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World in Flames» Forums » Reviews

Subject: Headquarters rss

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Robert Lloyd
England
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Few players of WiF can have much doubt that the most important pieces (out of 16 zillion) are Headquarters (“HQ”) of which there about 55.

Back in my WiF infancy (3rd Edition), the rules and roles of HQs were simpler. They were also much more exclusively land-based units for land units. Interestingly, they could not move at all in mud, monsoon and severe winter weather, and this was when weather was changed only every turn not every pair of impulses. Even in the late 1980s, HQs had the same main functions in relation to supply, land combat, and reorganisation, that they still have but not every current ability was allowed. The land combat function was better in some respects as any two other land units could stack with an HQ. This meant that HQs would be particularly helpful in situations of overrun and amphibious invasion. HQ were also relatively cheap (4 BP) and easy to replace (one turn). The rules then did not have Offensive Points, HQ support, and the railway/temporary port function of HQs did not exist – there were no railways.

As WiF has developed, HQ have only got more important. Losing an HQ is usually a small catastrophe for the nation concerned. Failing to build HQs is often a serious own goal. Having an HQ in the wrong place is an annoyance and bad planning. Deciding where to send an HQ is a strategic decision of some importance. Skilful use of HQs is an important part of good play.

I am interested in the analysis and interpretation of successful and significant game design elements and I think the HQ of WiF deserves some recognition for all the neat things it brings to the game/simulation. This review just says what they do with reference to the Collector’s Edition rules.

Logistical Functions

Secondary Supply (2.4.2)

Any supply beyond the range of home country cities requires secondary supply sources which are really minor country capitals and HQs. The latter are the only ones which can move around. The HQs mobility is supplemented by the fact that land units can sequence moves so that an HQ can move within an impulse to put in supply units which were out of supply at the beginning of the impulse having moved any already in supply units first of all.
Supply is probably the preeminent responsibility of HQs which in this guise may be seen as major logistical hubs. Without HQs most operations outside of a home country would become difficult save along a coast where sea supply can suffice. Once abroad, the practical sphere of operations is mostly controlled by HQs, even if the railway net, ports, and shipping play a part too. If a nation hasn’t got an HQ to operate in a distant theatre, then it isn’t going to be able to do much in that theatre. Even defence will be compromised.

Supply Unit Expenditure (Option 14)

An HQ can be made a primary supply source for the rest of a turn if a supply unit is expended in its hex. This is only necessary when a supply route to a primary source is otherwise unavailable so it may occur where units are isolated or have their overseas supply routes cut perhaps temporarily. A supply unit could be delivered by air or sea or might be a supply unit that was pre-positioned against the eventuality of isolation. In this case, the HQ has the logistical function of being the distribution hub of scare rations and equipment in a difficult situation. If there are no supply units available, the HQ has the next more desperate option of emergency HQ supply.

Emergency HQ supply (Option 13)

Emergency HQ supply can be provided by an HQ during an impulse at the cost of the HQ becoming disorganised. This will allow out of supply units to attack or would ensure disorganised units which are being attacked do not suffer reductions in their combat strength. As well as providing supply in a manner that may be unexpected, this does not preclude the HQ acting as a combat unit itself if it is one of the units receiving supply. Disorganising the HQ represents it using up the very last of its centralised reserves of ammunition if not sustenance. This ability would support an attempt to break out from a pocket or more positively keep a campaign going when there has been a temporary break in sea supply.

Temporary Port (2.4.2)

An HQ on the coast has the characteristics of a temporary port for supply purposes. Units on a coast are supplied assuming there is an overseas supply path. Units inland, however, must draw supply overseas through a port or an HQ, subject to the HQ’s capacity based on its reorganisation value. In addition, units, other than marines and infantry can only embark or debark on a coast at a port or at an HQ (11.4.5 and 11.12). The HQ is not, however, a true port and ships cannot base there. One should think of temporary, improvised quays, jetties and other reception facilities sometimes rudimentary and sometimes up to the level of the Mulberry facilities used in Normandy.
This is another manifestation of the HQ’s role as a logistical hub specifically as an interface between sea and land supply routes and it also has a transportation dimension in the ability (more limited than a port) to facilitate landing and embarking from a coast.

Railway Concentration (11.9)

Since it serves as a station for itself and other units, HQs are the means to get maximum flexibility out of railway movement. Marshalling the movement of large bodies of troops by rail was one of the key functions of command in the early 20th century and this was a logistical/transportation function. These are not just rear movements; they can have an operational character. WiF allows rail movement into a hex in an enemy ZOC if there is a unit there already and if there is no city in the hex that other unit has to be an HQ.

Airfields (2.3.1)

HQs allow the basing of an additional air unit including in hexes that could not normally base any air units. This capability I would rarely use as if the HQ moved the extra unit would be over stacked and destroyed with its pilot.

In mid-20th century warfare, the logistical efforts to provide mass armies with copious means of destruction and also maintain them in relatively much more comfort than in previous eras was one of its most notable characteristics. The HQ in WiF is the link between the productive capacity of the homeland and its far-flung forces. The abilities above are organisational. It is the management of the movement of supply but also all the work constructing or commandeering temporary and existing facilities to support operations for which the existing infrastructure had to be supplemented in greater or lesser degrees.

