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ralph waldo
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I was lamenting how it can be difficult to replicate the historical WWII outcome the other day in one of these forums. It seemed to me that this meant that the game was a poor simulation, even if it was a good game (at least it will be when we get the rules down).

But after reflecting upon the historical conditions that led to many of Germany's successes and defeats, I realized that the results that many of us are griping about are probably fairly realistic models of what would have happened IF THE ALLIES HAD HAD THE ADVANTAGE OF HINDSIGHT and the Germans stayed on course with their historical course of action.

For example, I came close, but failed to replicate the German attack through sedan and the Ardennes last week. I came close to sudden victory in France, but fell short. Sedan was guarded by weaker than normal forces, and the allies stacked the coastline, in a manner somewhat similar to history...but definitely not as poorly as the original allied deployment.

Unfortunately, if you read the history of the Sedan campaign (admittedly I have only scanned it) the french were so sure that the Germans could not mount a successful attack there that they only defended the area with 1 division. In game terms, that means that they put one of their blocks at a 1 strength pip to defend the Sedan area. If any French player replicates the historical French defense, I promise you that Paris will quickly fall almost every time.

The point here is, that this game allows a huge leway in terms of "what if" type strategies. Unfortunately, most allied players are trying some fairly extreme "what-if" alternatives, given their insight into what happened historically. As a result, The Germans are having a tough time of it during the early going. In fact, game designer Ron has given us a few hints that he tends to do well with the Germans precisely because he either uses his own alternative German strategies, or makes sure that he knows how to exploit whatever weaknesses the allies "what if strategies" tend to open up.

Another good example is the challenge that Germany can have fending off two very aggressive British and Russian players during the early-going. Germany had a relatively small force initially, and would have potentially been overwhelmed if the British and Russians had simultaneously attacked during the French campaign (however politically unrealistic this may have been). This may make the German task more difficult, but that is not to say that such a situation would be "unrealistic."

Another example also stands out. The fact that few players feel they have the opportunity to mount the historical Norway campaign has been a sore point among many gamers. In reality, many of these "fortunate" campaigns for the Germans were, in game terms, the result of GOOD CARDS or conservative allied play. The invasion of Norway occurred in april of 1940. In game terms, the 0 command "sitskreig" card had just been played the turn before, allowing germany to secure the sea zone south of Norway without likely opposition from the British. Historically, the invasion of France was occuring during the same turn that the Norway invasion occurred. Although the British did mount their own Norway campaign, presumably their "command points" and forces were insufficient to successfully deal with both Norway and France, if you express the actual historical event in game terms. This set of curcumstances could indeed happen in "Victory in Europe" and in fact is one of the likely scenarios in which a Norway campaign might occur--basically good German cards, poor allied cards, and too few allied command pips to respond to the Norway invasion, while also managing the defense of France. Once again, ALLIED HINDSIGHT can often thwart the historical result.

So one of the interesting, and arguably odd features of the game, is that in order for the Germans to win, they often have to rely on plans that vary from the historical plan, or know how to counter overly aggressive allied alternative strategies. Ron has, of course, play-tested the game many times. As a result, he tells us he knows how to make the British and the Russians pay for many of thier alternative strategies. In fact, one unusual, but refreshing element to this game is that, unlike most WWII simulations, the option to take out Britain is much more do-able in VIE, particularly if the British over extend themselves.

I am finding that I must really study the capabilities, timing, and vulnerabilities of the allies to formulate a winning German plan. At least one good German land unit and the fleet must be available to threaten the invasion of England, at all times, in order to keep the British from thwarting German plans in 39 and 40. Even if this invasion might be doomed to failure, a German unit ashore in England is more than a distraction for the British. P.S. don't ever leave Berlin unoccupied during the French campaign. It is like coating yourself with BBQ sauce and jumping into a pen of hungry dogs.

So in conclusion, in some instances at least, the funny ahistorical results we are arriving at in our games may not be the result of this game being a poor simulation. They may actually be due to the fact that the game is TOO GOOD of a simulation of what might have happened if the allies had reacted in a more aggressive and omniscient manner. It remains to be seen if such an unrestrained set of "what if" options will grant us a classic game, or if it will prove to be too wild and unbalanced. Ron has indicated that he finds the game to be fairly well balanced. Given his level of playtesting, I suspect that he is right (although a bit more German industry seems to be in order). There seems to be a good game here. If Columbia will actually give us a set of readable rules we might discover the brilliance of this potential gem.
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Barry Miller
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A very good post. Which makes me wonder... I don't understand why wargamers (I'm a "quasi" wargamer, BTW) enjoy playing wargames which are designed to be simulations. I mean, if a wargame design sets out to simulate a war or a battle, then of course aren't the outcomes of the game already predicted? Thusly to make them somewhat unpredictable, the designer adds-in mechanics or rules to put equilibrium into the balance. So if the player who plays the side of the historical loser ends-up winning the game, has he beaten his opponent, or the game?

