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Subject: The next big thing in Monster Games? rss

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Rex Gator
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So Saturday night I was browsing the Wargaming General forum and came across this thread:

[thread=http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/990322/underrated-wargam...][/thread]

I noticed several mentions of Death Ride Kursk: Gross Deutschland – Updated 2016 and Armored Knights North Africa: Operation Crusader by Grognard Simulations Inc. I ended up hitting their webpage and realized that they are located in the greater Orlando area just like me. I sent the owner/president Christopher Fasulo an e-mail around 11:30 that night to ask a few questions. Within 15 minutes he responded and agreed to let me come by and see the operation. I went over Monday night and Chris graciously spent 2 hours showing me his designs, his production process and explaining his thoughts about game design and the approaches he takes in creating games. I was suitably impressed and began discussing which of his big games might make the best purchase. Chris passed on the opportunity to maximize the sale and instead suggested I go for one of his small games that serve as an introduction to his systems. I have taken his advice and am going to be exploring Death Ride: Halfaya Pass while he finishes Armored Knights Desna.

I think Chris has got a fresh approach in his systems and he is a great person to talk to and offers first rate support for his games. I am surprised that his games do not have a greater following here. here are the strong points of his designs from my point of view:

1. Streamlined rules, both the games mentioned above have about 20 pages of rules.

2. Devotion to conveying the situation on the ground that the actual commander had to face. Detailed maps and OoB are the order of the day.

3. systems that let the player see why tactics and operational doctrines developed the way they did.

4. Taking traditional mechanisms and giving them subtle but important twists (see the variable combat power addition to his odds differential CRT in Armored Knights).

The only cons I see right now are:

1. The main games are monsters by any traditional definition. Even with the streamlining of the rules you are talking multiple play sessions to get battles completed.

2. The half inch counters will be a challenge for persons with sight issues (they are fine with my reading glasses on)

So in conclusion I would encourage you to take a look at his designs and shoot him some questions if you are interested. I think these games offer a lot to people who are looking for games with strong simulation and educational aspects without complex rules overhead. I hate the thought that a lot of gamers will miss out on experiencing these games simply because they never made it on their personal game radar!
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Darrell Hanning
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I purchased DRK:GD about a year ago, and while I think the game system is certainly good enough to warrant the attention of any wargamers interested in small-unit tactics, I do think you should wait until after actually reading the rules, before calling them streamlined.

While Chris has certainly managed to cram everything into 20 pages, he has largely done it by ignoring the existing conventions for rulebooks in regards to spacing, paragraph breaks, topic organization, etc.

It's all there - don't get me wrong - but not in the most digestible of formats.

Also, the problem I encountered with DRK:GD is a real shortage of small scenarios. There is a first-day engagement scenario, which constitutes the majority of the German forces against the Soviet front line forces, but even this is rather formidable in size - not really lending itself to learning the system.

Another conclusion I drew, from playing out the first, few turns of the game, is that there is very little in the way of stack movement; i.e., there are definite disadvantages to such, so that the player is left moving hundreds of units individually, having the opponent (or yourself, if playing solitaire) checking for opportunity fire before moving the next unit. This can make for some incredibly long turns. (And this is coming from someone who has played a lot of monster wargames, in his time.)

So, while I found his system, as a whole, extremely interesting (and I'll certainly be taking another look at it, in the future), I do have reservations about it, and the aforementioned caveat about the rules, for the newcomer to the system.
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Christopher Fasulo
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As with all criticism I take it very seriously. I appreciate knowing when someone thinks my games can benefit from their knowledge and experience. And we respond to it, as you will see further on. My rules sections do not conform to the "Old" standard. In my opinion the use of Battlefield Operating Systems (BOS) to describe game functionality helps players to understand the battlefield better, and military thinking, not just game thinking. Organization inside these sections can be a challenge. There is currently underway, and has been underway, for some time, a new set of updated and combining for all 3 existing DRK games and the enhancements. The BOS better describe the goings on of units and how they should function in support of the combat mission assigned to them. It may take some time for new readers to understand the differences. But we ARE making changes to format and structure that will make the rules more easily digestible and better understood.

