NATO division commander“Leadership under fire”
What is it?
NDC is a complex wargame based on a hypothetical Soviet invasion of West Germany in the mid -1980’s. The game covers four days (at 8 hours per turn) over an area of roughly 40x50 miles at 1 mile /hex, immediately west of the Fulda gap.
One player controls the NATO (read US) forces, consisting of 8th Mech and 3rd Armored divisions, 4/4th Mech (one brigade) and the 11th ACR.
The OPFOR consists of the 7th and 11th Guards tank divisions, 27th Motorised division and the 109th airborne division.
The game emphasises the difficulties of command and control, intelligence, posture and doctrine.
What do you get?
The game comes in one of those big double-depth “detergent” size boxes, which immediately gives the impression of a monster game. This is somewhat misleading, as the game comes with two identical 22”x 35” maps (only one is required unless playing the “controller” version).
There are 5 sheets of ½” counters (200 /sheet), of which only about 200 are actually combat units (you get 2 sets of both side’s units, so each player can set up a complete game on his or her map). The rest are markers, including a large number of mode markers, combat support points (CSPs) and a lot of T/O (strength point) and other markers.
There is a large, thin-card ”screen” which you fold in half and can use to hide your map. It is printed with most of the important tables and charts on both sides. These tables (and the remaining ones for random set-ups) are also printed in two booklets.
There are several sets of displays, most of which are not really fit-for-purpose and really need a better design (most of the information is easier to note on scrap paper).
Rounding out the package are a scenario book (11 scenarios), the main 28 page rulebook and a 4 page introductory game, “Advance on Fritzlar”, which introduces the move and combat system. It also gives a list showing the recommended order of introducing the regular rules. I would highly recommend starting with this introductory game, which uses just 8 soviet and 6 US units.
The game is battalion level, with similar units being pretty much identical. Thus all the Soviet tank battalions are rated 5-4 (attack-defence), BMPs are 4-6, US tanks are 7-6 etc. Given the complexity of the combat system, the differences in hardware are the least of considerations. Full strength units have a T/O level of 6, if reduced to less than 0 they are eliminated.
Each unit has a variable movement allowance of between 0 and 40, depending on their current mode. In the introductory game, all Soviets are in Mobile defense mode (10 MP), and all US units in Tactical move mode (20 MP).
Movement is done individually. The moving player activates 1 brigade at a time, moving each unit separately then going on to the next brigade, and so on. There is no stacking allowed, and all combat occurs during the move, so there is only ever 1 attacker and 1 defender directly involved. Units may attack as many times as they wish, at a cost in move points: The first attack costs 10 MP, and the unit can continue to attack the same unit for 5 MP each time. Alternatively, they can make an unprepared attack for 5MP with a -2 penalty. If the attacker gets an overrun (or if attacking an HQ) it costs only 2MP.
Zones of control
All defending units have one, and once in them you can only leave as a result of combat or by entering R/I (Relief /Infiltration) mode. You can move from one ZOC hex to another ZOC hex at a cost of +10 MP, but you can’t move out into a non-ZOC hex. If you force an enemy to vacate a hex, you place a breakthrough marker: any units entering that hex must pay an extra +5MP (this prevents one unit from attacking and forcing out the enemy, then a unit which hasn’t yet moved getting it’s full move through the gap created).
The phasing player’s units have no ZOC, unless they are marked as “active”, in which case they may not expend MP that turn.
Combat is optional, and as I said costs MP to conduct.
The basic comparison is the attack value minus the defence value of the involved units. There are then a huge number of column shifts which could apply, including:
Surprise (between +6 and -4)
Terrain (0 to -3; one hex (a medieval fortress) gives -6
T/O (Attacker T/O-defender T/O)
Mode (-8 -+12) there are 11 different modes possible.
Adjacency +2 per active player’s unit adjacent to the adjacent defender, -1 per defender
Fatigue (-8 -+3)
Night, fog, weather (all give +1-+2 -a bonus for the attacker)
Chemical warfare (-3-+5)
Electronic warfare (-8-+4)
Divisional command (-5-+5) directly controlling a brigade or regiment
(-10-+10) commanding a battalion
Combat support (variable)
After applying all these (and others), any result less than -4 rolls on the attack abort table (a bad roll causes attacker to lose 2 T/O and retreat), while any higher than +6 rolls on the overrun table (defender loses 2 T/O and retreats, attacker spends only 2MP on the overrun and can ignore that defender’s ZOC)
If neither of these occurs, a final table gives one or both sides 0-2 T/O hits, and both sides can attempt to retreat 1 hex to avoid 1 T/O loss, changing mode if necessary.
Defending units can become engaged or half-engaged, limiting their MP in their own turn.
Each headquarters can receive combat support points, divided into Artillery, Air, Engineer and Signals. These can be allocated for various functions, including combat. Indeed, the attacker will suffer a -1 to -4 penalty unless they do allocate more points than the enemy.
Included in this are rules for counter-battery fire and electronic warfare, giving more combat mods.
Despite the box cover (showing armoured bridge-laying tanks), there are no rules for using engineer points to aid movement (such as across rivers) and their defensive and assault abilities are abstracted into the combat support shifts. You don’t even get a bonus when attempting to enter a defensive mode for having engineers present.
