Recommend
59 
 Thumb up
 Hide
21 Posts

The Third World War» Forums » Reviews

Subject: World Destruction the hard way rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
Sandy Petersen
United States
Rockwall
Texas
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
badge
I wrote the first-ever Lovecraft game.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
While a Third World War may indeed someday inflict itself upon the planet, this game is about a fictional conflict - a theoretical conflict between the Warsaw Pact and NATO taking place in the mid-to-late 1980s. Not only did this war not take place (yay), but none of the armies involved ever came to grips in the manner in which they were designed to fight. While both the U.S.A. and former Soviet Union engaged in conflict abroad, they weren’t battling other first-rate armies in a classic mechanized action. While this is, of course, a good thing, it means that what might have happened in a potential Pact/NATO conflict is mostly theoretical. The closest conflict of this sort during the time period was probably the first Gulf War, in which both sides had mechanized armies, but frankly, it’s hard to imagine the Soviets idly sitting by while their entire command control and supply system is wrecked by airstrikes, as did the Iraqis.

Few people predicted the impact of the machinegun or trench warfare before the First World War, and there was hot debate about the impact of air power, armor,paratroops, marines, and fast carriers before the Second World War. The putative Third World War portrayed in this game takes place almost 50 years after the outbreak of the Second World War, and things have probably changed a lot. How, it’s difficult to say. Would modern tanks prove helpless against anti-tank rockets? Would armies be able to function at all in a chemical-warfare environment? Can helicopters really take out tanks in a 13:1 ratio, like in our simulations, or is the reality quite different? What would happen if every military radio in Germany and Poland were switched at the same time?

That said, I take my hat off to Frank Chadwick for going the extra mile and doing his best to portray the war as if it happened the way the armies involved expected it to happen. He studied Soviet doctrine, and did his best to understand the structure of both NATO and Pact units and equipment. For instance, a unit’s defense factor is entirely based on how many anti-tank weapons it has (no kidding). Frank figures that modern armies are so mechanized that this is the gating feature. Other factors go into a unit’s attack, and really the only factor that Chadwick had to guess about was a unit’s morale and efficiency. But it’s a highly educated guess.

The game is a division-level simulation of the Third World War. The basic game covers the central front, basically Germany. There are expansions, all of which can actually be played as games in their own right. These include:

Arctic Front - Scandinavia.
Southern Front - the Balkans, covering Italy to Istanbul.
Persian Gulf - most of the mid-east, centering on Iran, which Chadwick posits is the flashpoint for the start of the conflict. It’s entertaining to see how puny the Mid-East armies are compared to the mighty forces poised in Europe.

All the games in the series can be pieced together to have one huge gigantic battle, transferring units and aircraft from one region to another. Be warned -it’s colossal. Arctic Front all by itself is nearly as big as Central & Southern Front put together! It’s physically difficult to find a space to set up a game this ginormous and leave it set up for the dozens of hours it will take to play.

How is it all done?

The game has an excellent map, with terrain clearly marked. Roads are not marked on the map, under the theory that everywhere in Europe has roads. In Scandinavia and the Persian Gulf, where roads cannot always be taken for granted, there is a special type of wilderness terrain which indicates a scarcity of roads in certain areas. It’s a clever system that works well.

The game sports lots of brightly-colored counters, and there are many types of counters, from airmobile brigades to tank divisions to MiG-21s. The only thing really missing is the navy - I guess Chadwick figured that the naval war would mostly be just the USA trying to prevent Soviet subs from cutting their supply lines and why bother? Each ground unit has three numbers - attack, defense, and "proficiency". This last is a combination of morale, training, and equipment. Most first-world countries have a 6 or 7 for Proficiency. The highest in the game is a 9 (an Israeli paratrooper unit) and the lowest is a 1 (don’t ask). As an example, elite Soviet units are a 7, while standard line divisions are a 6. Soviet reserves have a proficiency of 5, and long-term reservists are a 4. American army units are mostly 7s, with 8 for elites, and 6 for National Guard. (Members of the Guard, please don’t shoot the messenger - I’m just reporting on the game.)

