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I love wargames. In my distant youth I'd pick up boxes of various AH re-imaginings of historic WWII conflicts, sometimes imagined future conflicts. Part of the learning and for me, the enjoyment of those came from the careful touches of detail the design all of those games put into unit strengths, movement limitations, combat results tables (CRT), die roll modifiers (DRM), unit special abilities and overall the sense of how the battlefield evolves from turn to turn. As one of the first hard-set hex and counter wargames I've purchased in over a couple of decades, I wanted it to be a prime example of those aspects I recall enjoying as a younger man. The Next War series appears to do that in many aspects. Although I've only played the game solo, thus far (it playes solo quite easily although I might have preferred a few handy markers for certain allocation steps to keep track) the game has so much going for it in my game hobby wheelhouse.
I can tell the designers on Next War:India-Pakistan (NWIP) have a pretty thorough understanding of the long-time conflicts of the northern India/Pakistan Kashmir regions. The description on the back of the box told me right away "they get it":
The ink was hardly dry on the documents following the partition of British India in 1947 before war broke out between India and Pakistan. Since the partition, four major wars and numerous smaller conflicts have been waged over much of the same ground.
Two sided conflict with alliances available (Russia/US for India, China for Pakistan). Since NWIP is part of a game series, Next War publishes a rule book for the series that covers basic and advanced rules. Each game in the series also includes Game Specific Rules which are addendum rules and exceptions (if any) to the series rules. The Series rules will reference the game specific rules where needed. You have to read and understand both sets of rules to be able to play NWIP. But don't think that means reading a full set of two game rules. Again the Game Specific Rules reads more like an addendum, so read and understand the series rules first! The rules are very clearly written and beautifully formatted in outline format. Each easily referenced from player aid referrals.
I've had some experience with GMT games and have found every one of them to have high production quality. Next War: India-Pakistan (NWIP) is no exception and is a fine example of that. The board, while paper, is printed very clearly with multicolor format. The map also includes many handy tracks for air defense, initiative and air superiority. As you get into the advanced rules you'll find having these right on the map is a gift.
Player aids include Standard and Advanced rule sequence of play outlines with series and game specific rule references for each part. You also get a game record chart for charting game phases and everything trackable in the game. Counter sheets do a great job of including just about all of the tracking counters you need for this job (and in the advanced game, it IS A REAL JOB). You also get all of the tables and combat results tables you need to execute play in nicely detailed formats with keys for result codes and ALL of the DRMs that apply directly next to the table (no need to refer to the rules for this stuff). A separate sheet is included to list all of the by scenario and by turn reinforcements. Lastly there's included a play space to carry out and track the air war. This isn't really needed until you start using the Advanced Rules so it takes extra learning to get this chart figured out. There really was not much missing from the aids. I think a couple of the tables had some small errata/conflict with rules which have since been documented and taught me that I should depend more on rules than strictly the tables. Mitchell Land does a super job of responding to questions/errors here on the BGG boardgame forums.
How does the game play out? I made a point to play ALL of the standard game scenarios before I tried my hand at Advanced. That is highly recommended as the move to Advanced requires you understand basic ground combat, movement allowances and unit capabilities before you bring airpower to bear in the battlefield and all of the extra phases and charts that come with advanced rules. Even the standard scenarios, by themselves, give a nice feel for the scope of warfare that NWIP is. You get to pull in artillery attacks, be aware of supply needs, the terrain becomes a whole other opponent to any effective offensive. And as I had hoped and said earlier: you see each turn become a new tactical environment when battle shifts advantages.
The Advanced game gives so many great detailed pieces to the standard. In the standard game, air superiority is abstracted with Air Points, but the Advanced rules has each side play out standoff and dogfight air battles on a separate play aid. I found the model for the air superiority fun to play out to see who wins out in the air before the fight gets taken down to the ground (where air advantage can have a clear affect). HQ units come into play to affect supply and allow for HQ strikes. Special Forces can be dispatched against enemy installations, detected HQs, airfield and air defense forces. Air strikes need to dodge incoming enemy detection and subsequent interceptors, SAMs and AAA fire. If things start going sour for Pakistan, there's a chance tactical nuclear weaponry comes out. But like EVERYTHING in this game, use of those weapons has consequences.
Battles are expensive conflicts in this game. Column shifts on the CRTS can seriously break, cripple and even stop an offensive altogether. It takes some experience with it to really feel out where your risk point becomes productive when planning attacks, otherwise the attrition sets in from turn to turn.
Armor/infantry/light infantry/mountain infantry/paratroops. The units all play to very specific strengths that can be exploited. You also need to watch for stacking limits and supply with every strategic plan you play out. The units and DRMs also do a good job of alluding to the nuances of India and Pakistan's relative weaknesses with modern warfare. US and People's Republic of China (PRC) units have their own advantages in this arena as you'll see in unit differences and DRMs. I like this, once again, great attention to details.
I really am amazed how much wargame comes in such a small box. The Next War series and this particular theater have come through with all A's when it comes to striking every wargaming button for me. I highly recommend it to both the experienced wargamer and those who are interested in trying it.
- Last edited Wed Sep 27, 2017 3:28 pm (Total Number of Edits: 1)
- Posted Tue Sep 26, 2017 7:28 pm
"If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking."
Excellent review, this has been sitting on my shelf for months. Just need to find the time and a willing opponent to get it played.