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Subject: A one level wargame? rss

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Confusion Under Fire
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Most, if not all wargames allow a player to command at 2 different levels. A squad level game has you acting as both Platoon Commander and then as you move and combat each unit, as a squad leader determining targets and movement paths. Would a game where you act at just one level work?
So your the platoon leader and the movement paths and combat of the squads are out of your hands. They are decided by other means. You choose where you want your units to go but then there on there own after that.
I would expect in a real life situation a squad may fire at what it thinks is the biggest threat ie the closest unit to itself. In a wargame situation it is possible to ignore those troops closest to us and concentrate on that densely populated hex just behind them that contains that HMG.
Would this level of non participation make the gameplay feel it is lacking and maybe make the game too simplistic. It would however force a player to think about where he sends his units knowing that they wont stop until they have completed that order or are killed or rout.
I have seen a similar sort of thing in PC games and some mini games require you to write down an order and that order comes with restrictions as to what you can do. Apart from the AI required to move and combat with units are there any other negative aspects of this sort of play.
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Pablo Klinkisch
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Fields of Fire seems to be what you want at a platoon level: your units keep using up their valuable ammo firing at paralyzed teams instead of attacking a big MG nest, for example
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Matt & Laurel
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This is a really interesting proposition and is something that a friend and I have discussed at some length recently. We were discussing it with reference to miniatures wargaming, but it applies equally to board wargaming. I think the positives are that it better recreates the uncertainty of combat and makes orders even more critical (as units will follow their last order(s) until something forces them to act differently - perhaps reverting to some default activity, such as hunkering down and waiting for reinforcements). It also makes scouting/reconnaissance, radio communications, despatch riders, etc. much more useful and interesting.

The negatives are that the lack of control and certainty are not to everybody's taste.

Edit: minor text edits.

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Leo Zappa
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I know we've talked about this before, but perhaps more from the operational/strategic level, than the tactical. In any of these cases, the drawback is as noted - a bit of boredom and a game with only a handful of pieces, plus a lack of fine control, which most wargamers crave. If we think about how military command actually works, the commander at any level (platoon, company, battalion, regiment, brigade, division, corps, army, army group) gets his orders from his immediate superior (take this hill, ridgeline, town, city, so forth), formulates his plan of attack, and then issues his orders to his immediate subordinates, and that's it. Now, once battle is joined, reports will filter back, and the commmander may attempt to make some adjustments, but communications can be problematic in the midst of a fight, so there's no guarantee that the message will get through. The level of control is rather limited. Certainly, a battalion commander is not issuing orders directly to squads or platoons.

From a game perspective, if I am playing a 'one-level' model, and I'm in the role of the company commander, I should only get three or four counters, representing my platoons. If I'm playing the battalion commander, I can only get a handful of counters representing my companies. Is this fun for the wargamer? I think most would answer "no", which is why we get games like ASL, which gives the player the ability to move a company's worth of squads around. It's not how an actual military operation would work, but it's a lot more fun for the players.
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R K
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I was thinking about how you could do this recently in The Gamers' TCS system. I was envisioning teams of players, one overall commander, and an individual player for each command unit, be that company or battalion or whatever. The overall commander does up opsheets and maybe has a small window to communicate with the lower level commanders, they then have to actually move the pieces on the boards. Take it one step further and have them all playing on separate boards (or easier online) so that no individual low level commander can see what's happening in the big picture.

Net result is that you have a high level commander making broad stroke decisions and then the lower level commanders trying to execute those tactically with limited information about the overall situation. The odds that I'd get enough players and a set up to pull this off are low, but it would be pretty cool.
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jumbit
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Won't work. Wargamers hate not having exact control over every unit on the battlefield. When they can't do whatever they want with their units, they start pouting and tend to either quit or trash the game publically. "But that enemy unit is right there, why won't my guys fire? This game sucks."
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Dan The Man
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desertfox2004 wrote:
If we think about how military command actually works, the commander at any level (platoon, company, battalion, regiment, brigade, division, corps, army, army group) gets his orders from his immediate superior (take this hill, ridgeline, town, city, so forth), formulates his plan of attack, and then issues his orders to his immediate subordinates, and that's it.

