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Jim F
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I am a big fan of OCS and BCS. Recently a BGG user asked me to compare the two, so I have. After writing my thoughts down I thought it might be worth sharing with others. Gnarled veterans of both systems feel free to correct/point out any errors. I'm not being precious about this. I have tried to focus on the key similarities and differences. I'm not so interested in discussing the whys and wherefores.

Supply

OCS uses both trace supply and on-map supply. Trace supply is a very basic level of supply where, Combat units must be able to trace a path to a supply source or they may lose steps/whole units. This supply source is usually a port or a map edge hex. Rail connections, divisional HQs and 'extenders' are typically used to extend that range.

On-map supply is a very literal form of supply and uses Supply Points (SP). These are counters that are physically moved around the map using mules/trucks and air transport. Supply Points are required if you want to attack, re-fit your aircraft, use barrages or keep units that are cut off from trace supply from losing steps. It is not required for units to defend themselves but their strength is halved if they don't have/choose to use it.

In BCS, there are no supply points to transport around the map. Instead you need to maintain a Main Supply Route (MSR) - basically a line of supply between the map edge, the combat trains (effectively supply hubs - one per formation), and finally to the HQ's. Failure to maintain the MSR leads to step losses and significantly reduces the ability of the formation to activate fully/at all.

Aircraft and Artillery

In OCS aircraft and artillery units are physically represented on the map (although sometimes planes have off map bases too) with counters and specific rules about how, when and where they operate. With aircraft you can do a variety of missions including fighter sweeps, interceptions, bombing, transport troops etc...

In BCS this is far more abstracted. There are no artillery or air units. Instead both players will receive artillery points. Artillery points are either inherent to an HQ’s or can be assigned from High Command. They are used to either kill or suppress units, there is no such thing as ‘disorganised’ status for units (always shortened to DG’d) as there is in OCS and SCS.

Air points can be used by any Allied formation and act in a very similar fashion to artillery points. There is no Luftwaffe because the results of their efforts in this campaign were so negligible. In fact there is no air to air or ground to air combat at all.

Movement

Movement in OCS is far more varied than BCS. A unit can be in a number of modes that determine when and how far a unit moves, e.g. reserve mode, strat mode etc, move mode etc... These are shown by either flipping the counter or placing a marker.

With BCS there aren’t any modes. A unit can be either be flipped to its move side, which allows greater movement or to its deployed side. The deployed side may change how the unit moves, e.g. tracked PZG can switch to leg movement (going on foot) or improve its ability to fight.

Combat

Both OCS and BCS give their units an action rating (AR) which influences how well they fight. For OCS the AR is probably more influential.

In OCS a combat starts with a 'surprise roll' which is modified by the difference between the AR's of the two units and can influence a combat by up to six column shifts in favour of either the attacker or defender.

This makes it less attractive to those that regard wargaming as an accountancy exercise but is great for those that look for a bit of unpredictability. It then uses a series of modifiers to determine the result. As well as the surprise roll, the usual odds (3:1 etc...) and terrain are a key determinates in the outcome of combat.

In BCS the combat is far more predictable and uses a range of modifiers as you would expect based on the AR of unit involved and terrain. Terrain however is nothing like as important for determining the outcome as OCS. There is however a wider variety of attacks a unit can do in BCS and therein lies much of the fun of the game, e.g. engagements (ARM v ARM), regular attacks (assaults), shock attack (ARM v INF) etc...

Strength of a unit only matters in ARM vs ARM. It is not included on Infantry units, which will lead to a bit of head scratching when you look at those counters for the first time. No odds tables are used at all. Radical stuff!

Command and Control

OCS is far more liberal than BCS. You can mix and match formations, combine them in attack/defence and send units all over the place, providing there are some friendly SP’s around. Raids by single units is not uncommon leading to the (optional) Godzilla rule which tries to prevent this from happening as follows…

“Defining what a “raider” is for this is difficult, so players will need to use common sense. Qualifying units tend to be small, out of trace supply, out of range of an HQ, and positioned so that they block enemy supply trace (and that is their primary purpose). If you find a unit or stack that seems to qualify, Godzilla eats them and they reappear in the dead pile”

What BCS does, brilliantly in my opinion, is to take that ability away. You cannot stray out of an HQ's command radius. There are penalties for mixing and matching formations and you will soon see them grinding to a halt. Trying to switch your point of attack overnight with other friendly formations nearby becomes a logistical nightmare.

Which do I prefer?

I have three children so, in a different setting, this is a question I have to deal with from time to time - mainly from my youngest (aged eight). I find it very hard to answer (as I do about my children) but I would have to say that BCS is ahead by half a nose. That said I wouldn’t give up one for another (still working for my off-spring analogy here) because I love OCS and BCS, just in different ways.

What BCS does is to address some of the quirks of OCS, (not quirks that bother me) and, in my opinion, is the best designed game I have seen in years. Once you have absorbed the different terms that BCS uses and how you need to set up your road network so that formations don’t trip up over each other, you will be able to enjoy its really smooth ride.
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Thanks for taking the time to write up this comparison. It's nice to see the differences.
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Bill Lawson
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BCS is excellent. Best new system in years. Very fun to play. I still prefer OCS though.
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Roger Hobden
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Interesting.


Thanks for doing this.

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Carl Fung
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Jim,

Good write up.

As Dean comments in the Designer Notes, BCS did have its guts rooted from OCS originally but moved past and evolved into its own unique system. It mostly had to do with the scale and type of system he was designing, i.e. battalion at 1km-1mi/hex vs. regimental/divisional at 3.5-5mi/hex and alternating formation by formation activation instead of more traditional IGO-UGO phasing.

Obvious elements of OCS in BCS are things like Action Ratings and Movement Classes (with a better distinction for heavy wheeled vehicles like armored cars being tactical than just wheeled), but much of everything else is new as it portrays a different kind of action and mindset at this battalion scale. At battalion scale, combats are more granular as you observe without the traditional adding up of combat factors in a singular combat phase but rather freedom of actions within your activation phase. Armor, Infantry, and Artillery: the trilogy of combat arms make their separate and combined presence felt.

SNAFU and Combat Train + MSR bore out of the physical supply dump surprisingly. Originally BCS did have supply points but Dean melded operational tempo and general supply situation into the current features. This makes accounting easier while still adding in controlled chaos. I stress controlled chaos because the owning player dictates how well his formations will perform for an activation by how much fatigued, coordinated, and his general supply situation is. The better managed, the better chance of the formations performing at their peak.

So there is a natural tendency to compare OCS and BCS, but they exist on different planes with a host of different battles than can be portrayed by both systems. Take for example Last Blitzkrieg vs. A Time for Trumpets scenario in Beyond the Rhine. Same battle, different ways of playing and mindset of achieving the same thing. Both earn a place on the table.
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Jim F
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It's just a pleasure to have the choice of either system. Total respect to Mr Essig, yourself and the rest of the team for bringing them to market.

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