Pacific War – Scenario 1: Pearl Harbor

December 7, 1941 – the day that would live in infamy. Mark Herman’s 1985 classic “Pacific War” (Victory Games) covered the topic in the first scenario of the game. This is a tiny solitaire battle that has the player take on the role of the Japanese in a limited engagement.

The scenario lasts two Battle Cycles with most of the setup (weather, time, etc.) following the historical situation. The only real decision for the Japanese player to make here is how many planes to allocate to hitting the battleships or the airfield.

And that’s okay, because this game can seem intimidating when you open the box and feast your eyes on the 55-page tome of rules and the nine counter sheets of playing pieces.

This first scenario eases you into the game  and keeps you focused on the first part of the book, which covers the rules needed for playing the smaller scenarios.

So when you get to the end of that first section and realize that the final 21 pages of the rules are dedicated to the campaign scenario, it’s a big load off. You could easily play and enjoy Pacific War for your entire life without having to worry about the campaign, which is great news for anyone who doesn’t have monster amounts of time to dedicate to something like that.

Let’s take a look at the setup here:

The playing time is 15 minutes, which is actually a bit longer than you’ll need once you get the hand of the rules.

We use Map B for this scenario but you don’t even need that. There’s only one real hex in play here through the entire thing. I usually just line my units up on the edge of the mapboard and roll away.

Game length is two Battle Cycles. The first battle cycle (BC) has all sorts of nice advantages for the Japanese player due to the surprise attack. In the second battle cycle, things become much harder as the Americans are alerted and ready for a fight.

Special rules:

  • Allied search cannot be conducted beyond two hexes (which means they are not going to find the Japanese carriers and launch a counterattack).
  • Each hit on an Allies airfield eliminates 2 (instead of the normal 1) Allied air steps.
  • No Allied CAP or Flak allowed during the first BC.
  • Allied naval and air units cannot move.
  • Lighting conditions for both cycles are Day.
  • The Japanese have Advantage for both BCs.
  • All hits on the Allied naval and air units during the first Battle Cycle are doubled.
  • US units are not activated.

Victory Conditions:

The player wins if the Japanese get 4 or more hits on each of the 6 of 8 US battleships and destroy 12 Air Steps. Any other result is a loss.

Setup:

The Japanese get the historical CVs. The air steps are included in brackets:
Akagi (5), Kaga (5), Shokaku (6), Zuikaku (6), Hiryu (4), and Soryu (4)

and escorts:
BB Hiei, BB Kirishima, CA Tone, and DD Kagero

All in hex 3159

The US gets its historical setup too. The subs are listed in the setup here even though they don’t come into play at all. I suppose Mark Herman put them in there for historical completeness or maybe to help the player get comfortable with the various units in the game. Either way, I don’t see the point in listing them here.

Port: Large airfield with:
1E-CV-L1 (single engine – CV capable – Level 1 Quality) aircraft (6 steps)
1E-CV-L1 (3)
1E-L0 (6)
1E-L0 (4)
2E-L0 (3) – B-18s
4E-L0 (1) – B-17s
2 x LRA (long range aircraft)

Surface naval units:
BBs California, Maryland, Oklahoma, Nevada, Tennessee, West Virginia, Arizona, Pennsylvania,

CA New Orleans, CL Brooklyn, CL Omaha

DD Mahan, Farragut, Bagley, Porter, APD1 Paulding/APD2 Paulding

All this is in hex 2860 in Oahu.

Battle Cycle One:

Most of this is already decided here but just for fun, let’s go through it:
Lighting Phase – Day
Advantaged Determination – Japan
Advantage Movement – No movement
Advantage Air Mission Phase:

The Japanese declare an Air Mission – an Air Strike versus hex 2860 (Oahu).

Preliminary Procedure:
Place a Target Marker on 2860. Done.

Place all air mission units in their airbase hex. Sure.

Determine whether or not the mission is coordinated:

  • This doesn’t really matter because there is no chance of CAP or interception here but let’s check for fun anyways. We have to roll equal or under 3x the lowest Status Level unit in the mission. The Japanese have all L2 units so we need to roll under a 6. We roll a 4. This mission is coordinated.
Move units:
  • The Japanese player moves all the air units into the Oahu hex. The Americans can roll for detection. They get an 8 and the entire raid is undetected. It wouldn’t have mattered anyways as they couldn’t have done anything about it according to the Special Rules.
Air Combat, CAP, and Flak are all ignored according to Special Rules so we move on to the Strike Phase.
Four Japanese air units (2 x 6-step units and 2 x 5-step units) are assigned the job of hitting American battleships. Two Japanese air units (2 x 4-step units) hit the airfield.
Let’s do the battleships first.
First attack: 6 step air unit vs. Nevada: -> No hits!
Second attack: 6 step air unit vs Penn. ->  8 hits! The BB is sunk!
Third attack: 5 step air unit vs. Oklahoma ->  2 hits!
Fourth attack: 5 step air unit vs. Arizona ->  4 hits!

Now the airfield:
First attack: 4 step air unit vs airfield -> No hits!
Second attack: 4 step air unit vs airfield -> 2 hits! (4 Allied air steps are eliminated)
We eliminate 4 steps of the 1E-CV-L1 air unit.
Well, with only two of the six required battleships at 4 hits and with a measly 4 air unit steps eliminated, there is probably no chance for a Japanese win but we can see what happens with the second Battle Cycle.

Battle Cycle Two:

Lighting: Day (as per scenario rules)
Advantage: Japanese (as per scenario rules)
Advantage Movement: None
Advantage Air Mission:

Once again, Oahu is our target. Big surprise. This time, the issue again is how best to split up our planes. The Americans know we are coming now so they can intercept our air units and there’s also the little matter of Flak. Since surprise is lost now, we no longer double our hits on the Americans. Tough cookies.

We’ll try the same thing this time. Four air units vs. the battleships and two vs. the air units. We check for coordination and roll a “0”. The strike is coordinated.

As the Japanese move towards Oahu, the US player has a 2-hex detection range with his LRA. The detection rolls for the two hexes beyond Oahu are a 7 and an 8 – both a failure. However, we roll a 2 for detection in the same hex and the incoming Japanese are detected.

CAP

The US sends up a single 1E unit on CAP to intercept. The 1E-CV-L1 (3) is sent up. Now the Japanese player must designate an Escort unit. We’ll throw up a 1E-CV-L2(4) against it just to keep things interesting. The Air Combat takes place without any modifiers from the other alerted American fighters. A roll of 7 results in no losses for the Japanese.

Flak

Now the Japanese face Flak on the way in the target hex.

