Home Forums General Game Design "Putting Your Tactical Cart Before The Historical Horse"

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  • #36488
    War PandaWar Panda
    Participant

    As a historical gaming community we often speak of historical accuracy or realistic mechanics in our games. Some folks pride themselves on the standard of authenticity that is apparent in real tactics rewarded etc.

    I’ve been running a WWII PBeM with two TMPers and its been a lot of fun (for me at least). The game is basically a Platoon plus support skirmish game of the excellent TFL’s Chain of Command WWII (using a campaign of their own.)

    I was really interested how the system would work with this unusual dynamic and I have to say its actually been amazingly enjoyable to watch played out.

    For those not familiar with the game:

    It has an activation process that is based on certain die values allow certain unit types or leaders to activate ie a roll of a 1 allows a weapons team to activate while a single roll of 3 would enable a NCO to activate his squad or section etc. Each force is allowed a certain amount of these activation dice each phase and so the player must decide which units to allocate these dice.

    Now I love these rules. They have given me some of the best “feelings” of something historically authentic taking place.

    An Example of “real” tactics being rewarded would be
    just before Christmas late last year when I had a pal over. He had played various wargames in the past and was looking forward to trying out this game that I had praised so highly.

    Since the guy’s busy life doesn’t allow him to play a lot of games and he was determined to be the American Airborne attacker I decided (unknown to him)to give him some extra advantages over what the scenario recommended (higher morale/troop quality, extra support etc) I wanted him to do well and to give me a challenging game

    So as he advanced his troops he began to get a little frustrated that his deployed troops didn’t have a lot of targets. (in fact he had none)

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    US advancing through the town with no enemy in sight

    My tactic of course was to delay deployment and not commit my force too early as he had a big advantage in firepower (he had 2 Sherman’s and 2 bazooka’s available while I had a single Stug and a couple of single shot Panzerfausts.

    He also would need to pass through a relatively coverless plaza where I thought I would have a larger amount of firepower to bring down of him with wide fire lanes rather than entering into a firefight in some narrow protective alley

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    Narrow Streets providing cover

    So as the US Sherman slowly moved forward scanning for non-existent targets I received an amazing roll of 3×3’s and 2×6’s that meant I would have two phases in a row while in my first deploying my Stug and immediately fire on the Sherman while simultaneously deploying 2 of my infantry squads bringing fire on the enemy and being guaranteed the next phase

    So I launched into this surprise attack

    picture
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    By the end of my 2 phases the leading Sherman lay in the middle of the street as a burning wreck and a US squad was routed. My proud smug look probably guaranteeing never to see my friend again 🙂

    Now this very rewarding moment was the result of sound military tactics or a nice mix of pure luck and gamesy know-how!

    This feeling has been highlighted with my recent Play By Email Games.

    First I need to give you an idea of how we’re playing it: So the players are giving very general list of orders and plus provisional orders and the priority of those orders.
    It’s my role to fit those orders with the actual dice rolled.

    The players have no idea where their enemies JOP’s are (they will once this AAR is posted) nor where the enemy is unless they are in clear line of sight or if they have opened fire and even then they don’t know what size or quality the enemy is.
    How those actual military orders and provisional orders are interpreted, implemented and executed by the rules are at times pretty cool. But the important aspect is that the players are giving orders as commanders making tactical plans; not dictated to by the roll of a die.

    Again I’d use an example from the PBeM game:

    British squad taking cover behind a burnt out halftrack are under fire from a MG42 in a farmhouse window above.

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    Due to a combination of some bad rolls and some covering fire from the British Bren the MG42 cannot be activate.
    The British rifle team are ordered to move across the road.

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    They make it across. Now unknown to the British player the German player receives 3 phases in a row. He’s able to unpin his troops move them to the window set overwatch, deploy another squad and set them in overwatch. The hapless British player then gives orders to the squad to move around the building.

    picture

    And are absolutely massacred

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    Now there’s no way the British player would have moved into that situation if he’s seen the die rolls of the German player

    Chain of Command is one of the most excellent and realistic “feeling” systems I’ve played. But I’ve never seen anything like this realism until I’ve played with two commanders who are “blind” as “blind” as there true real life counterparts.
    Is this kind of “Fog of War” available without an umpire?
    Are we all kidding ourselves that any rule system can truly simulate anything resembling real warfare?

    “The great Gaels of Ireland are the men that God made mad,
    For all their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad.”

    #36491
    Lagartija MikeLagartija Mike
    Spectator

    We’re kidding ourselves. The experience of war, like any other experience, contains so many variables, contingencies, so much immense detail each atom of which can explode from insignificance to decisive importance in a blink, that any attempt to simulate it automatically fails. What the game can provide, though, is a kind of theater, costumed as war, that provides a number of vicarious satisfactions. It’s toys. Toys are powerful objects, but more of suggestion than mimesis.

