So previously I made a Here I Stand report that had lots of pictures and was geared toward a relative newcomer. I think it was relatively successful. I bought a new game last month, Triumph of Chaos (TOC), so I thought I’d do a similar deal to that here on the F:AT forums (maybe eventually I’ll put it on BGG but I like to put things here first and give it a nice exclusive time). Anyway. This is a game on the Russian Civil War, with one side taking control of the White authoritarian forces and the Red taking the control of the communists. I like the game but it is insanely complex. I wouldn’t really recommend it to most of you here and I certainly wouldn’t dream of putting it on the front page and urging ATers to play it. But it is fun and certainly flavorful. It contains a lot of the things that I love about wargaming. It is also a wargame through and through and it has many of the worst excesses of wargames. I’ll probably review this game at a later time when I’ve got more games under my belt, but for now here’s a 2 player PBEM cyberboard game. I’ll try to explain vaguely what’s going on.
So this game is a CDG. If you’ve played Twilight Struggle, you know what I’m talking about. Cards used for multiple things, replacements, operations, or the event on the card. But this game has a number of additions that make it far more complex than even relatively heavy CDGs like Paths of Glory or Here I Stand. In particular the Political Card phase. I will describe that at the beginning of the game, so let’s get started.
The objective of TOC is to get the most victory points. Victory points are harvested primiarily by holding victory cities. Specifically at the end of the turn you subtract the opponents VCs from yours and whoever has more gets that many victory points.
Hello Mr. Lenin! He cannot leave his nice cozy home in Moscow.
The first thing to realize is the general setup of the game. All the red forces are concentrated in the middle of Russia. They start the game with less powerful forces than White. White is fundamentally based in the south, in the Don and Kuban regions. But they also have forces in Siberia in the East. So inside the Red lines in the picture above is where Red starts and outside it is primarily where White is (mainly in the south and east)
But the real wildcard here is the factions. Most of the areas on the outskirts of the map have nothing on them. They are factions and must be controlled by either side by using cards and especially the political phase. Once they are controlled their forces enter the game on your side… as you can see above there are many factions and they range from Red Control (on the left) to White control (on the right). They often have extremely powerful forces and can really tip the balance of the game, especially Poland and Ukraine.
In the opening rounds, the Central Powers (shown above) occupy much of the east of the map. White can gain control of them but it is extremely hard. In general what they do is keep factions that exist in the areas they occupy from entering the game. Eventually, they will randomly withdraw (along with the other foreign powers) during a turn.
Ok. So that’s how things start. In ths game I am playing the White faction, my opponent is the Red faction. What starts off the game is its big addition, the political phase. We are dealt our cards, a la a normal CDG. But what follows is something completely different. We try to spend cards to push and pull various factions into our camp.
Normally at the beginning of the game, when factions are at play and in the neutral box, you spend your big number (ops) cards in the political phase. This is because those extra forces are critical to your war effort and when they are all out there it is worth spending your big cards on it. Eventually, when factions get committed, it becomes less and less valuable to bid big cards to get the dwindling number of factions. Essentially what happens is a blind bid. My opponent and I both bid cards on each of three different political card decks—Red, White and Other. Here’s what we end up bidding, White cards are Brown, Red cards are Red:
So here we go. I have bid a 5 op card to his 4 op card in “red.” This means I get to fish out one particular Red political card I want and 2 random cards are generated (we both bid high, so lots of cards were generated; on the other hand I only outbid him by one so most are random). On the “White” deck, the opposite happened. Finally on the “other” deck he played his bluff card and I played my influence card, both very low op cards, so only 1 card was generated and it is chosen by me (influence ended up being more ops than his bluff card).
Here’s what a typical political card looks like. It has many factions listed on it and its effects—it takes 2R to move the control one toward red and 2W to move it one towards White. It pushes and pulls a number of factions different ways. So to finish the political phase one adds up all the political cards that were picked and finds out the final results.
So I add up all of these moves back and forth and… it’s a bad political phase for me. Specifically, most of the Baltics move toward my control and so do the British and United States.
Here come the USA Polar Siberian division for White, the British rifles entering in the Arctic…
But bad things are afoot in other areas, specifically in the Near East with Turkistan and Astrakhan going Red. This opens up a supply line to some otherwise in trouble Red armies that start the game almost Out of Supply. He also controls Belarus now, but that is behind Central Powers lines so is not put on the board until they withdraw.
Now the way one wins in this game is through victory points, which are largely generated by controlling victory cities. I will highlight those when I get to them. But one of the upshots of getting new factions is that you also get new victory cities to generate victory points. My opponent pulls ahead of me in victory points since I didn’t bring any new factions onto the board with victory points. Here are two victory cities in the South, one with my general Krasnov and some Don Cossack armies on it.
So with the political phase decided, I’ll outline what happens in the action phase. I won’t go into crazy detail of every card but I’ll just show you the normal flow of the game.
