Friday, 1 September 2017

1985: Under an Iron Sky - Central Map, version 4

The Central section of the map is completed, we still have to double check it but I don't expect horrible mistakes.
Many of the suggestions received  by other wargamers have been implemented. A short, annoying  list of the main ones:
  1. Lighter texture in Plain hexes (we'll probably make it even lighter)
  2. Lighter Sea / Ocean
  3. Changed font size and colors to reduce cluttering
  4. Changed Road size and colors
  5. Changed Bridge symbols
In my opinion, it's definitely better than the early versions; I'll have a test, single copy map printed next week so we'll be able to evaluate the "live" effect.

Here's a map area everyone knows about. Click on it to see the full 1500 x 1000 image in all its glory.


Friday, 25 August 2017

1985: Under an Iron Sky Box Art

Our Graphic Designer Eleonora Olivares has just released the first draft of the box art for the upcoming Cold-War-Gone-Hot game "1985: Under an Iron Sky".

Eleonora never worried about T-80 Main Battle Tanks or SA-6 Air Defense Systems in her whole life, so she had to learn almost everything from scratch. I hope she'll be soon able to identify tank model, variant and parent division just by looking at a blurred photo.

Here it is! Before you wonder why the overall tone is so bleak, I wanted it that way :)


Tuesday, 22 August 2017

1985: North Map Draft, Version 3

The Northern part of the map is now almost finished!
We are going to add some geographical / landmark labels, but not sure about how many.

The original image is 9600x6000, so I had to resize it and lose (a lot of) quality, but it should give you an idea.

As most of us are not getting younger, we've tried to use an appropriate font size....please feel free to leave your opinion / comment / suggestion here, it's not too late to accept some good advice :)

A quite big chunk of the North Map section (Click to enlarge)
A higher resolution detail of the map

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

"Mind the Gap" Scenario Playtest

Here's the AAR for the third playtest session of "Mind the Gap" scenario, included in the upcoming "1985: Under an Iron Sky" monster game.

The first two playtest sessions were useful for adjusting and fine tuning some rules. At the third run, we were able to complete the scenario with no change to the rules / OOB and such.

The scenario depicts Warsaw Pact's secondary attack along the Fulda - Kassel - Frankfurt axis. Soviet 8th Guards and 1st Guards Tank Army, supported by East Germany III Military District, are tasked to engage US V and West Germany III Corps, inflict as much casualties as possible and prevent NATO from dispatching any reinforcement to NORTHAG, where the main Warsaw Pact thrust is taking place.

The scenario is 5 turns (10 days) long. Warsaw Pact gains Victory Points for inflicting casualties to NATO ground, air and helicopter units and to a lesser extent for territorial gains. NATO gains Victory Points for sending ground, air and helicopter reinforcements to NORTHAG.


Set Up

Counters for the playtest are home printed, using the same graphic that will go in production. Of course, the overall quality is lower as they are the result of a painful "Print-Glue-Cut-Aaaargh they're not aligned" hand-made process.

The map isn't ready yet, so we had to use the old The Next War map, using State of the Art Technology (i.e., a pencil) to add several airports, urban areas and missing special features.

Sorting Soviet Counters - Always too many of them
....But US reinforcements too are quite impressive.

Pre-War Movement

Both sides have the possibility of moving their units before war outbreak. NATO allowed movement is based on a 24 hours warning, obtained by analyzing HUMINT and SIGINT data.

The situation at 0400 Zulu Time, July 4th 1985. Grey areas are not included in the scenario.

The ideal Warsaw Pact attack spearhead. Anything less and you're looking for trouble.

Turn 1

The weather is good, so no problem for Air and Helicopter missions.

Warsaw Pact places its 2 Air Superiority counters to cover the main front line (AirSup 1 and 3), making clear that he's going to use his Air assets in direct support of the ground. NATO prefers to place his only Air Superiority counter to cover the vital US and WG airports in the area between the Rhine and Frankfurt (AirSup 2).

The placement of an Air Superiority marker does not mean that either player has Air Superiority. It's only a "commitment", allowing both players to allocate air squadrons in order to actually gain Air Superiority over that area.

