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OPFOR Volume 3: A Blockbuster

I’ve made two updates to my collection of un/declassified “OPFOR” manuals in the past. For this third volume, it’s (vastly) more substantial to the point where I’ve had to break the collection into three folders for size and organization reasons. I figured that, after all my searching, I couldn’t not share them. So here they are.

Fake Countries

The past collections of declassified American, British, and Australian manuals have been folded into “fake countries”. Added to the list of fake countries includes:

  • A version of the Decisive Action Training Environment, one of the most recent standing exercise concepts.
  • More Circle Trigon Aggressor manuals, including the 1955 version (which is by far the most detailed of them) and the 1973 version (the last one before they ditched the goofy helmets in favor of an openly Soviet stand in).
  • The first installment of said Soviet stand-in, the 1977 “Opposing Forces Europe”.
  • The fabled  FM 30-104, “Handbook on Aggressor Insurgent War” manual, written during Vietnam and dealing with unconventional forces.
  • Various post-1991 OPFOR manuals, including an organization guide that details brigade-corps similar to the GENFORCE “mobile forces” or real reformed post-Soviet models, and an idealized pseudo-Iraq/California overlay called “Samara”.

The “fake countries” can be accessed here

Real Countries

A big addition: This is un/declassified assessments of real, as opposed to fictional/stand-in countries. As with all intelligence documents, they must be taken with a big grain of salt, but remain very useful. The countries with documents of them include…

  • USSR/Russia. This includes the classic FM 100-2 series on the Soviet Army, a more nuanced British report on Soviet tactics that was one of the final made before the USSR’s collapse, and several on contemporary Russia.
  • An early Cold War study of Soviet client states.
  • A pre-Gulf War (optimistic) assessment of the Iraqi Army by the NTC.
  • Early and late Cold War assessments of the Chinese PLA.
  • Assessments of post-millennium Iran and Syria.
  • Assessments of both 1980 and modern North Korea.
  • 1977 assessment of Cuba.

The “real countries” can be accessed here.

Misc..

In addition, this final section houses the equally valuable documents I nonetheless felt didn’t really belong in either previous section.

  • Official Soviet field regulations of the early-mid Cold War captured and translated by the CIA, now declassified.
  • Large doctrinal musings from Chinese and Soviet officers.
  • The three-volume “Voroshilov Lectures” on strategic and operational matters.
  • A study of the possible incorporation of Warsaw Pact minor countries into Soviet plans.
  • Several studies on the potential future organization and tactics of an (intact) future USSR.
  • Though not an OPFOR piece per se, a US study on “Tactics and Technology for the 21st Century” that perfectly encapsulates 90s defense thinking.

The miscellaneous section can be viewed here.

Hope these are interesting and stimulating.

Fuldapocalypse Fiction Reviews

So, I’ve started a new personal review blog, called “Fuldapocalypse Fiction“. The aim of it is to review World War III and other “big-perspective” military stories in a more structured and less off-the-cuff way than I’ve done previously. I’m excited about it.

My first review there is of an early 1980s tank novel, Bob Forrest-Webb’s Chieftains.

The Games That Led Me To Command

Nothing exists in a cultural vacuum, and there were many things that led me to the path where I got Command and never looked back. But I think that three games in particular served as various stepping stones.

Advance Wars: The Opening Act

When I was but a child, I grabbed the games in the Advance Wars series and played all of them. They’re cutesy turn-based strategy games that got me into military strategy gaming in the first place. In hindsight, they’re weirdly good operational games, owing as much to their limitations as any features (I really doubt the Intelligent Systems programmers knew the intricacies of the still-disputed “Operational Art”). The limitations are:

  • Unit on unit combat is simple and abstracted.
  • In everything but “destroy the MacGuffin” campaign missions, you cannot win in a single maneuver. These are attritional campaigns you’re waging.

So, because of this, you have to think about objectives (namely production structures and cities to boost your economy) and timing (when to use your CO Powers). Thus for all of AW’s distortions and unrealistic (to put it mildly) quantities, it was good for getting me in the mood for big-picture wargaming.

The series hit its peak in the second game before declining, and has since been shelved since 2008’s Days of Ruin.

Steel Panthers: The Possibility of Options

Later on, after the Advance Wars series ground to a disappointing halt in Days of Ruin, I found Steel Panthers: Main Battle Tank. And being able to fight any conflict from 1946 to the present was amazing at the time. For years I threw myself into Steel Panthers, and still play it occasionally.

