SPI, MODERN BATTLES: FOUR CONTEMPORARY CONFLICTS (1975)

MODERN BATTLES: Four Contemporary Conflicts is a set of four games each simulating a different historical or quasi-historical modern day conflict. The four battles depicted in this collection of games are WURZBURG, CHINESE FARM, GOLAN, and MUKDEN. The two historical battles in this set are CHINESE FARM and GOLAN, both of which are from the 1973 “Yom Kippur War” between Israel and an Arab coalition composed of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq. The two quasi-historical (hypothetical) battles are WURZBURG (NATO versus the Warsaw Pact in Southern Germany) and MUKDEN (the Soviet Union versus China in Manchuria).

DESCRIPTION


The four games that make up MODERN BATTLES utilize a similar mix of game components, and are designed around a set of Standard Rules that are common to them all. Each game turn in MODERN BATTLES represents twelve hours of real time, and one hex equals one mile. The game turn sequence is essentially the same for all four games in the set, and proceeds as follows: Special Weapons Interphase; First Player Movement Phase; First Player Combat Phase; Second Player Movement Phase; Second Player Combat Phase; and last, the Game-Turn Record Interphase which marks the end of the game turn. Each individual simulation also has its own short set of Exclusive Rules specific to that game. This design format makes it almost effortless to move from one game to the next without spending a lot of time learning a new game system with each new title. Thus, each game, while similar to the others in this set, still offers the players a different and unique gaming experience.



11th Cavalry trooper, Fulda Gap

THE INDIVIDUAL GAMES

WURZBURG
is an operational (battalion/regiment) simulation of hypothetical, NATO-Warsaw Pact combat in Southern Germany in the mid-1970’s. The German city of Wurzburg lies equidistant between the two main invasion routes into Germany from the east: the Fulda Gap, and the Hoff Gap. During the Cold War, planners on both sides assumed that, in the event of war between the East and West, a clash near Wurzburg was inevitable. WURZBURG offers four scenarios: The Advance to Contact scenario (6 game turns); The Siege of Wurzburg scenario (8 game turns); The Gramschatzer Wald scenario (12 game turns); and The Main River Line scenario (10 game turns). In addition, the game’s designer offers some tips on creating 'do it yourself scenarios' for those players interested in simulating other types of hypothetical NATO-Warsaw Pact engagements. There are no optional rules. WURZBURG was designed by James F. Dunnigan.

CHINESE FARM
is an operational level simulation of the desperate Israeli offensive that turned the tide of battle on the Egyptian Front during the latter part of the Yom Kippur War. The game examines the fighting from 15 to 21 October, 1973, during which the Israeli Army attacked Egyptian forces in an effort to reach and force a crossing of the Suez Canal. CHINESE FARM offers three scenarios. Scenario I focuses just on the ground operations by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) to force a crossing of the Suez Canal in order to cut off the Egyptian Third Army (8 game turns). Scenario II covers the entire Israeli offensive against the Egyptians defending the Suez and includes Israeli airpower and Egyptian SAM sites (12 turns). Scenario III assumes that the Egyptian Army had prepared a defense in depth along the East bank of the Canal and thus, would have been in a position to offer much tougher resistance to the Israelis (12 game turns). There are no optional rules. CHINESE FARM was designed by Howard Barasch.

Tanks on the Golan Heights during the Yom Kippur War.
GOLAN
is an operational simulation of the fierce fighting between Israeli and Arab forces on the Syrian Front during the Yom Kippur War (October 1973). The game begins with a violent Syrian attack on Israeli positions on the Golan Heights. The Israeli defenders must withstand the initial determined onslaught by Syrian forces. If the IDF can prevent an Arab breakthrough, they can, once Israeli reinforcements begin to arrive, regain the initiative and go over to the offensive. Historically, the Israeli positions were able to hold, and the IDF counterattack drove all the way to the gates of Damascus, defeating Syrian, Iraqi, and Jordanian reinforcements along the way. GOLAN offers three scenarios: Scenario I, which simulates the historical battle for the Golan (32 game turns); Scenario II, which assumes that Israeli reserves had been called up 24-48 hours earlier, providing additional units and a much stronger defense of the Golan (32 turns); and Scenario III, which postulates that Arab command and control and logistics were significantly better than was the case historically (32 game turns). There are no optional rules. GOLAN was designed by Irad B. Hardy.

