Next War Series Design Notes

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This article started as an attempt at some design notes for Next War: Taiwan (NWT), but it quickly also became somewhat of an essay on my general take on game design with the bits of how it affected the Next War games woven in. It’s long and a little rambling at times. Hopefully, you get your money’s worth…

Next War: Taiwan Scenario – Invasion!

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18.3.8 Invasion! – Operational Map Only Scenario

This scenario allows players to play the Advanced Game scenarios, but ignore any naval aspects. The scenario assumes that the PRC has been able to nullify the ROC Navy, secure the Inshore approaches to Taiwan, and begin to establish a beachhead on Taiwan.

Next War: Taiwan Examples of Play

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The following examples are intended to assist with some of the trickier aspects of play in the recently released Next War: Taiwan.

Penghu Invasion Example

The following is an example of how to conduct an invasion of Penghu using the Advanced Game Series Rules. It is not, necessarily, the best way to go about it, but it is used as an illustration of the various methods of taking a hostile Penghu away from the Republic of China.

The example assumes that the PRC controls the Taiwan Straits Inshore Box. The example dispenses with all other non-essential steps, phases, and segments in the Sequence of Play and covers only the relevant portions of the Initiative Movement and Combat Segments.

At the beginning of an Initiative Turn, the PRC controls the Taiwan Straits Inshore Box, and both of the pesky ROC SAGs have been eliminated. The PRC determines that it will invade Penghu using the forces shown. For convenience, they are shown on the Naval Display, but they also simultaneously occupy the PRC Holding Box on the main operational map as well.


Next War Series: Reality Show

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NWKorea(2)Cover(RBM)Those of you who have taken Next War: Korea (NWK) for a spin have probably noticed by now that the Korean People’s Army (KPA) and Air Force (KPAF) are fairly formidable in the game (the latter for only a little while, of course). One of the underlying assumptions of the game is that somehow, either through relaxation or negligence on the part of the international community and its enforcement of sanctions combined with the willingness of the PRC to surreptitiously defy those sanctions, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has managed to overcome several of its economic and military challenges in terms of food, spare parts, new equipment, etc. It’s not a completely unreasonable assumption if you consider that a tip regarding possible drug shipments was the only reason a recent load of weapons and spare parts bound for North Korea was found and seized by the Panamanians1. That indicates that there are active elements of a strategy to circumvent the sanctions. Stopping one shipment should make one wonder how many others got through.

The fact is, though, while the KPA and KPAF are dangerous looking forces on paper, the reality lies somewhere below the capability as depicted in Next War: Korea. Although there is no denying that the KPA is a large, relatively well-armed force composed for the most part of troops who have been brought up within the philosophy of Juche (basically, extreme self-reliance), that force is also largely underfed and under-trained. However, as Stalin is reputed to have stated, “quantity has a quality all its own.”

That sentiment can also be applied to the KPAF, which maintains a large inventory of aircraft ranging from relatively capable aircraft such as the MiG-29 to Korean War vintage MiG-15s. Although numbers can matter in terms of controlling a particular patch of sky, as is represented in the Air Superiority calculation within the game, it only applies if you can actually get the planes in the air. Within the game, the KPAF is generously assumed to have parts, pilots, and fuel for the vast majority of its airframes to fly. The Pilot Skill modifiers portray fairly well the fact that KPAF pilots only fly around 25 training hours per year (more for the MiG-29 pilots)2, but the reality is that it is highly unlikely the North could sortie many of their older airframes at all in a combat situation. In 2014 alone, they’ve had three MiG-19s crash after take-off or during training3.

Next War Series: Behind the Curtains of the International Posture Matrix

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imageIt’s no secret that the Next War Series incorporates variations of mechanics from other distinguished games. One of those games is Mark Herman’s Flashpoint: Golan (FpG). I contacted Mark during the design and development of Next War: Korea regarding using a version of  FpG’s International Posture Matrix, and he graciously agreed. There are differences, naturally, in the execution, and the Matrix is evolving even further in Next War: Taiwan. The intent, however, remains the same: it provides a method for players to randomly determine the effects of international influence in the primary operational area. Of course, players are always free to experiment with simply assigning Intervention Levels to explore various “what if” scenarios of their own devising.

