Classic Computer Magazine Archive CREATIVE COMPUTING VOL. 10, NO. 9 / SEPTEMBER 1984 / PAGE 95

War in Europe; the computer simulates past and future campaigns. Brian J. Murphy; Daniel Campagna.

War in Europe

The Computer Simulates Past and Future Campaigns

Dnieper River Line

If you have ever envisioned yourself as a field commander of an assortment of Wehrmacht troops, few in number and braced for a massive Soviet offensive, then Dnieper River Line (DRL) may be for you.

DRL simulates a fictitious series of combat scenarios between the German Army Group South and an unidentified, but prodigious, Russian force in 1943. The game includes a mounted mapboard, approximately 300 counters representing the various types of units available to both sides, a 16-page rule booklet, and a cassette (32K) or disk (48K). The computer assumes the Russian side and functions essentially as an information retrieval/ analysis bank by providing such necessary data as combat results, German status reports, Russian troop movements, and the effects of artillery barrages.

To understand the mechanics of this design, keep in mind that it is directed primarily at wargamers. As a result, DRL is bereft of the visual glamor of arcade games and the more sophisticated mapscrolling displays found in some games. The map and counters in DRL are, in a sense, a substitute for hi-res graphics. Divided into 144 georgraphic squares with XY co-ordinates, the map contains six objective areas each worth a varying number of victory points. It is the German player's task to defend one or more of these objective areas, depending on the scenario and level of complexity chosen.

The computer offers you three German orders of battle, called Status Reports. After selecting a particular order of battle, which typically includes 9 to 12 assorted units, you must enter the starting location and combat mode of each unit. There are three combat modes: assault, mobile and static, each of which affects the ability of a unit to observe and report Russian troop movements. An entrenched Assault Infantry unit, for example, is less able to monitor the disposition of Soviet troops operating beyond its immediate vicinity.

To assist you in preparing a stalwart defense, minefields and garrison companies are allocated to objective areas and likely avenues of enemy attacks. These elements are meant to slow down the Russian advance, particularly in the case of Soviet partisan infantry who appear behind your front line. The computer, meanwhile, assembles up to 22 Russian units for the initial offensive across the Dnieper River, and the battle begins.

DRL is a finely balanced game with a slight edge going to the computer. Out-numbered and spread thin, you must construct an elastic front line capable of delaying the enemy offensive until the key objectives are identified. At that point, powerful reserves in the form of SS Infantry and Heavy Panzers are committed to the contest.

Despite the sophisticated ease of this design, the game does have some shortcomings worth noting. German counterattacks, for example, rarely succeed. This reduces the German role to that of the passive defender. Also, tactical options are few. Fighting withdrawals, infiltration, and diversionary sorties would enhance the German ability to retaliate. Lastly, the absence of any graphics, sound, or real-time ingredients makes DRL more sedate than necessary. Wargamers yearn for the unpredictability of simulated combat as a way of testing their judgment under pressure against the impartial logic of the computer. DRL is too abstract to produce this effect. It needs, in other words, more chrome, random variables, and time constraints to upgrade it from a very good game to an excellent one.--DC

North Atlantic "86

It is 1986, and the Warsaw Pact countries have invaded and conquered Western Europe. The NATO armies have retreated across the channel to Britain which was swiftly surrounded by hostile forces.

That is the situation as you assume command of all NATO land, sea, and air forces in North Atlantic "86, the latest wargame by Strategic Simulations.

The NATO player's objectives are simple: to keep Britain supplied and the air group at Scapa Flow active and to retain control of Iceland and the Faroe Islands. The Soviet player (or the computer in solitaire mode) seeks to capture Iceland and the Faroes, cut off Britain from all supplies and bombard the NATO air/sea bese at Scapa Flow.

Mechanics of Play

The game begins with both sides organizing task forces. In the "Task Force Adjustment Phase,' players select ships for combat, bombardment, transport and submarine warfare. You can also examine the speed, damage levels and endurance of forces at sea as well as the strength of your land and air forces and the number of combat ships sunk on both sides.

In the movement phase you are allowed to move each task force invidually in any of eight directions. You may also dock a force, stop it or turn on or off its radar and sonar search function (turning off the radar makes the task force harder to find and turning it on makes it easier for the force to spot hostile forces).

In the air movement phase you assign planes to long and short range CAP (combat air patrol) to locate enemy units. Then you get a map display spotting all sighted enemy forces. Task forces in range can launch surface-to-surface missile attacks with results revealed later on in the Combat Resolution phase of the turn.

Any enemy within range can be targeted for air strikes which can be launched against land or sea objectives. Planes attacking sea targets with missiles can launch at extreme "standoff' range, making enemy missile or fighter interception unlikely.

On land you can choose to attack contested locations such as the Faroes and Iceland. You have five levels of combat intensity from which to choose. The more intense the attack, the higher the casualties will be (on both sides) and the more likely it is the attack will succeed.

Combat is resolved automatically. Calculating the odds, the computer displays the results of missile firing, then the outcome of surface and submarine combat and the results of the land battle.

Winning the game is a matter of selecting the right ships for the right job. Put strong missile defenses around your cargo ships and carriers. Put heavy guns in the bombardment groups. Do not mix nuclear subs with non-nukes (the non-nukes slow up the rest). Also keep land based troops and air forces supplied so morale (and victory points) remain high and so you can continue to fight. This places a lot of emphasis on the safety of your transport ships.

The computer awards victory points for the possession of the Faroes and Iceland, for ships sunk, and for NATO morale (which is maintained by supplies). Each island taken by the Soviets and every turn during which supplies fail to reach Scapa Flow transfers victory points from the NATO to Soviet columns.

North Atlantic "86 is the biggest wargame designed for a home computer to date. The size of the battlefield, the all-embracing scope of the forces involved, and the time and detail involved are staggering. This game should have appeal for veteran wargamers, who will find it a challenging test of their skills, and for first-time wargamers, who will find it surprisingly easy to learn.

Gary Grigsby has created an interesting and engrossing game and a very realistic simulation. Given the basic premise of North Atlantic "86, that is a most disturbing though.

Photo: Dnieper River Line C-64 version.

Photo: North Atlantic "86.

Products: Dnieper River Line (computer program)
North Atlantic '86 (computer program)