No movement value is on the counters. Instead, every unit has a movement of 6. However, terrain costs differ for different types of unit mobility. Given the inherent complexity of such a system, GDW did their best to keep it from hurting the game. Terrain is always either 1 mp, 2 mp, or prohibited. In the Central Front, almost every unit is mechanized or airmobile, so it’s usually not hard to keep track of. In less civilized areas, motorized and even foot units crop up. Naturally, fully mechanized units cover ground much quicker than troops on foot, while airmobile units pay only 1 mp per hex, regardless of terrain, and can even cross water hexsides.

Zones of control slow movement, and there are two types - Standard ZOCs and Airmobile ZOCs. American divisions give off Airmobile ZOCs because they have so many helicopters attached.

The combat system is the good old odds system, with a 1.5:1 ratio thrown in to make things more interesting. The most complex part of this system is that at the start of the battle, both sides have to do a "Proficiency" averaging. This is done on a unit basis and a brigade counts as much as a division. For example, if I have a brigade of US Marines (1-3-8) stacked with a Saudi tank division (3-1-3), my stack’s Proficiency average is (8+3)/2 = 5 ½ . Proficiency averaging can be a pain at times, but again, it’s not as bad as it seems. For every 2 full points of difference (all fractions rounded up), it’s 1 odds level. So often you don’t have to work out the precise details. Example: I’m attacking the 2nd US Armored (15-15-7) with two stacks of three Soviet tank divisions each (10-9-6) plus an airmobile brigade (2-3-7). You don’t need to do much math to figure that the Soviet stack of (6+6+6+6+6+6+7)/7 has a lower average proficiency than the 2nd Armor’s of 7, but certainly not 2 points difference. So the odds shift by 1 level in NATO’s favor. (In this case, from 4:1 to 3:1).

Most of the damage done is a retreat or a disrupt (at really high odds levels, exchanges and eliminations creep in). Most attacks disrupt one or more units - a disrupt means you put a marker with an asterisk on it atop your unit. This reduces the unit’s Proficiency. When your Proficiency is reduced to 0, your unit is destroyed. Once you start getting disrupt markers, things tend to accelerate, because of course as your Proficiency deteriorates, the odds keep getting worse. Take the previous example, where Soviet tanks hit the 2nd Armor hard. If in the first round of combat, the Americans took just 1 Disrupt at the odds of 3:1 (a reasonable result), a second attack using the same attackers would be quite different - now the American division, with a Disrupt, has a Proficiency of 6. If the Soviets still have a half-dozen divisions with a proficiency of 6, plus their airmobile unit (proficiency 7), now the Soviets have a slightly higher proficiency than the Americans - so the odds would shift in the other direction - from 4:1 to 5:1. That’s a pretty big jump. And things just keep getting worse.

Fortunately, units can Regroup, which lets them heal from disruption at the cost of neither moving nor fighting for an impulse. NATO has three Regroup phases per turn, while the Pact only has two.

The elephant in the room
The game does have rules for nuclear warfare, with escalation and effects ranging up to an all-out nuclear holocaust. But as the rules explain – the nukes tend to mask and obscure the more interesting parts of unit interaction and turn sequence. So I never play with them. After all, the war never happened anyway, so why can’t it not happen in the way that I want it to?

Air War
A lot of thought went into the air combat. Planes get to fly air superiority or strike missions and every type of combat aircraft has its own counter. NATO has better and, usually, more planes than the Pact (remember, NATO includes a lot of countries besides the USA), and except for the first turn, generally has air superiority. The air fight is abstracted when it would be a pain to do otherwise - for instance, airfields aren’t on the map - instead planes just sit in Air Theater boxes till they are used. This makes it very easy to see what you have available, especially in a game which boasts a huge variety of plane types.

The game even covers ground crew - every plane after it flies is flipped over. On the backside is a number which you must roll equal to or lower than to unflip it for the next turn. For most newer NATO planes it’s a 5, while for most Pact aircraft it’s a mere 4.

