Red Dawn: A Russian Civil War Megagame AAR [Final Part & Analysis]27 Oct 2017 1
Welcome back to the final part of our 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.
The victory against the White’s on our map gave the whole Bolshevik team some much needed breathing room, and some very welcome good news! The commander’s on the Siberian Map were still clinging onto their edge of the map, while fresh forces were mounting to re-take a foothold on the Central Asian map. The various ‘Blue’ powers were wavering in their support, and the White’s were hard pressed now that they’d lost two whole armies. Only the ‘Green’ factions seemed to be doing ‘well’ in terms of their objectives, and it was this that gave rise to the final (and sadly, unresolved) challenge of the day.
As we’ve mentioned in previous parts, my map had several vastly different ‘Green’ factions in play. The Caucasian Republics to the south were wedged between a disinterested Ottoman Empire (from what I understand, the player in charge of them had a lot on his plate so never did anything with them), and the various Cossack tribes. The Cossacks themselves held the middle ground, and spent their time fighting the Reds, the Caucasians, or the Ukrainian/Anarchist alliance. This latter grouping had been slowly getting stronger through the mid-late game.
All of the green faction’s had the goal of either getting their Independence, or Self-Governance recognised by all of the major powers. They could accomplish this by any means they saw fit, but usually it involved military assistance to one or more of the factions. Towards the end of the game, many were in a position to just bully their way to what they wanted.
This was especially true for the Anarchist/Ukrainians (Note A). Since all my military assets were focused on the Cossacks and the Whites, once the German’s pulled out this group had pretty much free reign over the entire western portion of the map. It allowed them to make flanking attacks towards the central areas, distracting the southern Cossacks. When the French randomly turned up with an Army to support the Whites, they also kept them from the frontlines. As useful as this seemed on paper, I wasn’t going to tell them that, because what I really needed them to do was attack the Whites, which they wouldn’t do.
Sfter I had drawn my line in the sand at Orel with my last two armies, they’d expanded quite a bit to be able to get into a position to pull off the rear-guard action that destroyed the Whites… which they then took the credit for! Sure, technically they dealt the finishing blow, but I like to think I’d done most of the work at this point while they fannied around doing whatever it is anarchists do when they’re not opposing the establishment.
Fun fact: Since turn 1 I’d been fighting multiple battles a turn, every turn, till the final destruction of the Whites. To listen the Greens claim victory and use it as a bargaining chip, well… I wasn’t having that.
Unfortunately, Stalin happened.
Admittedly, the player assuming the role of Stalin (a lovely man called Gareth) had had a very rough day of it. Apart from maybe the Caucasians, every other deal he tried to make with minority green factions was broken, especially the Cossack ones. By the time we got to the End-game, he was eager to secure alliances where he could. With the Ukrainian-Anarchist group dominating our portion of the map and fresh from their “victory” against the Whites, they managed to not only convince Stalin to listen to them, but also to enforce a deal were we weren’t allowed to attack the Cossacks anymore either.
Now, the Cossacks, that most noble group of people, had spent all day pretty much betraying and/or attacking me. I wasn’t really in the mood for letting them off because, well, I wanted them all dead. But I was overruled on this by orders of Stalin, and the peace was put into place.
This created two problems for me:
- My forces were blocked from advancing south and re-taking some land, because the Ukrainians were already there and preventing me from advancing.
- The Cossacks attacked me anyway.
In addition to this, my forces were severely out of position and kind of trapped. The armies in Orel would have had to go up to Moscow and back down again to get anywhere, but with Ukrainians on my doorstep giving me side-glances I wasn’t about to turn my back. My other army-group, which I had created using a combination of the Astrakhan army (which had been brought north just prior to the White’s destruction) and a new new army I’d been given after I’d lost the last army, was locked to the north-eastern corner of the map. I’d heard rumours yet MORE White forces might appear from the same road they used last time at Simbirsk. Central Asia was turning into some kind of Tsarist Eye of Terror, constantly spawning chaos into my business.
So one way or another, I was still pinned to the top corner of the map, which left me completely unprepared for when the Kuban Cossacks attacked me. To be fair, I talked to the player in the pub about this afterwards as he was the same player who had wiped out the 11th Army at Novorossik. Despite whatever white noise the Anarchist leader was making, he wasn’t actually speaking on behalf of the Cossacks at all. He just wanted us to leave them alone because he didn’t want the Reds re-taking any more ground, and he had a strong enough army to enforce the situation if he needed to.
A loose interpretation of the agreement was that the Reds would hold the northern edge we still controlled, and then everything south would be the purview of the greens. Which was fine, except it didn’t take into account one important detail – Astrakhan.
