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In 1985, I was working with Tom Clancy on the military thriller Red Storm Rising, although we hadn’t settled on that title yet. The novel depicted what was called in the 1980s the “Central Front scenario,” a massive, all-out invasion by the Soviets and Warsaw Pact countries against NATO, with the goal of destroying NATO politically and militarily, as well as occupying as much of Europe as possible.
While the book’s storyline had been roughed out, the high point of the first act was supposed to be a regimental-sized Backfire strike on a NATO carrier battle group. This was something the Soviets talked about a lot, and NATO worried about just as much.
What would it be like? Not just the “whoosh” and “boom” of the missiles, but how would the attack develop? What tactics would each side use, given that the basic method was so obvious?
Tom and I decided that the best way to explore the possibilities was by using Harpoon to game out an attack. This was not how “Dance of the Vampires” was written. We already knew how the chapter had to end. What we were seeking was a better understanding of what factors drove each side’s thinking. When all those untried systems were pitted against each other, how would they interact? Was Aegis good enough? Was an ASM salvo of this size simply unstoppable?
We played the scenario out three times, in games titled Vampire I, II, and III. The participants included not only Tom Clancy, but a fascinating mix of gaming friends familiar with the Harpoon game system, and professionals, both civilian analysts and current and former service members. I couldn’t have asked for a better group of players.
We took this very seriously, setting up staffs on each side with defined responsibilities, wrote standing orders, and did our best to record the action for further study. We all realized that this was ambitious, but wanted to do our best to make the battle as authentic as possible.
Each of the three games had a different outcome, which only reinforces the warnings about using wargames to predict outcomes or validate concepts.
After each game, I collected all notes and orders and attempted to put them in useful form, to help us remember and to understand both the battle and the way it was modeled. After describing the scenario and the forces involved, a narrative describes events during the battle on a timeline. Sections after that discuss the player’s tactics, errors by the referee, changes or inaccuracies in the information on the weapons and platforms, and a list of recommendations for the next game.
The original writeup for the games were written in MacWord with the illustrations done in MacPaint. They were printed on an ImageWriter dot-matrix printer. At some point after that, the original 3 1/2 in floppy disk files became corrupted, so in 19?? a .pdf was created by scanning a hard copy of each document for electronic distribution. While they could be distributed electronically, they were still hard to read, and could not be searched. This electronic edition was designed to create a clean copy that would better preserve the information we had spent so much time creating.
The first edition of Dance of the Vampires was offered as a free premium to celebrate Clash of Arm’s debut on The Wargame Vault. This second edition includes the updated Dance of the Vampires scenario that appeared in The Naval SITREP Issue #34 (October 2008), along with further updated statistics for the ships, aircraft and systems used. It also includes two additional SITREP articles, one on Russian antiship missile guidance in detail, and another describing an improved method of managing air-to-air refueling.
I’ve also included, for the first time anywhere, an incomplete (couldn’t find the map) writeup of the Keflavik Turkey Shoot, the scenario that convinced me that Tom’s idea of having the Soviets invade Iceland in Red Storm Rising, however improbable, was necessary.