S&T Issues # 38, 41, 43, 45 & 48


In August 2010, I published a post cataloging some of my own favorite S&T magazine games from the 1970s and 80s titled: THE 20 BEST S&T MAGAZINE INSERT GAMES FROM THE “GOLDEN AGE” OF SPI. The inspiration for this (admittedly) highly-subjective essay originally came from the queries of a reader who was interested in learning more about, and perhaps acquiring, some of the more interesting of the out-of-print game designs from the 1970s and 80s. However, this reader, not surprisingly, also wanted to make sure that the money he invested in these older, often hard-to-get titles was well-spent and not wasted. My response, as the title from my original post indicates, was that a good place for this prospective collector to start would be with some of the early S&T magazine games; specifically those from the so-called “golden age” of board wargaming. The main appeal of this “magazine-based” approach to older SPI games — in my view, at least — was that a player could actually experiment with a particular game system before springing for a larger, more expensive title. Hence, a fan of Napoleonic games who might be interested in buying a copy of Frank Davis’ wonderful (but very detailed and complex) WELLINGTON’S VICTORY could gain a real feel for the essential features of Davis’ Napoleonic tactical system by first playing the smaller, less-expensive magazine game, NEY VS. WELLINGTON. If, after trying it out, the player decided that he liked the smaller game, he could then invest in a copy of the larger, more costly WELLINGTON’S VICTORY; if not, he would, at the very least, have saved himself both a lot of time and no small amount of money.

Although the “20 BEST” essay was generally well received by my readers; in retrospect, I now think that, were I to do it over again, I would probably have handled my survey of the “Top 20” S&T magazine games a little differently. For one thing, because there were a number of games that were real contenders for a spot on the list, but which, for one reason or another didn’t quite make it, I probably should have included at least a few “honorable mentions” to go with the twenty games that actually did get featured. Secondly, S&T was, and is, more than a game mailer; it is a magazine, first and foremost, with content oriented specifically towards the interests — historical and otherwise — of wargamers. Thus, had the rapidly burgeoning length of the “20 Best” essay not been a concern, I probably would have accompanied my brief S&T game profiles with short descriptions of their associated magazines’ tables of contents. Live and learn, I suppose; which, conveniently enough, brings me to the present.

Because a number of my readers have argued (pretty convincingly, I must admit) on behalf of a number of S&T magazine games from the 1970s and 80s that did not make it onto my original “20 Best” list, I have decided to highlight some of these other titles in an ongoing series of posts, beginning with this one. In addition, because newer players must rely on “after-market” sources for these S&T magazine-game combinations, and since many of these sources do not offer much in the way of details when it comes to their auction or “resale” product descriptions, I am rectifying one of my earlier oversights by including a table of contents for each of the S&T issues that I will be featuring in this and future posts. Please note, however, that there will inevitably be gaps in this series: first, because a number of the magazine games from this period (the 70s and 80s) were repackaged and then sold as regular SPI product offerings, and, as such, have already been profiled elsewhere in this blog; second, certain of the earliest S&T games were published without mounted counters, and, for this reason (if no other), they have also been excluded from this collection of titles; and third, because there are just some S&T games (e.g., S&T #37, SCRIMMAGE) that I simply cannot summon up enough enthusiasm to revisit, even for a “retrospective” project like this one. That being said, the following five profiles, all from the “golden age” of SPI — when James F. Dunnigan and Redmond Simonsen ran things — represent the first installment in this ongoing series of posts:


1. Strategy & Tactics (S&T) #38, ‘CA’

, when originally published, included a copy of the game of the same name. A copy of S&T #38 (Apr/May 1973) features the following articles:

  • 'CA': Tactical Warfare in the Pacific, 1941-43, by David Isby
  • The Gettysburg Campaign: 1 June-26 July 1863, by Albert A, Nofi
  • Simulation: ‘CA’: Tactical Combat in the Pacific, 1941-45, by James F. Dunnigan and Redmond Simonsen
  • Outgoing Mail, by The Editors
  • Sackson on Games, Sid Sackson
  • Feedback, Vox Populi, Vox Dei

S&T #38 Magazine Game: ‘CA’, designed by James F. Dunnigan with graphic design by Redmond A. Simonsen, is a two-player simulation of American versus Japanese ship-to-ship combat during World War II. However, unlike most titles that model naval actions in the Pacific Theater during World War II, ‘CA’ focuses exclusively on surface actions, and leaves out the more famous carrier battles completely.

