Third World War Strategic Situation [GDW]

Overall what is the game about and what are we trying to achieve? WW III…duh. Previous posts outlined the practice run played recently. Now to the real thing . We have run part of the pre war activity, and are prepping for all out war.

The two superpowers are going to come to blows in Iran at some point in the next few Pre War game turns (each is a week). I’ll have the Pre War turns to share with you shortly. This game was published in the early 80’s, suggesting that all hell breaks out just prior to the thawing between Reagan and Gorbachev.


It is late spring 1985 according the game(s). With four modules spanning from the North in Norway to the South to Char Baha on the Southern coast of Iran, the game is vast in scale. It also runs East to West from Lille-Nice to Lvov as its furthest point in the Central plains area in the East. Istanbul, the Greek isles and the Afghan border from the Eastern edges of the Southern / Persian Gulf maps.

With larger games it is fun and interesting to take a look at the big picture prior to play, and even before there is a really deep understanding of the flow of the game. It is always fun to come back and see how far off you are!

Soviet forces are amassed and arrayed as are NATO and various Allies and Neutrals. We have 3, well 4 really broad areas or theaters. What can the Pact potentially do?

  1. Arctic, comprised of Finland, Norway and Sweden. The Finns and Swedes really count for just 2VP each if they surrender while the Norwegians are worth up to 19 if all the Cities, ports and airfields are captured. There is however a lot of ugly terrain, as well as the unknowns of two neutrals who might become belligerents around Turn 3, and the opportunity cost of taking on the wilderness war rather than supporting Central Europe. Should the Soviets tackle this mushy problem?
  2. Central Europe, from Denmark to the Alps this comprises the Lowlands and the heavier terrain of Western Germany. No shortage of riches to be gained by major city capture and dismantling of NATO. About 33 Major cities, and 53 minors from Denmark to the south side of the Alps including the cities I call Venice and Genoa; not sure why they insist on using the names traditional ethnic spellings.pomcus locations
  3. Southern Europe is the third area and one that bears watching. Yugoslavia and Austria are unknown in terms of their willingness to fight, that combined with the fragility (potential) of Romania make this a very interesting map segment. The area does not contain a lot of valuable VP locations. Yet the Southern flank offers up choices to the Soviets that NATO should keep in mind when forming its own strategy.
    1. IF Austria and or Jugo’s can hold against a Romanian attack this will potentially tie up a lot of good quality ‘2nd wave’ forces that the Soviets could use elsewhere.
    2. IF the Romanians ignore Yugoslavia and head North to support the Soviets by going East and then NW they provide a lot of extra punch. That said they also then leave the risk of a Turn 4 entry of the Yugos into the war and possibly the Austrians as well.
    3. If the Romanians get shaky they turtle quickly and will surrender sooner than expected. They therefore may not be as robust a force as the Soviets hope. This exposes them in both cases per the above a and b.
    4. The last option is pressing south into the straits and accumulating points there and perhaps in Italy?Gulf_start
  4. Finally the Persian Gulf, rich in VP’s in fact if we look at Iran and Iraq that is 58 VP’s! A big push south using either crack Soviet forces or some ‘other set of units’ could really make a two front war a difficult problem for the NATO/US coalition.


Enlarged View: HERE

Soviet Strategy

My gut feel is that my opponent will do something along the lines of:

  1. Push hard to grab as much real estate as possible pre War Turn 0, by gobbling up VP’s in Iran. This could be a bit of a problem as he will face an activated US RDF, who have control of all the Ports in the Gulf with the aid of the loyal Iranian Army. He will reinforce success and likely tempt NATO to over commit on US reinforcements in the Gulf. He does not however know the alignment of Iraq, and this will bother him and cause a modicum of caution.
  2. Once we start fighting I think the focus goes back to Central Europe as it has the obvious benefits of easy VP’s IF the Soviet machine can break thru.
  3. He will use the Romanians to invade Austria to create a southern flank by turn 3, in the hope that he can roll up the US forces from the South and the Lowlands in a pincer.
  4. He may decide to go all out in the Persian Gulf. Though that may be too far off the historical ‘scripted’ course of action for him to accept.

Winning the war:

The Pact starts with 92 VP’s. To achieve a Marginal Victory they must accumulate 147 VP’s. 179 for a substantial victory margin and 217 for Strategic win. Results shift columns and amounts depending on how long Nuclear Escalation sits at certain levels. i.e. Pact earns 8 VP for EACH turn that the Nuke level sits at 2 or 3 (most beneficial for NATO), at level 5 the VP count changes down to 1 VP per Major city and a half for minors, i.e. the central European pool of VP’s drops to 32 + 26 versus 66 + 52!

By now you have done some math. You know that there is not a LOT of cities that need to fall or oil wells that need to be captured on face value for the minor win. Just 55 VP’s or 27 major city equivalents. A substantial win requires 87 VP’s, or 43 plus Major cities. Tough going but very doable if the Soviets can force nuke escalation for a turn or two and press deep into Central Europe. That would almost be enough, if the Southern Gulf area stabilizes and the Soviets keep most of Iran.

Hidden Neutrality chits and the Coalition plan:

As the Western player not too much can be revealed at this time as I know my opponent reads the blog on occasion. That said early escalation to nuke level 3 or 4 is ideal as it will potentially give the Soviets pause early on to see that Level 5 looming and the potential reduced value of cities that will give to him (nukes reduce value of cities by 50%). Is that a logical assumption? Escalation will also drive him to stay dispersed. Call me crazy but we got a war to fight and we aren’t ‘gunna’ win being a nice guy.

Theaters of effort. The west will have its hands full in the Central Region and it must be the first priority. Protect, defend, delay, delay. Which brings to mind that a solid look at the reinforcements and potential for counter attack needs to be assessed. The west has some powerful assets. Air in a ground support mode can be used to not only break up potential attacks but counter attack effectively. In the Southern Baltic area I hope that the Pact forces there try to take on Austria and Yugoslavia. The North must be reactionary. IF Pact forces go hard on Finns and attack Norway, then escalating that region will be a priority IF we deem the VP losses and other side effects worth saving. The final area the Persian Gulf on the other hand has a lot of moving parts. If the West plays well, it can form a solid defense and chew up Divisions of Soviets best used elsewhere. The ability to deny oil, and city VP’s has to be weighed however against Pact progress in Central European sector, and the level of effort the Pact puts into the Gulf.

As always thoughts are nice. How it all pans out is another. In a perfect world Sweden would come on line Turn 3, Yugo’s turn 4 with Austria supporting and Iraq bringing the fight in the South. Not likely but we can at least hope to have one or two go our way.

Well back the rules for some more ‘study’.

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