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Subject: Anybody Else Try to Use Real Life Historical Tactics in Wargames? rss

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Russell Evans
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Hi, one of the most fun things I've recently discovered is trying to simulate battles in wargames as historically accurately as possible to see how close I can get to what really happened. Most recently I've started this with Battle for Moscow. I placed my German Panzer divisions roughly where they were actually located at the beginning of the battle according to this map I found:


and I kind of try to follow the same path to Moscow that the Germans really took. (The 3rd and 4th Panzer Armies met up at Vyazma in October for example, so that's the first thing I tried to do in the game and just went from there.

I'm still in the middle of my game, but I'm hoping to get some sort of historical similarities.

Anyway, I was wondering if any of you used similar strategies drawn from real life events for your games. I'd like to hear your stories.
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Eddy Sterckx
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That's basically Plan A when I first play a game : do what the historical commander did. After that comes the decision whether or not the game is good enough to warrant a replay and allows for alternative approaches.
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Dom Rougier
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Definitions differ, but I'm happy assuming that the priority for wargames is for simulation above all other factors.

With that in mind, any *good* wargame should reward historical tactics and strategy as much as possible (or punish them, if they were a mistake!). It should put you in the same position as the commander, and ask you to make the same decisions.

These decisions may not have the same outcome, due to friction and player choices, but the fundamental decisions should be the same, and the historical tactics are an outcome of those.

Whether it requires historically accurate thinking is more a question of scope - a highly scripted game will offer less choice in this regard, typically.
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Paul Aceto
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The game that came to my mind when I read your title was Fields of Fire. I had just read this book before playing it, and was struck by the number of similar concepts in both, such as "volume of fire."



This was also the only tactical game I've played that forced me to pay attention to my casualties, as moving them to the rear was important in determining final victory points.

Excellent book, by the way.
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A most astounding book - the section on Hedgerow Combat is worth the price alone.

This book first got to me when I was knee deep into BTS - Combat Mission way back in 1999.
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Harry Sidebottom
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Like Eddy, that is always my Plan A, then try out alternatives.

Thanks Paul for mentioning the book, which I had never heard of, but now think I should read.
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Eddy Sterckx
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HarryWarriorofRome wrote:
Like Eddy, that is always my Plan A, then try out alternatives.


Sometimes I even take it a step further. On our first play of Churchill and playing as Stalin, I really set out to frustrate both other players as much as I could with going historical only, "njet"/counter moves and even role-playing it up a bit. It worked. Afterwards we had a laugh, but I think I really managed to get under their skin by just playing the historical Stalin.
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Domfluff wrote:
With that in mind, any *good* wargame should reward historical tactics and strategy as much as possible (or punish them, if they were a mistake!). It should put you in the same position as the commander, and ask you to make the same decisions.


Interesting idea. How would you reward the historically losing side? I mean, at this point if the losing side wins, it may be purely based on the game mechanics and not what could have happened. I guess everything is just pure speculation anyway. But then it goes back to why should you reward the winning side the decisions made historically vs speculative decisions that wins anyway.
 
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Dom Rougier
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DragonShifu wrote:
Domfluff wrote:
With that in mind, any *good* wargame should reward historical tactics and strategy as much as possible (or punish them, if they were a mistake!). It should put you in the same position as the commander, and ask you to make the same decisions.


Interesting idea. How would you reward the historically losing side? I mean, at this point if the losing side wins, it may be purely based on the game mechanics and not what could have happened. I guess everything is just pure speculation anyway. But then it goes back to why should you reward the winning side the decisions made historically vs speculative decisions that wins anyway.


See: Napoleon's Triumph for a bold attempt at that.

The narrative of Austerlitz is formed by deceit, which is really difficult to make work in a boardgame. Historically, the allies would have been better not to attack at all, but Napoleon sucked them in by thinning his lines and masking his movement.

Napoleon's Triumph encourages the allied player to make this "mistake", and supplies this hidden information by keeping French forces off the map, and bringing them on mid-battle, under control of the player.

Furthermore, the act of bringing on reinforcements triggers a flip of the victory conditions - before then, the only way for the Austrians and Russians to win is to attack, after they are triggered, they fight more defensively, and the French need to attack.

