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Vader
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[ALPHA] THE WORLD AT WAR comments/feedback

Fri 27 Nov 2020, 14:42

A thread for comments and feedback on the worldbuilding.

Thinking it's probably a good idea to split the reaction topics up a bit, lest one thread tries to cover everything... It could get messy.


What has struck me so far is that okay, everything really does progress, in detail, all the way to August 1991 exactly as in the historical timeline.
  • But then, the Moscow coup just succeeds, out of the blue ... with no comment on how it could. In the real world, it never could have; it was very solidly doomed to failure before it even started.

And the Warsaw Pact does indeed dissolve, and the USSR is indeed destitute.
  • But then the USSR gets back on its feet due to its oil ... so no trade sanctions or embargoes from the West to impede this even a little?
  • Not only that: the USSR manages to build up a military strength, in hardware and manpower, to surpass all of the combined former Pact! Its military might can all on its own run over (1) the old Pact countries, (2) much of Western Europe, (3) basically all of Sweden, AND (4) stage an over-sea invasion of the UK all the way from the Kola Peninsula...?
    Not even with all of the Warsaw Pact behind it was this very realistic. And for the Soviets to do this alone...?

In this world, air forces and air defences seem to be pretty ineffective. The Russians seem able to launch major long-range oversea operations or air assaults large enough to invade whole countries fairly unimpeded.


Admittedly, I haven't read it in detail yet; these are just my initial reactions. But so far, it does seem to me that the effort here has been to try to shoehorn as much of the original editions' worldbuilding into the real-world history as possible.
I had rather hoped to see a tabula rasa approach to the worldbuilding — that they start from a clean slate and write something cohesive from scratch.

As I read further into the material I might of course find reason to amend my impressions (in which case I'll post my further reflections here), but at present, I'm ... not overwhelmed.


But that's me ... those who've engaged in discussions with me here can hardly be surprised.


What are your reactions?
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aspqrz
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Re: [ALPHA] THE WORLD AT WAR comments/feedback

Fri 27 Nov 2020, 15:57

I did some considerable research for a Modern Pre-Post Nuclear War RPG I ran on Kickstarter in 2015 -- and I'm including the relevant pages on what the US (largely) thought would be the result of such along with some extrapolations of my own available from the following DropBox link ...

https://www.dropbox.com/s/6bd8gbj0gydz8 ... s.pdf?dl=0

... now, this posited a war in the 20xx period (originally assumed to be the mid to late 2020's) and involving a three way conflict between Russia (and her Puppet states) & Japan (!) vs the US plus NATO plus China vs the Islamic Caliphate.

Of course, the collapse of the 'Caliphate,' Trump, Boris J & Brexit and the like put paid to that (which was about as long as the original TW:2000 background lasted in a believable state, I guess) ... but some of the thinking would still apply ...

It may, or may not, help with some thinking about what was likely to happen in the early oughties as well.

Anyway, it may be of some interest for the sake of discussion.

Phil McGregor
========
Author: Space Opera (FGU); Rigger Black Book #1 (FASA); Orbis Mundi 2, The Marketplace, Ithura & Porthaven, Fantasy Europe (PGD); Road to Armageddon & Supplements, Displaced, Audace ad Gloriam, Farm, Forge & Steam (PGD).
 
Arrigo74
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Re: [ALPHA] THE WORLD AT WAR comments/feedback

Fri 27 Nov 2020, 19:26

I am afraid lord Vader is correct.

The world building is indeed quite paper thin. The coup could have succeeded with better preparation and less incompetent leadership. I take this as a remote possibility but a possibility. The Pact could break down.

Now in meter 5 years the Soviet Union collapsing and resurging... that starts to be crappy. Especially their 'mighty' navy. Modern warships (and that for the whole XX Century...) requires quite a lead time in design and construction, plus shipyards and slips are a finite quantity. On the other hand, serving warship requires constant maintenance. The real soviet navy collapsed in a year. And we can argue that this is implied in the timeline... to get a modern ship and all its electronic back to work you need a major overhaul, and this requires shipyard space. So They are not only refurbishing the fleet, but adding to it... this is Yamato 2202 with their time warp device...