The total flak number is:
3 for the port
3 for the airfield
19 for the surface ships

for a total of 25. Wow!

We roll an 8 and score 3 hits on the Japanese. We’ll take these hits on a 4-step air unit. It aborts.

Air Strike

1E-CV-L2(6) vs Nevada: 2 hits!
1E-CV-L2(6) vs Maryland: 2 hits!
1E-CV-L2(5) vs Oklahoma: 2 hits! (total of 4)
1E-CV-L2(5) vs Arizona: 4 hits! (total of 7 – sunk!)

1E-CV-L2(4) vs. airfield: No hits!

End Result:

4 of 8 battleships take the requisite hits for victory. Two of them – the Arizona* and the Pennsylvania are sunk)

*historical result

Only 4 US air steps are destroyed of the 12 required.

Conclusion:

It’s actually pretty difficult for the Japanese to win here. It takes a ton of luck to reproduce what happened historically. I have managed to do it once with some superior die-rolling (plenty of “0” results on the first battle cycle).

More importantly, the scenario takes a lot of the mystery out of the game and shows you that – yes, this thing is very much a playable mini-monster.

Crowbar! An Interview with Designer Hermann Luttmann

Hermann Luttmann is a prolific game designer with credits that span many genres, complexities, and themes. His newest offering is Crowbar! published by Flying Pig Games, and its currently doing the rounds on Kickstarter. Here’s what he had to say about it:

Why did you choose this particular topic?

Well, I was kind of spurned into action when I saw a number of posts on Facebook and elsewhere in which players were talking about their current plays of In Magnificent Style (IMS).

I was honestly shocked that people were still playing and talking about the game, as it was published back in 2012. I had been toying with the idea of eventually doing another game in the series, especially since a couple of proposed designs (by other designers) for the series never got off the ground.

I was contemplating for a long time what ideal military situation would be appropriate for the system. Then I believe it was the Pointe Du Hoc scene from The Longest Day movie that made that situation click for me. The IMS system is built around simulating attacks that seem, on their face, to be impossible or suicidal endeavors.

Well the Pointe Du Hoc assault apparently clicked all the right boxes. When I continued with further research into the detailed particulars of the battle, it developed into a much deeper and even more interesting story than I originally imagined.

I decided then that this was the perfect next topic for this system – it was an iconic WWII battle that occurred as part of the D-Day landings (a popular gaming topic), undertaken by a legendary military formation and involved that formation accomplishing multiple missions in a short amount of time … all wonderful gameplay fodder for the IMS system.

Can you give me a brief rundown of how the game plays?
The player(s) will have a number of Ranger units organized into the three historical companies that attacked Pointe Du Hoc (Dog, Easy and Fox companies). You choose a company and then select one of its units to activate. By the way, each unit represents a group of about 20 soldiers.

Activation normally involves rolling one or more Movement Dice for that unit and applying the rolled result. But there are four dice to choose from, each of a different color and each carrying a different risk/reward ratio of results.

You can start “safe” with the Green die (which has few chances of casualties but also allows less movement) or go full risk and roll the Black die (lots of casualty and morale loss possibilities, but also the most possible movement) or any combination thereof. But each colored die can only be rolled once per unit – once used, you must then choose a different die to roll.

The more you move forward, the better the progress towards your goals but the more risk you then take on as the unit starts to outrun its support. If you happen to roll a “Stop” or worse, the unit will be stuck in its last position and is done for the turn. It could also suffer casualties equal to the distance it is from its rally point, so the harder you push the more possible losses the unit will take.

The dice handle most of the German combat effects, inflicting “friction” hits on the Ranger units as they move and get certain results. Some of the dice results also cause morale effects and even force the player to draw Event Chits, which can be good or bad for you. These will create independent, historically-based events to occur which will involve everything from German bombardments and counterattacks to Ranger reinforcements landing.

Add to this the occasionally required drawing of Event Cards, which act as a random timing mechanism. These cards can invoke the passing of game time (Time Increments), the preparation and timing of German Counterattacks or the progress of the relief column on its way from Omaha Beach. So the player must constantly mitigate the risk with the rewards and “push his luck” as much as he sees fit.

The object is to defeat German forces, find the hidden German artillery pieces that threaten Omaha and Utah beaches (these could be in many different places), setup roadblocks on the highway to hold up the German reinforcements and to withstand numerous organized German counterattacks.

When the third day ends – or the relief column arrives – the game ends and the player will add up his Victory Points to see how he did. 

How has the game evolved during development?
At the start, I used the original IMS game as the starting point. But I quickly realized that it would need some updating and more specifically, it had to be made more user-friendly and play more smoothly.

I knew that Crowbar would be a much bigger game, physically and scope-wise, and I also knew that I wanted to make the game more appealing to the greater gaming public. To that end, the first mechanic I dropped from the original was the d6 Dice Matrix for determining movement.

I opted instead to go with custom icon dice in order to remove the need to constantly check the chart for your movement result. Luckily, Mark Walker totally agreed with my decision, as he also is on a mission (from God!) to make our wargames more palatable to all gamers.

Once we started down that path, the counters grew to typical Flying Pig Games 1” squares, the map became much more spacious and the old CRT and modifier-heavy combat mechanism graduated to a much simpler Combat Dice system.

In addition, a certain “exploration” aspect to the game blossomed in that the player could not only discover the much-sought-after hidden guns, but he would also encounter other historically-based surprises.

Also, I decided to add a cooperative and multi-player mode to the game so that larger groups of gamers could enjoy the game together, something that I think all wargames need to do more of. So the design really did evolve in many constructive ways and all in an effort to make the design more attractive to a more diverse pool of gamers. 

What were your inspirations when designing the game?
Well, as you know Crowbar grew from a desire to do another IMS style of game. In addition, solo games are becoming more popular than ever, as are multi-player and cooperative games. So I wanted to take advantage of both those factors.

The system itself was inspired by a simple push-your-luck dice game that I played with my grandmother when she came over from Germany. It was called “Schwein” (or “Pig” … no, not “Flying Pig”) and I remember the intense drama of deciding whether to roll those dice again and risk a “snake eyes” or stop and take what I had accumulated to that point. So I wanted to emulate that kind of gut-wrenching and just plain fun decision making in a wargame setting.

So marrying those kinds of chance dice rolls with the movement forward of a military unit, while also then including the enemy’s “wall of fire” into that result, made sense. It removed the need to conduct the enemy’s turn as a separate, time-consuming combat resolution.

The concept of Rally Point markers then was used to set the unit’s start point and from which the increasing risk of an unsupported advance could be measured. This also made thematic sense in an abstracted way and it all fell into place very nicely.

