Flashpoint Germany Review
Flashpoint Germany is an historical war game set in a war that never happened. In the game’s alternate history, it is the late 1980s and the USSR is determined not to let communism collapse. It invades West Germany in an attempt to grab that country’s economic assets to shore up its failing economy, and it will have to move fast because the last thing that it can afford is a protracted war. On the other hand, the under-gunned NATO must survive the onslaught by relying heavily on America’s high-tech weaponry and its new M-1 battle tank. While it is a blessing that this conflict never took place, it would have made for a very interesting war from a strategic perspective. The Warsaw Pact would have had to rely on sheer numbers and highly-practiced battle doctrine while NATO forces would have to pick their battles carefully and rely on their superior weapons and training to destroy the invaders piecemeal. It is just this sort of “what-if” stuff that war gamers love and Flashpoint Germany certainly delivers on this point.
It is these war gamers that are the game’s primary intended audience. The game has a board game look and feel, from the map divided into spaces (albeit squares instead of hexagons) and units represented by square chits that resemble their cardboard ancestors – complete with military-style unit designation symbols and hyphenated strength numbers. Each of these unit counters represents a platoon of vehicles, with infantry units missing in action. This is a game of armored combat, with mech units slugging it out and the common foot soldier a non-factor. It is probably pretty close to the truth (or rather what would have been the truth) in this regard as a conflict in West Germany would almost certainly have played out fast and furiously in a battle of mobile and deadly armor.
The maps are 20 km by 15 km divided into squares 500 m on a side, so the emphasis is on tactics and maneuver rather than on strategic operations. In fact most strategic considerations have been factored out of the game as you do not need to worry about supply, ammunition, damage repair, and the like. One strange omission for a game on this scale is unit facing as it dramatically reduces the advantage of flanking your enemy. This will actually have an effect on your tactics as there is no advantage to taking the time to maneuver a unit to the rear of an enemy when a frontal assault is just as effective.
The game’s strongest emphasis on realism comes in the area of command and control, and it is this emphasis which makes the game different from your typical war game. The game is played in a phased-pulse manner, with an order phase followed by a real-time phase in which the action takes place. Command and control is not precise or immediate – there is often a delay from the time you issue the order until when it is actually carried out by your unit during the execution phase. This represents both the limited capacity of your HQ to send simultaneous orders via radio communication and the built in lag as an order flows its way down the chain of command. To facilitate coordinated actions between units, you can specify a delay with the order to instruct a unit to, say, wait for ten minutes before moving. At higher realism settings you will even be restricted in the number of orders that you can give – a commander can only do so much in a few minutes time after all. You can assign standing orders to units to guide their behavior when they are not executing direct orders, which is something that you’ll want to make use of to keep your radio traffic down. The game will monitor the amount of radio chatter coming from each side’s HQ units and if there is too much airtime the enemy will be able to hone in on the HQ’s position. Lose your HQ and you’ll find that the replacement is not nearly as efficient at issuing orders which will put you at a serious disadvantage.