One day at lunch during my freshman year of high school, my best friend and I developed a very simple WWIII game based on the Cuban Missle Crisis.
Understand, we were just a couple of kids interested in history and advent readers of it. (I think kids like that are still referred to as nerds these days.)
And because we were poor from a small town, there were no game pieces. The game consisted of us writing down grand strategic moves on a piece of paper and using a coin flip to settle disputes.
It basically went something like this.....
"I'm moving my Soviet naval task force toward Cuba."
My BF- "I'm not allowing any nukes in Cuba ok."
"Hey, this is just a humanitarian task force to an ally."
BF- "I'm serious, no nukes in Cuba."
"Ok, TF arrives in Cuba. Unloads medium range nuclear missiles."
BF- "What the ...!! I'm not going to allow that! I told you!"
“Ok, I will gladly remove them....as soon as you pack yours up in Germany buddy!!"
What can I say....it was a crazy time.
I first came across War Plan: Drop Shot maybe a couple of years ago, but I never did more than read the game description on the home webpage. I read Tim's review on War Plan I, and that made me tuck away in my mind a possible purchase in the future.
Well, two weeks ago, the future arrived, and I purchased War Plan: Drop Shot II/III. I didn't think I would find War Plan 1 that much more interesting, as the USSR didn't really have a large nuclear counter-strike capability until the 60's, but I'm sure I will buy it during a future game purchase.
So nearly 25 yrs later, I'm again revisiting my childhood....well sort of.
I played a solo game of the Cuban Missile Crisis and surprisingly, it didn't end in a nuclear holocaust for the world (but did end in a US victory, just as my best friend played out long ago.)
Anyway, here's a quick review of the War Plan: Drop Shot II/III
MAPs- 3 total on unmounted paper
Two Strategic Maps, one representing the Strategic resources and political situation of the nuclear powers in the 1960's and another map representing the resources in the 1970's and after.
Both of these maps are too small. There is a lot of information on them, and a player will constantly have to pick up and move counters to see what resource markers are underneath. No easy task when the map is first set up and almost every hex contains one or two game counters. This gets old very quickly, but can be easily remedied with a trip to the local print store. I increased each strategic map by 25% which seems to do the trick, but enlarging them even more wouldn't have been bad either.
The last map represents the continent of Europe and will be used for every scenario. This is where players will engage tank, mech, and infantry corps on the steppes of Europe for control of the major European cities and capitals. The map size is doable as is, but it too could stand a little enlarging to ease counter pickup and placement. (I haven't gotten around to it yet, but it's on my to do list)
The map colors on the strategic maps are very good. A player can distinguish Soviet territory from US territory and oceans from neutral areas at a glance.
The European map looks alittle busy with the rivers and forest and border lines, but again, nothing that won't work for you.
The counters leave something to be desired. They are not of the best quality cardboard around, but will hopefully hold up for hundreds of games. The ink on the counters is also of lesser quality but no big deal.
The artwork is basic NATO symbols for ground units. The airplane silhouettes are nice though.
The color scheme for the counters is somewhat funny. Russian counters are a weak pink and American counters are a sickly blue. Again, nothing to write home about, but will do for the game.
The counter mix is just about right, but I found I was in need of more Unrest counters. (And this was after using all of them from both games). That’s a little strange to me considering Unrest is very important in pushing countries to collapse.
Rule Book and Charts-
The rulebook is written very much like you would have found them 20 yrs ago, a numbered sequence with exceptions and optional rules laden about. It’s not impossible to grasp if you have any war-game experience, but novices may find it a tough read at first.
The Charts are plentiful and filled to the gills with information.
As with most medium complex games, (and I think the Drop Shot series are that), it’s a small chore to learn the rules and feel comfortable with game play.
It took me several hours to get through the first turn, but the second turn only a few. (A small pause for concern considering each scenario can go 20 turns!). However, I could tell that with constant play, each turn’s time should drop considerably and I would imagine getting a whole game done in one afternoon/evening setting is quite possible.
There are several scenarios to choose from, each at some different point in history and with a different world situation to contend with.
But the main goal of each scenario stays the same throughout though, destroy the enemy’s ability to make war and cause his government to collapse into chaos if possible.
Players will accomplish this goal by destroying his opponent’s industrial, oil, and port facilities on the Strategic Map and taking his cities on the European map.
Each scenario starts with a strategic phase in which the first player (or the phasing player) for that scenario can attack with unconventional weapons (biological and special forces) and then with nuclear missiles and bombers. Your opponent (the non-phasing player) is given the chance to launch a pre-emptive strike on your forces if you decide to launch your missiles first.
After the strategic phase, the phasing player will move and attack with his fleets and make strategic land movements on the strategic map. He then moves and attack with his forces on the European map.
The phasing player will then have the opportunity to make another land movement and attack again on the European map, albeit, at the cost of one oil point. This can be a huge deal in over all winning strategy, as it allows the phasing player to exploit any gains and bring up reserves before the non-phasing player can properly react. Catching an opponent at the right time with this double move and attack can be like a Mike Tyson combination, a quick jab to the body then a fast uppercut to the jaw for a knockout blow. Done correctly, it can destroy an opponent’s defensive set-up and leave him demoralized with little if any chance to recover or win the game.
