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Subject: Different Scales in Wargaming rss

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Larz Welo
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So, in wargaming we have different scales. I’d like to dive into these a little bit and see if we can discover a bit more about who they might appeal to and why.

Individual/Man-to-Man Scale: This would be the smallest scale. Something you’d find in Sniper! (first edition) or Gunslinger, but is also the scale of most/all RPGs with a war theme. At this scale things are extremely finite and the smallest move can mean the difference between victory or death. This scale would appeal to those who like to build up a history/record and see how they do from game to game. Probably the best games of this category though are air dogfighting games like Wings of War: Famous Aces or Ace of Aces: Handy Rotary Series, or even B-17: Queen of the Skies. This scale can be anything from quick playing to brutally slow and granular. This scale is obviously the least time constrained as there could just as easily be a game about a two cavemen with rocks facing off as between an Al-Qaida fighter and a NATO trooper. Generally it will emphasize awareness, equipment, and training.

Tactical/Squad-Platoon Scale: This is probably the most popular scale with classics like Advanced Squad Leader, Trenchfoot, and Squad Leader, and newer games like Combat Commander: Europe, Conflict of Heroes: Awakening the Bear! – Russia 1941-42, and Lock 'n Load: Band of Heroes. Ambush! and Fields of Fire are both excellent solo games at this scale. On the heavier end you’ll end up with games like GD '42 from TCS which is so big that it almost bridges over into the next scale. At this scale things like firepower, flanking positions, command and control, smoke, small scale terrain, and mobility are emphasized in the games. Some games are quite easy to learn, while others can be very difficult and dense. Some will have a minimum of components while others will flood your table with chits. At this scale the primary method of depleting an enemy force is through fire, and tangible objectives on the battlefield are often highly valued. This is still easily comprehended (in actuality, not in tactics), and we can all envision a handful of men charging an enemy position. This scale is pretty limited historically. Anything much before WW1 and this scale stops being so much about war and instead becomes more of an adventure game. It was the late period of WW1 where small unit tactics were really introduced and implemented on a large scale.

Grand Tactical/Company-Brigade Scale: This scale is generally for engagements that took place before WW2, though there are a few exceptions (D-Day at Omaha Beach). This is the classic scale for emphasizing historical battlefields, and there are old games on this scale like The Great Battles of Alexander, Blue & Gray, and Terrible Swift Sword, and newer games like Napoleon's Triumph, Commands & Colors: Ancients, and Under the Lily Banners. On the heavier end you’ll find the Civil War Brigade series with games like Thunder at the Crossroads (second edition), and on the lighter end the now famous Manoeuvre. This scale represents the battle that resulted from days, weeks, and months of earlier maneuvers. Some historical battles are turkey shoots and will not have many games to represent them, but some are classic opportunities for both sides to gain a decisive victory and have been remade and remade (like Gettysburg). This is the smallest significant scale you’ll find for anything pre-WW1 because of the issues of command and control of smaller forces. Issues will often be command and control, firepower, maneuver, tactics, employment of artillery and reserves, and ability to locally reinforce success or dangerous areas.

Operational/Battalion-Division Scale: This scale can be difficult to define, but basically it is between the tactical scale (singe battle) and the strategic scale (whole front/nation). Games often portray a section of a larger conflict, but often an important area. It can work well in older eras, as in Napoleon at Bay: The Campaign in France, 1814, or Grant Takes Command, but is probably most popular in WW2, like Breakout: Normandy. On the heavier end you’ll find OCS with the quintessential Case Blue, but on the lighter side you’ll scrounge up Rommel in the Desert, FAB: The Bulge, or a plethora of other block games. It can be an ideal scale for representing large scale air conflict like in RAF: The Battle of Britain 1940, or a limited operation like Where There Is Discord: War in the South Atlantic. Most exclusively naval games like Flying Colors would be at this scale. Key elements are mobility, speed of maneuver, supplies, concentration of force, exploitation of any breaks in the enemy formations, and control of key road junctions. Usually things at the lower scale, such as battles and engagements, are abstracted (make a roll with modifiers based on things you do have control over), and also things on the upper end are abstracted like reinforcements or objectives. Many aspects of war like politics or economics are not represented at this scale because they are so far out of the control of the player.

Strategic/Brigade-Army Scale: This scale encapsulates nations, with you taking command of a whole front of forces (as Eisenhower would have). This can sometimes be bigger than a single front as in Paths of Glory, or constrained to one particular area in a larger conflict as in Hammer of the Scots. Historically it is extremely flexible with ancient games like Julius Caesar, being one extreme and modern conflicts like Fire in the Sky: The Great Pacific War 1941-1945 or Labyrinth: The War on Terror, 2001 – ? being the other with conflicts in between like [gameid= 2081]. This can be a great scale for developing workable strategies that make sense without a lot of background in the subject. Also, it is probably the most used scale for less gamed topics with examples being Pursuit of Glory, España 1936, and Clash of Monarchs. Card Driven games like Hannibal: Rome vs. Carthage can be difficult to distinguish from the next level, but my particular attitude on that is about focus. In my opinion the focus of strategy games is on management of forces, attaining strategic objects in the war (in which everything significant is being simulated to the players), production of new forces, and destruction of the enemy forces.

