No war that never happened, has been more written about than World War III. So attempting to write a game about it has a flavor of Alice in Wonderland about it. When writing a wargame you tend to rely on ‘what happened’ accounts to try and bring your game mechanics into according with what you have read. This of course is all bollocks! And I am as guilty as anyone of attempting to breath ‘reality’ into a wargame. Unless you and a few of your best but foolish friends go into woods, desert, steppes etc. and shoot at each other with real ammo you’ll never understand the sheer terror of combat. And if you have no concept of what it is like to have people trying to kill you good for you!
So with that having been said how do you go about putting realistic results into your game? First you start with basic premises that you feel are universally true about the subject. My starting premise in NATO and Warsaw Pact was this: NATO was out numbered by Warsaw Pact forces. I did not fall for the old saw about Soviet equipment being comfortingly inferior to western hardware. Time and again the Soviets stunned the west with weapon systems just as capable.
My next premise was it would be the Soviets that would cross the line. There is nothing to prove that NATO would NEVER have started the war, but it seemed unlikely that the European powers would willing start a war that would end in their utter destruction. The Soviets on the other hand were looking to crush the west as quickly as possible and drive the US off the European landmass. I felt that this offensive would have been a stabbing attack into West Germany, Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands. I doubt that the Soviets ever seriously thought of ‘Marching to Paris’ but ‘Marching to Bonn and Antwerp’ was on the agenda. I believe the drive would have been a no holds barred race for the Rhine. I also feel that such an offensive would have drawn in the Mediterranean powers if for no other reason than to prevent reinforcements using Italian or Greek ports. Remember the Soviets had no real naval power in the Mediterranean and Turkey would have fought the Black Seas Fleet from moving south.
Premise three was the notion that neither NATO nor the Warsaw Pact would have ‘gone nuclear’ right at the start of the conflict. After all, what was the point of winning a burnt out, radioactive cinder? Chemical weapons would have been delivered as part of the opening gambit and that would have been all Soviet. NATO had such agents and their delivery systems. But, NATO also had millions of citizens directly in harm’s way of those agents. The Soviets did not need to shield the population in fact it might collapse the will to fight if later targets heard about the death toll in earlier battles, or crowd the MSRs with frightened panicked people.
My final premise was the fact that these games would be quick, easy to learn, dirty and as high tech free as possible. After all, all the myriad hardware in infinite detail would derail the idea of a tactical level game that could be played by two players in 1 to 2 hours without having to learn such phrases as APDS, FLIR, ALM etc etc ad infinitum. ‘Is the tech there at all?’ I hear you ask, of course! WWIII was going to be the war in which electronics would be the master, so the tech is built into the design of every unit in the game.
In closing I’m very happy with the overwhelming response to NATO, I feel this proves that others feel as I do that World War III is a worthy gaming subject and that ease of play has a vital roll in the design.