Gaming WWIII: Arabian Peninsula/Persian Gulf Theater Modeling Tools Part II

Mark Herman’s Gulf Strike is a classic. Not only did it present a contemporary (at the time) conflict in a theater outside Europe, it did so with a high degree of detail. In fact, given the geopolitical complexities in the Persian Gulf region in the 1980s, a number of conflagrations could be explored, from the real-world Iran-Iraq War (ongoing when GS was released and later updated) to a hypothetical Soviet invasion of Iran, or an attempt by Moscow to seize the Saudi oil fields. With the updated editions, Iraqi invasions of Kuwait and even Saudi Arabia, as well as US defense of those nations were able to be simulated realistically.

The Arabian Peninsula-Persian Gulf theater in World War III: 1987 was to feature more than one major ground battle.  Gulf Strike turned out to be a near-perfect instrument to model the land war. As for the air war, I was not as confident. While Gulf Strike’s air model is capable enough, I wanted an amount of detail and speed in the air simulation that would allow me to micromanage aspects on the air side. Simply because that’s my bread and butter. So, I after some experimenting, I decided on a hybrid simulation using the best aspects of Gulf Strike’s air model and CMANO (Command: Modern Air and Naval Operations). For the war at sea, CMANO was the logical choice. Gulf Strike’s naval system was too abstract for my needs. For this entry I will focus primarily on land operations in the APPG model using Gulf Strike. Air and naval operation modeling for this theater will be discussed about down the line at some point.

At set up, the bulk of the Gulf Strike map was practically covered in land and air units belonging to the militaries of multiple nation-states. Soviet ground units crowded Iran’s northern border and Iranian units were massed opposite them to discourage a possible Soviet foray into Iranian territory. Also in eastern Iran, a smaller contingent of Iranian and Soviet forces maintained separate vigils in close proximity to the Iran-Afghan border. Iraqi and Iranian forces were positioned where they had been in reality at this time. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the other GCC states had their small but well-equipped land forces alerted and deployed, but lacked either defensive or offensive missions. US land and airpower were not yet on the map, however, their arrival within the first 1-2 days of hostilities was imminent.

Unit movement became fluid as the phases of operations came and went. To put it another way, there was a lot of linebacker movement on the map board as the war went on. For example, Iraq shifted a large amount of units from its border with Iran to the Kuwait border once hostilities against the oil-rich kingdom were contemplated. Down the line, Iraq did invade Kuwait, leading Iran to start moving fresh troops into position along its western border. At this point the ceasefire remained in effect, but Tehran saw the possibility of renewed fighting with its western neighbor.

Gulf Strike allowed these mass movements to be conducted rather easily. The game’s logistics and transportation systems were practical and easy to master. As for the combat system, I’ve been a fan of it for years. Playable and realistic are the two words best used to describe it. The accuracy of the orders of battle in all three editions of Gulf Strike were indescribably valuable for the conflict model. The original edition was on target with the type of units, and combat capabilities the US would rush to the Gulf region in the event of a crisis and/or war. Mark Herman and his people did a superb job in forecasting the combat power, training and supply levels for Iranian, Iraqi, GCC nations and Soviet air, land and sea forces too.

Sad as it is to admit, I have not touched Gulf Strike since the summer of 2017 and the APPG Conflict Model saga. Upon conclusion of that project, I felt as if I had used Gulf Strike to its full potential and then unceremoniously packed it away. Recently, I have been thinking about breaking it out again and running the WWIII 1987 one more time for kicks. Might be a fun project over the holiday season.

Author’s Note: Loose Ends week is officially underway. I’m not sure what Wednesday will bring but the week will wrap up with the conclusion of Death of the Backfires. Happy Monday, everyone. 😊 –Mike  

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