Turn 1 Air Superiority Placement

Warsaw Pact assigns 7 Mig-23 and Mig-21 Air Groups to Area 1 and 3, while NATO uses 3 of its precious Air Squadrons in Area 2 (with an AWACS squadron in support) and 3 more in an attempt to contest Air Superiority in Area 1.

Turn 1 Air Superiority Assignments
After air combat is resolved, Warsaw Pact gains Air Superiority in area 1 and 3, destroying a F-16 squadron, while NATO achieves Air Superiority in Area 2.

Air Superiority over areas where the main thrust will take place allows WP to use its attack helicopters and air squadrons with little or no risk of being intercepted. The opposite is also true: NATO air assets may be used only by taking additional risks and casualties.

Warsaw Pact executes a Special Forces assault against Kitzingen US Heliport, used by 3rd Helicopter Squadron, and destroys 2 AH-1 squadrons. A hard blow for NATO.

During the WP Land Phase, Soviet 8th Guards and 1st Guards Tank Army cross the internal German border and invade West Germany. Three WP divisions attack 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fulda and force it to retreat West. North of Fulda, 79th Guards Tank Division forces elements of WG 2nd Mech Division to retreat toward Kassel.

Soviet assault on Fulda, 1400 ZT July 4th

NATO answers with a West German Ground Strike mission against Brand Airfield (C5212, near Cottbus), executed by 2 Tornado squadrons escorted by 2 F4F. Soviet SU-24 and Mig-23 squadrons intercept, but they are unable to stop the strike and Brand airfield is heavily bombed and damaged. Another Ground Strike by WG F104s hits Altenburg Airfield.
Situation at 2200 ZT, July 5 (End of Turn 1)

Lessons Learned: It is now clear that NATO is able to hit WP rear areas pretty hard even in the first 48 hours of war. Warsaw Pact must take appropriate countermeasures since the beginning, as most of its repair capacity is needed to keep the supply routes open and does not allow the allocation of time and resources to damaged airfields.


Turn 2

WP gains Air Superiority over the main battle line, despite an attempt by NATO to contest it around Wurzburg. On the other hand, NATO wins a vital Air Superiority over the area between Frankfurt and river Rhein. Thanks to that, CONUS air squadrons and REFORGER ground units scheduled for turn 2 will be able to arrive by airlift and reinforce NATO front line in a few hours.
Air Superiority Assignments, Turn 2
Warsaw Pact conducts two all-out assaults towards Wetzlar and Kassel, and succeeds in both thanks to heavy air and helicopter support. 

NATO sends out 3 different ground strike missions with Tornados and F104s to slow down the Soviet 28th Corps arriving as reinforcement and damage the advanced heliports used by Soviet Mi-24. In the rear areas near Wurzburg, US 3rd Mechanized Division recombines and waits....
WG F-104s strike Warsaw Pact advanced heliports
Situation at 2200 ZT, July 7 (End of Turn 2)

Turn 3

Warsaw Pact is getting short of operational airfields and tries to stop NATO's strike campaign by placing Air Superiority marker #1 in protection of the air bases in East Germany.
Air Superiority markers #2 and #3 are placed on the main battle line, while #4 covers the strategic airfields and POMCUS sites between Rhine river and Frankfurt.
After Air Superiority combat, NATO wins control over all the AirSup areas except the East Germany 
one.

Air Superiority assignments for Turn 3
Air Superiority after Air Combat (blue for Air Superiority controlled by NATO)
During the Land Movement Phase, three Warsaw Pact divisions attack WG 15/5 brigade near Marburg, with both sides using everything at hand. The attack fails, primarily because of NATO Air Superiority over the area  allowing air and helicopter squadrons to support the defender effectively.

Lessons Learned: A ground attack without Air Superiority against well-placed defenders is probably doomed to fail, unless the defender has no available air / helicopter squadrons to call in for ground support.

Following the rule "never reinforce a failure", Warsaw Pact throws its remaining divisions against WG 34/12 brigade defending the South sector near Schweinfurt. NATO is now short of aircraft and helicopters, and the defense collapses after a few hours. Two additional Soviet Divisions exploit the breakthrough and are now 30 km from Wurzburg.
Situation at 0200 ZT, July 8 (End of Turn 3 WP Move Phase)
At this point, NATO launches its counterattack using every possible force multiplier.

