I don't know about other wargamers, but I'm more of a campaigner than an impromptu, off-the-cuff battle sort of guy. For me, it's the back story that makes the game. I'm very much a detail-oriented person (German, a Virgo, and an academic - could it be any worse?) and this is reflected in my gaming. To me, it's much less entertaining if you just dump two forces on opposite sides of a bridge or a valley and say "fight it out". I love the contextual stuff. How did these two forces happen to meet here? What is the story of the wider conflict and where does this battle fit into it? How does this battle serve each side's strategic objectives?
So, I've begun to think about the mechanics of my 1981 LANDJUT campaign, Not only from a wargaming perspective, but also as a strategic operation in reality. The first thing that occurs to me is that if I wargame WWIII adhering strictly to what reality would have been, had it really happened, the game will be about 5 mins long. There'll be LOADS of:
The following premises seem reasonable to me:
1. NATO is highly unlikely to initiate the conflict.
2. The Soviets wouldn't initiate a war they felt they had zero chance of winning.
3. IF they were the victors, the Soviets would've wanted to be able to make use of any territory won.
4. The Soviets knew full well that even a limited nuclear exchange would render Europe unlivable and thus worthless to them.
5. The Soviets were keenly aware that any nuclear exchange was extremely unlikely to be or remain "limited".
Whatever else the Soviets were, they were pragmatists. Limiting a WarPac v. NATO conflict to conventional weapons was in their best interest. Provided NATO didn't go nuclear as a first strike, I doubt the Soviets would've either, at least in my world. WarPac forces had an approximately 3:1 numerical superiority in armored vehicles over NATO and they set great store by that. Rightly or wrongly, the Eastern Bloc planners felt that quantity would win out over quality. Luckily we will never know if they were right.
Likewise, NATO felt that their qualitative superiority more than made up for their lack of numbers. Western Europe was NATO's home (overlooking the US and Canada), so a nuclear first strike by them in the midst of their own countries seems highly unlikely. Again, I feel that provided the Soviets didn't go nuke first, NATO would've fought it out conventionally and relied on their superior technology to win. I feel this same "I won't if you won't" principle would also apply equally to strategic bombing by either side.
So this will be the foundation of my campaign. Neither side gains by obliterating Europe, nor does either side want to risk a limited nuclear exchange escalating very rapidly into a global thermonuclear war.
Next time, thoughts on how the two sides line up.