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Red Winter, Expanded 2nd Edition

Status:  Not there yet
Orders To Date:  375
PUBLISHED: 2012
DESIGNER: Mark Mokszycki
ART DIRECTOR/PACKAGE DESIGN: Rodger B. MacGowan
MAP: Mark Mahaffey
COUNTER ART: Lee Brimmicombe-Wood & Charles Kibler
PRODUCTION COORDINATOR: Tony Curtis
PRODUCERS: Mark Simonitch, Andy Lewis, Tony Curtis, Rodger MacGowan, & Gene Billingsley
Regular Price: $55.00
P500 Price: $35.00

Banner designs by Rachel Billingsley

Note on Expanded 2nd Printing: We have expanded the game to include a new battle (maps, counters, scenario), as detailed in the text below. In all other ways, this edition will be the same as the 1st printing, with any known errata corrected.

LIVING RULES

ONLINE RESOURCES VIRTUAL GAME RESOURCES AARs REVIEWS COMPONENTS (1st Printing)
  • One sheet of 5/8 inch counters
  • Getting Started Play Aid (includes Tutorial Scenario)
  • Two identical Player Aid Cards
  • One 22x34 inch mapsheet
  • Rule book
  • Playbook
  • Four 6-sided dice
  • One Turn Track Play Aid

Customer Reviews
(4.75)
# of Ratings: 12
1. on 7/31/2017, said:
Amazing game, going to be a long long time before we see the reprint though, if ever.
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(2 people found this comment helpful, 2 did not)
2. on 5/9/2016, said:
Mounted Mapboard and iam in definitely
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(2 people found this comment helpful, 3 did not)
3. on 3/31/2014, said:
Fantastic game!
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(3 people found this comment helpful, 0 did not)
4. on 4/6/2013, said:
I'm very happy with Red Winter. Lots of strategies, great replay value. Would love to get a mounted map.
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(5 people found this comment helpful, 2 did not)
5. on 11/22/2012, said:
This is a very good game and I am looking forward to future games using this system. I would especially like to see a Guadalcanal version. I hope this map is re-issued with each hex numbered and that all future maps have numbered hexes.
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(3 people found this comment helpful, 2 did not)
6. on 9/24/2012, said:
"Overall, this is one of the best games I have ever seen. It is my best buy of 2012 (so far!) and going straight into my top five all time favorites." See more at: http://raananagamer.com/2012/09/red-winter/
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(4 people found this comment helpful, 2 did not)
7. on 8/5/2012, said:
Simply the best Winter war game out there! Easy to play, but challenging to win!
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(5 people found this comment helpful, 1 did not)
8. on 7/31/2012, said:
Red Winter has the highest production value I have ever seen in a game. The passion and devotion put in is spectacular. I love the historical accuracy, the many scenarios, the low counter density and the beautiful map. I hope to see many more games in this series!
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(4 people found this comment helpful, 2 did not)
9. on 7/25/2012, said:
Good fast flowing tactical game. Fantastic value put in to the play book!
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(5 people found this comment helpful, 0 did not)
10. on 7/10/2012, said:
Rating based on seeing this played at ConsimWorld Expo. Nice, compact, playable looking game at the seldom covered grand-tactical level. Really looking forward to its next instalment in Op Dauntless. But what's with putting such a modest game in such a big box? GMT's traditional one and a half inch thick bookcase box is the perfect size for war-games with paper maps. Putting "Red Winter" (with its single map, slim rule book, and hand-full of chart cards) in a two inch deep box reeks of the worst type of hucksterism: a bigger package to make the ignorant consumer think he's more for his money. Treat us with some respect; we're smart enough to know the bigger box just holds more air (lots of it, even after putting in a counter tray).
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Showing comments 1-10 of 10

Description


Expanded 2nd Edition Overview

This 2nd edition game is more than just a reprint of the 2012 CSR Award winner for best WW2 boardgame. It features an all-new battle, complete with its own map and countersheet. 

The Battle of Kelja (December 25-27, 1939) now compliments the original Tolvajärvi battle. Kelja presents a challenge that is unique to the game system but certainly not the Winter War: a large-scale river crossing. The length of the new map is bisected by a wide, frozen river that functions as a frozen lake. The overstrength Soviet 4th Rifle Division, with five infantry regiments under its command, must establish a beachhead from which to launch attacks on the Finnish 10th Division. Opposing the crossing is a loose system of forts and roughly two tenacious battalions of Finnish infantry. The defenders are initially overwhelmed but reinforcements are on the way. 

