edited November 2015 in Board Game Reviews
Reds! from GMT games is a simulation of the Russian Civil War by designer Ted Raicer. It is not a card driven game but more a traditional hex and counter wargame, albeit with some unusual mechanics. It is not my usual gaming faire. I am almost always drawn to historical game that portray American history. This one, though, caught my interest some time ago, probably since I know precious little about the period. I found the game to be very educational giving me a good overview of the period and some insight as to the various sides. This is the second time I have played Reds and I enjoyed this time even more than the last time.

The game uses a chit pull activation system allowing each White faction or a Red geographical front to move and conduct combat. There are random events that provide armored trains, special reinforcements, aircraft and river artillery units as well or other events. The movement rules are pretty standard wargame stuff. The combat rules are a little different. Units do not have combat strength but instead have + or - combat modifiers, one for attacking and one for defending. Each unit is also rated for manpower size, a comparison of which determines the combat odds. Each side rolls a die. This number is multiplied by the number of attacking units and then the + or - modifiers are added to that total. So 3 units attacking with a 3 die roll have a base strength of 9 plus their modifiers. the differential is compared and is indexed with the odds column of the table for the combat results. These can be a single disruption, a full disruption and possibly a retreat. The system allows for some wide swings in combat results, which from what little I know of the period is accurate.

The game is basically about territory management through the control of resource spaces on the map. The Reds start out in a good position and have to defend and then expand their holdings against 3 White factions, small international armies making local incursions, and then eventually the Baltic nations and the Poles. If the Reds can hold enough resource spaces, the international forces will withdraw, making their job a little easier in the end game. Given that the White factions was limited to what amount to enclaves, the Reds have to try to capture enough of their bases to prevent White expansion. Easier said than done.

In my game, the Reds enjoyed a nice period of expansion, in part due to overaggressive White attacks early. Then a period of stabilization occurred prior to another round of Red expansion. It was at this point the game turned as within one turn, the Poles entered the war, the foreign expeditionary forces were allowed an offensive (otherwise limited by random events) and the Red suffered multiple disastrous combat results in the South and the East and in Central Asia. This allowed rapid expansion by the Whites into the Caucuses and toward Moscow from Siberia and Central Asia. With much of the Red army decimated, they managed to stabilize their front lines to avert being overrun. The short scenario victory conditions call for the Reds to cause a major foreign withdrawal. This is only possible after a minor withdrawal occurs first. Given the gains made with the White counterattacks no such withdrawal, minor or major was forthcoming before the end of 1919 per the scenario rules. The White side emerged victorious.

I really enjoyed this game. The system is engaging and the history is interesting. The game gave me a much better understanding of what occurred during this important time in history. To me that is the mark of a good historical simulation game.
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