Alternative Titles/Edition History:
Red Factories contains two (mateable) games. One is a new version (thus 3rd Edition) of Red Barricades; the other is that game's sequel/expansion, Red October.
Red October was also allegedly sold as a separate product, without the Red Barricades materials, during the pre-order period for Red Factories, but this version was not made available for retailers, nor offered after the pre-order period was over. Desperation Morale has NOT seen a stand-alone copy of Red October and cannot verify its details.
Multi-Man Publishing (2019)
Country of Origin:
Red Factories contents: 4 historical maps (two 23" x 31" maps, one 24.5" x 31" map, and one 25" x 31" map), 8 countersheets with 1,820 1/2" and 265 5/8" die-cut counters (2,084 counters total), 21 scenarios, 7 sheets of overlays with 36 overlays, 36 pages of rules (revised/expanded Chapter O), 4 chapter dividers, 8 campaign games
Red October contents (PRESUMED, NOT CONFIRMED): 2 historical maps (one 24.5" x 31" map and one 25" x 31`" map), 36 pages of rules (revised/expanded Chapter O), 6 countersheets with 1,400 1/2" and 176 5/8" die-cut counters (1,576 counters total), 4 chapter dividers, 7 sheets of overlays with 36 overlays, 7 scenarios, 8 campaign gamesCommentary:
One of the most popular ASL products ever released was Red Barricades, published by Avalon Hill in 1990. It was the first ASL product to use a historical map (and a massive and interesting map it was, too) and the first ASL product to provide a campaign game that could allow weeks of extended, meaty ASL play, introducing a broader, more strategic level to ASL fighting. It was the product of Charles Kibler (who was also responsible for the second most innovative ASL product ever, SASL), who made ASL fans forever grateful.
Well, almost 30 years later, Charles Kibler returns with a sequel-cum-expansion to Red Barricades: Red October. Thirty years later! He fought with my father in the Clone Wars. The addition of Red October doubles the original map area, adds 7 scenarios, and doubles the number of campaign games.
Most players will not know this sequel as Red October but rather as Red Factories. That is because MMP decided to combine Red October and Red Barricades into one monster module dubbed Red Factories (Red Barricades had long been out of print itself). When MMP put Red Factories up for pre-order it did offer a pre-order option to get Red October only, without the Red Barricades materials, presumably for those who already had Red Barricades and were not interested in re-buying materials they already had. This version of the product was never offered for sale to retailers or sold by MMP after the pre-order period was over. Desperation Morale has NOT seen a copy of this ostensible version of the product, but mentions its presumed existence in case one ever sees a copy of it up for sale somewhere.
Like many official ASL modules, Red Factories/Red October (hereinafter just Red Factories or RF when the whole new module is referred to, or Red October/RO when RO-specific aspects are mentioned) was a long time coming. Mentions of the Red Barricades sequel/expansion can be found on-line dating back to at least as early as 2001. MMP itself mentioned the product-in-development in August 2001, calling it “Red October.” In 2002, MMP said that it had “finished art” for Red October. Designer Charlie Kibler wrote on Consimworld in 2004 that he had turned Red October over to MMP for testing in January 2002. Apparently he just turned over map artwork and draft rules and scenarios. In 2012, MMP stated that it “still had a goodly amount” of campaign game playtesting to be done. In 2016, MMP announced it expected to receive the “final submission” of Red October in April 2016. In September of that year, MMP put the game–now conceived of as Red Factories–up for pre-order. In January 2019 the module finally saw release–almost 20 years after it began.
Red Factories is a module about Stalingrad, considered by many to be the “ultimate battle” in World War II; it certainly was one of the most consequential, as well as one of the most heavily fought, giving true meaning to the phrase “war is hell.” Red Barricades depicted fighting in 1942-1943 over the part of Stalingrad where the Krasny Barrikady (“Red Barricades”) ordnance factory was located; Red October expands this fighting to the adjacent area where the Krasny Oktyabr (“Red October”) factory complex stood. It should be noted that, even together, these maps only provide a slice of the fighting in Stalingrad, a city unusual in that its layout was shallow but extremely wide (extending up and down the banks of the Volga), so that city fighting took place simultaneously across a broad geographic area rather than being more concentrated. Thus the Red Factories maps will never link up to the Valor of the Guards maps (see map: ASL in Stalingrad).