The air war is probably the part of the game with which I disagreed the most. It’s virtually impossible for an inferior plane to shoot down a better - for example, a plane with a rating of 5 has over an 8:1 kill ratio vs. a plane with a rating of 4. That seems pretty extreme. The game doesn’t portray the fact that NATO planes need nice easily-cratered concrete runways, whereas many Pact air assets can fly off grassy fields. Nor does it include the massive force of Soviet reconnaissance airplanes. It does include the NATO advantage in AWACS pretty elegantly (the Soviets have to commit their planes first). But I guess in a game this size any military buff is going to have nits to pick, and these are mine. It certainly doesn’t ruin the game for me in any way.

The Best Part - the Turn Structure?!
My favorite part of the combat system, and one that strikes me as highly realistic, is that the Pact and NATO armies have different turn structures. It works like this:

1) the Pact moves and attacks. Then the Pact has a reserve sub-impulse in which units which are not in an enemy ZOC can move and attack again.
2) Now NATO has a reserve impulse in which units not in an enemy ZOC get to take action.
3) Now the Pact gets a whole second impulse, in which they move and attack, and then get a second reserve sub-impulse.
4) Now NATO gets two impulses in a row, in each of which all units can move and fight.

What’s the result of all this? Well, it means that if the Pact player wants the most out of his army, he needs to be pretty damn aggressive. When played right, he can move and attack, with luck forcing NATO’s armies to retreat. Then he can move and attack again in his reserve phase (because the NATO units retreated). In his second phase, he will try to get as many units next to the NATO front line as possible, so that the NATO reserve phase is limited. After a hopefully weak NATO reserve move, he gets to do it all over again, for four moves and attacks in a single turn. It can be devastating. On the other hand, it’s not always possible to pull off, and a smart NATO player can often slow down or derail the Soviet gravy train.

Another difference between the two armies is that most of the NATO forces are available from the start. Yeah, there are POMCUS reinforcements, and occasional other reserves make an appearance, but generally what you see is what you get on the NATO side. The Soviets, on the other hand, have two massive waves of reinforcements, representing, respectively grade B and grade G reservists, who need to be called up and re-equipped. The reinforcements have significantly lower proficiency than the front-line units (which only makes sense), but it’s not much of a handicap, because by the time they show up, everyone else has been in combat for a while and disrupt markers litter the map.

But what does it all mean?
It seems like my fate to be attracted to reviewing out-of-print games that few people would ever play. If you’re a hard-core wargamer - this is one worth looking at. It’s huge, has detailed rules, and you’d better have a half-acre of table space to set it up on. But it has enough interesting rules, features, and elements that a grognard like me gets ideas for a dozen different games.

You have two dissimilar armies engaged in a gigantic, fast-moving battle to the death. The armies are different in almost every way and this gives the game a dynamism not often found in war games. I wish more designers would use the different turn structure feature as a way to discriminate national doctrines. It seems like it would be useful in World War II games, for instance, to show how the wehrmacht managed to run circles around the large and well-equipped French army.
I’ve already wrested Chadwick’s air war system to apply to other homegrown games of my own and expect to do so in the future. A great game though hard to find.
74 
 Thumb up
3.42
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Sam H
Canada
Québec
flag msg tools
Every weirdo in the world is on my wavelength
badge
We carry a new world here, in our hearts.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Great review! Don't think I'll evet get to play this game but you sure have made it look interesting though.

Sandy Petersen wrote:
It seems like my fate to be attracted to reviewing out-of-print games that few people would ever play.


If you're looking for out of print games to review there are quite a few in this geeklist looking for reviewers
5 
 Thumb up
0.05
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Pete Belli
United States
Florida
flag msg tools
designer
"If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking."
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Nice work!

Would you please take a few keystrokes and discuss any unit density and/or stacking issues?

Quote:
The air war is probably the part of the game with which I disagreed the most...


NATO planners appeared to be almost pathetically optimistic when it came to the air campaign... in my opinion as an amateur historian.



This fascinating book (published in 1986) sheds some light on what seems to be wishful thinking among the US air commanders. I would be delighted to lend it to you. If you're interested, zap me a GeekMail.

7 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Michael Pank
United States
Dallas
Texas
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Quote:


Quote:
The air war is probably the part of the game with which I disagreed the most...


NATO planners appeared to be almost pathetically optimistic when it came to the air campaign... in my opinion as an amateur historian.


