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Subject: Most Realistic Tactical Wargame (World War II) rss

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Michael Dorosh
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This may well be a bad idea, so apologies in advance, but I'm sincere in asking the question. Following on from this thread: WW2 Tactical Wargames where we discussed Tactical Wargames, I am now curious to know the opinions of what is the "most realistic" of the various wargames that cover the Second World War at the tactical (man-to-man, squad, platoon) level. I did a search of the forum looking for subject lines with "realistic tactical" and came up with nothing.

I don't believe ASL is all that realistic - see the discussion on page two of the thread indicated above (http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/496275/ww2-tactical-wargames...). Actually, Solitaire ASL has a slightly higher realism factor.

I realize I should probably break it down into man-to-man, squad and platoon level games, or at the very least, split off the man-to-man stuff, but my thinking is kind of that the lower down in scale you go (single men being lower than platoons), the less realistic you can possibly be.

There seems to be a notion that more rules=more realism, but that isn't the case with ASL. Firepower had more rules than Sniper! 2nd Edition but I found the latter infinitely more fun to play, and in some ways more realistic even with the trapezoidal buildings. At some level some people may want to say that 'man-to-man' games are inherently more/less realistic than 'platoon' games, so I'll keep them in the conversation.

TCS seems to be a strong contender. I own the Assault: Tactical Combat in Europe – 1985 series but it isn't Second World War. The First Battles series seems interesting but I don't have much experience with it - i.e. Blood & Thunder.

Anyway, here's what I'm looking for as far as a discussion of "realism" - not a laundry list of titles, which is what I just did. Considerations such as:

a) attention to actual military organization; ASL doesn't do this at all. ASL doesn't even know what a platoon is, and SW allocations are fantasy. TCS on the other hand has real-world orders of battle.

b) realistic maps I'm not concerned about. Fantasy terrain like ASL uses, I can live with - TCS' historical maps are nice, but they restrict DYO. So open-endedness as far as maps aren't a drawback as far as realism, to me.

c) Games that encourage historical practice rather than "gameyness". You read about "bypass freeze sleaze" in ASL and other stuff that wins games but has little to do with what real-world commanders think about ("I'm going to drive my halftrack right up to that building so no one shoots at my infantry.")

d) Fidelity of research - ASL does come ahead here. I don't mean though that you need to get a "theatre in a box" and have to have every AFV of every nation included in a game, but that what is included needs to be portrayed distinctly and correctly. The AFVs in Ambush! for example, had armour ratings of L, M, and H and that was it. Obviously, Ambush! was "history lite" and intended for fun, but illustrates what I mean I hope. Not realistic. The AFVs in Sniper! seemed to be about the same.

e) depth of study - you don't need to have air support in a man-to-man game, and you can have a squad-level game without river crossings and parachute rules, but if you have a Normandy Beach game, you had best include at least one or two rules on barbed wire and land mines.

etc.

Honestly looking forward to your opinions. I think perhaps the best games have yet to be published, or perhaps because of the ASL monolith, maybe never will. I really like the squad-level best as you can include elements of both single-man and platoon-level play as appropriate, but have yet to find the "perfect" system. But I have not exactly experienced everything there is to see. Looking forward to the responses.
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suPUR DUEper
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Paintball with a $25,000 entry fee. And a $25,000 fine if you don't follow orders to your team captain's satisfaction.
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Michael Dorosh wrote:

What will a paintball weapon fire to?



Uh, more than a cardboard counter?



Edited to add previous quote for clarity
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Fritz Mulnar
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Combat Commander: Europe . at least feels that way to me.
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Hunga Dunga
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Michael Dorosh wrote:
I can live with - TCS' historical maps are nice, but they restrict DYO.

Nothing preventing anyone form collecting a bunch of TCS counters and creating your own scenarios!

TCS is well researched, and the order system really puts you in the commander's seat.
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Brian Crawford
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To be honest when it comes to tactical wargaming, I prefer to play using miniatures rules rather than wargames.

Also, an important factor for me is to play with players who are not out to simply win at any cost, but like to enjoy the period and try to play somewhat historical or in other words with no gamey strategies. Currently I only play 3 sets of tactical rules for WWII. One is at the man to man level and the other 2 are at the squad level, but they give me results that I at least feel are historical.

I agree with you that the best games have yet to be designed on the wargame (boardgame) front.

