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Cataclysm: A Second World War» Forums » General

Subject: How To Survive Cataclysm (part 1) rss

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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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This is the first in a series of excerpts from the draft Playbook for Cataclysm: A Second World War, designed by William Terdoslavich and Scott Muldoon, and submitted for publication with GMT Games LLC. Cataclysm will be demonstrated at WBC from Friday 2 August to Sunday 4 August 2013.

GRAND STRATEGY: Not Your Father's Panzer Pusher

We suppose that most of you will be coming to Cataclysm having some experience with traditional board wargames. If you’re here, chances are you’ve played at least one of Third Reich, World in Flames, Krieg!, Barbarossa to Berlin, Europe Engulfed, et cetera. We’ve played them, too; they’re fun games, and well-designed in their own right. They are all strategic in scope, but operational in attitude, dealing with war at the army or corps level.

Cataclysm is unapologetically a game of grand strategy. You have to change your point of view; you are not playing a general or field marshal in charge merely of military matters and some supporting framework. You are the head of state, with no need for detailed knowledge of what makes up an army, fleet, or air force. Cataclysm's pieces have no factors. When it comes to your forces, all the matters is whether you have them and where. You cannot know with certainty what the outcome of an offensive will be. There is no Combat Results Table, no chance to “min-max” the optimal move with just the right factors in the right place, rolling on the best odds column. You are ultimately at the mercy of the dice, but you have the ability to leverage the result in your favor in only the grossest terms.

Even the map has been drawn to fix your attention on political boundaries, with only a slight acknowledgment of “adverse terrain” as a modifer to combat. Resources are highlighted to draw your eye. You are encouraged to think in broad terms of resource control, political control of border states, and the perception of power as the arms race plays out. In short, we are trying to replicate the way many leaders thought in the 1930s without the benefit of hindsight (we tried using lasers to cut history out of our playtester’s minds, but the results were inconclusive).

A turn in Cataclysm is two years. With all the action (political, economic, and military) mediated through chits pulled from the Action Cup, you can never be entirely sure when your stuff will come up. You can use the Reserve to pre-emptively act at a time of your choosing, but you cannot dictate all opportunities. There is no “I go, you go,” there is only going when your chit comes up.

This extra layer of mediation means you will usually have to think two years (one turn) ahead. You must adopt a strategy, then build the forces needed to carry it out. Each Power’s countermix corresponds approximately with what they actually fielded, plus a few extras to allow for alternate strategies to be explored. What if Japan emphasized armored forces? What if Russia had a larger navy, even carriers? What if France forgoes fortifications? Cataclysm is agnostic on these questions. Just because the historical belligerents did not pursue these ends does not foreclose your opportunity to do so.

It goes without saying that you will have to manage the military economy that must support your war effort. You must cultivate political support at home for your war, as continuous build-up and mobilization will erode public confidence. And you must manage your diplomatic efforts to “set up the board” to your best advantage. Most importantly, you must weigh the decision to go to war very carefully. Timing is paramount.

Cataclysm is relatively easy to learn, but hard to play. Every choice you make has an “opportunity cost”; doing one thing in one place may leave you without resources to do the second thing someplace else. Luck can be a friend or an enemy.

Everything is uncertain, and victory is never assured.
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David desJardins
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sdiberar wrote:
Cataclysm[i] will be demonstrated at WBC from Friday 2 August to Sunday 4 August 2013.


You're not saying that a single game takes 2-3 days, right? Just that there will be many demos throughout that time?
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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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DaviddesJ wrote:
You're not saying that a single game takes 2-3 days, right? Just that there will be many demos throughout that time?

Correct. At least one full game (about 5 hours), and possibly several smaller scenarios.
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john guthrie
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DaviddesJ wrote:
sdiberar wrote:
Cataclysm[i] will be demonstrated at WBC from Friday 2 August to Sunday 4 August 2013.


You're not saying that a single game takes 2-3 days, right? Just that there will be many demos throughout that time?


it's worse than that. i quote:

sdiberar wrote:
A turn in Cataclysm is two years
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