Kelja is a logical fit for the game system in terms of length and scale. At three days, it provides a shorter play experience than the five-day Tolvajärvi battle. The unit density is only moderately higher than that of the previous battle but still limited to a single countersheet, and the featured river crossing offers a unique game situation, providing both players with plenty of decisions and challenges.

The Soviet player must choose the number and location of his crossings. Historically, the Soviets opted for a four-pronged, simultaneous attack, plus a (fifth) diversionary prong, but the game allows the Soviet player to experiment with nearly any deployment and crossing strategy. Once established, the Soviet beachheads must be continually supplied and reinforced if the Soviets are to break out of their “motti” and capture their objectives: several key forts, towns, and roads. Heavy artillery and even a handful of tanks are on hand to support the Soviet effort.

The outnumbered Finns must scramble to prevent a Soviet breakout while using their heavy machine guns and artillery to whittle away at the near-constant stream of Soviets crossing the ice. As reinforcements arrive to bolster the Finnish strength, they must be guided to the appropriate “hotspots.” The Finnish player must continually weigh the need to do several things at once: mount a forward defense by blocking the Soviet beachheads, defend in depth by digging-in behind the current frontline, launch spirited counter-attacks to stall Soviet breakouts or destroy smaller pockets, and delegate an appropriate number of troops to shore duty to stall the near-constant movement of fresh Soviet reinforcements across the ice.

Lest the battle become a “one trick pony,” plenty of options are available to both players, including variable unit setups, multiple victory conditions, variable reinforcement units, and smaller scenarios including some hypothetical situations.

Red Winter veterans will find a new set of challenges awaiting them in Kelja, while newcomers will benefit from the battle’s straightforward nature. Kelja strips away some of the special rules from the Tolvajärvi battle (bonfires, night raids, the Pajari leader) and offers a more streamlined alternative to the previous battle. While not intended as a replacement for Tolvajärvi, and lacking some of that battle’s dynamics, Kelja compliments the former battle by offering players a fresh alternative with its new map, unique tactical considerations, shorter play time, and multiple scenarios.

The following text describes the original Tolvajärvi battle which is also included in this edition.

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 A desperate battle for territory and survival is about to be waged across a bleak and snowy landscape of forests, swamps, and frozen lakes.

Red Winter is the first in a series of games covering battles of the 1939 Russo-Finnish Winter War and World War II at a rarely gamed scale: company sized combat units and 90 minute game turns. The Winter War games of the series will be characterized by highly fluid frontlines, wild flanking maneuvers by night, Finnish night raids, and a low unit density across a wide and shifting front. Future Winter War games in the works include the battle for Ägläjärvi, and WWII games in the works include Operation Dauntless (the Allied flank attack near Caen, France, in June of 1944), and several Pacific theatre battles of WWII.

In Red Winter, players assume the roles of the Soviet and Finnish commanders during the unusual battle for Tolvajärvi, Finland, controlling the actions of Finnish ski infantry, Soviet tanks and heavy machine gun companies, mortars, anti-tank guns, and other combat units. The game map is populated by forest, suo (wetlands), small Finnish settlements, and a network of crude roads and trails. However, the dominant feature of the map is a system of sprawling, frozen lakes. Combat units can very often gain favorable positions by crossing these lakes, but they do so at considerable risk…Units caught out on the ice make very inviting targets!

Based upon recent Finnish and Soviet sources, Red Winter is the product of several years of research and development. It was designed with an emphasis on speed, ease of play, and competitive play balance. The rules are built upon classic hex & counter wargame mechanics in combination with novel and well-integrated systems for ranged attacks, unit recovery, Finnish night raids, and sub-zero weather attrition losses. Low counter density and individually simple mechanics combine to allow each player the luxury of completing his turn in about five minutes. This means the full 40 turn campaign game is playable in a single, long afternoon. The large 5/8 inch counters and oversized hexes further enhance playability. And the Play Book's illustrated examples make it easy to jump right into the action.

Mechanics

Central to play is the Action Phase, wherein each unit may choose only one from several possible actions: move/assault, attempt recovery, dig in, or take replacement steps. This makes for some very tense decisions for both players. It also conveniently moves the game along at a brisk pace.

Red Winter features a uniquely simple unit recovery system. Reduced infantry units may opt to attempt to recover during their turn in lieu of other actions. This requires rolling a “6” on a single die. However, units gain a bonus to the die roll for maintaining their distance from enemy units. This provides a simple yet realistic incentive for players to withdraw their reduced units to the rear and move forward fresh units. During the fourth and fifth (final) days of the battle, the Soviets receive a penalty to recovery rolls, simulating a lack of replacement troops as well as sinking morale. The result, in game terms, is a gradual but noticeable shift in the number of full strength Soviet units on the map.

