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Cavalry of Third Reich

Game designers start out in different ways. Like some, I began by creating variants for published games. I was a teenager at the time, and a lot of these early works really, well, sucked.

One that was suggested to me in the late 1970s or early 1980s came from Richard Gutenkunst, then creating homemade variant counters from his workshop in Minneapolis. In those days, you couldn't just download, print and cut-and-paste professional quality variant game counters. You either drew them by hand, or hoped someone with talent made them and sold them to you. Richard was that guy. Even better, the counters had a plastic core and had been cut with a heavy-duty slicer of some sort, so they had none of the annoying cardboard leftovers of "real" counters.

Anyway, Richard believed that the Avalon Hill staple Third Reich needed cavalry units. It had infantry and armor, and a handful of paratroopers. Many nations fielded huge formations of cavalry. These should be in the game.

I'm not sure why I never followed through on that. At 17 I'd talked a foolish publisher who did not realize I was 17 into giving me a regular magazine gig as game variant columnist. I wrote some good ones, and some weird ones. Controlled substances had something to do with the latter, I think.


Evil on horseback

Two decades crept by, and I had this job. We landed Third Reich for our ownselves, and Brian Knipple and I proceeded to re-design the thing. I took the first cut at it; Brian made all the weirdnesses I added actually work. I revised the orders of battle, and remembering Richard Gutenkunst's advice, added cavalry units.

Cavalry is slightly faster than infantry, and has a limited ability to exploit breakthroughs by armored units. No cavalry units are elite; if damaged in battle, they're eliminated rather than reduced in strength like an elite unit.

We did a sequel to Third Reich in late 2003, called Great Pacific War. Brian designed that one pretty much on his own, but included cavalry units too, where applicable. There just aren't that many of them in Asia. In 2004, we brought out a Player's Guide to the two games, and included a counter sheet in it — with more cavalry units, of course. And now that we're producing a Deluxe Map for Third Reich, interest in the game remains very high.

I think we got most of the force pools about right, between the game and the supplement. Even so, I think we missed a couple; it's hard not to tinker. Here's an overview of the horsemen, and some slight alterations. There's a sheet of counters you can download here. It's free for your personal use, but you'll have to print it out and assemble them yourself.

Germany

Germany started the war with one cavalry division, but ended it with half a dozen: two regular army, two Waffen SS, and two Cossack. Richard's initial suggestion had these first on the list and for some reason I left them out. Not sure why, but there's always a point in game design where something's got to give. I do recall taking them out of the Player's Guide counter manifest to make way for the extra French armored units that Brian said he needed for a piece he was doing.

 

Germany adds two 1-4 CAV pieces to its force pool, one in 1944 and one in 1945. In the French Fantasy scenario from the Player's Guide, add one of them to the German At Start forces.

Hungary

I gave Hungary a 2-4 CAV to represent its Mobile Corps. As such, it's not strictly a cavalry piece, as this formation included motorized units during most of its existence. Hungary fielded an excellent cavalry division in 1944 and 1945, though I doubt it truly rates two combat factors.

Great Pacific War introduced the concept of "divisions," and if we'd put them in Third Reich I'd have been tempted to make the Hungarian CAV a 1-4 division.

Romania

Romania had six very good cavalry divisions, initially called brigades. I gave them a 2-4 CAV, the same as Hungary, and have had second thoughts about that. The downloadable sheet includes a second 2-4 CAV. Add this to Romania's At Start forces in all scenarios. That should help redress the balance when aggressive Soviet players try to knock off King Carol.

China

In Great Pacific War, neither Chinese faction has any cavalry. The Nationalists didn't mobilize horsemen on a huge scale, but the Communist forces had at least 11 cavalry divisions. Mao Tse-tung/Zedong himself spoke highly in favor of cavalry, and we can't go against the Chairman. Add the two 1-3 CAV units from the sheet to Communist At Start forces in all scenarios.

 

Bulgaria

The Royal Bulgarian Army included two "fast" divisions combining cavalry with motorized and tank units. They saw no service outside Bulgaria until the kingdom threw off the Nazi yoke and joined the anti-fascist crusade. Bulgaria might be slightly under-valued in military terms, so add the 1-4 CAV from the variant sheet to Bulgaria's At Start forces in all scenarios.