Gaming World War III: Two Games I’m Dying to Review

In the next week I will be adding a pair of new titles to my World War III tabletop game collection. I hope to give the games an initial play-through by the end of October and write up individual reviews on them in early November. The theme of both titles is similar: a hypothetical NATO-Warsaw Pact conflict in Central Europe in 1980s. While one game covers the entirety of such a conflict in extensive detail, the other handles only the air side of a NATO-Pact clash in West Germany. One game is a monster that will require countless hours just to read the rules, and set up the map, and the other falls somewhere between a beer-and-pretzel game, and a monster. I’ve explored both titles a little in the past, having read up on both considerably, and even sat in on a handful of game turns being played out on Discord and Twitch.

The two titles I’m talking about are, respectively, 1985: Under an Iron Sky and Red Storm : The Air War Over Central Germany, 1987.

Iron Sky is an operational level simulation of a NATO-Pact conflict in Central Europe set in 1985. The scale, and size of this title are enticing. Apparently, it contains every aspect that the game developers promised it would. And then some. The air war is covered in great detail, political events can have an immediate effect on gameplay, and land warfare seems to be modeled very close to how it would’ve turned out in the real world 1985 had a conflict broken out then.

Although Iron Sky is impressive, and has received much love from game reviewers and gamers alike, Red Storm is the title I am more excited about trying out. The reason is simple: I’m an air guy. 😊 Red Storm is an operational level air war title. The player assumes the role of either the Warsaw Pact, or NATO air commander and fights the air war over Central Germany throughout a six week-long World War III. Just like Iron Sky, this title is more of a simulation than a game, which translates to a significant amount of complexity, and detail. From what I have seen there’s a danger of this game turning the player into a micromanager instead of a theater air commander. Now, before I get sandbagged for that comment, let me explain……

I realize a good amount of gamers want as much detail in a game as possible. So for a game like Red Storm, this means they want to plan, and fly sorties, monitor them in great detail, and basically fight the war as an O-5. In reality that is not what COMAAFCE’s job would’ve been. There were squadron and wing staff responsible for selecting targets, planning missions and such. The overall air commander needs to be focused almost fully on the big picture, in real life and in a game like this.

Now, to be fair I don’t know for certain what direction Red Storm will take when I sit down to play it. I’m simply going off my instincts and past experiences with other air games. I have a lot of questions, and will be super-critical when it comes to Red Storm. But when I review it, I’ll also be fair. Praise will be given where deserved, and constrictive criticism doled out when some component of the game leaves me scratching my head and mumbling to myself, “WTF?”

Anyhow, I’m excited about trying both titles out and will report back on them probably around Election Day. For now, expect one more review or ORBAT post later this week and then we’ll dive into D+14.  –Mike

29 Replies to “Gaming World War III: Two Games I’m Dying to Review”

  1. Looking forward to hear what you think of Red Storm. Picked it up to help break a Command CentFront scenario block. Mainly the exact problem you mentioned, how do you prevent an operational scale scenario from expanding to cover the entire air war.

    I’ve only toyed around with it but I think it has some nice ideas. Mainly using artificial markers to designate the scenario operational area.

    If you ever want to do an MP game I’m Red Storm let me know.

    Have you thought about NATO Air Commander by Hollandspiele? I haven’t tried it yet but I’ve heard good things. https://hollandspiele.com/products/nato-air-commander

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah once I get comfy with the rules we can try out an MP game. Sounds great.

      I’ve heard good things too. Brad Smith designed it. He does a wargame blog called Hexsides and Hand Grenades. Really good.

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  2. If you need someone to play against, I’m your huckleberry. 🙂

    Jokes aside, the titles look interesting. Iron Sky is perhaps deeper than I want to go operationally (hopefully not as bad as the Star Fleet titles got), but still might be manageable for a weekend game. Once the rules are digested enough to try.

    Red Storm… Looks less complex and yet moreso. I’m not a jetguy, just a dirty leg but the prospect of managing such an endeavor like a frontal command (in game form) might be fun.

    Or I’ll pull my hair out trying to conduct an effective assault and defense scheme.. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. As a real fan of Lee Brimmicombe-Wood’s DOWNTOWN system that Doug Bush adapted for RED STORM I’ll tell you that you must learn the game using the tutorials. The game system is not really that complex provided one actually follows the rules!

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  4. All you guys with this propellor-head operational level gaming…the best I could muster was M1 Tank Platoon and the first two Gunship titles on my C64 and Amiga 😀

    I did get Red Lightning for the Amiga but damned if I could figure out how to play it.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Bill… you aren’t alone. Closest I’ve ever gotten to operational level gaming is Hearts of Iron. Not an easy game but has its moments.

      Everything else was a die-cut game…. that we never finished playing. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I did some poking at the online materials for Red Storm and was glad to see the GLCM make an appearance in some scenarios.

