Wednesday, 28 September 2022

Die Festung Hamburg - Scenarios Details

Here's the list of the scenarios you will find in the C3 Module 3 - Die Festung Hamburg, each one with a brief introduction and a situation map.

The basic premise used in the whole series is that Warsaw Pact was able to obtain a certain level of operational surprise. 

This makes the situation in the North German Plain sector particularly difficult for NATO, as most of its forces come from the Dutch and Danish armies, both heavily relying on reservists and needing several days to be fully operational. To make things even worse, the Dutch I Corps is stationed in the Netherlands. In the end, during the first critical hours the whole sector must be defended by two West German divisions, supported by one Dutch and one US brigade.

On the opposite side, Warsaw Pact can commit between 9 and 12 divisions, depending by the STAVKA strategic decisions. Luckily for NATO, several of them have a below-average quality and equipment but despite that, they are there.

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Scenario 1 - Our Dearest Brothers

Despite the unfavourable terrain, the estuary of the Elbe - Lübeck canal  is a primary objective in the first hours of the Warsaw Pact offensive in Europe, as once it has been crossed NATO has little or no chance to establish a robust defense line before Kiel, 60 km to the North. The task is assigned to East German 8th Motorized Rifle Division, reinforced by heavy artillery support and having an amphibious regiment as an ace in the sleeve.

West German 18 Panzer Brigade, reinforced by 6 Division Recon Battalion, is charged with the defense of the sector. The brigade had just a few hours to assemble and organize and as a result only two battalions are in the Forward Edge of Battle Area when the hostilities begin. The Brigade Commander must immediately take a hard decision: Defend the canal with the few troops available and risk being destroyed on the border, or adopt an in-depth defense and allow the enemy to easily cross the difficult water obstacle.

Whatever the choice, the Eastern and Western brothers are going to meet very soon, in the worst possible terms.

Start Date and Time: July 24, 1985 0600ZT
Length: From D0 H06 to D0 H21

Scenario 2 - The Sickle's Long Shadow

Warsaw Pact’s main effort in the Hamburg sector is Operation Latvia, bearing some resemblance with the German Fall Gelb operation against France and having the final objective to cut out Hamburg and continental Denmark from the rest of Western Europe. 

Unsurprisingly, the task is assigned to Soviet 2nd Guards Tank Army, the most powerful formation in the sector, with a first echelon composed by two divisions, additional front-level artillery, and 38th Guards Air Assault Brigade. The orders are to break through the NATO lines at the junction between NORTHAG and BALTAP areas of responsibility, advance along the West bank of river Elbe, and reach the North Sea near Stade.

The attacked sector is theoretically defended by the combined West German / Dutch I Corps, with a total strength of three divisions, but the Kremlin’s maskirovka partially worked out and NATO has lost precious hours. As a result, most of the two Dutch divisions are still en route or mobilising and only a couple of West German brigades are actually ready to face the Soviets.

Start Date and Time: July 24, 1985 0600ZT
Length: From D0 H06 to D1 H06

Scenario 3 - A Pact of Blood

Cutting the NATO’s access to the Baltic is one of the primary objectives for Warsaw Pact Northern Front.

STAVKA has assigned considerable forces to the task, with three East German and two Polish divisions ready to cross the Inner German Border at July 24, 0600 Zulu Time. What these divisions lack in quality is compensated by artillery, air support and of course sheer numbers.

On the opposite side, the combined Danish / West German LANDJUT Corps is far from being ready to receive the blow: The Danes are still mobilising and cannot be expected before D+1, while the UK Mobile Force needs at least two days to reach its expected disembarking port at Brunsbüttel. 

Only West German 6 PanzerGrenadier division and a Territorial brigade are available to slow down the assault in the first crucial hours, with two additional Danish brigades arriving from midnight. War has just started, and  the LANDJUT Commander already has some life-or-death decisions to take.

Start Date and Time: July 24, 1985 0600ZT
Length: From D0 H06 to D2 H09

Scenario 4 - The Roaring Sound of Doom

Phase One of Operation Latvia went well for Warsaw Pact: Two days after the start of the offensive the first echelon divisions from Soviet 2nd Guards Tank Army control the West bank of river Elbe, cutting out Hamburg and the BALTAP sector from the rest of the NATO forces. Phase Two is planned to follow immediately, and  the army’s two fresh divisions are ordered to spearhead the attack and reach the river Weser.

On NATO side, West German 3 PanzerDivision had to defend most of the sector alone for the first 48 hours, paying a heavy tribute in blood for that. The Dutch brigades and artillery are now finally getting into position, and the NORTHAG Commander can hope to stabilise the front, reorganise the most battered units, and stop the Soviets before they achieve a breakthrough.

