HISTORICAL BACKGROUNDThe greatest military campaign ever embarked upon began at 0300 hours on 22 June 1941 with a massive German offensive — codenamed: Operation Barbarossa — along the entire length of the western Soviet frontier from the Baltic to the Black Sea. The Russo-German War, 1941-45, would ultimately rage — on a scale never seen before or since — from above the Arctic Circle in the North, to the Caucasus Mountains in the South. It would also turn out to be the largest, most destructive and most brutal military campaign in modern European history.
The stakes for both sides in this struggle could not have been higher: control of the vast natural and agricultural resources of the Soviet Union. An Axis victory would have destroyed the Soviet State and plunged the Russian people into conditions of indescribable misery. A German victory would also have established Nazi hegemony over virtually all of mainland Europe, and vastly prolonged, if not changed the course of the Second World War. It should be noted that, in the years since the end of World War II, many observers have commented that the Russo-German War essentially pitted one murderous scoundrel, Hitler, against another, Stalin. Be that as it may, history also shows that however desperate the condition of the Russian people was under Stalin, it would have become immeasurably worse under a racist, exploitative, and murderous German occupation.
THE RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN is a strategic/grand-tactical (corps/army) level simulation of the largest military conflict in history: the life or death struggle between Hitler’s Third Reich and Stalin’s Soviet Union. The game map encompasses European Russia and those areas in Eastern Europe over which the actual conflict was fought. One player commands the armies of the German Wehrmacht and its allies, and the other controls the Red Army. The game is played in game turns; each of which is equal to two months of real time. Each game turn is further divided into a German and a Russian player turn; the order in which players move, however, will depend on which of the game’s several Scenarios or “mini-games” is actually being played. Each game turn is composed of a specific sequence of player actions and proceeds as follows: the Weather Roll (German rolls a die to establish weather conditions for the entire game turn); the First German (impulse) Movement and Reinforcement Phase; the First German (impulse) Combat Phase; the Second (impulse) Movement Phase; the German Second (impulse) Combat Phase. At the conclusion of the German player turn, the Russian player repeats exactly the same phases as his opponent, excepting only the Weather Roll. Once both players have finished their moves, the game turn is over and the turn marker is advanced one space; a new game turn then begins.
The mechanics of THE RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN game system are relatively easy to learn and intuitively logical. Supply rules, for example, although relatively uncomplicated, are important: weather directly affects supply, and unsupplied units are halved during combat. Zones of Control are rigid and “sticky;” that is: units adjacent to enemy counters may not move, and combat is compulsory. The game uses a traditional “odds differential” type Combat Results Table. However, a distinctive, and devastating, feature of THE RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN is the inclusion of “Stuka” units to represent German air supremacy during the early years of the war. A single German “Stuka,” for example, may be applied to any German attack within its operating range to raise the battle’s odds by three columns. This means that a 1 to 1 attack can be raised to a 4 to 1 with the addition of a Stuka. The Campaign Game can be won either by eliminating the enemy leader and occupying his capital, or by capturing every city on the game map by the end of the last game turn. Alternatively, players may secretly record “sudden death” victory conditions prior to the start of play, and then compete to fulfill their own objectives while working to block the opposing player from meeting his goals.
As might be expected of a game covering “The Great Patriotic War,” a number of special rules add historical color and texture to the game. There are rules covering Russian workers (which affect Russian replacements), Soviet Guards units, surrender results (which permanently remove the affected units from their side’s replacement pool), seaborne movement and amphibious landings, the German SS, Hitler and Stalin counters, partisans, weather, and, of course, rules governing the crippling effects of the first and second Russian winters on Axis units operating deep in Soviet territory.
Besides the twenty-five turn Campaign Game, THE RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN also offers a set of seven different Scenarios or “mini-games” that allow players to refight a single specific phase of the larger war. Victory conditions vary for these Scenarios from one game situation to another, and are stipulated in each of the different Scenarios’ instructions. The designer has also included a number of “optional rules” and historical (what ifs?) any of which permit the players to vary the flow of the game, and also to adjust play-balance between unequal opponents.
A PERSONAL OBSERVATIONI have mixed feelings about THE RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN, having come to it after years of playing STALINGRAD. The “gamer” in me loves the Edwards design for its sweeping action, its unexpected breakthroughs, deep panzer thrusts, and enhanced historical color; the “chess player” in me, on the other hand, hates the game because of the inclusion of the dreaded Stukas. Unlike STALINGRAD, no Russian position can be made impregnable and any Soviet line, no matter how carefully constructed, can be breached. For a player who cut his teeth on STALINGRAD, THE RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN can be, and often is, a very humbling experience. For someone looking for a great (yet playable) treatment of the Russo-German War, however, it probably still can’t be beat. And for all my carping, while I still have my old copy of STALINGRAD, interestingly enough, I still own two copies of THE RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN. So, go figure!
- Time Scale: 2 months per game turn
- Map Scale: 50 miles per hex (estimated)
- Unit Size: corps/army
- Unit Types: infantry, paratroop, mountain, panzer grenadier, cavalry, armor/panzer, workers, German Luftwaffe (ground), Russian Guards, partisans, leaders/headquarters, German Stukas, artillery (optional), and information counters
- Number of Players: two
- Complexity: average
- Solitaire Suitability: above average
- Average Playing Time: 2½-6+ hours (depending on scenario being played)
- One (two section) 22” x 28” hexagonal grid Map Board (with Turn Record Track, Sea Movement Table, Replacement Holding Boxes, and Combat Results Table incorporated)
- 252 ½” cardboard Counters
- One 8¼” x 11” Rules Booklet (with Terrain Effects Chart, Weather Table, and Movement Allowance Chart incorporated)
- One 8½” x 11” German OB Chart
- One 8½” x 11” Russian OB Chart
- One six-sided Die
- One 5½” x 6½” Customer Response Card
- One 11¼” x 14½” x 1¼” flat cardboard Game Box