As far as this design is concerned, the attack at Pointe Du Hoc really represents an almost perfect historical situation to allow this system to “do its thing”. 

What do you think players will learn from playing this game?
As with most wargames, I would hope that players gain an appreciation for what these men had to go through to accomplish what they did historically. Obviously, no game can truly simulate the horrors of war, but we can at least try to show people the elements that challenged the real life participants.

As far as Crowbar itself is concerned, the Pointe Du Hoc assault was truly a “mission impossible”. In fact, one officer remarked that “three old women with brooms could sweep us off those cliffs!”.

So aside from having a fun, tense gameplaying experience, I did also design the game to include many historical events so that players will feel like they are part of the Rangers and suffering through the same action and making similar types of tactical and strategic decisions.

What was it like to try and accomplish an impossible mission? I’m hoping that players will have at least gain some kind of concept of what a brave and amazing accomplishment this was by the 2nd Ranger Battalion.

So I did make a point of including as many of the actual events, conditions and units that actually did take part in the three-day battle to players would learn what actually happened on top of those cliffs. But I also added a few elements that did not actually happen, but that could have happened.

For me, that rounds out the “simulation” portion of the game design very nicely.

How do you think your designs have changed throughout your career as a game designer?
As I may have hinted at already in the previous questions, I am really trying to draw more people into the wargame end of the gaming hobby and to do that, I’m trying to develop and utilize mechanics, procedures and rules that will not be as off-putting as many traditional wargames mechanics.

I have always tried to design non-traditional wargames about unique topics – that’s why I got into designing in the first place – but many of my early endeavors still relied on more of the classic “wargamey” gameplay styles.

As I’ve progressed in design style, spoken to more people and been exposed to more games of all kinds, I realized that the main barriers for the general gaming public is the process-heavy mechanics of most wargames along with their rather drab and confusing physical presentation.

So with those revelations, I have really tried to get wargaming to be more acceptable and attractive while at the same time, telling my wargaming friends that it’s really OK to play Ameritrash and Eurogames because there are some absolutely brilliant designs out there!

And that’s another part of my evolving design philosophy – to learn from other designers of all stripes. There are so many elegant and clever mechanics in other styles of games that can be adapted to wargames and I am educating myself to bring those design mechanics into my own creations. If it works for those games then I’m confident that I can make it work for wargame designs as well.

What’s next?
Well if Crowbar is popular and gamers enjoy that kind of approach, we’ll be on the hunt for another historical battle or campaign that this system can work for.

I’m inclined to look at something of a larger scope so that the game has a different feel to it and is not just a rehash of Crowbar and IMS. One thought was the Verdun campaign of 1916 where the player would play the German forces as they race against the clock to defeat or “bleed white” the French forces around that fortress complex before they are reinforced and supplies run low.

I’m also discussing with Mark the possibility of me doing a military science-fiction version of this game. The player would play a force of Galactic Marines as they travel from planet to planet assaulting alien strongholds before the aliens can obliterate the planets. Now that would be fun to design for sure!

So there are a number of possibilities for this system and I look forward to designing them and hopefully making then successful for Flying Pig Games.

Storm and Steel: A Scenario for MBT

This scenario recreates the first scene of a book I wrote called Storm and Steel. It’s about a West German tank company commander’s experience of World War III between NATO and the Warsaw Pact in 1985.

I created this scenario first and then wrote the book based upon the outcome. Since the book has gotten quite a bit of attention lately, I’ve decided to write up the scenario I created and provide it here for free to anyone who’s interesting in trying it.

Here’s some context for the scenario:
On the eve of the Third World War, NATO forces throughout West Germany are rushed to their designated deployment as close as possible to the Iron Curtain.

As part of the 244th Mountain Tank Battalion in Bavaria, Hauptmann Kurt Mohr and the men of 2nd Company are assigned with the rest of 1st Mountain Division to defend the border near Czechoslovakia. They set up in prepared positions to the north of a town called Grafling that lies along Route 11, a highway that leads south towards Deggendorf where a crucial bridge spans the Danube River. If the Warsaw Pact gets enough units across the river, II Corps will be forced to pull back west throughout Bavaria.
Mohr’s job is to delay the oncoming Czechoslovakians by destroying as many enemy tanks as possible before he and his men withdraw south through Deggendorf and then blow the remaining bridge. To get the job done, Mohr has three platoons of three tanks each and a platoon of panzergrenadiers led by the irascible Oberleutnant Muller. The battalion commander, Oberst Donner, has generously provided some scouts and a pair of Jaguar tanks – but he has made it clear that he expects results.
But all is not well in Mohr’s company. He’s at loggerheads with Oberleutnant Schmitt – the hotheaded leader of  Alpha platoon. As a newcomer to the brigade, he has yet to prove his worth to the men under him. On the other hand, the men in the company have been coddled by the previous commander and lack discipline. Mohr is a fresh graduate of the Armor School at Munster, unsure of his own ability to handle all the pressure of a real combat situation.
The scenario I’ve designed here has some special rules to take into account the situation that Mohr faces at the start of the book. It also uses some of the older equipment from MBT to represent the Czechoslovakian forces. Of course it’s not an exact match but some of the units are a close approximation.
Scenario Title: The Defense of Grafling, 5 May 1985
Situation:
The Czechoslovakian 19th Motor Rifle Division leads the Warsaw Pact advance into West Germany. Its task is to advance west over the border into Bavaria and seize a crossing point over the Danube River. Follow-on Soviet and Czechoslovakian forces will provide a second echelon with the objective of advancing west along Route 92 and seizing Landshut by the end of the first day of the war. As the 8th Guards Army hits the US VII Corps, the Czechoslovakian 1st Army will have the vital task of pushing back West German II Corps far enough to allow for a flanking attack on the Americans.
Map: Utilize Maps 7 & 1 & 2

Special Conditions:

When determining the Initiative, The FRG force applies a +20 DRM.
Ammo Limits are in effect.
For Turns 1-3, FRG vehicles apply a -20 modifier when searching for hull down positions
The FRG may employ up to 6 Hidden Unit markers.
The command span for the FRG is 9 hexes. The command span for the Czechoslovakians is 5 hexes.
The FRG force may apply Quickdraw.
The FRG may use one leader to represent Mohr (use Vogel or Wolff) if Leaders are used.
Requires MBT and FRG
Put one of each command in an opaque cup (Short Halt, Move, Fire, Overwatch, N/C). Draw a random command marker when assigning a shared command to a designated tank platoon. This represents Mohr’s personal problems with Schmitt carrying over into a combat situation.
Ignore the two bridges in V7 and DD4 on Map 2.