With NATO F-16 and AWACS in Air Superiority and little risk of being intercepted by WP fighters, an F-4 Wild Weasel Mission disrupts WP flak in the Schweinfurt area. Shortly after, three US Special Forces battalions assault and destroy the Electronic Warfare unit supporting Soviet 31st Tank Division, paying with their lives but leaving the Soviet Division without any kind of help.

Finally, US 3rd Mechanized Division repeatedly attacks the Soviets with the support of V Corps Artillery, Electronic Warfare, Tornados, F-111s and AH-1 attack helicopters. Moreover, the two adjacent WG Brigades give NATO a strong Concentric Assault bonus.
Soviet 31st Tank, unable to retreat because of the two WP divisions blocking its path, is annihilated after 9 hours of continuous fighting.

US 3rd Mech Division second attack against Soviet 31st Tank Division
At this point, WP player concedes victory to NATO.

Aftermath

Actually, at the end of turn 3 the game was a Draw.

Warsaw Pact Victory Points: 
  • US Attack Helicopter steps destroyed: 8 x5 = 40 VP
  • WG Attack Helicopter steps destroyed: 4 x5 = 20 VP
  • US Air squadron steps destroyed: 3 x5 = 15 VP
  • WG Air squadrons steps destroyed: 2 x5 = 10 VP
  • US Combat units steps destroyed: 1 x3 = 3 VP
  • WG Combat units steps destroyed: 4 x3 = 12 VP
  • Urban, City and Airport hexes conquered: 29 VP
NATO Victory Points:
  • US Ground combat units steps to NORTHAG: 0, x3 = 0 VP
  • US Air squadron steps to NORTHAG: 10 x5 = 50 VP
The VP net result is: WP 129 - NATO 50 = 79 Victory Points, Draw.

Considering that in the last 2 turns NATO will be reinforced by 9 more brigades (mostly WG territorials) and 6 more US Air squadrons and that most of them would have been sent to NORTHAG thanks to the stalemate of the WP offensive toward Frankfurt, the result at the end of turn 5 would have been a NATO marginal victory.

Next Scheduled Playtest is: "Forward Comrades!", Campaign game scenario

Saturday, 12 August 2017

1985: North Map Draft

The base terrain of the North Map Section for 1985: Under an Iron Sky is ready!
The map was created using L3DT, a terrain-generation application, with a few finishing touch added with Gimp.

Rivers, Road, Towns and everything else will be added later by our Graphic Department (Yes, we have a one person Graphic Department.....more on this soon).

A portion of the North Map Section for 1985: Under an Iron Sky

Sunday, 30 July 2017

"1985: Under an Iron Sky" Overview

1985: Under an Iron Sky is the spiritual successor of The Next War by SPI: an operational, highly detailed simulation of a NATO - Warsaw Pact conflict in Central Europe.

Being a so-called "Monster Game", 1985 is not exactly a beer and pretzel game. 2000 pieces, 3 22"x 35" maps, 80 pages rules booklet including air war, helicopters, electronic warfare, special forces, revolts, nuclear and chemical warfare.....you name it.