When Red Barricades was first released, the excitement it produced was electric. In the Squad Leader era and during the first years of ASL’s existence, the only real option for playing ASL (unless one used miniatures and miniatures terrain) was to play on geomorphic maps, generic representations of common WWII terrain. Red Barricades introduced historical maps, maps based on terrain that was actually there and actually fought over (for various reasons, even historical ASL maps have some abstractions and compromises in them; they are not literally accurate like an aerial photograph would be). Moreover, the painted artwork was quite impressive, even if very brown (or even brownish-pink, under some lighting). The rules for Red Barricades introduced printed rubble, debris, massive factories, and more, but most of the rules were dedicated to campaign games, opening up a whole new world for ASLers–at the expense of considerable time and some complexity, of course. In Red Barricades campaign games, players were no longer limited to single scenarios that took a few hours of historical time, but could engage in actions that spanned days of fighting, broken up into scenario-like chunks. Using purchase points, ASLers could determine much of their own OB (far more abstracted and approximate than the terrain), shaping their forces to achieve their planned objectives–and the purchase points might vary from day to day to reflect commitment of resources to the battle from one side or another. Moreover, players could no longer expend their human resources profligately, aiming for that last turn victory, because they would need those forces to fight again on the next day, and the day after. The nuances and deep nature of the campaign games generated arguments and articles about the best strategies and tactics, as well as extensive house rules.
The Rules and Campaign Games
Red Factories comes with 36 pages of rules (though 4 pages are just record sheets that can be photocopied), a handful more than the 2nd Edition of Red Barricades, whose own rules were slightly longer than 1st Edition Red Barricades (because in the first edition, certain scenario rules appeared on the back of one of the scenario cards rather than in the official rules pages, where they should have been).
Unfortunately, the combined Red Barricades/Red October rules, which are mostly but not totally Red Barricades rules, do not provide any indicator for newly introduced or changed rules (such as a dot next to a rule number, or highlighted text, both of which have been used in previous ASL products). Even some of the old Red Barricades rules, such as Sewer Movement, have been rewritten in Red Factories or moved to new places in the rules or excluded (in the case of rules that appeared in Red Barricades but were later moved to the 2nd Edition ASL Rulebook). Thus veterans of Red Barricades will have to scan the rules carefully to make sure they notice any changes. Luckily, this is mostly only for the first couple of pages of the rules.
New rules introduced include “Split-Level Factories,” which are buildings that are part-Factory and part regular buildings, as well as the Martinoffen, a building with big smokestacks that, if under at least partial Soviet control, increases Soviet Sniper abilities. There are also “Temporary Warehouses” (which, it turns out, are not warehouses for temps) and non-Factory Gutted Buildings. In all, there are some 10 pages or so of non-campaign game rules that must be learned for Red Factories. The factory-related rules get complicated, but the others are pretty easy to absorb.
Desperation Morale did not do a close comparison of the campaign/refit rules but rather assumes that they are basically the same in Red Factories as in 2nd Edition Red Barricades. For the non-initiated, the campaign game rules are quite complicated, especially with regard to perimeters, although a lot of the rules are just to make sure all special circumstances and loose ends are accounted for (like determining what happens to broken weapons at the end of a campaign date, or what happens to Shocked AFVs in the same situation). It should be noted that the Red Barricades (and thus Red Factories) campaign game rules for the basis for all other official campaign game rules (as well as many third party campaign games), so 1) once you actually do learn these rules, they stand you in good stead for many other products as well, and 2) it is possible to start with some of the other, smaller campaign games available in other products to get used to some of the basic concepts before moving over to the more heavy-duty Red Factories campaign games.
