Russo-Georgia War of 2008 Review
Review by David Lent
The Russo-Georgian War of 2008 is a long name so I will just refer to it as TRGW for the rest of this article. TRGW simulates the 5-day war between Georgia and Russia over South Ossetia. Instead of describing the whole war, I encourage everyone to read up on this conflict. After my own research, I found that the official stories put out by Georgia, South Ossetia, Russia, NATO, the United States and the United Nations were filled with outright lies, half-truths and finger pointing. I commend the author Bruce Costello for sorting through all this suspect information and putting together a coherent game that seems to simulate what actually happened fairly well.
I am reviewing the desktop published version of this game. It includes 140 counters that you have to glue to cardboard and cut out. The counters are big and have good artwork, which I like. There are two 11×17 maps included with big hexes, which represent areas 12 kilometers across. Some of the hexes have victory point values printed on them. TRGW also includes some useful charts.
The Georgian goal in TRGW is to capture as many victory points as possible by turn 10 without their army breaking. There are special events that may end the game early. The Russian player wants to capture as many victory points as possible and destroy at least 3 Georgian battalions so the Georgians have to start taking morale checks on turn 7. If the Georgian Army breaks, the Russians automatically win. In the case where the game ends without the Georgian Army breaking, victory points are tallied and the level of victory is determined for the side with the most victory points.
I played the historical scenario and the Georgians start with all their forces on the map except one. The Russians start with only a small amount of units on the map. The rest come in on later turns through airborne drops, air transport or through the Roki Tunnel.
The turn sequence is Special Operations (both players) and then first player: reconnaissance, strike, fight or move, second fight or move. Second player: reconnaissance, strike, fight or move, second fight or move. End phase: remove disrupted markers, random events phase and victory check phase.
The Special Operations phase occurs every turn except the first one. Each side has three special operation counters they can use in the game. The Russians have electronic warfare, cybernetic warfare and psychological operations. Georgia has one commando raid, electronic warfare and mine laying. The most important of these is the commando raid because it can be used to destroy the Roki Tunnel. If you destroy this tunnel, there is a possibility the Georgians can win the game since many of the Russian reinforcements will never arrive. The only other option is for a Georgian unit to get next to the tunnel, which will prevent reinforcements from entering through it.
The reason for the reconnaissance phase is because you cannot attack a unit that is not adjacent to one of your units unless you spot it first. Static targets such as bridges do not require spotting. Drones and airplanes can spot for artillery, airstrikes and missile strikes. Whenever an aircraft or drone spots, it is subject to anti-aircraft fire. Georgian AA shoots down an aircraft on a 1 or 2, while Russian AA shoots down an aircraft on a 1. In my test game, every aircraft on both sides was eventually shot down. The Georgian aircraft lasted longer than the Russian ones even though they were fewer in number.
Georgia and Russia have counters that allow them to use the second fight and move phase. Georgia can use it once and Russia can use it twice. It comes in handy because a unit has to be disrupted twice in the same turn before it is destroyed.
My test game probably can be considered an outlier. I captured Gori and Tskhimrail within 3 turns and successfully held them for the whole game. The reason for that was because my commando raid destroyed the Roki Tunnel on turn 2. This prevented most of the Russian reinforcements from ever arriving. Most of the combat that occurred after the first three turns caused individual disruptions that were removed at the end of the turn. It’s really hard to destroy enemy units after you use up your second fight or move counters unless you have the enemy grossly outnumbered. In addition, the combat results table heavily punishes you if you attack with less than 2-1 odds. Since the Russians couldn’t get most of their reinforcements into the game, it was very difficult for them to attack me with 3-1 odds or better. They only managed to destroy 2 of my battalions and my ship. Morale checks for the Georgians only occur if you lose 3 Army battalions so my forces never broke. The game ended in a decisive victory for the Georgians due to the fact that I got a lot of victory points from random events.
What do I think of the game? I think the rules are great. Having to spot the enemy before attacking non-adjacent units makes a lot of sense. This is the first game I’ve owned that uses drones for reconnaissance and cybernetic warfare. I’d like to see variations of these rules used in more modern conflicts. I got a lucky roll and destroyed the tunnel early in the game so I won. In most games, this isn’t going to happen and Georgia is going to be utterly crushed by the waves of Russian reinforcements just like in real life. There are a total of five scenarios, so the game does have a reasonable amount of replay value. I’m glad I was able to find a copy of this game. It’s pretty hard to find.
Attempt to find a copy of this rare game on eBay.