Wargaming in the Woods

This is intended to just a place to occasionally post some thoughts or ideas about games (mostly wargames) that I have been playing in west central Michigan.

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The White Rook Project

Clifton Franklund
United States
Big Rapids
Michigan
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“Checkmate King 2, this is White Rook, over.” Just hearing this phrase transports me back, through nearly five decades now, to my childhood in western North Dakota. I grew up with a happy and carefree existence in the Midwest during some of the hottest moments of the cold war. I have vivid memories of seeing the enormous vertical stabilizers of B-52s that were parked inside the fences at the Minot Airforce Base as my family drove past. And I can remember watching missile crews being ferried out to silos near my town by helicopter in the wintertime. It is perhaps ironic, then, that while I was literally living in the midst of actual soldiers preparing for the possibility of a real war my conceptions of war and warriers were being formed by a fictional television series.

Combat! was a popular show in the 1960s that focused on the men of first squad, second platoon, K Company, 361st Infantry Regiment, 21st Division, IV Corps in Normandy France during the latter parts of World War II. I spent many hours watching the adventures of Sgt. Saunders and his squad of men (and many more hours recreating his battles with my friends as we ran around the neighborhood with our toy guns). I’m sure that there are thousands of people “of a certain age” that can tell similar stories of their youth. Sgt. Saunders always resonated with me (sort of the same way the Cpt. Kirk of Star Trek did) as a compassionate, yet bold, leader. Saunders didn’t associate with as many women, though. Lt. Hanley was always a bit more dispassionate and reminded me a little of Spock, and the parallels between Bones and Doc are obvious – both injected a tenderheartedness into the episodes they are featured in. When playing wargames (especially those at the soldier- or squad-level) I cannot help but insert these memories, ideas, and personalities from that show into the game’s narrative.

That is what first drew me to Ambush! in the 1980s. The soldiers in Ambush became Sgt. Saunders’ squad for me. Together we explored and conquered our little portion of Europe. Sadly, I have a pretty good memory. Once I played through the series, I found that it wasn’t as much fun anymore (the mystery had been removed from the story – I don’t re-read detective stories for the same reason). Sadly, I is also very difficult to create new scenarios for that game system too. And thus, I drifted off to other games and activities. So when I read Ross Mortell’s designer notes for Combat!, I was very excited and immediately bought a copy.

The game system for Combat! is fairly simple and extremely malleable. This is the ultimate sandbox, soldier-level, tactical, WWII wargame on the market today. I have found that I can easily create new maps, terrain, soldiers, orders, and scenarios and not break the system. This is, finally, the tool that I have always wanted. I can now attempt to recreate (and relive, in a way) the battles that I saw on television as a kid. In this, The White Rook Project, I plan to insert the members of Sgt. Saunder’s squad into Combat! I am currently working on ten scenarios based upon some of my favorite episodes of the series. We will then be able to attempt to match (or exceed) the exploits of Sgt. Saunders when faced with the Germans that Ross has cooked up. I will begin putting my work up here in my blog in a piecemeal fashion. I am not a big “maker” so I can’t promise a ton of polish. But I’m hoping that this might interest a few people that might provide some feedback. I’ve held back on this until now because I wanted to see how vehicles were going to figure in to the game system. Now that the release of Volume 2 is imminent, I figured that the time is right to get started. I will post the squad members’ counters and information about them in my next post. See you then.
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Fri Jan 14, 2022 9:02 pm
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Combat! LOS Quiz

Clifton Franklund
United States
Big Rapids
Michigan
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Instructions
How well do you know the LOS rules for Combat! Volume 1? Following are twenty different LOS situations wherein Sgt. Taylor is attempting to fire at Soldat Beck. Determine whether the LOS is CLEAR or BLOCKED for each case.


From gallery of WeeBeasties
CASE 1
Spoiler (click to reveal)
This LOS is  CLEAR .

Both Taylor and Beck are in cover at level 0. The terrain in their hexes (even though it is blocking terrain) does not affect LOS determination. All intervening hexes have a height of 0 (they are all open terrain). Since none of the hex heights are greater than zero, the LOS is clear.



From gallery of WeeBeasties
CASE 2
Spoiler (click to reveal)
This LOS is  BLOCKED .

Both Taylor and Beck are at level 0. Since their levels are the same, any intervening terrain with a height greater than zero will block the LOS. The wall running from hex 20.07 to 21.08 has a height of 1/2 (level zero plus size 1/2) and it blocks the possible shot.

