Classic Game Review: Reforger 88
REFORGER '88 reflects the same kind of careful research and exciting game theory which the hobby has come to expect from Gary Grigsby after games like Guadalcanal Campaign, Carrier Force, Objective Kursk, and War in Russia. In this simulation, a hypothetical invasion of the Fulda Gap by Warsaw Pact forces with the main objective of securing Rhein Main Air Force Base near Frankfurt, US and West German forces must fight a holding action against the Soviet and East German aggressors in order for the superior replacement capability of the NATO forces to take its toll upon the communists. The game can be described as grand tactical warfare in that the player is concerned with unit to unit battle where terrain and target selection is vital to success, but where the player must also be concerned with over-all supply appropriations, air superiority and / or target definition, and air reconnaissance usually reserved to strategic decision makers.
The game thus boasts a fine mix of two levels of decision making where many games opt for either a strategic or tactical level. In the solitaire mode, the player is limited to playing the NATO forces. Of course, this must of necessity limit its appeal to the aggressive player who wants to play a computer opponent. In the two player version, the game plays smoothly and is friendly enough to allow an exciting game to be played in one afternoon. Grigsby wastes little programming time on superfluous "whistles and bells" like title pages and unnecessary graphics. Instead, he offers helpful functions like "auto-move depot." This function enables the supply depots to reach the front lines very rapidly, limiting the necessity of the player trying to figure out the best route to the front. Once the depot has stopped near the front lines, the player can manoeuvre it to supply the units he most needs to supply. The presentation of the game could have been improved, however, if the coated maps would have been printed with map coordinates. Play could have been speeded up considerably with that minor addition.
As in most of Grigsby's land operations games, supply is a very important factor. Unsupplied units find themselves not only practically defenceless, but unable to move, as well. It is not pleasant to be a sitting duck when five or more Warsaw Pact units surround you. The successful player will read the rules on supply carefully and apply significant effort to come within the required two hexes in order to supply all of his units.
The second most important factor in winning the game is the Air Mission Allocation Phase. The most important mission is "air superiority." It does not matter how many combat points the player can place on a "ground attack," he will lose an inappropriate amount of planes if the enemy's "air superiority" is significantly greater than his own. I have found that the NATO player is wise to use all of his F-15s and F-16 Falcons, as well as most of the Tornadoes, on "air superiority" missions, so that the Phantoms, F-111s,
A-10s, PAH-LS and AH-64s will have a reasonable chance of survival. This suggested allocation has the advantage of using each of the planes according to their strongest combat point values (except for the Tornadoes which have a better ground attack rating, but are desperately needed to counterbalance the Warsaw Pact "air superiority" because their 9 CP is third highest in "air superiority" missions. Then, just when a player thinks he has the mechanics of the game in hand, he must learn to be alert to two very important Warsaw Pact advantages, paratroopers and chemical warfare. For the best strategic use of paratroopers, see CGW 5.2's Strategically Speaking. in chemical warfare, the Warsaw Pact needs to have strategic objectives in mind, since the doubling of the effectiveness of air strikes and bombardments is halved when used against a combat group which has previously experienced a chemical attack. It is foolish, then, to use chemical warfare so early in the game that its strategic value and demoralizing effect is not available when NATO's defensive forces dig in. One last brief hint is in order. Unlike some games (and of ours, real battles) where the same piece of land, hill or city block is taken and retaken numerous times, the defensive goal of NATO means that once the Warsaw Pact forces enter a city hex the NATO forces can never retake it.
Therefore, it is vital that the NATO player meet the enemy before the city hex attacks. In this way, the NATO player may retreat into the city if he is defeated and take full advantage of the city's defensive terrain effects.
REFORGER '88 is an excellent game using a free-flowing and user-friendly system which is satisfying to play from the initial boot to the last turn of battle. It is the product of an incredible amount of research and even a perusal of the list of weapon systems makes some Pentagon budget considerations seem clearer. The game is destined for a great deal of playing time and a long shelf life.