There are an amazing eight campaign games in Red Factories, which represent a tremendous amount of play value (leaving aside the included scenarios completely).
|RB CG I: Into the Factory||RB||13 CG Days (Oct 17-29, 1942)||Balanced|
|RB CG II: Operation Hubertus||RB||5 CG Days (Nov 11-15, 1942)||Often considered to favor the Germans|
|RB CG III: The Barrikady||RB||30 CG Days (Oct 17-Nov 15, 1942)||Balanced; also the most popular CG game from RB|
|RB CG IV: Bled White||RB||7 CG Days (Oct 25-31, 1942)||Originally appeared in ASL Journal Issue One|
|RO CG I: X-Tag||RO||9 CG Days (Oct 23-31, 1942)||9 CG Days but 10 scenarios, oddly.|
|RO CG II: Oktyabr's Hubertus||RO||5 CG Days (Nov 11-15, 1942)||Tip your waitperson!|
|RO CG III: A Party In Our Streets||RO||16 CG Days (Dec 15-30, 1942)||Soviets on the offensive!|
|RF CG I: Red Factories||RB/RO both||5 CG Days (Nov 11-15, 1942)||Essentially combines the two Hubertus campaign games.|
It is a little disappointing that the only campaign game that uses both maps is only 5 CG long, depriving players of the ultimate in meaty campaign games.
The Maps and Overlays
Red Factories certainly provides in the maps department: 4 large historical map (with 1″ hexes) that are laid out end to end, thus requiring a long playing area more than a fat playing area. The maps are printed on the semi-glossy paper that MMP has come to prefer (rather than the matte paper the original Red Barricades maps were printed on) and are folded into small squares, much smaller than required to fit in the box, so there is a lot of unfolding involved. The folds basically divide each map into 12 areas and will make it hard to play larger scenarios or campaign games without using plexiglass or some equivalent to flatten the multitude of folds.
The original Red Barricades map was handpainted, but MMP has long since moved on to computer-generated art (for better or worse, sometimes both). This will mean that someone using an original Red Barricades map alongside a Red October map will definitely notice the difference. Nevertheless, there was a deliberate attempt to replicate the look and feel of the original Red Barricades map (even down to its salmon coloring) and the artwork is generally good. Only one map in each set is labeled, with a small RO or RB (not in the same place). With four maps now, each map really needs to be clearly labeled.
The combined area represented by the two sets of maps is river-adjacent, but the Volga River is not quite straight and is thus “off-map” to the west of the middle two of the four maps, leading to a “missing” slice of Stalingrad between the existing maps and the Volga that players will soon be clamoring for in their desire for completeness. When one has all the maps set up, as opposed to just the RB maps or just the RO maps, it does look a little odd to leave that slice off.
New to ASL Stalingrad? The first thing one may notice when looking at the maps is how cluttered they are. Not only are there countless buildings, from tiny clusters of workers’ huts to massive factories, but virtually the entire landscape is filled with rubble, debris and shellholes. Actual open ground hexes are surprisingly far and few between. This may make it seem less dangerous to run around the streets of Stalingrad, but that is not true, at least for the campaign games, where the presence of “Death Stars” (stacks of MMGs and HMGS led by really good leaders) can slice through the +1 TEM of a shellhole or debris hex quite easily.
Let’s take the maps in turn, starting from the southernmost map, which is now the southern Red October map.
For previous owners of Red Barricades, the first thing one may notice is that the new artwork is crisp and clear. The debris and rubble hexes are a bit fuzzy, as before, but the buildings are rendered very clearly–and features such as roofless factory hexes are actually more easy to distinguish here than with the original, hand-painted artwork (because there is more contrast). Another thing one notices is that everything is labeled. Streets have names, gullies and other geographic features have names, many of the buildings or clusters of buildings have names, too. Now we know that one of the gullies is called by the somewhat nasty-sounding name of “Two-Finger Gully.” Okay. Good to know. It’s actually very nice to have so many named features on the map.
Starting with the southern edge of the southern Red October map and moving north, one notices that the southern edge of the map is dominated by workers’ settlements–clusters of small wooden buildings–and long gullies. There are fewer shellhole, debris and rubble hexes here and rather more open ground than one can find throughout most of the Red Barricades maps. More destruction comes into view as one moves a bit further north and begins to enter the Red October factory area. Its southern end has mostly smaller factory buildings (8-12 hexes in size), but north of these are the main factory buildings, including the very large Hall 5 – Sorting Shop and the massive T-shaped building that combines Hall 6 and Hall 3 (32 hexes in all). On the west side of the factory complex are mostly wooden workers’ homes, while on the east side of the map are the small stone buildings of the Iron Foundry and, on the east edge, the Volga River.