Even if this building were two-story, the shot would be blocked due to a blind hex. (0 - 1/2)/(1 - 1/2) + 0 = 1 blind hex.



From gallery of WeeBeasties
CASE 3
Spoiler (click to reveal)
This LOS is  BLOCKED .

Both Taylor and Beck are at level 0. Since their levels are the same, any intervening terrain with a height greater than zero will block the LOS. The logs in hex 30.10 are low terrain. Since Beck has a Sneak command, we treat the logs as having a height of 1/2 (level zero + size 1/2) and they will block the LOS. If Beck had any order other than Sneak, Hide, Rally, or Reload, the LOS would be clear.



From gallery of WeeBeasties
CASE 4
Spoiler (click to reveal)
This LOS is  BLOCKED .

Both Beck and Taylor are at level 0 again, so the tree with a height of 1 blocks the LOS. Just grazing the tree illustration is enough to block LOS. If the line had entered the tree hex, but missed the depiction of the tree itself, the LOS would have been clear.



From gallery of WeeBeasties
CASE 5
Spoiler (click to reveal)
This LOS is  CLEAR .

Both Beck and Taylor are in depression hexes (stream hexes, actually). These have a size of -1/2. Because the LOS passes through contiguous depression hexes, the soldiers can see each other. The LOS would still be clear even if Sgt. Taylor was at level 0 firing down the column of stream hexes at Beck.



From gallery of WeeBeasties
CASE 6
Spoiler (click to reveal)
This LOS is  CLEAR .

Both Beck and Taylor are at level 0, so any intervening blocking terrain will disrupt LOS. Long grass is size 1/2 low terrain. Therefore, it will only block LOS if one or both of the soldiers have Sneak, Hide, Rally, or Reload orders. They do not, so the LOS is clear.



From gallery of WeeBeasties
CASE 7
Spoiler (click to reveal)
This LOS is  BLOCKED .

Beck is in a depression hex with a reload order. Therefore, he will only be visible if A) the LOS passes between multiple contiguous depression hexes (it does not), or B) Taylor is adjacent at level 0 or at level 1 ≤2 hexes away (he is not). Beck is hunkering down and is not visible here.



From gallery of WeeBeasties
CASE 8
Spoiler (click to reveal)
This LOS is  CLEAR .

Taylor is firing from level 3 at Beck, who is at level 0. The hill hex at 32.03 make an obstacle to LOS of height 1 which is 5 hexes away from Taylor. We can calculate the number of blind hexes as:
(1 - 0)/(3 - 1) + 0 = 1/2, which becomes zero. Since there are no blind hexes formed, Beck is visible to Taylor.



From gallery of WeeBeasties
CASE 9
Spoiler (click to reveal)
This LOS is  CLEAR .

Taylor is at level 3 and Beck is at level 0. In this case, the LOS follows a continuous slope and is (by definition) clear.



From gallery of WeeBeasties
CASE 10
Spoiler (click to reveal)
This LOS is  BLOCKED .

Beck is at level 2 firing down at Beck, who is in the rocks at level 0. The tree in hex 17.05 has a height of 2 (level 1 plus size 1). Since the tree's height is equal to Taylor's level, the LOS to all lower elevation hexes is blocked.



From gallery of WeeBeasties
CASE 11
Spoiler (click to reveal)
This LOS is  BLOCKED .

Beck is at level 1 firing down at Beck, who is in the rocks at level 0. The tree in hex 18.03 has a height of 1 (level 0 plus size 1). Since the tree's height is equal to Taylor's level, the LOS to all lower elevation hexes is blocked.



From gallery of WeeBeasties
CASE 12
Spoiler (click to reveal)
This LOS is  BLOCKED .

Beck is at level 2 firing down at Beck, who is level 0. The level 1 hill in hex 09.09 acts as an obstacle to LOS and is 9 hexes away from Taylor. We can calculate the number of blind hexes as (1 - 0)/(2 - 1) + 1 = 2 blind hexes. Since Beck is in a blind hex, the LOS is blocked.



From gallery of WeeBeasties
CASE 13
Spoiler (click to reveal)
This LOS is  CLEAR .

Taylor is on a level 1 hill looking down at Beck in a level 0 building. The wall is a 1/2 height obstacle that casts one blind hex:
(0 - 1/2)/(1 - 1/2) + 0 = 1. The tall grass is a low obstacle, but Beck has a Sprint order so it has no effect on LOS.