I had a math teacher in high school who was a retired colonel and still did think tank work for the USAF. His idea of what the air war would've been like was basically the same thing: "We'd wipe the floor with 'em."

Edit: I'm slightly more skeptical however that it'd be a piece of cake; maybe the odds were in our favor but...
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Doctor X

New York
msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
pete belli wrote:
Nice work!

Would you please take a few keystrokes and discuss any unit density and/or stacking issues?

Quote:
The air war is probably the part of the game with which I disagreed the most...


NATO planners appeared to be almost pathetically optimistic when it came to the air campaign... in my opinion as an amateur historian.



This fascinating book (published in 1986) sheds some light on what seems to be wishful thinking among the US air commanders. I would be delighted to lend it to you. If you're interested, zap me a GeekMail.




... and this optimism painted the computer war games and simulations of the day. Almost every MicroProse sim modeling a WWIII scenario assumed that the West would win the air war, so that getting blown out of the sky by a Fulcrum or bombed by a Flogger wasn't usually a possibility. So too for the ground war games like Theater Europe (a personal guilty favorite); the ground pound might have been a grind but it was almost impossible to lose the air war unless you mismanaged it on purpose.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Darrell Hanning
United States
Jacksonville
Florida
flag msg tools
badge
We will meet at the Hour of Scampering.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
pete belli wrote:
Nice work!

Would you please take a few keystrokes and discuss any unit density and/or stacking issues?

Quote:
The air war is probably the part of the game with which I disagreed the most...


NATO planners appeared to be almost pathetically optimistic when it came to the air campaign... in my opinion as an amateur historian.



This fascinating book (published in 1986) sheds some light on what seems to be wishful thinking among the US air commanders. I would be delighted to lend it to you. If you're interested, zap me a GeekMail.



I was in the Air Force Security Service, at the time, and I can tell you they were not being overly optimistic. I can't go into specifics, but I will say the West had an even greater technological superiority in avionics than most laymen assumed, and the Soviet pilots were on a very tight leash in the air.
7 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Tim Benjamin
United States
Los Alamos
New Mexico
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
2008: F-15 104-0 Is that being overly optimistic?
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Ross Menzies
Australia
Katoomba
NSW
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Great review of a great system. A lot of the system, particularly the air war has it's genisis in SPI's Next War btw.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Magister Ludi
Australia
Fremantle
Western Australia
flag msg tools
Roll low!
badge
You are a paradox to me, a contradiction You're a predicament for me, and a prediction
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
The air war system in the game can be a bit of a crap shoot, but NATO generally prevails...the couple of games I have had of this is pretty tough going for the Pact. A superb game nonetheless, even if the turn sequence takes some getting used to.

A good way to ease yourself into the system is to play the Balkan gamette and get a feel for how it all works.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Wendell
United States
Yellow Springs
Ohio
flag msg tools
Si non potes reperire Berolini in tabula, ludens essetis non WIF.
badge
Hey, get your stinking cursor off my face! I got nukes, you know.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Great review. Have you tried The Next War, another monster "World War 3 as it didn't happen" game? Any thoughts on how the to compare?
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
jumbit
China
Zhejiang
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
pete belli wrote:
This fascinating book (published in 1986) sheds some light on what seems to be wishful thinking among the US air commanders.

This fascinating photo (published in 1987) sheds some light on what seems to be wishful thinking among the Soviet air commanders.

7 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Bill Eldard
United States
Burke
Virginia
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
jumbit wrote:
pete belli wrote:
This fascinating book (published in 1986) sheds some light on what seems to be wishful thinking among the US air commanders.

This fascinating photo (published in 1987) sheds some light on what seems to be wishful thinking among the Soviet air commanders.



Air defense of the USSR proper certainly had its vulnerabilities. In addition to the famous Mattias Rust incident, there was a Korean Air Lines (KAL) aircraft on a polar commerical route that strayed off course and penetrated deep into Soviet airspace before it was intercepted. It's believed that the this KAL incident contributed heavily to the later overreaction that led to the Soviet downing of KAL Flight 007.

