TAHGC, THE RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN (1976)

THE RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN is a strategic/grand-tactical simulation — based loosely on THE BATTLE OF MOSCOW Game System — of the greatest conflict of all time: the Russo-German War, 1941-45. THE RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN was designed by John Edwards and, after first appearing in Australia under the Jedco label, was published in the United States by The Avalon Hill Game Company (TAHGC) in 1976. The American version received the Charles Roberts Award for "Best Game of the Year" in 1976. Since its initial appearance, Avalon Hill published two additional editions (1977 & 1978) of the rules. With the passage of Avalon Hill from the scene, the title was taken over by another publisher. In 2003 THE RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN was reissued by L2 Design Group after a significant overhaul of the old Avalon Hill 3rd Edition game. The L2, 4th Edition version has extensively reworked game rules and, in the eyes of many players, enhanced graphics and game components. Nonetheless, despite all of the redevelopment and rules tinkering that has been invested in this title over the years, the basic fast-moving and exciting John Edwards game system remains unchanged.

HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

The 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.

DESCRIPTION


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 OBSERVATION

I 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!

Design Characteristics:

  • 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)


Game Components:

  • 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

13 comments:

  • Does anyone know where I can get a copy of the 3rd Edition rulebook of The Russian Campaign?
    YawnGerhard12@gmail.com

  • Greetings John:

    I recommend that you check the TRC forums at Consimworld.com and Boardgamegeek.com. I would be very surprised if there is not a PDF file already floating around somewhere on the net. You might also check Grognard.com to see if there are is a copy of the 3rd edition TRC rules already posted there.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • For me "The Russian Campaign" is "the wargame".
    4 editions, and a record number of proposal for variants have been not seen in no other game with the same topic.
    It is a pity that it is out of print, but its reincarnation "Russia Besieged" it is still available.

  • Greetings Giuliano:

    Thank you for visiting.

    I still remember the first time I encountered the Jedco version of 'THE RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN' back in the mid-seveties: what a shock it was for me to play the Russians, particularly after playing 'STALINGRAD' for over a decade.

    Certainly, the game has gone through a number of changes since John Edwards first had his "flash of genius" and decided to mesh Dave Williams' 'BATTLE OF MOSCOW' game system with the basic architecture of 'STALINGRAD', but it still has its cadre of devoted followers (even after 35 years), as a visit to the Consimworld 'TRC' forum will quickly prove.

    Thanks again for your interest and
    Best Regards, Joe

  • One of my favorite games of all time, played it a lot as a teenager, but I never could figure out the whys of the impulse system were in the second month of the turn a unit would have drastically different movement rates. I could see if it used up it's organic supply and could not be resupplied, but I can't figure out the whys of it. I've played with taking the total movement a unit would have for both months and halfing that so the movement rates are more equal but that ruins some of the breakthroughs. So what is the rational behind the second impluse (month) having such lower movement values?

  • Greetings Al:

    I doubt very much that John Edwards could, if pressed, offer a particularly detailed justification for TRC's basic game engine because -- when everything is said and done -- he pretty much borrowed it, with only a few small modifications, from Dave Williams' earlier design, THE BATTLE OF MOSCOW. However, that being said, allow me to offer two -- in my view, at least -- plausible reasons for the differences between the game's first and second impulse movement capabilities.

    The first reason, and the one that probably shaped Edwards' approach to the game, is rooted in the designer's attempt to maintain "play-balance" between the two sides, especially during the first year of the campaign. Without some restrictions on German movement and combat capabilities (particularly given the devastating power of the "stukas") during the second Impulse (month) of a summer game turn, the Germans' "Barbarossa" offensive would, in most cases, turn into little more than an Axis "romp" at the expense of the hapless Russian player.

    The second justification is more "historical" and, given Dave Williams' other simulations, is probably in line with Williams' own view of the effects of "friction" on the conduct of major offensive operations. Certainly, the consumption of stock-piles of supplies (particularly POL and artillery ammunition) would be one factor that would affect operational effectiveness over time; however, another equally significant consideration would be the unit disorganization that inevitably accompanies protracted combat, and the cumulative effects of casualties (not necessarily reflected in real game losses) among NCOs and field-level commanders in those units in constant contact with the enemy. Put another way, extended combat operations tend to degrade the efficiency of fighting units because they lose some part both of unit cohesion and effective command and control.

    In any case, whatever the reasons for Edwards' design choices, it has to be said that the basic game platform works, and works very well. TRC may not be perfect, but it still manages to convey some sense of the dynamism and carnage of the early part of the war.

