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Video Game / Flashpoint Campaigns

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"Well, they called it the ‘Thirty-Day War’ but in reality it lasted barely seven. That first week was plenty hot though; I saw units cease to exist in 48 hours—they just melted away and no one knew what was going on. It seemed to be worse on the other side."

Flashpoint Campaigns is a series of turn-based tactics wargames developed by On Target Simulations and published by Matrix Games.

The series' predecessors were the computer-assisted wargames Main Battle Tank: Central Germany (1989) and Main Battle Tank: North Germany (1990), developed by Simulations Canada (SimCan). In 2001, Matrix Games acquired the rights to the games and contacted one of the former SimCan programmers to develop a spiritual successor to Main Battle Tank. The new team was also known as SimCan before renaming itself to On Target Simulations in 2008.

The current series starts with Flashpoint Germany (2005), which covered a Cold War gone hot scenario in 1989. Its sequel Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm (2013) introduced a new hex-based map and a new game engine. The scenario pack Germany Reforged (2015) ported Flashpoint Germany scenarios into the Red Storm engine. Currently, Flashpoint Campaigns: Southern Storm is set to release sometime in 2022, retaining the same Cold War setting but shifting the battlefield to southern Germany. There are plans for future titles covering the Middle East, Northern Germany, and other eras of warfare.

You command a battalion or brigade-sized force. Turns play out simultaneously, meaning that both sides' orders will be processed and executed at the same time. There is an orders phase, where both sides issue orders and plan goals. In the resolution phase, AI subordinates execute the orders to the best of their abilities.

Flashpoint Campaigns is unique for modeling the challenges of battle command. The turns are asymmetrical, because the amount of game time making up a turn may differ for both sides. A well-trained and compact NATO force might issue orders every ten minutes, while a Soviet reservist commander might wait over twenty minutes before he can give new orders. The time between orders is also dynamic and will change as a scenario progresses. Units may be worn out, reinforcements may arrive or headquarters may be lost. Forces will also take time to process orders before carrying them out. This makes proper timing and attack synchronization an important skill.

The same factors encourage pre-battle planning, while also requiring the player to remain flexible to meet changing battlefield situations. This also incentivizes the player to "think ahead" and predict the flow of battle with incomplete information. At the time same, giving out too many orders can allow enemy radio interception to detect your HQ's location, leading to an inevitable air or artillery strike to cripple your command.

This game series features examples of the following tropes:

