Ty Bomba has been working on redesigning the classic Central Front Series from SPI from days of yesteryear and has now readied the 4th entry in the series found in Modern War Magazine No. 53 called Objective Kassel for release. We published interviews with Ty covering the first three games in the 7 Days to the Rhine Series called Objective Nuremberg, Objective Munich and Objective Frankfurt in 2020.
Grant: Objective Kassel is the 4th volume in the 7 Days to the Rhine Series. What is different in this volume other than the location?
Ty: Objective Kassel corresponds to the volume in the old-SPI Central Front Series titled BAOR which stands for “British Army of the Rhine.” So, in it, the action is centered on that small(ish) but elite army as it attempts to hold the attacking Soviets advancing toward the Rhine/Ruhr on a northerly axis. The Belgians also make their appearance as the major NATO reinforcement component on this map.
Grant: What has been the general reception of this new look at this classic?
Ty: All the issues in which the volumes have appeared have sold out quickly (or are in the final stages of selling out now).
Grant: What is the scale of the game and force composition?
Ty: Across all five games, the map scale is 2.5 miles (4 km) per hex, with NATO units of maneuver modeled almost exclusively as battalions and Soviet/Pact units as regiments. Each day is divided into one night and two daylight turns.
Grant: This front is more west central Germany so what different terrain challenges are there here?
Ty: It’s presents an interesting combination, in that there is no one huge city on this map that dominates the action; neither is there one natural terrain obstacle that does so. Instead, we get a combination of small and medium sized cities scattered across a map that varies from open terrain to river-cut mountains.
Grant: Can we see the map? What has changed in this version’s map versus the original?
Ty: Sure, here is a look at the map, also along with one of the old BAOR game maps, so you can get a compare-and-contrast view of both.
Grant: How have you modeled the various doctrines of the Warsaw Pact and NATO and how do they feel unique?
Ty: There are no rules in any of these games titled with the word “Doctrine.” Going back to the first one published on this topic at old-SPI, the genre tended to emphasize that kind of approach. That was because many of them were designed by men with command experience in Europe at the company and/or battalion levels during peacetime. To officers at those levels and in that kind of situation, “doctrine” – as contained in the three-ring binders sent down to you from division, corps and army headquarters – is holy writ.
My own experience observing NATO and Pact field exercises, combined with my job of clandestinely monitoring their unfiltered radio and telephone communications, has led me to believe all such concerns would’ve quickly and inescapably gone out the window as soon as this war actually began. I liken it to the situation pertaining among the armies in Europe in August 1914, in so far as they were also brimming with doctrine, and with enlisted and officers trained in it from bottom to top.
Lacking people with actual experience in the kind of previously unimaginable savage and intense fighting that then immediately erupted, the two sides struggled to fulfill their plans on what couldn’t be anything other than a spontaneously generated ad hoc basis. “Doctrine” then becomes “achieve your objectives by any method possible.”
So units in the game get to move and fight, or fight and move – the difference in order representing an easy abstraction to model logistical and administrative and support priorities – and the players who do that best will win (if they’re also lucky).
Grant: What are some unique units or divisions that are only found in this volume?
Ty: The NATO commander gets the elite, all-recon, five-battalion-strong Inter-Allied Covering Force, the special enabling rules for which are as follows. (Players familiar with the previous game, Objective Frankfurt, will immediately realize the ICF is essentially a miniaturized NATO version of Eighth Guards Army from that game. Players will also note this is the only volume in the series with not a single US ground unit in it.)
- Non-ICF and ICF units may never take part in the same NATO attack.
- ICF units may always receive artillery combat support as if the NATO phase sequence that turn is fight/move.
- When playing two-map or multi-map scenarios, ICF units may only move and attack on the Objective Kassel map.
- The elimination of ICF units does not cause any NATO artillery attrition.
Grant: How is Air Superiority and Electronic Warfare outcomes determined and what difference does it make?
Ty: Another characteristic of the old-SPI genre-founding games of this type was a kind of programmed surety as to this kind of combat support. That was because, again, US Army company-level and battalion-level officers were assured they could depend on this or that amount of it by this or that moment in time after the shooting began. Those officers generally accepted those assurances because it gave them one less variable to have to worry about. Of course, what they didn’t know was their counterparts on the other side of the wire were being given the same kinds of assurances. So, air power and electronic warfare are – on a single game basis – symmetrically randomized. When playing two-map or multi-map scenarios, however, both players can secretly concentrate those assets on whichever portion of the front they choose. That, I believe, is about the only level of ‘control’ the higher-level ground force headquarters would’ve had in this arena – which I also see as being totally chaos (rather than doctrinally) dominated from its first moments.