As White, I need to get things moving with my temporarily overwhelming forces. In the Urals, I cut off one of his generals from supply with my reduced Siberian division. He should have been able to try to reinforce but we both forgot this rule. This will not be the first time. ;)
Most of my action this turn is the in the South—I advance as quickly as possible on Trotsky and the city of Migulinskaya. Trotsky falls back and I prepare to liberate the city--but one of my attacks on his corps ends in a tie and I leave a gaping hole in my supply lines! I have taken a huge risk. I also move to threaten Astrakhan and their newly entered forces, attacking them to little effect. I hoped for more—it would be nice to kill Astrakhan’s forces immediately and retake a key VC before any other forces can move to
My risk results in pain; corps slip behind my forces waiting to attack Astrakhan and an army moves down from Tsaritsyn to try to keep the behind the lines slip open. I desperately counter attack with Deniken across a river—if I lose this battle I probably lose the game—and Deniken succeeds. The Red 10 army falls back to Tsartisyn to lick its wounds, while the corp that slipped behind my lines falls out of supply and my units in next to Astrakhan are back in supply. Wheew! Bad play by me. Meanwhile Krasnov and Don Cossacks waltz into Migulinskaya.
All this running around means I am not playing any of the critical events I need to be playing. I’m doing ok for this round but I am in bad shape for the long run—I should have gotten a few of these events done. My opponent gets a few off—in particular White Infighting which starts that process for me. This means that in future turns I will draw an infighting chit—it will tell me certain units (say, Siberian troops) that I cannot fight with that turn. It is secret information so your opponent doesn’t know what part of your army is paralyzed with infighting, luckily, but is a huge pain in the ass.
There is then some dancing around to make sure that the Red army in the north stays OOS and dies—but the shocking move (to me) happens next. My opponent declares war on the Czech Legion (I didn’t control them during the political phase as I wanted to). This means I get immediate control of their powerful armies, shown above (the red, white and black ones)! A boon for me! I believe my opponent did this to take control of the Imperial Gold Train and the Victory City—I’m not sure that this is a great trade off for him but we shall see. Is there any other game that has a gold train counter, by the way? The Czech Legion is a group of WWI veterans escaping through Russia who get trapped and then fight in the Russian civil war, they are also some of the strongest fighters in Russia (and in real life inflicted major defeats on the Red Army).
That pretty much ends the turn—I save one card for the next turn. The Red army in Siberia shown earlier OOS departs this world as well as the leader that was with it. I get victory points for the death of that leader but then lose them for having 3 less victory cities than my opponent. VPs are at 0. Finally RPs are played. My opponent gets three because he played a card for RP—I get two RP because I have control of 2 of the Western Allies (USA and Britain). This is good because it means I don’t have to waste time playing cards to get RP. Material aid from the allies for the win!
Yea; it's OK in IE7 [a little wide, but no biggie].
I've wanted this one for a while, but have been a little put off by what appears to be an extremely complicated approach to the genre [similar concerns with Mark Herman's Empire of the Sun]. Is there any hope of learning this game solo before venturing into VASSAL-land [I have no local opponents who would commit to this one]. Are there any noob-friendly players out there who would suffer VASSAL/CB teaching games? I may buy it just because it doesn't strike me as one that's going to stay in print for that long. It's one particularly esoteric topic.
I hate it when Gary Sax posts this stuff because he's all like "Hey guys, look at this cool game I'm playing...I'm sure having fun" and I'm all like "No, Gary Sax. I have plenty of unplayed wargames languishing on my shelf right now." And then he's all like "But look at these awesome cards and chits...and that map" and I'm all like "Gary Sax, this game is $75".
Then I go to Wargame Depot and start "pretending" to order it, daring myself to break out the charge card...
I've wanted this one for a while, but have been a little put off by what appears to be an extremely complicated approach to the genre [similar concerns with Mark Herman's Empire of the Sun].
This game is complicated. Super complicated in my humble opinion. And the kind of one off, this thing does this at this time complicated that annoys. But it's still a solid game with some brilliant parts, as I think the political phase is brilliant especially in its potential for other games. I wouldn't put it in my god-smiles-on-me great department. Well worth playing though. Once I play it a couple more times I'll write a full review for F:AT, so look for that as well.
But it going OOP and never being printed again is kind of why I bought it as well. I could easily see this gone and I'd be kicking myself about it after that. It has been worth my money despite it being hard to play. There's no feeling like being down and being bailed out by a couple factions placing their armies for your side to open up a new front.
Also, to Barnes and others, the Comrade's guide is interesting but I'm not sure it's worth it unless you get an amazing package deal. The guide has new counters which is nice (for new additions added to the game) but 1/3 of it is IMHO useless amateur historical stuff--1/3 of it is really detailed strategy advice from the designer and other good players so that part is useful, I just wish they had filled the rest of the game with that. It's also a pretty low budget production with tons of typographical errors and stuff... I bought the whole package for 99$ no shipping charge from the publisher.
Damn, that is one insanely complex looking game. Do you find that map a little busy? If I had to look at it for longer than 2 minutes I think I'd have a grand mal seizure. Seems like the old "less is more" adage could have proved wise here, just in terms of being able to quickly distinguish items on the board.
