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Subject: Control Markers in Wargames rss

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Sean Norman
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Hi folks,
I posted a question in the Conflict of Heroes forums a few weeks ago regarding control markers in wargames.

I probably should have posted it to more of a general wargaming forum such as this, but posted it in the CoH forums because I was playing it at the time.

Anyway, my question was essentially "what do control markers in war-games symbolize"? I also wondered why the mechanic was often implemented as last-man-in.

In case you don't jump over to the thread, I'll summarize a few points below:

Quote:
let's say my opponent has a few units adjacent to the control point, and my units are in full retreat quite a few hexes away, yet I was still the last-man in. Obviously, my units are unable to exert any control in a situation such as this, so what does control really mean?


Quote:
If a zone of control is an abstract mechanism for representing a contested area (perhaps of strategic importance), it doesn't make sense that you can control the zone in the example that I provided above.

To me, the only way you can really control a zone is to exert influence on it be either having a unit directly on the area in question, or having units within firing range and/or LOS.

Perhaps in most systems it's implemented as "last-man in" in order to simplify the mechanic and cut down on rule complexity


Just thought I'd poll a broader audience in order to get more input.

Cheers!



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Leo Zappa
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I think it can denote the leaving behind of a small garrison detachment while the main body of the unit moves through. The garrison is enough to maintain control over the remaining civilian population and perhaps handfuls of enemy stragglers or snipers, but does not have any real combat power to resist an organized enemy attack. The detachment is also small enough that its absence from its parent unit is not sufficient to require using a reduced-strength counter for the parent unit.

This is how I've interpreted control markers in the games I play.
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David DeThorne
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What it represents seems to me to be a function of how control affects the game. Does it slow the other side's movement? Cut supply lines? Reduce recon capabilities?
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Sean Norman
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Leo, your interpretation seems to on a conceptual level rather that physical. I suppose that works if you're working on a higher-level (such as a battalion), but in a squad-level game I would think leaving units behind would certainly affect combat effectiveness.

I haven't played enough war-games to see how the mechanic is implemented in various systems. The only war-games I own are Conflict of Heroes and A Victory Denied, and Memoir '44 in the "wargaming-light" category.

In Memoir '44 you score victory points for having a squad on the control hex itself, whereas in CoH you retain control as long as you were the last man to enter the hex, whether it's occupied or not.


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Brett Soutter
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DDeT wrote:
What it represents seems to me to be a function of how control affects the game.


I think that Sean's point is that without a counter in the location, or at least in LOS or range, you aren't actually exerting any "control" over the location.

So, what's the traditional meaning of it in wargames, if it's [clearly] not literal control?
 
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Enrico Viglino
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Often, it's just a means of showing who was where last,
for victory purposes. If some key piece of tactical real
estate is in your 'back lines' and not threatened, it doesn't
really matter if you have troops there any longer - it still
indicates you could easily fall back to such a location.

In games where this is the case, it may be possible to
'cheat' the victory conditions by grabbing something that
isn't rightfully 'yours' but then your opponent didn't really
have it secured either. It might represent then the ability
of enemy raiders to disrupt your position.
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Steven Mitchell
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calandale wrote:
It might represent then the ability
of enemy raiders to disrupt your position.


This.

The existing practice is a shorthand for determining front lines. If yours was the last squad to occupy a location, chances are it's behind your front lines. But this is not always the case, of course. Marking with control markers is a simplified way of determining which locations are safely behind your lines and which are not, without having to go through a painful process of, 'Well, it's sorta behind your lines if you connect these two squads this way, but if you connect them this other way, then it's behind my lines...'

I do think, however, that control is one of the points at which wargames could use a bit of a revolution. As has been pointed out, it's pretty easy to game -- either on the front end (scenario design) or the back end (gameplay). I do seem to remember a number of ASL scenarios where firepower coverage is used instead of last-man-in building control. I.e., you win if you have 24 FP within normal range and LOS of building M4. But I still think there's room for using other innovative methods.
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Michael Dorosh
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patton1138 wrote:
calandale wrote:
It might represent then the ability
of enemy raiders to disrupt your position.