The non-phasing player then becomes the phasing player and the Strategic and conventional phases are repeated.
After each player has played the role of 'phasing player', nations are checked for unrest and government collapse caused by destruction from nuclear attacks and other things. If either of the superpowers collapse, the game is immediately over and that player declared the loser.
Combat results are determined by way of the old style Combat Results Table. I found it to be a fairly blood lustful system, with entire army corps being wiped out on the roll of one die. It is wise for the attacker to have at least a 2 to 1 ratio, but it isn’t needed if killing the opponent is all that you desire that round. Exchanges that wipe out the defender and at least that many of the attackers can be found at the 1 to 1 ratio.
Now don't get me wrong, I don’t think this way of doing battle business is at all bad though. Not when one considers the ramifications of the lethality of late 20 century weaponry, being unmercifully unleashed for the first time between the two greatest superpowers, will be.
As I stated earlier, the hardest part of the game I think is learning the rules and the order of the game turn.
Every game played should be somewhat different, not only because each sides' forces changes in size and quality in each scenario, but one can never tell how players will handle their nuclear forces.
Unbelievably, it is quite possible to play an entire scenario without ever using your nukes. I should have pointed this out earlier, but each scenario covers a range of victory possibilities giving each player a chance to win and opt out of using nukes if they desire. For there is little reason to pour down fire and destruction upon your opponent, if it doesn’t bring you closer to victory, and likely will be returned in kind (and that of course can bring about the possibility of pushing you further away from victory).
When do you fire off those silos of death? ...that is the double edge sword that players will have to wield and learn.
But let me say it is this little facet of the game that I like the most. Having the opportunity to turn your keys and press your buttons, but never really being forced to do so.
The potential to alter history is another big plus which also drew me in. Anybody old enough to have lived through those days will understand. I was only 13 when Operation Able Archer 83 commenced. It’s head scratching to think of the what-ifs for billions of people, including myself, if things had instead played out as they will on my kitchen table. Frightening really.
So that's it in a bombshell. I give this game a thumb up for the potential to cut loose with MX missiles and a bigger thumb up for not having to it. I also give it a thumb up for the potential history we all almost suffered, and a bigger thumb up for the real history we actually did live through!
- Last edited Wed May 12, 2010 1:45 pm (Total Number of Edits: 5)
- Posted Thu May 6, 2010 12:09 am
Well-written review, pros and cons. Fortunately the "cons" have more to do with cramped maps than mechanics.
Initially I was dubious about how good such a small game could be in dealing with such a large subject, but I've come to respect all three "Dropshots" very much for their insights and the strong blend of wargame mechanics.
Like you, I lived through that time and find myself still remembering the sight of a neighbor's yard dug up for a fallout shelter in October 62, watching contrails from strategic bombers on "oil burner" training routes and seeing "fallout shelter" signs every time we went to town.
If you like these games, you'd also like "First Strike" (set in the early '80s) and a fun little game just out from Victory Point, "Toe to Toe," which lets you drive a single Buff into the USSR (and maybe back out again).
I still harbor hopes that somebody out there will publish a large-map strategic-nuclear game covering the entire period, but it doesn't seem to be high on any publishers' list of things to do.
You might like looking at the "DEFCON ONE" entry on BGG as well; the co-designer offers a streamlined demo version for free download. It takes a different approach to WW III--tile placement--but from my somewhat biased POV, it's a neat game. We plan another round of playtesting when our schedules let up on us a bit.
Another game I would recommend is Seapower & the State. I also enlarged my map for this one....
During the Cuban Missile Crises, I remember sitting in my grade school hallway, wondering if I would get home that day.
Good review. And thank you -- I just ordered Dropshot II/III! I was a little young to remember the Cuban Missile Crisis (though my Dad, who was stationed in the Army on Oahu at the time, told me that all the dependent families were evacuated up to the Punchbowl and moved into the old ammunition bunker-caves dug into the side of the crater wall). But I lived through the rest of the Cold War, and even helped finish it out by serving in Berlin from 1985-88. When I think about how close we came to ending life as we know it anytime during the whole period from 1961 to 1989, I can only be thankful that everyone on both sides actually exercised some pretty amazing restraint considering what each side suspected the other of doing.
Anyway, thanks for the review!
The crisis happened just before my time. My parents were married at the time and my dad was stationed at Seymour AFB, NC where the 4th Wing is still based. My mom told me when the crisis broke the AF officer responsible for liaison with the families told them if they heard the sirens go off not to try to leave they could not get far enough fast enough.
As the US player, I find it hard not to use Tac Nukes to slow down the Soviet steamroller in Europe. As the Soviet player, it seems to make sense to launch a limited nuclear strike to take out a few ports in eastern North America to make it tougher for the Americans to send reinforcements. But yes certainly a game that offers a number of options outside of the dreaded all out salvo.