Interested to read what other gamers have experienced.
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Hallo Michael,

In my little experience (about twenty years) I have known four major systems: SL, ASL, TCS and CoH.

Leaving aside the first two, I consider the best (in the data, historicity, sense of truth, gameplay, complexity, relevance of data, abstraction and longevity) the system of the ex- The Gamers TCS.
Playful and exciting is the system of CoH Academy Games.

But as a historian, I can sincerely trust that I'm still waiting for that perfection which, I believe, as impossible to achieve in a game, so I'm playing with the available sistems.

Eventually the playful side prevails on the veracity.

Bye
Filippo.
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Michael Dorosh
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Filippo Chiari wrote:
Hallo Michael,

In my little experience (about twenty years) I have known four major systems: SL, ASL, TCS and CoH.

Leaving aside the first two, I consider the best (in the data, historicity, sense of truth, gameplay, complexity, relevance of data, abstraction and longevity) the system of the ex- The Gamers TCS.
Playful and exciting is the system of CoH Academy Games.

But as a historian, I can sincerely trust that I'm still waiting for that perfection which, I believe, as impossible to achieve in a game, so I'm playing with the available sistems.

Eventually the playful side prevails on the veracity.

Bye
Filippo.


Well stated; I agree with you and Brian that there isn't a "perfect" game yet. I'm not suggesting we will ever see one. Interesting to see CoH get a mention.

Thanks for the replies so far.
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Justus Pendleton
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Michael Dorosh wrote:
TedW wrote:
Paintball with a $25,000 entry fee. And a $25,000 fine if you don't follow orders to your team captain's satisfaction.


[...]

Not sure how this relates to a boardgaming forum in any event.


I think this is a response to questions above about "realism" and "gameyness". With actual money on the line people would probably be a lot more cautious -- just like real commanders (especially at a tactical level) tend to be a lot more cautious with the well-being of the soldiers under their command than the average boardgame is with "that infantry chit in G12".

But the original response it a bit terse so maybe I'm just reading that into it.

Personally, I think if you want anything approaching realism in a tactical game then you need to be playing an RTS or FPS on a computer. If it takes more than 10 minutes to simulate a 10 minute firefight then you have elided the single most important piece of "realism".
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George Haberberger
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Panzer Grenadier (Avalanche's platoon based system) has a good command and control method. Units have to be activated by leaders to move closer to enemy units that can fire on them, and leaders can activate subordinate leaders.

What I often see is a big attack start out with cascading leaders, but as units and leaders take losses, the attack loses steam, and turns are taken up just getting everyone ready. Units left behind without leaders are pretty much out of the game.

Many eastern front scenarios end up with lots of Russian units, but few leaders, and they have trouble with much smaller German units with lots of leaders.
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Stephen Pearce
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The most realistic is probably ASL but you've discounted it in the OP. It has the detail to allow any activity that occured at the tactical level. It falls down because it is a complex game and players will play to win over play to simulate ww2.
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How come nobody mentioned Lock 'n load Band of Heroes and its supplements. I am no WWII expert, but I love those games. They feel pretty realistic and still playable.
Don't you think?
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Andrea Doria
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a) attention to actual military organization; ASL doesn't do this at all. ASL doesn't even know what a platoon is, and SW allocations are fantasy. TCS on the other hand has real-world orders of battle.


I've noticed this myself. For instance, if you compare the OB in Pegasus Bridge with Cornelius Ryan's description, in the book of the same name, of the SWs carried by the paratroopers and garrison, you find discrepancies. I've always found that particularly odd, since the game system includes every possible weapon. My suspicion is that wrinkles like that get introduced at playtesting, where it turns out that what actually happened wasn't a sufficiently interesting battle. Of course, there's also the fact that Cross of Iron included Russian magnetic ATMs and the ASL Rulebook claims the Russians never developed them.

I think the breadth of the rules and counters provided in ASL gives it the potential to be the best, even if the canned scenarios aren't always. (I've honestly never played another WWII tactical game, so I can't really compare and contrast.)
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David Janik-Jones
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Brian C wrote:
To be honest when it comes to tactical wargaming, I prefer to play using miniatures rules rather than wargames.

Also, an important factor for me is to play with players who are not out to simply win at any cost, but like to enjoy the period and try to play somewhat historical or in other words with no gamey strategies. Currently I only play 3 sets of tactical rules for WWII. One is at the man to man level and the other 2 are at the squad level, but they give me results that I at least feel are historical.