I think the big challenge for the NATO air forces was the vulnerability of forward bases (i.e. those on West Germany). If the Warsaw Pact penetrated deep enough to overrun those bases and their dispersal fields, the air forces would have to operate from airfields in France, Italy, and England, requiring the relocation of ground crews and equipment and the influx of munitions and spare parts. Such a dilemma could disrupt at least temporarily the expected NATO air superiorty, perhaps critically.

Some Pentagon civilian planners told me years after the demise of the USSR, that in most wargames they participated in, NATO conventional forces inevitably failed to stop the Warsaw Pact ground game, and the wars went abruptly to nuclear exchange.

As one who had served in West Germany as a US Army infantry sergeant with the 1st Armored Division (1974-1976), I found their pessimism rather disturbing, and wondered if those games were predicated on estimates of Soviet capabilities that restedon Moscow's propaganda more than reality.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
bart brodowski
United States
Columbia
South Carolina
flag msg tools
Love the review. this is one of my favorite games. I still play it and the other 3 in the series on a regular basis.

As for the air war, I do think that we we would have eventually won, as long as we fought our battles over NATO air space. Our fighters would have taken out WP fighters and bombers with relative impunity, although our ground support aircraft probably would have taken a beating from Soviet SAMs if not used wisely.

Repeated playings of the game do seem to reflect this, despite the randomness of the results.

My father was in the Polish Air Force for 11 years during the Cold War. He said most aircraft on the airfields were not operational due to parts or fuel shortages, and that's in peace time. If anything, the maintenance values on the backs of the WP air counters are too high!
6 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Gotthard Heinrici (prev. Graf Strachwitz)
Germany
Düsseldorf
NRW
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb

Great review of a great game from a great designer and I unfortunately sold it at the time.
It really is one of the best games outthere and for those with a cold war itch, Adam Starkweather from MMP is working on: The Doomsday Project which is similar in a many ways as The Next War.

2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Appley award winner, 1984
United States
Manhattan Beach
California
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I don't think there is any doubt that NATO easily gets the upper hand in the air war part of the game. Accurate or not, that is how the game plays. But the balancing part is that the Pact certainly has the better game on the ground. From higher unit densities, to the 4 offensive phase potential, the Pact is more fun on the ground. Indeed, NATO is nearly a punching bag in this respect.

And I think that is part of the beauty of The Third World War as a game. Both sides get to deal some punishment. This leads to a fun and balanced game for both sides. Really love this game!
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Adam Starkweather
United States
New York City
New York
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I'm wrestling with what to do with the air war in Doomsday...

The evidence is contradictory and somewhat confusing.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Sandy Petersen
United States
Rockwall
Texas
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
badge
I wrote the first-ever Lovecraft game.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Pete Belli asks what the unit density/stacking rules are like.

Well, a division counts as 3 points, and a brigade or regiment count as 1 point. French divisions only count as 1 point, because they're teensy-weensy. Which actually makes the French deceptively powerful. When you look at a French division, it seems puny compared to the mighty Bundeswehr, but when you realize that you are supposed to stack THREE together to equal the density of one normal division, they start looking more attractive.

The number of points you can stack in a space depends partly on whether you are using the game's onerous rules for "unit cohesion" in which NATO units can't stack effectively together and (more annoyingly) Pact units of different armies can't stack well either. The general rule is 10 points per hex, so 3 divisions and some kind of extra brigade. The most common organization seen in a Pact attack stack is three divisions with an airmobile unit on top to give it a more effective zone of control.

With respect to the people saying that the awesome USAF would handily kick Soviet ass, all I can say is that every effective air force in the world's history trains its pilots and people to be extremely optimistic, aggressive, and positive when considering battle prospects. Therefore, the opinion of US pilots about their ability to defeat the Soviets is certainly exaggerated - if it wasn't, our pilots wouldn't be any good. On the other hand, even tempering that exaggeration somewhat leaves us probably with an edge over the Soviets.

I scoff at people who claim secret "classified" information about the sucky Soviet avionics. It's well known that the avionics of export planes were purposely dumbed-down by the Soviets for Western eyes. When we studied captured Soviet computer chips (in remote-control objects abandoned at sea), we discovered that they were (a) exact copies of commercial western chips and (b) brilliantly programmed.