At the dawn of D+2, Soviet 21st and 94th Guards Motorized Rifle Divisions conduct a Forward Passage of Lines and start assaulting the exhausted NATO defensive positions, under heavy artillery support. All hell breaks loose again.

Start Date and Time: July 26, 1985 0300ZT
Length: From D2 H03 to D4 H21

Campaign 1 - The North Stygian Plain

On June 8th, 1985 General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party Mikhail Gorbachev is deposed by a military coup. A State of Emergency Committee, formed by Kremlin hardliners and presided by Andrei Gromyko, takes power in Soviet Union. 

Tension between the two Blocs increases sharply, reaching alarming levels after mass protests in several Warsaw Pact countries are suppressed by local Soviet forces. Interpreting these events as a covert attempt by capitalist forces to bring the Socialist System to its knees, the new Soviet Politburo decides to play all its remaining cards and starts mobilising Class II and III Divisions. 

NATO diplomatic attempts to defuse the conflict receive reassuring answers about Soviet Union’s desire for peace, not supported by any change in Warsaw Pact’s troop movements. 

In the end, the last supporters of the diplomatic approach surrender to the harsh reality when faced dozens of satellite photos irrefutably showing Warsaw Pact Armies moving in attack formation toward the German Inner Border. 

On July 23rd, 1985 Transfer of Authority to NATO finally takes place, and SACEUR immediately issues a GENERAL ALERT order. A few hours later, Warsaw Pact divisions smash into NORTHAG covering forces.

Start Date and Time: July 24, 1985 0600ZT 
Length (Short Campaign): from D0 H06 to D2 H21
Length (Long Campaign): from D0 H06 to D4 H21

Campaign 2 - One Minute to Midnight

Following June 1985 military coup in Soviet Union, tension between the two blocs keeps on increasing despite several attempts by both sides to defuse the situation. 

In July, Soviet Union’s State Emergency Committee decides to reaffirm the Brezhnev’s Doctrine by brutally crushing a Polish national strike and leaving hundreds of dead civilians in Danzig and Stettin. 

Media and popular pressure force Western countries to declare an embargo on Soviet Union. The Kremlin reacts by denouncing “a perfidious attempt by capitalist powers to strangle the Socialist Countries” and by mobilising Category II and III Divisions. 

In a matter of days, DEFCON is raised to level 2 and several NATO countries begin the mobilisation process. 

To show NATO determination, a Task Force centered on British Carrier HMS Invincible is dispatched to Norwegian Sea. On July 23rd, NATO and Soviet forces in the area are involved in increasingly dangerous confrontations. At 2014 ZT, a Soviet P-270 Moskit missile armed with a 200Kt nuclear warhead sinks the HMS Manchester, killing more than 300 seamen. The Britons react on similar terms, with a Buccaneer nuclear strike on Soviet destroyer Kulakov. 

From that moment on, the situation goes out of control. On July 24th, 1985 Warsaw Pact forces launch a major offensive against West Germany, with unrestricted chemical and nuclear warfare. A fully mobilised NATO reacts on similar terms, and the worst nightmare of 20th Century becomes a reality. 

Start Date and Time: July 24, 1985 0600ZT 
Length (Short Campaign): from D0 H06 to D2 H21
Length (Long Campaign): from D0 H06 to D4 H21

Saturday, 27 August 2022

Die Festung Hamburg - NORTHAG Sector 1 / BALTAP OOB



23 July 1985

TOSee Distribution


1. Attached is the new edition of the units assigned to the defense of NORTHAG Sector 1 and BALTAP Sector LANDJUT, as per OPLAN 4102 revised July 15th, 1985.

2. Hostilities with Warsaw Pact are expected to start within the next 72 hours.

3. Any change to the previously standing orders and SoP must be planned and executed within the next 24 hours, reducing time-consuming standard procedures to a minimum whenever needed.

                                                                                                             Sir Nigel Bagnall
                                                                                                             NORTHAG Commander in Chief

Friday, 26 August 2022

Die Festung Hamburg - Northern Front OOB

the latest Order of Battle for Operation Ladoga, Northern Front Sector 1 is here below. Hamburg, Bremen, Wilhelmshaven and Kiel are some of the key objectives in the Sector.

As you can see, there is an important contribution by our Brothers of the German Democratic Republic and Polish People's Republic. They will be soon informed about their commitment to the Socialist Cause.

