Soviet Dawn – Boardgame Review
Soviet Dawn: The Russian Civil War 1918 – 1921. Boardgame review. Publisher: RBM Publications and Victory Point Games. Game Designer: Darin A. Leviloff and Rodger B. MacGowan. Included in issue 27 of C3i Magazine distributed by GMT Games. $25.00 for the magazine with game.
Passed Inspection: Easy to learn. Fun to play. Very challenging. Included as a magazine insert so you get tons of value-added goodies.
Failed Basic: Some rules and card clarification needed. A few typos.
C3i Magazine is published by RBM Publications and distributed by GMT Games and has always been a treasure trove of historical and gaming articles plus expansions and scenarios for GMT’s library of war games. For the uninitiated, C3i stands for “Command, Control, Communications and intelligence.”
Apart from its articles, Issue 27 includes the game Soviet Dawn: The Russian Civil War 1918 – 1921 solitaire wargame. Soviet Dawn is also available as a polybagged game from Victory Point Games for $28.99. (Victory Point Games also sells an expansion, “Political Decree,” for $7.99—Editor)
The components are all first class and include a full-color map, event cards, rule book and mounted color counters. A background article with a history of the Russian Civil War and full designer’s notes is also included.
Designer Darin A. Leviloff utilizes his “State of Siege” solitaire system, seen earlier in Israeli Independence, in which the player holds a central location while trying to fend off belligerents from all sides. In the case of Soviet Dawn, the player controls the Bolsheviks under Lenin; the belligerents include such forces as Germany, the Allies, White Russians, and even Red Russians who want to control the “Revolution,” amongst others. The belligerents are all controlled by the game mechanics.
Set up is fast and easy as there are only 28 counters. After setting up the map and placing the few counters in their starting places (different regions of Russia and Eastern Europe), the player shuffles and sets out the starting event cards. Each turn the player draws an event card, which instructs him or her to move some specific belligerent forces and then gives the player a number of actions to perform each turn. These event cards are the heart of the game. They give the player historic events to react to, and each card’s “flavor” text provides a mini-history lesson on the events of the Russian Civil War. Some examples are: Latvian Riflemen Support Red Cause; Finnish Civil War Breaks Out; Czar’s Fate Decided in Ekaterinburg; Japan Seizes Siberia; and even the dreadful Spanish Flu Becomes Global Pandemic!
Cards for events that take place in the mid- or late-war period are shuffled into the deck at the appropriate times, and some cards are affected by what has happened in the game—”If Germany has capitulated, this card’s actions don’t take effect,” for example.
In reaction to the event cards, the player can attempt military actions to confront the belligerent forces, attempt to solidify the political power of the Bolshevik Party and try for a political victory, or try to re-organize the Bolshevik army into a more effective and modern fighting force.
In order to secure time for a victory, the player must make sure that no enemy army enters Moscow. The moment Moscow is taken, the game ends. It’s wise to watch all fronts and buy time for a political victory but this is a very difficult objective, especially when all the enemy armies are on the move. It is wise to try and fortify Petrograd as that city is a key for two armies (the Baltic and Finnish armies) in their attempts to take Moscow.
If the political influence of the player falls to zero, the game ends in the Bolshevik’s defeat. Conversely, if the player can increase his political influence to 9 or 10, the game ends, and the player has secured a future for the Bolsheviks.
The Russian Army was notoriously backwards compared to other armies during World War I. The player can attempt to re-organize the army by adding such technology as tanks and armored trains, promoting experienced leaders to senior positions or expanding the army’s intelligence network.
There is more than one way to win the game and many ways to lose it. It took me three tries to achieve a victory and it was only a minor victory—but it felt so good!
There are a few problems with Soviet Dawn—specifically, some of the cards are open to interpretation as to how they affect the game. Even though each card has a paragraph or two describing how it works, I found at least one card that was inadequately explained. For example, I drew card # 30 “Jassy Conference Reveals Disunity.” The text reads in part “Roll repeatedly on the Political Track with a +1 DRM (max) until an unsuccessful die rol (sic) is made or victory is achieved”. How does the designer define “unsuccessful”? Does no change in your political level count as “unsuccessful?” This is not addressed in the rules.
Additionally, there are a few typos but these not major.
Soviet Dawn The Russian Civil War 1918 – 1921 joins a list of innovative, unique subject matter games such as Navajo Wars and Freedom The Underground Railroad which belong on every gamers bookshelf and in every school’s social studies programs. Bravo!
Armchair General Rating: 90 %
Solitaire Rating: (1 is low, 5 is high) 5
About the Author
A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!