Setup

Conditions: Normal visibility. No adverse terrain.
FRG  – Force sets up first anywhere on maps 7 and map 1 at least 3 hexes from the Czechoslovakian edge. Two combat units may be placed Hull Down.
Czechoslovakian – Enters the mapboard on Turn 1 anywhere along the Czechoslovakian edge. Units may be delayed for entry on subsequent turn at the player’s discretion but all units must have entered play by Turn 5.

Victory Conditions

Length: 15 turns
Unit VPs – To the FRG Force for each operational Czechoslovakian unit that fails to exit from the FRG Edge.
Unit VPs – To the Czechoslovakian Force for up to the first 14 units that exit from the FRG Edge.
300 VPs Required Victory Margin

Forces

Elements of 1st Mountain Division, Seasoned, 1930, 20, CP-7
2nd Panzer Company (Mixed): Seasoned, Good
1 Leopard 1A4: CHQ (Mohr)
Attached Assets: 
2 x Jaguar 1
2 x TPz Fuchs (These are recon units as per 5.9.2 and 6.1.3.3, etc.)
Alpha Platoon: 3 x Leopard 1A4 (Schmitt)* 
Bravo Platoon: 3 x Leopard 1A4 (Unger)
Charlie Platoon: 3 x Leopard 1A4 (Kessel)
Delta Platoon: 
3 x Marder 1A2 (Muller)
3 x HMI full squad w/ Milan and PzF44
*See Special Conditions
Elements of 19th Motorized Rifle Regiment, Regulars
Rifle Company (Mixed): Seasoned, Adequate 1556, 26, CP-9
1 BRDM-2: CHQ
Attached Assets: 
1 x BRM-1 (recon w/ FO)
3 x MT-55A AVLB
Platoons:
1st Platoon: T-55M x 3
2nd Platoon: T-55M x 3
3rd Platoon: T-55M x 3
4th Platoon: BMP-1P x 3
3 x MR w. RPG-22
5th Platoon: BMP-1P x 3
3 x MR w/ RPG-22
You can download a copy of the scenario in PDF format here. Have fun!
If you’re interested in reading “Storm and Steel”, you can get your copy here.

Turn One: Mike Force

Last time, I talked about my impressions of “Mike Force”, a game about Special Forces operations in Vietnam from Joseph Miranda. To get a deeper impression of the game, I’m writing a first-turn report to show off how the game is played. I’m planning to do this with other games in upcoming articles, looking at first turns to show how a game flows.

Setup:
Communists:
I’m playing the Early War scenario here. That means the NVA set up two static units inside Vietnam Communist bases and one static unit everywhere else.
Rolling for initial Infiltration Points, we get a “5”, which brings the communist infiltration level down to a manageable “10” on the IP scale. The level is still at “Medium”, but only just barely. With some good play and a bit of luck, maybe we can knock it down to “Low”.
Free World:
The marker is placed on the “8” space of the Recruit Points track. We roll a “1” and the marker is moved down to “7”.
The Free World sets up with four SF camps, which I put in:
  • Nong Song
  • A Shau
  • Phong Dien
  • Tra Bong
We put a CIDG unit with each of them.
We get 6 SF A-Teams, which I place as follows:
  • 2 in Tra Bong
  • 2 in Nong Song
  • 1 in Hue
  • 1 in A Shau
I put them here because I want to go on the offensive down south and clean up the units there for the first few turns. Meanwhile, I’ll be building up my defenses in the north closer to the DMZ.
Da Nang gets a transport helicopter.
MACV support goes into the draw pile: All fighter-bombers, Air Commandos, Special Operations air support, and the 81st Rangers.
We roll for leaders and get two leaders. Cowboy is assigned to Nha Trang while Blackjack goes to an A-Team over in Tra Bong.
Let’s Start!
1. Free World Events Phase:
We pull an event chit from the cup and get “Communist Reorganization”
“5” is added to the communist Infiltration Points on the infiltration track. We are back to a IP of “15” – Medium level infiltration.
2. Free World Recruiting Phase:
I put a leader in Nha Trang during the setup because I want him to be able to call in help from the 5th SFG during the recruiting phase. However, he has to be stationed with a unit. I recruit a 1 point recon team to Nha Trang and put it there with him. 
I want one more recon team out in the field so I recruit another for 1 point and place it in Tra Bong.
Down to five points, I decide to get some MACV support for the turn. I spend two points and draw a fighter-bomber and the air commandos.
The Air Commandos are, I believe, treated as ground units with airmobile movement factors. I put them in Da Nang.
I have 3 points left and although I probably should save them, I decide to go for it anyway. I purchase a 2 point A-team and place it in Da Nang, hoping that I can upgrade it to an SF company (and possibly even a battalion) in later turns. I decide to hang on to the remaining RP.

3. Free World Movement Phase
Between the Air Commandos in Da Nang and the air support from MACV, I think I should be able to take out whatever communist units are in Que Son and the base south of Tra Bong. Anything else would be a bit risky. I decide to play it safe.
I move in a hatchet team and an A-team into the area south of Tra Bong. Then I move in two SF A-teams to Que Son and hope for the best.
I think this is very conservative play but let’s see how it goes.
4. Free World Recon Phase:
Now, we roll to see what we find. We have to roll a d6 against each of our SF units’ recon factor (that’s the number on the far left of the counter).
Let’s do Que Son first. We get a 5 and a 3. Both rolls fail. I should have used that extra RP to get a recon team and send it in. Oh well.
Now let’s do the area south of Tra Bong. We roll a 3 vs the RT team and flip over a unit to find a truck depot. The other roll against the A-team fails. 
5. Free World Reaction Phase:
Now I have the chance to throw in airstrikes or airmobile assets into areas with revealed communist markers.
Since we’re going to lose all the MACV assets by the end of the turn (they are on temporary loan so if you don’ use ’em, you lose ’em), we’re going to absolutely hammer that truck depot. The airstrike is called in. The air commandos are called in. The show is about to start.
6. Free World Combat Phase:
We roll for the airstrike and get a “3”. Since this result is under the airstrike value, the bombs hit their target and the truck depot goes BOOM and is eliminated.
Now we tally up the body count, which is indicated in the counter’s upper right hand corner. In this case, it is a “1”. So now we can either take that point and choose to reduce the infiltration level by one or we can choose to increase our recruitment points by one. I decide that I need some guys for next turn and do the latter. My RP total is now sitting at a grand total of “2”.
II.
Now that we have finished with the Free World half of the turn, it’s time to conduct the communist half of the turn. It’s pretty much the same as the Free World’s phases, with some exceptions.
1. Communist Events Phase
Event: Communist Big Offensive (B): We add “5” to the infiltration level. It is at “20” now and has changed from “Medium” to “High”. Uh oh!
So there are three big offensive markers in the Events pile. When all three are pulled, the communists get a bunch of new mobile units and make a big push towards Da Nang. For now, we can just set the first marker aside in the Major Offensive box to remind us that it’s there.
2. Communist Reinforcement Phase:
We check the reinforcement table and pull 2 static units and 3 mobile units from the NVA cup.
We roll 2d6 and consult the table to check for their placement.
They get dispersed pretty evenly among the communist bases. One goes to North Vietnam, with the others being distributed among the bases in Laos. The only one that worries me is the mobile unit that gets assigned to 611, which threatens one of my SF camps in the A Shau. 
3. Communist Movement Phase:
We consult the communist activation table and cross reference it with the current infiltration level of “High”. Rolling a “3” results in an Advance result of one space for all mobile units.
4. Communist Recon Phase:
All concealed communist markers in the same space as FW SF camps or major bases are revealed. That means the mobile unit in the A Shau gets flipped over. 
We get a AAA unit with a combat strength of 2. It’s a good thing I already used my airstrike up earlier in the term. However, I probably should have saved my air commandos to go after these guys. With a combat value of 4, they would have been a real match for them. Things are dicey now.
6. Communist Reaction Phase:
I have nothing left to react with so let’s go to the combat phase!
7. Combat Phase:

