Winter #Wargaming – or – When the Cold War went hot playing NATO Air Commander (Hollandspiele, 2018)

NATO Air Commander (Hollandspiele, 2018) bills itself as, “…the game of solitaire strategic air command in World War III.” Well, really it’s “operational” air command (go look at Joint Pub 1 page I-7) but I can forgive that mistake because NATO Air Commander is a very enjoyable solitaire wargame.

Part of the “charm” of NATO Air Commander is that it is very thematic. From the map that looks like so many charts I looked at back in the day, to all the acronyms, the game oozes 80’s Cold War theme. Last night in my game I discovered another thematic feature – nukes.

In this particular case, it’s rule 13.4 Nuclear Escalation Step. Simply put, during the Turn End Phase if the Warsaw Pact (WP) player has 20 or more Victory Points you draw a Resolution Card. If the card number is less than the VP amount, the game ends as your superiors have decided to employ nuclear weapons. Rightly so, the rule ends with, “Boo!”

IMG_0108So did my game end on Turn 6. It was a nasty battle with the WP getting heavy reinforcements on nearly every Thrust Line on Turn 1. So much reinforcements that I was not able to turn back the juggernaut. That, and the Major Effort Objective Card calling for seven Raids when my air forces have already taken a beating; well, defeat was almost inevitable.

I also really appreciate that NATO Air Commander has a very small footprint – it’s really a small coffee table game – meaning it an be set up nearly anywhere. Right now my regular gaming area has been replaced by the Christmas present wrapping station so I have to game on “borrowed” real estate elsewhere in the house. The diceless resolution mechanic also means it’s a quiet game – no rattling of dice on a table makes it a great for late-night play when the Significant Other is already asleep.

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