Welcome back to the after-action report of my time at Red Dawn the Russian Civil War Megagame. If you need a re-cap as to who I was and what I was doing, please read the beginning of Part One.
While this is an incredibly self-centred account of the day, it must be stressed that I wasn’t existing in a vacuum. The Bolsheviks had presence and objectives across four maps in total: Russia & The Baltics, Ukraine & Caucuses, Central Asia and the Trans-Siberian map. I don’t have a lot of information as to what was happening turn-by-turn on those maps, but based on the regular updates we got during team time, things were not going well for us.
On the Siberian map, the Bolsheviks would eventually get pushed back to the far edge that bordered on the Moscow & Baltic region, while in Central-Asia our team got wiped off the map completely. Even on the ‘homeland’ map, the central authorities were struggling with Finland, the Baltic states and plenty of interventionist powers trying to influence the war.
The main problem with multi-map megagames, and it’s one you can never really over-come, is that you lack visibility on not only what’s happening on other maps, but also how those maps may or may not connect to your map. It’s far too easy, especially coming from a boardgaming background, to look at your map edges and assume they are safe-zones, regardless of what’s going on. After all, no-one’s turned up yet, right?
Had I the presence of mind to go scout out exactly how the other maps connected to mine and/or got my other Ops guys to tell me what was going on, I might have been a little better prepared when, just as I thought I had the Whites under control a second White army turned up in my completely exposed rear. Our Central Asian forces had just crumbled in the wake of a combined assault from the Muslim League and the White forces that were operating in the area. With the Bolsheviks dealt with, this army then proceeded to come give the White forces on my map some back-up. There were three rail-way routes that went to the western edges of their map which connected to the eastern edges of mine. They also had the other half of the Caspian Sea on their map, so it was incredibly easy for them to move into position, pick up those forces, and then place them at the edge of my map.
I was having trouble enough dealing with one White army, given the advantages they had as a faction, but dealing with two? Yeah, I was in some serious trouble.
At that point, there wasn’t much else to do but stage a full-scale retreat north, so I could form a coherent line against my numerous enemies (the list was growing). This meant abandoning the recently re-acquired Tsaritsyn, as well as most of the central portions of the map. I re-took and kept hold of Astrakhan using a spare army I’d received from Trotsky, which I kept stationed there for the short term.
It was a pretty hard-fought withdrawal. The White commander knew he’d be getting reinforcements so was ready to pounce and try and pincer me with this two armies, while the Cossacks surged up once again for the south. The Don’s had managed to recover enough and were joined by the Terek’s, who I think I had simply abandoned their fight with the Caucasian Republics in the south and decided to just press north against me as well. My two stacks of two armies pulled back as quick as they could, screaming horse-savages on one side and Imperialist scum on the other. It’s of little surprise that it all went very wrong, very quickly.
The most alarming problem was that the second White army had appeared in the north-eastern corner of the map, at a city called Simbirsk. This was on a route that would have taken them directly north to Moscow. The revolution’s heart wasn’t undefended, as General Vastetis’ elite Latvian Rifle Division was holding the city, but since they were expecting me to hold the southern front it was perhaps a bit more exposed then I felt comfortable with.
Knowing this, I had to send the Red Ukrainian and the 13th Armies to confront these newcomers directly, lest they decided to just move straight on by and try for a killing blow. Meanwhile, my elite 9th&10th armies retreated to another city on the Northern edge of the Map called Orel. Orel controlled another vital route north, including another track that led straight to Moscow. We’ll come back to this place later.
Try as they might, the Ukrainians and the 13th couldn’t break through the second White army blocking the northern roads. I don’t think I’d won a battle with them all day, and Ukrainians in general would soon join my list of people who I’d quite happily grind into the dust. Denekin’s White Volunteer Army was hot on their heels, having re-taken Tsaritsyn and were rushing up to take them in the rear.
