In 1984 Game Designers Workshop released The Third World War: Battle for Germany. This was the first installment in what would become the Third World War series of wargames. Over the next two years, another three titles would be released with each one focusing on a likely theater of operations in a future NATO-Warsaw Pact war. Southern Front covered NATO’s Southern Flank while Arctic Front handled NATO’s ever-important Northern Flank. The fourth game, Persian Gulf: Battle for the Middle East examined the possible US-Soviet confrontations that could flare up in that region if war had broken out in the ‘80s.
Battle for Germany was the centerpiece of the series, naturally. The game was a complex, yet playable, simulation of how a NATO-WP conflict in Central Europe could play out. Designer Frank Chadwick researched the doctrines, capabilities and dispositions of the NATO and Pact armies extensively as preparation for designing the game. I won’t go into detail about the game’s combat system, turn phases and such, but will simply say that Battle for Germany is a very playable game that does not skimp in any important areas. And I will say that the Air Combat system remains one of the best in all of the division and operational level wargames I’ve ever played.
The other three components in the series are above average games on their own. Taking into consideration the time period when released (1984-86) their maps are relatively decent, displaying all major towns and geography. By modern day standards though, they are lacking.
Combined, the four games form a wargaming Voltron of sorts that allows the player(s) to simulate a global conflict on a massive scale. The gaming mechanics are identical for each game, making a multi-theater campaign much easier to coordinate and play out smoothly. In theory, at least. Physically, the sheer size of a game combining all four maps requires a very large space to set up. I’ve never tried it out myself, but have heard from gamers who have. The results range from overwhelming success to complete failure.
Compass Games has decided to reboot and rebrand the entire Third World War game series in a single game: The Third World War, Designer Signature Edition. A large number of enhancements will be included but the game system remains largely intact. No design changes were instituted in that area. The majority of improvements come in the physical presentation, bringing it up to modern standards. Some of these improvements include larger counters that include more information, geographic borders of the maps extended to include Poland and Western Russia, and modifications to unit set-up information and reinforcement schedules.
This new edition is certainly an ambitious undertaking. The anticipated changes appear to have been considered carefully and with the intention of attracting a new generation of players to a renewed classic. Having said that, I must question the timing of the release. Compass Games expects to have this title fully released by the end of the summer. It will come not very long after NATO: The Cold War Gone Hot starts to appear on the shelves of gamers. Most folks are not going to purchase both. It will be a one-or-the-other decision. In addition to having to compete with NATO, The Third World War, Designer Signature Edition will also be forced to contend with The Doomsday Project, another subseries of NATO-WP conflicts set in the 1980s. Compass Games appears set to corner the market of this particular genre. But its strategy could backfire with profits becoming elusive given the potential battle royale brewing between these three titles. That is a subject better suited for economics and marketing discussions. This is a wargaming article. 😊 My prime concern is that the quality of The Third World War, Designer Signature Edition remains at least equal to that of its predecessor. As it seems right now, there’s a very good chance that it will.