This is an after-action report of a game of the full Third World War (all four boxes) that me and some friends played earlier this year.
Spring of 1990. The Berlin Wall never fell, and the borderlands between the East and the West in Europe is one of the most heavily militarised regions of the world. A network of alliances guarantees that a conflict quickly will spread around the world. The only thing missing is a spark …
That spark comes from the Middle-East when Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran days and leaves a power vacuum in the country. The USA fear an oil-rich Soviet satellite state on the Persian Gulf, and the Soviet Union will never accept a close US ally on their southern border.
NATO: Adam Thorp, Jens Svensson
Warsaw Pact: Pär Norén, Love Jansson
(We drew our diplomatic cards randomly.)
The initial setup around the Persian Gulf
1. The USA draws its blank card, the USSR plays “Arms for Iraq”
America stays passive (political paralysis in the White House?), the Soviet Union hopes for an ally in Iraq.
2. The US plays “Arms for the Mujaheddin”, the USSR plays “Support Iranian Communists”
Both power realise the advantage of having allies within the borders of Iran. The US hope that the Mujaheddin will support them as they did in Afghanistan, and the Soviets throw their support behind the local communist party.
3. The US plays “Support an independent Kurdistan”, the USSR plays “Support the Tudeh”
The US grab the kurds, to the dismay of Turkey. Iraq also frowns at this and are now a single step away from joining the USSR. At the same time, the Soviet Union support the Tudeh according to the principle of “Why settle for one communist party, when you can have two?” Saudi-Arabia joins the US. An air regiment of F-5s is never wrong, but Washington is not overly enthusiastic over a bunch of 1-1-3 units with “limited military capacity”.
4. The US plays “Arms for Iraq”, the USSR plays “Support an independent Kurdistan”
The US State Department realises that they are about to lose Iraq and shamelessly bribe Saddam. The Soviets make a statement showing their support for the Kurds but fail to realise that that train has already left the station. Iraq is immediately much more friendly with Uncle Sam.
5. Saudi Diplomacy, Denounce Israel
Both sides suck up to their friends a little and bicker with each other. The crisis worsens when the Syrians announce that they are joining the USSR in “the struggle against the imperialistic capitalism”.
6. The US plays “Covert support for Iranian Army leaders”, the USSR plays “Syrian Intervention”
The US get down and dirty with the Iranian army, while Syria goes to war. Unfortunately, the latter have nothing to go to war with, which is a bit of a mood breaker. The Tudeh plays their impressive forces (three 1-1-2 units) behind the Soviet struggle for freedom, while the Knesset send a note to the US State Department that they are prepared to put forces at the disposal of the US. Washingon relations with the Islamic government, which have been cordial so far, quickly sour and Teheran starts exchanging letters with Moscow again.
7. “Alert the RDF”, “Support the Islamic Government”
In his State of the Union, President Bush announces that he has given instructions to send “military advisors” to the Persian Gulf to “observe” the situation. US Marine Corps units arrive in the Persian Gulf, but the Omani are cranky and refuse to allow them entry so the marines have to stay in Saudi-Arabia. The Iran government quickly move towards the Soviet bloc when the latter even announce their support for them. The Centrist party and the Iranian Army joins the US however, as does Jordania. A civil war in Iran is looming on the horison.
8. The US plays “Jordanian Intervention”, the USSR plays “Arms for the Muhahideen”
The Jordanians see an opportunity to settle some grudges with their Syrian rivals and unleash their two divisions. Soviet diplomats in Iran have noticed that the Mujahideen has cautiously been inching towards their part of the political debate during the past weeks and ask Moscow to encourage this “improvement in attitude”. The US and the Jordanians conduct air strikes against the Syrians, but their anti-air defences frighten off the “imperialist planes”.
9. The US plays “Invade”, the USSR plays “Mobilize southern military districts”
American forces land in Iran. A little over half of the Iranian army rebels and cheer for the yankees. Heavy American air attacks obliterate the goverment loyalists near the Persian gulf, but some “blue-on-blue” fire events occur as the US units run afoul of of UXO and damaged roads. Heated discussions follow among the Joint Chiefs of Staff concerning inter-service cooperation. The 82. Airborne Division attempts a paradrop at Esfahan, but is driven away by Iranian triple-A defences. The Islamic government of Iran, with their backs to the wall following the events of the past weeks, ask the Soviet Union for assistance, and STAVKA orders a mobilisation of the southern military districts when they realise that they are losing control of the situation.
American B-52 Stratofortresses bomb the Syrians, but Soviet-built AA systems manage to reduce the bombing raids to “only” 5 dice.
American and Saudi air units conduct air strikes in preparation for the landings. Friendly units suffer losses from the bombings, but the RDF commander thought it was worth it to secure the oil fields near the Persian Gulf. Iraqi forces observe with great interest.
Iraq is very close to joining the US side. With a little “luck”, they will join the struggle for freedom, capitalism and Coca-Cola next week.
10. Israel sends an expeditionary force to the Persian Gulf (Israeli Intervention), but the Soviets stay passive (blank card). US relations with Iraq turn sour and American diplomats grumble about the IDF not waiting another few days to join the party …
American Stratofortresses and Hornets bomb the Syrian forces, but the Soviet-build anti-air systems that Iran is using once again show their effectiveness and send the F-14s back from Chan-Bahar with their tails tucked between their legs. The Marine Corps still manages to land and secure the harbor and the air field. The Syrians realise that they are hemmed in by the Jordanian army and boldly circumvent the US led coalition forces before south at full speed. They enter Saudi-Arabia and push towards Medina! The Americans boldly order the local Saudi forces to leave the city and instead send in the 82. Airborne (which by now has recovered from the debacle at Esfahan) along with Israeli airborne rangers for support. The loud complaints from muslims around the world are ignored. US units attack Esfahan with carrier-based Harriers for air support. The Russians send their Su-25 with Syrian MiG-21 for escort, but the Russian aviators quickly withdraw when their air cover is eliminated by the the US Air Force. Esfahan is “liberated”. The US-aligned Iranians cheer, while the Iranian government plead with their allies to the north for aid.
You need to be in the right mood when playing wargames. Translator’s note: The music playing is “There is only war” by Raubtier, and the text on the cup says “Ambition and pride”, the motto of the 7. Armor Brigade of the Swedish Army.