I have been aware of this design effort for at least a year and Ty Bomba and I have been talking back and forth on this one. I have been interested but just haven’t been able to get a good feel for the design until Ty sent me some final rules and some of the graphics a about a month ago. Since then, I have been able to focus and get my thoughts down and sent a list of questions for Ty who filled them out very quickly.
The game currently is available and can be acquired from the Strategy & Tactics Press website at the following link: https://shop.strategyandtacticspress.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=MW47
Grant: Why are you interested in a redesign of the 7 Days to the Rhine Series from the past? What is your stated goal and intended improvements or upgrades in the design?
Ty: The progenitor of the 7 Days to the Rhine Series was the old-SPI Central Front Series. Taken altogether, its component games assembled into a five-map mega-monster that almost everybody admired and wanted to play, but few had the time and space and energy needed to do so. Further, it’s system and map presentation was – in my judgement – unnecessarily cumbersome in the visual and mechanic senses. It was based on the premise – which was solidly in place at old-SPI by the late 1970s – that quantitative analysis and the duplication of the various armies’ training manuals in the rules was the way to go to get realism. I reject that thinking.
Grant: What is the overall historical perspective used as parameters on the design?
Ty: To investigate the operational parameters that would have been in place during the first four days of fighting in that border area of West Germany had the Soviet Union decided to try to attack sometime in the early 1980s. It was during that time frame the Warsaw Pact achieved a possible decisive “correlation of forces” between their militaries and those of the West. In addition to that, all would’ve been chaos during the first days of such a war.
Grant: I saw in the Consimworld forums that this has been a hotly debated subject. Many have questioned your sanity and your intent here. In your opinion, why does the community resist change to this extent?
Ty: It’s not really been a big debate. A handful of hardcore Central Front Series players have attacked me for creating this new interpretation of that series, and have done so with the internet equivalent temperament of junkyard dogs defending their compound fence. That’s why we dropped the old CFS title and went over to 7 Days to the Rhine, simply to minimize the number of heads exploding.
It’s largely a matter, I believe, of what psychologists call “effort justification.” That is, a few people have gone to the considerable trouble of mastering the CF system, updating its rules by incorporating the errata, improving the orders of battle, etc. That’s not a simple task that can be done easily or in a casual way. Then I come along and say: “Hey, that whole system is largely BS, and I can offer a much easier way to play a multi-game system with mechanics way easier to master. You’ll likely be able to play my whole five-game presentation in the time it would take you to get through just a one-map game in the old system.”
To some of them, I had just said I’d nullified all their hard and righteous work. That causes cognitive dissonance, and the response to that is to “denigrate the source,” which is me. I’ve been labeled a “charlatan” and a “snake oil peddler” within the CF folder on the Consim BB.
In actuality, I never advocated for this project with the idea of pulling away the old games’ adherents. I was designing from the start for all those who – like myself – had admired the old games but wanted a more all-around accessible way to get into them. I’m perfectly satisfied if the adherents of the old games stick with them.
Grant: What is the overall plan for the other games in series?
Ty: The four other games in the series will be appearing every-other-issue in Modern War Magazine, finishing up about a year from now.
Grant: What is important from the period to model in the game?
Ty: The games are set in 1980-81, a min-era when the leaders of the Soviet Union – having come to understand their country was at the start of a likely terminal downhill socioeconomic slide – were looking for a way to achieve a decisive victory in the Cold War without having to reach for atomic weapons.
They believed at that time – or rather, some of them did – the electorates and governing elites of the West in general, and the US in particular, had been so demoralized by the events of the previous decade – class animus domestically, and the fall of Vietnam internationally – that a conventional-arms-only blitz could be conducted across Germany to the Rhine. The theory ran that it would take at least a week for any atomic-armed Western government to gain the determination needed to pull the trigger on even just tactical nukes.