Here's a list of the main features:
  • Revised Order of Battle
    The OOB revision alone took 3 months, and differs from the usual "generic" OOB found in most of "Cold-War-Gone-Hot" games. 1985 OOB is set precisely in July, 1985 and is as detailed as possible, thanks to the vast array of undisclosed documents now available.
  • Revised Tables of Organization
    Several Central European Armies made radical changes to their organization during the 1975-1985 period. West Germany introduced Heeresstruktur IV,  France moved from the traditional brigade divisions to the "light" divisions without component brigades, UK abandoned the much criticized "Field Forces" concept to return to the traditional divisional structure, and US was trying to find a compromise between the expensive "Army 86" project and the cheaper, more flexible "Army Of Excellence" concept.
  • Revised Equipment
    During the early eighties, both sides fielded a plethora of new weapon systems, represented or integrated into the rules of 1985: Stinger, Roland, Patriot, M1 Abrams, Leopard II,  MLRS, AWACS, Offensive ECM air squadrons, T-80, Mig-27, F-16, Tornado are only a few.
Sample US, French and Soviet Counters
  • Real and not Perceived Soviet Military Power
    Warsaw Pact disintegrated in February 1991. Soviet Union itself followed a few months later.
    The seeds of this sudden collapse were already there in 1985, maybe skillfully disguised by the Soviets or more probably plainly ignored by Western intelligence. Consequently, Soviet war machine has been toned down to reflect the reality of a country weakened by unsustainable arms race expenses, Afghanistan war and economic stagnation.
  • New Charts and Tables
    All charts and tables have been changed and rebalanced to take into account real combat experience not available in 1976 (Afghanistan, Desert Storm and Falkland are some example). All die rolls now use 1D20 to resolve the various game mechanics.
Combat Result Table Analysis
  • Redesigned Map
    Map has been updated, and there are more changes than you would expect. For example, in 1976 West Germany completed the Elbe SeitenKanal, a 115 km artificial channel connecting Elbe river to the North and MittellandKanal to the South. One of the reasons for its construction was "to serve as an anti-tank obstacle for enemy forces advancing along an East - West axis". Several airfields have been added, particularly previously undisclosed WP advanced heliports.
    Graphic layout of the map is being defined as I write.
Sample map, a big work in progress.
  • Air War
    Air war, the real focus of the game, is no more handled abstractly at the start of a turn, but fully integrated into the Friendly and Enemy Movement Phases. Players execute specific air missions, assign escort to them, and intercept enemy missions. Obtaining Air Superiority over specific map areas allows one side to use air power to its full potential in support of ground operations.
A US F-4E intercepts a Soviet Mig27 Ground Strike mission, escorted by Mig23.
"Mind the Gap" scenario playtest with home-printed counters.
  • Variable Reinforcements
    A real-life commander doesn't have the luxury of knowing exactly when reinforcements will arrive, and in many cases doesn't even know if they will arrive at all. In 1985, most reinforcements' arrival date depends on both players' decisions, air superiority and external events on which players have limited control.
  • Tactical / Operational Doctrine
    Both sides have several tactical choices for influencing Land Combat: Corps Reserves, Airmobile Anti-Tank Battalions, Active Defense and Single Echelon Attack are among them.
  • Weapons of Mass Destruction Escalation
    In most games, one side or the other may decide to use Chemical or Nuclear weapons knowing exactly what the consequences will be (usually a Victory Point penalty). In 1985, nobody knows where that path will lead once a side decides to take it.
  • Warsaw Pact Unrest and Revolts
    Warsaw Pact satellite countries are very unstable allies, and Warsaw Pact player must constantly keep an eye on them. Revolts are not handled abstractly, but played on the game map. NATO Player also has the possibility of executing Air Missions to support revolts.
  • Victory Conditions
    1985 has two completely different sets of victory conditions: obtaining a Political victory is the first and paramount objective for both sides, meaning that the enemy political structure has collapsed or will do shortly due to the war events. Failing that, both sides may try to obtain a Military victory, measuring how well they performed on the ground but giving no assurance about how future events will unfold.
  • Campaign Games
    1985 will have two Campaign games:
    - Forward Comrades! covering the classic Warsaw Pact offensive in Central Europe.
    - Butterfly Effect, covering a large-scale revolt in one or more Warsaw Pact countries and an air / land intervention by several NATO countries to support the rebels.
  • Scenarios
    Smaller scenarios are in definition, but three sure winners are:
    - Checkpoint Charlie, covering the assault on West Berlin by 20th Guards Army.
    - Mind the Gap, covering the secondary attack against US V and German III Corps by 8th Guards and 1st Guards Tank Armies.
    - A Damned Nice Thing, covering the main attack against NORTHAG by the bulk of Warsaw Pact forces. 

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

The Next War, Operation Attila - D+16, WP Land Phase

The following report has been written using various verified sources, both official and confidential. It tries to shed some light on the confused events started May 19,  1980 (D+16), presenting them in chronological order and from a neutral point of view.

Many aspects remain unclear, particularly about the behaviour of  US V corps Army command. We can only hope that time will reveal more details and, maybe, better answers.


NATO prepares air umbrella

In preparation for the expected Warsaw Pact offensive, NATO assigned every available airplane to ground support in North Air sector. 
Without any fighter escort, the losses inflicted on NATO bombers by Soviet interceptors were quite heavy, but the vast majority of air groups penetrated successfully the battlefield.