Tactical Superiority: We roll against the CIDG unit’s recon factor of “3” and get a “4”. The communists have tactical superiority.
First Round of Battle: We line up our units to determine who takes hits first. The A-team is first, followed by the CIDG team and then the SF camp.
Communist player rolls first and gets a “4” Nothing.
Now it’s time for the FW units to fire. We want to roll equal to or less than our combat values (the middle number on the counter).
We get a 6 for the A-team, a 5 for the CIDG team, and a 1 for the SF camp. The SF camp manages to get a hit on the AAA battalion and eliminates it. Since the body count point value for this unit is zero, we have achieved nothing. The mobile unit is returned to the mobile unit draw pile.
Return Phase: All MACV support goes back to the cup regardless of whether or not it’s been used.
We advance the turn marker and proceed to turn 2. Not a bad first turn for the FW player but nothing special either. Eliminating a truck depot is nice enough but we need to start taking the infiltration level down or else we’re going to get swamped with communist units. Turn 2 would probably consist of purchasing some recon teams and MACV support in hopes of hitting communist bases in the south while shoring up the north.

Mike Force: A First Look

Mike Force is a solitaire game of Special Forces operations during the Vietnam War. If that sentence doesn’t get your heart racing then please put down the horse tranquilizers.

Joseph Miranda (designer of so many games, why even bother listing them here) is behind this effort. It was published in the current (MAY/JUNE 2018) issue of Modern War.

So what you get here is a game that focuses exclusively on the shadowy SOG portion of the conflict to the stubborn exclusion of any other element. It’s like the opposite of Nick Karp’s zoomed-out look at the conflict in his seminal 1984 game, “Vietnam 1965 – 1975”.

With the plethora of decent Vietnam War games already out there (Fire in the Lake, Vietnam Solitaire, Vietnam 1965 – 1975, etc.), you couldn’t be blamed for asking the question: Did this game need to be made?

And the answer I would give is “Yeah. Sure.”

Because this game is the war’s underbelly that you rarely get glimpses of anywhere else. And also because it shows you how small units could influence the course of the war.  Lots of other Vietnam games depict the large-scale use of US military power against small VC units in the field. In those games, you really are trying to hit a gnat with a sledgehammer as American infantry battalions conduct large-scale operations in an attempt to track down an elusive enemy that disappears into the jungle each and every time you try and pick a fight with them.

This game takes a very different approach to the war. Here, you command the agile strike forces of small but highly trained teams of men who track and kill the infiltrating NVA and VC as they come into South Vietnam.

Scenario 1: Early War setup of Mike Force

You’ll push around counters that represent six-man A-teams and you’ll curse and shout when they get overrun by a battalion of NVA. You’ll send in hatchet teams to conduct recon missions and cheer when you call in an airstrike and see a VC supply depot get wiped out. Or you’ll conduct PSYWAR operations and watch in frustration as the operation gets blown. You’ll recruit and lead Hmong villagers to take out targets as they come down the Ho Chi Minh trail.

All these tiny pressure points push the war in certain directions, affecting enemy morale and operations as they infiltrate South Vietnam and push towards free world strongholds such as Hue and Da Nang.

Mike Force really captures the feel of these small unit actions and how and why they fit in to the overall conflict. It also gives you an idea of how special operations were forced to operate within the framework of military planning at the time.

Gameplay

Each game is seven turns long and takes place on a map depicting the area of and around South Vietnam (this includes parts of Laos and North Vietnam). The various spaces on the map show different types of terrain and base areas. These spaces connect to each other to form infiltration routes that the communists use in order to eventually capture key cities in South Vietnam.

There are four scenarios included in the game, each of which takes place during a different stage of the war.

The game starts with random draws of communist unit that are placed face down by the players in the different communist bases. There are two types of communist units – mobile and static. Static units are quite often “soft” targets such as supply depots and motor pools or advisors. But you might run into some infantry there too. On the other hand, the mobile units are usually infantry and some of them are pretty well-equipped and can put up a hell of a fight.

My A-Team led by Cpt. Simon finds a Soviet adviser at Que Son.

Your units are varied. You get everything from SF camps to CIDG units to gunships and transport helicopters. You also get White Star teams that are airborne-capable, PSYWAR units, MACV SOG support units that include air support, etc. Basically, you get an entire toolkit of units to choose from and you can fight your war however you see fit. Be warned, however, that you need to spend Resource Points (RPs) to purchase these units. And pretty much the only way to get RPs is to rack up the body count and impress the guys back in Washington.

Anyway, you set up your units and each game turn follows the same pattern. You draw a random event from the cup and implement it. After that, you can recruit forces by spending RPs. Then you move your guys around the map and conduct recon missions. If you manage to succeed at a recon mission (by rolling against the concerned unit’s recon value rating), then you flip over the enemy unit to reveal what it is. Then you can react to it by sending in airstrikes or transporting units into the combat zone by helicopter.

After that, the combat phase begins and you line up all the revealed enemy units to face off against your own units in the same space. You roll for tactical initiative (against one unit’s recon value) to decide who rolls first in the attack phase. Results are implemented immediately so having tactical advantage lets you get the first shot in without having to worry about return fire.