  • Alternate History:
    • Flashpoint Germany: In May 1989, the Warsaw Pact commences Operation Mercury against NATO in a daring plan to penetrate as deeply into the West German rear, cross the Rhine by day 15, and head south until the West Germans were ready to discuss terms.
    • Red Storm: A series of East-West tensions during the late 1980s convinces the Soviets to invade West Germany in Operation Red Storm to preserve the Eastern Bloc.
  • Anti-Air: Both NATO and Warsaw Pact forces are liberally equipped with air defense weapons, from the M163 Vulcan Air Defense System to the 2S6 Tunguska gun-and-missile vehicle. There are also various SAMs like the SA-6 Gainful and SA-8 Gecko.
  • Bottomless Magazines: Averted. Most units can fire off everything they carry in 10 minutes or less. This militates against high-volume low-payoff exchanges.
  • The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: Averted. The AI plans with the same visibility and information limitations as the player.
  • Garrisonable Structures: Infantry can occupy urban hexes to provide additional protection from direct fire and artillery.
  • Death from Above: Artillery is extremely effective against stubborn defenders and tanks. Even if they don't cause casualties, the shelling will gradually reduce the affected units' fighting ability.
  • Death Is a Slap on the Wrist: Combat losses aren't always considered to be a tank blown apart or an infantry squad wiped out to a man. Losses can include minor vehicle damage that renders it mission ineffective and small casualties has a squad combat ineffective. In campaigns, players between scenarios can refit and replace losses.
  • Deadly Gas: Chemical munitions are available in both persistent and non-persistent varieties. Units caught in a chemical attack can suffer losses and also take a large loss of readiness (getting into MOPP suits) and morale. Contaminated units will fight less effectively because they are assumed to be wearing their protective suits.
  • Delaying Action: Another common NATO mission alongside Hold the Line. This is more challenging because the player has to predict when to fall back due to orders delays. A notable example is the U.S. scenario A Time to Dance, where an armored cavalry squadron has to delay a Soviet tank regiment for 9 hours.
  • Easy Logistics: While players are not responsible for mechanical maintenance and fuel, they do have to check on their forces' ammunition levels. Fortunately, any unit running out of ammo can be ordered to a resupply posture or even receive emergency supplies in some firefights.
  • Fog of War: While the entire map is visible, the player can only see what his units see. The original MBT games took this further by having the player rely entirely on his radio reports, which could be jammed, delayed, or just plain inaccurate!
  • Fragile Speedster: Attack helicopters have the best speed of all units, but they can't take much punishment. This vulnerability encourages them be positioned where they can maximize the use of their long-range missiles.
  • Friend or Foe?: Given the delay between request and delivery for artillery and air strikes, it is possible to catch friendly troops in the danger zone if the player is reckless.
  • Geo Effects: Woods, swamps, and urban areas will provide bonuses in concealment and cover. They will also hinder rapid movement if there is no road going through them.
  • Glass Cannon: Played straight with the antitank missile carriers and attack helicopters. Digging in the former will provide them with some more protection again direct fire.
  • Hold the Line: This is a frequent task in many of the NATO scenarios, where you have to hold a river line or set of objectives against a Soviet attack. In the scenario Thor's Hammer, a British brigade holds the last NATO defensive line in the north before Soviet troops can cross into the Netherlands.
  • Impeded Messenger: Orders take time to transmit, absorb, and implement. Some are fast and some will take time. For many orders there is a preparation time before the order can commence and then a time period during which the order is executed. It can take five to ten minutes for a unit to execute new orders.
  • In-Universe Game Clock: There are two effects that occur depending on the time. Visibility will differ in day or night. At dawn or dusk, thermal inversion of surface temperatures will degrade thermal sights and optically-guided weapons.
  • Lightning Bruiser: The Soviet T-80U tank combines speed with excellent armor and firepower. They're a challenge to kill for NATO antitank platforms.
  • Mighty Glacier: British main battle tanks fall into this category, being slow but well armored and sporting a good 120mm main gun. These features make the tanks most suitable for set-piece defensive battles.
  • More Dakka: Practically a requirement for NATO forces to whittle down attacking Soviet troops. Soviet tanks and infantry will also eat up anything they shoot at rather quickly. It's also deconstructed as excessive firing will quickly deplete unit ammuniion reserves.
  • Nuclear Option: Some scenarios have usable tactical nuclear weapons, but the player will pay a penalty in victory points for employing them.
  • One-Hit Kill: At close (less than 1000 meters) range, tank battles will often turn into mutually destructive shootouts. Vehicles with only light armor will usually die quickly when shot at by tanks or antitank missiles.
  • Protection Mission: The scenario Delay at Lauterbach has the U.S. player protecting a broken-down Lance nuclear missile launcher until incoming maintenance units repair it.
  • Radio Silence: It is generally a good idea to keep issuing orders to a minimum, as they add up to the player's radio traffic level. Excessive radio use can reveal the HQ's location to the enemy. Then he can drop shells on your command post.
  • Smoke Out: Armored vehicles have their own smoke dischargers, and artillery can deliver smoke munitions. They are essential for retreating or covering an attack. Southern Storm will have bispectral thermal-blocking smoke as an option.
  • Spiritual Successor: To the now-obscure Main Battle Tank: Central Germany and Main Battle Tank: North Germany.
  • Straight for the Commander: A common tactic is to target the enemy's headquarters units. Their radio activity is occasionally detected by your electronic intercept assets. The computer will automatically send the information to your guns for a high-priority fire mission. You also share this vulnerability, and having the commander and staff killed in a strike will incur an increased command cycle penalty, among other effects.
  • Support Power: Players will frequently have access to off-map artillery and aircraft.
  • Tank Goodness: Main battle tanks have the best mobility, and good protection and firepower. However, they can be fragile if ambushed by antitank units and losing them costs many victory points.
  • Urban Warfare: Infantry garrisoned in urban hexes are extremely difficult to root out, even with artillery.
  • Weather of War: Weather plays a big role in visibility and weapons performance. Rain will degrade thermal imagers and reduce accuracy on optically-guided weapons. It and fog will also reduce normal visibility down to as much as 500 meters. Weather can also prevent non-all weather aircraft from flying sorties.
  • World War III: The premise of the series.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: A major game mechanic is the "command cycle" that governs how frequently either side can issue new orders. A commander with a short cycle can react to battlefield situations and redirect his forces faster than an opponent with a longer one.
  • Zerg Rush: A Soviet attack will often look like this from the NATO perspective, although it can be tough to fire back without being spotted and plastered by supporting artillery.