Nord Kapp: World War III in the Arctic Circle

I’ve just finished my game of Nord Kapp from the Fall 1983 issue of Strategy & Tactics. Wow! Great stuff. I loved this game. I played a standard scenario pitting the Soviets vs. NATO. If you’re interested in the first half of the first turn of the game, I have a blog post that details exactly how the game works. Check it out before you dig in. Otherwise, here’s how the whole thing went;

Game Turn 1: NATO Turn

Despite getting some RAF, Dutch, and American squadrons, I have no bases left in Norway to put them. They sit uselessly by while the Norwegians try their best to deal with the situation.

The CHOD reinforcements land in Bardufoss without their equipment (it was destroyed by the Soviet airborne forces who found it sitting in Tromso waiting for them). Otherwise, the Norwegians manage to mobilize a reservist unit near Narvik, which cuts them off from supply from Evenes airbase to the north. The Norwegians take advantage of the situation to take Narvik back. It’s a small victory but it’s a nice start. They earn a little breathing room for now.

Norwegian 1/NORD force takes back Narvik from the 227 Soviet airborne regiment.

Game Turn 2:

Nasty flying weather for June. About half of the Soviet air force is grounded this turn after an avionics roll of 5. The entire Norwegian Air Force is grounded but the American F-4 Phantoms and F-15 Eagles are okay to fly. Potent aircraft but not nearly enough of them to deal with the sheer quantity of missions that need to be flown.

Soviets airdrop heavy equipment and troops to Bodo, Alta, and Banak airbases. F-15s and F-4s intercept airdrops of equipment and men bound for Tromso, bouncing the Soviet escorts and aborting the landing attempt.

The 45th MRD has snuck along the bottom of the map and has reached the Swedish border now. Next turn, we’ll check for transit rights. The rest of the Soviet half of the turn is about consolidating gains. There is some action near Narvik again with Soviet naval infantry pushing back a garrison of Norwegians from Bodo. Otherwise, there is a huge airmobile operation taking place in the very north of the country for the port of Batsfjord.

Soviet airmobile units take Batsfjord in the far north of the country.

During the combat phase, Soviet Naval Infantry make a bid for Bardufoss with the help of two air units for ground support. They fail badly and are eliminated by an oversnow unit and the CHOD infantry reinforcements. However, the Batsfjord operation goes over beautifully and the town is captured with no losses for the Russians. Far to the west, the port of Bognan falls to the 76th airborne.

The Allied Mobile Force arrives at Bardufoss, the last remaining Norwegian air base. The Norwegians also get two divisions that mobilize. The Canadians are sent north to retake the port of Tromso. The Brits go west to get Evenes air base back. The Italians stay put and keep hold of Bardufoss while the Norwegians secure the roads to the east, hoping to prevent the Canadian and British operations from a sudden Soviet paradrop that would cut their supplies.

British Para near Evenes airbase right near Narvik. The Canadians are the blue up near Tromso. The Italians (purple) secure Bardufoss.

At the end of it all, the Canadians eliminate the Soviets in Tromso but are themselves eliminated also. The Brits take back Evenes airbase (providing basing for the NATO air reinforcements that are waiting for it) and the Norwegians near Narvik have cleared out a nasty little airborne unit to the southwest of the city. The area around Bardufoss is slowly getting cleaned up by NATO. But will it last?

Game Turn 3:

Good flying weather. The Avionics roll is a “3” so most of the planes (except for those damn MiG-21s!) get to fly this turn.

Norwegian F-16s have some success with interdiction from the road leading down through Andoya airbase. It’s enough to knock a naval infantry unit out of supply. Seeing the writing on the wall, I pull back a unit near Bodo and put it to sea. Although the airbases are secured by the Russians, the ports are dangerously left unguarded. I’ve also started transporting my airmobile units from the USSR towards the captured ports. I’ve also reinforced Kirkenes near the border with the USSR just in case NATO tries to get any ideas about trying to invade the motherland.

During the ground movement phase, maneuver the 54th MRD armor up towards Bardufoss. At the bottom of the map, the entire 45th MRD is sitting there just waiting to go in. I roll to test Swedish neutrality and get luck again with a result of “2”. The Swedes grant transit rights and the Soviet tanks waltz right in like they own the place.

NATO has its own share of good news. British and Dutch Commandos land near Bardufoss. The British Paras that liberated Evenes chases the Soviet Naval infantry up towards Andoya. Meanwhile, 42 Commando reinforces Bardufoss and 45 Commando is inserted by helicopter up at the port in Andoya. The Norwegians cobble together some light infantry and send them towards the roads east of Bardufoss airfield where no less than three Soviet armor regiments are heading towards. The Italians rush up towards Tromso and recapture the port. Is this a turning point?

NATO units retake ports and reinforcements rush east to meet the encroaching Soviet threat.