After the winner is declared, you conduct the body count. Each enemy unit has a BCP (Body Count Point) on it. When you kill an enemy unit, you can choose to either increase your number of RPs by the same number of Body Count Points – or you can decrease the enemy infiltration points by the same number of BCPs. Conversely, losing friendly units means either decreasing RP or increasing IP.

The last half of each turn is given over to the communists. The phases are pretty much the same. You choose an Event from the cup. Then you roll a die and consult tables to determine both how many new units the communists can recruit (this largely depends on the communist infiltration level) and also what the general strategy of the communists will be for that turn (also depends on infiltration level). They might stop and lick their wounds, advance, or withdraw.

Enemy units will ultimately try and go for Da Nang. If they manage to capture it, the free world player automatically loses the game. But even if they don’t get it, they can also inflict some pretty bad VP losses by capturing other free world bases such as Hue or Khe San.

After communist movement is conducted, the free world player again can conduct reaction airstrikes and other missions against revealed communist units in the same space as friendly units.

Some thoughts:

Mike Force is a pretty easy game to learn. I was clear of the rulebook after my second playthrough. An average game will take anywhere between 1 and 2 hours, which hits my “sweet spot” for gaming these days. The rules are fairly simple and well-written and organized. I had no problem finding information I needed. The rulebook is 16 pages long. There are 30 sections, each of them with a few subpoints underneath. I found the rules quite intuitive after a very short time.

Joe Youst drew the map and it is beautiful. More importantly, it facilitates gameplay. There is plenty of space for the game’s units without having to resort to stacking them. The graphics and font captures the era and theme of the game quite well. The large size of the font makes it easy to read and quickly find information. Tables are included on the map, not in the rulebook or the magazine (thankfully).

The counters are nothing special but they’re functional and easy to read. The free world counters show recon value, combat value, and movement values underneath a NATO symbol. The communist counters show a single combat value along with its BCP. Infantry units get a NATO symbol. Other units get a nice silhouette.

For me, a good game is one that teaches me something new and presents me with lots of interesting choices.

Did I learn something? Yes. I learned about another aspect of warfare that’s often glossed over or ignored in wargames. Before I played Mike Force, I had no idea how unconventional forces played a role in Vietnam and how they were used. I came away from the game with a better appreciation for a.) how the definition of progress (body count) colored everything that happened in the war and how it was conducted and b.) the huge amounts of firepower that could be called down by just a few men in the right spot and how this ultimately influenced morale and the enemy’s ability to move men and material down various routes.

More importantly, I have a better understanding of why these units exist. They conduct very high-risk operations that require extensive training. The most important role these guys played in the war was to pinpoint enemy positions and serve as the eyes and ears of what was out there. To survive and do their jobs well, they need a hell of a lot of support. Without it, they are mostly sitting ducks. For this reason, you have to have a good sense of when to push an operation and when to hold back.

A Near Run Thing: The Battle for Hue is decided by air power as an NVA infantry regiment and a division attack

Were there interesting choices? Yes, in two ways:

First, there was the unit variety. As I mentioned above, there is a very wide variety of forces that you can purchase and they all do some things better than others. Some of them are fragile and finicky.

You can spend 5 RP on a PSYWAR operation that can either get blown in the very next turn or ends up turning things around for you. You can try to recruit Laotians into the White Star program and end up with a potent force to work with – or you can end up with nothing. You can ask for MACV support and not be given the kind that you really needed. Yes, luck is a central part of it. But so is the ability to play the hand that you are dealt. I can see how some players might not enjoy that though.

Another interesting choice is the agony of whether to increase RP or decrease IP when conducting Body Counts. In my first game, I chose to decrease the Infiltration level and managed to keep it to a “Medium” level. However, I didn’t have any points to recruit new guys so I ended up getting hammered by the enemy and losing what little forces I had. After that, my choices for hitting the NVA were extremely limited as I watched them pour into Hue. It was only through some last minute air and gunship intervention that I managed to save it from being overrun.

“Insurgent” Now Available

I’m proud to announce that “Insurgent“, the latest entry in the World War III: 1985 series has just been released.

As with all my other books, it’s available on Amazon in e-book format.

The book is about two Vietnam veterans who are sent to assist an insurgency in East Germany during the opening days of World War III.

 

Along with the insurgent leader, Major Werner Brandt, the team faces numerous challenges as they attempt to hit a the Soviet garrison near Leipzig. It’s a book about war, friendship, and hard choices.

Here’s the synopsis for your reading pleasure:

May, 1985: The Warsaw Pact invades West Germany. World War III has begun. Two Vietnam veterans are sent on a secret mission to East Germany to help train and advise an insurgency aimed at the very heart of the Soviet military forces stationed in the country. 

The chaos of war provides the perfect conditions for a rogue East German major and his soldiers to strike at the Russians as they pour men and material towards the front lines. Though they are on the same side, the three men become embroiled in a conflict not only with the enemy but also among themselves. 

During the Vietnam War, Joe Ricci and Ned Littlejohn trained and lead Hmong fighters against the North Vietnamese Army. When the Third World War breaks out fifteen years later, they are assigned to work with Major Werner Brandt and his shadowy cell of insurgents. Their objective is to break the Soviet occupation force. 

Consumed with hatred for the Russians, Brandt’s lust for revenge threatens to unravel the entire operation. Ricci, on the other hand, struggles to keep the nearby civilians safe from harm in the middle of a war zone. The two men are set on a collision course as they fight for their countries – and their souls.

MBT: The Gap

“The Gap” is scenario 3 from Jim Day’s popular MBT (second edition, GMT, 2015).

The Soviet 8th Guards Army are pouring over the border into West Germany along with the rest of the Warsaw Pact. The 79th Guards Tank Division is given the honor of advancing first into the Fulda Gap, where it meets elements of the US 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment (ACR), the Blackhorse Regiment. The cav’s mission – delay the Soviet forces while the rest of the US forces move up towards the border.

In this scenario, the US gets an under-strength Armored Cav Troop. That means we have an M1IP tank platoon (the IP model was basically a slightly upgraded M1 Abrams in terms of armor and electronics) and two pairs of M3 Bradleys along with an M106 for indirect fire support. We also get four recon infantry sections armed with little more than LAWs to deal with the oncoming onslaught of Soviet armor.

The Soviets get a ton of tanks and fighting vehicles. They have an entire reinforced tank company with which to take on the US cavalry. This means four platoons of T-80BV tanks, three platoons of BMP-2s filled with infantry that have RPG-22s (and in one case, a Saxhorn ATGM launcher). They also have three self-propelled artillery guns and a couple of engineer squads riding around in a pair of BTR-70s. They get a BRM-1 reconnaissance vehicle too. That is a heck of a lot of firepower.