This takes us to the northern Red October map. The southern edge is still very much part of the Red October factory complex, with long buildings like the Martin Ovens building and its several smokestack hexes (which are designated by too-small symbols, by the way). North of it are Hall 1 and Hall 2. To the west of Hall 1 are various smaller buildings such as the Administration Building, the Ladder Building and the Kindergarten, while on the east side is the huge Slag Heap. North of the factory complex, i.e., the northern half of the northern Red October map, the area is dominated by the small wooden buildings housing workers. At the far north–bordering Red Barricades, one finds several gullies, including the Bread Factory Gully.
Now we are into Red Barricades territory–familiar ground for many ASLers, even if the artwork is new. Starting with the southern edge of the southern Red Barricades map and going north, one first encounters workers’ settlements, on the east, and the smallish stone buildings of Bread Factory No. 2 on the west. Crossing the Gun Factory Gully, one starts approaching the Red Barricades factory, with the first of the large factory buildings, Hall 6e Manufacturing Hall, dominating the landscape. Surrounding it are the debris and shellhole-filled hexes of the Depot to the west, and small wooden buildings to the east. Moving north, one counters more factory buildings–various long and narrow Manufacturing Halls, as well as the Martin Electrofurnace. That Martin guy really got around. Towards the east, a cluster of tanks and gullies dominate the landscape.
That brings us to the northern Red Barricades map. The eastern and central portions are dominated by multiple huge factory buildings, including the massive 35-hex Hall 4 Assembly Hall and the not-much-smaller Hall 5 Foundry Hall. To the east are smaller buildings, stone and wood alike, and in the far east of the map area, the mighty Volga River peeps into view. This northern map is where some of the toughest fighting occurs, over the factory terrain.
Four large maps, encompassing a large area, though even still only a small slice of Stalingrad as a whole. But however one slices it, there’s a lot of room for fighting here. Overall, the maps are very nice and, even without the handpainted touch, probably a slight improvement on the original Red Barricades maps, thanks to all the labels, as well as the somewhat more clear artwork for the factory buildings.
But wait, there’s more! Not more maps, but overlays for the historical maps. If that sounds a bit strange, well, yes, it is a bit strange–and yet here they are. There are actually two types of overlays here. The first are “Red Barricades Map Update Overlays,” and there are 7 of these, ranging from a one-hex overlay to an 11-hex overlay (most are 1-3 hexes in size). “These overlays,” we are informed, “are based on data released after the original Red Barricades game was published.” Certainly there is tremendously more information available on Stalingrad in 2019 than there was in 1990, for a host of reasons. So it is not surprising that more and better photographs, for example, might provide clearer views of the terrain.
Still, it is odd that these updates were not simply incorporated into the new Red Barricades map rather than printed as overlays for it. We are not necessarily talking about wholesale changes here. Overlay RB1, for example, a three-hex overlay, changes what was originally two one-hex wooden buildings and a one-hex stone building into the same stone building, a wooden rubble hex and a slightly smaller wooden building hex. Nothing earth shattering here. Overlay RB4, a one-hex overlay, changes a wooden building into a stone building. Some changes are a bit more significant. Overlay RB3, for example, changes a shellhole hex, a brush hex and an open ground hex into a one-hex wooden building, a gully hex and an open ground hex. RB5, the largest overlay, does make substantial changes to its 11-hex area.
One has to wonder if one of the overlays may be in error. As mentioned, Overlay RB1 is a three-hex overlay containing a stone building–which the overlay labels “Rote Haus.” Overlay RB2 is another three-hex overlay that slightly changes an area just southwest of RB1, including changing a wooden building hex to a stone building hex. This stone building is labeled “Red House.” Now “Rote Haus” is simply German for “Red House,” which makes one curious as to whether there was only one “red house” in this vicinity and one or the other of the two overlays is actually mislabeled.
MMP says that players may “at their discretion” use any of the Update overlays to alter the game map, “but should keep in mind that such use may alter the balance or affect the VC of some scenarios or CGs.” This is apparently why they went with overlays, so they wouldn’t have to re-playtest anything. It probably would have been better simply to change the Red Barricades map.