I agree with you that the best games have yet to be designed on the wargame (boardgame) front.

Interested to read what other gamers have experienced.


Yikes! Another Canuck who feels exactly the way I do. Now it may be my geography or art degrees that make me cringe every time I see even the best tactical wargames (CC and V&V) and their artifical hexes and 60 degree roads, rivers and bocages, but that's precisely the whole reason I'm abandoning all of them (except Valor & Victory for fast pick-up games) and moving to 28mm miniatures for both man to man (NUTS! Second Edition) and squad-platoon level tactical WW2 gaming (Troops, Weapons & Tactics).

I'd be curious to know what rulesets you've chosen to play, Brian C.

But to answer the OP's question ... I'm not sure any hex and chit wargame captures tactical WW2 combat as well as a good set of miniatures rules and some realistic terrain. And there are plenty of tactical mini rulesets for all tastes and level of "simulation" to keep everyone arguing which is their fave for years.

But that's just one old man's opinion.
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Andrea Doria
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But to answer the OP's question ... I'm not sure any hex and chit wargame captures tactical WW2 combat as well as a good set of miniatures rules. But that's just one old man's opinion.


OK, I'm going to have to ask why here. Not because I don't believe you, but because I've never seen a rule set for WWII miniatures. I can quite easily believe that, for instance, Napoleonic miniatures rules are more realistic than any WWII boardgame, but I can't think of what difference miniatures vs. chits would make in the same time period.
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What is required to make a WW2 Tactical wargame realistic?

The hard factors?

Obviously not - though the weapons systems need to well modeled. ASL certainly details the weapons to a degree no other game excepting the original Tobruk did.

Then we have the need to model environmental factors - weather, haze, noise, limited fields of viewing...and this is where a game like ASL breaks down - Michael D. and all other Combat Mission forum participants will know this term - 'Borg Spotting' - the idea that all units have the same situational awareness as any individual unit.

Sure, you have the occasional concealment marker, and even a hidden unit or two, but you know the OOB of the forces well enough, and your guys in the back know what the guys in the front know.

The other problem is of course obedience - the cardboard warriors have no fear.

Most Tactical games do pretty well with this - morale and / or activation. ASL has the morale model, but no command/activation system. One reason I prefer Gameform's Combat or WEG's Soldiers is the orders do not get followed all the time - the men just don't listen - and the games have morale much like ASL does.

I think ASL could be far more 'realistic' with an activation model - and I think adopting Combat's would work well - basically a squad without leadership might roll 2D6 against its morale to move/shoot (and perhaps modify it by ELR) and use the same idea with the leaders - a platoon under under a leader would roll against the leader ratings to move/shoot the group.

The issues can be fixed, but at a cost - increased 'wristage' being one of them.

The Environmental factors can be modeled by limiting range of site, adding spotting rolls (like with Band of Heroes) and a mechanic for limited awareness - from the extreme of umpire play with three game sets, or the double blind system seen in CityFight.

Another thing to consider is time - players to model chaos further will need to have tight restrictions on how much time they have to do a move or plan to play a scenario - turns need to be played by intuition and just go for it seat of the pants play.
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Andrew Wright
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Honestly, you should look very hard at Fields of Fire. It is beyond the other systems in hard choices and atmospherics.
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David Janik-Jones
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Andrea_Doria wrote:
Quote:
But to answer the OP's question ... I'm not sure any hex and chit wargame captures tactical WW2 combat as well as a good set of miniatures rules. But that's just one old man's opinion.


OK, I'm going to have to ask why here. Not because I don't believe you, but because I've never seen a rule set for WWII miniatures. I can quite easily believe that, for instance, Napoleonic miniatures rules are more realistic than any WWII boardgame, but I can't think of what difference miniatures vs. chits would make in the same time period.


I actually added "and realistic terrain" to that bit while you were typing this.

There are dozens of rulesets for WW2 miniatures at scales that the OP asked for. As I am just starting into miniatures I now own CrossFire; Troops, Weapons & Tactics; NUTS! Second Edition; Disposable Heroes; Minis 1-48; and Baptism of Fire III.

In addition to owning these, I've researched many more at that scale: Rapid Fire, I Ain't Been Shot Yet Mum, Force on Force (aka Ambush Alley), Flames of War, Final Combat, Battlefield Evolution, Arc of Fire, Red Poppy/White Feather, Face of Battle, Flying Lead, Rules of Engagement, Blitzkreig Commander II, and a few more whose names escape me at the moment.

