NATO Division Commander - AAR

NATO Division Commander – AAR

Last March  I bought a copy (well two copies)  of NATO Division Commander, which I’d lusted over back in the early 1980s. I managed to play the introductory scenario (focussed on Fire and Movement) relatively soon after, but it wasn’t until July/August that I made a start on the first proper scenario – having reduced the rulebook to an 8 page QRS! Those first two turns didn’t go too well, just so much to think of and so much clutter on the map that I struggled to get back to it, but dutifully left it out on my table, and even preserved the set-up when the tables went down for the Talavera game. 

With a backlog of „hobby“ boardgames building up (Storming the Gap, Operation Dauntless), and a gap in figure wargaming whilst I painted up some ECW I decided to finish the 9 turn scenario. I started again last week, at about an hour a turn, and finally finished last night. By the end I was at about 30-40 min a turn (and remember the US only have ~ 9 fighting unit counters and the Soviets ~18!), partly because a may have been skipping less interesting activity but hopefully more because I’d got the QRS down to 2 pages.

The Soviets just managed a substantial victory (11VP vs a threshold of 10!), mainly by flowing round the US flanks and legging it for the exits hexes. A mad dash by 25TR and 28MR on Turn 8 from mid-board saw the whole of 7GTD exit the board. The US did lose 3 combat units (so ~ 33%) and most of their recce, and their HQs were looking very precarious by the end.

My play set-up, with the Mk2 PACs, one per side

So what were the good and bad points of the game (and bear in mind this is based on only 1 proper play):

The Good

  • Fatigue – the accumulation of fatigue in a non-deterministic way is nice, and emphasises the need to units to take breaks rather than fighting 24hrs per day
  • Intel- the need to get intel on a target before engaging with fires works really well, and how you allocate to sectors, and the slight bonus it gives you in combat (yet another table). Of course it would come into its own in blind play.
  • CSPs – the general application of Arty, Engrs, EW and CAS works pretty well – particularly the way each point is available for each phase in most cases. But see below.
  • The Night turn every 3rd turn again works well, restricting movement but making attacks marginally easier
  • The idea of Modes is cracking, and how they change  movt/cbt/ISR vulnerability. But see below.
  • The combat sequence is actually pretty straight forward, but just a bit to complex, and see below.

A 6 counter stack (just one unit plus modifiers!)

The Bad

  • It takes a lot of CSP points (mainly EW/Air) to grow permanent OpInt to the point where OpInt gives good results. The US have a LOT of air so get there quite quickly, for the Soviets it’s almost mid-game. Was Soviet ISR really that bad?
  • Calling Fires „Counter-Battery“ is just very confusing!
  • Fires are very ineffective, especially with low INT (which would be OK if not for the point above). A whole Div Arty Group can fire on a single target and not do any real damage!
  • The Mode change system with CPs is horrendous. The numbers asked for are deliberately high (ie beyond what you will have in a turn) so forces you onto the next table – why not just restructure that 2nd table. I replaced it with a move penalty, but may go for a simpler SP option if I play again as it forces you to use HQs properly.
  • The need for 4 CRT tables, of which you consult 2 or 3 for each attack is several too many.
  • Its not clear what the difference is between the 5MP Hasty Attack and bein gin Hasty Attack mode. 
  • HQ’s seem relatively immune from attack, which is odd given the emphasis on C2. That said I didn’t play the active EW rules which can disable HQs, inhibiting their SP/CSPs and placing units OOC.
  • Like any hex game it suffers from hex play – getting your attacking units just so around the target. That said at least its a differential CRT.
  • Counter stacks can be tall – 6 counters! See photo. I think I’ll push most onto a PAC/rosta next time.
  • Overruns should be more vicious, -3 or -4 rather than -2. As it is even small 1 or 2 str units have 6 T/O but lose max of 2 per cbt even in an overrun so can hold up a huge force 

My Mark 1 PAC


Do I like the game enough to play another scenario as-is? Probably not. The issue to me is that it has all these great C2 innovations, then gives you a relatively complicated combat process, so you get two complex games for the price of one. And the board clutter really doesn’t help.

What’s next

So to „improve“ the game, or at least the game experience there are a number of things I have in mind, some minor, some major. Roughly in order of size:

  • Use PACs/rostas to track most unit values – just leave Mode on the table.
  • Upgrade Fires
  • Upgrade overruns
  • Make HQs more vulnerable – keep them on the move (we used to move at least every 24 hrs at Bde).
  • Simplify the combat tables
  • Introduce a streamlined SP/mode change system

And then I need to start playing the EW and Ammo rules, and then the Commander rules!

It will be interesting to see how more modern games like Dauntless and Storming the Gap compare.

And that second copy? I might now finally find the time to put it on eBay (it’s all sorted and ready) to recoup some of that initial outlay!

Finally, here’s the turn-by-turn photos.

Initial setup

End Turn 1

End Turn 3

End Turn 4

End Turn 5
End Turn 6

End Turn 7 – first Soviets off

End Turn 8 – Soviets off the board building

End Turn 9 – Endex

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Autor: David Burden / Converj – David’s Blog

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