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Subject: Nuclear Weapons and Wargames/Conflict sims rss

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David Scolari
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I recently just received a game order that included Europe Engulfed and Asia Engulfed. As I go through the games and put them together and read the rules one things strikes me. The lack of Nuclear Weapons in Asia Engulfed. This got me thinking and I wanted to get the opinions of BGGers on the subject. Specifically, how do gamers feel about the lack of or inclusion of nukes in wargames/conflict sims in general and/or specific game.

For me, and maybe it is my historical ignorance, but I feel nukes are included in the right games and or simulated well in games that involve them

For example, Asia Engulfed, I understand the lack of nukes. The Atom Bomb was not operational until the end of the war when victory over the Axis powers was certain. Germany was defeated, and Japan was outnumbered, outgunned, and low on supplies. Victory was brought about by strategy and tactics, numbers (in terms of production and manpower), technology, etc... Controversy surrounds the use of the A-Bomb. Was it used to get the Japanese to surrender or was it used to show the Soviets that Uncle Sam had a shiny new weapon capable of levelling Moscow? Yet in the end, victory for the Allies was never in doubt by the time it was deployed. In Asia Engulfed, I am guessing the reason they are not included is because the game is attempting to simulate the war in the Pacific and nuclear weapons were a non factor throughout the war for both the Allies and the Axis.

Another good example is Twilight Struggle. In this game, nuclear weapons are abstracted to Defcon levels. Once you hit Defcon 1 in the game, both players lose, the phasing player loses. This makes sense because the idea of the game is to spread your ideology throughout the world at the cost of the other ideology. Thus you have coups, proxy wars, etc...All of these things are meant to spread your ideolgy and thus make it the dominant one in the world. If however you hit Defcon 1, the game ends because a nuclear war would occur that would destroy the planet and it would not matter which ideology dominated because everyone would be dead.Thus the abstracted nukes fit well with the theme and scope of the game.

One game that I think one could argue, though this may be rubbish based on my ignorance, that I think lacks nukes but should have them is World at War: Eisenbach Gap. Here, a hypothetical war breaks out between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. Players are take command of either NATO or Warsw Pact forces and battle it out for Germany. As far as I know, the game lacks nukes. Yet according to my limited knowledge of Soviet and American battle plans, nukes occupied a central place. The Soviets hoped to use Strategic and Tactical Nukes to hit NATO forces in Germany and then use Warsaw Pact armor to mop up the survivors and drive towards France. US plans involved using Nukes stop or at least slow Soviet forces down. I understand the game is a tactical game, thus even a tactical nuke would wipe out both forces on the map, which would make for boring game play ("Okay it has taken us 20 mins to set this game up." 1 minute later..."Bam, I used my tactical nuke, both sides forces are destroyed!" "Play Again?") I still can't help but feel that nukes should have been included. Maybe abstracted somehow, but still included.
That is my two cents please feel free to enlighten my mind on things I have stated incorrectly.

So how do you feel about nukes in games? Are they simulated just right? Are they poorly simulated? Are certain games better or worse without them? Are they used like they would have been historically? How should designers approach the design of game that deals with a conflict and time period where nuclear weapons existed?

T
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"L'état, c'est moi."
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Actually, in TS, when the DEFCON hits 1, the phasing player loses.
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Quote:
So how do you feel about nukes in games? Are they simulated just right? Are they poorly simulated? Are certain games better or worse without them? Are they used like they would have been historically? How should designers approach the design of game that deals with a conflict and time period where nuclear weapons existed?


I generally find nukes in games uninteresting, unless they're abstracted like in TS.

Nukes are essentially a deus ex machina in a game. If you're designing a game about the end of WWII in the Pacific theatre, you can certainly include them and it would be interesting to see how many players would or wouldn't use them.

Scale is an issue as well. In a tactical scale, nukes make no sense. Operational isn't much better, and strategic, well, if you push the button, so will I, game over.
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AKA Halston Thrombeaux
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Warplan Dropshot is a game dedicated simulating both nuclear and conventional warfare in the European theater, complete with a separate polar-view map for the nukes to travel on

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Tim Benjamin
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Recently played NATO (SPI 1972). The nuclear rules are so completely wrong that Nuclear War (Flying Buffalo) is a better simulation by comparison.
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David Hughes
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Ultimatum is all about the Nukes. It's surprisingly satisfying to drop all those cool mushroom clouds on your opponent's population centres
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Steve Arthur
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That old SPI 'Nato" really was a poor game...from memory it had some US super airmobile unit that was totally unjustifiable...I can remember playing it in the old days and just not liking it...then 'Next War' came along!!...
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Fraser
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Another old SPI game Global War had them. They were very expensive to build and you had to sacrifice a lot of other stuff to build them. We played the game quite a bit but rarely built nukes. One game that we did, the allies nuked the German port (very large scale map, Germany only had one port hex) so I (the Germans) retaliated by nuking London. From memory the effect was to permanently destroy production in the hex and something fairly nasty to the units that were in the hex at the time.
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Kristian Madsen
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Actually, in Asia Engulfed the game ends after the July/August 1945 turn and the game is adjungated: If the US does not hold any strategic bomber airbase within reach of the Japanese home islands Japan wins.

I feel that is a pretty good simulation of the war, as measured against the actual outcome, nukes & delvery system considered.

As to your final question, I still feel the following rule (the actual game unfortunately eludes me at the moment) captures the gist of it:

"13.2 Nuclear Weapons - Either player, feeling his position is hopeless, may overturn the game table. He forfeits the game, but we hope he enjoys losing so spectacularly."

