and I pretty much ignored the "real" setup numbers when placing them. As long as the units matched the unit on the card I would not worry about finding the Exact unit with the right setup number. A 2-5 tank is a 2-5, after all.

So, when it was time for group 4 to arrive, Id just grab the units off the OB, ignoring the set up numbers/letters on the counters. I never even thought about the apparent discrepancy between the turn of arrival and the set up until now. For me,since I don't use the set up numbers, its a non-issue.

And, since I now own the L2 version, its even More of a non issue!
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tim allen
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BTW, good review.

The only thing I will add is that you quoted the 3rd ed. victory conditions. the new L2 edition has slightly different victory contidions, and ties (which were a common outcome when playing the AH version) are now impossible.

IIRC, victory conditions are similar to the old sudden death victory conditions, but are now manditory. Each side has a seperate list of objective cities they need to take in order to win. Victory is checked at the end (or beginning?) of each new year, and the objectives change year to year.
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generalpf wrote:
I was struggling as the Germans to break through to Moscow an finally when I watched him do his replacements, I noticed he was replacing one unit per worker point and not considering their cost. Needless to say we called the game off at that point. laugh


That bothers me too during my play as a youngster and especially the translated rules didn't tell the replacement rate quite clearly. I used to play that way, i.e. one unit per worker point. I asked in somewhere else if I played it right this way recently. I seemed to recall the answer would be yes. But the above offers another way to play the worker points. Which one should be correct?
 
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Greg Blanchett
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Don't have the rules handy, but I've always played that worker points equaled the combat factors. So it would take 3 workers to bring back a 3-5 tank corps...
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Robert Stuart
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Regarding chess clocks: for war games I would prefer using them the way they're used in Go, rather than in Chess. In Go, once your time is used up you have a maximum of 1 minute for any subsequent move. If you haven't moved in a minute you forfeit the move -- the other player gets to move again. This can be done in Go because, unlike in Chess, 'passes' are allowed.

Passes are also allowed in war games. In a war game I would allow someone who has run out of time a maximum of, say, 5 minutes to move his units and a maximum of 3 minutes to subsequently declare his attacks. If he is forced to attack but has not declared the attack in the time limit, the non-phasing player gets to declare the phasing player's attack in any manner he wishes (hey, there has to be SOME penalty for running out of time!) If a turn is composed of multiple decision-making phases I would allow a strict time limit for each phase.

In that way a player wouldn't automatically lose when his time had expired, but life would become very difficult!

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David G. Cox Esq.
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The way we use chess clocks in our tournaments is that the game will be allocated three and a half hours. The game will finish when both players' clocks total that amount of time. If one player has exceeded their time limit their victory level will be modified depending upon how much they have gone over time. In TRC I think that every three minutes, or part there of, was one victory level. The difference in scores would be calculated and the best win would give one player 10 points and his opponent 0 - next level down would be a 9-1 split, and so on.
 
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phillip anderson
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I had/have the original AH version from my younger days. I played that game more than any other I had. I think I wore a hole in the map from all the moving counters. I've wished for a long time some company would do a computer version of it. As long as it was true to the original version.
 
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Russell Gifford
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Re: Chess Clocks
I like the idea that if using chess clocks, you don't automatically lose being out of time, but use the "you now have x minutes to move everything. Anything NOT moved will not move."

BUT - GENERALLY (not TRC) if using chess clocks in wargames, I suggest the time allocated be predicated on the number of units the side has.





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With regards to TRC and chess clocks: For about 10 years we used chess clocks at WBC to keep the games moving. For face-to-face situations, having one person use most of the time is intolerable and has the potential impact of impacting the whole tournament schedule if the game runs behind. We did give the German player a little more time to reflect the fact that he simply has more units to move and more decisions to make.

Nowadays, however, we've shifted to a 5-turn scenario and generally can get that match completed in 4 hours so we've been able to forgo clocks. Not that there still aren't players who want to 'perfect' their move, of course, but a nudge by their opponent, and the GM if necessary, usually keeps things moving along.

Nice review! I think the game is balanced between equally experienced opponents but I probably am a bit biased. =)
 
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