Ty Bomba has been working on redesigning the classic Central Front Series from SPI from days of yesteryear and has now readied the 3rd entry into the series found in Modern War Magazine No. 51 called Objective Frankfurt for release. We published interviews with Ty covering the first two games in the 7 Days to the Rhine Series called Objective Nuremberg and Objective Munich earlier this year.
Grant: Objective Frankfurt is the 3rd volume in the 7 Days to the Rhine Series. What is different from the other 2 previous installments in your revamped series in this volume other than the location?
Ty: The American Army makes its big debut in the form of V Corps, while the premier Soviet formation, Eight Guards Army – legendary victor of the Battle of Stalingrad – drives across the middle of the map to go head-to-head in a no holds barred death match.
Grant: I have noticed that you have taken some criticism for the OOB used in the series. What is your answer to this?
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.
Of course, since this what-if war never happened, everyone with an interest in it has his own favorite (and exact) timeframe for it, along with some OB he considers to be THE correct one.
The salient feature to keep in mind, however, is that by the start of the 1980’s the physical ‘fingerprints’ of both alliances’ forces across the theater were set. That is, all the training and garrisoning areas were locked in and well defined. That meant, in turn, no large Order of Battle changes could take place without disrupting local economies, transport routes and agricultural production. No one wanted to do that. So, while one unit might be traded out for another, the overall force mix remained largely unchanged as viewed at the army-level.
If (as is now beginning to look more likely) the completion of the series in the magazine is to be followed by a ‘deluxe’ boxed edition with the Denmark and North Cape operations added, I will ask that another counter-sheet be added to present every OB option possible within the largest timeframe possible.
Grant: What is the scale of the game and force composition?
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: What is important from the overall period and setting to model in the game?
Ty: The games are set in 1980-81, a mini-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-and-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 1940’s. 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: How do the Soviets determine their victory conditions for the game?
Ty: Each of the five games has three initially ‘secret’ Soviet victory conditions. The Soviet player determines which one he’s been ordered to fulfill from his high command via a secret chit pull prior to the start of play. The Soviet 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 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 are the three different possible Soviet Victory Conditions?
Ty: The Soviet Victory Conditions in Objective Frankfurt are as follows:
- Ruhr Pincer. To fulfill this victory condition, the Soviet player must have exited, at any time over the course of the game, a total of at least 12 units off the northwest map edge between 4601 and 4614, inclusive. Units leave the map by paying 0.5 movement points to do so via an autobahn hex or one movement point to do so from a non-autobahn hex. Once off the map, no unit may be brought back onto it in any way.
- Rhine-Main Airbase. To fulfill this victory condition, during any Phase V prior to the end of Turn 12 the Soviet player must be in control of hex 1814.
- Rhine River Bridgehead. To fulfill this victory condition, during any Phase V prior to the end of Turn 12, the Soviet player must be in control of three or more contiguous hexes on the west bank of the Rhine River, between hex 2201 and 1007, or at 3601-3801. Note the river-island hex 1308 doesn’t count as being on the Rhine’s west bank.
Grant: What are some of the more interesting and unique rules on the Exclusive Rules for Objective Frankfurt?
Ty: Eighth Guards Army (8GA) Exceptionalism. The follow special characteristics and rules are applicable to all 8GA units throughout the game.
- Non-8GA and 8GA units may never take part in the same Soviet attack.
- On both attack and defense, 8GA units may only receive combat support from Soviet artillery and attack helicopter markers that are themselves identified as also being part of the 8GA.
- Within the above stricture, 8GA units may always receive artillery combat support as if the Soviet phase sequence that turn is fight/move.
- All 8GA units are considered to be reconnaissance types for all movement and EZOC purposes. (Meaning they can disengage from EZOC in both daylight and night turns.)
- When playing two-map or multi-map scenarios, 8GA units may only move and attack on the OF map.
Grant: What are the Turn 1 Special Rules supposed to establish regarding this Soviet attack?
