Of course, you'll find the final, complete and polished version in the Scenarios and Designer's Notes Booklet. An overview of the game can be found here.
A Changing WorldIn 1985 world was beginning to change. Nobody really noticed it until four years later, when Berlin Wall suddenly became nothing more than a sad, ugly remain of a failed regime. After that first step had been taken, the whole Communist bloc practically disappeared in a matter of months.
The chain of events leading to this dramatic dissolution has been debated by people more qualified than me, but I wish to highlight some points that influenced the game development and our evaluation of the balance of power in 1985.
After six years of war, 30,000 killed or wounded and 200,000 hospitalized for serious diseases, perception of the Red Army as a force capable of crushing dissent under any condition had been mortally eroded.
The cost of war also put an unbearable pressure over an already struggling economy and wore down Soviet capacity to maintain and support an army of three million men, fifty thousand tanks and seven thousand aircrafts.
This is represented in game by the relatively low combat values of Soviet category II and III divisions, by their mobilization time and by the less than optimal readiness of Warsaw Pact’s supply infrastructure.
Solidarnosc and the Growing Unrest
In the end, declaration of Martial Law partially restored Communist Party’s control over the country, but despite that, a fact had emerged: Soviet Union was no longer able to force obedience by military means. The end of the so-called Brezhnev’s Doctrine strengthened dissention in Eastern Europe and weakened the Communist governments of Warsaw Pact, no longer able to count on Soviet intervention should internal problems arise.
In the game, the concrete possibility of some Warsaw Pact’s countries not fully joining the “War of Liberation” and the related Unrest and Revolt rules are based on these events.
Ronald Reagan and the “Evil Empire”
During his two Presidency terms, he abandoned the so-called Détente policy, labeled Soviet Union as an “Evil Empire” , increased US military spending and forced an already weakened Soviet Union to enter an economically unsustainable arms race.
Reagan’s approach to international policy and increase of military budget has several effects in the game: US reinforcements to European Central Front arrive rather quickly, and their number may easily prove decisive in the conflict. Moreover, US ground and air units are definitely stronger than 10 years before (more on this later).
The End of Gerontocracy and Gorbachev
Possibly out of plausible candidates, the Central Committee elected the reformer Mikhail Gorbachev as General Secretary on March, 11th 1985.
Gorbachev made immediately clear that something had to be changed in Soviet Union, and pushed forward ideas like Perestroika and Glasnost in the sincere attempt to reform the Communist state from within. Unfortunately for him, the sequence of events he put in motion ended with the dissolution of Soviet Union, six years later.
Gorbachev and his announced, and at that time radical, reforms provide the starting point for the game. The real military coup to destitute Gorbachev in August, 1991 has been anticipated to June, 1985 and the result changed from a failure to a successful return to power of Kremlin’s military wing. The events that could have followed this only slightly hypothetical situation are not hard to imagine.
NATO Armed Forces in 1985Thanks to increased military spending, new technologies and a more aggressive approach to confrontation with the East Bloc, most NATO Armed Forces were quickly recovering from their lowest point of the ‘70s years.
M1 Abrams MBT and M2 Bradley AFV were gradually replacing the old M60 and M113, giving an impressive boost in offensive and defensive capabilities to Armored and Mechanized Brigades. Stinger missiles offered a better air defense to field troops, and the first Patriot batteries were becoming operational in CENTAG area. M270 MRLS artillery was being introduced, even though not in sufficient number to have a real impact in game.
US Army was in the process of moving to the new “Army of Excellence” organization, a compromise between the old Vietnam structure and the already half-in-place, expensive “Army 86” one. With heavier Armored Divisions and lighter, more transportable Infantry Divisions, the Army of Excellence surely had a positive impact on US capabilities in Central Europe.
The creation of three new POMCUS site in NORTHAG area and the assignment of US III Corps to REFORGER brought to six the total number of US division earmarked for Europe. Several large scale REFORGER exercises allowed a better and more realistic logistical planning.
In the air, F-16 and EF-111 reinforced the already strong US Air Force, and the new AirLand Battle doctrine allowed an approach more tailored to an European conflict. Moreover, strategic airlift capacity was improved by acquiring several dozens of C-5B Galaxy air transport.
US Navy acquired 8 Fast Sealift Ships with Roll-On/Roll-Off capability, giving the capacity to transport an Armored or Mechanized Division to Europe in only 5 days.
The ill-conceived idea of “Field Forces” had been abandoned three years before, and Armored Divisions were back to the old three brigades structure; this resulted in stronger divisions, but budget constraints forced the relocation of some brigades in the UK.