This is why I prefer wargames that don't simulate the war/battle, but rather they model it. They model the units, they model the climate, the terrain, the underlying geopolitical trappings, and capabilities. They model some historical events by offering them as random elements, and without any ties to historical outcomes. (Whereas a simulation, I believe, would tie an historical event into a specific point of the game).

This is why I appreciate ViE... I never saw it as a simulation, and was puzzled by others who considered it to be as such. Instead, I see ViE as a design which models all the elements mentioned above and instead of designing the game to use those elements to simulate the war, they offer those elements to the player so they can create their own war.. their own history ... their own alternate dimension. Just like all those great alternate history sci-fi TV shows!

So Ralph, I think you nailed it, perfectly.

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Matthew Taylor
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I take a contrary view. I don't expect a game to have a historical outcome as a probability, I do expect that it be possible for every material historical outcome to be a possibility, and here I find the game falls down.

I think the command point system is at least partly to blame, and the fault might be in its lack of granularity. Command points are few, and consequently have huge opportunity costs associated with them. One possible solution might have been to greatly increase them but then raise the coast of some things relative to others.

For example if every non leader units moved into a battle cost 1 CM then a full on attack with three ground, one air, on naval, one leader would cost 5 CM, but reinforcing a battle with just one unit would cost only 1. Perhaps the commitment of a leader unit might grant a free CM to one unit since the leader already represents a concentration of effort.

Strategic moves might still be one per unit over land, but two per unit over seas, so shuffling over a the European rail net is easier than across the ocean.

Obviously such would require extensive testing.
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Rick Westerman
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waldowanda wrote:
If Columbia will actually give us a set of readable rules we might discover the brilliance of this potential gem.


Thumbs up on this and the rest of your post. Especially about the parts about the invasion of Britain. Give the Germans even a slight opening and the Brits should be hurting.

I'm on my third game and can't wait for my fourth. The Germans do have to be flexible and ready to exploit cards as well as Allied mistakes.
 
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Quote:
I was lamenting how it can be difficult to replicate the historical WWII outcome the other day in one of these forums. It seemed to me that this meant that the game was a poor simulation, even if it was a good game

Why? Why is replicating the historical outcome required? It was by no means a foregone conclusion. Important decisions could have readily gone a different way, battles could have been lost, and so on. The Germans could have easily had their blitzkrieg through Belgium blunted and cut off, France and Britain could have staved off defeat by becoming a single country, Britain could have made peace with Germany in July 1940, the list goes on and on. The Western Allies came within a hair's breadth of declaring war on the Soviet Union in February 1940. Bombers had been moved into place to strike the oilfields in Baku from bases in Syria.

A game that does not allow for these possibilities is a poor game. Looking back with 20/20 hindsight and requiring that a game go the same way as history did? There might have been some justification for this back in the 1970s when wargamers weren't really interested in anything but re-fighting the war following the same script, but today?

"Let no one be fooled, by the spate of television films and propaganda which has made the war seem like some great triumphant epic. It was, in fact, a very narrow shave, and the reader may like to ponder [...] whether [...] we might have won [without] Ultra."
-- F. W. Winterbotham
 
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Matthew Taylor
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No one is arguing that historical outcomes have to happen. I am arguing that any model that can not produce the historical outcome with historical inputs at least some of the time is too badly broken to have any value beyond casual gaming.
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Ron Draker
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The game is meant to be played in a reasonable amount of time and to give players the big, hard choices. We made many compromises on scope and scale to keep that playing time manageable. Even so, many complain that the game is still too long, others that we made the wrong choices it what we cut or glossed over. As the ol' saying goes, you can't please all the people all the time.

I disagree though with Mr. Taylor's statement that the game cannot produce historical outcomes. It can and does from time-to-time capture the grand sweep of the history. I have played games that followed very closely to the history, including a near run German capture of Moscow and a final loss as Berlin fell to the Soviets in mid-45. No, our game did not capture every skirmish or operation, but it felt like WW II at a grand strategy level.

The good news is that we are blessed with a bounty of good games on this complex subject and if this one doesn't scratch your itch, you can always play "Unconditional Surrender," Supreme Commander," "Totaler Krieg," "World at War," "Europe Engulfed," or the original "Advanced Third Reich," just to mention a few of the big names.

Your other option is to take the baseline game and add your own historical chrome or optional house rules, but I do not believe the game is "broken" as is.

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Matthew Taylor
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As a GAME with historical flavor I think it is fine, or will be with some clarified and cleaned up rules.

