September 25, 2017 by oriskany
Here we are, at last, Beasts of War, at the conclusion of our explorations into the “real life” background and context of Team Yankee. Through the course of these articles, myself and Ben Collins (@benc) have tried to offer a small glimpse into how “things were” in the mid-80s, and how a NATO-Warsaw Pact World War III might’ve unfolded.
So far, we looked at the source material for Team Yankee in Part One, compared the strengths and makeup of the armies in Part Two, and looked at how such a war may have unfolded in Part Three, and reviewed other books, movies, and wargames in Part Four.
Now let’s wrap things up with a look at some ideas for battles and campaigns in Team Yankee…some of them maybe a little out of the norm, applying some of what we’ve reviewed about a potential 1980s World War III to the Team Yankee table
Team Yankee Missions
Of course, the Team Yankee rulebook already comes with a portfolio of great missions. By weaving these choices into a larger narrative context, you can assemble a vibrant campaign beyond tracking wins and losses. Just having a campaign map is a big step forward, as it gives these “wins and losses” a geographic relationship to each other.
For example, imagine the initial Soviet smash across the border. The “No Retreat” mission can be used here, giving the NATO player a chance to set up with the “Ambush” special rule. “Dawn” and “Deep Immediate Reserves” reflect the Soviets’ probable time of the attack, and also the fact that both sides have seen this battle coming for a while.
Now the Soviets are pushing deep into West German territory. They’ve probably taken horrific losses, but have committed their second operational echelon (probably by 12:00 hours on Day One) and follow-on battles are igniting across a spreading swath of the NATO corps’ “covering force area.”
“Counterattack” missions can be used to model local NATO strikes against the flanks of advancing Soviet columns. The Soviets might respond with “Hasty Attack,” hoping to exploit a breach where NATO forces have been broken especially badly (perhaps by a massed chemical strike).
“Encounter”, “Dust Up”, and “Free For All” can be used to model where NATO counterattacks are directly meeting Soviet breakthrough attempts. Both sides are having trouble bringing up forces, NATO commanders dealing with massed West German refugees and Soviet commanders trying to push reserve forces across the devastated terrain.
Probably 90% of World War III fiction and wargames have the conflict playing out with US, British, and West German forces fighting against the Group of Soviet Forces in Germany (GFSG). That pits GSFG against two main formations: NORTHAG (Northern Army Group) in north Germany, and CENTAG (Central Army Group) in south Germany.
But no one says the Soviets are limited to just kicking down the front door. An all-out NATO-Warsaw Pact showdown can see the two sides fighting all over Europe. One possibility is being explored by my friend and Team Yankee Boot Camp veteran Dave Wheeler (@davebpg) with a Soviet invasion of Denmark.
Such a campaign involves the NATO forces of LANDJUT – a corps of one Danish and two West German divisions, charged with defending the main body of Denmark and the German state of Schleswig-Holstein. This area may have come under extreme pressure if the Soviets were intent on opening a breakout channel for their Baltic Fleet.
If the Soviets hit this area harder than anticipated by NATO planners, a collapse of initial LANDJUT forces may have prompted NATO reserves (American divisions) to be sent in to stabilise the situation and keep the Soviet Baltic Fleet bottled up. This just may have led to a battle like that depicted in Dave’s epic Team Yankee table.
Other battles may have unfolded even further north. As the Soviet White Sea Fleet (which included most of their nuclear missile submarines) emerged from the Barents Sea past the north cape of Norway, might Soviet amphibious “Naval Infantry” brigades (total strength numbered almost 20,000) made landfall along Norway’s north coast?
Such bases may have been useful in staging land-based aircraft to provide the Soviet fleet with cover, especially against British land-based aircraft based out of Scotland, NATO aircraft based out of Norway, or of course American supercarriers and the dreaded F-14C “Tomcat” of 1980s fame.
Even this isn’t everything. We’ve looked at NATO’s Northern and Central Army Groups, there is also a Southern command which may have been put under dire pressure from Warsaw Pact armies based in Rumania, Bulgaria, the Soviet Caucasus, supported by the Black Sea Fleet.
Turkey and Greece would have been the main NATO states on the defence here, supported of course by American airpower out of Italy. Great Britain has always had a vested interest in protecting Mediterranean shipping lanes and would have been heavily involved particularly in any prospective battles in Greece.
