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Subject: Old Hex Games and Intuition, Knowing and Learning rss

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Lance Runolfsson
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I think that I play a lot of the old surround with ZOC and destroy AH SPI style Wargames from a largely intuitive level. To the extent that I am quite at a loss to describe exactly what I am doing to somebody else who is playing but not quite "getting it". I have a regular opponent that I would very much like to help become a better player but I'm kind of stumped on how to do this. He understands the rules all as well as I do maybe even a little better. He has actually taught me a few games I did not know. But I'm thinking maybe he is having trouble seeing patterns in play. Any ideas beyond just helping point out good and bad moves which I feel might seem condescending?
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Enrico Viglino
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Every other hex in a line. And why this works.

Learning this was a watershed moment for me.
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J.L. Robert
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I think the hardest thing to teach players is the chain reaction of ZOC encirclements. By punching a hole in a line and advancing after combat, you create a cascade effect of encircled attacks, with each subsequent attack leading to another advance, creating another encirclement, repeatedly until a line is shattered.

The other problem less experienced players often fall into is to become mesmerized by the big, beefy unit. If there's enough of a disparity in values, it's usually far better to destroy the support units first. With fewer units to back up the big hitter, it becomes easier to THEN encircle that troublesome piece.

These are the kinds of things that just have to be picked up on through repeated play. It might actually be difficult for modern wargamers to grasp these concepts since they have been conditioned to think LESS rigidly when playing wargames.
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Michael Lind
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Seems I recall this being referred to as something like the grain of the map, e.g., which way the hexes run in a straight line from hex to hex versus the sort of up and down pattern the hexes run the other way.

Very different approach is required depending on whether you're playing "with the grain" or "against the grain" with your counters.

Spacing your counters properly depending on the grain can result in a line that's much less susceptible to being easily broken versus one that takes more effort to penetrate.

There was an article in S&T magazine way back in the beginning of the magazine that explained the tactics of using the directionality of the maps. I know I kept a copy of it to share with new players at our gaming club way back then but have no idea where it is now. I'll look around and see if I can find it but don't hold much hope for doing so. You might see if you can find an index to S&T articles somewhere that could help locate it.
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Mark Humphries
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These articles from Moves are the best introduction to the subtleties of traditional ZOC tactics:
#22 Basic Tactics for the New Gamer - Fred Georgian
#23 The Tactics of the Advance - Fred Georgian
#24 Formation Tactics - Fred Georgian
#27 Conservative Tactics - Joe Angiolillo
#28 Defense/Offense Strategy - Fred Georgian
#30 Broad Front Strategy - Fred Georgian
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Lance Runolfsson
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calandale wrote:
Every other hex in a line. And why this works.

Learning this was a watershed moment for me.


Are you talking about how in some games with Mech moment phases after combat that two weak lines are better than one strong one?
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Roger Hobden
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The new device helps you plan a Broader Front Strategy.



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Lance Runolfsson
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Mark_WH wrote:
These articles from Moves are the best introduction to the subtleties of traditional ZOC tactics:
#22 Basic Tactics for the New Gamer - Fred Georgian
#23 The Tactics of the Advance - Fred Georgian
#24 Formation Tactics - Fred Georgian
#27 Conservative Tactics - Joe Angiolillo
#28 Defense/Offense Strategy - Fred Georgian
#30 Broad Front Strategy - Fred Georgian

Are these articles on line someplace? I sold all my moves magazines when they were getting high dollar in the mid and late 80's
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Lance Runolfsson
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Mallet wrote:
The new device helps you plan a Broader Front Strategy.





That's just wierde
 
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Enrico Viglino
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LanceRunolfsson wrote:
calandale wrote:
Every other hex in a line. And why this works.

Learning this was a watershed moment for me.


Are you talking about how in some games with Mech moment phases after combat that two weak lines are better than one strong one?


Actually how a continuous line is usually weaker than
one made up of every other hex with stronger stacks.

Soak offs can allow a solid line to be broken.

But yeah, the need for defense in depth in some games is also key.
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Lance Runolfsson
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calandale wrote:
LanceRunolfsson wrote:
calandale wrote:
Every other hex in a line. And why this works.

Learning this was a watershed moment for me.


Are you talking about how in some games with Mech moment phases after combat that two weak lines are better than one strong one?


Actually how a continuous line is usually weaker than
one made up of every other hex with stronger stacks.

Soak offs can allow a solid line to be broken.

But yeah, the need for defense in depth in some games is also key.


