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Subject: Generic Unit Stats rss

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Matteo Harris
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I've been thinking recently about how in most wargames, certainly most published (rather than pnp) wargames, two seemingly identical infantry divisions for example can have different sometimes vastly different stats. How do designers decide which units were superior to others? Do they base on how historically successful the unit was?

And if this is the case, surely historically how effective the unit was really depends on how it was deployed and used, the conditions it fought in , and whether and how well it was supplied, rather than an inherent superiority.

I understand having different stats for tactical level games like ASL, but historically are varied unit stats accurate at division level for example?

At what scale would you say generic stats for one type of unit (armour, mechanized, infantry etc) is superior to varied stats, if at any scale?
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Steven Mitchell
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Cazzer505 wrote:
I've been thinking recently about how in most wargames, certainly most published (rather than pnp) wargames, two seemingly identical infantry divisions for example can have different sometimes vastly different stats. How do designers decide which units were superior to others? Do they base on how historically successful the unit was?


It will depend on the designer, of course, but in some cases it's simple math and statistics, based not on performance necessarily but based on the actual differences in TO&E: 'so-and-so division had 75% of the men and 80% of the tanks at the start of this campaign than did such-and-such.' Or 'this division was composed mostly of Panzer IVs while that other one was one of the few to have received Vs by this point.' That sort of thing.
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Ron A
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patton1138 wrote:
...but in some cases it's simple math and statistics, based not on performance necessarily but based on the actual differences in TO&E...


Exactly. You look at the 101st Airborne at the Battle of the Bulge. When it drove into combat, it had its own paratroop/glider troops only, but surrounded in Bastogne, there were also elements of two armor division Combat Commands, a tank destroyer battalion, a couple of extra artillery battalions and IIRC some extra AAA elements. At that point in the battle, a 101st 'counter' would be much different than an 82nd Airborne 'counter' if you were modelling at a divisional level.

Happened at higher levels, too. My dad was in the 13th Corps, which consisted of 2 infantry divisions. Right after the German attack, the other division was split off to 12th Army, so now the 13th Corps had half the combat strength it had a day earlier. You can't just say, 'oh these 2 units are the same type (company, battalion, regiment, etc), they should have the same combat value.'
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Carl Fung
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Cazzer505 wrote:
I've been thinking recently about how in most wargames, certainly most published (rather than pnp) wargames, two seemingly identical infantry divisions for example can have different sometimes vastly different stats. How do designers decide which units were superior to others? Do they base on how historically successful the unit was?

And if this is the case, surely historically how effective the unit was really depends on how it was deployed and used, the conditions it fought in , and whether and how well it was supplied, rather than an inherent superiority.

I understand having different stats for tactical level games like ASL, but historically are varied unit stats accurate at division level for example?

At what scale would you say generic stats for one type of unit (armour, mechanized, infantry etc) is superior to varied stats, if at any scale?


These questions have such a wide ranging response. I'll limit my response to 20th century conflicts in wargames as trying to have an answer ranging from ancient to modern is more of a dissertation.

Let me start with the last question: generic units are ideal and what scale. I say at corps and army level (and possibly divisional) strategic scale that covers a long period of time. The reason for this is because corps and armies are flexible military organizations that can contain any number of divisions or other subunits in a given period of time so trying to model any sort of historical composition is ludicrous. I even hate strategic games that have panzer armies automatically stronger than infantry armies. This may be true in 1939-1941, but there's plenty of examples in late war where panzer armies just contained infantry divisions (e.g. 2nd Panzer Army in Hungary in 1944-1945). Trying to model any historic composition or performance for a game covering a long period (say Eastern Front from 1941-1945 or the entire war from 1939-1945) could unrealistically overpower some units when they should be averaged out more.

That said, unit values should reflect historical performance but only if the differences make a difference for the period of time it covers. For example, let's take the US 90th Infantry Division. It's initial performance in Normandy wasn't great, many of its commanders were replaced and it received a bad reputation. However, by the time the division was fighting on the borders of Germany, it was a veteran division and on par with the well trained and disciplined divisions. A game just on Normandy could just model the 90th Division's poor performance since it doesn't have to worry about it improving outside the game's timeframe. A game on the entire Northwest campaign from Normandy to Germany may have to decide it if want to give it a bad rating for its early performance, a good performance for its latter performance, or an average one. Or a designer may not care and just make all infantry divisions the same and generic either by design or lack of research. Alternatively, designers may have a special interest in the unit (my grandfather fought for them!) or pet peeve against them and hence color their rating that way.
 
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Matteo Harris
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Ok that does make sense! But would you guys ever play a game that used generic unit types, if the rest of the game works well?
Or is that sacrificing too much of the games historical accuracy and immersion?
 
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Eddy Sterckx
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Cazzer505 wrote:
Ok that does make sense! But would you guys ever play a game that used generic unit types, if the rest of the game works well?
Or is that sacrificing too much of the games historical accuracy and immersion?


One game that used pretty generic unit types was Rise and Decline of the Third Reich, for an example at the other end of the spectrum : the original Squad Leader - both games are highly regarded, immersive and no less historically correct than games of the same ilk with non-generic units
 
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Tony Doran
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Cazzer505 wrote:
Ok that does make sense! But would you guys ever play a game that used generic unit types, if the rest of the game works well?
Or is that sacrificing too much of the games historical accuracy and immersion?


Sure. Most of the strategic theater games use fairly generic unit types, which works okay because of the scale. Games like World in Flames, European Theater of Operations, Axis Empires, and the various iterations of Third Reich all do this. And both the immersion value and the accuracy imo do not suffer.
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Michael Tan
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Cazzer505 wrote:
Ok that does make sense! But would you guys ever play a game that used generic unit types, if the rest of the game works well?
Or is that sacrificing too much of the games historical accuracy and immersion?


It totally depends on the scale. An operational level game really ought to avoid generic units if it's also supposed to be historical. We usually have enough information in published orders of battles to justify the differentiation. Whereas I believe generic units are wholly justified for the grand strategic scale. At the corps or army level, they are just organizational names and rarely told you much about the size, composition, or quality of the units...
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Michael Tan
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narodynot wrote:
Cazzer505 wrote:
Ok that does make sense! But would you guys ever play a game that used generic unit types, if the rest of the game works well?
Or is that sacrificing too much of the games historical accuracy and immersion?


Sure. Most of the strategic theater games use fairly generic unit types, which works okay because of the scale. Games like World in Flames, European Theater of Operations, Axis Empires, and the various iterations of Third Reich all do this. And both the immersion value and the accuracy imo do not suffer.


Exactly, the German 6th Army was huge in 1942 because it had so many additional assets attached to it. But as the player, I'm supposed to be the one deciding how those assets get distributed, so it seems silly to "hard code" the 6th Army as being bigger and better than other field armies as I've seen a few games do. So generic units are perfectly fine at that scale.
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