I am trying to create more smaller scenarios. I have been looking for some input from the gaming community to help. But no doubt the IInd SS games will have plenty of smaller scenarios. ** Edit **

One item to note is that stack movement may not be well understood. A stack is no more susceptible to enemy fire than individual units. In fact, stacks are better equipped to make it through enemy opportunity fire than individual units.

This is from the person working on helping immensely to get these newly reorganized rules in place for later this year.

"I too learned about the Grognard Simulations product line about two years ago. I have found them to be playable monster games. All too often a big game requires multiple players per side and an extremely long time commitment, rule systems that are cumbersome and numerous. This is not my experience with the Grognard Simulations line and specifically the current three Death Ride Kursk games - the WW2 grand tactical system using platoons and companies as the base sized units. Numerous in playing pieces but straight forward rules make these games realistically playable.

To learn the Death Ride game system - first there are the two Death Ride North Africa games with low unit counter counts that aid in learning the game system with smaller scenarios. Both the North Africa games are stand alone games. There are two other theaters being portrayed currently with a third planned - Kursk and Salerno current and Tarawa planned.

Of the two main Kursk games in the series (Gross Deutschland and 11th Panzer), 11th Panzer has at least five scenarios played on the equivalent of one to two traditional sized maps (11 inches wide by 33 inches or 50 inches long). All five of these scenarios have moderate counter quantities with a very restrictive sized front (11 inches) prompting much greater usage of stacking than in the broader front portrayed by Gross Deutschland/3rd Panzer game. Note the 3rd Panzer game is an extension only, requiring Gross Deutschland to play.

In most monster games, one usually experiences considerable down time between players being able to do something awaiting the other side to finish. This is not the case in the Death Ride Kursk series of games. A comment about a individual German playing piece being interrupted during movement by the Red Army's opportunity fire being interrupted by the German Overwatch fire should be heralded as keeping both sides involved constantly and that the end result is frequently in doubt. This Sequencing of Play solves much of the down time for players and keeps the mental gears grinding as the dynamics of a turn unfold.

As has been mentioned, Grognard Simulations does present all the rules in a very succinct manner - it is indeed all there. I also found the organization of these rules challenging especially when adding some or all of the four enhancement modules that also exist for the Kursk series. One can imagine as the Kursk series continued to grow and evolve with more and more being added it grew cumbersome. In this hobby, we have seen this with Squad Leader requiring ASL; with World in Flames now in its seventh incarnation; with the Gamers series of game lines (OCS,TCS, SCS), all have had rules edition upgrades and sometimes several. The Death Ride Kursk series is in this same situation - time for a rules reorganization.

I started a consolidation rules project with Chris Fasulo, the owner of Grognard Simulations, this spring. This new consolidated rules set for the Death Ride Kursk games has a new arrangement and formatting of the rules based on an expanded sequence of play. Now as you are learning or playing a game, all of the rules for movement or fire or close assault are group together in their labeled sections. We took this even further by also including all optional rules and all enhancement module rules for that section of the rules (say movement) and placed them all together. You might be saying that would be confusing but this was done in a way so as to color code the rules - you only need to read the level of game you are playing. If you are playing a standard set of DRKursk rules than only read the black colored printing throughout the rules booklet. If you want to add more detail about Command and Control add the purple section of the rules to the Black standard rules section. Now with this one rules booklet you have all of the Death Ride Kursk rules and you can decide on what rules you may want to use (and which enhancement module you may wish to purchase). This consolidated rules set now allows for four separate levels of the Death Ride Kursk game experience - Standard, Expanded, Advanced, and Ultimate. We even increased the size of the font for ease in reading.

This new organization of the rules will show up in the 2014 three new games to be released into the Death Ride Kursk series (known as 2nd SS games) and I hope will be available as an upgrade set to owners of the three original DRK games. Please start asking Grognard Simulations for this upgrade towards the end of 2013. I am confident you will find your existing DRK games to be reinvigorated and simpler to play."


Regards,
Chris Fasulo
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Rex Gator
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I appreciate your points Darrel. I have looked at the DRK rules just have not played them yet. They remind me of Bowen Simmons rules from Napoleon's Triumph in that every word counts. What they avoid are tons of chrome or special exceptions. I am looking forward to the reorganized rules later this year.