I agree that BROADLY historical outcomes are possible. Where we disagree I think is what are the material historical inputs.

My test is could I take a general history of the campaign being modeled and mechanically play it out with the game. That means all the invasions and other operations have to be able to be mechanically represented in the right order with the historical outcome and there need to be in game reasons to take those paths.

It is abundantly clear to me that this is not possible - no Norway landings at every port, no air assault on Crete, Balkan campaign, Bismark sortie and actions happening in North Africa largely simultaneously.

 
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Ron Draker
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Yes, if you want to be able to recreate the individual landings of troops from airborne and infantry battalions in Norway, this is not the game for you. We assume all of those minor operations occurred when you take a minor power's capital. Take Oslo and the Germans gain control of the rest of Norway not occupied by British or French troops.

Play a four card in 41-2 and you can do all four things you say can't be done; Bismarck, N. Africa, Belgrade, and an attack on Greece from Albania.
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David Clifford
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I like this game a lot but I still don't think Germany can,in the campaign game, replicate the historical order of battle shown in 1941.2 and the other scenarios or ever build their force pool while all the other countries can. How can Germany duplicate history and launched a massive Barbarossa campaign with their losses and level of production? Is the only way to do it to play the scenarios? I would sure like to see some tweaks to Germans production level in the updated rules.
 
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Ron Draker
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In a game of this scale, there is no perfect "historical" 41-2 OB. Not all divisions and corps or armies were exactly the same size or same composition. Lists of Divisions and total army end strengths does not tell you enough. Every game makes some best guesstimates.

We made some last minute adjustments to the German starting OB based on play balance issues and did not adjust the 41 scenario. I believe the starting OB is more accurate, and the 1.1 rules will make adjustments to 41 scenario to reduce the pp value of the German forces. This change will not affect the play balance or the forces arrayed against the Soviets.

I have seen a number of games where the Germans were able to build a strong force to attack the Soviets by '41 and some where they succeed in defeating the Soviets.

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Ron I believe you have a fun game here that can be finished in a day unlike other monster eto games. Thanks for your responses on your thought process. I have played solo and can't wait to play my first face to face game. Take your time to get 1.1 done right. Are you going to include any optional rules or way to balance/bid for sides according to player skill level?easiest way in my mind would be bidding for extra pps for start units.
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Ron Draker
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Thanks for the kind words Ralph and "Braveheart," it means a lot.

No plans for optional "balancing" rules or bidding at this time, because I truly believe the game is balanced. The main reason the game was held up for so long was to work out play balance issues, and with a game that takes as long as this one to play, that was a big undertaking. Minor changes can have a big influence on balance. Make the Germans just a little too strong at start, and they will just continue to roll on after Poland and take out the Soviets. Beef up the Soviets to counter this and they will declare war early and overwhelm the Germans while they are fighting in France.

Of course not all players are balanced in skills or luck. If players find they need a handicap, they can bid pp to give the opposing side as free builds before play.

For example, two players roll two dice each to start the bid if they both want to play say the Allies. Player A wins the dice-off and bids four pp they're willing to give their opponent in pre-game builds. Player B can accept this bid or raise it to say 5 pp and the bids continue until one side relents.

Another option is to bid extra draw cards per year. If for example the winning bid was two extra cards per year, the opposing side would get to draw up to four cards in '39 and six in subsequent years, then discard down to their appropriate hand size after looking at the cards.

This is not a game that can be mastered quickly and I hope people will enjoy learning new ways to win. I am confident though that for every "winning" strategy that someone comes up with, another person will find a viable counter.
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Barry Miller
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taylorsmatthew wrote:
...any model that can not produce the historical outcome with historical inputs...

I totally get what you were striving to say here, but to claim that "historical inputs" can be captured in this game is to my mind, "a bridge too far". (Sorry, couldn't resist)!

Anyway, when you say, "historical inputs", I think of the literally thousands of individual actions which occurred each week throughout the ETO - each one in its own right altering the course of the war in some way. You know - as an illustrative example, the guy who just happened to be in the right place at the right time which created a chain event that resulted in the victory of a battle. Yet he was only there because he was three minutes late to catch his ride so he ended-up catching a different ride...

It's those sort of occurrences which are what I think of when one talks about "historical input". And because of that battle being won, the tide of the war was changed (again, just an illustrative example). So for my example, the "historical input" would be the guy missing his ride. But these things happened constantly. The war could've taken so many different turns every week. It's only thru the hindsight of history that we accept the outcome as fact.

But when you're in the middle of the war (as we are while playing this game), there is no fact. And so IMHO, we shouldn't let the historical facts of the actual WWII determine how our mini WWIIs play out.