‘CA’ is played on a traditional hexagonal-grid sea-type game map which, because of the requirements of several of the scenarios, also includes a small collection of differently-sized land areas. The game’s operational scale, it should be noted, is a little odd: each game-turn represents six minutes and forty seconds of real time; each hex is 926.88 meters from side to side; and a single movement point is equal to five knots in real speed. To keep the mechanics of play relatively simple, game turns are split into two symmetrical player turns. Each player turn is further divided into four phases: the Gunnery Attack Phase, the Torpedo Attack Phase, the Movement Phase, and the Acceleration/Deceleration Phase. And because of the nature of surface naval combat during World War II, the game design rightly concentrates on maneuver, night sighting, damage levels, momentum, gunnery, and torpedo attacks. Sometimes referred to as “PANZERBLITZ at Sea” because of the way information is displayed on the ship counters (as well as the peculiarities contained in the combat and damage rules), ‘CA’ is nevertheless a fast-moving and manageable naval simulation for those players who like naval games, but who have an aversion to recordkeeping.

‘CA’ offers seven historical, and three hypothetical scenarios. Scenario 1 is a hypothetical twenty-turn action that could have occurred in the South China Sea, 10 December 1941. Scenario 2 is a fifteen-turn historical treatment of the battle at Savo Island, 9 August 1942. Scenario 3 is fifteen-turns long and covers the historical action off Cape Esperance, 11-12 October 1942. The fourth Scenario is a twelve-turn treatment of the first action off Guadalcanal, 13 November 1942. Scenario 5 is twenty-turns long, and covers the second action off Guadalcanal, 14-15 November 1942. Scenario 6 is another twenty-turn action, this time at Tassafaronga, 30 November – 1 December 1942 — a battle in which, interestingly enough, my own father’s ship, the New Orleans, lost 150 feet of her bow when the forward magazine exploded after it was hit by a Japanese shell. The seventh Scenario is fifteen game-turns, and covers the historical action at Kolombangara, 13 July 1943. Scenario 8 is a twenty-turn treatment of the action at Empress Augusta Bay, 2 November 1943. The 9th Scenario is a hypothetical twenty-turn action that could have occurred near Samar, 25 October 1944. And Scenario 10 is another hypothetical action that could have occurred near Okinawa in 1945; this final scenario is thirty game turns long. A complete copy of ‘CA’ includes the following components:

  • One 22” x 35” hexagonal grid Map Sheet
  • 400 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 6” x 11” map-fold set of Rules (with Scenario Instructions, Speed/Facing Table, and Combat Results Table incorporated)

2. Strategy &Tactics (S&T) #41, KAMPFPANZER

, included a game of the same name. S&T #41 (Nov/Dec 1973) features these articles:

  • Mechanized Warfare: Experiment and Experience 1935-40, by Albert A. Nofi
  • War in the East: The Russo-German Conflict, 1951-45
  • , by Stephen B. Patrick
  • Simulation: KAMPFPANZER: Armored Combat, 1937-40
  • , by James F. Dunnigan and Redmond Simonsen
  • Outgoing Mail, by The Editors
  • Sackson on Games, Sid Sackson
  • Pass in Review, by David C. Isby
  • Feedback, Vox Populi, Vox Dei

S&T #41 Magazine Game: KAMPFPANZER: Armored Combat, 1937-40, designed by James F. Dunnigan (who else?) with graphic design by Redmond A. Simonsen, is a two-player simulation, at the tactical level, of armored warfare as it was waged in the brief span of years between 1937 and 1940.

KAMPFPANZER is an interesting, if somewhat uneven, attempt at simulating small unit armored combat during the years immediately leading up to World War II; a period when both armored vehicles and the competing doctrines for their use were still changing and evolving. Each game-turn is equal to three minutes and forty seconds of real time, and an individual map hex is 100 meters from side to side. A single armored game counter represents five armored fighting vehicles (AFV’s); each unit with an infantry symbol represents a platoon; and each artillery unit stands for a single battery. This early Dunnigan design, as noted earlier, is far from perfect; however, what actually makes the KAMPFPANZER game platform unusual compared to other SPI magazine games is its use of “simultaneous movement plotting” by the opposing players in order to recreate realistic combat interactions on the battlefield. This intriguing design feature — time-consuming though it is — actually succeeds fairly well in creating a level of tactical uncertainty that is usually only found in some naval games.