That meant, if the Soviet/Pact ground force could produce a clear battlefield victory in that time, the Kremlin could then call for a ceasefire and negotiations before everything went off the cliff into Armageddon. Even if those negotiations eventually led to them withdrawing from West Germany, they could certainly drag them out long enough to allow for the looting and removal eastward of that country’s industrial base. In that way, the European backbone of NATO would’ve been broken down to what it had been during the late 1940s. At the same time, of course, with such a victory accomplished, the international prestige of the USSR would’ve been made supreme in the international diplomatic arena.
Grant: What is the scale of the game? Force structure of units?
Ty: The maps are scaled at 2.5 miles (4 km) per hex. The units of maneuver are one-step battalions for the US/NATO and one-step regiments for the Soviets/Pact. So each division is made up of its historic component formations broken out at those scales.
Grant: What is the difference between Recon and non-recon units? Why was this distinction important to include?
Ty: Each ‘game day’ is broken into three turns: two six-hour daylight turns and one 12-hour night turn. Only recon units may exit enemy zones of control during daylight. In most games with units of maneuver above this level, recon units tend to be the ‘weak sisters’ of the OBs. Here, though, we have the perfect ground and time scales to showcase their elite abilities, and all without having to write a lot of special rules for them.
Grant: How are each side’s Airborne units used?
Ty: The game clearly demonstrates why, in the time since the 1980s, modern armies have been drawn toward exclusive use of heliborne ‘airborne’ units. That is, in a combat arena such as this, in which huge mechanized forces are banging back and forth across the map, airdropped paratroops (like we still mostly have in these games) are like mice scuttling among their feet. That being said, such mice can, if aerially deployed at the right time and right place, at least temporarily jam up the elephants pretty seriously. Since this whole offensive operation is ‘on the clock,’ getting an airborne unit to quickly secure (or defend) some critical road juncture or river crossing can be really helpful (or hurtful).
Grant: What area does the map cover? Who is the artist?
Ty: All the maps are by Joe Youst. He was able to find satellite imagery of West Germany from that era, and so was able to correct the few errors that were in the original CF maps. Roughly the eastern two-thirds of West Germany is mapped, which is all you need to fight this campaign since the US/NATO side was politically committed to ‘fight forward.’
Grant: Are there any key points of terrain that were included to shape strategy and movement?
Ty: The autobahn net is crucial to a timely Soviet/Pact advance; the cities are crucial to a successful US/NATO defense.
Grant: I notice there are Refugees among the counters. What role do they play?
Ty: I’m particularly pleased to have included that new rule. It’s based on my observation of Soviet behavior toward the locals when they were in Afghanistan. That is, they would deliberately roust out civilians as they advanced, forcing them to flee in front of their spearheads, often joining the road-clogging stream of people who’d begun fleeing of their own volition. Slowing to avoid running them down, or holding fire to let them get out of the way of a fire fight, is a combat power diminisher for the US/NATO (in the form of combat die roll modifiers and extra MP spent to enter those markers’ hexes). “Human shields” on a mass scale. I don’t know of any other game on this topic that has this feature.
Grant: Electronic warfare is included in the rule set. How does this work and what is the tactical advantage?
Ty: Its power is one of the two unknown-knowns in the game, the other being air power. That is, at the time, both sides’ high commands assured their subordinates they could count on having dominance in those arenas. They couldn’t both be right; so we let it up to matching die rolls at the start of each turn. In multi-map games, the players will secretly be able to concentrate their EW and AP assets before making those rolls. The effects of dominance are to slow enemy movement and diminish his combat power in the specific areas where the markers are applied.
Grant: What is the general Sequence of Play?
Ty: It’s a basic I-Go-U-Go, with both players able to switch the order of their movement and combat phases as they like.
Grant: How does Artillery Attrition work and why did you feel this was important to include?
Ty: As losses among the line combat units pile up, a certain number of artillery support markers must also be removed from play (with exact formulas for that varying with each nationality). It represents on-hand ammo exhaustion and tube destruction and wear-out. Without such a rule, by the end of each game there’d be more artillery markers in play – way more – than there are line units for them to support.