The point is, the allied armies have a huge advantage at the start (which they believed they did), so the best option would be for them to attack in force. If they hold back, the French can elect not to trigger the victory condition flip, and win with the forces they have.
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Domfluff wrote:
DragonShifu wrote:
Domfluff wrote:
With that in mind, any *good* wargame should reward historical tactics and strategy as much as possible (or punish them, if they were a mistake!). It should put you in the same position as the commander, and ask you to make the same decisions.


Interesting idea. How would you reward the historically losing side? I mean, at this point if the losing side wins, it may be purely based on the game mechanics and not what could have happened. I guess everything is just pure speculation anyway. But then it goes back to why should you reward the winning side the decisions made historically vs speculative decisions that wins anyway.


See: Napoleon's Triumph for a bold attempt at that.

The narrative of Austerlitz is formed by deceit, which is really difficult to make work in a boardgame. Historically, the allies would have been better not to attack at all, but Napoleon sucked them in by thinning his lines and masking his movement.

Napoleon's Triumph encourages the allied player to make this "mistake", and supplies this hidden information by keeping French forces off the map, and bringing them on mid-battle, under control of the player.

Furthermore, the act of bringing on reinforcements triggers a flip of the victory conditions - before then, the only way for the Austrians and Russians to win is to attack, after they are triggered, they fight more defensively, and the French need to attack.

The point is, the allied armies have a huge advantage at the start (which they believed they did), so the best option would be for them to attack in force. If they hold back, the French can elect not to trigger the victory condition flip, and win with the forces they have.


I did not realise NT worked that way. Thanks for the read, I find that a really smart way of solving the "Austerlitz problem".
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CJ
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This article may be of interest:

http://army.mod.uk/documents/general/20160415-Wargaming-Webs...
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Keith Rose
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DragonShifu wrote:
Domfluff wrote:
With that in mind, any *good* wargame should reward historical tactics and strategy as much as possible (or punish them, if they were a mistake!). It should put you in the same position as the commander, and ask you to make the same decisions.


Interesting idea. How would you reward the historically losing side? I mean, at this point if the losing side wins, it may be purely based on the game mechanics and not what could have happened. I guess everything is just pure speculation anyway. But then it goes back to why should you reward the winning side the decisions made historically vs speculative decisions that wins anyway.


Straying slightly to the world of PC games, Ron Dockal (schwerepunkt)Russo German War grades each player compared to historical outcomes, thus its possible to still lose, but "lose better" if that makes sense, and therefore "win" the game, if not the battle. I felt this was an excellent mechanic.
Most of the scenarios in the game give you a good feel for the main issues faced by each protagonist - for example early war the Germans have the qualitative edge, but are very stretched, particularly viz-a-viz supply to achieve all their objectives. The Russians have a lot of men but their quality is questionable, but they are typically falling back on their supply lines. As a result historical tactics will usually work.
 
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Eric Walters
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For me, it's the default way to play the game when first learning the rules. I don't want to have to learn the rules and then figure out the tactics for given situations. So, to keep the learning burden to a manageable level, I'll focus on the rules and do what was done historically. Once I feel I've got the rules down and can see other possibilities than what was actually done, I start fiddling with the tactics. Of course, fiddling with the tactics also causes me to go back into the rulebook, so both efforts complement each other--it's just a matter of what has the emphasis.

This goes whether I'm playing solitaire to learn the rules or spiff up my tactics or doing face-to-face play.

A good example will be most games on OPERATION MARKET-GARDEN. I don't want to have to figure out my own drop zones or changes to the order of battle, or mess around with how the major formations operated--at least at first. So whether I'm learning/playing The Devil's Cauldron: The Battles for Arnhem and Nijmegen/Where Eagles Dare, Highway to the Reich (third edition), or It Never Snows, I'll use the historical starting positions/deployments and historical plans until I have the system down (and usually see how differently I want to employ the forces!).
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Ron A
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The rules for the Band of Brothers games certainly encourage historical tactics. Spreading troops out, flanking the enemy, suppressing the enemy before closing for melee, all of those tactics are rewarded by the game system.
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joe mcgrath
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Zouave wrote:
The game that came to my mind when I read your title was Fields of Fire. I had just read this book before playing it, and was struck by the number of similar concepts in both, such as "volume of fire."



This was also the only tactical game I've played that forced me to pay attention to my casualties, as moving them to the rear was important in determining final victory points.

Excellent book, by the way.