In addition, Western air forces have traditionally emphasized technical quality, to the point that some of our planes now cost a half billion dollars each. Losing a dozen million-ruble planes to down one of those babies is well worth the effort. Soviets always take a low-tech approach to such matters. Look at their tactic of firing both a heat-seeking and radar-homing missile at the same time, so a target cannot evade both (they require different evasive tactis). Or of keeping one plane way high in the distance while a more visible plane zooms around in the forefront, attracting attention. These Soviet tactics, when used by the American unit charged with imitating the Soviets in air combat, have often proved quite effective, and I see no reason to believe that real Soviets, with real equipment would be greatly inferior.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that yes, probably the US air force in 1986 would have been able to beat the Soviets 1 on 1. But that's not how either air force was designed and trained to fight. I don't think that a Su-24 is trivial to intercept, and I don't think that a Mig-27 would be a joke to get bombed by.

The Soviets already fought one war in which (generally speaking) their pilots and planes were inferior to those of their enemy, and by the end of that war they had total mastery of the air.
26 
 Thumb up
0.27
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
SplashMy Bandit
New Zealand
Wellington
flag msg tools
With regard to the air war. I routinely fly LockOn : Modern Air Combat (Flaming Cliffs 2.0) which is a computer simulation of US and Soviet aircraft from approximately the same era. Often I fly (or run!) tournaments with 40 human players each side - all operating in organized teams (that is, squadrons that practice together).

Here are some things I discovered from my hundreds of hours of experience from this simulation (which I believe to also be applicable to the Real World):

* pilot quality makes far more of a difference that anything else. Neither technology nor numbers have anywhere near the impact of this. I've seen an Austrian friend in an F-15C hold off around 20 Flankers and Fulcrums in a tournament through the judicious use of high-altitude maneuvering, long range AAMRAM shots (which the Soviets can't match) and rapid extension for hot rearm. In the real world there were good Soviet pilots for sure, but it was NATO pilots who had far more training hours on average (which makes them much better pilots).

* the Russian airforce is actually organized and trained to be a defensive airforce. The Fulcrum is impressive but it is designed as a short range point defence fighter. It just doesn't have enough fuel to tangle for long with the F-16 or (especially) the F-15. The Su-27 Flanker is an impressive aircraft, but with SARH missiles instead of active AIM-120 it struggles to beat a well-flown F-15 Eagle.

* Russia does salvo SARH (radar-guided) and infra-red (the R-27T and R-27ET). Note that the US used to have both forms of guidance but dropped the IR except for short range engagements, since IR is unreliable at longer ranges (particularly in the often poor weather over Germany). IR missiles of the time are also much more easily spoofed than radar-guided missiles.

* Russia believes that every engagement results in a dogfight. The Fulcrum is a better dogfighter than most Western aircraft at that time due to the Schlem helmet-mounted sight and the high off-boresight R-73 (short range) IR missile. The US understood this and realised in order to get to the Within Visual Range (WVR) fight you must first go through the Beyond Visual Range (BVR) fight - which the US is much, much better at (using refined launch and extend tactics). As long as you don't let a Soviet aircraft get close the chances are you will splash him.

* Russia has a lot of very good SAMs (again, these are defensive weapons). However, an aircraft "has the initiative" and given superior Western Radar Warning Receivers can use terrain masking and anti-radiation missiles to quickly neutralize this threat - provided you plan for it. Some aircraft will be lost but on the whole it is better to have more aircraft than more SAMs. It is actually the short-range infrared missiles that are most dangerous when you are low, since you get no launch warning.

* NATO has a *lot* more F-16s (around 4500 produced) and F-15s than Russia has Flankers and Fulcrums. If it was only a numbers game then the Soviets would probably lose (note the analogy with WWII is invalid - the Soviets *outproduced* the Germans, their pilots were never better, on average. This production effect would not be revelant in this WWIII scenario). Since aircraft and pilot quality are also factors the Soviets would certainly lose the air war.

