Indo-Pakistani Wars (S&T 174)
Playings, 2 (1 Indian win, 1 Pakistani), 4 hours.
Indo-Pakistani Wars is exactly what one might expect, a sheep in sheep's clothing or yet another forgettable S&T game. It would not deserve a mention but for the fact that the situation promised better and is off and on in the news. A game on a previously unused period (not many left on the shelf) plus a Miranda design (witness the flawed but fun Afghanistan) are enough credentials to punch and play.
Indo-Pakistani Wars fails because the system is old hat and the situation as presented is less than thrilling. The rules are full of modern buzz words, C3I, Combined Arms and such but on closer examination Miranda has taken old concepts and renamed them to make the game appear vibrant. These details are not deep enough to deserve the appellation chrome merely the sort of concepts which have been around for some time under new names. This is a fluid ZOC, odds based CRT game that could have come out years ago.
Some attempts have been made to present new systems. Worthy of note is the rating of all ground and helicopter units for survivability. Disrupted units must roll under their survivability to recover and units retreating through enemy ZOCs must roll under their survivability rating to avoid disruption. This allows high tech weapons such as helicopters to have low survivability which works out as only of being any use when there is a good chance of winning. The rating for survivability is placed in the traditional space for defence rating on units so it is easy to forget and treat survivability ratings as defence strengths. Units only have the 1 combat strength which makes the high factor mech units handy in attack and defence.
A less successful idea is the use of multiple action phases based on how effective an army is. Nations have C3I ratings of 1 to 3 allowing all of their units to undertake 1 to 3 phases (of movement and combat) before the enemy turn. There is an ability to react but this only occurs after all friendly movement in a phase. A unit that reacts is marked "operations complete" and is not available during any of the following enemy turn, this discourages all but the most important reactions. Reaction can be used to bolster up a defending stack or block a hole from being exploited in 2 continuous phases but cannot be used within an enemy phase to block movement. In the 1990s scenarios both India and Pakistan are rated 2, so both move-fight, then-move fight before the enemy turn. In the 1971 War Pakistan is rated 1 and India 2, with Pakistan being the aggressor in the West and fighting once to the Indian twice it is hard for the Pakistani's to make much headway.
Air units are pretty predictable sitting on airfields and being used for ground support and target bombing. They will be the units most often intercepting, generally to bring down the opposition's air strikes. The rules are less than clear here as they not only state that a unit can intercept in as many phases as its C3I level but they also state that a unit which reacts (interception being a reaction) is marked "operations complete". If an air unit has C3I of 2 and intercepts once it may or may not be available for a second reaction if the enemy launches further air strikes in a 2nd action phase. I play that interception is a once per unit effect because there is no way to mark an air unit which has reacted once but is still available for a 2nd reaction, nor is there any mechanism in place for an air unit to react once and still be available for 1 more air attack in its own player turn.
The systems as presented would not be important if the game were interesting enough to gloss over the mechanisms. As it is the game encourages one to look at its mechanisms because there is little interest in the game play. The map layout is a big problem, take a standard game map and divide into 4 quarters. One is used for game tables, another 1/4 is Bangladesh and the other half (lengthways) is the Indo-Pakistan border. Most scenarios do not use the Bangladesh map which is linked to the larger map by familiar transit boxes. Miranda has decided to cover the whole India-Pakistan frontier in this rather thin area, end result, a Pakistan cut down to 8 hexes or more wide and India 3 hexes or more. The Southern part of the map is swamp and rough terrain and the Northern is mountain. The only decent military real estate is just to the South of Kashmir. Any push into Kashmir is likely to be accompanied by a sweep from the South because movement and combat among the glaciers and mountains are not easy.
Another problem is that India is a very big place, India has an off-map box from which units can enter any map edge. This enables India to bolster any weak parts of the line without the tedious chore of marching up the hex rows. Looking at the terrain as depicted plus larger maps of the area indicates that shoring up the Southern and Central zones should be pretty easy. The map does not take account of the approaches to Kashmir form India, one poor road is provided but the Indians can put umpteen units along it in row astern. More importantly the game has options for USA and Russian intervention but does not consider China. Not only can a Pakistani advance rest a secure flank on the Peoples' Republic but in the event of same the reaction of China would have to be considered. A blind eye would help Pakistan but political pressure and isolated military incidents would hamper any advance.
These comments were based on playing the 1971 scenario where it becomes clear pretty quickly why Pakistan lost and a 1990's replay in the West where the Pakistani army is considerably bolstered. The scale assumes a 2 day turn making for short wars and the bloody nature of combat should bring on a result before the last turn as 1 or both sides run out of units. The proper use of air power should further shorten the life of units which disrupt then die on a 2nd disruption. Clearer air rules with less die rolling would help here, we dice for air superiority, dice for ground fire (mechanical breakdown for defending air units) then dice again for bombing effects. If you have 2 consecutive action phases it is not hard to disrupt units then kill them before they recover. If you only have the one action phase it is pretty hard to get anywhere. 2 other scenarios are provided but I did not have the heart to try them.