While Steel Panthers opened the door to large-scale possibilities and is still a fantastic game, it has some issues. There are UI and AI problems and the game can be munchkined pretty easily. But those are second to the two issues. One is that even small battles are very involved and hands-on. The other is that it teeters on an uncomfortable tightrope between “game” and “simulation”, mixing high-fidelity units with a points purchase system. Some countries were near-unplayable at certain point levels because you commanded giant clunky waves of low-tier infantry or a few irreplaceable units. It’s really meant for reinforced battalion-level combat against equal opponents, and while bigger and/or more asymmetric battles can be conducted, the simulation isn’t as good there.

So this brings me to the third and most influential yet.

Fleet Command: The Trainer

The final piece of the puzzle was Fleet Command. Fleet Command’s biggest problem was that it was finicky and janky with massive compatibility issues on newer computers. I was lucky to get it when I did. But as a simplified  introduction to air/naval warfare, it was beautiful. When I played my first few Command scenarios and missions, I knew the basic “setup” from my Fleet Command experience.

Plus my love of the weird and unconventional manifested itself in Fleet Command’s (rough) scenario editor-I was making slapfights over Greenland, to give an example.

Command

So, having tasted those morsels, I was hungering for a meal. Advance Wars is less relevant save for being the spark plug that ignited my general interest.

  • I wanted the unit diversity of Steel Panthers, but without its clunkiess or iffy “balance”.
  • I wanted something like Fleet Command, but with more detail and stability.

So when I saw Baloogan’s Guadalcanal sandbox video and saw a scenario made quickly, I was instantly in love. I bought Command, and saw it provided what I was looking for-it had modern air and sea warfare, hugely diverse units and possibilities in an editor that was brilliantly easy to use and could let you determine the “worth” of everything. The rest is history.

What isn’t on the list:

The biggest omission from the list is Harpoon. I still to this date have never played any version of Harpoon. I have nothing against it, but I was just only vaguely aware of its existence for a long time and by the time I’d figured out more, I’d already gotten Command. In terms of lower-level air/naval sims, I only played World War II ones, namely Silent Hunter 3 and Il-2 Sturmovik. But mostly it was just those three.

I also, for a variety of logistical reasons, haven’t played many tabletop games. It’s been mostly computer for me.

 

 

My Newest EBook Is Out: Paint The Force Red

My newest ebook, Paint The Force Red, is now out on Kindle.

It’s a brief guide to making fictional nations and their armed forces, something I’ve long been interested in (as any look at the OPFOR-tagged posts on this blog can indicate). My aim with Paint The Force Red was to illustrate the basics someone should follow for making a fictional armed service in wargaming (Command very much included), or in prose fiction, using examples from both real and “real fake” (read-existing exercise fodder countries) nations.

Writing it was tough and frustrating in parts, but also very enjoyable, and I hope readers find it enjoyable and informative!

D-Day, June 6, 1944

Today is the anniversary of the Normandy landings. Probably the most famous Western Allied campaign of World War II.

This picture illustrates the scale and effort of it, all the ships needed, and all the trucks needed.

Commonwealth Collision has been released

Commonwealth Collision, the second Command Live scenario I authored, is out. It’s available on Matrix and Steam.

EBook Recommendations

So I’ve been doing a lot of reading and figured I’d recommend a few of my favorite military ebooks. While I can be a relentlessly critical person (that on my personal blog, the posts tagged “Bad Fiction” vastly outnumber those marked “Good Fiction” speaks for itself), even I have some works I’ve liked enough to endorse.

First book: Raven One, by Kevin Miller

This book isn’t exactly going to win any Nobel Prizes for Literature, but it stands out as something that does all the elements of a post-USSR military thriller right. Just the right amount of enhancing the enemy, just the right level of stakes. As a page-turner, you could do far worse. (I’ve recommended this before, and for good reason)

Second book: The Defense of Hill 781, by James McDonough

This is more unconventional, a Duffers Drift-style piece of edutainment. I like it, not just because of its good writing, but because it manages to use one of my favorite potential tropes, a completely artificial foe. And it uses it well.

Third book: Team Yankee, by Harold Coyle

This is a classic tank novel. And for good reason-one thing I was impressed by was how well it moves. Some thrillers are clunky, this one is not. It’s still a cheap thriller, but it manages to move well and (for the most part) incorporate a ton of characters and actions into a smooth narrative. Well worth a read.