Everything we’ve described so far only covers Europe. Team Yankee battles and campaigns can also be drawn up in a variety of other locations, often with material and terrain most players already have on hand.
One possibility (as briefly discussed in Part 04) is a strike in the Middle East. In fact, this may have been where the war actually starts, only exploding in Western Europe after diplomacy disastrously fails. This Soviets always kept a wary eye on their southern border, and the West, of course, had a critical dependence on Persian Gulf oil.
Just set up desert terrain for your Team Yankee armies, perhaps World War II North Africa terrain updated with some oil refineries. This is also a great place to stage your games if you’re really interested in a “NATO Strikes First” campaign, as we, of course, saw US and British forces on the offensive in the 1991 Gulf War.
Now if you want to get really crazy, one game I’ve always wanted to run was a potential Soviet invasion not of the contiguous United States, but perhaps Alaska? At one point in this region, the US and USSR are only three miles apart, and the Soviets may want to distract the US from a war in Europe by threatening the Alaskan oil pipelines.
This is a remote possibility to be sure, but it’s about as close to a “Red Dawn” case as you’ll plausibly see. It also gets Team Yankee forces onto an icy, snow-bound table if nothing else. Also, these northern polar regions are where most of the US and Soviet naval and nuclear operations were expected to be, so why not a land operation as well?
I was honestly very excited when I saw Battlefront’s “Red Thunder” release for the Soviets. The inclusion of the T-64, one of the most underrated tanks of the Cold War, and the fact that it’s actually better than the T-72 on the tabletop is a sure sign that Battlefront knows what it’s doing in presenting a “factual” 1980s Soviet Army.
Of course, there are further possibilities. The biggest among these is the Soviet T-80 main battle tank. Through the 1980s, this tank gradually replaced the T-64 in GSFG divisions (where the T-72 was not fielded) and also in other Soviet commands were the T-72 may have seen a limited role (e.g., NSGF in Poland, CSGF in Czechoslovakia).
Until Battlefront comes out with a T-80, however, I’ve been using T-72s with K5 reactive armour as proxies. The problem is the card and game values. This shouldn’t be too hard, however. The T-80 was incredibly fast, had better armour, and a similar gun (although that gun could fire a more advanced anti-tank missile than the T-64’s).
Another possibility is the American AH-64 Apache attack helicopter. Now I know this model didn’t come along until later in the 1980s, but I happened to find a 1/100 model of one “on the cheap” and built it as an auxiliary Team Yankee tabletop miniature. As fearsome as the Cobra is, the Apache would be downright ferocious.
Instead of going forward in time, how about we also go back? We have the T-55 from Battlefront, all we need is some T-62s, American M48A5s and M60A1s … combined with Centurions already released for “Fate of a Nation,” and we can run 1973 Yom Kippur War scenarios as a Team Yankee “prequel.” Any takers?
We hope you’ve enjoyed this look into the “history” of Team Yankee. As we’ve seen, the “fluff” for this game is actually pretty grim, especially since it very well could’ve happened. In some ways Team Yankee has the best of both historical and non-historical gaming, presenting gritty historical detail with the relief that all of this DIDN’T happen.
I’d like to thank Ben Collins for his expertise, photos, and writing through the course of this project. This guy knows his stuff, and putting this series together would have been a lot tougher without his prompt help…and flexibility with our publication schedules! I’d also like to heartily thank Dave Wheeler for his epic Team Yankee photos as well.
I’d also like to thank Warren and the team for yet again providing the opportunity to publish on Beasts of War, Ben Shaw, Az, and Tom Gurthie for their work editing and web publishing, and Lance for the great front-end presentation graphics.
Most of all, thanks to the readers who’ve taken the time to read these articles. Please post below what you thought, or if you have any questions or comments. Most of all, what are YOUR ideas about how a Third World War might have broken loose in the 1980s, how it may have developed, or how it may have turned out?
If you liked this article and want to know more about the history behind Team Yankee, make sure to check out the Weekender Interview with oriskany below…
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"I was honestly very excited when I saw Battlefront’s “Red Thunder” release for the Soviets..."
"...no one says the Soviets are limited to just kicking down the front door. An all-out NATO-Warsaw Pact showdown can see the two sides fighting all over Europe"