Yeah, there's tons. Each have their own strengths and weaknesses and fiddliness and level of detail. I settled on two that I highlighted for my own use based on my specific needs and wants, but there are lots to choose from.

What makes them better for me (and I've been wargaming since Tactics II) is the lack of hexes, more realistic terrain, less artifical restirctions on movement etc, in many cases more realistic feeling rules for tactics, TW&T's excellent "big man" rules and focus on tactics, sometimes more innovative movement or initiative mechanics (see CrossFire for example) a better look and feel (I love a great miniatures game table, i.e., actually moving little men around instead of cardboard chits), etc. But that's just me.

PS. Apologies if I'm taking this too far off the OP's question, btw.
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Good post Grog Dorosh, I'll post more here in a bit, dinner is on the table and I'm being paged

In the meantime, go check out Fields of Fire, I recently picked up a copy and it is striking some good notes, in tune with a lot of the reading I've been doing lately. It already has me thinking how I can adapt parts of it to our miniatures games, which have mostly been played with Crossfire of late.
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superjosef wrote:
Combat Commander: Europe . at least feels that way to me.


Seconded.
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Andrea Olivieri
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Binko wrote:
We really shouldn't even talk about ASL in the context of "tactical" games. It's not a tactical game at all. People constantly forget (or don't know about) the incredibly brief time span represented by an ASL turn.


This takes an unjustifiably narrow view of the tactical scale. Tactical planning and combat does not end once the company commander has given the 'Go' order. The decision to go at the building from the front, to go around its flank, to first deploy some smoke, to lay down a firelane, etc., are all tactical decisions. So I'm not sure what justification there is to distinguish between 'tactical' and 'skirmish'. I find the latter to be merely a subset of the former.

Furthermore, the 'two-minute turn' has a long history of criticism among ASL as being a misrepresentation or abstraction, so it's not exactly the best basis for such an argument.
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Michael Dorosh wrote:
superjosef wrote:
Combat Commander: Europe . at least feels that way to me.


... if you had some kind of follow-up as to why you "feel" this way...

We are wargamers.

We're not supposed to talk about how we feel.
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Hungadunga wrote:
Michael Dorosh wrote:
superjosef wrote:
Combat Commander: Europe . at least feels that way to me.


... if you had some kind of follow-up as to why you "feel" this way...

We are wargamers.

We're not supposed to talk about how we feel.


For what it's worth, I find the chaos of combat is well represented in Combat Commander, and I havn't played too many other tactical level games, but from what others have said, few of them model the chaos of combat as well as CC.



As far as defining tactical level, my working definitions are as follows:

Grand Strategic Scale: Axis and Allies, Totaler Krieg, World in Flames, Eurofront
This scale includes production, supply, movement, and often technology/political/diplomacy type systems. The scope of the game is the control of an entire nation's military and economic power.

Strategic Scale: EastFront II, No Retreat
This scale often includes limited production systems and never really has any political/diplomatic systems. It still has many logistics systems built in.

Operational Scale: Any Bulge Game, most Normandy games.
This scale rarely has any production systems and often utilizes a set of predetermined reinforcements. The unit movement is even more intricate and logistics is the key factor in many Operational Level games.

Tactical: Anything where you have to draw a line of sight.


It's fairly simple to say "squad level tactical" or "platoon level tactical". If you are drawing a line of sight to see if you can hit something, it's still tactical.
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Binko wrote:
Sorry, but I just don't see how tossing a smoke grenade or firing your MG down a street can be called "tactical decisions".

And, yes, I would say that tactical "planning" ends once the Regimental, Battalion and Company commanders have given their orders and set the troops in motion. After that it's all just combat reaction, not tactics.

I love ASL and I see this as a good thing. The scenario designer has set out the objectives. He plays the role of the company commander. Now I, the player, play my way through a quick and dirty combat knife fight. No worries about trying to model command and control. Officers are there to direct fire and yell at the troops running from combat, not to plan tactical maneuvers.

If I want to plan tactical maneuvers I'll play GD42 instead of ASL.


Interesting take Steve. Modern U.S. military theorists discuss three levels of warfare: Strategic, Operational, and Tactical. What you call "combat reaction" falls under tactical.
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