* Russian aircraft are more rugged than Western aircraft for sure. They are actually also a lot more unreliable and have worse performance. There are more than enough well-defended airbases in Western Europe (and England) for NATO to operate from. This also excludes carrier air-power (and there were a lot of Hornets riding the waves at that time).

* the NATO Air-Land battle makes sense. The "Front" would most likely be very fluid (to avoid concentrations of forces due to the temptation of tactical nuclear strikes, but also due to highly mobile forces). I think this helps NATO (with its very high number of ATGMs). It also makes it perfect for the A-10A (lower concentration of short-range SAMs means the Hog can tear up enemy armour, which was demonstrated in 1991).

* the real war plans made by Russia (leading the Pact) called for immediate tactical nuclear strikes on NATO airbases. They assumed NATO would respond in kind to Pact reinforcements near the Vistula (the revelations of these plans made Poland *very* unhappy with Russia - since the Russian war planners clearly didn't care about Polish ciilians). Once the tactical nukes start flying the ground units probably are very disrupted - which makes the air war a greater determinant (and the aircraft flying from England and coming in from the US would still be very effective). In short, the nukes don't help the Pact as much as you would think.

* AWACS makes a huge difference. Once communication breaks down between aircraft flights the other side can easily hammer uncoordinated aircraft. Given the Pacts reliance of strong ground control and the ability of NATO to jam communications there is a good chance that the Pact would suffer a decisive loss of air power quite early (and resort to only rear area defensive combat air patrols - effectively giving NATO clear skies). The limitations of ground controlled Soviet tactics were demonstrated by Israel over the Bekaa Valley in 1982, where they slaughtered the Syrian pilots (who had aicraft that looked good on paper). I would expect the same thing to happen over Germany in a WWIII scenario (given the unflexible air doctrine of the Soviets; to change this would require completely retraining their entire air and ground-control components - not possible over the timescale of this scenario).

Therefore I think that this game gets it right with regard to the air war. The Soviets can contest the airspace over their forces, but not for long. Eventually NATO gets air superiority and later air dominance. Whether that is enough to turn the tide of the ground war would have to be seen (as long as tac nukes stay out I always found that NATO would get beaten in North Germany but the US forces near Frankfurt were the anvil that broke the Warsaw Pact in the south - which eventually lead to small groups of US forces exploiting gaps and couterattacking, cutting off the Pact lines of supply).

Thanks just my thoughts and experience from five years of playing modern jet simulations (and some time playing Third World War).
15 
 Thumb up
0.07
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Jeff Vandine
United States
Weaverville
California
flag msg tools
mbmb
Speaking as a former USAF SIGINT and Targeting officer who served in Berlin from 1985-1988, I have to say that SplashMyBandit, got it pretty right. And yes, there is quite a bit of still-classified information that gives me (and gave me at the time) some confidence in the air war outcome (despite a certain snarky comment by another member on this topic). While I think some of the planning constraints were a bit overoptimistic, you show me a guy who plans to play it safe, and I'll show you a guy who plans to lose. The real issue from my perspective was whether or not the ground forces could hold long enough for tactical air power to take effect and begin attriting the WP forces. (Which would have entailed first winning the battle for tactical air superiority over the battlespace.) My friends and compatriots on the ground assured me they could indeed. Overall, I think the Soviets and their puppets would have gotten bloodied pretty badly along the way and probably would have lost the war. I think an awful lot of NATO troops and pilots would have died to make that happen. All in all, I'm just as glad we're having the discussion on this forum as opposed to having a "hotwash" after the war.
7 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Mike G
msg tools
For what it's worth, I played all four sections as one combined game once. It covered an entire ping-pong table.

We played one turn a week, with the pre-game Afghanistan part played the same day as setup, for a total of nine sessions. We had two people on each side, split north and south.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Kev.
United States
Austin
Texas
flag msg tools
Read & Watch at www.bigboardgaming.com
Avatar
Last week:

Ran thru end of Turn 7. WP capitulated and Nukes sat at Level 1.
Close game but NATO pulled a solid win. # players Wednesday 4pm thru Saturday 4pm Various beer and other distractions not accounted for at Game On! Con in Seattle.
7 
 Thumb up
0.02
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.