Defiant Russia

The wargame Defiant Russia
The wargame Defiant Russia

I played the light wargame Defiant Russia over the weekend, solo, and have some commentary to share. I landed this copy about a year ago off a prize table and own the original version from Avalanche Press. There’s an updated player’s edition available from Avalanche which changes the map and counter mix quite a bit, presumably for the better.

The game is pitched as an easy to learn, old school hex-and-counter depiction of WWII east front action starting with Operation Barbarossa. My solo play exhibited the classic opening you see in games like this: vastly outmatched Soviets that get decimated by German infantry and armor. The Soviets replace units like mad and anxiously try to patch up broken lines to mitigate possible German breakthroughs. The game was easy to learn but not without some problems. If you want a learning wargame that covers a theater like this and can play in about 2–3 hours, this isn’t a bad choice. The new version seems overpriced at $44.99 retail, however, especially when compared to an alternative that I’ll mention shortly.

What Problems Did I Have?

The rules and setup are full of gaping holes, and you can get a glimpse by checking out this Q&A thread with the publisher. I personally struggled with a few things:

  • Setup rules for the Germans: there’s no clear guidance on how to tell where the north / center / south regions are delineated. Some might say “it’s obvious” but for a beginner wargame these should very explicit.
  • The combat rules are still confusing to me, and from reading the rules questions I think they are to others as well. Every enemy unit next to an attacking unit must be attacked, but how can or must those attacks be grouped?
  • The rules say nothing about where the Hungarians enter the game, but I guess because their entry turn number isn’t circled this means they must enter from Hungary (again, not mentioned in the rules).
  • A small reference sheet showing terrain and all of the associated rules and modifiers for each would have been nice

What Did I Like?

The exploitation phase has some elegance to it, and really is necessary to allow for the blitzkrieg style breakthroughs you expect to see in a game like this. I like having a few leaders present that can modify attacks and add a bit of fun chrome to the game. The supply rules were easy to follow and seemed effective, encourage good tactics.

Is There a Better Choice Out There?

For a similar price point (assuming you are looking at the new version), with similar complexity and play duration, it is hard to beat No Retreat: The Russian Front. The production value is outstanding in this game and it is very approachable. I remember playing it with Matthew a few years ago; it might have been his first hex-and-counter game. That said, if you can get your hands on the original version for a low cost, the small footprint of the game is nice and there’s certainly a good game inside. Just be prepared to spend time researching rules.

Wednesday What’s Up

What I’m Contemplating

What I’m Watching

What I’m Preparing to Play

  • Flying Colors – I have about seven unplayed wargames in my collection that I’m going to attempt to play within the next 12 weeks, and Blue Cross, White Ensign is one of them. This review covers the overall system, and my game is a self contained expansion that was on sale at GMT.
  • The other games I’m hoping to play:

What I’m Playing

What I’m Reading

  • I finished River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life and can’t say I loved it. The first half was enjoyable and pulled me in, but the second half seemed scattered and the book overall was lacking in conclusion and wrap-up.

Thursday Things

What I’m Playing

Just finished an around-the-USA travel in December (NY, Philadelphia, Florida, and Las Vegas) and played quite a few games. Here’s a recap.

  • Of course, more Advanced Squad Leader.
  • I played Churchill as a substitute for 18xx with my regular gaming partners Greg and Matt. Sadly we didn’t allow enough time to get through the entire game but it was a good learning game for both of them.
  • I played The Napoleonic Wars down in Monmouth right across the road from where I teach. This was with a group of folks organized by another professor at Western Oregon University. It was fun but ended after the first turn with a lucky die roll for the French. The rest of us played a game of chicken and we all lost.
  • I played 6 nimmt! with family in NY.
  • I played Evolution in Florida with my niece’s copy that she picked up on sale at Target. I don’t own this game any more, but playing it reminded me that this is a very good game.
  • Julie and I snuck in a play of Pandemic Legacy: Season 1 in between our Florida and Las Vegas trips. We are into September now so the year is closing down.
  • Jacob introduced us to Mint Works while in Florida and we enjoyed this lightning fast and light worker placement game.
  • Jacob and Matthew also picked up Dicey Goblins at a local game store in Vegas (designed by friend and Rainy Day Games owner Steve Ellis) and it came out quite a bit over the holiday week.
  • The highlight of the holiday gaming week was Charterstone, which I purchased explicitly for this family week. Got a wide range of folks involved in the game and we are about halfway through the campaign. Julie and I will probably finish the campaign on our own, but not until we complete Pandemic.
  • I introduced my brother-in-law to Star Realms which we played “live” a few times then moved into the digital iOS world where we are keeping a single game going indefinitely.
  • Jacob received Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game in the Christmas yankee swap so that came out a few times. Sweet spot is three player I think, and we played in about 30 minutes.
  • Jacob, Matthew, Kaitlin and I played a very tight game of Tichu.

What I’m Listening To

What I’m Reading

What I’m Contemplating