I get it now! I rarely play games with stacking anymore so I did not see it at first.
Edit: but if you can stack in the game so to can the enemy who uis attacking. Now I'm confused
 
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Enrico Viglino
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LanceRunolfsson wrote:

Edit: but if you can stack in the game so to can the enemy who uis attacking. Now I'm confused


Shouldn't matter. It's harder to get good odds on a bigger stack.
Now, the attacker can still arrange soaks, but they usually have to commit a
bigger force, taking great losses on the soak for a one-hex gain.

It's also harder to encircle units in your zones - just attacking
with a normal one-hex advance on both sides of an enemy unit will
cut it off, in certain patterns, but you can't move from zone to
zone (usually) without advancing. Even without stacking, this can
provide a good reason for leaving gaps (though small adjacent lines
can work well too).

These ideas often carry into games that don't follow that standard pattern.
They get totally screwed up by some newer designs though.
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Jim P.
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In 1977, SPI put out a document called Intro to Wargaming. It has a section or two on wargaming tactics. If you google spiintro.pdf you will find it.

Edit: It includes the 'grain of the hexes' explanation. It was written by Frederick Georgian...same guy who wrote most of the Moves articles Mr. Humphries pointed out above...

Edit 2: Sorry it took a minute. You can get it here:
http://www.thewargamer.com/grognard/spiintro.pdf
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Hunga Dunga
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These glasses help.
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Mark Humphries
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LanceRunolfsson wrote:
Mark_WH wrote:
These articles from Moves are the best introduction to the subtleties of traditional ZOC tactics:
#22 Basic Tactics for the New Gamer - Fred Georgian
#23 The Tactics of the Advance - Fred Georgian
#24 Formation Tactics - Fred Georgian
#27 Conservative Tactics - Joe Angiolillo
#28 Defense/Offense Strategy - Fred Georgian
#30 Broad Front Strategy - Fred Georgian

Are these articles on line someplace? I sold all my moves magazines when they were getting high dollar in the mid and late 80's


Not to my knowledge, although I haven't tried searching for them.
I used to keep a stack of photocopies on the shelf to hand out to new wargamers.
I really should dig up the originals.
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Ted Spencer
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InvisibleRobots wrote:
In 1977, SPI put out a document called Intro to Wargaming. It has a section or two on wargaming tactics. If you google spiintro.pdf you will find it... You can get it here:
http://www.thewargamer.com/grognard/spiintro.pdf
Wonderful, thanks. I remember articles from the General on "generalship." I don't see articles like that anymore, general, conceptual articles. Now they all appear written to sell another game, rather than help players to think about how to wargame.
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Robert Stuart
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LanceRunolfsson wrote:
I think that I play a lot of the old surround with ZOC and destroy AH SPI style Wargames from a largely intuitive level. To the extent that I am quite at a loss to describe exactly what I am doing to somebody else who is playing but not quite "getting it". I have a regular opponent that I would very much like to help become a better player but I'm kind of stumped on how to do this. He understands the rules all as well as I do maybe even a little better. He has actually taught me a few games I did not know. But I'm thinking maybe he is having trouble seeing patterns in play. Any ideas beyond just helping point out good and bad moves which I feel might seem condescending?


As they say in football, "go deep".

Buy him a copy of Liddell-Hart's Strategy. As a follow up, after both of you read the book you can proceed game by game and discuss how one would put into practice Hart's ideas in that particular game.

Now that I think about it, perhaps it's something I should do myself in a systematic way -- I've always done it 'intuitively', but never systematically.
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Lance Runolfsson
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bob_santafe wrote:
LanceRunolfsson wrote:
I think that I play a lot of the old surround with ZOC and destroy AH SPI style Wargames from a largely intuitive level. To the extent that I am quite at a loss to describe exactly what I am doing to somebody else who is playing but not quite "getting it". I have a regular opponent that I would very much like to help become a better player but I'm kind of stumped on how to do this. He understands the rules all as well as I do maybe even a little better. He has actually taught me a few games I did not know. But I'm thinking maybe he is having trouble seeing patterns in play. Any ideas beyond just helping point out good and bad moves which I feel might seem condescending?


As they say in football, "go deep".

Buy him a copy of Liddell-Hart's Strategy. As a follow up, after both of you read the book you can proceed game by game and discuss how one would put into practice Hart's ideas in that particular game.

Now that I think about it, perhaps it's something I should do myself in a systematic way -- I've always done it 'intuitively', but never systematically.

Interesting idea. But I think there are some basic principle to Hex games like not leaving units to be surrounded and destroyed, knowing when to advance after combat and when not to. That have little or no bearing on real world theory. It has to do with geometry that is peculiar to the games reality.
 