    Thanks Again for visiting and
    Best Regards, Joe

  • Dear Sir,

    I am writing with a few questions regarding The Russian Campaign, one of my favorite games. Do you think dividing the three Stuka units into nine individual counters, each of which shifts the combat odds by one column, possibly makes for a good change to the game? I realize asking about creating more Stuka units is a hypothetical question, so I apologize in advance. The idea occurred to me after reading a review of Russia Besieged. Apparently, in that game, the Stukas are represented by nine units (perhaps a similar idea to the air units in France, 1940). The Germans gain more tactical flexibility with nine units, but less of the overwhelming punch than in the original game. Along the same line, do you think creating Russian air units, which also shift the combat odds by one column, is a good idea? Again, the idea is borrowed from Russia Besieged. In the game, the Russians receive between one and three air units in clear and light mud turns during 1943-45.

    In my games—and I play solitaire—the Russians have a bear (no pun intended!) of a time capturing Berlin. The Germans simply fall back from river line to river line. The Russians eventually advance, but at much too slow of a pace to capture Berlin by the spring of 1945. The Germans also seem to have little incentive to garrison either Hungary or Romania, and draw all of their units back toward their capital city.

    I very much enjoy your blog. This is my second post to you. I several weeks ago asked you a question about World War I by SPI and you gave a great response.

    Thank you! Larry

  • Greetings Larry:

    Thank you for your kind words and for your interest.

    On its face, the idea of permitting the "Stuka" units to break down seems perfectly reasonable, particularly as this approach seems to have worked out very well for TRC's indirect offspring, 'RUSSIA BESIEGED'.

    The problem -- which you allude to -- with the early editions of TRC being too prone to "draws" seems to have been successfully overcome with the advent of Avalon Hill's 3rd Edition Rules, and certainly by the rules changes introduced in L2's nicely redone 4th Edition of this classic John Edwards design. That being said, whether it would be worth your while to fiddle with the TRC rules (e.g., Russian 'Sturmovik' units) would really depend, I suspect, on which edition of the game you currently are playing.

    On a somewhat related note, since most of your TRC play has been solitaire, I suggest that -- before you get carried away with rules modifications -- you attempt to get a few FTF or PBeM games under your belt (both Consimworld and Boardgamegeek have players' forums; in addition, the various wargaming "Cons" are also good for this) if for no other reason than to make sure that your own strategic approach to the game is not limited by the "tunnel vision" that often accompanies non-competitive gaming. You may well discover that another player's ideas about the play of TRC are very different from your own.

    In any case, good luck with your rules experiments and

    Best Regards, Joe

  • I've never played a board game by mail or email (have played some HPS computer war games by email), but I'd be willing to take anyone on. I *LOVE* "The Russian Campaign". I played a guy last year at Consimworld, and there was a constant stream of people stopping by to comment on the game, which I don't think you get for very many others. I don't have a copy right now, but I would buy it just to play someone ...

  • Greetings Preston:

    At the risk of sounding repetitive, I think that you should try to find a copy of the 3rd or 4th edition of THE RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN on eBay and -- once you have a copy in hand -- advertise for a PBeM opponent on either the CSW or Boardgamegeek TRC forums. Since there are several online game platforms (VASSAL, ZunTzu, ADC, etc.) that already support this title, I think that you'll find the transition from FTF to PBeM play relatively painless.

    Good Luck and Best Regards, Joe

  • Hi very much enjoy your articles! Could you help with a clarification? Can a unit that starts its FIRST impulse movement phase in an enemy zoc move out of it? Thanks in advance!

  • Greetings Paul:

    I hesitate to offer a definitive answer to your question, although I am pretty sure that the short answer is 'yes'. In point of fact, I wrote the above game profile five years ago and it has been at least that long since I have reviewed the rule to 'TRC's; of course, this would not usually be a problem except that -- because I and my wife are in the middle of remodeling our home -- all of my games are currently stored in my garage so I cannot review the 4th edition movement rules and present you with the appropriate case #.

    All, however, is not lost: assuming that you cannot decide on a final answer to your rules question on your own, I suggest that you visit the appropriate "game folders" at either Boardgamegeek.com or Consimworld.com. I am sure that one of the many fans that frequent these sites will be able to answer this and any other questions about 'THE RUSSIAN CAMPAIGN' that you might have.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Anonymous said...

    Hi Joe
    Thanks so much for your reply its the answer I'm going with! The case I was looking at is just a little ambiguous! Hope all is going well with the building work!

    Best wishes from Wales

    Paul

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