NATO Air Commander First Game AAR

NATO Air Commander (NAC) is a new solitaire game by Hollandspiele, set during a hypothetical World War III between NATO and the Warsaw Pact in Germany that focuses on the air war. Players slip into the role of the air component commander and have to allocate air assets in order to facilitate NATO winning the war.

This is the fifth and final post in a multi-post series on NATO Air Commander and the relationship between air and land power. For the other posts see:

  1. NATO Air Commander – The Wargame
  2. Unboxing NATO Air Commander
  3. The Role of Air Power in Warfare (a conceptual overview of the role of airpower and a review of the book The Air Campaign by John Warden III, head planner of the air campaign in the First Gulf War)
  4. Rules Overview of NATO Air Commander
  5. First Game AAR of NATO Air Commander (the post you are reading now)

This post will summarize my first game of NAC. I am sorry this post has taken such a long time to finally be published. I had to do extensive travel for business and just couldn’t get around proofreading it!

Setup

NAC is very easy and quick to set up. The instructions in the back of the rulebook provide all the information necessary. Setting the game up takes less than five minutes.

Gameflow

At first, like with any other game, it takes a little while to get used to the gameflow. However, this is greatly simplified by the logical flow of phases. There is a recon phase, a planning phase, and combat flows from air-to-air to suppression of enemy air defenses to the actual mission. It makes sense. Game counter design is minimalistic, which I like in general, however sometimes it is hard to remember which value is what. Further color coding might be helpful here.

The card driven gameplay mechanics are a great way to abstract away the complexities of reality and still serve their purpose. However, the real challenge of NAC is the planning phase: what is the best way to go? How strong does the fighter screen have to be? And what about SEAD? This is the challenge, and the joy of playing NAC.

Brad Smith, the designer of the game, got the atmospherics right. When playing NAC you can‘t shake the feeling of imminent destruction and being overrun by the Soviet hords. The inevitable Soviet juggernaut is biting out chunks of NATO ground forces, and you have to answer desperate ground commanders‘ requests while also trying to wage the air war!

Suggestions

One thing I miss in NAC is a way to form a reserve. Reserves are one of the ways that a military commander can react to unexpected situations. Having a reserve action phase would not overly complicate game mechanics and add another layer of realism.

Conclusion

NATO Air Commander is a good solo game that is fun to play, quick to learn and easy to master. It is a good tool to teach the basics of air warfare and you can get it at a great price.

Highly recommended!

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