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Subject: hexagons versus area movement in an operational level wargame rss

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Paul
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Wanted to ask peoples' opinions on area movement versus hexagons in wargames. Any examples of good, and comlex operational level games using area movement vice a hexagon grid?

I'm working on a game covering the Romanian campaign, 1916 using either the Offensive à outrance or Twilight in the East system (or a modified version or hybrid of both).

While drawing the map, and brainstorming the thought occurred that instead of taking a very accurate period map and moving the terrain around in needed cases to conform to hexes or hexsides, we could modify the shape and or size of the hexes to better depict the terrain. For example, instead of moving the mighty Danube around and in-turn having to shift villages and rail lines in some cases, why not depict movement cells or areas that use the Danube as one of their borders.

I can see that a type area movement would have some advantages, but I must to admit to have not having played a wargame using it--other than you could argue that a hexagon map is an area movement system also

Paul


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Eric Brosius
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It would work fine, Paul, but would be extra work for you.
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hedererp wrote:
Wanted to ask peoples' opinions on area movement versus hexagons in wargames. Any examples of good, and comlex operational level games using area movement vice a hexagon grid?


Paul,

There are lots of examples of area movement operational wargames.

I have some in my collection, like FAB: The Bulge, but I can't say which ones are "good" because, sadly, I haven't played any of them yet.

Maybe the reason I haven't played them is because I like hexes. There is definitely room for area movement games, but I think I just like counting out movement from hex to hex. Just one guy's opinion, of course, but maybe my feelings are useful.

You can sort and filter games according to mechanic here at BGG, so you should be able to get a list of area movement wargames pretty easily.

Jim
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I'm working now on a kind of hybrid of the two, though I haven't gotten all that far with it. My idea is basically megahexes (7 hexes) where units are not actually on the ground in a particular place unless on the front edge of the megahex adjacent to an enemy unit. The units behind are in reserve, if you will, and can be placed with much greater freedom than might be allowed if one were counting hexes in the usual way. I thought this would add to the fog of war a bit without having to resort to double-blind systems. (I don't know if anyone has patience for that mechanic anymore.)

Basically I'm looking for a way to make trench warfare a bit more exciting. People often think that the battles of World War I were just boring tug-of-wars. (Or perhaps shoving match is a better analogy.) But there were times when a breakout could have been managed. I want to recreate a situation where one player can be duped in the allocation of action points (or what-have-you), replicating the mismanagement of supply and other factors that bring about defeat.

I know I'm being terribly vague, but as I say I'm only entertaining the notion recently and haven't seen if there is means of carrying it out or even a good reason to do so.

So ... I'll be anxious to hear what others say about area movement.
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To answer your question more directly, I vaguely (vaguely!) remember a game that modified the sizes of hexes instead of assigning different movement points according to the terrain being simulated. So a marsh would be made up of small hexes whereas clear terrain would represented by a larger hex.
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Gilles Daquin
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I am playing an area game at the moment (Storm over Stalingrad). Somehow, it frees us of minute movements and let us look at the combat on a more operational aspect.

We can ask ourselves more general question like what pressure are we going to put on this area, how are we going to pin the enemy here, what troops should I leave to cover the flank.

While ultimately there is not all that much difference, the gameplay seems smoother and appropriately more abstract for the level of operations it depicts.
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The main problem with the seven hex idea seems to be that it will make for a very empty map, and with the natural relationship of units to the front being lost - a unit closer to the front could be in reserve in a closer megahex. That will make it hard to keep track of unit positions.

But I don't really see what the idea has to do with area movement. Megahexes are regular; areas are not. There are many operational 20th century games around, but very few with areas which would seem to indicate that designers have struggled with the application. (They seems to be more frequent for earlier eras. Note that I'm equating point-to-point maps to area maps here.)

One point-to-point map example for WWI was the Wargamer's Clash of Empires: August 1914. But that also focused mainly on the 1914 campaign.

Quote:
People often think that the battles of World War I were just boring tug-of-wars. (Or perhaps shoving match is a better analogy.) But there were times when a breakout could have been managed. I want to recreate a situation where one player can be duped in the allocation of action points (or what-have-you), replicating the mismanagement of supply and other factors that bring about defeat.

