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Subject: What's not-wrong with Stacking ? rss

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Mircea Pauca
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Following the (not always most productive) discussion about CRT's (which I accept if reasonable), let me reply with my pet dislike in Classic wargames: high stacking in crowded hexes, to the point of seriously impeding the understanding of one's options and decision making. Heterogeneous units, various status markers and needing to find 3:1 or the like on CRT's make all this much worse.

I'm a somewhat later entrant in the wargaming hobby, still rare here.
- I accept the stacking in Area-Impulse games (Storm over Arnhem and later) because of wider spaces and most often it's 3 similar units that together give an Integrity bonus (so together they are just a +4).
- May tolerate a very flowing classic like Panzergruppe Guderian where stacks are mostly similar divisions, or Panzer divisions (with 'rituals' to mark partial losses) or Russians which mostly die before remaining stacked ;-)
- I grumble even in a simple game I like a lot: Tigers in the Mist (but in some places one can arrange the 4 units openly, 2x2) and really liked the X/Y staggered, color-coded, corner-numbered units in the new Cyberboard box which shows everything one needs in one view.
- Was deterred from a potentially good "new classic" like Ukraine '43 with walls of consistent 2-3 different unit stacking.
- Truly would enjoy the mechanisms of GMT's East Front (Barbarossa) but a dense scenario like Barbarossa: Army Group South, 1941 Scenario 1 (Assault on Kiev) becomes an interface mess.
- This means OCS becomes unplayable for such tastes ?

- Variation in linear troop density is also important - that's why I like the possibilities of Area-Impulse, and also 'detachment' counters where the design incorporates them.

What suggestions do you give to potentially growing gamers to increase the ergonomics and acceptance of stacking ?
Would enjoy stories of true grognards, how they Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Tweezers ?
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Eric Brosius
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Not all OCS games have a lot of stacking. If you play Tunisia, for example, you'll find that many of the scenarios have precious little stacking. There aren't enough units! I believe Burma is similar.
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D T P
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Learn to love those tweezers! If you want to play a game like Scorched Earth you'll have to get used to those stacks. Hell, that's what I love about the game! Huge stacks, hundreds of counters.

If I ever get Parkinsons Disease I'm in big trouble!

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Robert Sweeney
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For me, it was always the hex size. If you are going to allow stacks of counters then the hex size should support that need. (Squad Leader comes to mind - with counters for everything - a hex that could barely fit one counter had to have 6 or more including a "concealing" counter - as if you didn't learn quickly to target the big stacks!) It is a irritant and bothers most gamers (even if not conciously). So, pitch the tweezers and get games that the hex size supports the counter density (L2 Design comes to mind) or start using offboard displays to ease onboard congestion.
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Bill Lawson
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Long lines of huge stacks are annoying at times but as Dave said above games like Fire in the East and others are just so damn good I'll deal with it!
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Dan Stueber
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You could try some off map holding boxes for the larger stacks. Replace the larger stack with a piece representing the units in the off map box and no large stacks on the board. However, in very large games you could then have a lot of off map holding boxes.....
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    Warriors of God requires it, because the units are tied to specific leaders. Plenty or room in the regions though.

    I've used sharpies on the past to mark the edges of chits so that you can see what's underneath and plan to do so next time WofG comes down from the shelf. Nice thick tiles, not too much diversity.

    While playing at a convention recently I cocked the top three chits on a stack of six so I could quickly see the presence of two different kinds of unit and the number of each present, but the game presenter kept doing me the favor of "neatening" it up for me!

             Sag.


 
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Keith Rose
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I also find stacks a pain - a counter is there by definition to add clarity (all the units values in one place), thus if its in a pile of others this clarity is completely negated.
I do find some games easier to play on Vassal or Cyberboard, as at least viewing a stack is relatively easy and doesn't end up toppling neighbouring stacks.
I often use markers & offboard stacks as suggested above, and indeed this is included in some games.

Regards
Keith
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Ernest Schubert
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I never minded stacking much back 30 years ago... I just took it as part of the package - unavoidable...

But I think that if I were going to do a game now, by and large, there would be no stacking, or marker counters. I'd much rather set the hex-scale and the standard unit size to equal the maximum unit density for the scale involved. To represent a unit that's deployed in a lower density for screening or defense or whatever, I'd just use either expanded zones of control, or break-down counters that would represent the constituant sub units... like 2 or 3 regiment sized counters for a division. if the division was deployed for offense, then the division counter would occupy a single hex, but if you wanted to spread the division out to screen on defense, then remove the division counter, and replace it with 3 regiments for the same division.

like that...

