Gaming World War III: The Future For NATO-WP Games Is Bright Part I

A couple of weeks back I made an observation on Twitter that 30 years from now wargame companies will likely still be churning out new games based on a NATO-Warsaw Pact conflict in Europe set in the 1980s. At present, we are a shade past 30 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall. New titles continue to appear regularly. This speaks volumes about the popularity of the genre, as well as its ability to attract new generations of gamers. 

In the last three years we have seen some powerful newcomers to the NATO-WP genre. 1985: Under An Iron Sky is on the fast track to becoming a classic title that all subsequent operational level games in the genre will be compared to. 1985 is a monster of a game that simulates a NATO-WP conflict in Central Europe on a level of detail never before seen. I finally received a copy of the game but have not had the opportunity to play a full game yet. From the 2-4 turn battle scenarios played occasionally in recent months, I’ve become a solid fan of a game turn’s combat phases. Once I finish an entire game I will post a full review of 1985.

Red Storm: The Air War Over Central Germany, 1987 is the other memorable game. This one is an operational level air war game that gives the player control of either the NATO or Warsaw Pact air forces on the eve of a conflict set in Central Europe in 1987. Naturally, I was drawn immediately to Red Storm and have spent hours upon hours putting the game through its paces. I love its complexity and realism, but have found some areas in the game where changes could be made, along with a handful that I simply had to deal with. For example, air battles move at the speed of heat and this is an aspect impossible to replicate in a tabletop game. In that respect, I think Red Storm would’ve been a bona fide gamechanger had it been released on PC. Probably could’ve even challenged Command Modern Operations (CMO) in some respects. Yet still, Red Storm is a champ of a game.

Suffice to say, gamers continue to waste little time in gobbling up NATO-WP games as soon as they hit the shelves. This trend doesn’t seem to be slowing down, which is impressive given the amount of new tabletop and PC wargames released every year.  The good news here is that the future for the NATO-WP genre of wargames is bright. Since 2019 there have been a number of quality titles released by game companies. COVID-19 and extended periods of lock down around the world have played a role in reducing the amount of attention these games received.

Luckily, life is returning to normal now and there are some interesting games nearing the end of their development lives right now. Some are improved remakes of genre classics such as NATO:The Next War in Europe, The Third World War and Twilight 2000 😊. In Part II I will take a look at some of these upcoming releases to compare them and their promised enhancements to the original releases.

I might even include a brief novel update because there has been daily activity on that front. After weeks of quiet, that front has suddenly kicked into overdrive.


22 Replies to “Gaming World War III: The Future For NATO-WP Games Is Bright Part I”

    1. Thanks, Jose! I’ll check it out. Hexsides is a great blog. The site’s creator is Brad Smith. He’s a writer and game designer. Good guy.


    1. It was one of my first ones too. Holds a special place in my heart but I have no idea where my last copy ended up. 🙂


    2. It wasn’t my first wargame but it’s playable, enjoyable and sits proudly on my shelf too, as does SPI’s NATO. The game ‘GSFG’ in Strategy & Tactics #220 was supposedly an update of the SPI game.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I was never all that into table top games. I was more of a fan of stuff like The Operational Art of War and anything that Strategic Simulations, Inc put out!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So when we busting out “Under an Iron Sky” for a full game? Y’all know I’m game to give it a go. 🙂

    You are very right though- WW3 theme games are proving to be surging in popularity as of late. I’ve not played one in any dedicated capacity since MBT back in the 90’s and would like to again at some point.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It will take around a month just to read the rules for Iron Skies. Its a monster game with a steep learning curve but the effort is worth it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This generation is fascinated by the Soviets and the Cold War. I think for the kiddos today it’s part exoticness and part a harkening back to “simpler” times, much like our generation looked back on WWII, a war we never personally experienced.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I did some solo-gaming this winter using a combination of: 1) The Battlegroup NORTHAG ruleset, 2) the online planning tool, 3) some in-depth research of real tactics and 4) lots of house rules.

    I have a write-up on the Battlegroup facebook forum:

    1) Battlegroup is a pretty detailed tabletop game for simulating WWII and WWIII battles up to battalion size. It can be a bit daunting to get into, but I find it delvers very realistic feeling outcomes . They came out with a Cold War version last year that adapts the WWII rules to the WWIII battlefield.

    2) Instead of setting up a table with figures or tokens, I used an free online planning tool, that allows you to plan an operation with all the military symbology onto different maps and satellite images. Not recommend for you real top secret mission, but fun to play around with.

    Defining a box of real West Germany 5×5 km as my playing area, and using the real nato symbols as tokens for units was very fun and interesting. The real world is a lot more cluttered, varied and challenging than any computer game or tabletop can ever be. The size of the Area of Operations also made a lot more sense and gave weapon reach and movement speeds a lot more importance.

    3) I made a mini-campaign for a MMR moving west against a British Battle Group and put together a realistic ORBAT. Using various sources, but primarily this one:

    …i estimated how and with what the MMR would advance, and what the British would have against it.

    4) For solo gaming purposes I did this: first I made a Soviet battle plan based simply on terrain and some their axis of advance. I deducted 2-3 different paths/game plans they could take and numbered them. Then I set up the British force, with lots of advance parties, ambush-units etc. Lastly, I roled a dice to see exactly what plan the Soviet would follow.

    A made some asymmetric victory conditions – the British want to delay and the soviet wants to advance – the British will retreat instead of taking heavy looses – the soviets are willing to pay for time and km in blood and steel.

    The game was very exiting and seemed very realistic…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, thanks for the great writeup, Christian! I just joined that FB group and will take a look at your writeup in the forum tonight. Looks like we used a couple of the same sources too. 🙂

      A friend of mine is thinking of running a NORTHAG game this summer and I told him to count me in. After reading this, I’m doubly excited! 🙂


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