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Signal Boost: The Third World War

Last week in Signal Boost I promoted Fria Lagan’s Twilight: 2000. They’ve had a fantastic campaign to date with 12 days to go and all stretch goals reached. However, in the various discussions I’ve been following around Twilight: 2000, I found reference to another Game Designers Workshop classic undergoing update and reprint; The Third World War.

The Third World War series by Game Designers Workshop
The Third World War series by Game Designers Workshop

The Third World War was a series of 4 games covering a late 80’s NATO – Pact strategic conflict covering Europe from Norway to Turkey and the Persian Gulf. Each game was a stand-alone table-sized hex-and-counter war game that could be linked to the others for one mammoth experience. Theoretically, each game was playable in a weekend, Battle for Germany much longer, but the combined game was a several weeks long club endeavor. I never got a chance to play the combined campaign when I was younger. Now, each game of the series can cost upwards of a hundred dollars depending on condition.

So, back to that little reference, enter Compass Games. They’ve been designing and publishing both old-school hex-and-counter and detailed area control war games since 2004. They also work with older titles as part of their Designer Signature Editions line. And there it is, a monster compilation of all 4 games as The Third World War, Signature Designer Edition available for preorder.

The Third World War cover art from Compass Games
Pre-order $135 ATM

I am cheered to read, “This Designer Signature edition pays tribute to the classic Frank Chadwick game series by honoring the original game system and keeping it fully intact (no design changes made), while introducing many enhancements for game play purposes.The project team involved has hundreds of hours of combined experience with all games in the series and have evaluated all aspects of the game design with a focus on increased playability and improved player aids and markers. In terms of superior physical presentation, all aspects have been upgraded, including completely new maps, numerous new player aids, markers, and unit displays, and redesigned and enlarged 9/16″ counters. ”

This is the sort news I want to here about in a reprint! Keep the classic elements that made it for a great simulation. Add in modern design with play aids, consolidated counter information, and much cleaner graphic design. Altogether, an enhanced game rather than a completely new edition. Just some of the improvement include;

  • All four separate games combined into one, comprehensive package
  • Enlarged and redesigned counters from 1/2″ to 9/16″ size
  • Added more information to counters such as: mobility class, stacking value, zoc type, chemical/nuclear/limited military ability
  • Enhanced ergonomics are built into the set up and reinforcement charts
  • Modified and adjusted unit colors to better distinguish between each other and between NATO/Pact/Neutrals
  • Added and modified game markers including Strike markes with values on them, air superiority, weather, objective control, and generic markers
  • Combined the seven maps from Third World War, Southern Front, and Arctic Front into four larger maps (22 x 34″), including adding the remainder of Poland and Western Russia; all while keeping the same area of the original games
  • Combined four maps from Persian Gulf into two larger (22 x 34″) maps
  • Added and modified player aids such as: new display to aid with handling unwieldy stacks (use a marker on map to indicate stack of units and put the placement sheet
  • Warsaw Pact ground unit counters with one step-loss (disruption) on reverse
  • Addition of U.S. F-117 air unit for optional use.  Also retains the U.S. F-19 air unit from the original game
  • Player aid cards and associated markers, for tracking nuclear conflict level and nuclear attack points (NAPs), air transport points, and victory points
  • Markers to indicate Norwegian Sea control and whether the Black Sea Fleet has sortied
  • Optional tactical advantage rule
  • Color-coding on Warsaw Pact ground unit counters for ease in distinguishing army designation
  • Incorporated errata for unit set-up information and reinforcement schedule
  • All-new rules treatment backed by many illustrations, an index, and clarifications and examples of play to reduce potential questions. 

Trust me, all these changes add up in a logarithmic fashion with a game of this complexity.

Persian Gulf in Designer Signature Edition

Need more information? Compass Games Live, Episode 30 covers The Third World War with a discussion of design principles (graphic and gameplay), great closeups of the redesigned counters, full counter sheets, maps, and much more. I appreciated that they emphasized Frank Chadwick is an adviser to the project (around the 7 minute mark).

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