Ty Bomba has been working on redesigning the classic Central Front Series from SPI from days of yesteryear and has now readied the 2nd entry into the series found in Modern War Magazine No. 49 called Objective Munich for release. We published an interview with Ty covering the first game in the 7 Days to the Rhine Series called Objective Nuremberg earlier this year.
Grant: Objective Munich is the 2nd volume in the 7 Days to the Rhine Series. What is different in this volume other than the location?
Ty: Heretofore unseen nationalities – the Canadians and the French – now enter the scene on the NATO side in a big way. Similarly, the West German Home Guard also arrives in larger numbers.
Grant: This front is more southern Germany and Bavaria, so what different terrain challenges are there here?
Ty: We get the first of the large metropolitan cities – Munich. It has 31 hexes, and the suburban satellite communities immediately around it add another dozen city hexes. Big city fights make for huge losses on both sides.
Grant: What is important from the period to model in the game?
Ty: The crucial and overarching factor I’ve tried to model throughout the series is: if one sunny morning, during the time between breakfast and lunch, you go from peace to total war, with armies on both sides in which hardly anyone has combat experience in this kind of fighting, the main characteristic of those operations will be uncertainty and chaos. Hence the variable appearance of refugees and the uncertain strengths of air power and electronic warfare.
Grant: How was the first volume in the series Objective Munich received?
Ty: The first volume Objective Munich was well received with but few exceptions. I expect an even better reception starting now, with this second volume, since mini-monster two-map play is now possible.
The original games, from back in the 1980’s, had a visual appeal, when first opened and laid out on gaming tables, which made pretty much everyone want to like them. Unfortunately, the system was so cumbersome, especially when expressed within a small-hex and small unit-counter presentation, as to make them effectively unplayable for all but a relative few hardcore devotees.
During the Internet era, those fans of the original games essentially set themselves up as a kind wargaming cancel-culture PC police. If you posted anything negative about the old games, either in regard to their difficult physicality in play or any of the system’s rules, you would eventually be spotted. It would then be explained to you there’s nothing at all wrong with the games, and it’s only your failure as a wargamer to appreciate that perfection that has led you to make such erroneous criticisms.
That group is still out there, and I don’t expect them to change their minds or their approach, and that’s fine with me. I didn’t design this system for them; I designed it for all the rest of us who shared the perceptions I describe above in the second paragraph of this answer.
In designing this series, I sought to preserve the sheer visual excitement of the overall project, which really only becomes apparent when you get to see all five maps assembled. Beyond that, I wanted to create a system that’s more (much more!) playable in regard to time expenditure and physical effort. For example, in these new designs, while units are on the map there’s no need to flip them over or read any data on their reverse sides.
Grant: Any concerns raised about the design or your assumptions in the design?
Ty: There are always those dissatisfied with combat factor assignments in what-if games. Despite the fact we have no actual combat record by which to judge – since the campaign being modeled never took place – there are those who are certain what those numbers should be (and expressing an exactitude that’s startling). They generally reach that certitude via the “cannon-counting” approach. That is, using only quantitative reasoning, they determine that, since this or that unit had this or that model of tank rather, then it must have this certain combat factor.
I certainly don’t reject quantitative analysis – it’s an important tool in every designers’ resources. If numbers were all that mattered, however, then krill would eat whales; sheep would hunt wolves, and Panzer Group Kleist would still be jammed up at the Meuse River.
The crucial thing in all such strength assignments is that they must ultimately all work together to facilitate the overall flow of the game in which they are a part. So reasoning in game design must be both deductive and inductive – going from the general to the particular and from the particular to the general – as needed to produce a unitary system that works to produce the desired flow during play and the range of outcomes wanted at the end of play.
Grant: What is the scale of the game? Force structure of units?
Ty: The maps are set at 2.5 miles (4.5 km) per hex, and the primary units of maneuver are Soviet/Pact regiments and NATO battalions.
Grant: How did you decide the OOB for this hypothetical what-if simulation?
Ty: In order to give the game as much situational verisimilitude as possible, for as many wargamers as possible, I primarily used – with great gratitude and thanks – the OOB research and collation carried on by those same devotees of the old games I mentioned above. And here I thank them again for the way they’ve made those materials easily and openly available online to one and all.
I also found some wonderfully detailed materials by a researcher named R. Mark Davies, in an online publication titled “Battlefront: First Echelon,” in regard to the Danes – who didn’t appear at all in the old games – and the West German Home Guard – which only appeared in the old games in the most abbreviated and abstracted way.
Grant: How does one go about playing Objective Munich together with Objective Nuremberg?
Ty: The two maps butt lopsidedly together along the Munich map’s north edge and the Nuremberg map’s south edge, then you just bang away within that larger physical format. By lopsidedly, I mean the two maps’ west and east edges don’t align evenly when they’re joined. When all five maps are together, they form an overall jagged V-shape, with the map for Objective Frankfurt forming its western apex.
There are limitations in regard to what ground units can be switched from map to map during play, which reflects command-control and logistical limitations set in place during prewar planning and supply allocation by both sides. The airpower and electronic warfare assets can be switched freely between the two maps as players desire.
Grant: What is that experience like?
Ty: If you enjoy playing any one of the games, you will only increase that enjoyment by adding more of them to your play. It’s just a question of how much time you have to play and how much space you have to set up. Figure a one-map match will take two experienced people about three to four hours to set up and play through. With two maps, that will go up to about six hours, etc.
In a convention or club setting, if you assign one commander per side per map, I believe you could play out the five-map mega-scenario in about two days. So at a typical week-long convention, you could play one complete five-map game, then switch sides and go at it again, before everyone had to leave to go home.
Grant: I once again notice there are refugees among the counters. What role do they play?
Ty: They hinder the NATO player’s efforts by slowing their units’ movement through their mobbed masses on the roads, as well as inhibiting his combat capabilities for that same reason. Herding refugees in front of their troops as human shields was a tactic the Soviets used in miniature in Afghanistan (“miniature” relative to the potential for its use in this heavily populated front) and I’m confident they would’ve done so on a large scale here.
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. If you go fight/move you have more artillery available in your combat phase.
Grant: I notice there are daylight and night turns. What is different for these turns? Are there ways to overcome the disadvantage during the night turns?
Ty: The basic difference between the two types of turns is that Zones of Control are ‘sticky’ during daylight, with non-recon units being pinned in place when in enemy Zones of Control. At night, everyone can use the cover of darkness to move away.
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: What are the victory conditions?
Ty: The victory conditions, which are determined by random chit pull by the Soviet player at the start of play, can center on his capture of Munich, or his exiting units off the west map edge, or his successful formation of a solid blocking position across the middle of the map.
Grant: When can we expect the next volume in the series?
Ty: The next volume, Objective Frankfurt, will be the issue-game in Modern War No. 51, which is scheduled to ship in December 2020. With its appearance, a three-map full-on monster-game play will be possible.
Grant: When does the game release?
Ty: It began shipping from the S&T Press warehouse the week of August 10th.
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 Munich, the game currently is available and can be acquired from the Strategy & Tactics Press website at the following link: http://shop.strategyandtacticspress.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=MW49