As I said, there are 11 separate modes, plus 2 modes for headquarters (move or deployed). These range from administrative move (40 MP, poor combat ), tactical move (20 mp, better combat) , 3 defensive modes (hasty, mobile and prepared) 2 attack modes (hasty and deliberate). There are also double and triple zones (allowing a unit to occupy a line up to 5 hexes across) , reserve (required to receive reinforcements) and relief /infiltration (allowing the unit to change places with a friendly unit currently stuck in an enemy ZOC)
Changing mode requires staff points, allocated to headquarters, each brigade or regiment will generally have 1-2 points, plus 6-12 more from the divisional HQs (which can be used by each lower HQ if in range (10 hexes)). Mode change can cost anywhere from 3 to 28 points per battalion: if you don’t have enough, you can roll to try and change mode. It is very possible that your units will get stuck in the wrong mode, so careful advanced planning is needed. Signal CSPs and the divisional commander can boost staff points.
If you fail, you can roll again, but reach roll increases fatigue every time (including the first).
Operational intelligence uses air and signals CSPs to increase the current operational intelligence, as well as being allocated to sector coverage: the map is divided up into 5x5 hex sectors. The player chooses up to that many sectors , and rolls for every enemy unit in those sectors at the current OpInt level minus a mode modifier (2-4) for the defender. The result is the intelligence level for that unit (1-4). In the controller game, this represents:
Level 1 - unit exists in (x) sector
Level 2 – as 1, unit type is revealed (infantry, armor etc)
Level 3 – Exact unit designation and hex
Level 4 – As 3, plus current T/O level
Tactical intelligence – units adjacent to the enemy roll on the table as if they had 10 or 12 OpInt advantage, with modifiers for scout/ cavalry units.
Intelligence determines surprise, as well as counter-battery defence. Any unit which moves 1 or more hexes loses it’s current intelligence marker.
Intelligence also determines surprise in combat.
Units which move or attempt to change mode gain 1 fatigue level, up to level 3.
Level 0 has no other effect, and is shown by flipping the unit over. Fatigue over level 3 causes T/O losses. Resting units regain fatigue, by not expending MP or being attacked.
There are rules for Night and weather effects, cavalry unit breakdown/ recombination, asset and unit reassignments, Chemical and nuclear weapons, ammunition supply, electronic warfare, subordinate leadership, doctrine (limiting the march order of both sides) and the divisional commander himself.
The Controller game
This was (apparently) supposed to be a big selling point for this game: basically, one player controls his or her own units, while the opponent acts as an umpire, controlling the enemy and giving the active player situation reports and intelligence reports. That’s it, basically. The only novel thing is that you actually get two maps and two sets of units, so you only need to buy one copy of the game. There is no reason that both sides couldn’t be played in this way, with a third player as umpire.
This was an attempt to provide a realistic game based on the problems and limitations experienced by real-life commanders in an expected, but thankfully unrealised, war.
I have a real problem with the mode system, see my comment called “mode madness” elsewhere. The play aids are badly thought out: there are ammunition tracks that barely cover a brigade, let alone 4 divisions; the asset boxes miss off the “transfer” box that is supposed to be there; there is no game turn chart in the box (well, there wasn’t one in mine!)
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- I've always found games where you can only ever attack with one unit at a time very strange. In this case it feels like you continually have some sort of command coordination failure "I told the 2nd brigade to attack from the flank at 05:00 but they didn't get the message."
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- Ethan McKinneyUnited States
klaytonz wrote:I've always found games where you can only ever attack with one unit at a time very strange. In this case it feels like you continually have some sort of command coordination failure "I told the 2nd brigade to attack from the flank at 05:00 but they didn't get the message."Keep in mind the adjacency bonus. With NDC's movement system (movement and combat both use movement points), allowing combined attacks quickly becomes even more of an administrative and rules nightmare. (There's a lot of administration in the game.) The other attacking units would have to expend movement points as well, and in the same proportional point in their movement as the primary attacker--remember that units can have vastly different movement allowances, depending on their modes!
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- Yes, the trick is to use pinning forces in adjacent positions, preferably already adjacent so that you can make them active (gain a ZOC), then use your main assaulting unit. As the notes state, you need to be thinking 2-3 turns ahead.
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- M St(M St)Australia
- If you like the concept but are somewhat overwhelmed by the execution, I recommend taking a look at Air & Armor from West End Games. It came out 8 years later, clearly influenced by NDC, but in the meantime a lot of work had been done in the hobby in covering soft factors more smoothly (not blaming NDC for not having this, it pioneered a lot of stuff). As a result, while of similar scope in a different part of Germany, Air & Armor plays with a fraction of the effort of NDC. Much more easy to find, too (it was still in print at the turn of the decade, though by now the stocks are gone). One of the most nervewracking games I have played, and IMO still a reference game for modern warfare. Not suitable for solitaire play though.
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- Pete Maidhof(pmaidhof)United States
elbmc1969 wrote:The other attacking units would have to expend movement points as well, and in the same proportional point in their movement as the primary attacker--remember that units can have vastly different movement allowances, depending on their modes!Hi Ethan,
Is that explicitly in the rules? I'm searching and have not yet found it stated as it relates to "adjacency".
Thanks in advance.
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- Russell KingUnited Kingdom
I think this game is widely misunderstood.
It is as complex as you make it - the learning version is only 4 pages long.
The scenarios can be endlessly reengineered for new players.
But the jewel in the crown is the flexibility to either play solitaire, face-to-face, or in blind controller version.
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