Depends on commander. Many commanders [leaders from the front] operate(d) on at least two levels, joining their teams and sometimes taking tactical command of a piece of the force, or at least shortening the info chain.

desertfox2004 wrote:
Now, once battle is joined, reports will filter back, and the commander may attempt to make some adjustments, but communications can be problematic in the midst of a fight, so there's no guarantee that the message will get through.

Again, depends on the commander's temperament.
 
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Confusion Under Fire
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yankeezulu wrote:
I think the positives are that it better recreates the uncertainty of combat and makes orders even more critical (as units will follow their last order(s) until something forces them to act differently - perhaps reverting to some default activity, such as hunkering down and waiting for reinforcements). It also makes scouting/reconnaissance, radio communications, despatch riders, etc. much more useful and interesting.


If I told you the game I am playtesting is called "Confusion Under Fire" it seems to fit your quote above

The game is also an email game with multiple players so there are other things for the players to think about. True recce for example as players have no idea of the terrain or the enemy force that they face.
 
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Confusion Under Fire
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jumbit wrote:
Won't work. Wargamers hate not having exact control over every unit on the battlefield. When they can't do whatever they want with their units, they start pouting and tend to either quit or trash the game publically. "But that enemy unit is right there, why won't my guys fire? This game sucks."


There are plenty of Combat Commander lovers who just love the fact that they can't do exactly the sort of thing you describe, but I do take on board what your saying, it isn't to everybodies taste.
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Bill Lawson
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jumbit wrote:
Won't work. Wargamers hate not having exact control over every unit on the battlefield. When they can't do whatever they want with their units, they start pouting and tend to either quit or trash the game publically. "But that enemy unit is right there, why won't my guys fire? This game sucks."


Not true. I enjoy games with FOW and command control rules as do most of my gaming buddies. I do however agree with Leo that having only one level of command leaves the gamer with very little to do (boring!!).
I don't wargame to role play specific commanders or levels of command. I play wargames to explore what ifs on whatever the topic may be. Its fine with me if this involves several levels of command as long as the history is plausible and its an interesting game (enjoyable way to spend my time).

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R K
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jumbit wrote:
Won't work. Wargamers hate not having exact control over every unit on the battlefield. When they can't do whatever they want with their units, they start pouting and tend to either quit or trash the game publically. "But that enemy unit is right there, why won't my guys fire? This game sucks."


Well that's a sweeping and untrue statement. How do you account for the success of games like Combat Commander and all the interesting double blind and FOW play that goes on. Not to mention all the games with finnicky leadership rules and C&C blunder tables etc. And then there's the whole world of online play where you have team games of big games going, and software games like TacOps that are played online specifically to emulate C&C issues.
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Leo Zappa
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DnaDan56 wrote:
desertfox2004 wrote:
If we think about how military command actually works, the commander at any level (platoon, company, battalion, regiment, brigade, division, corps, army, army group) gets his orders from his immediate superior (take this hill, ridgeline, town, city, so forth), formulates his plan of attack, and then issues his orders to his immediate subordinates, and that's it.

Depends on commander. Many commanders [leaders from the front] operate(d) on at least two levels, joining their teams and sometimes taking tactical command of a piece of the force, or at least shortening the info chain.

desertfox2004 wrote:
Now, once battle is joined, reports will filter back, and the commander may attempt to make some adjustments, but communications can be problematic in the midst of a fight, so there's no guarantee that the message will get through.

Again, depends on the commander's temperament.


All true - these exceptions did happen. I'd just point out that from the standpoint of doctrine, it should work the way I laid it out. However, yes, some commanders like to have a bit more of a "hands-on" approach. So, you could get a company commander telling one of his platoon leaders where to position a heavy weapons squad, if that position was key to the defense of the entire company position. This is especially true if the company commander was an 'old hand', and the platoon leader a relative noob. Still, in general, during an action, the company commander was more of an observer, trying to monitor if his platoons were carrying out their orders, and sending messages from the HQ tent (via radio, phone, runner, etc.) when reports indicated a change of plan was necessary.

Again, from a wargaming perspective, usually the game provides the player with a level of control over all forces on the battlefield that is unrealistic from a military perspective, but provides the game player with a lot of fun, meaningful choices. Remember, despite marketing efforts to the contrary, even the most detailed of our hobby games are still 'games' first, and simulations second.
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Alan Richbourg
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I think you have to have a computer game or multiple players for this concept to work. I've seen it in both of those, and personally can't imagine a decent two player board game with that restricted amount of control, although obviously if someone really does it right somehow it would be notable.
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Pelle Nilsson
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You could still provide counters for units 2-3 levels down and give the player some possibility to control lower-level units in detail, but normally the lower level units would be controlled by a system like what controls the enemy in a solitaire game.

