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Posted on Nov 12, 2018 in Boardgames, Front Page Features

A Comprehensive Look at a Nightmare Scenario.  Next War Poland Game Review

A Comprehensive Look at a Nightmare Scenario. Next War Poland Game Review

By Rick Martin

Next War Poland Board Game Review.  Publisher: GMT   Game Designer: Ralph Shelton,Gene Billingsley, Mitchell Land, Douglas Bush and Chris Fawcett  Price  $89.99 


Passed Inspection:   Covers all aspects of a modern war in the region, programmed rules, three complete levels of complexity, tons of replay value, full index


Failed Basic:    needs a more complete glossary of abbreviations, sheer number of rules can be overwhelming


“More important than the modes of warfare, however, are

the possible scenarios in which Russia might employ them.

Here it is possible to distinguish two essentially different

types of aggression that correspond to different political


objectives. The first is an ambiguous, low-intensity operation,

employing hybrid, largely non-military tactics and

deliberately kept under the threshold of war to avoid triggering

NATO’s collective-defence mechanism. The other is

a sudden and decisive strike on another country or countries.

Conceivable variants include action aimed at seizing

a territory populated predominantly by ethnic Russians;

occupation of a swathe of NATO territory in order to use

it as a bargaining chip in confrontation with the West; and

a lightning invasion of Norway to seize oil and gas fields,

which would have a good chance of causing an increase

in oil prices similar to that which occurred after Iraq’s

invasion of Kuwait. Western thinking about the Russian

challenge has focused excessively on the first scenario and

wrongly dismissed the possibility of the second.”


— Tomasz Paszewski,

“Can Poland Defend Itself?”, Survival: Vol 58, No 2



Over the years, I have reviewed two other of GMT Games’ Next War series – Next War Korea and Next War India / Pakistan and another Armchair General reviewer reviewed Next War Taiwan.  Next War Poland is the newest game in the series and it fully integrates all the rules additions and updates from the previous games to deliver a complete theater analysis of the nightmare scenario of a war in the Baltic regions and Poland.


With the continued destabilizing activities of Putin’s regime in Russia including Russia’s expansionist war of aggression in Ukraine, interference in American and European elections, wars of disinformation and fake news, assassinations of Russian ex-patriots and such, this game, if we can call this simulation a “game”, has been become an even more timely and salient subject to cover.


Next War Poland’s components include:

  • One 22×34″ map
  • One 22×24″ strategic display
  • Four 9/16″ counter sheets
  • Two rulebooks (Series Rules and Game Specific Rules)
  • Six 8.5×11″ Player Aids
  • Two 11×17″ Player Aids
  • One 10-sided die


The game is focused on a brigade and regimental scale.  Each turn represents from 3 to 5 days.


The Nato forces represented in the game include:


Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Estonia,France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States

Russian Forces include forces from Russia (naturally duh) and Belarus.


Next War Poland comes with two unmounted maps.  The map of Poland features traditional hex representations and is very easy on the eyes.  The other map is a strategic map of the Baltic countries and features holding boxes for the North Sea as well as guides for sea movement.  On the strategic map, the main focus is on area movement with countries and regions notated.


Next War Poland, as with its predecessors, includes three levels of play, which are, in effect, three different games unto themselves.  There is a basic game, an advanced game and then a game which increases focus on the air war.  The advanced game also adds in more detailed naval rules which, in a sense, can create a 4th way to play the game!  Next War Poland really is a sandbox game which allows many variations which are guaranteed to please many gamers interested in modern warfare.  The basic game is easily playable by the beginning gamer while the versions of the advanced games add in a plethora of other rules which increase realism.


The two rule books are written in a programmed style allowing the gamer to learn the basic game and play basic scenarios on both the operational and strategic map and then moves them forward to more advanced concepts.  The main Next War game rules are 44 pages long.  The basic aka “standard” game is covered in 21 pages and the next 23 pages cover the advanced rules.  A list of abbreviations and a full index are included but the list of abbreviations is not complete and you’ll find yourself doing a little bit of page flipping to find the meanings of some of the abbreviations used.  Since there is so much to this game, the lack of a full list of abbreviations combined with the sheer number of rules and charts, can make this game a little intimidating to the casual player.


The standard rules cover moving and attacking as well as basic air and naval operations.


