Central Front Operational
#1 Third World War: Battle for Germany vs #2 NATO: The Next War in Europe
As was the case in the Tactical semifinal, both of these titles are already established classics. It’s only proper that they square off here. The victor takes the Central Front Operational region and moves on to the Final Four.
Rules– NATO has always prided itself on being a playable game. Hence, the rulebook does not demand weeks of examination and deep translation. A casual gamer can pick this game up in a matter of hours and become proficient after a handful of gameplays. Yet be warned, the rules could be organized and laid out better. BfG is not an intricately complex monster either as far as rules are concerned. The main difference is how the air rules are laid out and presented. For NATO it’s an abstract system, almost too much so. BfG, on the other hand, has a very detailed and playable air system and it is explained well in the rulebook. Advantage: BfG
Game Mechanics– I’ve said before that NATO has very good tactical and strategic depth. Many modern day gamers consider its mechanics to be dated, but considering that NATO was published in 1983, I’d say it has held up well through the years. BfG’s game mechanics and systems are not overly difficult to master either. Yet with this game, there’s always a lot going on and players can easily overlook small details that come back to bite them later on. This category is a draw.
Playability– NATO was released in 1983. BfG came out a year later. It is now 2022 and both games continue to attract new fans. So much so that Compass Games released a signature edition of NATO in 2021 and has plans to do the same with the entire Third World War series later this year. Translation: Any games that remain this popular after almost 40 years must be doing something right. Another draw.
Maps & Counters– Both games cover the same hypothetical conflict in the same geographic region utilizing the same forces. Therefore, one should expect the counters and maps to be similar, which they are. Yet NATO’s map and counters just come up slightly lacking. I’ve discussed the map before and to be honest, the counters are just barely adequate. Borderline no-frills. BfG’s counters are the product of a little more effort, and the same holds true for the map, but only by the thinnest of margins. Advantage: BfG
Impact on Wargaming Culture– Each game has had a major influence on wargaming through the past four decades. BfG and NATO are icons from the later Cold War era of wargaming. The fact that they are being revised and reissued in 2021-2022 speaks volumes about what each title means to the wargaming community, as well as their longevity. Stalemate.
Final Observation: This duel was every bit as close as I expected. Nothing short of a clash of the titans. At the end of the day, it was the air systems that made the difference.
Winner: Third World War: Battle for Germany