The major US advantages lie with the American concealment and prepared fighting positions. Two vehicles may set up in a hull down position while four units can use hidden unit markers (I am playing solo so I didn’t use these). The US player also gets a bonus when searching for hull down positions and a +20 to initiative rolls each turn.

The main objective of the Soviets is to get off the left edge of the map board. The Americans obviously want to prevent this from happening.

Here’s how it went:

Initial US Setup (ignore the errant KO marker)

We’ve got map board 1 above map board 3 here with a village or town on either side of the maps. The game starts up with the US set up and the Soviets off board. From turn 1, the Soviets get their tanks moving while the rest of the company (BMPs etc.) comes on board on turn 3.

One of the great things about the US M3 and infantry cav units is that they are recon units and therefore get their own unique command counters. No need to be within the command span of the US company HQ.

I set my units up with the idea of basically funneling the Soviets through the middle of the map and into the kill zone set up by my M1 tanks. To this effect, I put infantry up on the top of the southern hill in the woods hex under full cover. The M3s are set up on the east side of the hill. I am hoping to hit out at the Soviets as they come on the board and then pull them back over the hill as soon as possible.

To the north of them, I put infantry beside the road to ambush any hapless Soviet tanks that try to dash west along it. To the north of them, set up in Hull Down positions, are two M3 Bradleys. To the west, set up in and around the crops (the crops give automatic partial hull down cover) are my M1 tank platoon.

Further west in the village is an infantry squad and the company HQ tank along with the M106 artillery and an M3 Bradley with a TOW launcher to fire from extreme range.

Infantry and M3 Bradleys set up on and near hill in SE corner of map. 
NE of map: A pair of Bradleys and infantry near the road set up on overwatch.
M1 Tank platoon set up in NW corner of map with CHQ and arty in village

Turn 1:

End of Turn 1

During Turn 1, the Soviet tanks come on board, taking eye-watering losses to long-range ATGM fire from the Bradleys. Three tanks are knocked out by the Bradleys on the hill on the northeast section of the map. A Bradley way back on the western edge takes out another T-80. The pair of M3s to the south miss both their shots with the second one actually incurring a weapons malfunction!

Turn 2:

End Turn 2

By the end of turn 2, the Soviets have lost another pair of T-80s. However, the lead platoon is nearly halfway across the map and has managed a kill on an M1. The M3 Bradleys down near the southeast of the map are in deep trouble. One is killed while the other is in full reverse trying to get away from a pair of tanks rumbling towards it. As you can probably guess, the surviving M3 is the one with the weapons malfunction.

Turn 3:

Turn 3

The Soviets try to use a kind of bounding overwatch to move their remaining tanks forward. A pair of T-80s is pursuing the M3 Bradley to the south, getting dangerously close to being out of the command span (the scenario rules say the Russian command span is 8 but I used 10 here). At this point, it hits me that this is probably a bad idea. The T-80s both fire and somehow both miss their prey.

The BMPs come on board and head west out of the little town nearest their map edge. Due to the trees to the north, the M3 Bradleys cannot get an LOS on them even though they are on top of a large hill.

Turn 4:

The M1s are engaged with a Soviet tank platoon near the center of the board so the Soviet commander decides to just skirt around the southern hill and send the rest of his guys west while the Americans deal with the tanks. This seems like a pretty reasonable tactic at this point. There isn’t really anything that can hurt them that much, right?

Turn 5:

The remaining pair of T-80s manage to both score kills on two M1 tanks at point blank range before being cut down by the Company HQ tank and the M3 Bradley in the town. A pair of T-80s races out of command span and tries to get into firing position near the town while the BMPs make a run across the hill and try to dash off the map.

Unfortunately for the Soviets, the M3’s weapons malfunction is repaired now and it starts killing BMPs. The pair of M3 Bradleys on the northern hill come down and try to get in position to score some kills on the swarm of BMPs as they make their escape. The infantry start to open fire on the nearest BMPs as they roll into sight.

Turn 6:

More devastation occurs as the infantry up on the southern hill start firing off LAWs at the escaping BMPs, scoring a pair of hits. The M3 on the hill pours in GP fire on a Russian squad that has bailed out of its damaged vehicle. Meanwhile, the CHQ and the M3 in the town manage to easily dispatch the T-80s that were attempting to provide cover fire. The swarm of BMPs has been whittled down to a little over two platoons.

The BTR-70s near the center of the map start firing at the M3 Bradleys at close range, causing a bail out result on one. The other is unscratched.

Turn 7:

A BMP manages to kill off the American M3 Bradley in the town to the north. Both CHQs fire at each other at point blank range and miss. The US artillery fire combined with the infantry GP fire and the M3 Bradley on the southern hill massacre two squads worth of Soviet troops, eliminating one and reducing two others.

On Turn 8, the rest of the BMPs and the Soviet CHQ race off the map edge, leaving behind the BTR-70s and (oops!) the 2S1 artillery as well. I have totally forgotten about them and concede them as lost to the enemy by the end of the scenario.

As you can guess, the Soviets lost badly in this one, with the US VPs reaching nearly double what was required for a win (something around 740, I think? – I was too numbed to count).

I had fun with this scenario. It’s really tense and although it may look like a cakewalk for the Soviets just by sheer numbers, it’s really easy to make a bad decision and lose quickly. Up until about turn 4, it looked like the Soviets would just cakewalk through the whole thing.

However, the Americans managed to cause enough problems to effectively hinder the Russians forces as they rushed towards the map edge. I would like to try this scenario again, this time using the Russian artillery more wisely and focusing my firepower just a bit more before rushing forward.

Storm and Steel – Now Available!

Storm and Steel has just been released in the Amazon Kindle store. This is the latest entry in the “Tales of World War III: 1985” series and perhaps one of my favorite so far.

It’s got just the right mix of realism and action to entertain the reader. It also fills in a missing spot in the series by looking at war from the perspective of the West Germans.

So often, Cold War Hot fiction focuses on the Americans (“Team Yankee”) or the British (“Chieftain”). I thought it was time to consider how the West Germans would have felt watching their homeland being invaded and fighting for their homes and families.

The action this time is focused tightly on a tank company commander. Here’s a brief synopsis of the plot:

May 1985: A panzer company commander faces his first harrowing day of war versus the Warsaw Pact. Against the relentless onslaught of Russian and Czechoslovakian divisions pouring into West Germany, Captain Kurt Mohr and his tank crews wage a desperate battle to delay the enemy advance. As a brand new company commander, he must also prove his metal to the men who serve under him. Amid the breakneck speed of mechanized warfare, Mohr battles his own self-doubt and fear in order to quickly adapt to the fast-paced battlefield environment.

