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The Russian Civil War



Multi-player Simulation of the Russian Civil War, 1918-1922
Designed by James F. Dunnigan
Published by Simulations Publications, Incorporated (1976)



"Not believing in force is the same as not believing in gravity."
Leon Trotsky




If you have never played The Russian Civil War and are about to, get ready for a wild ride. RCW is a game unlike any that you have played before. It simulates both military and political aspects of the war and has some assassinations thrown in for good measure.

Some people may think that both the game and the actual war were nothing less than organised chaos. Let me assure you, there is nothing organised about the game.


Overview

To give you a quick overview of the game, there are four different groups of military units – Reds, Whites (both of these are self explanatory), Blue (international units such as British, US, etc.) and Green (nationalist groups such as Poles, Czech, etc.). As well as combat units there are red and white leaders as well as Politburo Markers and Assassin Markers.

Although the game comes with a solitaire scenario it is best played by more than 3 and can take up to six players. During the game players may control pieces from any or all of the factions. During the game you can usually attack anyone and sometimes may even attack yourself.

What scores victory points will depend upon who actually wins the war.



Detail

Who May Attack Whom
In the game there is this massive fight going for the control of Russia. It is mainly between the Communists (Red) and the supporters of the Tsarist regime (White). Foreign forces (Blue) have come to try to stem the spread of communism. Meanwhile small nationalist groups (Green) such as Poles and Czechs fight for the rights of small ethnic groups in and around Russia. And so…

Red units hate everyone – red may attack White, Blue and/or Green. Red is not allowed to attack Red.
White units hate the Reds and the Nationalists – Whites may not attack Blue (Blue is there to help) nor may White attack another White.
Green (Nationalist) are fighting the oppressors – Green may only attack Red and White.
Blue are fighting the spectre of communism – Blue may only attack Red.


Winning the Game

The game can be quite crazy. The game will end in a White victory if there are no Red Leaders on the map at the end of any game turn. Likewise, if there are no White Combat units on the map at the end of a turn the game will result in a Red victory. Alternatively the game can result in a Red victory if there are no White Leaders on the map and players who control collectively at least 10 Politburo markers decide that the game is over.

If it is a White victory only White victory points are counted – you get these for controlling White Leaders, White Combat Units and Imperial Units that are on the map. You also get points for having eliminated Red and Green units and leaders.

If it is a Red victory then only Red victory points are scored – you get these for having eliminated White Leaders, White combat units, Green combat units and Blue combat units. You also get points for controlling Red Leaders and combat units on the map and for having Politburo markers during the game. There are bonus points for having imperial stuff (such as having killed the Tsar and his family).

The game can be quite topsy turvy as you play it. Oftentimes players will want to try to gain points for both a Red victory and a White victory until it becomes clear which side you think will win. Even then, the other side can win unexpectedly – lots of strange things happen in this game.


Setting Up the Game

At the start of the game counters representing White Leaders, Red Leaders, Assassins, Politburo Influence and control of Nationalist and Internationalist forces are randomly and evenly distributed amongst players. Players may then trade pieces amongst themselves.


Playing the Game and Politics


Each leader in the game may control combat units of a matching colour, move these units and conduct attacks – leaders have their own rating and some leaders may control more troops than others. The map is made up of areas and generally units have to be in the same area as an enemy if they wish to attack them. Red units are also allowed to make subversive attacks which are used to attack units in adjacent areas.

Politburo markers are really useful and represent influence in the central committee. Players who have enough Politburo markers (political clout) can threaten other Red players with a purge. If there is a successful purge the purging player or players will take control of some of the purged player’s Red leaders. This is done when you may suspect the other player’s loyalty to the cause. Some players with leaders of both colours go around setting up a Red of White victory by destroying their own units. For example if you are out for a White win you may position some of your Red units in such a way that you White units can attack them and score easy points while weakening the Red cause. But, as we all know, you can’t sit on a barbed-wire fence with a foot in each paddock.

