Monday, 9 October 2017

1985: Under an Iron Sky - Box Art

Here's the probable final version of the box art.....It also includes the logo of our newborn publishing company, "Thin Red Line Games".


Wednesday, 4 October 2017

1985: "Forward, Comrades!" Campaign Game Playtest

We are now beginning the playtest for the main "1985: Under an Iron Sky" campaign, titled "Forward, Comrades!". 

The campaign depicts the "classical" Warsaw Pact offensive in Central Europe, with a variable preparation period decided by Warsaw Pact.

As Warsaw Pact Commander I've decided to follow the good ol' John Hackett's plan: a strong attack against NORTHAG, along a Braunschweig - Hannover - Osnabrück  - Arnhem axis, followed by a conversion South in order to envelope the Ruhr area. Nothing less ambitious would be accepted by the State Committee of the State of Emergency in Moscow (My God, how did they choose such a definition?).

I'll keep preparation and build-up at a minimum (48 hours, 1 turn) and declare war on Turn 2, in order to take NATO still off-balance. Starting from turn 3, reinforcements from US and other NATO countries start arriving in Europe too fast, and for that time I want the Soviet fleet already at war and keeping NATO busy with GIUK Gap and North Atlantic lanes defense; with a bit of luck, it will slow down REFORGER long enough.

Regarding Warsaw Pact allies Mobilization, I'll see how many of them are happy about the People's War of Liberation from the Capitalist Oppression before deciding. The last thing I need is a revolt in East Germany or Poland.

I have no clue on NATO Commander's plan at the moment, but I presume he will follow the "Forward Defense" political diktat in CENTAG area, and maybe a more fluid approach in NORTHAG.

Here's some snapshots of the complete setup:

Overview - three 95x65cm maps, more or less 2000 pieces.

NORTHAG area

CENTAG area

So, it begins.

Group of Soviet Forces in Germany, ready to liberate West German Workers from their slavery.


Monday, 2 October 2017

1985: "Checkpoint Charlie" Scenario Playtest

Campaign Game playtest for "1985: Under an Iron Sky" has been slowed down by unexpected map problems, now finally fixed.

In the meantime, we've decided to playtest the quick and dirty "Checkpoint Charlie" scenario using the first printed draft of the map and the usual home-printed counters.


Scenario Introduction

Time: July 24, 1985, 0400 Zulu Time
Playing Area: Berlin and surrouding area
Length: 1 1/2 Game Turns (72 hours)

The symbolic significance of West Berlin and its strategic position along the supply routes used by the main thrust against NORTHAG does not allow Warsaw Pact planners to ignore the city, despite the considerable effort presumably needed for conquering it.

20th Guards Army is therefore ordered to dispatch the West Berlin Garrison within 72 hours, secure the area and subsequently move toward Hamburg to help the advance into the city.

NATO Garrison in Berlin has a very limited array of tactical choices. Without air support and no hope for reinforcements, the only real option is to hold fast and hope for the best.

The Battlefield

Pre-War Movements

Warsaw Pact can move all his units quite liberally, and of course 20th Guards Army surrounds West Berlin with its four Divisions and an attached East German Motorized Division. Three heavy artillery Brigades, three Mi-24 attack helicopters squadrons and four fighter-bombers squadrons are ready to support the assault.

NATO can only decide if his three Brigades will fight a mobile battle (Tactical Mode) or entrench and fight in place (Hedgehog Mode). NATO decides to entrench the UK Brigade, leaving French and US troops the option to retreat toward the central British position after fighting a delay battle.

Situation at July 24 1985, 0200 Zulu Time

Game Turn 1

At 0400 Zulu Time, 20th Guards Army begins its assault on West Berlin.
Soviet 35th Motorized Division, with Mi24 and Artillery support, attacks the French Sector; following NATO plan, the French Brigade retreats in good order into the British Sector.

A defending NATO Berlin Brigade can usually count on 8 to 11 combat modifiers in its favor: 5 for troop quality, 3 for defending in a city hex, 2 for hedgehog mode, 1 for "Festung Berlin" special rule (the lack of alternatives make more determined fighters). On the opposite side, Warsaw Pact only has 4 or 5 combat modifiers given by troop quality, unless attacking an already worn out defender.

