This will be a very brief detour from D+20. 😊
I’ve received some texts and emails from readers in the last two days asking if I know of any commercial wargames currently on the market that would be good tools to game out what might come next in Ukraine and Eastern Europe. The good news is there are a few games available. The bad news is that none of them are comprehensive enough to handle a war spanning Ukraine, the Baltics, Poland and neighboring seas. But there should be.
Unfortunately, I have yet to find a game set on a conventional Russia-Ukraine conflict. To clarify, I’m talking about a game covering a force-on-force clash, not the current conflict between Ukraine and separatists in the east. That’s not to say there are none out there, I just haven’t come across any in my searches. For Poland and the Baltic States though, there is one game handles a potential NATO-Russia conflict in either area quite well.
Next War: Poland is a tabletop boardgame that was released in 2017 by GMT Games. Like the other titles in the Next War series, Poland handles a potential near future conflict in detail. Orders of battle, dispositions, map geography, and weather effects are all projected with high degrees of accuracy. I’m not going to do a full review of the game and its system, but this is the game you want to use if you’re trying to get a feel for what a future conflict in Poland and/or the Baltics might look like. I was thrilled when this game was released. I took it to be a firm indication that commercial game designers were finally taking the possibility of a major war breaking out in Eastern Europe seriously. But then, in the aftermath of Poland’s arrival no other designers touched the subject.
The second game I recommend is Command Modern Operations. We’ve discussed CMO and its predecessor Command: Modern Air & Naval Operations before. This game is the Harpoon on steroids with a database including every ship, submarine, aircraft, piece of ordnance, radar, nuclear weapon and every other conceivable piece of military hardware manufactured since 1945. The map is that of the earth in amazing detail, with multiple layers and affects. CMO gives you the power to recreate any military confrontation from 1945 through to the present, and beyond. Yet the heart of the game is air and naval operations. It includes the ability to simulate land combat, but I find this aspect somewhat lacking.
The major advantage in CMO is the power it gives the player to set up as detailed a scenario involving any nation’s air and naval forces and then set it anywhere in the world you wish. The disadvantage is in becoming adept enough to build a playable scenario. It takes a while to become proficient. In fact, CMO has a very steep learning curve. It is not a beer and pretzels type wargame by any stretch of the imagination. For folks who just want to play, there are many scenarios available for download in the game community. These have been crafted by members of the CMO community and many of the scenarios are excellent. I strongly recommend the Northern Fury series of games and the Operation El Dorado Canyon scenarios by Kushan. In fact, after D+20 wraps up, I’m going to review the El Dorado scenarios. They are masterpieces.
Anyhow, these games are my two recommendations. If you’re serious about gaming out the direction the present situation in Europe might go, you can’t go wrong with either title. Just be warned, CMO will require hours upon hours of gameplay in order to become proficient. Next War: Poland is not that bad as far as learning the game rules and systems are concerned.
Okay, detour over. Back on the D+20 highway. Next post will be up on Saturday. 😊