MUKDEN
is an operational simulation of hypothetical combat actions that might have resulted from a war between the (then) Soviet Union and the Peoples’ Republic of China, sometime in the mid-1970’s. One important battlefield in such a conflict would almost certainly have been the Chinese city of Shenyang (Mukden) because of its importance as a Chinese industrial and communications center. MUKDEN offers three scenarios: The Battle for Asia, which postulates a Soviet breakthrough and mechanized drive deep into Manchuria (13 game turns); The Siege of Mukden, which simulates a “Stalingrad” type battle for possession of the city (10 turns); and Guerrilla, which examines the possible unconventional conflict that might follow in the aftermath of a Soviet victory over the Chinese Army (10 game turns). There are no optional rules. MUKDEN was designed by David C. Isby.

A PERSONAL OBSERVATION

Sadat and Mubarak during
the Yom Kippur War.
The first time I played MODERN BATTLES (the CHINESE FARM Scenario II, to be precise) I did so under protest. One of my regular opponents had recently purchased the game and was eager for some face-to-face competition. I am not particularly fond of the 'silhouette style' of unit counters used in the game but, because gaming is a quid pro quo type of hobby, I reluctantly agreed to give it a try. Since I regularly beat this opponent in my favorite East Front games, I assumed that I would be able to acquit myself fairly well despite my inexperience. I took the Egyptian side, and proceeded to get one of the worst shellackings I have ever gotten when sitting at a game map. About two turns into the scenario, I realized that the game system, despite its simple mechanics, had a lot more depth than I had expected. So much so, that I promptly went home and ordered my own copy. The moral of this story, if there is one, is that the games in MODERN BATTLES are surprisingly challenging. The use of air power and artillery, both on offense and defense, along with the different combat results tables, make the player choices much harder than one might expect. Some of the scenarios are great for introducing new players to the hobby, while others are real 'nail-biters' right down to the last turn, even for experienced players. The different games, multiple scenarios, and the breadth of combat environments, means that players can spend a lot of time with this game without ever exhausting its possibilities.

Game Components (for all four Games):

  • Four 17” x 22” hexagonal grid Map Sheets (with Terrain Keys incorporated)
  • 400 ½” cardboard Counters
  • Two 8½” x 11” Standard Rules Booklets
  • Four 8½ ” x 11” Exclusive Rules Booklets (with Scenario Instructions)
  • Two 8½” x 11” back-printed combined Game Charts (each with Active Combat Results Table, Mobile Combat Results Table, Terrain Effects Chart, SAM Suppression Table, SAM Resolution Table, and Nuclear Weapons Chart incorporated)
  • One small six-sided Die
  • One SPI 12” x 15” x 1” flat 24 compartment plastic Game Box (with clear compartment tray covers) and clear plastic game cover with Title Sheet

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12 comments:

  • Your personal comments are interesting to me, for similar reasons: I had never paid any attention to this Quad. None. I'm not certain why - I bought almost everything SPI produced, it seemed, yet the concept left me cold. I ignored the games completely.

    A few years ago, I acquired a copy of Golan and Chinese Farm as an addendum in a trade. After I'd organized the intended purchase, I decided to take a look at Chinese Farm. Hmmm. Looks simple enough - and played out the first turn solitaire.

    An hour or two later I realized I'd played most of the game, draw into it by the 'simple' rules that made such a big difference. The game was fun, fast - and it could turn on a dime. I spent the next few months introducing it to friends as a lost treasure, and playing it again and again!

  • I love this Quad! Played it to death when it first came out and still do today. I even got another 2 copies of Mukden countersheets and then made a home made expanded map for a nice large battle with 3 Soviet Tank,4-5 Motorized,2 Artillery and a Para div. Chinese had a ton of units.

    I kinda like the original Wurzburg over it's new Pentomic upgrade edition just out this year.

  • Greetings Kim:

    As my game profile indicates, I like this game a lot. Most of my friends tended to prefer WURZBURG, but for my own part, I really liked GOLAN and CHINESE FARM; in fact, I never got tired of playing either of Arab-Israeli War games. Unfortunately, MODERN BATTLES II turned out to be a big disappointment -- at least to me -- and I could never develop the kind of interest in its several games that I did in the first "Quad." This is probably why, even now, I have not summoned up enough interest to produce a profile of MODERN BATTLES II for my blog.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • I'm sort of in the same boat also concerning MBII compared to the first one. The biggest thing I think I didn't like and that's just me is they went to nato style symbols instead of keeping the icon's and the darn untried units ala PGG. I played them and have every box/tray version and the folio's of each but MBII just didn't thrill me like the first 4 games. Wurzburg was my most played then Mukden

  • Greetings Again Kim:

    Yes, the games in MODERN BATTLES II just seemed sort of flat, somehow. So far as MUKDEN is concerned: I don't know why, but my group hardly played it at all; maybe we had all burned out on the subject with THE EAST IS RED.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • paul torres said...

