Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Review: Moscow Burning

Moscow Burning is one of two wargames in Command Magazine No. 40 of November, 1996 (The other was Buena Vista).

A game of low-complexity by wargame standards, Moscow Burning portrays the first 30 days of a potential Russian Civil War in the mid-1990s. As Putin has consolidated control recently, the possibility of this sort of outcome has receded a bit, but there was a time when it seemed Russia might fall into an internal armed conflict of the sort shown here.

Units are roughly brigade-sized (although some are called "divisions." Each turn represents three days and each hex is 20 miles. The map covers the Russian heartland from St. Petersburg to Volgograd.

The game system is straightforward IGO-HUGO with the usual XTR odd-based numeric result step-loss combat result table.The interest here is the fluid situation, as the "Reds" and "Whites" struggle to control the cities of Russia.

The game set-up is part of the game here, as players dice to see which side each of the on-map city hexes will support, which a 50 percent chance of being either Red or White. City control is depicted by militia units of the appropriate color.

There are just four basic types of units in the game.

The weakest are the militia units, which are just a single step, although it has to be the last step in a hex lost. These can range from 1-6 in combat value, the value determined by die roll at the instant of combat. This makes every city battle somewhat unpredictable. If the militia is eliminated, control of the city changes to the other side and the militia immediately reappears in the other color. Militia units never move and cannot attack.

Next are the Army/Interior Ministry heavy divisions. These have a combat value of six and movement value of four with two steps. These arrive by random event with their exact arrival hex determined by a random chit pull. They take on the loyalty of whatever the color the militia in that city at the moment. A total of 33 are potentially available. Like the militia these come in red and white versions. Their low movement allowance and scattered arrival make them useful, but not key, units in a player's order of battle.

There are three Elite ground units that start on the map. These units have combat values of six and movement allowances of four, but SIX steps, with the combat value decreasing by one per step lost. These units will play an important role in the fighting around Moscow.

Finally there are 13 elite airmobile units that can move 10, while also having six steps/combat factors. The elite units, as every other kind of unit, have a 50 percent chance of going either way. These 13 units, with their high movement allowances and staying power, are the key units in the game.

Spicing things up are random events determined by chit draw. As noted above, heavy divisions enter via random events. Other possible random events include Ukrainian intervention, nuclear explosions, a deadly plague, pogroms and miraculous events such as flying saucers or Elvis sightings! Oh yeah, and the Czar can return.

Winning is determined by having the most victory points after 10 turns. While every city hex on the map has some value, the 10 hexes of Moscow alone are worth almost as much as the rest of the map put together and the game will revolve around who controls Moscow in the end.

This game can easily be played in an evening.


(Yes) for Wargamers: An interesting military situation calling for flexibility and quick thinking, although perhaps too light for many tastes

(No) for collectors: Nothing special

(Maybe) for Eurogamers: While a hex-and-counter wargame, it's not an especially fiddly one and the situation is different from the usual.

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