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Subject: The balloon goes up in Europe. rss

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The play's the thing ...
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Going thirty-eight, Dan, chill the f*** out. Mow your damn lawn and sit the hell down.
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Frank Chadwick’s The Third World War was published in 1984 by Game Designer’s Workshop, and sets out to simulate a hypothetical conflict taking place in the early 90s in Europe. To try and make this scenario seem plausible Chadwick describes in his briefing booklet the idea behind the game.

As Chadwick makes clear, the idea of the Warsaw Pact attacking Western Europe in the latter part of the 20th century for expansionist reasons makes no sense as their chances of success were much better in the 50s and 60s. Instead another catalyst is needed to show why the Warsaw Pact would invade Europe. To that end Chadwick has devised a scenario around the collapse of Iran after the death of the Ayatollah Khomeini. NATO fears an oil rich Soviet client state in the Gulf region and the Soviets fear a strong NATO presence on their southern border. Both sides want to install a friendly government in Iran and a shooting war develops. This is depicted in The Persian Gulf one of the games in this series, but this review will focus on The Third World War which deals with central Europe. Massed Warsaw Pact forces in East Germany, Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia pour across the border and attack the NATO forces primarily concentrated in West Germany. What happens next is in your hands!

The game itself is not terribly complex, but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s simple. There is a lot going on and both players need to be paying attention at all times. The standard game lasts for eight turns, with each turn representing a week. Each turn is broken down into segments and impulses. One of the major features of this is that Warsaw Pact forces have four combat phases in a turn and NATO forces three, but NATO reserve troops can move in the middle of the Warsaw Pact segment of the turn. This is a neat way of showing the Pact’s reliance on offensive action as well as NATOs superior flexibility.

In essence the mechanics of the game are quite straight forward and this is the genius of the design. Chadwick hasn’t tried to reinvent the wheel too much, instead he has taken fairly familiar wargaming concepts and moulded them into a sequence of play that highlights doctrinal differences between the forces without creating pages and pages of chrome.

This extends to things like modelling the air war. It’s easy to develop quite complex rules to try and show the effects of airpower on ground combat (See for example the Next War), but instead Chadwick uses some abstraction to come up with a highly playable system that still tries to reflect some of the realities of the situation.

Each player will use their air status charts to show which hair units are available to be flown, which have flown, which have been grounded, which shot down and which are flying air superiority missions. Warsaw Pact units are placed first to reflect the better NATO AWACS capability. Having air superiority allows a side to fly two units for each air superiority mission instead of one. You can fly different types of air missions with your units as long as they are rated for the type of mission you want them to fly. The missions are:

• Ground attack - support ground attacks with aircraft
• Strike - attack your opponents supply lines, runways to ground aircraft or moving units.
• Air superiority - Escort friendly strike missions, intercept enemy strike missions and use top cover to protect friendly ground attacks or attack enemy ground attacks.
While quite straight forward this abstraction of the uses of air craft still provides plenty to think about. As the NATO player places units second it is hard for the Warsaw Pact to gain air superiority but it is worth it if they can achieve it especially in the first turn.

The real art of this game is getting all the different systems working together. This is especially true for the Warsaw Pact who has to hit the ground running and can’t afford to make many mistakes. Working out how and when to launch your attacks, and how to support them, and then follow them up will certainly take more than one game to get right.

In conclusion The Third World War is a very playable simulation of a Warsaw Pact attack on NATO. The rules are quite short for a game of this nature but it provides a challenging and interesting game for both sides. Well worth getting and this game comes highly recommended for anyone who is interested in this hypothetical situations. A definite keeper.
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Tiggo Morrison
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Good review Pete. I like your analysis of the air war which I always thought was great.

I remember my last game of this back in the 1980's when the WP were finally stopped without the use of nukes, but with copious chemicals on the outskirts of Brussels by a hastily deployed Spanish division. Great fun.

Sadly I will never play my copy again as all I have is the rules and counters, I lost the map somewhere along the way.

Tiggo.
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Edward Kendrick
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petegs wrote:
... Each player will use their air status charts to show which hair units are available to be flown ...


Such as the famous Bundeswehr 21st Friseur Lehr with their formidable Wire-guided Infantry Guns (WIGs) ...

I jest - good review!
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Dan Beckler
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Great review! I'm glad you called out the two elements which made this game unique:
- the staggered echelon movement / activation phases for NATO & the Warsaw Pact. It really called out the operational doctrines between the two sides.
- the abstracted air war. In my foolish youth, I tried to mod the game to have on-board airfields, squadron-level air units, movement ranges, etc. Chadwick made the right call on this and distilled the air war to its true strategic and operational elements.
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The play's the thing ...
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Going thirty-eight, Dan, chill the f*** out. Mow your damn lawn and sit the hell down.
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wedgeantilles1971 wrote:
Great review! I'm glad you called out the two elements which made this game unique:
- the staggered echelon movement / activation phases for NATO & the Warsaw Pact. It really called out the operational doctrines between the two sides.
- the abstracted air war. In my foolish youth, I tried to mod the game to have on-board airfields, squadron-level air units, movement ranges, etc. Chadwick made the right call on this and distilled the air war to its true strategic and operational elements.


I also have The Next War but the air rules make my head spin. But without them it's a simple ugo-igo panzer pusher.

You're right Chadwick made a great call by abstracting the air war, but still making it very playable.
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Robert Wesley
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Good & decent "overview" on this, whilst some 'balloon' certainly appeared within Belgium even, L@@K"E" thar! Balloon 4 Walloon surprise
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Erich Schneider
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I played this a few times back in the mid-90s, and the feeling I recall was that it felt like it had been very extensively and well playtested, because I never felt like we were ever running into any rules problems or ambiguities - everything in the game just worked right, smooth as silk. (Not to say it wasn't challenging for the players.)
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Ian Raine
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Honi soit qui mal y pense, motto of Sydney Uni Rugby Club, est. 1863
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General Sir John Monash, victor of Le Hamel
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Nice review, thanks.

But

Quote:
The standard game lasts for eight turns, with each turn representing a week


??

Note this is not a criticism of the review, as the game turn length is indeed 1 week turns.

It is more a query about the Soviet/Pact logistic collapse rules. Even in the cold light of history, logistic collapse starting 6 weeks or so in seems like a NATO fantasy, particularly given that NATO would also exhaust its European stocks of SAMs, ATGMs, APDSFS rounds etc just as quickly. The Arabs in 1973, in 2 weeks, fired more missiles than NATO had in stock in Europe at the time. Steps were taken to increase stores after 1973, but the fact remains - the war turns "dumb" after a few weeks, easing logistics in some respects.
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Jeff S
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That's an interesting point. That might make for a good variant where both sides start rolling for logistics collapse. Perhaps there should also be an effect on the defensive strength of a unit that is unsupplied as well.
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