Couldn't agree more. In my four decades of reading on WWII, this book is one of the very best.
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I played my wife in Commands & Colors: Napoleonics and I won. A few days later we had a rematch after she had read Andrew Robert's Napoleon: A Life and she beat me using some of the things she learned about Napoleon's tactics from the biography. While Commands and Colors is pretty abstracted, using what she learned about the real life strategies worked out for her.
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David Janik-Jones
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Up Front fan, Cats were once worshipped as gods and they haven't forgotten this, Combat Commander series fan, The Raven King (game publisher) ... that's me!, Fields of Fire fan
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Quote:
Anybody Else Try to Use Real Life Historical Tactics in Wargames?

Yes.

This is one way I consider if a wargame is any good. If I use proper, effective, historic (aka realistic) tactics, I should be able to defeat my opponent who is not using same the vast majority of the time, luck and a major SNAFU notwithstanding (both of which the system should also allow to occur).

A system that I can easily game to make a victory happen outside of historic tactics means that I can't buy into the overall effect and narrative ... I see the flaw first, regardless of the game's fun.

Even systems that do not encourage/enforce the use of such tactics (pick either of the two popular tactical WW2 war-games, CC or ASL, for example, especially around set lines of advance, or no command-control structures; or unreal in other ways such as unit frontages or the utter deadliness of artillery) I will still try my best to play using as close to realistic tactics to play. These result in wins a bit more than defeats, so the model seems right enough that I can overlook the glaring unreality because the narrative seems right (enough).
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M St
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Quote:
Anybody Else Try to Use Real Life Historical Tactics in Wargames?

All the time. It's one of the key ways to find out if a game makes any sense. If I play a game and historical tactics produce absurd outcomes, I don't waste my time and move on to the next. If I have a game that is sort of ok in historical moves, then it makes sense to start experimenting what other strategies or tactics can be used in it; stretching the envelope of the historical decisions, so to speak.
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Brian McCue
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My observation has been that I start out playing as historically as I know how, and then gradually I learn to play better. Part of "better" is probably improving my history-based thinking, but part of it is also learning "gamey" tricks like odds soak-offs. At some point I realize that I have learned the game well enough to play it with 100% reference to itself and 0% reference to history, at which point I start over with another game.

I seriously think that this sequence of events accounts for most wargamers' desire for more games.
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Bill Eldard
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A number of years ago in a Wings of War WW2 game, my friend and I were operating a pair of USN Grumman Wildcats vs. a pair of Japanese Mitsubishi Zeroes. Before the game started, my wingman and I agreed to take opportunity shots at the Zeroes in the pass, then allow the more nimble Zeroes to get on our "six." Once they did and began closing, we executed the Thach Weave and picked off each other's pursuer after two inboard turns. The Zero "pilots" never expected it.
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Robert Stuart
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The problem is that the most brilliant victories in history came about by generals taking advantage of opportunities which arose (sometimes because of their own efforts at deception). In any realistic game of Chancellorsville, for instance, I can't imagine the Confederate player winning by splitting his forces & then splitting them again, while the Union player stops his drive and sits there for a couple of turns. However, the Confederate player, with the advantage of interior lines and a more consolidated & mobile force, can present the Union player with a dilemma, and then capitalize on it -- a style of play which would lead to an unpredictable course for the battle.
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Don Lynch
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Subject: Anybody Else Try to Use Real Life Historical Tactics in Wargames?

Yes. A lot more than I should, but it lures me in every time even if I should know better.
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Derry Salewski
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Like...garroting my opponent to win?

Yes.

No one wants to play
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Don Lynch
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Also, a lot depends on the game scales and how much leeway you are granted in the setup. And I have always disliked exact reinforcement schedules in battle games. Too much exact information to feed into the commander's decisions instead of allowing his anxieties to run amuck. What if Blucher didn't make it in time? How would the ultimate meeting engagement of Gettysburg turn out given the potential for radically different arrival/deployment times?
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Russell Evans
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donlyn wrote:
Also, a lot depends on the game scales and how much leeway you are granted in the setup. And I have always disliked exact reinforcement schedules in battle games. Too much exact information to feed into the commander's decisions instead of allowing his anxieties to run amuck. What if Blucher didn't make it in time? How would the ultimate meeting engagement of Gettysburg turn out given the potential for radically different arrival/deployment times?

If Blucher didn't make it in time, everyone in Europe would be speaking French. (jk)
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