Over the past several months, I’ve had the opportunity to help playtest the forthcoming third entry in GMT Games’ Next War series, Next War: India-Pakistan, an operational level wargame covering a hypothetical conflict between the two South Asian neighbors. The testing has been done mostly online via VASSAL, but no matter how convenient computer-mediated wargames can be, nothing replaces pushing physical counters on a map. So recently, I sat down with the game’s research designer, Doug Bush, over a paper playtest copy of Next War: India-Pakistan at Labyrinth Games in Washington, DC.
Please note that all components are playtest versions; the final components will be spiffed up to GMT’s usual stellar standards, not that these don’t look fairly sharp in their current iteration. Pakistani forces are in light khaki, while Indian forces are in dark brown.
The game, a one-mapper, plays rather quickly in person, as the counter densities are very manageable. Even with potential superpower intervention—there are rules, and counters, for bringing Russian, Chinese, and U.S. forces into play, including some great aircraft counters—one never loses the map in a sea of counters. Consequently, solid fronts don’t develop, forcing both players to watch flanks with a wary eye. Feints and counter-thrusts become the order of the day. The mostly open terrain is criss-crossed with major rivers and canals, slowing movement and making bridges very important to hold (or to destroy). Marshes dominate the center of the map near major population centers, posing a barrier to armored units, and the mountainous region of Kashmir is also modeled, complete with rules for mountain troops.
Doug and the NW:IP team have done a very nice job differentiating between the relatively balanced forces of India and Pakistan, and Doug has posted some detailed design notes on ConsimWorld on the decisions behind various unit strengths. The air matchup provides a wonderful cornucopia of planes, with indigenous Indian Tejas fighters squaring off against the U.S. supplied F-16s of Pakistan. (Don’t mind the air display from an earlier game in the series, used for playtest purposes only.)
Various scenarios in the game posit both Indian and Pakistani offensives, including some smaller scenarios that only use portions of the map. Next War: India-Pakistan promises to be a definitive treatment of any possible conflict between these two proud and strong nations. The game is currently on GMT’s P500 pre-order list, hopefully to be published in 2015. I’m looking forward to having the finished product on my shelf.