Operational Outside Europe
#1 Gulf Strike vs #3 Korea 1995
The mark of a classic wargame is the title’s ability to accurately simulate the changing realities in a particular theater’s era of conflict. Gulf Strike exemplifies this, having offered not only a game but a simulation tool that served gamers well through the volatile period of 1980-1991 in the Persian Gulf. Korea 1995 falls short in this area although it is hardly the fault of the title. The Korean Peninsula has shifted dramatically over the past 25 years. The prospect of a massive North Korean invasion of the ROK has all but disappeared. The nuclear shell game and string of crises that replaced it cannot be accurately simulated by Korea:1995, or its successor Next War: Korea.
Winner: Gulf Strike
#5 Central America vs #7 Warplan: Dropshot II/III
Central America entered this matchup with a significant handicap: Gamer indifference. To be blunt, the geopolitical cauldron that was Central America in the 1980s has all but faded from the memories of all but the most dedicated gamers and amateur political strategists. It certainly doesn’t help that Central America’s opponent in this round, Warplan: Dropshot II/III is respectable simulation of nuclear war at different points from the 1950s through the end of the Cold War in 1991. A boxed version of global thermonuclear war will always beat a game centered on Contras versus Sandinistas and mining Nicaraguan harbors.
Winner: Warplan: Dropshot II/III
#1 Harpoon vs #3 Sixth Fleet
Stiff competition in this round for Harpoon, which had its primary weakness exposed by Sixth Fleet. That weakness being that while Harpoon accurately simulates naval warfare in the ship vs ship and task force vs outside threat categories, it does not provide a model for air and naval warfare in a specific operational theater. Sixth Fleet does and its playability shines through in this round. New gamers can get their feet wet with Sixth Fleet and enjoy a comfortable introduction to wargaming. That’s not the case with Harpoon…..the table top version at least. I know I’m gonna catch hell for this, but Harpoon’s time in this tournament has come to an end.
Winner: Sixth Fleet
#2 2nd Fleet vs #5 Blue Water Navy: The War At Sea
Old vs New in this bracket. 2nd Fleet is a simulation of the next Battle of the North Atlantic set in the late 1980s. This game was released in 1986 and does not portray Soviet warships, aircraft, submarines and weapons as accurately as do more contemporary titles. Understandable too, seeing as the amount of public information available in the 1980s was quite limited compared to modern times. The dearth of information nowadays benefits newer games like Blue Water Navy, removing the speculation that was a major part of almost every NATO-WP wargame produced from the mid-70s through 1991. Another added benefit is that Blue Water Navy simulates a hypothetical naval clash anywhere from the North Cape to the Suez Canal. It’s like 2nd, Sixth and 3rd Fleets all rolled up into one game. 2nd Fleet is a favorite of mine and it breaks my heart to do it, but Blue Water Navy advances.
Winner: Blue Water Navy: The War At Sea