I too am getting to old and shakey to handle the big stacks anymore.
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Oh my God They Banned Kenny
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ROMagister wrote:
What's not-wrong with Stacking ?


Actually, not quite sure how to respond to the question as litterally posed. However, I think I somewhat agree with what you're trying to say here. The first issue is more practical, it is obviously rather physically 'inconvenient' to manage a 'game' with two parallel 'lines' stacked 3+ deep. When combined with units of varying combat strength and an odds / ratio based CRT it leads to 'excessive' emphasis on 'factor fiddling', which was noted in the other thread to which you made reference.

Although I do and have enjoyed games that 'suffer' from this, I still think it is not a 'design ideal'. I feel that, in some sense, the units are at the 'wrong level' when this occurs. Rather than large stacks 'everywhere', it would ideally be better to have the 'basic' unit be 'one level' higher in organization (e.g. division rather than regiment / brigade or corps rather than division etc.). If the idea is to allow for 'concentration' in one sector (say for offensive action) while 'thinning out' in another sector (for defensive purposes) then ideally 'breakdown' units would be provided. A 'larger' unit should be more powerful than a 'bunch' of lower level ones so as to provide the 'proper' incentive. A game that did this really well was La Grande Armée, where units 'spread out' for manoeuvre but when concentrated for battle would 'build up' into larger units rather than simply form a 'mega' stack of smaller units.
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Richard Irving
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Stacking SUCKS!!!!!

The term "fiddly" comes to mind. When you have to go through dozens of stacks to see the composition of your own forces--let alone dozens of stacks to inspect your opponent's... well life is too short.

I also don't like games that mentally fiddly as well--DRM's, for leadership, but defensive terrain multiplies the base value of the unit and other modifiers cause column shifts of the CRT shake yuk gulp

Why should I play wargame, no matter how good, if it annoys me when there are many great wargames that don't? Elegance is always to be preferred.
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Bill Lawson
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I agree with every complaint about stacking. Off board stacking with markers can help but it takes up a lot of space and you can still have lots of huge stacks falling over, they just aren't on the map. Its something I just deal with because many of the types of games I like to play don't really have a good way around it ( operational campaigns).
I don't want my regiments to become divisions or my divisions to become corps just to fit in the hex. Stacking is easier with big hexes but most of the games I'm talking about are huge enough to began with.
The only good solution I've found is to play them on vassal. Cyberboard works too but one of my complaints about cyberboard is that it doesn't handle stacks as well as vassal does. Rather than change my gaming habits which I like. I will continue to put up with stacking and use vassal to get around it as much as possible.

ps. All you folks out there that don't care for these types of games are lucky that you don't have it quite so bad and maybe have better solutions.
I'm just an old fashioned Wargamer.
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Ernest Schubert
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We messed around with this problem 30 years ago, using Blitzkrieg first and then Strategy1. Strategy 1 actually had the bits to use for making up larger units from smaller ones. And they worked like another poster suggested... you'd take like 2 points of armour and 2 one point armoured-infantry units, and put them together and get a 5 point panzergrenadier division.

When we worked with Blitzkrieg, I think that 5 points of armour = a 6-6 armoured division, and that it took 3 points of infantry to make a 4-4 infantry division. The problem we were going after at the time was the stalemate problem that the first version of Blitzkrieg had. You wound up, at some point, with a game that felt alot more like WWI trench warfare than WWII mobile warfare. By limiting the number of units in the game - I think we cut it by 2/3's - and limiting stacking to only 1 unit per hex, you got the ability to concentrate alot of firepower in a very small space - relative to what the defender could mass (in most cases).

But I do remember liking the fact that you didn't have masses of stacks of units moving around the board... and Blitzkrieg (initially) limited you to 12AF of units per hex. I don't know if it was an actual change, or if it was a common house-rule, that shifted it to any 3 units - which allowed some greater concentration of force on attacks.
 
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Wulf Corbett
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I just played a game of Panzer Grenadier, where, in one Town hex under Assault, there were:

Moved/Fired counter
Disrupted

German Leader
Demoralised
German Leader
Disrupted
PzIVH
Demoralised

PzGrenadier
Demoralised

PzGrenadier
British Leader
Disrupted

British Leader
Demoralised

British Leader
British Rifle
Disrupted

British Rifle
Sherman
Bren Carrier

That was quite a stack... shake

Great game though!
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Bill Lawson
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My favorite all time stack (my brother and I still laugh about this)was in the old SPI USN game . The Japanese player would always end up stacking his entire Navy in one hex! These stacks would be several inches high. Too funny.

ps: This was a great game too!
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Murray Lewis
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Wulf Corbett wrote:
I just played a game of Panzer Grenadier


Ah, you finally got round to playing it?