I think that... the Writer should either scale back the Soviet Union or go back to GDW Third World War original Framework (as refined by the wargames...).

Not very impressed.
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Ursus Maior
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Re: [ALPHA] THE WORLD AT WAR comments/feedback

Fri 27 Nov 2020, 20:23

Okay, I read the main rules and they look great. I like the layout and the tone of the writing. I also like the proposition of August 1991 being, where it all forks off and goes to hell. Many feared exactly that in 1991. I have my issues with how the timeline develops from there, however, and find many steps not credible. That's not necessarily a bad thing. I'm just one reader and earlier editions - those by GDW - weren't necessarily better. Not at all.

Still, I feel T2K could use some tweaking in its timeline. And more precisely in the time between the August Coup of 1991 and the start of the war proper in 1997. These are six years that were crucial for the European history as we know it. My main problem with the FL timeline is that they seem to have difficulties deciding if there was a peace dividend and everyone started disarmament or if the USSR remains a clear and present danger after the August Coup of 1991.

I just don't see a possibility for the USSR to remain in control of its republics, rebuild its armies, survive economically and simultaneously not be perceived as a huge threat to NATO and its former WP allies. But without the peace dividend, NATO would never loose its edge over the Soviet armies.

With the (historical) withdrawal of Soviet troops from Eastern Germany, Poland and other countries by 1994, Central Europe might still become a battleground in the Twilight War, but it's extremely unrealistic that these forces could pierce the Polish defences or even the Czech ones without both countries receiving help from the West. Already in the 90s the Polish defences had been reoriented towards the East. This was basically the first thing, independent Poland did. They never feared a reunified Germany after 1990 and certainly not as much as they feared a resurgent USSR.

In our known history, the years up to 1997 were crucial for the 1999 NATO enlargement. Even under Clinton and a Republican-dominated US Congress, Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia were invited to join NATO by 1999 during the NATO summit in Madrid in July of 1997. In fact, all former Warsaw Pact members plus the Baltic states had been part of NATO's Partnership for Peace programme from 1994 onwards. This would have allowed a more hawkish US government under President Harvey West to speed up the process of cooperation with the Visegrád Group (Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia) in 1997. This certainly could not have been about full integration within weeks, but certainly interfaces in the supreme commands could have been arranged.

To me, all these inconsistencies could be resolved by answering one simple question: Is there a peace dividend? And more in detail: How does the resurgent USSR bring back to shape its ramshackle armed forces after the Coup of 1991 and how does the West react?

In the timeline presented, Bill Clinton does not come across too soft before the attack on the Baltics in 1996. That's credible and so is his hesitation after the attack. But without a peace dividend due to the total collapse of the USSR from 1992-1996 in our history, would he have the chance remain a dove? This is basically the Cuba Crisis all over again. Kennedy could avoid the pressure to invade only, because Khrushchev threw Kennedy (and himself) a lifeline via telex.

If Kryuchkov doesn't deliver a good diplomatic maskirovka and fools Clinton into believing him that the invasion stops in the Baltics, Clinton will be pressured into harsh retaliation: a) its an election year und b) these are the 1990s, US generals (and admirals) have more power than ever before, as they just won the hot Gulf War and the Cold War "all by themselves" (or at least that's the public image).
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Vader
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Re: [ALPHA] THE WORLD AT WAR comments/feedback

Fri 27 Nov 2020, 23:04

The coup could have succeeded with better preparation and less incompetent leadership. I take this as a remote possibility but a possibility.

"Better preparation and less incompetent leadership" indeed! That's almost another British understatement.

