Wargame: Red Dragon's single player maps are a diverse bunch, but one of the most interesting is Nuclear Winter is Coming. It is a much larger map than most, with varied terrain and multiple spawn points for troops. Its size lends it to more varied tactical options than other maps, ranging from helicopter-borne infantry assaults to base rushes, to grinding urban attrition warfare, to forest battles, to rear area infiltration, when few other single player maps boast such a diversity of options. Its mixture of very dense and large forests, large cities, open countryside, scattered forests, towns, and rivers and bridges presents a diverse range of tactical problems which are intriguing and fascinating to solve.
Combined, it makes Nuclear Winter is Coming into one of the most interesting maps to analyze, especially since it has some key tactics such as rear area infiltration which are rarely used by many players. It is a map which can play differently every time, and which demands much in the way of preparation to correctly understand and prepare for.
I'm by no means a star player at Wargame — I generally consider myself to be better than average, with very poor tank and smoke micro-management being my key weaknesses. But I think that I'm good enough to give a depiction of Nuclear Winter is Coming and how it works, and show how to achieve victory and avoid defeat one one of Wargame Red Dragon's most unique maps.
The Engagement Zones
Nuclear Winter is Coming is bifurcated into two general zones by the presence of a large river going down the center of the map, into a narrow corridor spit on the Echo-Foxtrot-Hotel line, and a much larger mainland area. There is also an island which has a spawn at India, but it is very rare for significant combat to happen here due to the difficulties of crossing into it and being on top of the enemy base and their airspawn. Bot the left and the right of the map are important to control, given that one has access to air units with possession of the left, but the right has much more in the way of capture points which means that if one only controls the right, but all of it, one will have a significant lead.
In general, due to the difficulties of pushing directly into an enemy spawn, most combat tends to happen in the middle of the map from both sides — with the line happening somewhere between Foxtrot and Hotel, and in Delta, as well as between Charlie and Alpha. If the fighting has progressed beyond these regions, one side has been dealt a heavy blow indeed.
The Corridor — Towns, Forests, and Airstrikes
The Echo-Foxtrot-Hotel Corridor is a relatively narrow line of terrain to advance across, the fastest single route to attack an enemy base. This is both a blessing and a curse compared to fighting on the more substantial mainland. There is a possibility of a rush, most commonly used in a helicopter rush, but also a ground offensive, where the lack of it being expected can mean that a breakthrough with fast moving armor can be extremely difficult to counter for the enemy. Generally however, as noted above, the greater difficulty of pushing directly into the enemy base and the lack of command points on this side of the map means that the fighting happens more often on the mainland.Conducting an economy of force operation on this side of the map ensures sufficient resources are available for fighting where the majority of the action takes place.
A standard force on this side for Echo might consist of a recon infantry and anti-tank missile unit in their town just above Foxtrot, with a recon unit pushed ahead in the forest on the left side of the map, and then optionally an anti-air unit for both a helicopter offensive and to give air detection on this side of the map, and a fire support unit such as a medium tank to provide additional firepower. The anti-tank units should be located further away from the woods along the main road as it will be detected if too close, the recon infantry closer. If enemy units are detected coming through the woods along the main road then artillery and bombers can pound this position. Reconnaissance along the woods on the left can help spot units moving up and perhaps even launch a coup de main into the town in Hotel if it is not sufficiently garrisoned. If the enemy occupies the woods in force, then recon infantry in the small grove to the left of Foxtrot can help to protect against a flanking attack.
If this town is lost, then infantry can be stationed in the town right behind it, to the north of Foxtrot, and tanks and fire support vehicles support them from the forest lines behind them.
From India, the perspective is much the same. A reconnaissance infantry unit in the forest along the main road, not pushed quite too far forward as to lead to it and enemy units in the city between it and Foxtrot detecting each other and both opening fire, a reconnaissance units on the woods along the side of the map, an anti-aircraft unit, fire support vehicle, and an anti-tank guided missile infantry unit in the city complete the picture. A reconnaissance unit in the forest along Hotel near the main road can be useful as well to prevent any movements of enemy units trying to sneak along the center.
