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TCancer reviews Revolution under Siege

TCancer reviews Revolution under Siege

Review - posted by Burning Bridges on Thu 2 December 2010, 16:01:39


Revolution Under Siege Review

by: Christian Wendt (Burning Bridges)

 

AGEOD Website: http://www.ageod.com/en

Revolution Under Siege Website: http://www.revolutionundersiege.com/revolution/index.html

 

"This map is simply too big." Irritated comment of my mate.

 

Introduction

Revolution under Siege (RUS) is the sixth installment in AGEODs series of strategic wargames, including previous titles Birth of America 1&2 , American Civil War, Napoleons Campaigns and Rise Of Prussia.

The AGE engine - which is the heart and soul of these games - is  strongly content driven. Since the first release of an AGE game in 2006, continued development and advancement of the engine has taken place. Content wise the development of the Revolution under Siege project was carried out by a second team (SEP REDs), and I was surprised to hear that it has been in preparation since as far back as 2008.

After previous AGEOD games played out in North America, and a foray into Europe, this probably represents their largest project to date: the Russian Civil War, depicted on a gigantic map of the vast stretches of Russia, and split into several major campaigns between 1918-1921.

Campaigns and Scenarios

Like previous AGEOD titles this game comes with an extensive range of campaigns and scenarios, including these four grand campaigns:

  • The Russian Civil War | 86 turns (June 1918) | (Bolsheviks, Southern Whites, Siberian Whites)
  • Revolution Under Siege | 64 turns (May 1919). (Bolsheviks, Southern Whites, Siberian Whites)  
  • Admiral Kolchaks Siberian Coup | 76 turns (November 1918) | (Bolsheviks, Southern Whites, Siberian Whites)
  • Drang Nach Osten | 71 turns (January 1921) | (Bolsheviks,  Imperial Germany) In an alternative history, Germany starts Operation Barbarossa 20 years early

There are also some mini campaigns and short scenarios:

  • Ice March | 14 turns | (November 1917) | (Bolsheviks, White Finnish)
  • Civil War | 17 turns | (January 1918) | (Bolsheviks, White Finnish)
  • Polish-Soviet War | 16 turns | (May 1920) | (Bolsheviks, Poland)

There is however no campaign representing the actual October Revolution in 1917, which must have to do with problems to reproduce these events on  the same map which is used for the rest of the game. This phase of the Revolution took place mostly in and around Petrograd, and it can probably only be simulated in completely different scale.

Also missing is the subsequent ‚Rail War’ phase, which saw the Socialists (not only Bolshevists) take control of most of Russia, and during which little actual fighting took place.

This engine however begs for a WW1 scenario, which is, interestingly, provided by the inclusion of a fictional „Drang Nach Osten“ campaign. Here a major war erupts after 1921 between the Soviet Union and Imperial Germany.  By the first impressions, the developer team has taken great care with this campaign, which comes with the same quality of a major addon or mod, and rounds off the content.


 

The Revolution under Siege

To represent a civil war which is taking place over two continents the developers have created this absolutely gigantic map.

As can be expected, the terrain in many parts of Russia is absolutely forbidding, and no operation will get very far without control of railroads and river transports.

It is unfortunate, but also unavoidable that a map as big as this could not be realized without some compromise. Like in the other games AGEOD has circumvented the limitations of their map engine  with somewhat unwieldy shipping and region boxes. This can at times get annoying. For example if you want to send ships from Murmansk to St.Petersburg, you need to cross a total of five different boxes. But this is a small price to pay for the extreme detail in those areas that matter, i.e. the european part of the Russian Empire west of the Urals.

The strategic situation is very interesting. The Reds control the central position with the two capitals of Petrograd (St. Petersburg) and Moscow, a major part of the population and industry, but they will have a hard time organizing their state before the opposition. On the other side the Whites attack from the periphery with better equipped, better commanded troops, equipment coming directly from the arsenals of World War 1, and with time they can hope for additional support from their allies in the West. They are however lacking population support, and real political skill. The White forces are also very heterogeneous: among them are Russians, Cossacks, Entente Forces, Czechs, Turkmens, Poles, Hungarians and many others.


 

New Features

Revolution under Siege builds on features from five previous games, but also comes with new features that have been specifically implemented for the Russian Civil War.

This is the first AGE game where there are not two, but three independent AI factions, the Reds (Bolsheviks), the Southern Whites (Russian Volunteer Army and Don Cossacks under General Denikin) and the Siberian Whites ( General Kolchaks Siberian regime in Omsk, which includes the famous ÄŒeska Druzina and the 'Komuch', the Socialist Revolutionaries Peasant Party ). You can choose one of the three factions, the two other factions will be played by the AI. There are in fact many more factions (like the ‘Greens’ or Anarchists) but those remain passive throughout the game.

Armored trains are specific to this conflict – and very powerful. They not only provide fire support for other units moving along rails, but can also repair damaged railways on the move.

Aviation. The developers have incorporated a simple aviation module. Fighters operate over small distances for local air superiority and reconaissance. Bombers have a simple system for area bombing.

Army symbols on the right side help to navigate if you have a large number of armies. Very nice, but I now would like to see Corps icons added as well.

There is now the Strategic Atlas, a large scale view of the whole theatre, something which I sorely missed in previous games.


 

Technical Aspects

I am never one to mince my words about crappy engines, but I must say Russian Under Siege is simply a joy to use from the technical side. It was already said that this game benefits from engine improvements made for five previous games. As a consequence the engine is already very stable, fast and responsive. Inherently with a complex game like this there are small glitches - mostly related to errors in the scenario data - and also a few odd bugs. But I found it much less problematic than other comparable strategy games. Moreover, these things get constantly ironed out with every new patch.