The standard game turn sequence is as follows:

  1. Determine weather
  2. Determine initiative
  3. Determine air control/air strikes with jets and helicopters/anti-air defenses
  4. Determine sea control, naval units, personnel and equipment sea transport, naval landings, submarine and anti-sub threats, laying of mines, etc.
  5. Land, Sea and Air Units move/bridge damaging or repairing/clearing cities of guerilla fighters and snipers, capturing airfields and ports, air transports and paratroopers, etc.
  6. Combat
  7. Release of reinforcements and replacements
  8. Check for victory


The advanced game adds in weapons of mass destruction including nuclear, chemical and biological agents (I love the caption in the rule book which reads “Global Nuclear War aka Lighter Fluid aka Would You Like to Play a Game aka Game Over!”), naval strikes and anti-naval strikes, advanced airmobile and paratrooper rules, naval invasions, HQ and logistics, commando raids, detection and recon, etc. and features its own expanded turn sequence.   In addition, as stated previously, advanced naval and air combat rules are added.  The advanced air combat rules are pretty much a game in and of itself and includes air to ground strikes, air to air combat, bombers, wild weasels, etc.  Handy reference cards are included to allow ease of learning the turn sequences and these cards also reference specific rules sections.


For my review play, I played the first three weeks of the conflict as a basic game and added a few advanced rules for flavor.  In the pictures which accompany this review, you’ll see air units such as F18s and F35 conducting air strikes when in actuality, in the basic game, these would be more abstractly represented.


Each counter type – ground units, naval units and air units are double sided and each type has different statistics.  The game uses standard Nato symbology for the units.  I have included a chart from the rule book which shows all the information represented on the counters.  There is, literally, too much information on each unit type to list in this review.  When a unit takes damage, it is flipped to its reduced side.  If the reduced side is blank, the unit is considered effectively destroyed.


Combat is based upon an attack strength to defense strength ratio which is cross referenced on a combat chart.  The top of the combat chart, were you would normally find the ratio aka “1:1   1:1.5   1:2 etc.” you find these ratios but listed in rows based upon the defender’s terrain!  This quickly and succinctly allows you to figure the bonus of fighting in a city versus fighting in heavy woods, for example.  This system is ingenious!


Next War Poland includes a second rule book which is specific to the Poland and Baltic theater of operations.  These theater specific rules include rules for United Nations’ resolutions and even for the current American administration breaking its Article 5 commitments and betraying the long standing United States agreement with NATO.  Full designers’ notes and examples are also included.


Next War Poland features 5 basic scenarios and 4 advanced scenarios which walk you through the rules and the war.  There are also rules for a full campaign game which takes you from the start to the end of the war in one massive game.  Some solo scenarios are also included. Some scenarios take only 1 to 2 hours to play while others can take one or two days.  I have no idea how long the whole campaign would take to play but I would anticipate three or four days.


The strategic options in this game are fascinating.  As Nato, how do you defend Poland and the Baltic? Do you aggressively push back against the Russians while waiting for reinforcements to arrive from the US, UK, Germany, France and other Nato members or do you fight a defensive battle and hold on to specific pieces of real-estate while attempting to minimize your loses?  As Russia, do you make the main thrust in to Poland or do you make an initial attempt and then use your forces in the Baltics to draw Nato’s assets away from Poland?  What is the trigger before you resort to NCB weapons of mass destruction?  Do you rick a tactical nuke knowing that it could start a full scale nuclear retaliation?  Can you land an occupation force in Gotland in order to facilitate your Baltic strategy knowing that it could sway Sweden in to supporting your enemy and violating its own neutrality?


There is so much to this game, that even if you played every weekend for several months, you would have only scratched the surface of this fine system.  It really is worth every penny.



Armchair General Rating: 96 %


Solitaire Rating: 4 (1 to 5 with 1 being Poor and 5 being Perfect for Solo)


About the Author

A college film instructor and small business owner, Richard Martin has also worked in the legal and real estate professions, is involved in video production, film criticism, sports shooting and is an avid World War I and II gamer who can remember war games which came in plastic bags and cost $2.99 (he’s really that old)!  Richard also is the author of three published board games – Tiger Leader, The Tiger Leader Upgrade Kit and Sherman Leader.