If one does decide to attack, there are a number of strategies to be aware of. Attacking from India towards Echo involves hitting the village between Foxtrot and Hotel first. Pushing up reconnaissance infantry can probably detect enemy ATGM positions, and fire support operating from the woods can neutralize them. Hopefully with the occupation of the village the push can continue towards Foxtrot, leapfrogging from village and forest line to village and forest line to capture enough territory to safely position a a command vehicle and neutralize the zone. Advancing from Echo to India would involve fighting through the forest along the main road, then using infantry to push forward, particularly reconnaissance infantry, to spot enemy ATGM positions, or screening them off with smoke, and trying to capture the forest area of Hotel to gain a fortified position against a counter-attack from India.
Since the mainland contains the majority of command zones and territory, it naturally is where most of the fighting is to be expected to take place. This is reflected as well by the mainland possessing a spawn point for both sides, which most players choose to capture at the very beginning of the battle: Although this costs more than a hundred points, it is generally perceived as being worth it — it enables much faster reinforcements afterwards, and failing to cap it will give the enemy a significant cap advantage.
A defensive line will most often be aimed to be established along the edge of both Charlie and Alph, while the majority of fighting takes place in the city at Delta. The abundant nature of forests means there are plenty of spaces for units to be hidden and engagement ranges can be controlled. Even if one zone is taken, there are plenty of barriers behind that, with additional forests and positions which need to be taken.
The City Grind
Most of the time Nuclear Winter is Coming is centered upon a fight in the central city, which is a grinding fight. In Wargame terminology, a grind involves large amounts of cheap units which can be deployed in large numbers, with pitched combat over cities or forests. The Delta city on Nuclear Winter is Coming is an excellent example of this, as it is too large for fire support to be able to hit all parts of the city, only the exterior, and in addition it is too large for bombers to be able to reliably destroy infantry garrisoned within, since they can move when attempts are made to bomb them. Thus, fighting in the city is a very infantry warfare based notion, where fighting relies upon effective deployment of infantry units. Artillery can help stun enemy forces, particularly when multiple rocket launchers are used, which can deal stunning and suppression damage for follow-on infantry to move up and annihilate the enemy.
Both sides will generally try to seize the city in an opening rush, relying upon either fast wheeled vehicles or helicopters. If one side seizes the city before the other, then they can freely set up ATGM installations and have reconnaissance infantry embedded, with regular infantry to massacre any enemy infantry approaching too quickly. Retaking the city is very difficult, and is generally reliant upon massing more artillery, effective use of smoke, and powerful fire support.
For myself, a standard deployment of troops to take the city would consist of some fast wheeled infrared anti-helicopter anti-air, fast wheeled fire support vehicles if they are available (such as AMX 10 RCs which are the best for providing fire support and killing the enemy opener), a mortar, a few stacks of shock infantry in wheeled transports, a reconnaissance infantry, an ATGM unit, and if possible a superheavy to deal with enemy tanks, or some general purpose tanks. This should be backed up by some heavy AA or an anti-air fighter to support it. These fast move to the city and try to get the infantry in as soon as possible, with their wheeled transports providing fire support afterwards if the enemy has already occupied the city.
Alternative strategies could rely upon a helicopter drop, preferably supported by powerful ATGM helicopters, most notable with the American Longbow or Russian A and MI-28, and anti-aircraft helicopters. This certainly can work but against factions with good, long range infrared anti-air can be quite risky and expensive. In larger games, this is a standard tactic, but its success is more mixed in smaller games.
If the city is taken by Delta, then Echo can have an easier time of retaking it. Thanks to the forest which leads directly into the city, it is possible for Echo to push infantry up through the forest and into the city. However, they are vulnerable to artillery and bombers along this route, and still have to actively fight into the buildings across from them. If Echo holds the cluster of buildings on the southern side of the map, separate from the city and below it, they can also get support from fire support infantry and reconnaissance to spot ATGMs and other units on the southern side of the city. But often this has already been taken by Delta as well and thus needs to be assaulted too.