This.


As part of "All of the above".

As indicated, it's dependent on the scale of the game, the situation, etc. Could be "last to have a man pass through", could represent a garrison, could represent a front line (as in HASL), could be any number of things. Depends on the game.
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Leo Zappa
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snorman wrote:
Leo, your interpretation seems to on a conceptual level rather that physical. I suppose that works if you're working on a higher-level (such as a battalion), but in a squad-level game I would think leaving units behind would certainly affect combat effectiveness.

I haven't played enough war-games to see how the mechanic is implemented in various systems. The only war-games I own are Conflict of Heroes and A Victory Denied, and Memoir '44 in the "wargaming-light" category.

In Memoir '44 you score victory points for having a squad on the control hex itself, whereas in CoH you retain control as long as you were the last man to enter the hex, whether it's occupied or not.




A fair and insightful comment on my interpretation of the use of control markers, in that I generally play either operational or strategic scale wargames. I rarely play a game where the basic manuever unit is smaller than a battalion.
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Robert Wesley
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"Sometimes a 'Control Marker' is JUST a 'Control Marker'!" robot
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Lucius Cornelius
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GROGnads wrote:
"Sometimes a 'Control Marker' is JUST a 'Control Marker'!" robot

Or a control "scent" if you happen to be a dog. whistle
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Abe Delnore
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GROGnads wrote:
:what: "Sometimes a 'Control Marker' is JUST a 'Control Marker'!" :robot:


In general, when control markers represent the last unit to enter the space, they compensate for the players' inability to remember past board states perfectly--or, at least, to agree on that past board state! They don't simulate anything except perhaps perfect memory.

I think the better framing of the question is, "Why does it matter who was last in the hex?" That will depend on the scale of the game; however, to the extent that war is about seizing territory, that territory has been seized.

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Caleb
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I'd've thought that, in a tactical game, control markers maybe just represent 'familiarity' with territory vs. the unknown. My squad might pick its way very carefully into a stand of trees we've never been in/seen before, but if we just came from there, we might head back through more directly and less carefully. So in one sense we 'own' that terrain, even though it may not have intrinsic value for determining victory. I guess this would only apply in games where the control markers have some impact on the movement of enemy units, or allow faster friendly movement along a string of them.

In higher-level simulations, control markers must represent some sort of minor detachment exerting some control over indigenous population, or alliance with locals loyal to whichever side it is.
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Sean Norman
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GROGnads wrote:
"Sometimes a 'Control Marker' is JUST a 'Control Marker'!" robot


I agree with you in the sense that yes, control markers are whatever the game designers intended them to be. If they want it to be nothing other than a VP-generating mechanism, then so be it.

When I play non-wargames I just accept whatever rule system is presented to me and don't question it because they rarely model real-world behaviours or situations.

However, when I play a war-game I expect a little more since everything is modelled after real objets and designed to simulate (to a certain extent) real events. So, whenever I get into a situation where I think "you scored 4 VPs for what??", especially if the situation breaks immersion, I tend to question it...especially if the expectations aren't quite clear.

Edit: Now that I think of it, maybe I have an issue with the expectations than anything else. If a marker is going to be used for control, then there should be rules that support somewhat realistic control mechanisms...otherwise, might as well just call it what it is...a "scoring marker".
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Michael Dorosh
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cannoneer wrote:
I'd've thought that, in a tactical game, control markers maybe just represent 'familiarity' with territory vs. the unknown. My squad might pick its way very carefully into a stand of trees we've never been in/seen before, but if we just came from there, we might head back through more directly and less carefully. So in one sense we 'own' that terrain, even though it may not have intrinsic value for determining victory.


True; ASL also has "trail break" and "minefield" counters to indicate such things as having traversed "fresh" terrain and having beaten a path through trees, discovered enemy mines, crushed down a hedgerow, etc.
 
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