Robert "Smitty" Smith
United States
Unspecified
Pennsylvania
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My goal as the Pakistani Army was to liberate Kashmir - the Indian goal was to destroy the snake that is ISI.


Decision Games (DG) has reintroduced the old SPI beloved folio series with 18 new titles. Showdown: The Coming Indo-Pakistan War (SD) caught my eye at Origins the summer of...2007? so I pre-ordered it. To date, India and Pakistan have engaged four times in substantial conflict, along with the ongoing battlefield over Kashmir. Pakistan has come out on the losing end on each occasion. What makes this potential conflict of greater consequences is that both powers have a substantial albeit unknown nuclear arsenal in terms of quality.

COMPONENTS
My counters were of very soft cardboard, that did not detach easily. I have several marred counters, and in general they came off so badly they needed trimming. Such small things can easily harden your heart against a game – and these are things that are easily fixable at the production end of the pipeline. The information on the counters is the fairly standard information - attack, defend and movement allowance. The font and colors are slightly off in terms of aesthetics, for that pea green used for the Indian Army is ugly. But the 17” X 22” map is well done, easy to read and laid out attractively with good use of bold print on the Combat Results Table (CRT). The city Victory Objectives are easily seen in a glance. The folio cover picture though was a choice that has no sizzle, like a bad stock photograph.


The South was bad but the center and north - ugh...Attacking was a really bad idea here for the Pakistani Army...


RULES
The folio series uses a standardized eight page rulebooks, one of which is devoted to the two CRT’s. The standard rules for this series covers only 9 main section areas. I do shake my head at having to rename the mechanized movement phase here into the mobile movement phase. I simply see no value added by doing so. Stick with naming conventions as much as you can guys. For SD you will use the top Combat Result Table that is based upon the combat differential. There are ten possible results on the CRT, with an unhealthy number of exchanges. The CRT reflects armies or situations that are more likely to inflict attritional style losses. The rules also cover the differences between how mobile and leg units will react in terms of how a Zone of Control affects their ability to continue moving and any associated costs. The rule that is different is there is no stacking of any type.


I was never a fan of the original modern era folio series starting with Wurzburg. The games were too bloodless for my tastes, with a scale that didn’t feel quite right. Here DG built a close run divisional level scale game with a CRT that reflects combat between powers who are less likely to influence combat actions by C3i. What is interesting is that Harvey and DG rate the Pakistani Army has being qualitatively better than the Indian Army (an assessment I buy into as the Indian economic miracle has caused and continues to have a perhaps under assessed impact on retention at the lower end of the leadership ranks). An analysis of force correlation between the two armies show that the Indian Army has 156 combat factors to 118 for Pakistani. There is no confusion that the game’s future OOB is a cookie cutter set up ala Blitzkrieg. What is important for the Pakistani player is that their infantry is better than the Indian infantry.


And then - the nukes began to fly... Pakistan had 7 out of 7 hit. India had 3 out of 3 hit - really high in terms of %.


What is nice is the way game set up goes. The Pakistan players sets up one unit and is followed by the Indian player who sets up two. This goes on until the Indian player has set up all their units. As the Pakistani player, you get some idea on how the Indian player might fight the battle based upon his set-up. The Pakistani Center of gravity is the Islamabad-Peshawar-Lahore triangle. I found so far how the Pakistani player chooses to defend Karachi will impact the Indian offensive more so than any other decision. Due to the low movement rates and high cost of terrain, a bad set-up is costly.

You know what I really liked about SD? SD did a lot of simple things that pay off nicely for the gamer. I like what they did with support fire in that each side can allocate up to two fire support markers per attack/defense. You trade off the opportunity to apply fire support. Fire support has no range in the game – think of them as corps or army level assets. I liked how they simply and subtly integrated the use of SAM’s and their use as a battlefield interdiction system in terms of negating aerial CAS and the nuclear threat.
I had to get used to the fact that with an EX or DE result I could not move into that vacated hex.

Then of course there is the question of to nuke or not to nuke? The nuclear option is a wildcard that makes life much more complex more so for the Indian player. The impact can be a game breaker as whatever unit was in that hex is simply eliminated, irretrievably gone from the game. Your nukes can be intercepted by use of the enemy’s SAM’s (remember this is more theater rather than tactical level). The potential for nuclear war is triggered by the capturing of Pakistani cities. If the Pakistani die roll is equal to or less than the number of cities captured by the Indian player, it becomes weapons free! Since there is the threat of bridges being blown enmasse, there is engineer support for the Indian Army and sensible river crossing rules.


CONCLUSIONS
I am glad I ordered this at Origins. SD is a sleeper of a fun game with enough chrome and operational challenges for both sides to see goodly playing time. It’s balanced just well enough that the Indian player cannot take the Pakistani Army for granted. Now if DG would only make the counters of a higher quality, I would have no reservations about the installment in the folio series. The rules are a little loose in some areas - try to easily figure out what depleted is here but the little game delivered a lot of fun and a wicked twist with the nukes - for with each successful nuke from Pakistan, a turn drops off the turn track, making the game harder and harder for the Indian Player to win who has to capture 4 Pakistani cities. Worth a pick up people.


Let's just say the all-out offensive to liberate Kashmir was ill-considered.


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Freddy Dekker
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It's regretable the game gets let down by its components.
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Robert "Smitty" Smith
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Freddy:

But it's worth powering through. DG still has soft counters issues at times but the game play is enough to overlook it, with albeit gritted teeth.

Thanks for reading.

Smitty
 
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