If the GKChP had managed to arrest Yeltsin. If they had managed to fill the empty shops with food, as has been rumoured was part of their plan. If they had managed to take charge of the media narrative and convince the population that they were going to restore order and stability. If they had actually trained, prepared, motivated, and briefed the troops on mission and objectives. If they had been able to engage a larger part of the military, to e.g. march into Lithuania in synchronised operations.
Had all of these things been in place, then just perhaps, maybe, the coup would have stood a tiny chance of succeeding ... for a little while. Now, none were!

Planning. Preparation. Leadership. Determination. All were missing — and all would have been required to carry it off. But it still wouldn't be enough!

To extend your own earlier metaphor — it's sort of like saying that a few more lifeboats would have averted the Titanic catastrophe. Sure, more lifeboats have helped, but it would have taken a lot more than "a few", and it still wouldn't have addressed the fundamental problems.

The biggest problem for the GKChP by far was that Gorbachev's perestroika had been allowed to go much too far, for too long.
After six years of it, the Soviet population — especially in the capital! — had lost pretty much all of their fear of the regime and was no longer possible to easily browbeat into submission. A Soviet regime that allows a Baltic Way manifestation to happen without a single arrest ... is no longer what it once was, and everybody could see that.

And that's exactly what I've been going on about: for the scenario of the Moscow Coup succeeding to be at all credible, there must have been other, smaller differences in the timeline preceding that event, at least two years back — more hardline responses from the military, likely acting without orders from the Kremlin; more quelling of dissent; sharper reactions across the board ... when East Germany manages to secede, a Soviet Union where the August Coup eventually could have succeeded would certainly have cracked down, hard, on any other countries that tried to follow suit.

And incidentally, that would also mean the Warsaw Pact wouldn't have dissolved ... which would at least begin to fix some of the other problems with the current timeline.
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Arrigo74
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Re: [ALPHA] THE WORLD AT WAR comments/feedback

Fri 27 Nov 2020, 23:18

The biggest problem for the GKChP by far was that Gorbachev's perestroika had been allowed to go much too far, for too long.
After six years of it, the Soviet population — especially in the capital! — had lost pretty much all of their fear of the regime and was no longer possible to easily browbeat into submission. A Soviet regime that allows a Baltic Way manifestation to happen without a single arrest ... is no longer what it once was, and everybody could see that.

And that's exactly what I've been going on about: for the scenario of the Moscow Coup succeeding to be at all credible, there must have been other, smaller differences in the timeline preceding that event, at least two years back — more hardline responses from the military, likely acting without orders from the Kremlin; more quelling of dissent; sharper reactions across the board ... when East Germany manages to secede, a Soviet Union where the August Coup eventually could have succeeded would certainly have cracked down, hard, on any other countries that tried to follow suit.
Sadly you are right... I was okay to suspend my disbelief for once, but the whole timeline seems contrived and silly. Right now the entire timeline is very similar of the use of chemical weapons in Bywater 's Great Pacific War. There they were a plot to advance a story to the point where the writer was happy, but their use and effects were completely absurd (and Bywater was indeed a naval correspondent). Here the Timeline seems basically thrown together to allow the destruction to happen.

I agree that if you want to save the Soviet Union, you need to avoid any single republic to break away. Also 5-6 years of economic roller coaster culminating in a super duper Soviet Military are ludicrous. There are plenty of little issue that irks me... lack of understanding of air and naval warfare, ignoring the closeness of Sweden to NATO, everything seems thrown together by people with little knowledge of the topic. IT lacks the polish one would have expected... US Army Armored Cavalry Regiment are Commanded by Colonels, not Generals for example...

I am still on the idea that leaving the pact and NATO as they were in 1989 and using the old template would have been better... something I always suggested... :D

Oh well... they already got my money, hopefully maps, counters and combat rules would be useable... not that different from Compass Games Fulda Gap...
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Vader
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Re: [ALPHA] THE WORLD AT WAR comments/feedback

Fri 27 Nov 2020, 23:28

everything seems thrown together by people with little knowledge of the topic. It lacks the polish one would have expected

True, alas.

