David G. Cox Esq.
Do what you can, with what you've got, where you are.
Military Simulation of the Russian Civil War
Designed by Francois-Stanislas Thomas
Published by Azure Wish Edition (1995)
I learned about Rossyia 1917 quite by accident. I had become award of a ‘grail’ game, La Grande Guerre. I made several attempts to purchase a copy of the game but the prices were always too high. I looked at other games by the same publisher, AZW. In the process I discovered Rossyia.
I made a few attempts to purchase it as I find the Russian Civil War/Revolution to be interesting and there aren’t many games based around it.
Eventually I picked up a copy on eBay for $100. The guy who sold it to me was so surprised by the price he sent me another game as well, by way of a bonus.
The game is moderately large as wargames go. There are two map sections – each one measures 80cm by 60cm – for those of you still into imperial measurement that would be 32 inches by 23 inches. The map is functional without being terribly attractive – it is not really ugly but it is very functional. It has a gloss finish and where the map has been folded the glossy paper actually breaks. This is not a big deal, especially as I place Perspex over the top of the maps to make them lie flat and to protect the. The size and scale of the map is good for this game as it gives you a feeling of size. There is plenty of space to manoeuvre troops. There is space between cities. Moving armies takes some marching. From the point of view of giving ‘feel’ to a game this is one of the best maps that I have used.
There are 1040 counters. They are functional with strong bold colours. They are incredibly thin. They are so thin that they are probably anorexic and I guess more to be pitied than anything else – I wonder if this is a deliberate design feature to show, in a physical way, the terrible effects of famine during the Russian Civil War. It is the most disappointing aspect of the game as thin counters are not user-friendly – they are difficult to pick up.
There is a scenario booklet and a rules booklet as well as 4 double-page sheets of player aids – one set for the White player and the other for the Bolshevik player. The quality of the printing of the rules and charts is the most amateurish aspect of the production – but they are functional.
The game comes with four small scenarios and a full campaign game.
Operation Moscow uses only the western map and last for 14 turns, starting in November 1918 and finishing in December 1919.
Admiral Kolchak’s Tragic Epic uses both maps and covers the sam period but goes an extra turn, finishing in January 1920.
Petrodgrad is Threatened is the introductory scenario. It uses only the western map and plays for seven turns, from May to November 1919.
The Last White Epic uses on the western map for seven turns, from May to November 1920.
The full campaign is a big game which should take less than 20 hours to play – If everyone knows how to play it should take three longish nights and a fourth night if you have to explain the rules. It uses both maps and runs for 30 turns, from November 1918 through to April 1921. The campaign has rules for 2, 3, 4 or 5 players. In the campaign game victory is determined by the political level. This is adjusted for the capture/loss of cities as well as the play of political option chits.
Playing the Game
None of the subsystems that make up the game are innovative or earth-shattering. They are, however, quite functional and fit very nicely into the game package, making it easy, interesting and giving a good feeling of verisimilitude.
• Weather – roll the dice and check the two weather zones to see how much sunshine will come into your life this game turn
• Initiative – the player with the most Head Quarters units has the initiative and will go first.
• Railroad Capacity – the various forces count their cities and see how many rail points they have.
• Replacements – this is done the same as for Railroad Capacity.
• Draw a chit and see if it can be used.
• Players alternate activating Head Quarters units. The active HQ will activate units around it and these units will check for supply, receive ammunition, move and possibly even fight. Each Player has 3 minutes to finish movement before the combat starts.
• Once all HQs have been activated all autonomous units may be activated. Units may only be activated once each turn.
End Turn Phase
• Just the boring administrative stuff like adjusting markers, adding reinforcements and making political adjustments.
The Finer Points
The Sides – the Bolsheviks are united and centralized and all red units are on the same side. There are several White factions (Siberia, North, South and Youdenitch), one International Allied Faction and several small nations. These different factions generally are unable to cooperate with each other.
Units Activated Once Per Turn – each unit can only be activated once. Each counter has two sides – the sides are the same except for some colour (black and gold) – at the start of each turn units are flipped so that they all have the same coloured side showing and as they are activated they are turned to the other side.
Head Quarters – historically one of the big features of the Russian Civil War was the personalities and abilities of the various leaders. In Rossyia HQs are rated for the number of units that they may activate, their combat bonuse and the range over which they can command. Twice during each turn a player may attempt to activate two HQs at the same time – to be successful the player makes a coordination dice roll.
Armament Points – once activated, a player spends Armament Points for an HQ. If you spend 0 APs the activated units may move and do nothing else. If you spend 1 AP the HQ can use replacement points, use rail movement and make 2 attacks. Spending 2 APs allows any number of attacks and each one will have a +1 dice roll modifier. Spending 3 APs gives you a +2 DRM and Administrative Movement is allowed (double MPs but you must not go adjacent to enemy units.
Elimination of Units – Infantry and Cavalry units go into an eliminated pool and may be rebuilt. Special units such as armour and air are permanently destroyed. When rebuilding units the White player chooses which one to build while the Bolshevik player draws randomly from the pool of eliminated units.
Off Map Boxes – some large areas are represented on the map by boxes rather than hexes. This eliminates a lot of unnecessary hexes and stops them from taking up valuable space on the map.
As with many large wargames, it is not possible to make an accurate judgement regarding balance with just a couple of plays. Talking with others the general consensus is that it is easier to win with the Bolsheviks rather than the Whites. The Whites seem to have the choice of being moderately aggressive early and risking an early defeat or playing cautiously which means they will not be defeated early but will probably have a hard time winning in the long run.
The sequence of play makes the game fairly interactive which is a feature I enjoy in games.
The subsystems work well and integrate nicely into the game. I particularly like the HQs and the allocation of Armament Points. These features give the players some important decisions to make and plenty of options regarding how best to implement a strategy.
Overall, the physical quality of the game is not great – especially by 1995 standards.
I am happy with the game and look forward to the next time that I play it.
Every weirdo in the world is on my wavelength
We carry a new world here, in our hearts.
Thank you comrade!
Great review of a game that looks really interesting. Hopefully this will get reprinted someday.