Grand Strategic/Division-Army Group Scale: This is the largest scale and it can be very tricky to try to draw a fast hard line between strategic and grand strategic. To me, if the game is primarily representing politics, diplomacy, economics, and erosion of the enemy will to carry on, then it firmly belongs in this scale. This leaves me few examples, but Twilight Struggle, Here I Stand, Successors (third edition), The Napoleonic Wars (Second Edition), and Diplomacy all clearly fit the bill, all of which also come from different historical periods! Whether you think For the People and Triumph of Chaos are strategic or grand strategic is a preference issue. This scale can sometimes be simple, sometimes blindingly complicated. However, it is always epic.

This is the simple breakdown of how differing scales work. This is not meant as a hard and fast rule, but it is designed to give some idea to new wargamers of what kinds of different games are out there that represent different things.
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Sam Carroll
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First of all, good post! It's great to see someone nailing down these terms. I'll be linking newcomers to this post in the future.

I'd definitely characterize Paths of Glory as grand strategic. Your list of
Quote:
politics, diplomacy, economics, and erosion of the enemy will to carry on
sounds more or less like Paths of Glory. Diplomacy: you decide whether and when Italy joins the Allied side. Economics: it's all about deck management and keeping your replacements up. The whole mechanism of "War Status" is an abstraction of politics and national will. You can force an end to the war through war-weariness.

Then, too, I'd quibble with your definition. I believe the most common definition of grand-strategic is that it includes multiple fronts, so that while Eastfront is strategic, Eurofront is grand-strategic. I don't think this is the best definition, but it's certainly a start. Let me explore this line a little farther . . .

Clash of Monarchs covers a geographic area nearly as large as Paths of Glory, but is more granular. You're worrying about the composition of your armies (infantry, cavalry, artillery . . . wait, I don't have any light units! Oh, no!) and trying to pull off an oblique attack or a hasty withdrawal. These are the concerns of a strategic game. Yet you also worry about your economics and national will, which are grand-strategic concerns.

I think the delineation between strategic and grand-strategic works best in the 20th century and after, perhaps because the scale of warfare is larger now?

Also note that monster games are frequently going to take up two slots in this hierarchy.
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Sam H
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Great post, and an excellent reference for new players. I added a link to it in the FAQ I posted a while back.
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Eric Lai
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What scale would you say is Small World at?
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Larz Welo
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Garfink wrote:
What scale would you say is Small World at?


That's easy...small...
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Jim Cote
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Successors strikes me as an odd one to have at the Grand Strategic scale because of an example I read in the rules for For the People: one single combat in the game might be the entire battle of Gettysburg. In Successors, you could view a single combat as an entire scenario of The Great Battles of Alexander (GBoH), which is Grand Tactical at best, probably just Tactical.
 
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I've bookmarked this one - thanks!

I also always find this image very handy to help describe scale:
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Confusion Under Fire
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Hi Lars, nice post but Ambush is man to man and not a squad level game
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Robert Ridgeway
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leroy43 wrote:
I also always find this image very handy to help describe scale:

Look: there's a tiny little Halberton logo in the corner.

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Robert Stuart
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Thanks for putting your time and effort into this. One of things which distinguishes different scales -- or should, in wargames -- is the relative advantage or disadvantage which accrues to time and scale. For instance, in a tactical situation 'being surrounded' undermines morale and can lead to units breaking or surrendering. In a strategic situation 'being surrounded' enables operation on interior lines, which confers a tremendous advantage.
 
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Where does a platoon-company level game like Fighting Formations: Grossdeutschland Motorized Infantry Division fit in? Not in squad-platoon tactical, and yet not in company-brigade either, really.
 
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Indeed. The other day, a friend asked me what the main differences between Operational and Tactical games were.

Operational games have ZOCs, Supply and CRTs which can hurt the Attacker as well as the Defender.

Tactical games don't have ZOCs or supply, often have LOS and Facing issues, and generally have CRTs which only hurt the defender (the consequences of an attack are position, not die-roll).

This is a generalization, and it's also based on older games. But that's the main differences in feel I can think of.
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Enrico Viglino
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Neopeius wrote:


Tactical games don't have ZOCs or supply


No. Simpler games tend to use ZOC-like concepts,
and tend to ignore supply (both operational and tactical).

 
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Larz Welo
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DaveyJJ wrote:
Where does a platoon-company level game like Fighting Formations: Grossdeutschland Motorized Infantry Division fit in? Not in squad-platoon tactical, and yet not in company-brigade either, really.


I'd still treat it as a tactical game. Issues of facing and LOS are central while supply and breakthroughs are not.
 
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Jim Bourke
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Great post, but I was wondering about this line:

greatredwarrior wrote:
Tactical/Squad-Platoon Scale: This is probably the most popular scale


I wonder if that observation is valid? You said "probably" so I don't say that just to pick nits. It's simply made me curious.

Maybe someone out there knows how to harvest the answer from BGG's database?

Jim
 
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J.L. Robert
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Scope also is a factor, especially when dealing with monster wargames. For example, while Streets of Stalingrad (third edition) is a company-level treatment of the battle, I would be hard-pressed to present it as a grand-tactical game while keeping a straight face. At the same time, a game like Afrika Korps has some tactical-level feel to it due to its relatively small counter density.
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