With a net combat modifier from 3 to 7 in NATO favor, any attack has only a slim chance to succeed.
To solve this problem, Warsaw Pact must attack at overwhelming odds, as each force ratio more than 7:1 is translated into additional combat modifier for the attacker. So, attacking at 12:1 ratio would give an additional 5 combat modifiers to Warsaw Pact.

To obtain such a force ratio, Warsaw Pact player must use precious assets such as artillery, attack helicopters and Close Air Support. Another option is the Single Echelon Assault, an all-out attack where all the regiments of a Division are used on the front line, giving a 50% increase to attack strength but more losses should the attack fail.

After advancing into West Berlin, 35th Motorized Division faces the combined forces of two NATO brigades, with the Britons entrenched in a strong defensive position. The order to secure the city within 72 hours leaves no choice to the Soviet Army Commander: defender's positions must be assaulted immediately, with everything at hand.

35th Motorized Division launches a Single-Echelon Assault, with all its Regiments in the first line, supported by three artillery Brigades, one Mi24 Helicopter and three Su17 squadrons. Unfortunately for the Soviets, that's not enough: after 8 hours of house fighting, the Soviets have lost more than 80 T-72 and 120 BMP vehicles, effectively destroying the Division's offensive value.

7:1 attack, 0 combat modifier. Die roll 19, result A1: 1 step loss on attacker, +1 step loss for City combat ,+1 step loss for Single-Echelon Assault. Attacking Division is replaced by its Division Base.

It's now 90th Guards Tank Division turn to assault the British Sector, assisted once again by three Artillery Brigades and one Mi24 helicopter squadron. The attack succeeds, inflicting heavy losses to the defenders and allowing Soviet troops to advance a couple of blocks into city center.

Two 7:1 attacks with 0 combat modifiers inflict two step losses on each NATO brigade, leaving the defenders on the verge of elimination but still alive.

With no more artillery or helicopter available for support, Soviet Army Commander requests permission to stop the attack until artillery ammunition stocks are replenished and helicopters readied for another sortie. Explicit threats of removal and trial by 20th Guards Army Political Officer quickly convince him that a continuation of the assault is the only way to avoid personal execution.

90th Guards Tank Division is therefore ordered to attack with all its regiments and without any support. At 1900 Zulu Time, after the third attempt to dislodge British defenders from the Opera House failed, Soviet Division Commander reports that "90th Guards Tank Division is wrecked" and shoots himself.

Soviet commanders, impervious to failure and losses, order 32nd Guards Tank Division to renew the Assault against the Opera House. The exhausted French and British survivors are forced to surrender at 2317 Zulu Time.

Warsaw Pact is finally forced to stop by lack of fresh divisions, artillery and helicopter support.
US Berlin Brigade, now with no available retreat routes, entrenches in the Southern part of West Berlin.

Situation at July, 25 0400 Zulu Time

Game Turn 2

20th Guards Army only has 72 hours to take control of West Berlin. As a game turn covers 48 hours, Soviet movement during game turn 2 is limited to a maximum of 20 Movement Points. 

At the first lights of dawn, 32nd Guards Tank Division starts pounding US position in South West Berlin, with the support of three artillery brigades, 90 Mi24 attack helicopters and 60 Su17 attack aircrafts. 

By 1900 Zulu Time, all West Berlin is under Soviet control and the first 212 American POWs begin their journey toward newly prepared prisoner camps located near strategic installations in USSR. 

With no time for parades, the remnants of 20th Guards Tank Army quickly moves West to join the battle near Hamburg.
Situation at 1900 Zulu Time, July 2 1985

Aftermath

Warsaw Pact Victory Points:
  • NATO ground steps eliminated: 9 x5 = 45 VPs
  • West Berlin City hexes controlled: 4 x5 = 20 VPs
  • Intact Bridges captured: 0 x1 = 0 VPs
NATO Victory Points:
  • WP ground steps eliminated: 6 x2 = 12 VPs
  • WP helicopter steps eliminated: 4 x2 = 8 VPs
Net result is 65 WP  - 20 NATO = 45 Victory Points: Warsaw Pact Marginal Victory.

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