Friday, 5 August 2022

Die Festung Hamburg - Area of Operations Extended

As you maybe know, the command / organizational structure of NATO had one of its most important boundaries right along the Elbe river, separating AFCENT (Allied Forces Central Europe, including CENTAG and NORTHAG) from BALTAP (Allied Forces Baltic Approaches, including the LANDJUT Corps and the Danish Army).

Like NORTHAG and CENTAG, BALTAP had its own air command and assets (AIRBALTAP) and its own strategic objectives: namely, the defense of Schleswig-Holstein, the territory of Denmark and the whole Baltic Sea.

During development, several good discussions concerned the rules needed for simulating the capabilities, limitations and strategic needs of BALTAP. 

Most of the development team suggested to extend the map further North to the Kiel Kanal in order to give JUTLAND Corps enough room for retreating, and to include what would have probably been the last serious obstacle to a Warsaw Pact advance into continental Denmark.

For a series of reasons, I stubbornly resisted the idea to expand the map until all the special rules for handling BALTAP were almost ready....And at that point, I realised I was wrong. Uh, almost time.

So here's the latest, extended Operational Map for Die Festung Hamburg! Bigger, Longer and Uncut.
The operational area is much better represented and includes what could be considered the last plausible defense for the LANDJUT corps. As a consequence, several special rules for BALTAP will be probably not needed anymore.

For comparison, here's the previous, smaller map draft:

Saturday, 23 July 2022

Die Festung Hamburg - Concept Box Art

As the 1985: Deadly Northern Lights shipments are by now almost completed, I'm re-focusing on the next C3 module - Die Festung Hamburg.

Here's a first box art concept. It's still being discussed by the development team, but I'm quite in love with this scary, apocalyptic picture!

Friday, 27 May 2022

Die Festung Hamburg - NATO OOB, Samples and Notes

The NATO OOB for the next C3 Module Die Festung Hamburg is almost complete. The area covered is the Northern Sector of NORTHAG, defended by a true multinational force including Denmark, The Netherlands, West Germany, United Kingdom and United States.

Here's some notes on the various nationalities, each one with sample units.


The main Danish contribution to the defense of the Schleswig-Holstein sector is the Jutland Division. Unfortunately, as written by David Isby in Armies of NATO's Central Front, "Jutland Division certainly lies at the lower end of the spectrum among NATO's mechanized divisions."

The wartime tactical organization was the well-known Combined Arms battalions equipped with Leopard 1A3, M113 and some (few) anti-tank and combat support equipment.

The division was manned only at 20% during peacetime, and shared the same problems plaguing the rest of the Danish Army: low funding, insufficient training and low ammunition stockpiles. Moreover, the time needed to mobilise the missing 80% personnel could have been significantly long.

West Germany

The Bundeswehr has the Northern slice of WG I Corps, the combined WG/NL I Corps and the LANDJUT Corps represented. The total forces were approximately two PanzerGrenadier and one Panzer divisions, reinforced by some Heimatschutzbrigade and Heimatschutzregiment from the territorial army. 

An additional Panzer division - the NORTHAG strategic reserve - was also available, but of course committing it would have been a quite drastic decision.

The Netherlands

Dutch Army added a whole Corps to NORTHAG defense...In theory. In reality, only a single brigade plus some combat support were near the FEBA, with everything else stationed in the Netherlands 300 km to the west. Moreover, the very complicated Dutch mobilisation system needed time to bring the manoeuvre units to operational status.

On the positive side, the Dutch units were among the heaviest in the NATO arsenal, with up to 20 MBTs, 40 APCs and 12 combat support AFVs for each mechanized battalion.

The tactical organisation and combat values of the Dutch units gave life to one of the most heated discussions in the development team thus far. A detailed explanation of the different points of view will be probably available in the Designers' Notes :)

United Kingdom

In a war against Warsaw Pact, the UK Mobile Force Brigade would have moved by sealift to one of the following areas of deployment:

  1. Schleswig-Holstein, to reinforce LANDJUT Corps
  2. Northern or Insular Denmark, to reinforce COMBALTAP

UK Mobile Force is also Tony Morphet's Secret Love, as he was heavily involved with this formation during his years of active service :)

In the end, it will be up to NATO Commander to decide where to commit the brigade, with each choice having its pros and cons.

United States

In 1985, the 3rd Brigade of 2nd Armoured Division was stationed near Bremen, acting as the forward element of US III Corps.

The brigade would have probably remained under strict US control and was missing most of its support assets (Trucks, fuel tankers, maintenance, medical services). Consequently, the combat value for its battalions is lower than other similar US units.