There are some nasty random events that can occur and assassins that can try to take out enemy leaders.


The Russian Civil War is fun to play and really different to other games. Quite apart from the military action on the map there is a lot of scope for negotiation and double-dealing. In the game you really need to keep your innermost thoughts close to your chest.

When you play this game expect the unexpected.




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Pete Belli
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Refreshing outside-of-the-box thinking by Dunnigan...

...and one of the better SPI box covers.
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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pete belli wrote:
Refreshing outside-of-the-box thinking by Dunnigan...

...and one of the better SPI box covers.

Yup, an interesting game, and the physical presentation was exceptional for any era, let alone when it was actually produced.
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Mark Swenholt
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It's been way too many years since I last had a chance to play RCW. We should try to get a group together to play this at BGGCon this year.
 
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M Evan Brooks
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And it is essential to consider the victory conditions. My favorite gaming experience was where I was looking for a White victory. This was the crucial turn, and when I counted the victory points, I determined that the ultimate White victor would be another player -- and one who had been eliminated from the game. His White VP total was enough to guarantee him the win.

So, changing gears in mid-stream, I quickly placed my White leaders in untenable positions so that my Red forces could easily pick them off.

The end result was my Red victory -- by a single point.

Gamey, yes? Ahistorical, yes? But an enduring memory.
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Dan Taylor
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evanbrooks wrote:

So, changing gears in mid-stream, I quickly placed my White leaders in untenable positions so that my Red forces could easily pick them off.



The thought process might be ahistorical, but not so sure about the results. . When you look at the sort of stubborn lack of cooperation some of the White Leaders displayed, the fact that the Poles were in no hurry to help the Whites, it gets less silly.
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Чебурашка, ты настоящий друг!
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stove wrote:
The thought process might be ahistorical, but not so sure about the results. When you look at the sort of stubborn lack of cooperation some of the White Leaders displayed, the fact that the Poles were in no hurry to help the Whites, it gets less silly.


(EDIT: I've rewritten my first paragraph, as I was coming over more bad-tempered than I wanted to). The Whites weren't stubborn or the Poles silly, but rather they had fundamentally good reasons, from the perspectives of their aims and worldviews, not to cooperate with one another: the Poles wanted to grab as much land from the former Russian empire as possible, the Whites wanted to keep as much. They were as much enemies of each other in terms of their final goals as they were of the Bolsheviks. This is one of the problems things about the accompanying article in the recent S&T print of the game; the author expresses wishes along the lines of "if only the Whites could have cooperated with the nationalists more", but the nationalists were tearing apart the Russia for which the Whites were fighting no less than the Bolsheviks.

The central ahistoricity in the game, I suppose, is that it exaggerates the lack of coordination among the Reds. It certainly existed, but not to the degree that it did on the White side, which is what the game implies .
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Чебурашка, ты настоящий друг!
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A more general question to the game itself for those with more experience: there seem to me to be situations where attacking can threaten to lose you more points (in the possible loss of your units/leader on the map) than you can hope to gain (by picking up units/leaders in your victory box). Can this lead to stalemate situations where players might be reluctant to attack? Or is this my lack of experience showing?
 
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M Evan Brooks
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Salo sila wrote:
A more general question to the game itself for those with more experience: there seem to me to be situations where attacking can threaten to lose you more points (in the possible loss of your units/leader on the map) than you can hope to gain (by picking up units/leaders in your victory box). Can this lead to stalemate situations where players might be reluctant to attack? Or is this my lack of experience showing?


This may well be true in a static environment -- which is definitely not true in the game. With various external effects (e.g., disease, purges, assassinations, other random events), the situation is generally flexible and ever-changing. What you don't use today may well be gone tomorrow ...
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Ernest E. Brown
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A great game, I tried to play it quite a few times with friends back in the 80's.
 
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