FoF is part of the way there. You still get to decide what every squad and team in the company do, in detail. If there were AI rules for what platoon HQs did depending on what orders you gave them it would be sort of what OP asks for, but not sure it would make the game that much more fun (yay, one more chapter of rules and another sheet of tables).

TCS is also close. You could make stricter rules to take away player micro-management of counters. There are optional stricter opsheet rules for download that takes it a step closer. Add some AI to control when units fire and exactly what paths they move and you are done, but I think the average TCS game is far too big to be playable if you need to manually manage that. On a computer it could work.

I think most players even if they can enjoy a game without controlling the lower levels, they would want to SEE the lower levels, not just the 3-4 counters representing the sub-units you directly control, and there is nothing stopping that.
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David Janik-Jones
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jumbit wrote:
Won't work. Wargamers hate not having exact control over every unit on the battlefield. When they can't do whatever they want with their units, they start pouting and tend to either quit or trash the game publically. "But that enemy unit is right there, why won't my guys fire? This game sucks."

I see what you did, there. thumbsup
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milhouse x
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I had explored the possibility of implementing this in a wargame but never got too far. What I envisioned was the player passing orders to their units, and then having a process for the units to execute those orders with a form of AI like you see in solitaire or coop games. Then throw in Murphy's Law (anything that can go wrong, will go wrong) and when that happens have the opponent make the move (within some limits- you can't make units suicide). This allows for things like Wallace taking the wrong road to reinforce Grant at Shiloh, or Longstreet having to backtrack his attack force as he's maneuvering them to prepare for the offensive to at Gettysburg on the second day, or other famous military blunders. As games play currently there is usually no mechanism to have these sorts of battle-changing events happen unless the player himself commits the blunder (perfect knowledge combined with perfect control and all that). Having a game where you pass the orders, see what happens, and then try to pick up the pieces when things go wrong would be a fascinating game IMHO. Never could get it to work outside of the concept phase, though.
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marc lecours
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A monster game is often a game where the player represents 3 to 6 levels of command. For example in World in flames the player is a national leader, the head of the army, the head of an army group, the head of an army, the head of a corps and sometimes even the head of a division. So 5 or 6 levels.

At the other extreme you have Twilight struggle (national leader) and ace of aces (pilot) where you only represent 1 level.

Most war games have players represent 2 or 3 levels.

In Twilight struggle everything below a nation is abstracted into a die roll with modifiers. One die roll to see the outcome of a war.

In most wargames the lowest level simulated is abstracted into a die roll with modifiers. The abstraction must not be too complex since it is usually a mechanical calculation of what could happen. If it was very complex, then the game would bog down into a boring series of complex mechanical calculations.

If in a game, I am commanding an army then I want to move my corps around and see what happens. But a real army commander has to know how his two to five corps will interact with the terrain and the enemy. This could be done with a big calculation (boring). Or it could be done by breaking the corps down into their component divisions. Now you move the divisions around and see how they interact with the terrain and the enemy. The divisions interactions are abstracted into a calculation (but the calculation is kept simple and quick (not boring).

All the complexity of an army is dealt with by breaking it down into its divisions instead of making a complex calculation at the corps level.

Some games want to have more realism, so instead of a simple division calculation, they break the divisions one more level into its component regiments. The game then begins to be long and we are heading towards a monster. But at some level the game designer has to stop and decide to abstract out the results into simple die rolls or some other mechanism.
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Roger Hobden
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Le Vol de l'Aigle: Volume 3 – Le systeme complet can give you much of what you are wishing for.

The rules can be tailored to give more or less control to the umpire and more or less to the players, as desired.

When we played a PBEM game last year, the only control the players had where :

1- let's move from here to there.

2- let's attack (or not).

3- let's retreat from battle, or keep on fighting.

We had not clue where and at was strength the enemy was, unless the scouts or the units had been fortunate enough to gather that information.

We had no idea where the rest of OUR army was, and if they were winning, or they had been crushed.

