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

Specific wargame genres all reach a point in time where they run home to mama, so to speak. The classic titles of yesteryear are embraced by old heads like me who played those games as kids when they were relatively new titles. Nostalgia, coupled with a creativity shortage in the minds of some game designers, has made the time right for a small number of classic NATO-WP games to be rebooted. Now to be fair, I know how many of you feel about reboots. If not executed correctly they can permanently ruin the legacy of the game, book, movie, or whatever, they were trying to improve on in the first place. But let’s try to keep an open mind for now. 😊

In the pipeline at present are a pair of rebooted classics getting ready for release. One should be released any day now according to the game company and the other is expected to be start shipping at some point later in the summer. Compass Games is responsible for both titles and has a handful of other World War III-themed games at various stages of the production process. I’ll talk about the first game today, and the second either tomorrow or Monday.

The first game is a reboot of the classic NATO: The Next War in Europe. Bruce Maxwell, the designer of the original game has stepped in to spearhead the reboot, which will be titled NATO: The Cold War Goes Hot. Similar enough to the original’s name, yet a little too unoriginal, in my very humble opinion. ‘Cold War Goes Hot’ is a horrendously overused term these days. It seems that every alternative history book, or wargame set in the Cold War years carries that teaser subtitle and it drives me insane. But thankfully, a title does not make a game.

Maxwell has a lot to live up to. The original NATO was published in 1983 and became Victory Games bestselling title. Over 75,000 games were sold worldwide. That’s a staggering number for a tabletop wargame released in the pre-internet years. I discovered it around 1990 just as the Cold War was drawing to a close. As a 13 year old back then I spent the summer of ’90 immersed in it. Until Desert Shield began, followed a month later by football practice. These two events put the game on the shelf for an extended amount of time. I got back to it in college and I was able to fully appreciate the simplicity of the game system while overlooking some of the inaccuracies in combat values of units, as well as the abominably bad air system.

For newcomers to the NATO-WP genre, allow me to give a brief description of the game. NATO is a brigade/division level simulation of a conflict between the alliances in Central Europe at some time in the 1980s. The game map covers the geographic area ranging from Denmark to the Swiss Alps, and from France to Poland. The time frame covers the first 14 days of the conflict. Maxwell assumed that by this point one side’s army would be combat ineffective. The scenarios offered will cover a range of situations from strategic surprise to a conflict following an extended buildup. These areas from the original game will remain the same, for the most part. Other aspects, however, have been overhauled.

Maxwell has apparently been doing his homework. He undertook a two-year study of records and declassified material that has come to light since the end of the Cold War. According to Compass Game’s description of NATO: The Cold War Gone Hot, “ the game combines highly accurate information on the forces the Warsaw Pact actually had with now de-classified reports from the CIA and the Defense Intelligence Agency regarding what satellite surveillance and HUMINT revealed about their actual plans. The map has also been extensively updated with new satellite geography. Finally, the game system has been reworked to better reflect the fluid, fast paced and deadly nature of modern warfare, while retaining the original intention of simple and intuitive play.”

All things considered, I’m poised to give this game a fair shake. Even if the box cover design has a picture of an M-1A2 Abrams, a modern era battletank. 😊

Novel Catchup- As I mentioned not too long ago, I’ve been poached by a bigger publishing house. I’m getting situated with some of the new realities in my life such as having a literary agent, professional editors and negotiating the terms of a book deal. That particular roadblock will be cleared by mid-week. From that point on, this becomes a summer of cutting and editing. I have to re-edit the entire manuscript (not unexpected) and will likely have to cut 100 pages from the previous draft. The trick here will be in not cutting scenes or chapters that could disrupt the flow of the book or inadvertently cut out its heart. In any event, my deadline to submit the polished manuscript is the first weekend of September. I expect to find out more about the timeline over the coming week so I’ll fill you guys with whatever information I can very soon. –Mike

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

  1. Can I ask a little more about being “poached”? Did the publisher you were with “sell” your contract to a bigger publisher for cash so the bigger publisher could negotiate a deal with you and your agent? Just interested in the mechanics….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sure, but I’m going to answer as broadly as possible because I’m still not certain what I can talk about and shouldn’t.
      During the reviewing process, one of the book reviewers sent a few sample chapters to an editor he knows at the bigger house. It apparently fit what the bigger house was looking to do: jump back into the technothriller genre. So they reached out to my then-publisher and negotiations started. I had no clue what was happening until it was almost a done deal. They ran it by me and it was a beneficial deal for all parties so I agreed. 24 hours later I had a NY-based publishing house. Not sure what my previous publisher received in exchange but I think imprints were involved somehow.
      As far as the my deal, it will be signed and in effect by this time next week.


  2. I am interested to see how the new game turns out. I actually have the original set up on the game table right now. (I ensured all the pieces were still there and started a solo game I intend to finish when I am no longer TDY) I picked that particular game up in 1985 and immediately became hooked. I always wondered how it could be changed to reflect the the addition of the M1IP and then M1A1s that followed, as well as the replacement of all those M113s with M2s. (BTW I think that is actually an M1A1 or M1A1(HA) on the cover, it lacks the CIWS but has the cover in place for possible upgrade later)

    I am really hoping someone can do a decent digital version for the modern age. Most of the games I have found are either too small in scale (Steel Beasts) or too generic for what I want.

    That said, I have the scenario set on the terrain board to for Stockhausen 87 also waiting for me to get home. I am enjoying the blog and looking for new scenarios as you write. Excellent work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really hope you get to finish the game soon. That would be a nice little reward for coming off TDY. Wow, you’ve had the game since ’85. It would’ve been great if an add-on pack had been released around 87 or 88 to take the Abrams and Bradley into account.
      You might be right about the cover but I swear that tank is from a more recent photo in Poland or Germany. Atlantic Resolve Era 14-present.

      Have you tried Steel Panthers MBT? Company and battalion-sized ground combat from 1946 through to the future. It’s free too. Check it out.

      Thanks, Jake. Sounds like you’re all set with your games when you get home. Hope the blog can give you some further scenario ideas.


  3. May have to pick up a copy of this one!

    Also – and I almost forgot- congrats on the publishing house picking your book up, Mike!

    Now if we could only get Compass Games to get a move on with Commands and Colors Tricorne Seven Years War!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. #IhaveNATOtoo It was my first wargame, picked up in 1987 and played solo practically non-stop until wife came along. Once I combined it with the Fleet series for a total wargame, before computers were a thng. Waiting to see if the rules are posted before jumping in with the reboot.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I would really like to give this title a go- either getting and playing solo or against a human opponent.

    Ever since I played RSR board game, I’ve had something of an interest in trying moderns. A few minor forays over the years but nothing solid- most of my wargaming friends (with one exception) are fantasy and sci-fi folks.

    It should be a fairly solid game, especially with the new data. Knowing what the Bradley can actually do versus what they thought on paper… and how resilient/not resilient the Soviet gear well and truly was… it will change a few things.

    Should be fun time, no matter what.

    Liked by 1 person

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