Another deceptively simple mechanic is used for ranged support. Ranged fire from weapons such as artillery, mortars and machineguns provides a “use it or lose it” benefit to combats against the targeted hex. Thus the attacker will need to follow up his artillery strikes during the very same Combat Phase in order to exploit their benefit, or the suppressed hex will return to normal. No markers or “resets” of any kind are necessary for this mechanic.

Combat is fast and well integrated. Units may voluntarily perform combats against adjacent enemies (two-way firefights, which utilize a CRT), conduct assaults as part of movement, or make ranged attacks at a distance of two or more hexes. The “grand tactical” scale of 425 yards per hex yields ranges of 2 hexes for light machineguns, 3 hexes for heavy machineguns and T-26 tanks, 6 hexes for medium mortars, and 12 hexes for heavy mortars. Artillery is somewhat abstracted, being handled as off-map batteries which can strike any hex on the map. Players allocate barrages as they see fit, while keeping an eye on their ammunition.

The rules for night turns provide several layers of strategic depth by means of individually simple mechanics. During each night turn, which simulates a 12 hour period, units have double their normal movement allowances. This means combat units can exploit gaps in the enemy’s frontline, cross lakes, or execute wide flanking maneuvers. However, such ambitious units are susceptible to “Sub-Zero” step losses, simulating frostbite, desertion, and poor morale from the extreme weather conditions. Whether or not each stack (note: stack, not individual unit) receives a step loss is determined by a simple 50-50 die roll. The interaction of these night rules means that ambitious players may be encouraged to push their luck and gain the upper hand during night turns, all while the system simultaneously encourages players to “do nothing” and even huddle their units together into stacks during night turns to reduce total step losses. The end result is that the system nicely mirrors the night actions of the actual battle.

The implications of the night rules don’t stop there. Skilled players will plan ahead for a night turn by positioning their units favorably during the preceding dusk turn, so they won’t need to relocate and possibly take step losses. This nuance can (and should be) exploited by the Finns, who move second in the turn sequence. The Soviet player has the option to build bonfires to avoid sub-zero attrition losses, but in doing so his units become very inviting targets for Finnish assaults. All this gives both players a lot of choices, without burdening them with cumbersome rules or tables.

Background

It is the winter of 1939 and the Soviet Union has just declared war on Finland. Bombers unleash a downpour of destruction on the Finnish capital of Helsinki. In the David and Goliath struggle that follows (the population of Leningrad alone was greater than the whole of Finland!), four million Soviets swarm across the border and push back the Finns in victory after victory. The future appears grim for Finnish independence.

Nowhere is the danger greater than in the central sector, where a Soviet breakthrough would threaten the strongpoints of the Mannerheim Line. Newly assigned to the sector, the Finnish Colonel Paavo Talvela surveys the situation. He is already thoroughly familiar with the terrain, having extensively wargamed the very situation now at hand, and also having led troops in the region during the Finnish civil war. Talvela chooses the place to make a stand: a lake called Tolvajärvi.

The weary and demoralized Finnish ski troops have mere hours to recover a semblance of order before the Soviet juggernaut smashes into them yet again. Initially, the Finns are outnumbered five to one. Although reinforcements will eventually increase their manpower to roughly even with the Soviets, they will remain outnumbered three to one in automatic weapons, a staggering ten to one in artillery, and suffer from a complete Soviet monopoly in tanks.

Over the next five days, the world watches in awe as the Finns manage to halt the Soviet advance through sheer heroic determination. Then, miraculously, the Finns launch a successful counterattack...
 
The Game Situation at Tolvajärvi

The game situation at Tolvajärvi is unique for a Winter War battle. Due to the mobile and fluid nature of the front, both players must remain flexible in their plans at all times, exploiting their opponent’s missteps as they occur. Unlike the popular notion of a Winter War battle such as Suomussalmi/Raate Road, the Finns cannot simply surround the Soviet road columns and cut them into out-of-supply pockets. Both sides are evenly matched at Tolvajärvi, but the Soviets begin with a strong numerical superiority. The Finns are hanging on by their teeth initially. But if the Finnish player can balance the acts of trading losses for time and ground for losses, he may be able to weather the onslaught and accumulate enough reinforcements to turn the tide. If he is skilled, he may then be able to mount a full-scale offensive against the Soviet invaders, as did the Finns historically.

The game includes a 40 turn campaign as well as over a dozen shorter scenarios which cover portions of the full five day conflict. All scenarios have been balanced for competitive play.

 

 

Game Design: Mark Mokszycki