Army Group Commander

Combat Unit

HQs are land combat units in their own right and they have all the usual characteristics of such units having ZOC and subject to stacking limits. HQ need to be committed to combat with some care for their survival. They cannot quickly be replaced, are expensive to produce, and Armoured HQ will sometimes fall foul of loss priorities if you allow the possibility. Using HQ for attack is nevertheless often very practical where other units will take losses first. Having an HQ exposed to attack is usually a sign that a something bad is unfolding as the HQ will generally be the last unit that should be exposed to loss and it might mean the end of a whole front. This will not always be the case. Failed attacks might expose an HQ to counterattack and on fluid fronts an HQ might have become disorganised and is then later exposed to loss by the movement of the front. On long fronts, the temptation to put an HQ in the front line can be hard to resist but will often be regretted. Keeping HQ properly safe from attack is an important discipline. They should be kept out of enemy artillery range and provided with fighter protection whenever possible.

Given the combat characteristics of HQs, it may be wondered what the strength of an HQ represents. It may be a command and control centre, in other words a headquarters properly speaking, but the headquarters’ staff are not truly combat troops. The HQ combat strength may represent just the personal influence of a capable commander as if it were a “bonus” to the actual fighting units. However, the HQ should also represent the reserves that a senior commander is able to deploy by his own authority or influence. The manner in which HQs should be used as a last resort combat unit signifies the holding back of reserves until needed to support a key attack or fill a hole in the line.

HQ support (Option 13)

This function is an enhancement of an HQs’ capability as a land combat unit. At the cost of becoming disorganised, the HQ further improves the performance of land combat attackers or defenders. Becoming disorganised increases the risk of an HQ being involved in combat as the HQ is then more vulnerable for the rest of the turn and it also prevents the HQ using any of its other attributes. However, there are many occasions when this risk is worth running including when the HQ is likely to be disorganised in any event.

Once more, the HQ is functioning in this situation as a command and control centre with the ability to use the personal influence of the commander to push his subordinates to a greater effort or unlock the availability of extra reserves.

Operations Focus

Reorganisation (11.17.2)

This is a complex function of HQs because it can be applied to several purposes. By recovering from disorganisation, a unit can do more in a turn than might otherwise be possible and it is safer from the consequences of over exertion or setbacks. A unit which exceeds its movement factor, or moves while unsupplied, can move again if reorganised. Reorganisation allows units (land, sea, or air) to do a second mission if a previous mission has exhausted it. This is a force multiplier and it can be interpreted as a consequence of command focus and efficiency. The beneficiary units are the recipients of extra resources, including sometimes just motivation. This allows them to perform better than others.

Offensive Points, HQ benefits (16.3)

HQ benefits when expending Offensive Points are also force multipliers or force intensifiers. Reorganisation allows a unit a chance to attack again after being disorganised. Air and land Offensive Points allow double strength attacks or double ground strikes without the delay of an intervening reorganisation. Naval HQ benefits are different resulting in better searching and therefore more surprise points. This is the way in which naval units strike harder. In addition, HQ benefits allow cheaper reorganisation and there is also the separate option of reorganising HQ’s (16.4) which is not normally possible

Using Offensive Points through HQ benefits represents extraordinary efforts and major, well planned, and well-resourced offensives which in the WW2 era amounted to the highest operational goals. Given the cost of Offensive Points, one should also see this as representing a supreme national effort.
Diplomatic

Foreign Troop Commitment (18.2)

An HQ is needed to send units to the home country of a non-cooperating allied major or minor country. Here the HQ represents inter-Allied agreements that permit a higher degree of joint strategy than would otherwise be possible. In this situation, losing the HQ can be particularly costly as it means the foreign force committed is also destroyed. The HQ loss is therefore also the breakdown of the original understanding. In this context, one can think of the distrust that quickly developed between Britain and France once Dunkirk was underway.

In passing, it might be mentioned that the Stillwell HQ is an exemplar of this capability permitting a US commitment to China and in addition able to command and supply Chinese Nationalist forces (21). The weakness of Stillwell is that he doesn’t have top rank as a US commander so cannot be used as an American HQ outside of China.

Partisan

Partisan HQ (22.15 Option 60)

The limited ability to create a partisan HQ in the Soviet Union or Yugoslavia represents an escalation of partisan warfare and an ability to bring the capabilities of HQs to partisan operations and combined operations using both partisans and regular forces where that is permitted.

Conclusion

Most of the above is simply setting out what the rules allow if I read them right. However, the point is to show by combining the references to the various powers relating to HQs to demonstrate what a central unit type they are to the game and some of its nuances. It also highlights the logistical model which WiF employs which is very important to the credibility of a 20th century simulation and brings to the fore also its treatment of command and the use of reserves.

I hope others will agree on the significance of these units perhaps with some examples of how they have crucially affected the outcome of games.
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Jonathan Townsend
Italy
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Thanks for that. Its really cool to see a review of 'just' an important part of a game.
Lovely to see something different that works - I hope we see more of it.
Meaningful, or frivolous, cross-game reviews/comparisions of important (or not) parts anyone...?
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Wendell
United States
Yellow Springs
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Si non potes reperire Berolini in tabula, ludens essetis non WIF.
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Hey, get your stinking cursor off my face! I got nukes, you know.
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Nice review, Robert.

Yeah - the HQ combat component as reserves - hadn't thought of that, but that's a good way to look at it!
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Björn Engqvist
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Well written and good thinking = good read.
 
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Steven Dolges
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Good write up. HQs are the linchpin of WiF armies. It is why we aim to ground strike them, right? cool
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Bruce X
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Great review!
 
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Scott G
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I love WiF and appreciated the write up of the headquarters units. I do wish they had not combined them with a land corps, reserves or no, it has never seemed right to me. That and the smaller map is why I still enjoy 5th edition.
 
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