    It’s interesting to model intermediate range nuclear forces in a game (even if they are just passing through on their way to Points East). Gives a real flavor for “operational” aiming. Given the presumed deep (nuclear) strike capabilities of USAFE and NATO partners at the time, the missives provide an interesting additional capability to help attack targets which may have been too costly/deep for the victor alert force f-111s.

    GLCM and Pershing were two sometimes misunderstood systems. It was interesting to sit in college after sucking rubber on many a TACEVAL during the late Cold War learning just how INF had played into the ending of things. I guess acknowledging that the Pershing was too fast and the GLCM was unseeable really helped bring about the INF treaty.

    You have GLCMs dispersed prior to hostilities. Didn’t know a whole lot about them, but from talking to some of the “GLCM rangers” I met that sounds about right. In the UK you had the 501st at Greenham, 303rd at Molesworth (but I heard they didn’t have all their equipment until later) plus others elsewhere. There was an AFN piece on the unit in Germany. The 303rd had most of Molesworth, with bunkers, etc. A little part was open to the rest of us to use with SP range and a training area. The missile wing’s dorms, etc were at Alconbury. Greenham was a self-contained base.

    When the missiles pulled out we were able to explore the “Gamma Area” where the QRA missiles were (the one at Greenham Common is the rebel base in the new Star Wars movies). They were some serious bunkers, supposedly along the lines of “Magic Mountain”. They also had concrete defensive bunkers and positions built all around the base- much better than the ones we manned as SP augmentees.

    I can’t speculate on what would have happened with the GLCM wing homebases if the war lasted longer than the cynics said it would. I imagine they’d have been a target for spetsnaz, raiding forces, air strikes, missiles, and anything else that could be thrown at them in an effort to kill the heavy maintenance and support elements of the missile wings.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve flown over what was supposed to be the dispersal area for the GLCMs at Greenham Commons many times. Those launchers would’ve been damn hard to find my air. Walked some of the area a time or three too. My money is on Spetsnaz raids being the best bet for success

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    1. No, they didn’t but now I’m curious. Had a lot of fun on that course. Especially with unauthorized night golf squadron golf tournaments/cart demolition derbies. 🙂

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  6. Looking forward to both reviews. Operational/strategic level games seem to be the way to go for air/ground simulation.

    We tried the old FEBA/TAC Air game (you could check it out out the library), GDW Third World War, NATO Next War in Europe, and GDW Air Superiority/Air Strike among others.

    Air assets were always wonky at the tactical level- speed and power factors always came off wonky at the tactical level and the scales were off. I remember one game of FEBA where you a flight of A-10s was like a death ray compared to the effect of an Attack Helo BN. In Air Strike, the timeframe was so quick that the ground units were almost abstracted.

    The operational and strategic games seemed to hit a nice balance with Air used as a critical enabler to ground actions and as part of an independent air battle. Next War was good for showing air power as an effect in the tactical and operational realms.

    Third World War was a monster game. Once (and only once) we put all the modules together and played the linked game. Pretty neat to see the intertheatre play and movement of forces. Gives a good feel for the flexibility of AirPower as a rapid strategic reinforcement.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Red Storm is unique because that game, along with the others in its series, are the only ones that offer a detailed look at running an air war.
      Third World War really was a monster game. Kudos to you guys for putting all of the modules together and linking up the game. Must’ve been awesome!

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  7. Good times at the golf course. As I recall, the sand traps were marked as clean and dirty mass graves. A couple of tee and green mounds were marked as vehicle and personnel fighting positions. I think the club itself was supposed to be a temp morgue. And the fairways do kind of make good fields of fire…

    The map was up in the pro shop. I think it was there as much to put visiting congressmen off the “ Why do we need a golf course here?” scent as for actual use.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Some of those greens seemed like they were built on top of headstones. 🙂 Golf course would’ve been perfect for Spetsnaz to lob mortars onto the ramp from. Come in off Brandon, set up, fire off a few and bail.

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  8. We played the TWW game with gaming group in Peterborough. Our contribution was a some spare counters and a couple carloads of Coke’s and snacks from the commissary and some Burger King.

    WRT off post stuff, the RAF Regt actually set up outside the fence line during GW1. I’m thinking them and/or the SPs would do the same in a general war while augmentees handled other areas on base. Can’t imagine a lot of local folks sticking around near the bases to complain- I’d imagine they’d want to get upwind and clear!

    At the ‘heath I’d be more worried about the commies weaponizing the smell from the pig farm!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. For a very brief period during the 1988 swap, Alconbury operated A-10s and F-5s. Apparently the Aggressors used to joke about the A-10 being the only aircraft ever lost to a birdstrike from the rear!

    For the rest of us, the arrival of the A-10s coincided with the Burger King opening for business. During the first TACEVAL after Burger King opened, there were a line of folks in MOPP gear lined up to get breakfast for their shops masking and unmasking at the door. Apparently the Burger King (along with the snack bar and shoppette, but not the chow hall) had been declared exempt from ALARM BLACK.

    I have yet to see the mysterious defensive powers of AAFES accurately modeled in any game 😉.

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