EDIT 20220827: After considerable additional research and help from several veterans who served in the brigade, we determined our first evaluation was vastly wrong! 2AD (Fwd) could actually act as NL I Corps covering force in case of need, and also had additional logistic support allowing independent operations for a limited time. The latest OOB version reflects these changes.

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Wednesday, 4 May 2022

Die Festung Hamburg - Map Draft

Here's the latest map draft for the upcoming Die Festung Hamburg, covering the 1985 Warsaw Pact offensive in the North German Plain sector. Some details are still missing (airfields, bridges, map labels, etc) but we're getting near. 

The absence of significant elevations and the vast road network should help Warsaw Pact's mechanized offensive, but things are made harder by the extended urban areas and by several formidable water obstacles.

On this latter point, I think some additional details could be interesting:

  • The final stretch of the Elbe river is one to four kilometres wide, and even before reaching Hamburg it could be very difficult to cross. We're still evaluating which ones among the several available crossing methods could be used in specific areas.

  • The Elbe-Lübeckkanal had features built specifically to slow down a Warsaw Pact offensive and make any crossing attempt problematic. Consequently, it is represented as a major river despite being relatively narrow. See this footage of 6. Panzergrenadierdivision experimenting the Kanal:

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Thursday, 14 April 2022

1985: Deadly Northern Lights Second Echelon - Units

As you probably know, 1985: Deadly Northern Lights is now at DEFCON 3. Here's a short description of the new and updated forces available to NATO with this Second Echelon mobilisation.

On a side note, the number of volunteers enlisting for the Northern Europe campaign has been impressive, up to the point that all the transport assets are full and we are evaluating to stop the recruitment. 

Last but not least, please note that after the declaration of DEFCON 1 all the new / updated counters will be available for download from the TRLGames official site.

USN Carrier Battlegroups

The three available USN Carrier Battlegroups (CV-59 Forrestal, CV-66 America, CVN-69 Eisenhower), previously represented by a single naval counter, are now detailed at single ship level.

This allows using the standard naval rules for all their possible tasks, and of course for possible Soviet attacks too.

UK 1st Infantry Brigade

The British 1st Infantry Brigade, earmarked as a possible reinforcement for AFNORTH and in particular Denmark, was previously represented in its three battalions configuration with an alternate "maxed out" configuration of five battalions.

My co-designer Anthony Morphet served in the unit and strongly protested against this, bringing more and more convincing arguments toward the five battalions configuration. This "maxed-out" OOB is now the official composition of the Brigade.

USN Fast Sealift Ships

Starting in 1981, USN began acquiring specific high-speed container ships and converting them into the Algol Class Vehicle Cargo Ships, or SL-7. 

These vessels, combining high speed and decent protection, were assigned to AFCENT and eight of them could have transported a heavy US division to Europe. In June 1985, only four vessels were already operational. 

in 1985: Under an Iron Sky, the effect of the FSS ships on the US reinforcements to the Central Front is abstracted. The specific counters below are intended to be used only in 1985: Mutual Assured Destruction combined campaign, allowing a more realistic and detailed use of the Military Sealift Command capabilities.

US 9th Light Infantry Division

In 1981, US Army started experimenting with the "High Technology Light Division" concept. The basic idea was to create a division that could deploy using approximately 1,000 C-141 sorties and still have sufficient combat power to be used in high intensity conflicts.

As could be expected, the project encountered several problems and went thru different revisions: The 1985 version had a mix of light (HMMW equipped) and heavy (M901 TOW equipped) combined arms battalions, and was still considered not definitive.

All of the above brought me to introduce a new type of combat unit, the Motorized Infantry, that can be deployed using Strategic Air Transport only. A worthy addition to the NATO arsenal, if you can find enough airlift for it.

NATO Convoys

After a few days of an all-out conflict against the Warsaw Pact, NATO would have probably needed a steady flow of ammunition and supply from the US in order to keep fighting at its maximum combat potential. 

Convoys, each one representing several transport ships and their escort, are already present in the 1985: Mutual Assured Destruction combined campaign and in 1985: Sacred Oil, and are now used in 1985: Deadly Northern Lights too.

Tuesday, 5 April 2022

1985: Deadly Northern Lights Second Echelon - Operational Maps

 A quick preview of the new operational maps for 1985: Deadly Northern Lights - Second Echelon.

COs using the previous edition should notice: 

  • The lighter colour used for Arctic Rough 2 terrain.
  • The lighter colour used for Arctic Plain terrain.
  • The absence of Air Interception Modifiers, not used anymore with the latest rules.
  • The absence of the CVBG Holding Boxes, not used anymore with the introduction of the single ships composing each CV Battlegroup.
  • Some minor changes / corrections here and there.