To ensure Close Air Support will be available when and where needed, NATO established a heavy SEAD patrol over the whole Ruhr and Rhine front, using more than 100 F-4  in Wild Weasel configuration.

NATO Wild Weasel Missions over NORTHAG Area

Operation Red Sickle begins

At D+16, 0300 Zulu Time, 120 Soviet Mi-6 helicopters using Nap-Of-Earth flight debarked Soviet 76th Guards Division in several locations West of river Rhine. Due to fuel shortage, all transport helicopters were forced to abandon NOE and shot down during the return flight.

After landing, Soviet paratroopers proceeded to attack airfields, headquarters and bridges without regard to losses, wreaking havoc and forcing NATO to displace or use precious attack helicopters in defense.

Operation Red Sickle - Soviet 76th Guards airmobile operations

South Front attacks

At D+16 0500 ZT, two hours after the airmobile troops landed, Czech 1st Army and Soviet 6th Army launched a two-phases wave assault against French 1st Mechanized Division. 

In the first phase, Hungarian 27th Mech and Czech 4th Tank Division attacked at unfavorable odds, suffering heavy losses but encircling the French. 

In the second phase, Soviet 31th Tank and 39 Motorized Guards Divisions used electronic warfare and heavy artillery support to completely destroy the French division.

After the breakthrough was achieved, four more divisions moved forward, reaching River Rhine near Mannheim and encircling French 8th Mechanized Division.

Operation Red Sickle - Attack against French 1st Mech Division

2nd Guards Tank Attacks Ruhr

At D+16 0500 ZT Soviet 2nd Guards Tank Army, supported by at least two units of Electronic Warfare, launched several attacks against NATO prepared positions at Dortmund and Hagen.

The attacks were all repulsed by the entrenched West German Reserve Regiments, helped by dozens of rotary and fixed wing  aircrafts patrolling the Ruhr on CAS call.

The Crossing of the Rhine

At D+16, 0600 ZT, three Soviet divisions from 1st Guards Tank Army began a wave assault against British 6th Mechanized Division, one of the few NORTHAG units without electronic warfare and artillery cover.

The attack was supported by combat engineer, at least 3 electronic warfare units and more than 10 artillery regiments moved around Arnhem during the night.

At 1000 ZT, with close air support only partially effective due to Soviet EW and facing a coordinated assault on 3 sides, British resistance began to crumble. Facing the concrete possibility of a complete destruction of 6th Division, BAOR command decided to retreat the shattered survivors toward Kleve urban area.

At 1030 ZT, Soviet 7th Guards Tank Division crossed river Rhine and entered Nijmegen, cutting the supply line for 1/1 Belgians Brigade defending Arnhem.

At 1330 ZT, two fresh Soviet Divisions from 1st Guards Tank Army crossed the Rhine in the breakthrough area and quickly dispatched the Belgians, taking control of Arnhem bridges over the Rhine.

Operation Red Sickle - North Front attacks in Ruhr and Arnhem area

The Shadow of Apocalypse 

After receiving news about Soviet breakthroughs in BAOR and French II Corps Main Battle Areas, US V Corps Commanding General Willard Scott ordered 1st Battalion, 80th Field Artillery Regiment to attack Soviet 51st Tank Division, positioned 30 km Northeast of Frankfurt, with 2 Lance missiles armed with 100 kilotons nuclear warheads.

According to the radio transcripts released by SHAPE, the Artillery Regiment Commander asked for confirmation and a written order, but was forced to obedience by "explicit threats of martial court and execution" by US V Corps Commander.

At D+16, 1817 ZT two 100 kilotons nuclear warheads detonated at ground level in Soviet 51st Tank Division area, with devastating effects.

One hour later, US 1st Mechanized Division, in tactical nuclear deployment and fully equipped with NBC countermeasures, attacked 51st Tank Division positions. The Soviets, badly mauled and still under shock, retreated after a short resistance.

The Domino Effect

Starting from the US nuclear attack, events unfolded rather quickly:

D+16, 2000 ZT: A crescent number of reports about "a nuclear attack against 8th Guards Tank Army" flooded the Warsaw Pact Headquarters. Politburo members were transferred to an underground security structure near Moscow.

D+16, 2030 ZT: Military Police and American Special Forces assaulted US V Corps Headquarters, arresting Commanding General Willard Scott and his Staff members.