It was a real blast !
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I don't think this is what you are looking for, but Memoir'44 has something similar in it's Overlord Rules.
As the Commander in Chief you hold the cards for your side, but you give the cards you play to Field Generals controlling a section each. And you can only communicate/talk to one FG each turn, to simulate you as CinC going to the frontline to make sure the FGs follow your plan. The other two sections decide which troops to order on their own.

I enjoy being the CinC and doing the overall planning based on my hand of cards, but it is frustrating to see a good plan involving a combined advance in the center and left sections go to waste because that insubordinate FG on the left didn't understand your intensions. All good fun and a fine gaming experience.

I also enjoy being the FG and doing my best to do my CinCs bidding based on the cards he hands me, but it is frustrating to have a CinC that doesn't see the threat those three armor units in the forrest pose, and rather focuses on those pesky artillery units on the right.
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Nathan James
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In scenarios of Band of Brothers: Screaming Eagles, the player is not acting at multiple levels as much as he is playing platoon leader for several platoons at once. Company level play only seems to be present in setup, and battalion level decisions are all pre-made by the choice of the scenario.
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Isn't this achieved by very high-level games?

Things that tend to be questionable as far as being
wargames, but I'm thinking something like Twilight Struggle
or even Nuclear War. The game mechanisms abstract away all the
other decisions.
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Edmund Hon
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In a way the miniatures wargame rule for the ancients period De Bellis Antiquitatis (DBA) is a good example of the one level of command. In DBA each side has exactly 12 units (a "stand" in miniature gaming parlance) in your army. At the start of each player turn you roll a D6 to see how many command points you get for the turn. Basically one point is needed to move one stand. But if your stands are grouped together in formation, you can use just one command point to move the entire group. As you can see a D6 only averages 3.5 per roll, there can never be enough points to move each stand individually, and learning to move them by groups is a must. This forces the player to think in the same way as an army commander, grouping and manouvering his army in a few "wings" or "battles".
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Arrigo Velicogna
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Well DBA is quite rubbish in portraying even one level of command, and then it does not because it put in all its 'geometry' mechanisms that have nothing to do with what is supposed to represent.

Well there is also the basic, underlining, assumption of what 'one level of command' represent. I think the OP did not get it very well. As General George C. Patton once said a commander gives orders to one level down, but need to know the activities and position of units two levels down. So if I am a platoon commander I need to give orders to my squads and know where, if applicable, my teams are. Also what define an order? Well often a platoon leader will give detailed instructions to squad commanders on what routes to take and how to react to contacts. I do not find wrong to have these squad actions explicitly represented on the map. The likelihood of the squads following your plan is usually abstracted in command and fire mechanics. Often you will personally lead the squad or squads you think are critical to your plan.

One level up and you are a company CO. Well you will talk with your LTs and SGTs before the action and explain them exactly what you want to accomplish. You will often track squads and sometime you will put yourself on the line to direct specific platoons.

If you follow Patton's dictum you will realized that, on average, the one level of command is quite well represented in our games, but being manual games we are taking charge of a lot of procedural things. The fact that a game as regiments on the map does not automatically means that you are commanding regiments. Still there is nothing inherently disrupting the one level of command in just resolving combat for individual sub units.
 
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David Janik-Jones
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As much as I have a terrible love/hate relationship with the game (Is it a "2" rated game? Is it a "10"? At the same time??), I have to go back to Pablo's comment way up and agree that GMT's flawed masterpiece Fields of Fire comes pretty close to what the OP wants or was thinking about. I've never been so conflicted about any one game in my collection before.
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whatambush wrote:
yankeezulu wrote:
I think the positives are that it better recreates the uncertainty of combat and makes orders even more critical (as units will follow their last order(s) until something forces them to act differently - perhaps reverting to some default activity, such as hunkering down and waiting for reinforcements). It also makes scouting/reconnaissance, radio communications, despatch riders, etc. much more useful and interesting.


If I told you the game I am playtesting is called "Confusion Under Fire" it seems to fit your quote above

The game is also an email game with multiple players so there are other things for the players to think about. True recce for example as players have no idea of the terrain or the enemy force that they face.


I very much like the sound of Confusion under Fire (and not just because it fits my quote!). I hope the playtesting is going well.

One of the things that always bothered me about tactical or grand tactical wargames (whether board wargames or miniatures wargames) is that skirmish troops and light cavalry (as examples) are generally useless and end up just being not very good infantry or cavalry. It would be nice if in more games there was a point to skirmishing and reconnaissance.
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