Pete, I am with you on Armored Knights. I think that system will actually fit my tastes better and am looking forward to Desna later this year. I might break down and buy Crusader anyway...
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Darrell Hanning
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Quote:
A comment about a individual German playing piece being interrupted during movement by the Red Army's opportunity fire being interrupted by the German Overwatch fire should be heralded as keeping both sides involved constantly and that the end result is frequently in doubt.


Chris, what's good for keeping both players active, in this case, also adds to the time required to complete a turn. There is a cost for interaction in the movement system of a wargame containing hundreds of counters on each side, and that cost is not insignificant.

After a year of learning (and relearning) other games since, I do not recall what advantage is conferred by moving in stacks, but IIRC, the disadvangtage is that it greatly simplifies the opponent's decision-making process in pursuing opportunity fire, well, opportunities.

Again, dredging this up from memories, from many game systems ago.
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Christopher Fasulo
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Darrell,

You are correct that for all the interaction in the Death Ride series there is a time premium to be paid. I think it actually helps to make players feel they accomplished something more than just waiting for the other player to finish. But I do understand your point, especially when moving an entire division, or even a regiment. This is also why it is a great team game, if you can find the players, or a CSW Expo gajme when there is plenty of time to focus on playing. Each player with a Division can keep the game moving all over the map instead of focusing on a small sector at a time.

As for stacks moving and opportunity fire, the rules will be allowing each moving unit/stack to be shot at once by each unit/stack capable of firing. The opportunity fire will not be allowed to be gathered. One stack fires at a time. If firing at a single unit then that firer may fire as each unit moves, with a better chance of doing damage because the defense value is lower for one unit. If the stack moves then that same opportunity firer must decide if he wants to fire at the entire moving stack, or some portion of the stack. But once the unit fires, it may fire at that moving stack no more. This gives the stack a clear edge. Most players should be picking away at a smaller unit and leaving the others alone or to be picked up by another opportunity firer. But the stack should be able to move farther.

If the moving player then makes sure they have a decent amount of Overwatch units ready the opportunity firer is going to have less of a chance to effect the mover.

But all those choices make the time fly by and I hope you feel like you accomplished something good and the time flew by and you had fun.

Regards,
Chris
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Malcolm Cameron
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Chris,

What is the smallest game of the series (for those of us who are interested but not necessarily ready to dive into something huge)?

MC
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Christopher Fasulo
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Malcolm,

The smallest game is Death Ride - Hafid Ridge ($39). The next smallest is Death Ride Halfaya Pass. Both have (2) 11x17 map sheets and only (1) counter sheet of units and markers.

Hafid Ridge is a simple, uncomplicated British tank charge against a German hill position with anti-tank gund and 88s.

The next smallest game is Death Ride - Halfaya Pass ($45) and is also simple and uncomplicated. The British must penetrate the German defenses of Halfaya Pass. If they take the traditional routes then they pay the traditional price. But Halfaya Pass gives you a bit more of the flavor for the game system because it has a fair amount of infantry.

My recommendation would be for Halfaya Pass. Some might say the situation doesn't provide any fun for the British because they get shot up like clay pigeons, but a pair of 15 year old's who didn't know anything about strategy and tactics sure gave me a heck of a scare when they did the unorthodox. They took a number of the German battle positions in the pass and almost won. It was fun, fast, and played in 5 hours. I won't give you their secret to near success.

Once you have learned one of these the other games in the series are no different.

Regards,
Chris
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I did put "Monster Games" in the title of this thread for a reason. Other than the introductory level games these are not going to be pull them out on game night and play games. These are the "let's meet every Saturday for the month of October and play" games. Or they are the "honey we aren't having dinner guests anytime soon are we?" games.

Clearly going to exclude a chunk of the community but for those folks who want to scratch the monster itch, these games deserve a look.
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Christopher Fasulo
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For those who can imagine something grand, the new game series, when completed, will contain 9 games. 3 existing, 3 coming next year, and 3 more to finish sometime after that.