It seems to me that the mobility of WWI campaigns had more to do with the troop density and the ability to maintain a front. The longer frontlines in the east made it harder to maintain continuous trenchlines than on the Western front with flanks that could be anchored on the Channel and the Alps (or Switzerland).

Quote:
. I thought this would add to the fog of war a bit without having to resort to double-blind systems. (I don't know if anyone has patience for that mechanic anymore.)

Absolutely. There is a recent very nice AAR of 8th Army: Operation Crusader. However, it is important to note that "to raise the fog of war a bit" one doesn't need to resort to double blind systems. Simply disallowing examination of stacks and providing counters for big formations (as OCS does) may be entirely sufficient.
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Kluvon wrote:
To answer your question more directly, I vaguely (vaguely!) remember a game that modified the sizes of hexes instead of assigning different movement points according to the terrain being simulated. So a marsh would be made up of small hexes whereas clear terrain would represented by a larger hex.


That sounds like a really interesting proposition. I hope someone around here sees this and knows the game. Would be interesting to look up!

 
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Eric Brosius wrote:
It would work fine, Paul, but would be extra work for you.


Right.

Drawing an area with a valid military boundary requires a better understanding of the landscape. Simply laying a hex pattern over an existing map involves a bit of tinkering here and there, but the process is largely a matter of tracing.

As another contributor mentioned, the use of areas might free the players from the burden of tedious hex counting when maneuvering units on the map.
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Jim F
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Area games that I have played fall in to the following categories...

1. Operational but not complex - (Monty's Gamble: Market Garden)
2. Complex but focused on a single battle (Napoleon's Triumph)

I think it will be tricky to combine the two, (especially with the added burden of transposing the system used in TitE).

I can only send you my best wishes.
 
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Russ Williams
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hedererp wrote:
I can see that a type area movement would have some advantages, but I must to admit to have not having played a wargame using it

You need to play more games!

Of possible interest:
Bowen Simmons wrote:
Terrain effects on movement are expressed not by “movement points” but by the sizes of the areas – the more difficult the terrain, the smaller the areas.

Another advantage that fell out of the use of areas was that they were large enough that the effects of terrain on combat could be drawn directly onto the map, instead of having to be represented indirectly through a terrain effects table.

quoted from http://simmonsgames.com/design/MarengoDesignNotes.html
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Russ, that must be it!

Here's a further explanation, though I can't say I understand it completely. http://simmonsgames.com/products/Marengo/Map.html

(Maybe after my second cup of coffee...)
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Russ Williams
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Kluvon wrote:
Here's a further explanation, though I can't say I understand it completely. http://simmonsgames.com/products/Marengo/Map.html

BaM adds its own special weirdness on top of area movement making it famously trickier to understand...

The position of a piece within the "area" has significance (in the center or on one of the borders with an adjacent area).
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Not Operational, but you may want to look at The Great War 1914-1918.
It's a moderately detailed area game handling trench warfare.


An idea to consider is an area-minis style combo, wherein there are
broad areas (delineating larger terrain locations) but with measured movement. And yes, on an operational scale.
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Bill Eldard
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hedererp wrote:
Wanted to ask peoples' opinions on area movement versus hexagons in wargames.


Scale is an important consideration in deciding area vs. hex movement. And that is tied to other issues.

For instance, how much time does each turn represent? Hours? Days? Weeks? Generally, the shorter the time, the more useful hexes become because they can more accurately define movement.

Another is linear distance v.concentration. Take three division counters with standard ZOCs covering a front of, say, 10 hexes. They're going to be spread rather thin, forcing the player to make judicious placements. But if I replace those 10 hexes with an area, the three divisons present a more formidable defense against threats from any direction.

I think in the end, whatever delivers the feel that you wish to convey is what matters. Try the area movement scheme and story-board a few games; is something resembling the actual events and outcome achievable? If not, and minor adjustments are not the remedy, fall back onto the hex system.

