Red Actions AAR (& Red Storm)
The following post is from Peter Bogdasarian, who recently attended ORIGINS and managed to play in a game of RED ACTIONS at (it looks like) 15mm scale-- and posted this rather nice AAR on his CSW blog. I post this because at least 4 of the regular readers here have some investment in the RED ACTIONS combat system (we are working feverishly on making a faster version of it for convention play) and may wish to look at RED STORM as well. The material and observations are entirely the work of Peter Bogdasarian and I am reposting it for my colleagues who are not on CSW.
A Tale of Two Combat Systems
By Peter Bogdasarian, reporting from Origins 2007 (posted with Permission)
By an accident of scheduling, I ended up playing two Russian Civil War miniatures games on Thursday. A battle from the fighting around Tsaritsyn, using the Red Actions system from the Perfect Captain and a Generic Meeting Engagement from Somewhere in Russia using the Red Storm on the Horizon (hereinafter Red Storm) rules, which will be coming out from Battlefield Hobbies this year (or so I am assured). CSW's Roy Bartoo played in the second game, so someone can always corner him if they want a different viewpoint.
Both games use groupings of stands for infantry and individual vehicles/guns/etc. for the other stuff. Red Actions used companies as the basic unit of maneuver, Red Storm used formations of Indeterminate Size (though they looked a lot like companies).
Combat systems are the order of the day here so that's what I'll be focusing on, but as a brief introduction to the systems, Red Actions uses alternating activations, while Red Storm lets players "program" orders, then there is simultaneous movement & fire.
There is no command system in Red Actions - everyone does whatever you tell them to do.
For Red Storm, a side possesses a limited number of orders - each order allows one unit to activate. Activation is not guaranteed - players issue all their orders (move/fire/move&fire/charge/etc.) and then roll for acceptance. The more difficult the order, the more likely a unit is to reject it. Failing an order causes a unit to accumulate disruption points, which reduce its effectiveness.
Red Actions uses a Squad Leader style CRT for "conventional fire." (sum up firepower factors, find column, shift like hell) The neat thing here is that combat can cause units to accumulate terror markers (as well as conventional losses & retreats) - each terror marker reduces the formation's effectiveness as if it had lost a stand, but terror markers can be rallied off to return the force to full strength. Too many terror markers and you rout. An interesting way to do morale based combat while keeping the number of morale checks down.
The only flaw with the terror markers is that they can instantly be removed by spending the unit's turn to rally - there is no check required. Since the turn sequence in our game was fixed (and the Reds moved first, with alternating impulses), this gave the Reds a large advantage since they could easily rally units back to full strength before they could be engaged again in the next turn. I told the GM he really needed an initiative system and I think he'll give it a try next time.
The combat system in RA is very shift heavy - skirmishers (which includes the entire Cossack army), cover, partisans, etc. can all shift against the attacker and many times we couldn't fire at all thanks to these. When we could shoot, virtually all of the fire in our game took place on the weakest (3-6) column - where there is actually a fairly large chance of inflicting a result. (7+ on 2d6 against troops in the open, 9+ against troops in cover) The higher fire columns are much worse - units in RA cannot really stand up to fire for very long.
Direct fire in RA is rather different. 2d6 - ordinarily for a 10+ - and if you hit, the target loses a platoon (for infantry) or is destroyed (for artillery/crew served weapons). Armored trains can take a couple hits. There are no modifiers...
Which leads to my next point: Counterbattery is extremely dicey but decisively effective. Over the first two turns, we knocked out both of the Red artillery pieces (ironically, they shot first but rolled lower) with our three field guns. Then we knocked out their machineguns, mortars and (eventually) the Armored Train itself. With no modifiers for cover/etc., the only way the Reds could keep something alive was to keep it out of sight of the White artillery...
Red Storm uses a much more conventional combat system - buckets of dice and loss focused. Units accumulate hits and two hits kills an infantry stand. It is a much bloodier game than Red Actions and very likely crappier history, but much more fun. Fire combat can also place disruption points on a unit, impairing its overall effectiveness.
Guns, tanks, etc. use the same combat system as everything else but take varying amounts of hits to kill. (also, certain weapon systems simply cannot inflict hits on tanks) Counterbattery against enemy artillery is fairly difficult and nowhere near as easy as it is in Red Actions.
Given a choice between the two, I'd go for Red Storm. It is a bit more abstract than RA, but the system is swifter (we played 10 turns in both systems - it took three hours for Red Storm and six for Red Actions) and frankly more fun. I got very tired of watching us roll on the weakest column of the fire chart in Red Actions for turn after turn.
Red Actions - a shot of the table before final set up. The Reds will end up putting a line behind the railroad embankment while the Whites deploy their infantry on the left and the cavalry on the right.
Red Storm 2 - a shot of my position in the mid game. Roy Bartoo has managed to break his tank down near my infantry. An entire White company has been gunned down across from my troops and the naval infantry behind them are thinning fast. The Cossacks will end up carrying away much of my center in the next few turns.
The poker chips you see here indicate orders and the die placed on them shows the actual order. (1 = move, 2 = fire, 4 = move/fire, 5 = melee) The order # is also the difficulty number, as rolled on a ten-sided die.
AAR Ends. Thank you, Peter!