Question is — this being an Alpha, and hence ostensibly still a preliminary text — is there an ambition or inclination to fix it?
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Re: [ALPHA] THE WORLD AT WAR comments/feedback

Fri 27 Nov 2020, 23:57

Question is — this being an Alpha, and hence ostensibly still a preliminary text — is there an ambition or inclination to fix it?
I would be very surprised if they change the setting material, other than small changes here and there perhaps, and I would be even more surprising if they do it to satisfy a few people with another view. But commenting and debating about this can't hurt and as long as it is done in a friendly and respectful manner and even if they will not rewrite things (that would set back the release of this game a lot), small changes here and there can sometimes do miracle to the whole picture.
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Re: [ALPHA] THE WORLD AT WAR comments/feedback

Sat 28 Nov 2020, 00:03

I mostly agree with some of the sentiments being stated in this thread. The story needed the world to be destroyed and broken down by 2000 or else the game wouldn't exist thus leading to lots of liberty being taken. I'll comment mostly on the American issues/general geopolitics because I don't have the knowledge of such events like the 1991 Coup or other Soviet events.

1) The exchange of nuclear weapons. I haven't seen this discussed yet but the initial American attack seemed silly to me. Yes, I found it believable that the Soviets wouldn't counter-strike against an Israeli attack but what American President would believe that the Soviets wouldn't counter-strike against a nuclear attack on their own troops? President West seems to be making a decision to move the plot forward as opposed to what an actual President would do. You can get the Soviets and Americans to start lobbing nukes without characters making stupid decisions.

2) The total superiority of the Soviets. Everyone is rightfully talking about this. The Soviets invade Great Britain and southern Germany while putting up a strong attack in Poland and Sweden? This sounds more like "what people thought the Soviets could do" as opposed to "what actually could the Soviets do." But I will argue that some leeway needs to be given to Soviet capabilities in this timeline so the story can exist. It just doesn't have to be overboard with Soviets storming the beaches in Great Britain!

3) American/NATO capabilities. I find it fairly unbelievable that the United States and the NATO allies cannot beat the Soviet Navy. I can't cite specific weapon systems or tactics but I think it can be general accepted that the combined navies of NATO would trump a Soviet Navy (sans the Warsaw Pact) in the late '90s. Even more so, the Soviets can send expedition forces to everywhere from Sweden to Israel and the Americans constantly "hesitate" in doing counter moves? If WW3 is kicking off, I have no doubt that the United States would be sending a marine division at least to help the Israelis from being pushed into the Mediterranean Sea! Furthermore, if Soviet and American troops are shooting at each other, the American government is calling a draft immediately, not waiting a year into the fighting. Any American policymaker worth their salt would know that WW3 is happening after that first firefight.

I love the setting. Don't get me wrong. Just as a history and geopolitics guy, these are the issues I had with it. All can be changed with house lore anyways!
 
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Re: [ALPHA] THE WORLD AT WAR comments/feedback

Sat 28 Nov 2020, 04:55

The other bit which strikes me is how most of the world is simply missing in action.

Where and what is happening with China? The 1997 China was still in its rapid modernisation stage, and wasn't the assertive superpower of the current day. But it still possessed a massive if dated military. Did China just sit WW3 out?

That brings up North & South Korea, and Japan. The ROK and Japan could provide massive industrial aid to NATO. What happened to them?

India and Pakistan. Again what happened to them.

In fact most of the globe is missing in action, including huge non-ME oil producers like Nigeria and Mexico and Brunei.

Did Australia go full on Mad Max (wait, that's normal here).

This is why what was happening in the lead up to 1997 is so important. Did the monsoon fail year after year plunging a huge part of the globe from East Africa across to Indonesia into famine?

Did a COVID like pandemic hit just at the moment in time when no one had the spare resources to deal with it.

I think when it comes to world building to have the scenario as is presented by TW 4th ed. facing the players in July 2000 you have to work backwards from that point in time changing events until you reach a natural departure point from our timeline to the TW timeline. And that point had to be earlier than 1991.
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