Now if those hundreds of thousands of "historical inputs" which I mentioned above were ever to be modeled in a game, then perhaps we would get a game which replicates the war perfectly. But then it wouldn't be a game anymore, would it? Which brings me to...

taylorsmatthew wrote:
As a GAME with historical flavor I think it is fine, or will be with some clarified and cleaned up rules.

You took care to emphasize the word, "game". The way it comes across, is as if you're accusing ViE of being [only] a "game". Well, for me, that's what I wanted - was a game. And I think they did a good job - as you said yourself - of producing one.


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Derry Salewski
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How dare game designers design games!
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Stu Hendrickson
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speaking of 'historical inputs', the paragraph about the sitzkrieg card intruiged me. We all know that the term 'sitzkrieg' was invented by the allies to poke fun at the fact that the GERMANS sat on their butt in early 1940, right?? so this card should actually be a misery burden for the axis! it would force them to regroup for the spring campaign. Look at it this way: the game Europe engulfed actually has a rule prohibiting the axis from attacking in jan/feb 1940! so the designer of that game has forced the axis to play a sitzkrieg card!!
but the OP has merit and is interesting. I repeat what I said in an earlier thread: this game is kinda like Napoleonic wars- don't demand it to mirror history, it will probably not. But that's a good part of the charm of the game. If you are a big time history-event-box-checker, ironically like I think the OP says he is, you will probably be disappointed... but to each their own.
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Derry Salewski
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I'll ask it here since it's sort of on topic: does sitzkrieg affect both players?
 
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Scott Muldoon (silentdibs)
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scifiantihero wrote:
I'll ask it here since it's sort of on topic: does sitzkrieg affect both players?

No, why would it?
 
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sdiberar wrote:
scifiantihero wrote:
I'll ask it here since it's sort of on topic: does sitzkrieg affect both players?

No, why would it?


Because I googled it when I didn't know what the reference was and apparently both sides kinda didn't do anything.

I didn't play it that way but wondered.
 
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Ron Draker
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The "Sitzkrieg" card represents the "Phoney War" where the Allies were content to sit and wait for the Germans. The only major Allied offensive on the Western front was the Saar Offensive in September '39, but the French only advanced a few kilometers before calling off the attacks and withdrawing back to their pre-war positions.

During the German Polish campaign, the Allies had 110 divisions in the west to the Germans 23. After Poland fell, Hitler was impatient to begin offensives against the Allies, but the General Staff cautioned against this and dragged their feet because of the weather.

The bottomline, the card is meant to reflect the Allies lack of plans or intentions to aggressively pursue the war.
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Ron D wrote:
The bottomline, the card is meant to reflect the Allies lack of plans or intentions to aggressively pursue the war.

However, the card doesn't reflect historical reality. Hitler wanted to attack the West in October 1939. This didn't happen because he rolled a six on the weather table and storms prevented the invasion. All winter long, Hitler rolled six after six and got more and more frustrated he couldn't launch his attack. Meanwhile Fall Gelb changed in character, changing from an ordinary frontal attack finally becoming the sickle-cut that we know so well. The Phoney War wasn't the Allies' fault, it was bad weather and the worst winter in decades.

 
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Ron Draker
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I can see the argument for making the card affect Germany, but then you'd have the ahistorical situation of the Germans doing nothing while the Allies are free to make attacks.

I think the card works better as a block on the Allies to reflect their passive efforts on the western front and that's what I was going for. You're free to house rule the card negates all attacks for both sides.
 
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James McHaffey
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waldowanda wrote:
But after reflecting upon the historical conditions that led to many of Germany's successes and defeats, I realized that the results that many of us are griping about are probably fairly realistic models of what would have happened IF THE ALLIES HAD HAD THE ADVANTAGE OF HINDSIGHT and the Germans stayed on course with their historical course of action


Actually I think a well designed game prevents players from using this hindsight to their advantage. Otherwise it's not modeling reality at all. So in essence, I disagree with the basis of your assessment. ViE is not a simulation at all if it allows players to benefit too much from hindsight knowledge. I only played once and honestly the rules had too many ambiguities so we gave up. So I won't be playing again until they release a version 1.1 rule book or an extensive FAQ. But it felt like A&A with blocks and chrome. A far cry from modeling reality...
 
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This is a great thread - thanks for starting it.

I've only had a short shakedown play of the two turns of 1939, but I can see that this is the grand strategic game I was hoping it would be. I can also see it is going to take longer to play than I would have liked, but I think that is the compromise of having a game of sufficient depth that covers the 6 years of the war.

My only grumble is that the rulebook is the big stumbling block for me. It is poorly constructed, with elements being far too scattered. There are also too many 'how the heck do I do this...' and 'I can't see the rule to that....' moments. This has spoilt it a bit for me so far.

I hope the 1.1 or 2.0 rule books are not long in being issued.
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