From gallery of WeeBeasties
CASE 14
Spoiler (click to reveal)
This LOS is  BLOCKED .

Taylor is on a level 1 hill trying to look over a building to see Beck at level 0. The building has a height of 1, so Taylor has no LOS to lower elevations beyond it.



From gallery of WeeBeasties
CASE 15
Spoiler (click to reveal)
This LOS is  BLOCKED .

Taylor is still on the level 1 hill, but has taken a step back from the military crest line. As a result, hex 29.02 now represents an LOS hindrance of size 1. Since the height of H is the same as Taylor's level, the LOS is blocked to lower elevations.



From gallery of WeeBeasties
CASE 16
Spoiler (click to reveal)
This LOS is  CLEAR .

Both Taylor and Beck are back at level 0. Crops in fields are low obstacles of size 1/2. Since neither Beck nor Taylor had a Sneak, Hide, Rally, or Reload order, the LOS is clear between them.



From gallery of WeeBeasties
CASE 17
Spoiler (click to reveal)
This LOS is  BLOCKED .

Taylor is on a level 1 hill looking over both a hedgerow (size 1/2) and tall grass (low obstacle of size 1/2) to see Beck at level 0. The hedgerow casts one blind hex (1/2 - 0)/(1 - 1/2) + 0 = 1. That shades hex 10.07. Since Beck has a Sneak order, the tall grass is also blocking and casts 1 blind hex using the same calculation. That puts Beck in a blind hex and out of LOS.



From gallery of WeeBeasties
CASE 18
Spoiler (click to reveal)
This LOS is  CLEAR .

Taylor is at level 1 shooting up at Beck on a level 2 hill. The rocks (size 1/2) in hex 23.09 only cast a single blind hex.
(1.5 - 1)/(2 - 1.5) + 0 = 1
All other terrain is below both soldiers' levels and does not come into play. The LOS is clear between them. Shooting up and shooting down is the same for LOS. We just need to know if the lower soldier is in a blind hex or not.



From gallery of WeeBeasties
CASE 19
Spoiler (click to reveal)
This LOS is  BLOCKED .

Taylor is on a level 3 hill trying to shoot over a cliff at Beck, who is at level 0. The cliff casts extra-long shadows.
(2 - 0)/(3 - 2) + 0 = 2 blind hexes. Beck is in a blind hex and LOS is blocked.



From gallery of WeeBeasties
CASE 20
Spoiler (click to reveal)
This LOS is  BLOCKED .

This is another example of a cliff. Taylor is at level 3, still trying to shoot Beck at level 0. The level 2 cliff in hex 28.10 is the obstacle. There are two blind hexes again. (2 - 0)/(3 - 2) + 0 = 2 And Beck is snug and safe. Notice that if hex 30.09 was also at level 0, it would be a blind hex too. However, on this board it is at level 1. Thus its blind hex calculation is (2 - 1)/(3 - 2) + 0 = 1 and it would have a clear LOS. The target's level can and does impact blind hexes sometimes.


Please let me know if you think I have made any errors here. And let me know what you think of this little exercise. Thanks!
Poll: Feedback
1. How do you feel about determining LOS in Combat! now?
2. How helpful was this little quiz?
      15 answers
Poll created by WeeBeasties
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Wed Jan 12, 2022 1:37 am
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Point System for Combat!

Clifton Franklund
United States
Big Rapids
Michigan
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TL;DR
One thing that I like about games such as Up Front, Ambush!, and Warfighter is the ability to "purchase" a team or squad using a point system. These systems allow me to tweak my units in various ways to meet new tactical situations and provide a mechanism to increase the variation between different plays of the same scenarios. In fact, I often get as much or more enjoyment from the process of selecting my forces in Warfighter as I do in playing through the scenarios themselves. That is also one of the main reasons that I enjoy "501 City Fight in 4" in Up Front so much. In this post I describe a first draft of such a system that I have created for the Combat! ecosystem. This has not been subjected to much play-testing, but is posted for your enjoyment and the hope of receiving some constructive criticism. Please feel free to give me feedback! Tell me what I've done wrong (I've been happily married for over 36 years now - I'm used to being wrong ).
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Wed Dec 1, 2021 9:56 pm
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Counter Comparisons