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Jason Cawley
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Learning Go, you learn to first see every Atari - stone that can be killed immediately because it has only one liberty - then you learn to ask yourself two formula questions: can I capture with a ladder? Can I capture with a net? After answering those immediate tactical questions, then you can ask which regions are the most important to contest, and whether you have good shape (mutual support of your stones and efficient control of territory and spread of influence).

There is a similar checklist to go through for hex and counter wargames.

First you have to know how to see outright holes in your line. In most ZOC rule systems that is easy - are your units 4 hexes apart? Then their ZOCs cannot stop enemy movement clean past your units. In some it is harder, e,g, when there are soft ZOCs that fast enemy units might be able to move through, or games that allow overrun attacks, which might create the hole during the enemy movement phase. This is like seeing that a piece is directly threatened, it is the bare minimum of reading the board.

Next question - can your line be broken by movement-phase pinches of its front line positions? This can arise when you have lines of units 3 hexes from each other and there are numerous fast enemies nearby. The enemy can then move to locations where they are indeed stopped by your ZOCs, but they can get units on opposite sides of some of your front line units. That means when it comes time for your units to retreat, their routes will be blocked. Your front line units are only a screen in thus case, covering the area against deep fast penetration, but unable to protect themselves from serious enemy attack. This is like being able to spot ladders in Go, when you have 2 liberties but the enemy can put you in "check" (Atari) over and over, with your response forced.

Next question - can your line be broken by advances after combat that surround it front line positions? The enemy can often reach the hexes where your own units are placed by attacking them, forcing them to retreat, and advancing after combat. Thus lets them radiate their own ZOCs to hexes they could not reach in their movement phase, and potentially combined those "penetration" ZOCs with others they can reach in their movement phase. When the enemy can arrange for that combination to put their units on opposite sides of one of your own front line positions, they can block that position's retreat routes. Often they can hit that position in the same combat phase with other attackers, so that first the penetration attack just pushes you out if the way, then a killing attack eliminates the units that the previous just "cut off". This avoids giving you any chance to recover by counterattack etc. Spotting these is like spotting chances to capture with a net in Go, where a little calculation is needed to see that you can cut off the enemy faster than he can connect to freedom, by cutting his route out a little farther away.

Spotting that last sort is easy enough in games with rigid ZOCs and one movement phase, but gets harder with soft ZOCs, longer advances after combat, or mechanized movement following combat, and the like. But it us still just part of the checklist to run through as you decide where to put a front line piece or stack. It can also require some judgment about possible enemy attacks and the CRT, since the enemy needs to be able to bring enough forces to make you retreat from both hexes. As a rule of thumb, though, you are exposing yourself to this risk whenever you put a weak flank guard immediately adjacent to a more important position, or if you make a thin line of weak units in every hex.

So you have run through that checklist. Are you done? No. You next need to ask whether you are choosing good individual positions. Are you getting terrain benefits on the CRT in most hexes? Are you preventing the enemy from crossing that river that the rest of your line is using, or are you letting him across before he hits a ZOC and has to stop? Are your stacks strong enough to hold vs the attackers bearing down on them? Are you exposed to 3 stacks of units instead of only 2, letting then enemy get to higher odds within the stacking limit? Is your line fairly straight or needlessly snaked around, requiring more positions to be held with less strength in each? If you were moved back a couple of hexes, would your lines be forced onto each other? Would a major part of your force be cut off if the enemy got to one cut-point, using overruns or longer advances after combat? Do you have any reserve able to deal with next turn's emergencies?

All those questions are like asking whether you are playing in the important places and contesting what needs contesting, in Go. Where the most points are at stake, or where who is getting the most out of their pieces.

Now are you done with the checklist? No, you still have to ask what the enemy is trying to accomplish and what your own plan is. Who has the initiative, where? Which areas of the map must fend for themselves, even with some local risks run, to economize on forces? He who defends everything defends nothing - where should you build up your mass of maneuver, able to turn the tide and get local odds wherever you choose to throw it into the fight? Which units can be pulled out of the line to shuttle them into reserve? Where should the reinforcements mass?

Too many players try to start at that end of the scale and just hope the tactical details work out, but that is backward. It is the small placement analysis that tells you where you are strong enough and where you are vulnerable. It is the readily defensible line of strong terrain and strong stacks in a few positions only, that is the line to gain or to hold, as you think through the last step. If you have gone through the checklist from bottom up, all the higher level allocations make sense, they are guided by realism about what your forces can do for you. When you get the order wrong, you may accomplish you goal in the area where you concentrate, but spend too much doing it or take too long, and lose the war elsewhere in the meantime.

I hope this helps...
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