Over the last two weeks, a cadre of very fortunate wargamers (who will be referred to as Lucky Bastards or LBs from here on in) managed to get their hands on copies of two of the most anticipated wargame titles of the year. Their victories are a testament to patience, resilience, and the advantages of getting on board a game project’s Kickstarter early on. Lucky Bastards indeed. 😊 The titles I’m talking about are 1985: Sacred Oil and The Third World War, Designer Signature Edition. Both of these have been discussed on the blog in recent months and just over the past two weeks, I’ve started to receive feedback from some LBs as they share their initial observations and experiences with one or both of these titles. I won’t go into deep reviews of either game in this post, however. I’ll save those until I have the opportunity to sit down with them long enough to wet my beak. For now, I’ll just offer short descriptions of the games and talk a little about the feedback I’ve received over a pair of blog posts. I’ll explain the reason for this at the end of this post.
First up will be 1985: Sacred Oil. This title is the third module of the 1985 series, following Under an Iron Sky and Deadly Northern Lights. As was the case with the first two modules, Sacred Oil covers operations in a specific theater. As the title hints, this theater is the Persian Gulf region. The centerpiece of Sacred Oil is a Soviet offensive into the Persian Gulf in June, 1985 which served as the leadup to World War III in the 1985 timeline. The first phase of the conflict is limited to Iran, the Soviet Union and Iraq. As time goes on, the GCC member states are thrown into the fray, and then the United States and select NATO allies. As is the case with the first two modules, Sacred Oil covers every aspect of a mid-80s superpower confrontation in the Gulf region. Personally, I’m a very big fan of gaming out what a conflict in this region would look like in the pre-Desert Shield/Storm years. CENTCOM was still in its formative years and a Soviet offensive in the Persian Gulf (Iran specifically) was the primary threat it faced.
The feedback for Sacred Oil has been positive for the most part. The LBs I’ve talked with are particularly impressed with the quality of the game’s six operational maps. They’re sturdy, and cover Southwest Asia in detail from Armenia to the Strait of Hormuz. And yes, the number of maps was not a typo. SIX. 😊 1985 modules certainly love to pile on the maps.
I have not heard details about the game rules, but assume that no news is good news. There has been almost uniform approval of the charts and tables, specifically how these are presented and provide information. Sacred Oil also includes two decks of event cards, one for the US and allies, the other for the Soviet Union and its allies. Each side uses cards to mobilize and commit forces, make diplomatic moves or execute special operations. Several variables determine the game conditions required for each event to be executed. Personally, I have never been a fan of event cards and such being included in an operational level wargame. Yet I’m open to exploring the effect they have on gameplay. Most of the LBs I’ve spoken with seem to like the cards. The LBs also have positive things to say about the counters. Colorful, detailed and able to be used by relative novices are a few of the points multiple LBs pointed out.
On the negative side, there were some valid complaints about the maps. Not because of low quality, mind you. Where the party seems to split is on the number of maps and their respective sizes. They are not small by any means and personally, I question whether it’s really necessary to include the Soviet republics in the Caucasus region.
In conclusion, 1985: Sacred Oil is a game I am looking forward to jumping into and exploring. It has some new and interesting components which might take some time to get used to, but it’s a World War III game set in the Persian Gulf in the 1980s. Those elements combined together are like a crackpipe for a WWIII gamer like myself. 😊
Author’s Note: I’m going to post a Part II entry on the feedback on the Third World War, Designers Edition on Wednesday. Want to see what transpires in Ukraine around mid-week before starting the next day of our 1987 global conflict. –Mike