2021 Holiday Tournament: Championship

Championship Round

All good things must come to an end. But before this tournament concludes, there is a smidge of business left to handle. That would be selecting a champion between the two remaining wargames. 😊 So, without further ado, let’s get to it.

Author’s Note: Category scoring will be presented a bit differently. Each game will be scored on a scale of 1.0-5.0, similar to the last round of the WWIII March Madness Tournament last year.

Central Front Operational #1 Third World War: Battle for Germany Vs Naval Operational #1 Gulf Strike

Rules– I’ve discussed the rule sets of both games in detail at earlier points in the tournament. When compared side-by-side, each game’s rules are innovative and explained in sufficient detail for players to feel comfortable rather than overwhelmed at first glance. This factor is a nod to the game’s designers, both of whom were at the top of their game as these respective titles were being developed. Of course, there are areas which could use refinement but none of them have a negative effect on the quality of play, so it’s a wash.

Third World War: BfG  4.8       Gulf Strike   4.8

Game Mechanics and Systems– This is where the games start to diverge slightly. While the mechanics of each are straight-forward, BfG took unassailable wargame concepts and made slight improvements, Gulf Strike contains new (at the time) and effective mechanics and systems that increased Gulf’s accuracy immeasurably. Again, this is a tip of the hat to the game designers. I’m giving Gulf a slight edge here because real world events in the Persian Gulf region from 1983-1991 vindicated its mechanics, etc.

Third World War: BfG  4.7       Gulf Strike  4.9

Playability- No need to go into detail here. On the commercial wargaming side, both BfG and Gulf Strike are playable titles with high replay values. On the military and professional wargaming side of things it’s another story, but that isn’t a factor in this category. More on that later, however.

Third World War: BfG  4.8      Gulf Strike  4.8

Maps, Counters and Box Art– High marks to both for maps and game pieces that do their job well enough and don’t serve as a distraction. BfG’s map wins out over Gulf’s three operational maps, largely because of Iran’s geography dominating the main Persian Gulf ops map. However, this drawback is neutralized by Gulf’s inclusion of a strategic map, one of Mark Herman’s innovations that has become standard in many operational level wargames in the past thirty plus years. The box art on BfG is slightly more conducive to the game’s topic, however. US troops in MOPP gear, an M-1 Abrams, and a mushroom cloud scream World War III in Central Europe. Gulf Strike’s Harriers protecting the USS John F Kennedy from a missile attack, on the other hand, while creative, is lacking a slight bit of credibility. Yet to be honest, we’re splitting hairs at this point.

Third World War: BfG  4.9       Gulf Strike 4.7

Impact on Wargaming Culture and the Real World- A slight extension in this category owing to the fact that one of these games has been used, perhaps unofficially, by professionals to model what a Persian Gulf conflict might look like. Naturally, I’m talking about Gulf Strike which was used as a crystal ball by some CENTCOM staff officers in August, 1990 to examine how a US defense of the Saudi oil fields might play out. It was later used to a lesser degree in some of the planning aspects for Operation Desert Storm. Fair to say that very few wargames have had this kind of impact on the real world. Yet very few wargames are designed by men like Mark Herman. If you’re unfamiliar with Mark, I highly recommend taking a bit of time to research him and his accomplishments in various fields. The man is a modern day renaissance man of sorts, and a fellow SFS alum to boot. 😊 So, when it comes to real world impact, Gulf Strike wins, hands down. Wargaming culture, on the other hand, goes to BfG.

Gulf Strike always straddled a line between professional wargaming and its amateur counterpart. It plays like a simulation or warfare model because in many ways it is exactly that. BfG is renowned as an all-time classic. The same can be said about Gulf Strike, but its acceptance is more reluctant. While its systems and rules are not overly complex….at least in my eyes….many casual wargamers seem to feel otherwise. This is made apparent on Boardgamegeek.com where BfG enjoys a rating of 7.8 to Gulf Strike’s 6.7. Shame on you, BGG. 😊

But when all is said and done, real world wins out over wargaming culture.

Third World War: BfG  4.8      Gulf Strike 5.0

Final Thoughts: Without a doubt the most difficult tournament matchup to score fairly. I think I accomplished that, but I’m sure there will be folks who say otherwise. 😊 Which is fine with me. I’m a big fan of wargame debates.

2021 World War III Holiday Tournament Winner: Gulf Strike


10 Replies to “2021 Holiday Tournament: Championship”

  1. While mildly grudging that one of the Fleet series didn’t win this I think, hand on heart, Gulf Strike is probably deserving of it, for all the reasons you run through. Almost enough to make it a 2022 resolution to track a copy down and see if I can carve out some time to play it.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve been thinking about doing the same. And if I can’t find a copy, I’ll bite the bullet and go with the Vassal version. I’m really anxious to play it now after this tournament


  2. I was rooting for BfG because I’m a Frank Chadwick fanboy at heart, but I cant argue with this result and would have cited the famous instance you brought up of the Pentagon planners playing out the various “what if” scenarios in August of 1990 using Gulf Strike.
    There is no higher compliment or award a game can receive than that.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That was the difference, pal. Gulf Strike had an effect on real world events at a very dangerous time. CENTCOM wasn’t the only combatant command that dabbled with commercial wargaming in the late 80s and early 90s.
      I wish that trend would come back, but I doubt it will anytime soon.


  3. It’s kind of proper, given that Gulf Strike was a re-implementation of The Next War of 1978, but somebody thought the Central Front had been done to death and it was better to move the war to the then current Persian Gulf

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a good move because around that time the Gulf was really heating up. Looks like choosing the Persian Gulf worked out pretty well for Victory Games


    1. Thanks, Pete. These tournaments are a lot of fun to put together.

      I strongly recommend you break the game out if you get a chance. You won’t be disappointed, I promise.


      Liked by 1 person

  4. OK, fair result, even though I would have liked TWW: BfG to win as it’s one of my favourite games ever. In the same vein as Persian Gulf / Desert Storm, apparently in November 1944, the German 5th Panzer Army were wargaming possible scenarios as they were expecting an American attack when it actually kicked off. Model (Army Group CO) ordered that the game be continued with real-time news being fed in from the front and results being used as the basis for real-life decisions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wargames have always played a part in real world military planning. 1944 is a good example, thanks for sharing. I’ve taken part in some professional wargames and its an entirely different animal compared to commercial games.

      Liked by 1 person

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