Low on troops, ammo and equipment, I decided to try and make a desperate bid to save them. The only way I thought I might succeed in this would be to try and break through the Cossacks. They had just taken another one of my cities (leaving me with just three at this point), and were blocking the route west I was hoping to use to allow them to re-group with my other forces. Unfortunately this also failed, and both armies were wiped off the map.
At this point, I was definitely expecting to get shot.
Orel is a modest industrialised city that lies on the river Oka, a tributary of the Volga that in turn is fed into by the Moskva River, where Moscow itself sits. In the real history of the Russian Civil war, it largely remained in Bolshevik hands apart from a brief spell in October 1919 when it was controlled by Anton Denikin’s White Army, the same Army that was causing me so much difficulty in-game. With things looking the way they were, history looked doomed to repeat itself.
The guy in charge of the White forces had a prime opportunity to link up both his armies and drive directly north to Moscow. Things looked even more dire when he received a THIRD army from the Central Asian map, although this one of was technically ‘green’. It belonged to the KOMUCH, a group of socialist revolutionaries who hated the Tase, but hated the Bolshevik’s even more and agreed to support the Whites. This new army was under the control of the White commander on my map, but could still only move during the Green’s movement phase.
Given the way the rail network’s linked up together, I was in place to rush my armies north to defend Moscow if needed, but the commander ( the guy’s real name was Toby) was very much concerned that I still had armies ‘in being’. He did indeed link up his two forces, but instead decided to loop around and north to confront my forces at Orel to finish me off for good. (Note A)
Orel was to become my Stalingrad. I was all but prepared to abandon the Ukraine map completely and just defend Moscow, but the White’s hesitation to drive north made me stick around. In the interim, I got reinforcements from SovNarKom and was able to put a Cavalry army in place to block the exposed route north. That army was to get wiped out pretty quickly, but it bought me previous time.
Meanwhile, the combined White armies had reached the outskirts of Orel where I had drawn my line in the sand. If they managed to beat me here, then I feared the Bolshevik cause was doomed. Pouring in every piece of equipment, tactical card and ammo I could get my hands on, I managed to mount a bestial defence of the city, throwing back both White armies with high casualties on both sides.
At the same time I made a deal with the Ukrainian Nationalists: I would leave them alone if they got in behind the Whites and cut off their retreat. They did so, but they the balked at the thought of taking on two very angry White armies on their own and so pulled back again, which annoyed me to no end.
It was also at this point we found out we’d been running the ‘Ammo’ rules slightly wrong. Luckily, everyone had been doing the same thing, so after correcting our interpretation we carried on as normal. The Whites rallied for a second assault on Orel, which they won. Technically.
It was another one of those situations where their combined numbers pipped mine by one or two points, infuriating, but completely consistent with how the day had played out so far. The correct interpretation of the Ammo rules also gave me less of a chance to come out on top, I think.
Luckily, I had a trump card up my sleeve! Albeit, one that I’d consistently forgotten to play for most of the game (I received it very early on). The Cheka had a tactical card they could give Ops players that read:
“Cheka Blocking Detachments: Do not Retreat, but take one additional loss.”
At the very least, this meant that I didn’t have to retreat away from the city, but what that meant for the attacking army was down to what our local umpire thought. Previously, he’d ruled that in a draw the attacking force loses (costing me another hard-fought battle!). In this case, he ruled that since I wouldn’t be retreating and he didn’t think an attacking force could remain in a hostile city for a whole season, the Whites would have to retreat instead even though they won. (Note B)
This would lead to our ultimate victory against the Whites on the Ukrainian map. Having taken heavy losses in a battle that they technically won, but couldn’t capitalise one, the White armies had to retreat for a second time right into a combined force of Ukrainian Nationalists & Black Anarchists. I’d managed to convince the two teams to come together to assist me and block off their retreat once more. Denekin’s fleeing forces smacked right into the combined Green host and lost, and because they didn’t have enough men to absorb those extra casualties, the two armies were wiped off the map completely.
We had won! It was the end of turn something. I was ecstatic, and I went back to the team room to report the good news. Then, in a surprise turn of events, everything went a little FUBAR (sort of).