The bulk of the overlays (29 of them) are “Gutted Factory” overlays. These overlays simply replace all the factory buildings on the mapsheets with gutted versions of those factories. It doesn’t seem that these overlays are actually needed or required–in the original Red Barricades, gutted factories were indicated by placing a Gutted Factory counter in a hex of said factory, and those counters still appear in Red Factories. They seem to be included mostly as a convenience for players who don’t want to have to eyeball factories looking for a Gutted Factory counter.
Red Factories comes with 8 countersheets. Two of these are the original Red Barricades countersheets, while more are “Red October” countersheets. All are up to typical MMP 2010s standards. You can read this entire section, if you just love counters, or you scan skip to the end and Red October Sheet 6, where some interesting new counters are mentioned.
Red Barricades Sheet 1 is half 1/2″ counters and half 5/8″ counters. The 1/2″ counters are all markers, mostly perimeter and location control markers, with some Breach/Gutted Factory markers and H-to-H Melee markers. The 5/8″ counters are mostly Fortified Building Location and Cellar counters, along with A-T Ditch, Culvert, Initiative, and Sniper Counters, plus 4 German self-propelled artillery pieces.
Red Barricades Sheet 2 is all 1/2″ counters–basically German and Soviet infantry, SW, and leader counters, plus some Minefield counters.
Red October Sheet 1 is all Soviet infantry–a whole sheet of 6-2-8, 4-5-8, 4-4-7 and 5-2-7 squads (and their requisite half-squads). These include, as has been more-or-less standard since Valor of the Guards, a bevy of 6-2-8 and 3-2-8 squads/half-squads with little satchel depictions on them to identify them as Assault Engineers. Between these Soviets, the Red Barricades Soviets, and the Soviets from Beyond Valor, one can really have a parade on Red Square.
Red October Sheet 2 contains yet more Soviet infantry (5-2-7s and 4-2-6s), as well as crews, leaders/SMC, SW, concealment counters, and some more minefields.
Red October Sheet 3 is the German infantry sheet, featuring nothing but German squads and half-squads of a variety of types, including 8-3-8 Assault Engineers.
Red October Sheet 4 continues the German theme, with crews, leaders/SMC, SW, and concealment markers, plus minefield, perimeter and locations markers. Eight Soviet commissars are also hanging out here, supping on borscht.
Red October Sheet 5 is a sheet of 5/8″ counters–lots of Fortified Building Locations, Cellars, Ditches and Trenches, plus various German and Soviet AFVs and Guns.
Red October Sheet 6 is an info-marker sheet, with various standard info markers. You can never have too many Residual FP counters, right? However, it also introduces some new counters to the system, applicable not just to Red Factories but to anything and everything. First are purple Motion Attempt counters, which can be placed on a vehicle that has tried (but presumably failed) to make a Motion Attempt. The reverse side of these counters are the same thing, except for Smoke Dispensers. They can be handy.
Many of the counters, though, are special First Fire Counters with a purple stripe along the bottom that explains what exactly is first firing–something to use when one has stacks or vehicles with multiple weapons. There are no rules for them but it looks like they just basically replace the old First Fire counters completely. The different varieties include:
- First Fire INHERENT
- First Fire SW
- First Fire ALL MG
- First Fire MA
- First Fire CMG
- First Fire BMG
- First Fire AAMG
- First Fire SA
- First Fire MA/SA
- First Fire BMG/CMG
All but the first two counter types appear to be intended for use with vehicles. It will be interesting to see to what degree these counters are adopted. The only real drawback is that it is a lot of new system counters that would need to be squeezed into one’s existing set. It is possible some ASLers may adopt only the INHERENT and SW counters, while others may adopt the whole shebang and still others conclude that it is not worth the effort. This is a type of info marker that various third party publishers have printed in the past, but it’s the first time they have appeared as official counters.
Finally, we come to the scenarios of Red Factories. Last, but not least, even though scenarios sometimes seem to be something of an afterthought for some official and third party historical modules. However, there are many ASLers who welcome the opportunity to play on a historical map but who don’t necessarily have the time, space or energy for a full campaign game.