With only eight armored brigades in Germany, BAOR was barely up to the task of defending the central area of NORTHAG; scarcity of attack helicopters and air defense assets didn’t help to improve the situation.
On the plus side, Falkland war showed once again that training and motivation of British soldiers were above average. Equipment was being updated too, with Challenger MBT and Javelin SAM slowly replacing Chieftain and Blowpipe.
Royal Air Force was in better shape, thanks to the introduction of Tornado GR1 and F-4M Phantom FGR.2 strike squadrons, and ready to challenge Warsaw Pact SAM defenses in the AirLand Battle.
The Heer (Army) was reorganized in 1980 and adopted HeerStrutktur IV. Corps Artillery units were disbanded, and the resulting batteries reassigned as independent units to each Division; Brigades structure was also changed from 3 to 4 smaller battalions, in order to gain flexibility and mobility. On the equipment front, Leopard I was being replaced by Leopard II, with approximately half of the Panzer and PanzerGrenadier brigades already equipped.
Mobilization was also revised and strengthened, giving West Germany a notable force of 28 additional reserve Brigades / Regiments within D+8 (Four Game Turns).
Luftwaffe (Air Force) equipped four of its squadrons with Tornado IDS (Interdictor / Strike) aircrafts, a quantum leap from the F-104 and Alphajet previously used in this role.
FranceIn 1977 French Army moved from old-style 3 brigades Divisions to “light” Divisions, each having more or less the size of a heavily reinforced Brigade.
Despite the obvious loss in firepower at single unit level, the increased number of available Divisions allowed the constitution of the III Corps, based at Lille (FR) and unofficially earmarked as reinforcement for NORTHAG. This also has a positive in-game effect for NATO: plenty of French ground forces, with each Division able to defend a section of the front better than a Brigade.
Equipment didn’t have really significant upgrades, with the notable exception of the all-weather SAM Roland II.
Warsaw Pact Armed Forces in 1985Generally speaking, technology gap with the West was increasing and overall Armed Forces quality was decreasing. Despite introducing several new weapon systems in the decade before 1985, Soviet Union failed to field a real game changer comparable to the Mig21, T-64 or BMP-1.
On the positive side, Mi24 attack helicopter became an integral part of Warsaw Pact Army structure, giving a powerful boost to offensive capabilities.
The Soviet arsenal was beginning to feel the effects of economic stagnation, as several Category II and III Division didn’t have any significant equipment upgrade since the ‘70s. The mobilization system was also under strain: the initial invasion of Afghanistan was conducted primarily by reservists divisions, but their poor performance forced Soviet Union to send conscripts troops, consequently stripping Cat II and III divisions of their best recruits.
If Soviet Union had difficulties in keeping NATO pace, its Eastern allies were having even bigger problems. With the (partial) exception of East Germany, Warsaw Pact countries’ economy was unable to sustain further modernization of the armed forces. Several Motorized regiments were using Gaz-66 trucks for troops transport, and most Tank Regiments were still equipped with T-54 and T-55. Polish air force still fielded Su7, Mig17 and old Mig21 versions.
As usual, deficiencies in quality were at least partially filled by quantity, with a significant increase in the total number of artillery and ADA weapons available.
One last consideration derives from several studies on US POMCUS sites. Giving the immense parked arsenal for category II and III divisions and the problems US Army encountered in maintaining a much smaller quantity of equipment in controlled-humidity sites in West Germany, it is improbable that Soviet Union did better in keeping efficient tens of thousands of parked vehicles in areas with inclement weather like Byelorussia. Soviet Category II and III division have been penalized accordingly in game.
The Airborne ForcesAirborne Divisions have been another surprise emerged from previously classified documents.
Of the four divisions usually considered available for an offensive against NATO, two did not exist (31st Guards and 102nd Guards), and one (103rd Guards) had been committed to Afghanistan.
This leaves Group of Soviet Forces in Germany with 106th Guards Airborne Division, plus 35th Guards and 37th Air Assault Brigades. This force could be increased with 76th Guards Division and 36th Air Assault Brigade by forfeiting any offensive operation against Norway.
The Air Forces
Introduction of Su24 was probably the best result obtained, giving Soviet Union a good strike aircraft that could also be used as interceptor.
Mig23 proved itself a valid replacement to Mig21 and became the new backbone of several Warsaw Pact air forces, but failed to reduce the technological gap with newest NATO aircrafts like F-15, F-16 and Mirage.
Mig29, another breakthrough in Soviet aircraft design, was being fielded but in limited numbers. Mig25, after an initial hype and waves of panic in the West, had been relegated to reconnaissance role.
Another unresolved problem was the shorter operational range of Soviet aircraft compared to NATO ones. This is reflected in game by different penalties on the Interception attempts.