The turn starts with me drawing cards. My hand contains a lot of high cards, but in my beginner experience with TOC very few of them should be played for anything but ops. The overall strategy here is simple: come 1919 (and even earlier) the Reds will get a huge number of really powerful armies, particularly a group of red armies called the Konarmii, and then it is on the Whites to just hold on the best they can. It seems to me there are 3 stages to the game—first is White trying to get whatever it can done to beat up Red early, then Red’s counterattack, and finally the end game hopefully featuring Poland or Ukraine on the Red side doing the majority of White fighting.
So in sum, my strategy is ops. Lots of em’ But first I need more factions on my side if I hope to win! Particularly Ukraine and Poland’s huge armies.
So first we have the blind bid for political cards here. I decide my main goal is to invest heavily and hopefully pick cards that have the fewest negative ramifications for me in terms of turning factions Red while maximizing white. I particularly am trying to turn Finland and the Balts White and see if I can try a North strategy to have forces appear to threaten Petrograd (Leningrad).
We invest fairly heavily. I am outbid in Red, but just barely, generating 2 random and one of his choice. In White, my opponent uses his Bluff card (value 1) which means I pick two cards. I am outbid in other. I decide to choose “Support for Mannerheim’s Finland” and a low Red influence card—I am targeting Finland and hoping to bring the Finnish factions forces in.
The results are in and they are… mixed. Specifically, I bring in Finland like I wanted.
Here they are, the Finns, ready to fight! But unfortunately I also, if you look at the political boxes above, moved some key players close to the Red causes. Specifically I brought Poland, West Ukraine and Ukraine to the brink of joining Red once the Central Powers leave. This is Bad. It could mean the end of my hopes of winning the game if both of the powers go to Red and I don’t autowin soon! Future efforts in the political realm will certainly have to address this.
My opponent also played Infighting so I have to draw a random chit to see which of my factions is paralyzed with infighting. I draw the above chit. This chit means I get screwed if I don’t capture a victory city this turn. I think I will; Finland looks close and my units on the border of Astrakhan are also close to seizing a city.
My military efforts in this turn are primarily focused in a few places. I will discuss each in turn and give you a sketch of how military matters developed in the 6 rounds of this turn.
The Czech Legion was active, to say the least. Recall that my opponent declared war on them last turn, bringing them into my camp. They have strong armies and I vowed to use them to good effect this turn. First they smashed my opponent in a 2 space attack in Kazan, taking it for White forces. +1VC
My opponent reinforces and I attack again—he repulses my attack with heavy losses on both sides. Finally, at the end of the turn, I play the 5 op event “Czech Legion Commits.” This allows me to bring in the 3rd Czech army into play. I will be using this addition army in the East next turn.
In the South, things are more mixed. In Astrakhan, in the Near East, my Volunteer armies mass to attack the weak new faction forces of my opponent. I quickly rout them and conquer the faction. This eliminates their units for good and, gives me another VC! I may get some victory points at the end of the turn. Excellent.
In the main front in the South, things don’t go particularly well. I want to move on Tsaritsyn, the circled city here in the East. Ideally I will take it this turn with Deniken’s Volunteer armies. But some of them are busy in the south with Astrakhan in the first few rounds. My opponent prepares his forces in the city—I attack it but he repulses my attack and I take heavy losses.
To make matters worse, besides not attacking Tsartisyn again, by the time I get attacking forces into place, my opponent sends Red forces he has reinforced with (using new reinforcements he got off cards) south to threaten my key VCs in the South. I am forced to pull back Deniken’s reduced Volunteer armies (my hammer) from Tsartisyn and try to defend my home VCs.
Finally, in the North, it takes repeated attacks but the strong tank support Finnish troops I tried so hard to bring into the game during the political phase prevail and pound down the Red Finnish troops holding Helsinki. And good thing—if I am not able to by the end of the turn all my finnish troops perish! Another VC safely squirreled away. If I had taken Tsartisyn, it would be extremely good turn for me. As it is, thing have gone well… EXCEPT…
My opponent has a very nice play this turn, unfortunately. He plays a card called initiative—one of its effects, which he uses, is to move a faction one square towards Red control. He chooses Ukraine. This is a nice play because both sides need to play a specific card to allow control of Ukraine or Poland during the political phase—but even if this card isn’t played they can still gain control during regular play, as my opponent does here. He takes control of Ukraine, denying it from me. I will have a very steep hill to climb here. I now *must* get control of Poland. When the Central Powers withdraw I could be faced with a nasty war right next to the South Don/Kuban region. Bad news.
In the end, things go ok. My opponent plays RP for himself but I count on the RP granted to me first by taking a Red home city (Kazan, which the Czech Legion secured) and by my support from Allied forces who I have moved into my control. Deniken’s volunteers are brought to full strength while some of my Siberians also go to full strength. Finally, we tally up the VP for this turn--+4for me because of my now lead in victory cities. I hope things go this well next turn.
I am in trouble, however. Poland and West Ukraine are deep in the enemy’s influence. Ukraine is already enemy controlled. The Central Powers could leave at any moment. Finally, my main offensive in the South has gone poorly. The Czech Legion has taken a city but cannot be counted on to stay for the entire game.