    Mr.Meints any chance of making updated counters for Mukden and the italian units for yugoslavia?

  • Greetings Paul:

    It is unclear from your comment whether you are missing counters to 'MUKDEN' (MB I) and 'YUGOSLAVIA' (MB II) or whether you would just like to see updated versions of these games' units made available. Whichever it is, however, I suggest that you visit the appropriate game forums at either Consimworld (Kim is a regular at virtually all of the CSW forums) and Boardgamegeek.com.

    If the truth be known, it wouldn't surprise me if there weren't updated versions of the 'MODERN BATTLES' countersheets already floating around on the Internet.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Joe,

    Wondering if you can help me recall a title that was available in 1984. The topic was modern tactical warfare (squad / individual vehicle) and I recall it had some NATO / WP scenarios. What bothers me is I seem to recall it was neither a product of SPI or AH. Do you recall anything like that from that date ?

    PS -- I've noted there seems to be a "gaming gap" covering conventional warfare from about 1950 (excluding Korea) to 1975 or so (other than the Middle East titles). I thought the NATO/WP fight would be more interesting during, say, 1956 or 1968.

    Cheers

    W. B. Wilson

  • Greetings WB:

    Under ordinary circumstances, I would most probably look through my stacks of hobby magazines from that period in hopes of seeing either an ad or an article that might jog my memory. Unfortunately, because my wife and I are in the middle of making extensive renovations to our house, all of my gaming paraphernalia was boxed up and moved, for safe-keeping, into the garage. And there it all still remains.

    That said, I can think of a couple of candidates for your mystery game, but I can't say that any of the titles that come to mind would actually "fill the bill" perfectly. This is especially true because the universe of commercially viable wargame companies around during the mid-1980's really wasn't that large. By way of example, you had (if I recall correctly) SPI, TAHGC, GDW, the "north of the border" CDG Co. and Gamma II, OSG, "Red" Jack Radey's Peoples' War Wargames, and, of course, a small collection of European game publishers. I don't believe that most of our well-known contemporary game companies (e.g., MMP, GMT, etc.) were even waiting in the wings thirty years ago. In any case, although I can't offer you much, when it comes to alternative (non-SPI and Avalon Hill) publishers, that might match your general game description, a couple of titles do come to mind.

    The first candidate that comes to my mind is Victory Games' 'MBT' (Main Battle Tank); also, of course, there is SPI's 'FIRE FIGHT' and it's far better urban cousin, 'CITY FIGHT'. There were also a number of modern (20th Century) tactical games published by SPI, over the years, as insert games for S&T. Unfortunately, I really don't think that games like 'KAMPFPANZER', 'Vth Corps', or 'OCTOBER WAR' really does the trick for you, either.

    In any case, I wish that I could be more help, but these are the only titles that I could come up with my current lack or research resources.

    Best Regards, Joe

  • Joe,

    Many thanks for the comments. I'll check MBT and Firefight. Definitely not V Corps, I still have a copy of that one and think it emerged about a decade later.

    A side comment. Looking at the description of Wurzburg above and the Gramschatzer Wald scenario -- I recall driving by the Autobahn rest stop named for the Gramschatzer Wald many times. Recent events in my life have brought me to Poland. Sometimes I have the odd feeling that I've "made it onto the game map" as I drive by locations that got a lot of press in the old game maps, heh. As you have mentioned in other reviews, there was something about the total package of those games that made a deep impression.

    Cheers

    W. B. Wilson

  • Joe,

    Found it. You were correct, the game I was thinking of was Firefight. I recognized it when I saw a Cyberboard gamebox representation of the counters.

    Cheers

    W. B. Wilson

  • Greetings:

    I'm glad that you were able to track your game down. FIREFIGHT was an interesting game; unfortunately, SPI really didn't include all that many interesting scenarios for its players to experiment with.

    Best Regards, Joe

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