I just finished my first play through of the grand campaign. I had played Ice March backwards and forwards and thought I as ready. I was not, really. I played on the default difficulty setting as the Reds.
I have two small children at home so even finishing was a miracle; alas turn by turn analysis and pictures are not possible right now. I'll just summarize my experience, give some impressions, and ask a few questions.
In the early war, I concentrated on playing defense and trying to build up my forces. I sent Trotsky and the Latvians to deal with the Siberians, and tried simply to hold out in Tsaritsyn with Stalin and friends while I built up. Trotsky, however, died is some pissant battle in Penza! I almost re-started the campaign right there. But, I decided to tough it out and, as my forces grew, I was able to hold Ekaterinburg and Perm in the east. I believe I got the benefit of holding the gold train, although it wasn't clear to me. It certainly never left my control before it disappeared. I won several defensive battles in the regions and things were quiet in the east.
As the Central Powers withdrew, I saw that the Southern Whites were headed into the Ukraine, evidently caught up in their aspirations there. They had cleaned out the red forces in the South, which I had failed to evacuate as Dr. King recommends, but had not approached Tsaritsyn. Comrade Stalin, in a jolly mood since Trotsky’s death, led a large army of about 1000 power and all the armored trains you could want down to Ekaterinodar and cleaned it out with ease. I was surprised. I guess the Whites really were focused on the Ukraine. In fact, their depredations there had been so heavy that the Blacks allied with me automatically. I left Stalin to reorganize at Ekaterinodar while Tukhachevsky cleared Novorossiysk. Makhno's force looked like a killer stack at around 1000 power, but as they moved they bled power like crazy and never came close to taking Rostov as I had hoped. Someone must tell me how to use him properly.
As the South appeared to be in hand and the east was very quiet, I looked to the West and saw an opportunity. My diplomacy screen was telling me that the Soviet people clamored for the liberation of the Baltic republics and I felt compelled to oblige them. What a mistake! I amassed what I thought was a hug force with Bonch and Kamenev leading it, and advanced on Riga. Sadly a huge stack led by Rodzianko lay in wait and smashed my forces. The power of that stack must have been around 2000. Lots of German Freikorps were waiting for me, I suspect! They inflicted a beating on me and at this point I learned about supply problems in the game. It seems I did not have enough depots extending my network and my large armies began to starve. I pulled them back and built depots as fast as I could, salvaging some of their strength while building new units as fast as possible. My eastern advance was broken!
As fortune turned against me in the West, the East became a problem, as well. The Siberian Whites, far from cowed, had been building huge armies and advanced on me rapidly, taking Samara, Kazan and Perm. Somehow they could not take Ekaterinburg. I fought a back and forth battle with them in the area for the rest of the game. They were a real threat but never advanced too far west and I managed to hold on to Ekaterinburg and even retook Perm at the end of the game. I built large reserve armies at Moscow just in case, but these spent their time whacking Green moles as the threat from the East never fully materialized.
Despite these setbacks and an ever-growing Green plague (I guess I was doing too many missions?) I made very good progress in the South. Comrade Stalin seized Rostov and the back of the Southern Whites was broken. I eventually took Kharkov, their last victory city, as well. Although I never took Odessa from the whites nor Kiev from the Ukrainians, the theater was mine. Strangely, Southern White morale never went below 80 despite losing all their objective cities, while I played the last third of the game in the 35-50 range.
In the West in 1920-21, I managed to take Talinn with some large armies out of Petrograd. While Rodzianko sallied toward the east and knocked my large forces out of trench lines southeast of Riga, these armies slipped behind him and stole into Riga itself. Rodizanko was fixated on fighting my huge stacks and did not make haste to relieve the siege of Riga. Winter set in and Rodzianko was cut off from supply! After some hard fighting, my sneak attack force seized Riga and Rodzianko’s behemoth of an army died on the vine without ever launching a counterattack to take ir back. This was hte surprise great victory of the game for me.
The West and the South had been subdued, and with more time I could turn my armies to the east. But I ran out of time, and the game ended, informing me of a Stalemate where Red held the balance of power but the White threat was not destroyed. I won with c.4900 VPs to the Siberians c.3600 but this was not enough for a victory according to the game engine.
I found this game riveting and addictive. It took me a while to figure out some things I was doing wrong, such as the rather important supply game. I also never quite figured out replacements. I basically ignored that and just built new units. Perhaps that was sub-optimal? If so I’d love to hear how replacements should be done.
As for bugs, I did notice that the “Party Members Join the Army” event did not work. Also, during battles the portrait of the first leader to have a battle would be used again and again. I am running 1.02b so I guess some things still need to be cleaned up. I had a few crashes during play.
As for strategy, can anyone tell me if it’s advisable to declare war on Balts, Finns and Caucasus? I never felt like it was a good idea, although in the end I did take Riga from the Balts as required. But I think I lost a lot of national morale while I could not take it. Also, what exactly does building up factories do in your big cities? I did this a few times but didn’t see the benefit. I never really bothered with the air force, either, as it seemed pointless. I also ran the max amount of special ops every turn. In retrospect I should have watched for NM hits from this, but didn’t.
Well, with some lessons learned I intend to play again as Red and see if I can get an outright victory. My strategy will be to keep myself focused on one front at a time and avoid extra entanglements such as the Baltics unless I am in a commanding position over the Whites. Luckily Poland did not get involved, perhaps because I stayed out of Lithuania?