Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Victory Conditions Are Stupid

I’ve been thinking about scenario design lately. I always struggle when it comes to establishing victory conditions for each side. It just doesn’t feel right to me for each side to know that “we have to do exactly X” to win.

After working through the victory condition issue in my head, I think I’m ready to write out what I’ve come up with.

Victory Conditions are stupid.

There. I said it.

Of course, I am posting this all based on game play for battles, not skirmishes, using some sort of army morale clock that effectively runs out and forces an army to quit the field when it has suffered enough damage. Field of Battle has armies start with a randomly determined number of Army Morale Points based on the size of the army. Army Morale Points are lost for each Unit Integrity lost in the army. Simple, really – once an Army is down to 0 Army Morale Points, the tests start to see if the army quits the battle (either in small pieces or one big chunk).

Victory Conditions are stupid.

Here are my three main reasons I think VCAS (Victory Conditions Are Stupid):

Victory Conditions provide each side with a knowledge of the important location or achievement in a battle that actual participants wouldn’t have had. Did Hood know that Devil’s Den was worth 1 VP and that Little Round Top was worth 5 VP? No! Generals observed the terrain, listened to reports from scouts, and planned their actions accordingly. They knew (generally) where the enemy was, and their job was to lever them out of there, and damage them as much as possible so that they weren’t a threat to apply strategic pressure. In essence, their job was to drain the enemy’s morale point pool and make them quit. They didn’t worry about things like “if we take that road intersection, we get 3 VPs”. No – they targeted that road intersection because it might put the enemy force in an untenable position, forcing them to attack in order to keep their line of retreat/communications open. Take the hill or ridge to get 4 VPs? No – take the hill/ridge because it was a tactically commanding position and the best piece of ground to control the battle and damage the enemy.

Victory Points are vital to boardgames. Boardgames are typically focused on a single battle, and must be replayable and interesting – no matter how many times you play exactly the same battle. They purport to be a recreation of an historical action – using hindsight to emphasize what the important achievements of the actual battle were (after the fact) and making those objectives for the course of the game. Wouldn’t you like to know that if you did exactly A, followed by B, followed by M and then W, you would have a successful day tomorrow? Unfortunately, real life, and the battlefield environment, isn’t nearly so predictable. To me, it smacks of chess and checkers. Do exactly THIS, and you win. In effect, the game is set up to make the game flow in generally the same sequence of events as the real event.

The idea of having very specific goals to achieve in a battle seems to be out of scale for a battle – it just seems to be more of a skirmish focused mentality. The Lt. in charge of a platoon knows that his small, closely focused and identified task from his immediate commander is to take that building, or clear that block by noon, or hold that bridge until relieved tomorrow afternoon. I don’t think those types of specific (skirmish level) goals fit in a game that is attempting to represent a battle. See my thoughts above – I just think these types of items are far below a General’s attention. He’s worried about a multitude of items – it’s a junior officer’s job to make sure that bridge is held. He orders the army forward, emphasizing a flank attack, a delay, etc. The smaller achievements and lower level goals are lost to the macro level of achievement at the army command level.

VCAS. Now that I have that off my chest, I’ll see if I can write up the Rule of Twelve.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hagelberg Part III

Continuing the battle report:

Prussians close on the French right flank

French cavalry charges...note the losses...the cavalry didn't stick around for long

Will they make it??

French artillery faces the Prussian cavalry...the first of three separate charges

The Prussian Landwehr drives off the cavalry and moves forward

Carnage on the hill.  Only 1 battery remains

End of the fight on the right flank.  Not much remains of the French right...

The battle draws to a close with one remaining battery on the hill staring down one surviving Prussian cavalry regiment.  (Genl. Caudill has since reminded me that "All Prussian cavalry units were on the field in good order at the close of the game.  It portends a troublesome withdrawal of the French rearguard".

The battle ended with a minor Prussian victory.  Overall, it mirrored the historical battle, but not quite as significant victory for the Prussians as in the real battle.  Of course, my error in rating all the Prussians as Raw D4 defense die units had something to do with that!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hagelberg Part II

Continuing the account of our battle of Hagelberg:

French light cavalry spur to the assault (Sash and Saber figures)

French infantry face the Prussians on the French right flank

French cavalry commander

Prussians step out of the woods on the French right flank

Meanwhile, French infantry press the Prussians on the French left flank.  Genl. Mumby WANTS those woods!

The French are pushed back!!

Prussian cavalry charge the guns on the Class I hill in the center

The fight is joined on the French right flank

More to come in Part III.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Battle of Hagelberg, 1813

We played a Napoleonic game of Field of Battle last night - based on the battle of Hagelberg in 1813 between essentially a Prussian Landwehr division and a conscript French division.  I've never played a game with more bad (D4 Defense Die!) troops on the table.  It made for a very interesting game.  In the actual battle the Prussians soundly defeated the French.  Would the same hold true for our game?

Players were Chris Caudill and Greg Rold commanding the Prussians, with John Mumby and yours truly handling the French.

The Prussians had 12 infantry battalions (9 Landwehr and 3 Regular....or at least they were supposed to be Regular.  Turns out I screwed up when I rated them and the Prussians had all 12 units with D4 Defence dice!), 3 cavalry regiments, and 2 artillery batteries.  This was the debut of this portion of my newly based and finished Prussian army.

The French had 9 infantry battalions (5 regular and 4 Raw), 2 cavalry regiments (the studs on the table - 12+1 Combat Die for both!!), and 3 artillery batteries.

I'll use my usual photo report to follow the action....

French deployment - artillery on the central hill with infantry in support.  Prussian right wing lurks in the Class II woods at the top right of the photo.

Prussian left lurking in the woods on the opposite flank.  Lots of Prussians lurking....twittering away like woodland creatures in the trees...

Genl. Mumby's French on the French left roll for a triple move and close into the woods...clearing the tip of the woods and pushing the Prussians back.  You can see one of the intimidating 10/4 infantry units following up into the woods.

The lead French command group is heavily engaged in the woods (right of the photo) while the reserve French command group stays....in reserve.

Meanwhile, the French (go Brent go!) face to confront the Prussian swarm in the woods.  Note the two French 12+1 cavalry units, led by a 12+1 officer.   That's my kind of cavalry!

Genl. Mumby's assault on the woods surges forward.  Genl. Mumby will do anything to get into the woods.

Prussian Landwehr facing the French on the French right flank.  Genl. Caudill ponders how to destroy my French command.

More Prussian Landwehr

More photos to follow as the game continues.  I'll try to post more tomorrow.