D+16, 2044 ZT: US President Jimmy Carter used the Red Line, installed after the Cuban Missiles Crisis, to inform General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev that "the tactical nuclear attack was carried out without authorization, approval or consent by US Government or NATO Supreme Commander and is to be considered an irresolute act of insubordination perpetrated by US V Corps Commander"

D+16, 2200 ZT: Secretary General Leonid Brezhnev made a speech on Soviet State Television, stating that "Despite several public and diplomatic declaration that NATO would never be the first to use nuclear bombs, these horrible weapons were today used against Soviet troops fighting the War of Liberation in Germany. Such an inhumane act, no matter if unintentional or unwilling, cannot remain without a proper and commisurate retaliation. Therefore, an equivalent and appropriate response has been ordered against US troops now taking advantage of this perfidious act."
"From now on, any use of nuclear weapons, in any context, would trigger an unrestrained strategic Soviet reaction against the perpetrators and their allies."

D+16, 2321 ZT: 8 Nuclear rockets Luna 9M21B, each with a 25 kilotons nuclear warhead, exploded in the Main Battle Area of US 1st Mechanized Division. Despite NBC protection and nuclear tactical deployment, US losses are about 25% in personnel and equipment.

D+17, 0200 ZT: Soviet Combat Engineer repaired the Arnhem bridges in record time, and the first columns of Soviet supply trucks crossed the Rhine.
Operation Red Sickle - Soviet troops crossing the Rhine at Arnhem

D+17, 0400 ZT: 20 Polish divisions plus support units crossed the East Germany - Poland border and moved at full speed toward West Germany.

D+17, 0800 ZT:  Polish Defense Minister Wojciech Jaruzelski announced on state TV that "The Polish People, finally free from the counterrevolutionary influences of devious and plagiarized Government members, are now ready to move forward and actively participate to the glorious events unfolding in Europe."


An informal Secretary General Leonid Brezhnev, at the phone just after receiving the news about Soviet troops crossing the Rhine
D+17, 1010 ZT: Soviet Ambassador in Paris was called for "urgent consultations" with French President. According to French Government internal sources, Soviet Ministry of Foreign Affairs Andrei Gromyko was also involved in the consultations.

D+17, 1200 ZT: French President Valery Giscard D'Estaing made a TV speech, stating that "Considering the rapidly deteriorating military situation in Central Europe, and the recent facts highlighting the concrete possibility for France to be unwillingly involved in a nuclear confrontation with Soviet Union, the French and Soviet Government today agreed on an unilateral ceasefire, effective immediately, between Warsaw Pact and French armed forces."

"French troops will move back to France metropolitan territory, and will keep a neutral stance toward any armed conflict between NATO and Warsaw Pact members. That said, any violation of French territory by Warsaw Pact armed forces will cause an immediate and unrestrained nuclear strategic response by France against Soviet Union."

Following the French announcement, Belgian and Danish governments quickly ratified similar agreements with Soviet Union.

D+17, 1900 ZT: With AFCENT front crumbling and defections increasing, remaining NATO troops started retreating toward North Sea ports or, in some cases, Atlantic ports in France without any French opposition.

D+17, 2000 ZT: US President Jimmy Carter and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher read a joint declaration on national televisions, stating that "United States and Great Britain will stand firmly together as they already did in the past, and will continue the struggle to restore democracy, freedom and peace in the whole Europe. No energy will be spared, no sacrifice will be avoided, until the plague of Soviet Communism is only a sad, bloody page in history books."

Strategic Situation at D+16, 1500 Zulu Time


Aftermath

One month has passed since the end of Operation Attila and the subsequent dissolution of NATO, but the world is still at war. 

Despite spectacular parades celebrating "Victory over American Imperialism", Soviet Union is still heavily engaged in military activities, facing a growing coalition led by United States and Great Britain. US strategic bombers routinely attack Soviet installations in Europe, and a strong resistance movement is reported in West Germany.
Victory Parade at Berlin, June 3, 1980
France, now at the border of the Soviet Empire, is paying its newly neutral stance with military expenses, now up to 20% of GNP.

The land fight moved to Middle and Far East, where supply problems and US control of the seas are giving Soviet Union a hard time. China has recently mobilized its army, and its intentions are still an enigma.