KAMPFPANZER offers nine scenarios (mini-games) that cover a variety of different armored engagements. And this cross-section of relatively obscure tactical situations represented by the game’s scenarios is probably one of this title’s best features. Thus, the various KAMPFPANZER scenarios simulate little-known tactical armored engagements during the Spanish Civil War and the Russo-Finnish War; there is also even a Russo-Japanese armored clash, as well as an assortment of early World War II armored actions from the 1939 Polish and 1940 French campaigns. A complete game of KAMPFPANZER includes the following components:

  • One 22” x 34” hexagonal grid Map Sheet
  • 200 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 6” x 11” map-fold set of Rules
  • One 11” x 13¾” back-printed combined Scenario Set Up/Charts and Tables Sheet
  • Two experimental Simultaneous Movement (Simov) Sheets

3. Strategy & Tactics (S&T) #43, THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR

, when it was originally mailed, included a copy of a game of the same name. S&T #43 (Mar/Apr 1974) contains the following articles:

  • The American Civil War, 1861-1865, by Albert A. Nofi
  • The Soldier Kings, 1550-1770, by Frank Davis with Ron Toelke
  • Simulation: THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR, 1861-1865, by James F. Dunnigan and Redmond Simonsen
  • Outgoing Mail, The Editors
  • Sackson on Games, Sid Sackson
  • For Your Eyes Only, The Editors
  • Feedback, Vox Populi, Vox Dei

S&T #43 Magazine Game: THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR, 1861-1865, designed by James F. Dunnigan with graphics by Redmond A. Simonsen, is a two player strategic-level simulation of the bloodiest war in American history: The War Between the States. This bitter internecine struggle began on April 12, 1861 and continued for four long years until the Confederacy, exhausted and bled white by the conflict, surrendered on April 9, 1865. When the war finally ended, the nation found itself forever changed: slavery at last had been abolished in the entire country, and the supremacy of the Federal Government over the individual States, for better or for worse, would never again be in doubt.

THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR is played in game turns composed of two symmetrical player turns. Each game turn is three months (one season) in length, and each map hex is approximately 33 kilometers from side to side. A player turn is composed of seven phases: the Reinforcement Phase; the Attrition Phase; the Command Control Phase; the Supply Judgment Phase; the Movement Phase; the Combat Phase; and the Supply Attrition Phase. The primary focus of this design is on the protracted land war, but naval and riverine units also play a significant role in the game, as do fortifications. The American Civil War was the first “modern” war. Both the Industrialized North and the Agricultural South (partly through imports) depended upon large-scale manufacturing to produce the necessities of war. Moreover, because of the continent-wide nature of the conflict, both sides made extensive use of conscription, as well as railroads, telegraph communications, and other technological advances to transform the scale, and pace of warfare. The game examines these important changes, and, at the same time, also focuses on the critical factors of Command Control (leadership) and Supply (logistics), and their impact on the ultimate outcome of the war. Players will find that the game rewards long-term strategic planning and maneuver; major battles, as was the case historically, are relatively infrequent, bloody, and usually inconclusive.

Besides the Standard Game, THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR also offers an interesting collection of what-if optional scenarios (Lee commands the Union Army, for example) for the players to try. A complete game of THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR includes the following components:

  • One 22” x 34” hexagonal grid Map Sheet (with Turn Record/Reinforcement Track, Terrain Effects Chart, Attrition Table, Command Control Table, and Combat Results Table incorporated)
  • 200 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 6” x 11” map-fold set of Rules (with Command Control, Attrition, and Combat Results Tables incorporated)

4. Strategy &Tactics (S&T) #45, OPERATION OLYMPIC

, also included a copy of the game of the same name. A copy of S&T #45 (July/August 1974) includes the following featured articles:

  • Operation Olympic: The Invasion of Japan, 1945, by Frank Davis
  • Science Fiction Futures: A Critical Survey, by Stephen B. Patrick, John Boardman, and Redmond Simonson
  • Simulation: OPERATION OLYMPIC: The Invasion of Japan, 1945
  • Outgoing Mail, by The Editors
  • Footnotes, by Everybody
  • Sackson on Games, by Sid Sackson
  • Pass in Review, by Albert A. Nofi
  • Player’s Notes, by Hardy and Young

S&T #45 Magazine Game: OPERATION OLYMPIC, designed by James F. Dunnigan, is a regiment/brigade level hypothetical simulation of the planned invasion of Japan in November 1945. The invasion of Kyushu was intended, by the Allied planners, to secure a forward base for the follow-up invasion (Operation Coronet) of the main island of Honshu in March 1946.