Ty: The Turn 1 special rules give a small (but not negligible) combat power bump to the Soviets due to the tactical surprise that they achieve by starting the war in this otherwise flat-footed way.
Grant: What are the Artillery Attrition & Ammunition Expenditure rules and what do they model?
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 is Air and Electronic Warfare Superiority determined and what difference does it make?
Ty: Their powers relative to that of the other side are the two known-unknowns in the game. 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 process to play this game along with Objective Nuremberg and Objective Munich?
Ty: The various combinations now possible with just these first three games are as follows:
USAREUR Scenario: Playing Objective Frankfurt & Objective Nuremberg. If you want to play this game together with Objective Nuremberg as a two-map mini-monster game, first join their two maps by matching – in a skewed fashion – the northern most row of hexes on the Nuremberg map to the southernmost row on the Frankfurt map. Overlap Objective Nuremberg northern edge hex 4824 with Objective Frankfurt southern map hex 1051. In that way the two joined maps will not form a perfect rectangle; rather, at the western ends of the joined maps 27 hexes on the southernmost row of the OF map will extend that much farther west than does the north edge of the ON map. Similarly, hexes 4825 through 4851 in the northernmost row of the ON map will extend that much farther east than does the southernmost edge hex row of the OF map.
Fasten together the two maps using small bits of masking tape or longer strips of removable transparent tape (available from any art supply store).
Set up each of the two games according to their own rules for that. When playing the two games paired, one player commands the Pact/Soviet forces on both maps and his opponent commands the NATO forces on both maps.
Also note there is a Soviet 103rd Guards Airborne Division unit in both game’s counter-mixes. The Soviet player must decide during set up on which map he will commit it.
Victory in the USAREUR Two-Map Scenario. When playing this game together with Objective Nuremberg, determine the victor on both maps according to each game’s own victory conditions, but only at the end of Turn 12. Further, before the Soviet player draws his victory condition marker for the Objective Nuremberg map, he should set aside that game’s “Southern Pincer” marker, leaving only the other two from which to draw. To win overall, one player must win on both maps. If one player wins on one map but loses on the other map, that paired match is considered to have ended in a draw. Also note that in OF/ON paired play there are no sudden death victories prior to Turn 12 (unless one player concedes). That is, play continues on both maps until the end of Turn 12, when the two picked Soviet victory condition markers are revealed and the winner is determined as described above. Within these strictures, the Maskirovka rule above is applicable in OF/ON paired play.
In paired or unpaired play of two or more games, only one common phase order declaration is made for all the maps in play by each player at the start of each game turn.
Artillery Attrition & Ammunition Expenditure. In two-map or three-map play, as well as unpaired play of any two games from the series, make separate attritional and expenditure counts for each map being played.
Unpaired Two-Game Play. It’s possible to play together any two games in the series even though their maps don’t join geographically. Whichever two games you choose to play in that way, set up each according to its own instructions. Also note that, in such “unpaired” play, it’s not necessary for the same player to command the same side’s forces on both maps.
AFCENT Scenario: Playing Objective Frankfurt & Objective Nuremberg & Objective Munich. It’s possible to play all of those games together in a three-map monster scenario. To do so, join together the OF and ON maps then also join the ON and OM maps.
Grant: How long would it take to play these 3 games together?
Ty: If only two are playing, that would likely take them – assuming they’re already familiar with the system and aren’t newbies diving in for their very first swim at the deep end of the pool – at least two day-long sessions. If you’ve got three one-map commanders on each side – provided they’re disciplined enough to not let things devolve into length strategy debates, accusations, recriminations, and calls for show trials for incompetence, etc., each turn – you could play it in one long day.
Grant: When can we expect the next volume in the series?
Ty: The next volume, which moves the action to the equally infamous (in relation to Fulda Gap) North German Plain above Kassel, will appear in Modern War #53, which will be shipping in late April 2021.
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 Frankfurt, the game currently is nearing availability and can be acquired from the Strategy & Tactics Press website at the following link: https://shop.strategyandtacticspress.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=MW51