There are a total of (24) 22x34 map equivalents encompassing the entire southern sector of the battle

There will be around 50 total counter sheets (over 10000 counters)

9 separate games each focused on a German Division sector

You will be able to play with Radio Line of Sight for Command and Control, need to assign batteries to artillery specific missions, perform battlefield recovery of wrecks and have variability of how far back the repairs must be done, supply point logistics, Air to Air combat, interception, and airfield attack.

And as I mentioned before, more smaller scenarios. Less forces, less turns, less space needed.

Like nothing you've ever experienced before. But so very worth every minute you play.

But there is no doubt the smaller games will give you a taste of needing to get more.

Regards,
Chris Fasulo
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Will this great-sounding rules consolidation/reorganization extend to the Death Ride Salerno games, too?
 
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Christopher Fasulo
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The short answer is yes. In fact the new rules consolidation/update is stealing items from the Salerno rules as updates.

Since all the enhancements for Salerno have not been completed I will have to consider how that might work. But again the short answer is yes.

You really don't know want to know how busy I am working on these projects and how much I appreciate the help of those who are working these items with me. We are really, really, hammering away and making good progress. Besides the Death Ride updates are 4 Napoleonics for 2015, 3 more small Napoleonics on the drawing board, a Death Ride Arras, and a Death Ride Tarawa that are in design and prototyping.

Regards,
Chris
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Robert Stuart
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DarrellKH wrote:
Another conclusion I drew, from playing out the first, few turns of the game, is that there is very little in the way of stack movement; i.e., there are definite disadvantages to such, so that the player is left moving hundreds of units individually


DarrellKH wrote:
I do not recall what advantage is conferred by moving in stacks


Darrell, it's just the opposite. "Units may perform Opportunity Fire only once, per weapon type (secondary, primary), per enemy unit or stack per Operations Phase."

This means that a moving stack can be fired on only once by a given unit (per weapon type). If the units in the stack move individually, however, each unit can be fired on separately by the given unit. It's safer to move in stacks.
 
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Robert Stuart
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Armor06 wrote:
Death Ride Arras


This sounds exciting -- Arras, of course, being the battle in which the 88s were first used as antitank guns.

I've mentioned this before, Chris -- but I hope your next Death Ride project (aside from completing Kursk) will be a Death Ride Arracourt.

 
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Christopher Fasulo
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For you Robert I will lay the foundation for Arracourt. No delivery dates yet. But I will get the research started and put a project plan together.

Lets see, that's:
Guderian (AK)
Totenkopf (DR)
Leibstandardte (DR)
Das Reich (DR)
Quatre Bras (IC)
Ligny (IC)
Wavre (IC)
Waterloo (IC)
Tarawa (DR)
Gunzberg (IC)
Wertingen (IC)
Alt Eghofshein (IC)
Hoff (IC)
Arras, and (DR)
Arracourt (DR)
6th Panzer (DR)
7th Panzer (DR)
19th Panzer (DR)

All of these are now in some phase of development. Please keep feeding me ideas for games to develop. I have more time on my hands than I know what to do with. Idle hands are no good. I need more material.

I have been trying to figure out how to get the Okinawa game to fit the Pacific Islands Campaign better, to flush out my fireteam based high fidelity small unit game model, create the rules for a naval game, and solve all the problems that designers don't want to touch because they are too hard.

I'm sweating just thinking about it.

Regards,
Chris
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Darrell Hanning
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bob_santafe wrote:
DarrellKH wrote:
Another conclusion I drew, from playing out the first, few turns of the game, is that there is very little in the way of stack movement; i.e., there are definite disadvantages to such, so that the player is left moving hundreds of units individually


DarrellKH wrote:
I do not recall what advantage is conferred by moving in stacks


Darrell, it's just the opposite. "Units may perform Opportunity Fire only once, per weapon type (secondary, primary), per enemy unit or stack per Operations Phase."

This means that a moving stack can be fired on only once by a given unit (per weapon type). If the units in the stack move individually, however, each unit can be fired on separately by the given unit. It's safer to move in stacks.


Yes, Chris had already mentioned this. Again - I'm going on what I recall from a game I learned about a year and several dozen games ago.
 
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Kev.
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Smaller more manageable monster games....
 
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