For Delta, any counter-attack must happen over open ground. This is a very difficult prospect in the presence of enemy ATGMs stationed in the city, plus the presence of bombers and artillery to attack units in the open ground in front of it. Generally there are two attack philosophies: to use smoke to cover the entire front and then use infantry to attack where enemy long range fire options are gone, or to build up overwhelming fire supremacy and attack with infantry under supporting fire. A mixture with smoking off enemy ATGM positions once detected can be more productive. Having artillery or best of all MRLS to stun enemy units is a great advantage. Attacking with infantry from Delta's forest into the forest next to the city can help to reduce time in the open, but the jumping-off point from this forest is vulnerable to enemy harassment artillery fire, and this places more time in the open.
Alpha and Charlie
Both Alpha and Charlie tend to be held more securely by their two sides, as they are easily protected, with buildings to provide ATGM fire for both side, forests for recon infantry to be positioned in and with plenty of depth for reserves to be husbanded, and being further away from the critical initial contact point in Bravo means that the battles here tend to start later.
Typically, one wants ATGM infantry in the village on the northern side of Alpha, when starting from Echo, and ATGMs in the small village between Charlie and Alpha when starting from India. Taking this village is hard outside of a helicopter assault, as units starting from Echo take longer to arrive, but if it is captured it is a very useful forward bastion. Reconnaissance infantry back this up on the flanks, and if one uses long range ATGM vehicles, placing them somewhere around here is the way to go. Moving to the right side of the map, between Alpha and Charlie, both sides will attempt to push recon infantry up, with tanks and fire support protecting them and exploiting the vision they gain. This is probably the best zone to wage an advance over, as it is possible to get closer to the enemy and there is greater cover for an advance - although for India, if the city is taken it is possible for infantry to attack through the forest into Alpha with reasonable cover. The forest on the far side of the map should also receive reconnaissance infantry, to cover against enemy flanking maneuvers, deny flanking shots from enemy ATGM vehicles and tanks, and give more vision control.
However, for Echo, an enemy helicopter assault on Bravo is a real threat and one which can be very difficult to dislodge.With only limited forces assigned here there is a dangerous possibility that an attack can succeed, and infantry forces be entrenched. With this success, conducting a counter-attack is hard, since enemy ATGMs positioned here are at an optimal range to engage fire support platforms without being spotted, and a broad front offensive is required to deal with it. Thus, it makes sense to send at least some anti-air to this section of the front at the beginning, such as fast wheeled infrared AA, to deal with the threat of an enemy helicopter assault.
Air Assault Operations and Counters
Due to the relatively large size of Nuclear Winter is Coming, airborne assaults are much more feasible than on smaller maps. On smaller maps, the combat zones being close to the spawns means that by the time helicopters arrive, there is already anti-aircraft artillery in range and troops deploy directly into enemy forces, which is rarely a success. Furthermore, many maps lack the cities which airborne forces will need to capture to provide their fragile infantry forces from being annihilated.
There are two zones which are common striking targets for airborne forces, these being the city and the village in Alpha. From both spawns, landing in the central city is an often chosen tactic. India meanwhile, often can choose to strike at the village in Alpha. For defending against this, fast moving wheeled infrared AA and anti-aircraft helicopters are both recommended.
For both India and Echo, their forces have a dangerous risk of being intercepted and destroyed en route to fighting in the city, but this danger is particularly acute for India. For India, units en route to the city will sometimes take a road past the small village intersection in between Alpha and Charlie. Here, they are vulnerable to ATGM fire from Alpha buildings, in range of both 2,450 and 2,625 meter missiles. This danger is worst when one is fighting against countries with high speed ATGMs, such as Finland, Japan, or Israel, but even against slower ATGMs such as Milans hits can still be landed on infantry transports which have cleared the town. Attacks on this passive route are extremely frustrating, and so either making sure that unit deployment doesn't follow this road, or smoking off enemy ATGM units in their village in Alpha, or using artillery fire to kill and stun them, is a necessity. Furthermore, India's troops headed directly to Delta utilizing the road past the grove on their side of the map, can sometimes be hit by enemy ATGM fire directed from the city before they make it into shelter. While the less is less acute as the player tends to be more aware of this, smoke, keeping watch on units and deploying their movement path, and artillery fire is still recommended.