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From a practical perspective, many area based maps simply 'fudge' the areas to a large extent. They might use existing borders of countries / provinces etc. They might arbitrarily chop up a region (e.g. say a country such as France) in to several areas simply for game play purposes. A well done area based map, with areas linked to terrain accurately and logically can result in a better handling of movement as it relates to terrain than a hex grid. However, it would be ALOT of effort, and also complicates some things. For example, how would you define the range of aircraft (if that was relevant to the time period) in terms of areas? Even simple movement of ground units, if consisting of multiple 'areas' could result in anomalies if you're not very careful with the area-terrain relationship. There can also be complications related to unit frontage / stacking .
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hedererp wrote:
Wanted to ask peoples' opinions on area movement versus hexagons in wargames. Any examples of good, and comlex operational level games using area movement vice a hexagon grid?

I'm working on a game covering the Romanian campaign, 1916 using either the Offensive à outrance or Twilight in the East system (or a modified version or hybrid of both).

While drawing the map, and brainstorming the thought occurred that instead of taking a very accurate period map and moving the terrain around in needed cases to conform to hexes or hexsides, we could modify the shape and or size of the hexes to better depict the terrain. For example, instead of moving the mighty Danube around and in-turn having to shift villages and rail lines in some cases, why not depict movement cells or areas that use the Danube as one of their borders.

I can see that a type area movement would have some advantages, but I must to admit to have not having played a wargame using it--other than you could argue that a hexagon map is an area movement system also

Paul



Areas could work if small enough. The old Axis & Allies had a Leningrad area and a Stalingrad area before Moscow. The games had the same feel every time on this front as you had to decide which of the 2 spaces to concentrate on and it got old. I prefer hexes though to areas like in Advanced Third Reich. It's more interesting with a variety of paths to an objective. Small spaces could be interesting but could be distracting if not done well.
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There may be other options in gaming but the best comparison I can think of would be to check out Breakout: Normandy and Normandy '44.
Vassal would work very well for you so you don't have to actually purchase the games just to see the map depictions.

Breakout Normandy is an excellent game for seeing the area system at this level while Normandy '44 is a good hex representation of about the same area and scale.

Area maps shine when the battle is influenced by unique terrain features for strategic locations while other areas have no bearing on the terrain such as river crossings with open area on either side followed by towns or forest. Areas allow for enter/ exit of forest or town areas into open ground areas and areas can follow the non symmetrical paths of rivers or roads/ rail-lines to magnify choke points that may not be as easy on a standard hex grid to reproduce.
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Scoobysnacks wrote:
There may be other options in gaming but the best comparison I can think of would be to check out Breakout: Normandy and Normandy '44.
Vassal would work very well for you so you don't have to actually purchase the games just to see the map depictions.

Breakout Normandy is an excellent game for seeing the area system at this level while Normandy '44 is a good hex representation of about the same area and scale.

Area maps shine when the battle is influenced by unique terrain features for strategic locations while other areas have no bearing on the terrain such as river crossings with open area on either side followed by towns or forest. Areas allow for enter/ exit of forest or town areas into open ground areas and areas can follow the non symmetrical paths of rivers or roads/ rail-lines to magnify choke points that may not be as easy on a standard hex grid to reproduce.


I'll grant you that area maps can - on occasion and if done properly - highlight unique terrain features central to a battle.

But there is additional "freight" carried by area maps, in regards to the sacrifice in granularity.

One concern is that some other terrain considerations (that would show up on a hex map) end up having their importance overlooked, because they share an area with another terrain feature the designer has chosen to be representative. (For example, do I emphasize the mobility of the road running north-south, down the west side of the area, or the river running east-west across the area? That is a simple example. There are many others imaginable, and much more involved than that.)

Another concern is - as already pointed out - with regards to real-distance ranges, such as with aircraft and artillery.

Yet another concern is the application of uniform frontage rules, for a map where areas represent widely divergent linear distances.