/kgm
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Mark Britten
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kgm3219 wrote:

"13.2 Nuclear Weapons - Either player, feeling his position is hopeless, may overturn the game table. He forfeits the game, but we hope he enjoys losing so spectacularly."

/kgm


That made me laugh.
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Pete Belli
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Nuclear weapons were not an intrinsic element of Allied strategy in WWII.

Of course Eisenhower did not include atomic weapons in his campaign plan -- they weren't ready before V-E Day and Ike was only told about the secret project late in the war. When the first test was successful in July 1945 and MacArthur got the word about the A-bomb he planned to drop some behind his invasion beaches during the amphibious assault on Japan.

The most likely use of nuclear weapons during a Cold War gone suddenly hot would be accidental.

A jittery officer commanding a short range missile battery would have been more likely to launch a nuke than the president of the USA or the big dog in the Kremlin. If history teaches us anything we should know that the "friction" described by Clausewitz puts most war plans in the shredder. In the searing heat of a WWIII battlefield with all of its command and control problems a misfire would be extremely likely... particularly if the Soviets had just dumped a load of chemical weapons on the front line as they probably would have done on the frist day or two of the war.
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Colin Hunter
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To me there is difficulty in nuclear weapons in a game. At a strategic level they are undoubtedly important. While Twilight Struggle has the defcon, nuclear weapons and their implied tension are important to some of the cards. The thing is that it makes sense at a high strategic level, but operationally they are much harder things to deal with since the implications of them are huge. I'm happy therefore for them to play a significant part in Strategic games, even if all that is being used is implicit threat or abstraction (as in AE or TS), but dealing with their operational or lord forgive tactical deployment seems to ruin the sense of scale. That doesn't mean of course that great operational games can't have nukes and if handled right I'm sure they would be fine, but it is certainly difficult design conundrum. The only operational game I've played that springs to mind that I have played is GDW's Third World War, but I never used them.
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Gerry Smit
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Ooooohhhh I have. Ouch. GDW's Third World War has some pretty good escalation and usage rules, if you allow for the fact that they mirror US/NATO doctrine and get Soviet doctrine totally wrong. But then everybody did. IIRC, the west was extremely surprised to learn, after the Soviet downfall, that Soviet nuclear doctrine was not an escalation plan, but rather "nothing or all".
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Paul Dale
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Nuclear War is a really old game that simulates nuclear war very well -- everyone loses more often than not.

- Pauli
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M@tthijs
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I know there is a wargame with these rules for tactical nukes, but I acn't remember which game it is:

Use of tactical nukes: if one of the players resorts to the use of tactical nukes, spray zippo lighter fuel over the game and set it to fire. The effect is comparable to reality.
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Michael Hovan
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Tomorrow the World is an old alternate history game that handles nukes fairly well. This is a game where Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan fight for the world.

Each is able to launch one nuke per turn. If successful, the nuke totally kills the spot it hits. After a certain number of nukes (42 I think), nuclear winter becomes a possibility.
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Supremacy

What about this one?

What a terrible game. I don't think I ever played a game of this that didn't end in nuclear war.
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Gerry Smit
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Ah. I remember begging Bob to change the Economic rules to be something, anything, other than a die roll. Win initiative on Buy or Sell, and nothing anyone else can do....
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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Others that haven't been mentioned yet are NORAD and The East is Red: The Sino Soviet War.

Those of us who grew up during the Cold War certainly thought about it much more than people do today. There were a lot of mushroom clouds in games prior to the dismantling of the Berlin Wall.



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Paul Amala
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wmd8tc wrote:
Supremacy

What about this one?

What a terrible game. I don't think I ever played a game of this that didn't end in nuclear war.


I agree - eventually someone gets frustrated, feels his situation is hopeless, borrows a bunch of money to buy a bunch of nukes, and blows everything up.

It is a good looking game, but the rules are broken.
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Michael Hovan
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Forgot about this oldie, also by Ty Bomba (who did the previously mentioned Tomorrow the World) - NATO, Nukes & Nazis. The title says it all.
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Wendell
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Hey, get your stinking cursor off my face! I got nukes, you know.
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I think a designer of a modern era (post-WW2) operational level wargame can ignore nukes safely. The explanation, if needed, would be that permission to use tactical nukes was never granted by the political/senior military leaders. If he doesn't ignore nukes, then there are difficult decisions about how to measure their impact in game terms, and maybe that takes the focus away from what the designer wants to simulate.

Of course, nukes in a tactical game would be right out!

But in a post-WW2 strategic level game involving any two out of the US, USSR, and China (post-1960 or so, whenever they developed the bomb), the use of nukes or at least a difficult decision about them is probably good to include, somehow.

Second the nod to Twilight Struggle for how it handles them. It's certainly more tense when defcon is at 2...
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Jack Defevers
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Tactical nukes absolutely CAN work in a tactical-scale game; just maybe not so well in a ground game. They can certainly be simulated in air or naval contexts.

Here's an example. [As an aside, that's probably the most gripping AAR I've ever read. Puts a knot in my stomach just to re-read it.]

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jeff miller
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The original Axis and Allies had the atomic bomb. It was very destabilizing and incentivised you to invest in a lot more R & D. I believe the newer versions without them make a better game.
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jeff miller wrote:
The original Axis and Allies had the atomic bomb.


It did? Was that the version from Nova?
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