Classic Computer Magazine Archive COMPUTE! ISSUE 61 / JUNE 1985 / PAGE 65

War In Russia

Neil Randall

Requirements: Atari 400/800, XL, or XE with at least 48K RAM and a disk drive; or an Apple II-series computer with at least 48K RAM and a disk drive (the Apple II+ requires Applesoft ROM).

The most important thing that can be said of a war game, whether it is simulated on a board or on a computer, is that it "feels right." For a war game to feel right, it must reflect the historical conditions and the scope of the battle it simulates, and it must make the player understand the difficulties encountered by the actual commanders as they made their decisions. Computerized war games have an inherent advantage over board games in this respect because of their ability to handle the nuts-and-bolts details of supply, equipment repair, and so forth. Unfortunately, computerized war games seem to rarely exploit this advantage. But War in Russia, an advanced-level game from Strategic Simulations, does much to correct that problem.

Played on a scrolling hex-map of the Soviet Union, War in Russia is a one- or two-player game dealing with the German invasion of 1941–45. War in Russia includes three scenarios (along with a campaign game) which cover the entire war and take many hours to play. Maneuverable units are battle groups of up to six divisions, with the distinction between tank and infantry formations. This allows you to reenact the break-through/encirclement tactics which characterized the blitzkriegs of World War II.

Several features contribute to a detailed but surprisingly easy-to-play system. The Reinforcement/Experience/ Fatigue system provides the feel of combat on a divisional level, yet is handled simply. Prolonged combat increases the fatigue of a unit until it stops to rest. At the same time, units gain experience during combat, increasing their battle efficiency. When you reinforce a depleted unit, though, its experience level drops to reflect the addition of the "green" troops. Learning to exert some control over these processes gives you the feel of making real command decisions. If you don't make the proper adjustments, your offensive quickly grinds to a halt.

The Production Factor

Some of the fascinating aspects of War in Russia are watching the combat effectiveness of your units wax and wane, resting your panzer divisions just long enough to prepare them for the next battle, and conserving your units' strength during battles in the winter. The German player, as happened historically, watches initial successes stopped by the coming of the first winter, while the Russian player must build an effective defense using weak and inexperienced troops. Both players must plan well ahead to keep their units fresh and at the highest possible strength and effectiveness. For both it is a great challenge.

Production is a major facet of the game, just as it was in World War II. Each nation may use its production capacity to build artillery, vehicle, or aircraft factories, or divert some capacity to increase the overall production level of the country. These economic decisions are difficult because their effects will not be apparent for months to come, and because they have a strong impact on strategy. This feature is quite easy to use, and is another indication of the game's concern with the war as a whole.

War in Russia provides as accurate a model of the Russo-German campaign as any game I've seen, on board or on computer. Its duration and the size of its map lend a sense of the war's scope, while the production and combat-effectiveness systems provide you with the ability to make major decisions which change the course of the game.

Anyone who enjoys a solid analytical challenge will find hours of enjoyment here, and war-gamers should consider War in Russia a must. It operates not only on the operational level of military command, but also in the realms of strategic and economic policy. And above all, it feels right.

War in Russia
Strategic Simulations Inc.
883 Stierlin Road
Building A200
Mountain View, CA 94043