Use of the Matrix requires a player, usually the attacked side, to roll a die to determine the sentiment of three “factions” of a particular nation: the Administration (i.e., executive and/or legislative branches), the Military, and the Popular Vote (i.e., the willingness of the people). Each faction can end up in one of the three Postures: Passive, Moderate, or Aggressive. Each Posture has an assigned value (-1, 0, +1 respectively), and the player simply adds each faction’s Posture value to generate a Posture Sum. This Posture Sum is then compared to a table to determine the overall National Posture: Passive, Moderate, or Aggressive. This National Posture is, finally, cross-referenced against the particular scenario and generates an Intervention Level. While it sounds complicated, it probably took more time for you to read how to do it then it takes to do it.

ipmThe secret sauce, if you will, is in determining which nations would or can intervene and at what levels would they intervene given enough provocation as represented by the various scenarios. The general underlying assumption is that the longer a particular nation has had to consider the issue at hand, the more likely they are to intervene at higher levels.

On the Design Table: Mitchell Land

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Welcome to our first Inside GMT Guest blog! Designer Mitchell Land is going to discuss the Next War Series. This is a series that I have some personal ties to, design-wise, and I’m really thankful to Mitch and his team of developers and testers for continuing and expanding the series. Enjoy! – Gene


I’m flattered that Gene has granted me the opportunity to pen this guest post on the Inside GMT Blog and pleased to share with y’all some of the inside workings of the design and development going on with the Next War MitchSeries. Thanks, Gene!

In the next few paragraphs, I’d like to discuss the history of the series, some of the inner workings of Next War: Taiwan (NWT), make some comments on our proofing process, talk a little about Next War: India-Pakistan, and wrap up with some thoughts on future directions.

Right off the bat I think it’s important to share the history of the Next War series. Next War: Korea (NWK) is based on Gene’s design, Crisis: Korea 1995 (CK:95), which GMT Games released in 1992. In late 1998/early 1999 Gene started talking about upgrading the game and providing updated Orders of Battle, a new map, and rules revisions. That sort of languished for a few years moving in fits and starts as Gene found time to work on it with periodic updates. In early 2009, I pulled CK:95 off the shelf and played it a few times. I quickly fell in love with the overall system, and, once I really started to pay attention to the Consimworld folder, I grew excited about the pending update. So much so that I started sending Gene all sorts of suggestions about what I thought needed fixing or updating. He must’ve gotten tired of reading it all because, at some point, he just emailed me back and said, more or less, “why don’t you do it.” And that, as they say, was that. My work on the system began mid-to-late 2009 and came to fruition when it was finally released in 2012, twenty years after the original.

While we were waiting for NWK to be published, talk naturally turned to “what’s next.” My preference led me to the idea of creating a “ring” of games with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the pivot point. That is, the next few games in the series would concentrate on potential conflicts between the PRC and its neighbors. The two primary contenders were Taiwan, due to its unusual situation vis á vis the PRC, and an intervention game with India and Pakistan as the primary players. This created the opportunity to potentially provide a massive ubergame which combined all of the individual games into one large scenario. Next War: Taiwan (NWT) and Next War: India-Pakistan (NWIP) will fulfill the partial realization of that idea. NWT is at the head of the queue primarily because the map was already well along and the Orders of Battle had already been created. It was just a matter of writing the Game Specific Rules. That, it quickly became apparent, was an understatement.

Due to the obvious form which any conflict between the PRC and the Republic of China (ROC) would take, I realized that the current state of the highly abstracted naval sub-game in the Next War series simply wasn’t going to cut it. The “Anti-Shipping Strike Rules” existed in a protean form for players to try out with NWK, but that wasn’t going to be enough. Over several iterations, the necessity for providing an expanded naval map became obvious.


This led to changes in Sea Control and Contested Sea Movement and the addition of naval mines which, in turn, meant that aerial mining missions needed to be provided for as a new Air Strike Mission. The vast majority of my time has been spent working over the newly updated naval aspects including the interaction between various other sub-systems such as the air system and theater weapons (cruise missiles). The overall naval system is still abstracted in that submarines and ASW capabilities are handled via tracks and there still aren’t any individual ship counters, but the appropriate nuances exist to reflect each side’s concerns surrounding the main event: the invasion of Taiwan.