Firestorm: Red Thunder Behind The Scenes

Firestorm: Red Thunder

Firestorm: Red Thunder Behind The Scenes
with Phil Yates

A lot of players were very curious as to how things were run behind the scenes. ‘What are the rules?’ was a common question.

In answering this question, the most important thing to note is that this was a first for both us and Beasts of War. Previous campaigns they have run have simply had pre-set battlefields and pre-set Phases. So, in Phase 1, Theatres X, Y , and Z are open and the results there are just what they are. Later they close and new theatres open.
We wanted a more narrative campaign where the actions of the players drove the story, opening and closing theatres as the Warsaw Pact advanced (or retired). Since neither of us had any experience with how this would work, we decided to develop the narrative as we went along.
East Germans
Initially, the idea was to check progress every few days and open and close Theatres in response. Things moved slower than expected in the first couple of weeks, so there were only weekly updates, and several theatres changed on the basis of very few games to keep things rolling.
After that, the parity in games resulted in a static front, so I decided to give each side the option of reserves now, or more reserves later. The Warsaw Pact used theirs early to push in the north. As part of the narrative and to tie things into the book, I explained the defenders in Amsterdam as being reinforced by the British II Corps.
NATO chose to hold their reserves until the next week, then steamroll a big theatre (Hof Corridor) and push into Leipzig. As Hof Corridor was equivalent to lots of games, I gave them a limited advantage in Leipzig so that the attack could be developed by player games rather than predetermined.
At the same time the Warsaw Pact chose to open a new theatre in the Ruhr. Once again, it was a relatively open theatre with a limited Warsaw Pact advantage as the had chosen to strike twice.
Campaign Maps
The British commander wanted to get more control over the British corps, so I introduced the concept of robbing Peter to pay Paul, i.e. you can move your starting points in a theatre about. This lead to some interesting activity as the overall commanders sought to maximise their strategic advantage, while encouraging their players to tip the balance in their favour.
British Team Yankee
So, all-in-all, things were run more like a game of Dungeons and Dragons with me in the role of Dungeon Master than as a mechanical system. The results of the player’s games and narrative were paramount, and the rules evolved as the campaign went along.
When we run the next one, I’ll have to ponder things again for the set up based on all the experience gained, and will no doubt end up making up more stuff as we go along to keep the story running along.
What Impact did My Games and Reports Have?
As you no doubt noticed, the results of your games were immediately reflected in the possession dials on the front page of the campaign, and these were the major driver of the events occurring.
Soviets defend against West German Attack
Behind the scenes there were several reports that let me look at report quality (how complete they were and how well they were rated). This allowed me to keep an eye on players attempting to game the system and rewarded participation in the form of good battle reports (even if the player lost their battle). Despite occasional concerns from players about ‘cheating’ by the other side, the raw data and the quality reports were almost always in sync, so any ‘cheating’ was spread pretty evenly across all sides and pretty minimal over all.
Interestingly, it was only at the end of the campaign that there was any real discrepancy, and as this was in the three areas that the Warsaw Pact withdrew forces from, the results were noticeable. It wasn’t that there was anything wrong with the Warsaw Pact reports, they were good solid battle reports, but in the north, the British had been putting in consistently high-quality reports that garnered the appreciation of friend and foe alike. This gave them an edge in Amsterdam, the Ruhr, and Hanover, allowing NATO to pretty much retake the Amsterdam theatre (the Warsaw Pact generals had calculated that they could hold) and slow down the encirclement enough to hold the Kassel Corridor open. A similar spate of really excellent West German reports in Niederbayern in the south had a similar effect.
M1 Shoot-out

What this means for players in the next campaign is that they still need to focus on winning battles – that has the most benefit – but if they want to get the most out of their victories and defeats, they should also aim for maximum participation in the global campaign – taking a couple of photos as they play and  crafting interesting battle reports – to get that edge and to make even their defeats contribute to their side’s ultimate success.

What Next?
We have already begun planning the second part of our Team Yankee Firestorm Campaign, which will follow on from the events in Firestorm: Red Thunder. Early in the new year we’ll be running the continuation of the campaign, so prepare your forces and get ready to do battle again!

Read the Campaign Results here...