The standard version of OPERATION OLYMPIC is somewhat unusual among SPI titles because it is a solitaire game in which the player freely directs the American units, but is severely restricted in the movement of Japanese units by the “Japanese Doctrine Rules.” While not perfect, the solitaire system seems to produce the results intended by the designer.

Besides the solitaire version, the game also offers a pair of two-player versions: a Japanese free deployment scenario, and the same scenario with the addition of hidden “Tokko” units. These “Tokko” units were organized and trained expressly to conduct suicide attacks against the invading Allied transports. To speed play, an optional rule allows for a quicker, abstract determination of the effectiveness of “Tokko” units in both the solitaire and two-player game. A complete copy of OPERATION OLYMPIC includes the following components:

  • One 22” x 34” hexagonal grid Map Sheet (with Turn Record, Combat Results Table, Terrain Effects Chart, and American Casualty Track Incorporated)
  • 200 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 8½” x 11” map-fold style Rules Booklet

5. Strategy &Tactics (S&T) #48, SIXTH FLEET

, like the other magazines in this series, came with a copy of a game with the same title. A copy of S&T #48 (Jan/Feb 1975) contains these articles:

  • Sixth Fleet: US/Soviet Naval Operations in the Mediterranean in the 1970’s, by David C. Isby and James F. Dunnigan
  • GLOBAL WAR: The War Against Germany and Japan, 1939-45, by Martin Campion
  • Simulation: SIXTH FLEET: US/Soviet Naval Warfare in the Mediterranean in the 1970’s, by James F. Dunnigan with graphics by Redmond Simonsen
  • Outgoing Mail, The Editors
  • 1974 SPI Annual Report
  • Briefings
  • Feedback, Vox Populi, Vox Dei

S&T #48 Magazine Game: SIXTH FLEET: US/Soviet Naval Warfare in the Mediterranean in the 1970’s, designed by James F. Dunnigan with graphic design by Redmond A. Simonsen, is a two-player operational level simulation of a hypothetical naval/air action between NATO forces and the Soviet Union sometime in the late 1970’s. The objective for the two opposing fleets in this combined naval-air campaign is to first establish and then maintain control of the Eastern Mediterranean.

The game mechanics of SIXTH FLEET, interestingly enough, are loosely based on SPI’s NAPOLEON AT WATERLOO Game System. And while this transfer of a land-oriented game system to a sea/air game seems, at first, like an odd design choice; once players get over their initial surprise, it seems to work just fine. SIXTH FLEET is played in game turns each of which follow a simple, but unconventional REVERSED ACTION sequence; thus, a typical game turn proceeds as follows: first player Combat Phase; first player Movement Phase; second player Combat Phase; second player Movement Phase. A single game turn is equal to eight hours of real time (two daylight game-turns will be followed by a night turn), and each map hex is approximately 45.4 nautical miles from side to side. The game’s unorthodox fight-move turn sequence turns out to be much trickier than it first appears, particularly for the attacking player. Because combat precedes movement, the defender can always shoot before the attacker’s combat phase. Even with the game’s “sticky zones of control” rule, this means that one or the other combatant will be forced to retreat before the attacker’s first combat phase. After two or three attempts at the campaign scenario, I was forced to conclude that either post-World War II naval warfare isn’t my thing, or, alternatively, that I am just too stupid to play this game. Not only could I not come up with an optimal mix of Air, ASW, Anti-Aircraft, Anti-Surface, and ECM assets for my fleet elements, but I also found that conducting offensive operations was a lot like herding cats: none of my attacks ever seemed to work out the way that I had planned.

