Sunday, March 23, 2008

Drive on Frankfurt

There were a few attempts over the years to imitate Strategy & Tactics and its wargame-in-every-issue format. One of those was Counterattack magazine, which had as its premier issue game Drive on Frankfurt, an interesting entry in the NATO v. Warsaw Pact World War III genre by Jon Southard, perhaps best known for his solitaire games Carrier and Tokyo Express.

The game is an operational level depiction of a potential Soviet attack through the Fulda gap toward the major West German city of Frankfurt-am-Main. Units are battalions and regiments, but operate as parts of brigades (NATO) or Divisions (Soviet) in an interactive turn sequence. Basically, players alternate activating formations, moving and fighting.

There are special rules for helicopters, electronic warfare and air strikes. There are rules for different artillery missions and different attack postures (hasty, deliberate and assault).

Perhaps the most interesting design twist is the game's handling of step reduction and losses. Units that take step losses have a chit drawn with new combat values. As an optional rule even some units that don't take a loss can get a new chit. Unlike most games where untried units may be of unknown strength, in this game it's units that have seen combat that may now be of unknown strength.

The most unfortunate aspect of the game is the graphic presentation of the map. Why the plain terrain is grey and cities are yellow is a mystery. It's not attractive and is no improvement functionally so there's no apparent reason for the off-beat color scheme.

Overall the game is a good presentation of that great 20th Century what-if, suppose the Cold War had ended with a bang instead of a whimper. The problem for contemporary gamers is how many of those might still be worth playing, otherwise the game is primarily just a historical artifact. Drive of Frankfurt falls into the artifact category. It's really only of interest as one theory about how such a war might have been fought, but it's otherwise not all that interesting a game. It's therefore of interest mostly to collectors.

For me there's a small additional interest because I was once stationed in Aschaffenburg, which is on the map, during the time frame of the game. My unit doesn't appear in this game, though, it's in Tac Air instead.

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