Pounding dirt in the Falklands

“Where There Is Discord” obviously focuses on the naval and air activities of the British campaign in the South Atlantic, but the efforts of the men who eventually took and held the ground are not entirely over-looked. The game’s victory conditions are based on how many landing zones the player holds by the end of the game – but what happens ashore represents much more than simply securing a coastal enclave.

The game concludes after 28 turns – May 28 in ‘game time’. Anyone with passing knowledge of the campaign knows that the fighting on land was just getting started by that date (the battle for Goose Green stretched across May 28-29). So what’s going on with all of the onshore fireworks in WTID?

Beginning with the May 21 turn (this date historically chosen for the start of landing operations, “Operation Sutton”), Argentine ground combat units begin showing up to contest the San Carlos landing boxes. While this puts a lot of time pressure on the player, it’s obviously a kludge. Argentine land forces on the Falklands had absolutely no intention of trying to contest the landing zones in any way. They lacked both the initiative and, more importantly, the transport needed to move out of their defensive positions.

What you get in the last 8-10 turns of play is, simply, a game artiface created to force the player into choices about the risks of keeping naval and air assets operating in San Carlos during the greatest period of Argentine air activity. You can’t just dump your well-trained ground troops ashore and scuttle back to the relative safety of the Task Force. You have to keep warships, troops ships and landing ships at risk in the confines of San Carlos Water in order to give your ground forces the best chance of success.

Men of 40 Commando hoist the flag in Port Howard.

The warships provide both air defense (although limited) and naval gunfire support to the troops ashore. The unarmed troop and landing ships are needed to get troops ashore in the first place.

The game system forces the issue by deploying Argentine troops to threaten the success of the ground campaign. While a seriously contested landing was, in hindsight, a historical impossibility, no player in his right mind wants to face such a prospect when he can avoid it. So you’re pressured to begin landing troops as early as possible. This forces the Argentine units, when they arrive, into the much more risky “counter-attack” posture.

In a way, WTID compresses the entire campaign into its 28 turns. One of the Event cards, for example, gives you the option of staging a side operation in order to recapture South Georgia island. South Georgia was recaptured on April 25 – a week before the game starts – but there you have it. Also note that the game’s order of battle includes the Argentine Type 209 submarine Santa Fe, which was shot up by a helicopter and forced aground during the South Georgia operation.

So it’s no surprise that the ground fighting is squeezed into the 28 turns as well. When I first climbed into the game I’ll admit to a brief “WTF?” moment concerning the action ashore, but that was quickly overcome as I began to appreciate the designer’s attempt to capture the essence of the entire campaign in a time-limited game.

As the player, you get to skip a bit. There’s none of the famous ‘yomp’ across the island. You don’t have to wrestle with the supply problems triggered when most of the heavy lift helicopters were lost along with MV Atlantic Conveyor. You don’t even really have to ‘plan’ much in the way of a ground campaign.

But in order for the overall campaign to succeed, the Task Force has to do much more than simply put boots on the ground. They have to go all-out to support the Paras, Royal Marines and Guardsmen on the island or the entire effort is very likely to end in failure.

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