The Soviets send up no less than six squadrons to provide air support to the beleaguered naval infantry near Andoya. NATO planes are kept out of the area by the sheer number of Soviet aircraft but do manage to destroy an Su-17 squadron.*

The rest of the planes deliver an impressive amount of firepower, turning a fight that was originally 3-1 in NATO’s favor into a 1-3 column fight. The only way the British Paratroopers can win is to roll a “6” — which they do. A Norwegian unit is destroyed in exchange for the destruction of the Soviet marines.

*As an aside, I think the air losses are way too light in this game. Only a post-battle roll of 2 or 12 [or a 12 if your side won the air combat] is enough to destroy a squadron. Also, there should be a limit to the number of aircraft you can reasonably assign to a specific mission. If I were the designer, I would have put four squadrons on each side as the limit and any roll equal to or over the Avionics rating destroys a squadron post-battle.

Game Turn 4:

The nice flying weather continues as a 3 is rolled for avionics.

NATO aircraft attempt to interdict the north-south road the Soviets are using to move their armor up through Norway. The Soviets get enough aircraft in the sky to ruin that air mission.

Soviet helicopters disperse airmobile troops inland. There is some juggling with unit types here. A unit from the 76th airmobile is dropped off in Tarvik and the naval infantry guarding the port are brought up on board for a future amphibious assault, presumably against Tromso, which has a lonely Italian 4-12 unit guarding it.

Three Soviet armor battalions from the 45th arrive from their jaunt through Sweden, knocking on the south perimeter formed around Bardufoss. Three mechanized battalions arrive from the Norwegian units protecting the eastern side of the perimeter. NATO is badly outnumbered.

Both sides go all in during the air support phase. The Soviets put big numbers on the attack on the east while NATO puts up big numbers on the south. I’m rolling randomly for air assignment but surprised at how well this actually works.

The Soviets push the NATO defenders back along the eastern perimeter. However, disaster strikes down south when the entire armor assault is destroyed by NATO air as it attempts to dislodge the Dutch from the road towards Narvik.

The US 2nd Marine Amphibious Brigade arrives along the road from hex 2051. Not sure what to do with these helicopters so I just land them within seven hexes of their entry hex and make sure they are in supply. I’m surprised I forgot to deploy all these Marine VMFA units back on Turn 2 when I should have done so. Oh well.

The Norwegians doff their equipment and take off into the bushes to help with the Marine assault on the port of Rognan. Grabbing the town would free up my supply lines a bit — at least until the rest of the 45th Soviet MRD arrives from Sweden and looks to get some revenge for the ass kicking their buddies received at the hands of the Dutch.

Marines take back the port of Rognan. Bodo is now open to the north.

The Marines take back the port despite being out of supply. Throwing in a ton of airpower made up for it but at the cost of two Norwegian oversnow battalions. This is the last of the reinforcements so those are not easy losses to replace.

Game Turn 5:

Ten days into the invasion of Norway and things are turning into a kind of stalemate. The Soviets still have plenty of airbases and ports under their control. But the few supply and victory hexes that NATO still clings to are the most important ones. Tromso seems safe for now even though it is slowly being cut off by efforts of the 54th MRD and the Soviet naval infantry won’t budge from the port. Bardufoss is well under NATO control with some heavy units stationed at the base. It has become a hub of supply and military reinforcement and a kind of NATO perimeter has been formed around it.

Narvik has plenty of units too and it is the other anchor for the defense of Bardufoss. Although the Soviets lost Rognan last turn, its too far away from Narvik to be held for long. The Marines retain control of the port but with the Soviet 54th MRD coming from Sweden, it may not last very long. Everywhere around Bardufoss are just a series of hard decisions. What to keep. What to let go. Figure it out before the other side and you just might have a chance at winning.

Avionics roll of “4” this turn ends up grounding a bunch of Soviet planes. It looks like NATO will have the run of the skies this turn.

NATO pours in the Marine air on interdiction missions for the roads leading up from Sweden into Norway. In a close air battle, the Russians manage to fend off the Marine air units but the Soviets suffer a loss of their Su15 squadron.

Marine air hammers the hell out of the supply lines of the 45th MRD.

Soviet naval infantry assaults the port of Tromso, hoping to put real pressure on the Bardufoss perimeter. Soviet air is strongly committed to the assault. Chemical weapons are also used. Dun dun dun. Things just got a lot more serious here. Tromso falls to the naval infantry and the Italians are forced to retreat back south.

Norwegians defending from south of Tromso are sent back towards Bardufoss as the 54th Division closes in.The tanks of the 54th push up from Sweden and destroy the sole Dutch defenders guarding the road. Norway is in big trouble now.

Soviets near Bardufoss (the helo is stationed in the hex) lined up against NATO defenders. 