Another thing every strategy player worries about is Artificial Intelligence. And the AI in this game is simply outstanding, too. Usually in a strategy game, one quickly gets aware of the dumbness of the computer player. But the AI in this game was doing the job so  steadily that it did not occur to me much that it is just a computer AI. Of course no computer AI can be as good as a human player when it comes to grand strategic decisions (like giving up an important objective for the benefit of other ones). But it does everything that a well programmed computer AI can do: it fights for every inch of ground, moves a lot of units to unpredictable places, which may create surprise to the player, and it even launches successful counterattacks on important objectives. An experienced player will learn to beat it, but until you get some experience under your belt, it will probably kick your butt.



 

Historic Events, Politics and Economic Options

The focus in this game (and in the series) is on the military campaigns, it is neither a political simulator nor an interactive novel. Most of your time will be spent with organizing stacks, movement and combat orders. There are political and economic decisions to take, but while important, they are not the heart of the game. Your economic and political decisions are mostly to ensure a constant flow of supplies, weapon, ammunition and reinforcement to your armies, and sufficient money, recruits and war materials.

But this game is not only about coloring the map. The White player can re-shape history (e.g. by achieving foreign intervention) but it must be a careful planned strategy. There are several political options - very expensive options - but usually hardly ever the required resources for  them!

 

As soon as possible you will want to order a ‘Partial Mobilization’ or ‘Raise more Money’, but this in turn requires Engagement Points, which are hard to come by. As a consequence you will constantly be short of recruits, money, war material. Railroad capacity is another problem, especially the White player will need every train engine he can get his hands on. You should also pay attention to the fact that divisions create administrative costs, which may completely eat up an already tight budget.

As you probably come to expect from an AGEOD game, there are is a large number of scripted events specifically created for important historic events during the Russian Civil War.


 

Room for Improvement

All in all I discovered no major problems with the game, but I thought some things could have been done better, especially while playing the White factions.

Firstly, historically there was hardly any coordination whatsoever between the White armies, but this should not mean that the player must be left completely unaware about their operations. AGEOD should lift the fog of war somewhat from the White forces, for instance by revealing the situation as it was during the past turns.

Moreover, with the many White subfactions, the replacement system can become a real pain in the ass, simply for the sheer number of options that must be weighed against each other. Remember that you need to purchase replacements for every single unit type in up to a dozen national armies, all in all this can easily mean 50+ different replacement options. And an artillery replacement bought for, lets say the Southern Russians, will not be used to reinforce the artillery of the Northern Russians or Don Cossacks. [ .. perhaps they were using different types of ammunition or something .. ] As a consequence, many units will receive no replacement at all, even if you spend heavily for replacements, unless you find a way to purchase ALL replacements simulaneously [ which is by all means impossible  ] It can be argued with good reason that the lack of replacements reflect the historic situation, but then in my opinion AGEOD needs to do something about the interface, which is much too spreadsheet-like in this area.



 

Another criticism I have with all AGEOD games so far, is that they should do a better job of informing the player about (a) scripted events taking place in the coming turns, (b) possible events that can be triggered by players actions, and (c) what is happening under the fog of war. There are many cases where the preparations to a major event would not have gone unnoticed, and the player should not be the last one to know if, for example, he is reinforced by a large invasion army from the outside world.

There are some other small nitpicks I have listed below:

  • The ‘scores and objectives’ ledger shows losses for your faction, as well as all enemies, but somehow there is no mention of allied losses.
  • When forming Corps there is there still no way to control which Army a new Corps will be attached to.
  • The allied AI factions need more fine tuning, for example there was a lone allied cavalry unit in my area and it was constantly destroying my railroads. 

Is it for you?

If you liked previous AGEOD games, especially ACW, and you are fascinated by the idea of a similar game during the Russian October Revolution, you can comfortably order the game. Compared to the previous games, it even raises the bars in the graphics and sound department, with a more mature and realistic style that's fitting better to the serious subject matter. And it is really stuffed to the brim with historic content and challenging gameplay.

For a complete newcomer the answer is more difficult. Before anything else you should use the demo to try and decide if the game is not too complex and inaccessible for you. But it could be a mistake to give up on the first day. Some years ago, when I played the AACW demo, I initially thought the game was incomprehensible. But it was also so fascinating that I kept on trying, and after the third day I began to make progress.
 
In order to make the game accessible, the developers have made a smart move this time by deactivating the activation rule and realistic attrition in the default profile. Concerning the activation rule, I wonder how many potential players in the past got scared off by this extremely punishing feature. However, once the feature is understood, it is an extremely realistic way to simulate the indecision and incompetence frequently shown by historic commanders, and you should later turn it up a notch, to the 'realistic' level.
 
Verdict

Overloaded rail trains crawling through Siberia. Trotski and his command train appearing everywhere, like a phoenix. Cavalry operations that take on the nature of a Wild West movie, with Chekists acting as the sheriffs, and Cossacks in the role of the bad guys, chasing gold transports.

This might actually be the best AGE game to date, and it's certainly the best game ever about the Russian Civil War. The vast distances and impassable terrain make it a unique experience, but at the same time very similar to ACW, with the same importance of railroad and river transport. New tactical possibilities were added by armored trains, tanks and airplanes. Extensive diplomatic options will keep the game interesting for a very long time. Along the way, several pretty little details can be discovered, like the (arrested) Imperial Family in Ekaterinburg, a gold transport which can be captured, or Trotski and his personal train.

Ultimately, what I found most fascinating is the unique atmosphere. Have you watched Doctor Shivago? If not, do it before you play the game (best while it is snowing outside), and compare the experiences. (if you are a real Russian please forgive me that I mention such a cheesy movie at all.)


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