Grant: How does the combat process work? What modifiers are used?
Ty: It’s a standard one-die odds based CRT, with all combat modifiers presented as die roll modifiers. On account of that DRM-only approach, the large CRT can look like it must be a two-dice table when you first see it.
Grant: How do Helicopters factor in combat? What does Helicopter Attrition represent from historical terms?
Ty: Attack helicopters represent what amounts to long-range flying artillery. They can add an extra support-fire boost when the divisional guns aren’t enough. They have to make a survival die roll check each time you use them, representing the destructive potential of low-level enemy AA fire.
Grant: What are Pact units and how do they effect combat?
Ty: The Czechoslovakian, East German and Polish divisions that were planned to be part of this operation are all included in the OB. Since the whole timeframe only represents a week, there are none of the loyalty check die rolls traditional in games on this general topic. That’s because the Soviets had intensively studied that aspect of things in their planning, and their belief was their security apparatus could keep those units loyal and fighting for that length of time. This is always a thorny issue, especially among wargamers from those countries. We went with this approach because it was the simplest way to go and the old series had also done so.
Grant: Why does each side have different unit stacking parameters? How does this effect each sides strategic approach?
Ty: Keep in mind, you’re using battalions on the US/NATO side and regiments on the Soviet/Pact side, while added to that are nationality restrictions. All that can mean late in the game you actually have less combat power still available than it might seem when you glance at the board. As your divisions hollow out with sub-unit losses, your ability to concentrate combat power declines.
Grant: What are some of the more interesting and unique rules on the Exclusive Rules for Objective Nuremberg?
Ty: We started with Nuremberg because of all five games it has the lowest-unit density and requires the fewest special rules (for both sides’ several airborne entry units). In the coming games there are special rules to cover the unique roll of Soviet Eighth Guards Army, the French airmobile division, the International Covering Force, and other such elite higher-level organizations.
Grant: What are the different scenarios available?
Ty: As the other games become available, you’ll be able to play together any two of them (whether or not they’re on geographically linked maps),and there’s also a three-map AFSOUTH game covering everything from Frankfurt down to Munich. Then, of course, there will also be the mega-monster five-map game.
Grant: What are the victory conditions?
Ty: Each of the five games has three secret victory conditions. The Soviet/Pact player determines which one he’s been given orders to fulfill from his high command via secret chit pull prior to the start of play. The Soviet/Pact player knows what he’s pulled, but it isn’t revealed to his opponent until the end of play. In between, the Soviet/Pact player is free to try to convince his opponent some other victory condition than the one he’s actually drawn is in force. That kind of operational “Maskirovka” can be decisive in the ability of the Soviet/Pact player to eke out a victory at the last moment of the last turn. (At the same time, though, it does render solitaire play that much less exciting.)
Grant: What do you feel the design does well?
Ty: Everything – I’m entirely pleased with it. (Well, I do wish I’d been able to come up with a way to handle the secret victory conditions for solitaire play.)
Grant: When can we expect the next volume in the series?
Ty: There’s one issue between each issue with a 7 Days to the Rhine game in it. So the next series game issue to come, Objective Munich will be in no. 49, which will be shipping in late June or early July.
As always thanks for your time Ty. I appreciate your approach for this conversion of the classic Central Front Series and think that the gaming community will receive it well
If you are interested in 7 Days to the Rhine: Objective Nuremberg, the game currently is available and can be acquired from the Strategy & Tactics Press website at the following link: https://shop.strategyandtacticspress.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=MW47
Great interview- I too think it was about the time just before the balance of land forces, qualitatively at least swung in favour of NATO.
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I’ve followed the CSW Central Front Blog since inception, and the CF/7DttR debate with interest. I don’t recall anyone calling Ty a “charlatan or snake oil salesman”. I do recall that this major redesign was described in such a way that it was a new game, and should be moved to a new discussion folder to minimize confusion. Ty initially pushed back, but finally moved. If he insists that he was called those names, please, give a reference, because I cannot find it in the folder.