Fighting in Lower Bavaria also poses unique challenges to his command abilities as the close-in nature of the terrain forces him to deal with threats at point blank range. As the conflict’s first day progresses, the brutal reality of war hits home. With the future of their nation at stake, Mohr and his men become the storm and steel that avenge the countrymen whose lives they are sworn to protect.

Gulf Strike: How do you solve a problem like Saudi Arabia?

In this article, I’m referring to Scenario 1 of Gulf Strike where the Iranians are thundering down through the Saudi Peninsula with the help of their Soviet buddies, trying to close off American access to the Persian Gulf before the US can rush in carrier groups and Marines and air and endless amounts of supplies for their beleaguered buddies of the Gulf Council States.

So you’re playing Iran and turn one has gone fairly smoothly. You’ve had Kuwait all to yourself to beat the hell out of and now it’s conquered and turn two starts. The Gulf Council States immediately declare war on you. With budding optimism, you push your first armored unit south from Kuwait City on its long march towards Riyadh.

If this next step of the takeover plan of the Middle East is not thought through carefully enough, you’ll be thinking to yourself by turn 3 or 4: “Wow, this is going to be tougher than I thought!”

By turn 6 or 7, that will change to: “You stupid stupid idiot. Why did you decide to invade Saudi Arabia? This is not at all worth it.”

And you’d be right. Because Saudi Arabia is mostly just desert and there is nothing – absolutely nothing to conquer for the first zillion miles south of Kuwait. That means that you’ll have to rely on long supply lines to feed and gas up your army. Not only will you have to worry about where to place the supply depots, you’ll have to worry about protecting them.

It’s a long way to Riyadh! It’s a long way to go! – Basra to Riyadh with very little in between

It only takes a vintage enemy fighter bomber with a Bombardment value of “1” to run an interdiction mission on your supply lines, thereby either knocking your units out of supply or delaying your ground forces’ arrival until you plug the gaps in air defenses to deal with those pesky incoming planes.

A smart ally player will know how to frustrate your drive south again and again with this. If he’s really lucky, he’ll be able to throw a unit in behind your front lines to really tear things up.

After only a single play of this scenario, you’ll understand why Saddam stopped at Kuwait in 1990. A drive down the peninsula probably sounded cool but the logistics would have been a huge challenge for a modern army.

So the first thing you need to heed here is the air war. You need to knock the hell out of the enemy’s air capabilities from the start. Your ground forces can handle themselves without the need for close air support. Let your AH-1 Cobra helicopters handle that job. From the very start of the game, you need to aggressively obtain control the skies. Every F-4 and F-5 has to be committed to this single task because even one plane can ruin your plans for a swift victory in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi AWACS should be the first thing to take down. It’s the most potent unit in the game for the US player’s side this early on. Airbases in Kuwait can be used to strike at Riyadh while Khark Island and Bushehr hit at the airbases on the east coast and in Qatar. and Bahrain. F-5 air escorts with F-4 bombing missions would probably work best here in the early stages. Once the interceptors are either shot down or have run out of sorties, send whatever you can in to hit those airbases.

The second thing is that you have to be really comfortable with the supply rules. In case it’s been a while since you played this beast, supply depots work as relay stations between supply sources (cities in the case of Iran) and units. To be considered in supply, a unit must be within a certain distance of it (for the sake of supply determination, this means the unit is treated as a hypothetical armor unit in Movement to Contact formation with an MPA of 20).

Across clear terrain, which dominates most of northern Saudi Arabia, that’s 3 MP per hex so that’s a measly 6 hexes you can advance. If you’re lucky enough to have a road to travel on, it’s only 2 MP per hex, giving you a marginally better 10 hex supply radius. Oh boy. Riyadh is 22 hexes away from Kuwait City.

If you have managed to plunk down a supply depot in Kuwait City after taking over its airbase and placing an interceptor in there to protect your supply depot, your armor unit can only get a bit down the road into SA before it runs out of supply. As you can see, our example tank unit runs out of supply before it reaches anywhere near any airbases.

The Saudis can – and should, if they are capable – put up a measly Lightning aircraft with a “1” bombardment rating, hit the hex to the north of the armor division and boom – we are now 22 MPs from our supply source and out of supply.

The effects of this out of supply state for the unit are as follows:

1. combat strength halved
2. cannot declare combat
3. cannot be repaired
4. it suffers a hit during the End Stage

Not good!

So even if you decide to just plunk down three quick supply depots and try to push on anyways, you’ll face a problem. Those rough hexes near Riyadh are prime defensive real estate and it won’t be easy to push those Saudi defenders back without hitting their flank!

With three supply depots stretched to the limit of their 20 MP allowance, you could manage a single front against Riyadh but it will probably cost you time – something the Iranian player doesn’t have in this scenario.

Do you attack Riyadh from two prongs –  the north and the east? Well, guess what? You’re going to need more supply depots to do that. That means more planning and more precise coordination of truck movement. You’ll need to get your transport aircraft in on the act too. But then with more supply depots comes the need to further spread your defenses around to protect them.

To make matters even worse, you’ll have the US Special Forces conducting raids on your supply depots by turn seven. I typically use my SF guys exclusively for supply depot raids and destroying valuable truck units. With only three anti-air units, the Iranians can’t protect everywhere at once from paradrops. I think this is the time limit for Iran at this point. If Riyadh is still in the Allied possession at this time, it’s basically game over for the Iranians.

The only solution I’ve been able to come up with is basically a.) ruthlessly committing my air force to achieving air supremacy early on in the first turns of the game and b.) setting up redundant supply depots in the chain so that if one depot is destroyed or interdicted, another can take care of it. Four supply depots are probably the minimum. Six are likely the ideal – but it takes a lot of planning to shuttle your trucks back and forth to the right places. C-130 transport aircraft help in this matter a little too – they can land in a clear hex and unload without needing a friendly airfield.

If your air supremacy bid fails or you want to remain cautious during your drive down the peninsula, you could also set your depots 18 MP apart and keep your units tethered at 18 MP from the nearest supply depot. It’s enough to make one interdiction mission useless though it will cost about one extra turn of delay for your units.

Invading Saudi Arabia is a huge risk and requires a lot of thoughtful planning for how to deal with the small details of a task that appears deceptively simple. I find that these crucial few turns after Kuwait’s defeat is usually where this first scenario is won or lost.