1/Para moves out from Bardufoss and has formed up with the remaining defenders to the south. 45 and 43 Commandos head east from the airport and get a counterattack going. The Marines near Rognan rush towards Narvik, hoping to reinforce it in case of attack. Units zoom up and down the highways rushing into battle. The Norwegians push back against the 54 MRD encroaching on Bardufoss. The highway junction to the east of the city is a vital conduit for Soviet supplies but it’s still safely in the hands of the Russians.

Game Turn 6:

Beautiful flying weather with a roll of “2” for avionics. Even those MiG-21s can get up in the air this turn.

Starting off with interdiction, a whole whack of Marine air is thrown at the 45 MRD, coming up the road from Sweden. The entire division is thrown out of supply due to the air efforts! And not a bit too late as they are strong enough to take on everything but the kitchen sink on that side of the board.

Despite being out of supply, the 45th MRD continues its advance up from Sweden and destroys the Norwegian unit blocking the road thanks to the use of airpower and chemical weapons. Bardufoss comes under surprise attack from a Soviet airborne unit and is nearly taken except for the generous use of NATO airpower. Both the defending Norwegians and the Russian airborne mech inf. unit are mutually wiped out.

I forgot to move the 111th Soviet mech division in last turn. I just took care of it now. I put it in Sweden where it can help out with the attacks either on Rognan or Bardufoss depending on how it goes for the guys in the other division. Also, the number of roads leading into Norway is just not enough to support three divisions for supply. Better to keep them back as a reserve in case the crap hits the fan.

Jostling east of Bardufoss eliminates one Soviet oversnow unit but takes a Norwegian heavy infantry unit. The way to Bardufoss is now open. Things look bleak for Norway. If the airport is taken, I don’t see how the game can be won. Even now, things have gotten so defensive for the Norwegians that it seems unlikely they can pull this off.

Game Turn 7:

NATO air interdicts supplies south of Bardufoss, hoping to delay defeat for just one more day. However, the defenders are now spread so thin that it doesn’t look good.

The Soviets pull of nothing short of a genius sneak attack on Bardufoss. A nearby helo unit drops an airmobile brigade on the airfield, followed with an attack by tanks of the 54th MRD. The Russians throw a ton of air in and NATO does the same. With the game on the line, the die is thrown for air combat and the Soviets prevail. They drop chemical weapons for their last chem attack of the game and the CRT tilts in their favor. The end results with a loss of 3 steps for the NATO forces and 2 steps for the Russians. With only two units in the hex, NATO has an unfulfilled loss point and the Soviet tank brigade is saved. Bardufoss falls and the Norwegian and British defenders to the east collapse as they run out of supply.

Bardufoss falls to airmobile assault combined with an attack by Soviet ground forces. There goes the neighborhood!

The NATO player calls it, seeing that all but two airbases and two ports are under his control. The Soviets have absolutely dominated the game and gain a marginal victory – which would eventually be a strategic victory if the game continued to the bitter end.

Why did this happen?

The Soviets were lucky with gaining transit rights through Finland and Sweden. That really forced the Norwegians to spread out and try to defend against multiple incoming routes of attack against fresh units. More importantly, however, the secret to bleeding the invading Soviets successfully is to turn to guerrilla warfare.

The Norwegians should have had their oversnow units operating off the roads and used to shift the columns for attacks by the major units. As it was, I was too reluctant to reduce the strength of my Norwegian units. The result was a battle for the roads of Norway – a battle NATO just can’t win against tons of tanks and mechanized infantry in their element.

I think I also squandered my NATO reinforcements by not being more aggressive with them. With those helicopters, you can really get guys behind enemy lines and cut off supplies, roads, etc. I think I dispersed them too much and gave them way too many missions. Pairing the AMF units with Norwegians and hitting at the major Soviet attack axis would be fairly effective, I would think. I believe NATO has to first bleed the Soviet attackers as much as possible and then use whatever strength it has left in the final turns to take back the airfields.

Great game. Gives a real feeling of the problems the Norwegians would have faced defending their land in the far north. Also gives a good idea of the range of equipment on both sides and the difficulties that the Soviets would have faced with such an invasion. It would have been a huge gamble – especially if Finland and/or Sweden had fought back. As I mentioned before, all of this plus the reinforcement arrival variability and seasonal variation in terrain and combat effects makes each game very different.

More Reading:

For more information about this kind of conflict, check out this Rand paper that goes into great detail about the problems of reinforcing NATO in a conflict.

I have to say that I was very inspired by this game and wrote a short story e-book that you can download from Amazon. It’s called Storm Scarred Banner. The events take place in Kirkenes, Bardufoss, and Tromso and are based on how this game played out.


  1. Thanks Fabrizio! I really recommend giving it a try. This is one of those magazine games you pull out and try again. Very rare for me. Avionics is handled very well – an elegant rule for determining air availability with a single d6 roll. Very impressive.

  2. Thank you for your reply. How many turns is the game? I'm going to try to recreate this scenario in the Operational Art of War IV. It has a robust editor, I can draw my own map based on the map of this game, and create all the units. Looks like a fun game.

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