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

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.

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

  1. it is a boardgame wargamer paradise with all these titles coming out. Considering MBT was redone a few years back, its kind of a renaissance for this stuff.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Good point. MBT was redone and apparently pretty well from what I’ve heard. Also, Air and Armor is another title getting a reboot presently.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey Mike! Do you know if Frank Chadwick was involved in the reboot of TWW? One of my favorite wargame designers. The box title says “game design by Frank Chadwick” but I dont know if that’s crediting him with the original or if he was involved in the reboot?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t think so. From what I’m reading, the new game ‘pays tribute to the classic Frank Chadwick game series.’ That indicates to me that a new breed of designers is in charge. Too bad, Chadwick’s input would be invaluable

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  3. Fantastic …. one of my all-time favourite series, I’ll keep an eye out for this, even though I have an original set. I can’t seem to stop collecting NATO-Pact games. 😁

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Ha ha, yes indeed ….. I didn’t buy any for a long time (I already had most of the ones I’d occasionally see secondhand) and then just in the last few years, there seems to have been a bit of a resurgence (in the UK anyway) …. I guess it’s now been long enough where the Cold War has slipped from recent memory to recent history (with WWIII now being alternative history, much like Operation Sealion and Operation Downfall). I bought a couple of boxed games (Dawn’s Early Light and Brezhnev’s War) and backed a couple of Kickstarters (Quartermaster General: Cold War and World at War ’85 – Storming the Gap), but then found there were some recent magazine / game combos from Strategy & Tactics Press such as Red Tide West, Red Tide South and Group of Soviet Forces Germany plus a new series they’re doing at the moment, called ‘Seven Days to the Rhine’ (an updated version of the ‘Central Front’ series). I had a bit of trouble getting those but managed to get the first game from Noble Knight Games in the US and games two, three and four from a retailer in Spain.

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        1. I have seen ‘Seven Days’ and it looks like a good, updated game. I haven’t bought it yet, but I’m considering it. Like I said in a previous post, the number of new WWIII-based games coming out is just astounding. Still a popular genre, even after all of this time, eh? 🙂

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          1. Yes indeed …. and not only in games, but there also seems to be new fiction coming out too. I have a list on Amazon with several titles on it, such as the Red Gambit series (Colin Gee), The Bear’s Claws (Russell Phillips & Andrew Knighton), the Armageddon’s Song series (Andy Farman), Red Hammer 1994 (Robert Radcliffe), a series by Harvey Black (The Red Effect, The Black Effect and The Blue Effect) and one that I’ve just spotted …. the WWIII series by Ian Slater. Naturally I have some of the older titles such as Chieftains, The Third World War (and Untold), Team Yankee, First Clash, Red Army, Red Thrust, Barbarossa Red, World War 3 and The War That Never Was.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. The WWIII Series by Ian Slater…..don’t expect greatness from them 🙂 I really have to review that series LOL
              And don’t forget to save some room. There’s a pretty decent WWIII fiction work coming out around Christmas as well. 🙂

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              1. Ha, room? I ran out of room ages ago …. I have a load of books on the Soviet Armed Forces (mainly Army, but some other branches are covered) that are stacked next to a bookcase because of the lack of shelf space. Plus four archive boxes of books and materials on Operation Sealion and Operation Downfall (and a bit on Ops Hercules and Felix as well).
                Don’t forget about movies …. I’ve been meaning to pick up Threads, The Day After, The War Game, World War III, When the Wind Blows, On the Beach, and Fail-Safe (original and remake) for a while, although these are mainly centred around what you could call ‘the final phase’ of WWIII …. the nuclear exchange.

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