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Cold War hex-n-counters

Cold War gaming is rising in popularity. The list of miniatures games for the time period include Team Yankee, FoW: Arab-Isreali wars, FoW: Vietnam, Cold War Commander, and Force-On-Force.

But an interesting artifact from that era is the old Avalon Hill-style simulation game.  These games would include a detailed hexagonal map and cardboard counters to represent the playing pieces. Combat involved rolling dice and cross-referencing a detailed chart that would return the outcome of an attack. Each of these games were developed from a copious amount of historical research and were designed with the maximum amount of realism that could be achieved and still be played in about 20 hours. Most modern games try to hit the sweet spot of two hours to complete, but these games were meant to suck up an entire weekend.

While simulation games probably won't sell in today's tiny toy and collectible card game market, for guys of a certain age (40+ years old) these were a hobby in and of themselves. Many players have a shelf dedicated to a dusty collection of Avalon Hill book-boxes which they love dearly.

My friend Joe invited me to try a few scenarios of the Fleet Series by Victory Games. Each box focuses on one of the US Navy strategic 'fleets' and its specific theater of operations. The forces are divided into the United States and NATO allies versus the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact allies. The units of each side are separated into Air units, Surface ships, and Submarines. All the units represented come from the late 70's to mid 80's TOEs.

We started out with a few small introductory games (the kind that can actually be played in a few hours) of 2nd Fleet in the North Atlantic zone. We had a mind-bending game of duck and dodge with small groups of submarines in the frozen sub-arctic waters.
Then another short game of Soviets vs. Norwegians over the northern fjords.
We quickly found out that battles in this time period were very quick and very deadly. Each game turn represents a 8 hour period in real world terms. It can be very easy to have an entire squadron of very expensive F-16s or Su-27s eliminated in a single day. For example, Joe launched a cruise missile attack from a US submarine on to my Soviet air base in Pechenga, and thus disabling four squadrons of interceptors, bombers and ground assault units for two days or six turns.

We enjoyed that game so much we planned another weekend battle. This time we decided to try 7th Fleet, which involves the Western Pacific zone. The map for this game is huge! With the Soviet base in Kamchatka at the northern most point and the Soviet bomber base in Vietnam at the southern most point and the tiny island of Guam with its US B-52 bomber wing at the eastern most point.
Rather than run the introductory scenario, we went straight to the biggest scenario appropriately called 'World War Three'. North Korea starts the whole thing by crossing the 38th parallel and the Soviets invade the Japanese island of Hokkaido. The US attempts to send Marine brigades on amphibious assault ships to reinforce the NATO allies. I took the Soviet side, Joe took the NATO side.

This game is ongoing at the time of this report. But, it is not looking good for the Soviets (me). Both carriers Minsk and Novrossiysk are destroyed as is a large amount of the Soviet air forces. On the US side, the carrier groups Midway and Kitty Hawk are still afloat but the escort ships are severely damaged. The Japanese navy is nearly gone. One Amphibious Assault ship has made it to port in South Korea. I'll post a final tally of the game when we finish. Sorry, but the scope of this game it too large to write a useful After Action Report.

Some people wonder why they haven't updated these games to modern (post-Iraq War era). This is because the nature of strategic warfare has changed dramatically since the age of NATO vs. Warsaw Pact. And thankfully, those theoretical battles has passed into historical record. 


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