Red Factories comes with 21 scenarios. Seven of these are the original seven Red Barricades scenarios (RB1-RB7) designed by Charles Kibler and Michael Balis. They do not appear to be changed from previous editions, except that some SSRs have been re-written to conform with evolved conventions for ASL rules-writing and SSRs. The Red Barricades scenarios were extensively playtested–in an era when ASL products tended to receive more playtesting than they are today and are generally very well-balanced.
A second group of scenarios (RB8-RB11) are Red Barricades scenarios that were published after the release of Red Barricades, either in The General, the ASL Annual, or the ASL Journal. Three of these were originally geoboard Stalingrad scenarios that were re-crafted to be played on the historical maps of Red Barricades.
For some reason the SASL materials for Red Barricades that appeared in ASL Journal Issue One were not included in Red Factories.
A third group of scenarios (RB12-14) were designed by Andrew Hershey but are reprints from scenarios previously published in the third party ASL newsletter Dispatches from the Bunker. This is first time an originally third party scenario has been printed in an official historical module.
Finally, seven of the scenarios (RO1-7) are Red October scenarios designed by Charles Kibler and Michael Balis that use the new maps.
Collectively, that’s a lot of city fighting. Overall, Red Factories scenarios skew strongly to the large in size. Only 2 of the 21 scenarios can really be considered small, and perhaps 6 are medium-sized. The remaining 13 scenarios are large in size, with four of those being “super large” (defined, for the purposes of this entry only, as scenarios that feature at least 35 squads/AFVs on at least one side).
OBA is present, in some form, in more than half of the Red Factories scenarios (11 of 21). Air Support appears in three, while Night Rules are employed in one scenario. A couple of scenarios use NKVD squads, defined by SSR in these scenarios, but for which players could use the actual NKVD counters from Valor of the Guards, should they so choose.
The most famous Red Barricades scenario is RB5 (The Last Bid), because it introduced the idea of historical modules featuring a “monster” scenario encompassing the whole historical map that would offer the opportunity for really meaty play, including team play. The Last Bid is 21 turns long, uses both Red Barricades maps, and features Operation Hubertus, the last major German attack in Stalingrad, in November 1942, just a week before the Soviet counteroffensive that would end up encircling the German 6th Army. This attack features 95 German squads, 22 leaders, 41 SW, 7 Guns, and 16 AFVs (not including 9 halftracks). The defending Soviets get 109 squads, 18 leaders, 39 SW, 9 Guns, 3 AFVs, and numerous fortifications.
Red Factories adds a Red October monster scenario to the mix as well: RO5 (Men of Steel). This depicts more of Operation Hubertus and is thus also a German attack. Here the Germans have 90 squads, 24 leaders, 49 SW, 9 guns, and 10 AFVs. The defending Soviets have 108 squads, 16 leaders, 41 SW, 12 guns, and 6 AFVs, as well as fortifications.
The scenario SSRs, moreover, include (pretty bare) provisions for combining The Last Bid and Men of Steel into a mega-monster scenario. Under these rules, victory is assessed for each scenario. If the Germans win both, they win. If they win on only one map, it’s a draw. If the Soviets win on both maps–well, we’re going to assume you can figure that one out. Imagine a team of ASLers playing for what would obviously be days only to wind up getting a “draw.” This was seemingly something just tacked on without a ton of thought.
Perhaps the most serious criticism that can be aimed at the scenarios of Red Factories is how few Red October scenarios there are–only 7, and that includes Men of Steel, which won’t be played that often. It’s hard to defend such a small number of scenarios included in an ASL product that has been in the works for nearly 20 years. Scenarios should not be afterthoughts in ASL historical modules.
There Is No Module Beyond The Volga
Red Barricades was a tremendous wargame design achievement, one that has well stood the test of time. Red Factories, with its addition of Red October, brings nothing new to Red Barricades in any meaningful way–the terrain is pretty much the same, the fighting is pretty much going to be the same. It just offers more Stalingrad goodness, not different Stalingrad goodness. And that’s okay. This is an expanded Red Barricades, not a revolutionary new product. But it will allow plenty of new ASLers to experience the thrills and chills of East Front city-fighting while at the same time offering “more of what you liked” to the Barricade veterans of old. It’s certainly worth getting.