Yes PG's stacks can grow quite tall - although I've seen people use a separate part of the table for assaults and just leave a reference marker where it's actually taking place on the hex.
Seems like a sensible plan - especially given the huge stack you just said.
 
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Wulf Corbett
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MurrayL wrote:
Wulf Corbett wrote:
I just played a game of Panzer Grenadier
Ah, you finally got round to playing it?

Ahem... well, yes... blush Actually, I have played many solo games, but rarely bother finishing them once I see a clear outcome, so I haven't recorded them on BGG. shake
Quote:
Yes PG's stacks can grow quite tall - although I've seen people use a separate part of the table for assaults and just leave a reference marker where it's actually taking place on the hex.
Seems like a sensible plan - especially given the huge stack you just said.

Yes, the Assault hexes download are possibly a very good idea, but frankly I rather like the visual clue that there be carnage...
 
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rri1 wrote:
The term "fiddly" comes to mind.


    "Fiddly" is one of those terms used to damn a game, like "luckfest" or "multi-player solitaire." Multiple stacks can be hard to move around or comprehend, but I hate to see that pejorative applied to something when it has such an aroma associated with it.

    Often a bit of care crossing the angle at spots in the stack can provide useful information. It easier to embed intelligence than you might think, especially since a hot-spot in the battle is usually fresh in your mind.

             Sag.
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Jack Smith
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I find a lot of Ameritrash games a lot more fiddly than stacking. Stacking is useful for some Fog of War and if they get too big to manage I do use markers to keep them off board which seems to work for me. I just wish standard hexes could hold two or more stacks but thats impractical for many games I think.

It would be great to design a better method but I sure cant think of one which does not compromise something along the way.
 
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Philip Thomas
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Stacking limits help with one problem but lead to others. (What does the stacking limit mean in thematic terms? etc).

Also you can use seperate displays to hold the stacks (with only 1 counter on the actual board). Unhappy King Charles does this- each player has a mat with spaces for all his generals. In Clash of Monarchs there are spaces for big armies to stack off board. Unfortunately the stacking spaces are only slightly larger than the board spaces, so the stack is still there, but at least you don't have to move it around so much.
 
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Mircea Pauca
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Thanks for the easier-OCS tips. Then yes, I'm not yet ready for the Europa series (or are there less crowded situations too ?).

If I really want to play here *with someone* (less imbued with grognardom for all I know) it should be even easier and less fiddly than I'm accepting now... for now, I'll exercise my stacking muscle ;-) with more Barbarossa PBEM (which is about on my frontier now), and theirs with another Area-Impulse Thunder at Cassino.
Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! – Russia 1941-42 which sees good play here allows any stacking, but effectively discourages it by the extra vulnerability of units to fire, and I like that !

Do you have other favorite games to recommend Climbing the Stacking Ladder ? i.e. intense interest making the moderate stacking acceptable ?

Another related pet annoyance is when in-hex terrain features (forest, town, etc) or kinds of link between areas (major, minor road...) are hard to tell when hexes are normally filled adjacently - not even with stacking...
 
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Wulf Corbett
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Peso Pete wrote:
For example, if you make 1/2 inch counters and design the map to accommodate 5/8 inch counters, you'll have plenty of space between stacks to comfortably play the game - regardless of stacking.

I'd agree with this, but it means you either have much bigger maps or much fewer hexes...

And as I prefer counters bigger than 1/2", MUCH bigger, or MUCH fewer...
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I generally hate tall stacks, like multi-level building stacks in ASL.

But I also hate spreading units out in oversize hexes or irregular "areas."

I like things nice and neat. One unit per hex is fine. A small stack is also OK. Nothing else suits me.

Oh--and ZOCs and low unit density helps too. Can't stand a game where units fill up continuous lines of hexes most of the time, so that you can't pick up a unit without toppling an adjacent stack.

And I feel strongly enough about all that that I'll reject a game, no matter how good it's supposed to be, just for triggering one of the "pet peeves" I've listed above.

 
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Dan Owsen
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Stacking can be a pain, but it comes with the territory. You just learn to deal with it. I don't think it's a big deal.
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Drew Heath
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"What's not-wrong with stacking?"

Pussy! arrrh

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