SIXTH FLEET offers two hypothetical scenarios: a ten-turn scenario that simulates the First Three Days of a NATO/Soviet clash in the Mediterranean, and a twenty-one turn Campaign Scenario that not only extends the action, but also includes the mid-game arrival of significant reinforcements for both sides. There are also four Optional Rules that the players can try: Soviet First Strike Option; Violation of Neutral Air Space; Middle East Air Force Participation; and Delay of the Soviet Black Sea Fleet. A complete game of SIXTH FLEET includes the following components:

  • One 21” x 32” hexagonal grid Map Sheet (with Turn Record/Reinforcement Track, Terrain Key, Combat Results Table, and Task Force Holding Boxes incorporated)
  • 200 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 8½” x 11” set of SIXTH Rules (with Scenario Set-Up Instructions) which comes stapled in the magazine

Finally, although the preceding five profiles are only the first installment in my new series on S&T magazines and games from the so-called “golden years” of SPI, an additional, more general comment or two about the early issues of Strategy & Tactics magazine seems an appropriate finish to this piece. As I indicated previously, not every game that arrived with a new edition of S&T was necessarily a “winner;” in fact, more than a few of the magazine games were mediocre, and some were downright awful. Nonetheless, even if the insert game might be a disappointment, the magazine — particularly after SPI had really started to hit its stride in the early 1970s — was almost always a treat.

There were actually two reasons for this: first was Redmond Simonsen’s talent — in spite of his always limited budget — for creating eye-catching and wonderfully illuminating graphics for the magazine and its various features; the second was the small but excellent stable of writers/game designers that Dunnigan could call upon to fill the pages of S&T with cogent, carefully-crafted, and usually gracefully written articles on both game-related and historical topics. Writers like Al Nofi, Martin Campion, Stephen B. Patrick, David Isby, Irad Hardy, Sid Sackson, Frank Davis, and even Dunnigan, himself, all contributed enormously to S&T’s reputation as both a gaming and a historical resource. In a very real sense, the early issues of S&T “raised the bar” for the entire hobby press. And this is one of the main reasons why, even after all these years, I and many other gamers still hold onto our old copies of S&T: the writing that fills the pages of these magazines, despite the passage of time, just never seems to grow stale.

Related Blog Posts

    A Subjective List of My Personal Picks of the Best S&T Magazine Insert Games Published during the 1970’s and 80’s


  • Is this Sixth Fleet game a predecessor to Victory Game's Fleet Series? It certainly looks like it, the counters and map are a dead ringer. The only thing that seems completely different is the SOP.

    I own the VG Sixth Fleet game and I must say it's very entertaining. I played with my brother some of the smaller learning scenarios which were enjoyable and generally well balanced.

    The campaign games felt more like a chore than a game especially with the Advanced Logistics rules that introduced dreadful record-keeping. I'm sure the computerized version of Fifth Fleet was much better in this regard.

  • Greetings Paco:

    Thanks, as always, for visiting.

    Neither version of 'SIXTH FLEET', if the truth be told, ever really did that much for me. Chaulk it up to my strong preference for 'real' WWII carrier actions, versus 'fantasy or hypothetical' modern naval engagements. Nonetheless, I will take a stab at your question, anyway.

    Although the VG design shares the same title with the earlier SPI game, I really never thought of the games' underlying platforms as having that much in common. It is, of course, true that the two games' map areas and game scales are similar, but I suspect that this is more coincidence that collaboration: pretty much the same sort of simulation logic that seems to lead most designers to produce "Bulge" games that focus on regimental operations.

    Certainly it is true that Joe Balkoski (the VG version's designer) worked with Dunnigan at SPI for awhile; however, the numerous and significant differences in the two games' basic architectures suggest -- to me, at least -- that Balkoski pretty much went his own way when he revisited the topic (in 1985?) of NATO versus Soviet naval operations in the Mediterranean. Just a comparison of the basic game platforms, for example, suggests that there was little, if any, design "leakage" from the earlier to the later game actually taking place. A quick comparison of the two titles' design platforms, I think, bears me out: Dunnigan's game really uses an inverted version of the "NAW Game System"; Balkoski's more nuanced design, on the other hand, depends on an integrated air-ground-sea operational sequence. Needless-to-say, I can't be sure that Balkoski didn't borrow any ideas at all from the older game; but if he did, they appear to have been so minor that Dunnigan's influence certainly didn't jump out at me when I played the VG version. Of course, I could always be wrong; and if I am, it wouldn't be the first time.

    Best Regards, Joe

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