     

    Except for Bella Horrida Bella, which models reality perfectly. ROLL UP! ROLL UP!

    #36492
    McLaddieMcLaddie
    Participant

    We’re kidding ourselves. The experience of war, like any other experience, contains so many variables, contingencies, so much immense detail each atom of which can explode from insignificance to decisive importance in a blink, that any attempt to simulate it automatically fails.

    Mike:

    That is only true if you try and simulate everything, every little atom.  The whole point of a simulation is to avoid having to ‘include it all’, and at times the purpose of which is to identify atoms that have more chance of exploding than others.  “The the want of a nail…” is true, but how often are nails lost with some significance?  It that sense, simulations are neither suggestions nor mimesis…at least the general definition.

     

     

    #36493
    Steve Johnson
    Participant

    “Is this kind of “Fog of War” available without an umpire?”

    Not in my experience. Even using blinds you still have an idea where most of the enemy are/maybe and can manouevre accordingly.

    “Are we all kidding ourselves that any rule system can truly simulate anything resembling real warfare?”

    We are kidding ourselves.

    #36494
    McLaddieMcLaddie
    Participant

    “Are we all kidding ourselves that any rule system can truly simulate anything resembling real warfare?”

    Anything?  That is painting with an extremely wide brush and is a statement that few if any military men would agree with.

    #36495
    MikeMike
    Keymaster

    Are we all kidding ourselves that any rule system can truly simulate anything resembling real warfare?

    What aspect?
    The aspect of giving orders, yeah possibly.

    The aspect of fearing for your life?
    Nope.

    #36496
    MikeMike
    Keymaster

    Ace photo’s BTW

    #36505
    MartinRMartinR
    Participant

    Tactical warfare is one of the very hardest things to simulate as there is so much chaos, randomness and human stress response. Even soldiers who have actually done it often can’t remember what happened, why, how or to who.

    Once you get to battalions and above, it is just number crunching – force ratios, advance rates, postures, loss rates, firepower indices etc. Much more predictable, and easier model.

    "Mistakes in the initial deployment cannot be rectified" - Helmuth von Moltke

    #36617
    Robey JenkinsRobey Jenkins
    Participant

    There is a significant difference between trying to model actual tactical experience and writing a game. Actual combat is mostly quite dull, tactically speaking. You don’t get into a fight with superior forces of you can help it. And ideally, you didn’t worth overwhelming superiority from the start. I was actually taught not to initiate any contact without a minimum 3:1 advantage.

     

    Meanwhile,a game is supposed to be fun!

     

    The art of writing a war game is to strike the balance between having a game that is fun for both players, whilst also giving an impression of tactics.

     

    Anything else might not be “fooling ourselves” but c certainly isn’t my definition of a good time.

    #36638
    McLaddieMcLaddie
    Participant

    Tactical warfare is one of the very hardest things to simulate as there is so much chaos, randomness and human stress response. Even soldiers who have actually done it often can’t remember what happened, why, how or to who.

    I can imagine.  So the question is what–and how much–can be represented well with  a wargame. Or rather the question is what small part of reality the designer chose to capture and what huge part he didn’t. There are a number of things that CoC does well, even to modeling the chaos, randomness and stress of combat. All of it? Not by a long shot, but certainly some of it, particular points very well.  And I am glad that wargames don’t model everything.

    #36639
    McLaddieMcLaddie
    Participant

    There is a significant difference between trying to model actual tactical experience and writing a game.

    Is there? Around 1824 Prussian officer von Riesswitz tried to do the latter as a training platform. Many of the mainstays we see in our games like combat charts, dice and measuring sticks–among other things–were first used in his wargame.  He writes that he was surprised to find that the officers found his Kriegspiel “entertaining.”  The amount of trading designs back-and-forth between the Military and the wargame hobby over the last fifty years suggests that the differences, while real, may not be that significant… depending on the design and why you are playing it.

     

    Meanwhile,a game is supposed to be fun!

    Absolutely. I can’t imagine anyone arguing with that.  And wargames offer that in many different flavors rather than just vanilla.

    The art of writing a war game is to strike the balance between having a game that is fun for both players, whilst also giving an impression of tactics.

    Personally, I’d question whether there is a some ‘balance’ between a dichotomy of ‘fun’ and that ‘impression of tactics.’  Certainly those playing Kriegspiel today don’t see it.  Using historical tactics can’t be fun?  Or are historical wargames more fun without having to ‘balance’  them [i.e. reduce the fun]  with the ‘impression of tactics?’

    Richard Clarke does a great job describing how Chain of Command models small unit tactics employed during WWII.  It is more than a simple impression, it represents a convincing set of game dynamics.

    http://toofatlardies.co.uk/blog/?p=1742

    That is fun for a number of gamers, but not for everyone. There certainly are things that require that balance in a wargame design, but I question whether modeling historical tactics is the opposite of gaming fun requiring a designer to trim both for some ‘balance’.

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