For India itself, the possibilities for interdiction are more limited, and principally focus on that once it has taken control of the city, ATGM units located on Echo's side of the map in its building cluster are very effective at closing off incoming roads.
Command Vehicles and Placement
Nuclear Winter is Coming has the advantage of almost all of its command zones possessing a substantial mix of both forests and cities. This makes infantry CVs generally preferable, as they can be effectively hidden and are safe in buildings, and there are too many different locations for blind fire to work effectively against them. Furthermore, the bases are generally, although not always secure, as are some rear areas zones like Foxtrot, Hotel, and spawn points in Bravo and Golf, and so deploying jeep CVs here is perfectly possible.
There is a great exception to this rule, and it is Delta.Here the forest for India's side, if they fail to take control of the city, is too small for random artillery bombardment and bomber strikes to be safely avoided. Thin skinned jeeps or command infantry will be destroyed eventually. Thus, a command tank makes sense here for sufficient protection. It still must be considered if enemy cluster artillery and cluster bombers are present, as these will have a dangerous effect even on a command tank.
Infiltration and Base Security
Infiltration to raid the enemy base and get vision on their artillery and FOBs is something which is often overlooked on Nuclear Winter is Coming, but in fact is a very achievable and possible strategy. However, it is one which is distinctly different in how it plays out for both sides, and quite asymmetric compared to other maps.
Starting from Echo,there is a unique ability at the beginning of the game to utilize helicopter borne reconnaissance forces to strike at India's base. A helicopter flown along the far edge of the map past Foxtrot and Hotel is often not spotted, as the initial deployment of forces takes place along the axial road and does not always go to this side of the map. Once the infiltrator units have been landed, they are capable of making their way to the forests and towns in India, possibly finding and destroying the enemy CV, spotting the FOB and artillery, and getting eyes on enemy reinforcements along the road. This tactic is not commonly expected since most assume that helicopters will be spotted and engaged given the narrow region in which they have to fly, but this lack of being expected makes it work all the better! Countering it is difficult at the beginning since presumably one wants to deploy all of one's troops to the principal areas of contact, and this operation is inherently based upon a deployment at the start of the match. Nevertheless it may be worth it to dispatch some defensive units like autocannon armed reconnaissance or M163s to defend this sector for India, or to place some reconnaissance units to guard the flank against the potential of infiltrators which have been landed earlier once enough free points are available.
Due to the narrower nature of Echo's part of the long strip of land that its base is located on, it is not possible to replicate the same tactic against them starting from India. However, the large forests are a perfect vector for sending reconnaissance units around to block the supply lines to Bravo — this is especially good if one has shock commando recon infantry, like Czechoslovakia's Specialni Jednotky, Soviet Spetsnaz GRU, or Finland's Erikoisrajajääkäri. They are excellently placed here to attack units spawning in, to gain vision over them, and perhaps to spot the enemy CV in this sector. Defending against this is easy, requiring just a few infantry pickets to be dispatched after the initial fighting is over and some spare points are available.
In general, due to the nature of the extensive amounts of city fighting and forests, decks which have a large amount of infantry are best for this map. Mechanized in particular is very good for the central city grind, and motorized very good at taking the city quickly. Other deck types which might be good include airborne, for airborne operations at the beginning and the extensive amounts of infantry available afterward, and sometimes marines. Armored decks are a bad choice, since they will rarely have the large open plains needed, and are too limited in the city and close range fighting, and support decks are almost never a good decision in a 1v1 environment. Marine decks are generally too limited as well.
Nuclear Winter is Coming has a diverse variety of terrain and zones to play over, and a variety of strategies to adopt. This makes it endlessly fascinating and being able to play out in different ways, but also a complicated and unpredictable map. Hopefully reading this article can give a player some ideas of what to do on it, how to respond to enemy threats, and how to forge their own strategy to win.
© 2020 Ryan Thomas