Grant: What are the different scenarios available?
Ty: There’s only one scenario per game; however, each also has three different Soviet victory conditions within its scenario. The Soviet player knows what that is, but the NATO commander doesn’t. So the Soviet player can, to a certain extent, bluff in regard to his maneuver axes and concentrations on the map. The NATO player generally has enough resources to be guaranteed the ability to stop his opponent from achieving any one of those victory conditions – but only if he correctly (and as early on as possible) deduces which one is in play.
Grant: What is General Bagnall’s Counterattack? Who is this personality and why was this included?
Ty: Bagnall was the British BAOR commander who first rejected the whole German-imposed “Forward Defense” scheme. In place of it, he advocated falling back, fighting only delay actions to attrit the invaders’ strength, while gathering reinforcements and then launching a major counterattack (counteroffensive, really) when the correlation of forces had tipped in favor of NATO. The special rules for launching that counterattack are as follows:
Prior to beginning the game, the NATO player must secretly plot the counterattack to take place during any one NATO player turn during the game’s second half (game turns 7 through 12). • At the start of the NATO player turn of the plotted counterattack, the NATO player reveals the plot to his opponent. During the ensuing NATO player turn, the player may conduct all UK and WG and BE combat on the Objective Kassel map as if all those units belonged to the same nationality, including the international interchangeability of both kinds of CS markers. Further, all NATO attacks on the Objective Kassel map that game turn gain an automatic +1 DRM (in conjunction with all other normally applicable DRM, both negative and positive). If the plotted turn arrives and NATO player does not want to make use of this rule, he is not required to do so, but the counterattack may not be re-plotted for a later turn.
Grant: What are the Turn 1 special rules supposed to establish regarding this Soviet attack?
Ty: All the games assume the Soviets are able to achieve ‘tactical level’ surprise (shock actually). So they have airpower and combat advantages on the first turn on each map.
Grant: What are the different victory conditions in this volume and how do they differ from the other three volumes?
Ty: The three possible victory conditions – only one of which will be in effect in any one playing – are as follows:
Northern Pincer: The Pact player must exit, at any time during the game, a total of at least 12 units off the north map edge between 4809 and 4822, 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 reenter the map.
Western Pincer: The Pact player must exit, at any time during the game, a total of at least 12 units off the southwest map edge between 3001 and 3801, 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 reenter the map.
Strategic Block: The Pact player must control Bielefeld or Kassel at the end of the game. In each case the Pact player must control (3.0) four city hexes of either Bielefeld or Kassel but does not need to control four hexes in both cities and it is at his discretion (no prior designation required).
Grant: What is the process to play this game alongside Objective Nuremberg, Objective Munich and Objective Frankfurt?
Ty: This game can be played as part of the full five-map mega-scenario, or it can be mated to the forthcoming Objective Hamburg game to play a two map mini-monster AFNORTH scenario.
Grant: How long would it take to play the 5 games together?
Ty: That would depend on how many players you’re going to put around the table, their general level of experience at playing mega-monsters, and the amount of discipline they bring to their interactions with each other during play. Figure an “A-Team” of that type, with two opposing commanders per map, could get through a game in a long weekend.
Grant: What does the fifth volume cover? When can we expect the next volume?
Ty: That will be Objective Hamburg, covering the northernmost portion of the front. It tends to center on the fight for that mega-city, which lies just west of the border. It will appear in Modern War no. 55, which will ship in late May (of 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 Kassel, you can order a copy for $39.99 from the Strategy & Tactics Press website at the following link: https://shop.strategyandtacticspress.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=MW53
While I’m sure Ty is correct that the chaos of battle will demand ad hoc reactions, his casual dismissal of “doctrine” sounds over-blown to me – although it may just be semantics. To me soviet doctrine would encompass how tactical units were trained to conduct battle, all the way up to how major formations were structured and sequenced for break-throughs – all of these were thoroughly studied and regularized in the Soviet army (I still have the nomographs somewhere); furthermore, predictability was prized – doctrine would be unlikely to significantly change in a few weeks. All that being said, I don’t know what omitted “doctrine” rules Ty was trying to defend.