Book Review: The Bear Marches West

The Bear Marches West:  12 Scenarios For 1980s NATO Vs Warsaw Pact Wargames, by Russell Phillips

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by the author.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

Admittedly, it has been a while since I played war games, but when I was younger I was very fond of the Koie historical simulations as well as other war gaming of the kind discussed in this book.  As the author is an expert on the composition of the armed forces of both the United States and Warsaw Pact [1], it should come as little surprise that the author is fond of the literature of the time that postulated a fictional invasion of West Germany by the Soviet Union and its allies that the United States and its allies would be hard pressed to defend.  In the actual timeline, of course, the Soviet Union fell apart mostly peacefully and the nations of Eastern Europe were free to cast off the chains of Soviet domination and join with the West in economic and political development, but it could very easily have gone differently and much worse, and these scenarios present at least some of the ways that could have happened.

This book is a short one of just over 50 pages.  Most of the book consists of twelve tactical scenarios of engagements in West Germany that assume a Warsaw Pact invasion of the Fulda Gap.  These scenarios include attacks on prepared positions, counterattacks, timed battles featuring reinforcements at various turns, battles over towns, fords/tunnels/bridges, and against hills.  For the most part, the Soviets have a strong initial superiority and the goal of the NATO defenders is to hold on until help arrives, while Soviet reinforcements are often of a lower quality than their initial attacking forces, with considerably lower morale.  The maps included are excellent and the scenarios include detailed information about both the specific makeup of the forces involved as well as the fighting conditions.  After the twelve scenarios are given in their initial form, the closing section of the book gives alternate forces involved in the engagement to shift the challenge level of the engagement considerably, in some cases beefing up one side or the other and in other cases nerfing them to make their objective even more difficult to attain.  The end result are a set of scenarios that have considerable replay value and that will test the war gaming skills of interested Cold War players.

The book’s introduction as well as the appendix by Glenn Dean are quite open in discussing how the scenarios in the book are based on the thriller novels of Tom Clancy, Harold Coyle, and Ralph Peters, and how each of the three has a varying degree of liberty that they take with the composition of forces depending on their own varying levels of expertise.  Just as war gaming has had an honored tradition among the armies of the world, especially within the past two centuries or so with the rise of well-educated staff officers and more sophisticated efforts at war planning, these scenarios allow players to be in the position of armchair generals of the Soviets and American forces during a supposed war in West Germany.  While we can all be fortunate that such a war did not happen, these scenarios give players at least some idea of what could have happened in a timeline where the Soviets were not content to collapse peacefully and were willing to engage on a two-front war with their forces involved in both Afghanistan and Western Europe.  One can easily imagine, given the scenarios, that it would not have been a pretty picture.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Book Reviews, History, Military History and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Book Review: The Bear Marches West

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Rivets Of The Warsaw Pact | Edge Induced Cohesion

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