Clifton Franklund
United States
Big Rapids
Michigan
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TL;DR
There has been a bit of discussion on BGG concerning the relative quality of game counters between different companies. I've decide to do a side-by-side comparison of the counters from a few of my games to explore that topic.
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Tue Nov 23, 2021 9:11 pm
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Combat! Ought to be a Top-100 Wargame

Clifton Franklund
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Big Rapids
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TL;DR
There are no perfect games. There are only well-designed games, and games that fit the needs and desires of particular players (and those that are less so). There are also popular games and under-appreciated games. I think that Combat! falls into the latter category. For my money - and yes, there is a bit of money involved - this is a fantastic game. In fact, I would argue that this game ought to be placed in the top 100 wargames on BGG. Over the past few months, it has become my favorite (and most played) solitaire WW2 tactical wargame. And here is why...
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Sun Nov 14, 2021 8:33 pm
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Making game counters

Clifton Franklund
United States
Big Rapids
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TL;DR
I have begun to try my hand at creating some new scenarios for Combat! by Ross Mortell and Compass Games. This has rapidly become my most-played game as of late. As part of my ongoing efforts, I am creating some new counters for my scenarios. These are my step-by-step instructions for how I did that.
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Wed Nov 10, 2021 12:19 am
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An Ode to Fields of Fire

Clifton Franklund
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Big Rapids
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I really enjoy this game (top 3 on my current play list). It is one of the few games that actually makes me wax poetic. So here is my attempt at a unconventional after action report (with apologies to Shakespeare). I thought to post it to the game forum, but it is not of general interest. Instead, I put it here for my own amusement (perhaps you will be amused too).
As I prepare to lead my company,
assigning actions to my smoke and flares,
the Germans plot a nasty trap for me,
hoping to catch my troops out unawares.

Forward we move to see what will transpire,
Clearing terrain with PC B and A.
Enduring mines and random sniper fire,
First Sergeant presses up to lead the way.

Objectives for the mission are in sight,
My men prepare to launch the main assault,
An HMG appears to join the fight,
And brings my little foray to a halt.

Last turn; Praying that my team's gun won't jam,
I draw a counter-attack package, damn.
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Tue Aug 24, 2021 6:44 pm
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Fields of Fire 2: Amphibious Operations

Clifton Franklund
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TL;DR
The rules for the Fields of Fire series continue to be a point of contention for many people. Generally speaking, I find them to be sufficient to allow for play (at least with the second printing of Volume 1). The Peleliu landing scenario from Volume 2, however, still leaves me a bit out to sea (bad puns are part of my standard repetoire, I'm afraid). The precise process to be used for the naval assault are unclear. This is probably just a case of the "expert's blindspot" - something that I am sensitive to as a college professor. Actually, this scenario feels like one of those obscure math problems that appear to be unsolvable like: "One day it started snowing in the morning at a heavy and steady rate. A snowplow started out at noon, going 2 miles in the first hour and 1 mile in the second hour. What time did it start snowing?" The answer to that and this scenario depend upon your assumptions. I think that the entire command process used during the naval transportation and disembarkment sequence ought to vary from the one used during standard game conditions. Here is how I play this (perhaps you have a better idea…)

edit: I am just a fan of this game and have no special insider information about the Field Guide that is under development by GMT. As I learn more about the evolving rules, I will modify this post in an attempt to stay in sync with the rules as written.
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Tue Jul 27, 2021 9:16 pm
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The Fallacy of the "Best Wargame"

Clifton Franklund
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TL;DR
Perhaps it is all just click-bait, but everywhere I look on BGG, and the web in general, I find lists of "top wargames" or "best wargames". Occasionally, one can also find the converse - "the worst wargames". I guess that it is really in our human nature to rank things. However, I think that there is a fundamental difference between strong/weak distinctions (which are more-or-less objective measures of the game's design and implementation) and best/worst distinctions (which are subjective measures that are dependent upon the expectations of the game player/reviewer). If these semantics pique your interest, read on.
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Fri Jun 4, 2021 11:40 pm
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My Orders and Pre-orders

Clifton Franklund
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I'm always interested in learning different wargame systems. Each game developer has their own way of abstracting war and chooses to emphasize different aspects of the battle. I tend to favor games covering the the land battles of WWII, but I am branching out a bit more recently. Here are a few titles that I am currently waiting on. What games are you awaiting?
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Wed Jun 2, 2021 2:49 pm
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