Another is mobility for different unit types. As alluded to above, the same area might prove fast for mech if the road is controlled, but very slow if not, yet consistently fast for leg units, regardless of who controls the road. This can quickly lead to some quirky rules situations that the designer may or may not choose to try to deal with in an accurate manner, or just simplify for the sake of keeping the rules manageable.

It's an old mantra of mine, but all wargame maps are point-to-point. Some actually show points, with transit lines between them. Some are implicit, in the adjacency of areas, where the areas are the points, and the adjacencies define the transit lines. Still others are symmetrical, with the most transit lines of equal distance mathematically possible in a two-dimensional array (that is, hexagons). Since the latter provides the utmost density of coordinates in an array of regulated distances, it provides the greatest granularity of location information, and this is an imposing advantage difficult to overcome, IMO, with what is ascribed as being advantages to area-based maps.

I, too, can enjoy the occasional PtP or area-based game, but I'm always bothered by the directions I cannot go in, simply because the designer felt it wasn't a good option for all the unit types present. I'm also bothered, when, say, my 155 cannot reach two inches in all directions, because the area map doesn't break out properly.

The popular target for justifying non-hex maps is "chokepoints", but frankly, I've seen one helluva lot of chokepoints on hex-based maps, so I can't pretend it isn't possible for them to represent such a thing. Just look at any hex-based game covering Operation Barbarossa, and you know damn well that the road leading through Minsk and Smolensk is precious real estate, and if the Soviets can stop the Germans on that road, it's going to seriously hamper any chance of Moscow falling (at least, in the first year of operations). Likewise, one playing of a hex-based game covering Gettysburg is all it takes to realize that the Chambersburg Pike is a critical chokepoint, if the Union can hold a sizeable piece of it for the majority of the first day.
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What if roads were point-to-point bounded by areas?

I feel from reading the US Army Green books that infantry aren't walking down a road if there is even a sniff of the enemy (natural target, ricochets off the road surface, perfect fire lane etc.)

What if armour and mech could travel point to point and then effect adjacent areas, but infantry could only travel area-to-area, unless areas either side of the point to point grid were friendly-controlled?

Or perhaps if armour was at a point, and an adjacent area was attacked the armour or mech could be moved to the nearby area (representing it's mobility and creating FOW). This might incentivise your opponent to carry out diversionary attacks to draw armour away from the main point of attack. Add in 'edges' and 'centres' of areas representing fire lanes and reserves and you have a lot of positions on the board
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Paul;

Both work depending on the game. It sounds like your game may be better served by areas.
 
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whac3 wrote:
Paul;

Both work depending on the game. It sounds like your game may be better served by areas.


On what do you base this opinion?
 
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billyboy wrote:
whac3 wrote:
Paul;

Both work depending on the game. It sounds like your game may be better served by areas.


On what do you base this opinion?

Simply that he can keep the actual terrain features without adjusting them to fit hexes. Instead he adjusts the hexes to fit the terrain.
 
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whac3 wrote:
billyboy wrote:
whac3 wrote:
Paul;

Both work depending on the game. It sounds like your game may be better served by areas.


On what do you base this opinion?

Simply that he can keep the actual terrain features without adjusting them to fit hexes. Instead he adjusts the hexes to fit the terrain.


You mean like you could do in any game. No specific reason for this particular game. I suggest hexes Paul, more granularity. It really bothers me in some games when your movement becomes restricted because of area or ptp movement. Operations are about maneuver, the more that is permitted the better. Area works better in strategic level games IMO.
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billyboy wrote:
You mean like you could do in any game. No specific reason for this particular game. I suggest hexes Paul, more granularity. It really bothers me in some games when your movement becomes restricted because of area or ptp movement. Operations are about maneuver, the more that is permitted the better. Area works better in strategic level games IMO.


It surely depends entirely on how many areas there are.

It also depends on how much of a stack-tinkerer you are. If you delight in knocking one German division OOS with a craftily placed ZOC after six hours of tweezering then an area movement game is going to seem a little broad-strokes by comparison.

I like a low ratio of physically moving chits to making decisions. Areas can help achieve that. YMMV.

They definitely aren't suited for every scale though; calculating firing range at a tactical level with areas? Forget about it.

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