This city, sitting on the northern shore of the Caspian and where the Volga emptied out, hadn’t really seen much action compared the rest of the map. It had been taken by the Terek Cossacks, and then re-taken by a replacement army, and then sat empty for the rest of the game after I’d sent everything north to deal with the Whites. Once we had defeated the them, I raised a new army there just so there was something in place to defend it while my more ‘Elite’ units stared down the Ukrainians.
Unfortunately, due to the hastily made agreement with the anarchists, the Kuban Cossacks viewed it as their territory despite the fact that, well, it wasn’t.
The Kuban player said he was just sticking to what Stalin and the Anarchists had agreed to, and I was trying to point out that we owned it, we’d always owned it, and could he please bugger off. The Anarchists wouldn’t help the situation, claiming it wasn’t their problem (which it was), and Stalin just told me to defend the city at all costs. Which I did… badly.
To be honest, I knew this would happen - the newly created army had only just gotten off the ground so wasn’t really in a position to defend itself. We lost Astrakhan for the second and final time.
By this point I was fuming, I headed back to the team room a tired man, but one ready to wreak bloody vengeance on everyone. Cossacks, Ukrainians, Anarchists… I didn’t care. I was going to slaughter them all.
Then the game ended.
Debrief & Closing Thoughts
Megagames are a great way of simulating the true chaos of war, far better than any video or board game ever could. Having to deal with the randomness of other players, both on your team and opposing, adds a level of challenge you’ll seldom experience. It is what makes them so enjoyable – even the mistakes! Jim Wallman, a leading figure in UK megagames, is especially fascinated by the idea of collective action – players with different agendas trying to work together for a common cause. It’s a lot harder than you may think, even within the same faction.
As a wargame, Red Dawn is quite light. Without the aid of software, the more granular you get the more time it takes to resolve combats and the slower everything gets. As it was my time at the ops map overrun on several occasions as I had to resolve plenty of last-minute combats. Still, there was enough detail to make meaningful choices.
Here are some closing thoughts:
- Armies could always fight, regardless of the logistical situation. Their troop numbers represented the ‘health’ of an army, although Combat Effectiveness fed in that as well. It was the C.E. that was the most important number though – if all other things were equal, the army with the highest C.E. would win regardless of the number of troops each army had, which felt very thematic.
- Logistics then took the form of getting ammo and reinforcements to the armies via the rail and river networks. You also had to make sure you got food where it was needed a turn in advance to stop the people from starving. Ammo itself was a great tool for getting those numbers up high for high casualty rates, representing the use of Heavy Machine Guns which were common in this war.
- The difference between the factions was keenly felt, and presented some interesting tactical problems. At times it felt depressing that, even when I gave my all, I could rarely beat the Whites in open combat. The First Battle of Orel was a fluke which I believe was only possible because of our misinterpretation of the ammo rules. The Second Battle I technically lost, as per usual, but the timely use of the Cheka card (plus a favourable control ruling) granted us the final victory.
- The only real problems I faced were minor practical ones – the maps weren’t really designed to contain the large army cards neatly, leading to confusion as to what army was where. It got to a point where I simply took two of my armies off map and replaced them with a Flag, which I think accidentally misled the Don Cossack player into attacking me, facilitating his near-destruction.
- I lost a total of four armies, and how-ever many thousands of men in terms of casualties. Each notch on an army represented 5,000 men, and I was regularly topping them up with garrisons from the cities, which could easily generate 3 x 5000 men a turn. I might have even breached 100,000 casualties, I’m not sure.
Breaking character and looking at the day critically, on balance the Reds didn’t do that well. I kept the Whites away from Moscow, sure, although that was just as much the White player’s decision as it was any actions I took. I was rather pleased I managed to repel them twice at Orel and engineer their eventual downfall, but the Red position was considerably weaker on our map by game’s end. We only maintained control of three of our starting 8 cities and we were largely trapped against the northern edge of the map.
It was a scenario that was replayed across most maps though – I’m not sure if the Reds ever did re-take any footing in Central Asia, and in Siberia they only just managed to hold on to their own map edge. On the Moscow & Baltic map, things were stable enough but as I understand it they had a lot of trouble with the White Finns and the various regional powers there. One Cossack group even managed to slip through the net and siege Moscow, extorting a rather large sum of money in exchange for going away. The Red Dawn rose, but it was perhaps a bit weaker than what happened in history. I console myself with the knowledge that, had we just One More Turn™, I would have killed them all…
We hope you enjoyed this account of Red Dawn. If you’re interested in hearing more sides of the story, we highly recommend joining the Megagame Makers Facebook group. I’m very much a fan of this scene, so stay tuned for future coverage on games that have a more military or operational focus. Let us know your thoughts in the comments!