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Subject: Mtyths and Errors in Wargame Design part 2 rss

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John Theissen
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Panzer divisions should have all the armor in the armor regiments. WWII games at regimental level often show German panzer divisions divided into a panzer regiment, one or two motorized infantry regiments, and an artillery regiment. This is wrong. German doctrine didn’t put all the tanks into the tank regiment. A panzer regiment commander didn’t just command tanks. He had tanks, motorized infantry, and artillery blended for maximum effect. Combined arms was the key, and regimental commands had combined arms. In games, the regiments of an individual panzer division should be roughly equal in strength, and they should all have combined arms.

Differential CRTs work. No they don’t. Differential CRTs distort the comparison of forces and lead to problems. So, 3 strength points attack 1 sp. In another combat 10 sps attack 8. In the first example the attacker has a good advantage. The second example shows about one-to-one odds, not a good advantage for the attacker. Yet differential CRTs have them both as identical, falling under the “+2” column. Or you have 6 attack 2 sps, and in another combat you have 9 attack 3 sps. Both are 3:1 attacks, yet a differential CRT portrays them as different, the first is +4 the second +6.

There is a way to create an accurate differential CRT, but designers never do that. That would require a differential CRT for each possible defender strength. This would be very accurate, with no rounding required, but it would also involve producing multiple CRTs.

A “No effect” result on a CRT is inappropriate. A no effect result is ok! This is not so much a myth as it is a combat result that is too rarely used. Designers might think that a no effect result is too boring or it shows troops standing around doing nothing. But an NE result can represent a real effect from any era, ancient to modern: the attacking units were slow to move forward, are still skirmishing and haven’t pressed forward, or they are suffering delays and confusion or lack of orders. Or the attacker did press forward but the attack stalled. Or the attacker and defender have both pushed each other back and forth, the result being the units are back roughly where they started. A game with 5 mile hexes or greater could have an NE represent a failed attack, rather than having an attacker retreat. As realistic as NE can be, it adds no complexity to any CRT. It’s as simple as can be.

A wargame CRT must have Attacker Retreats. Designers often throw in this combat result into the CRT automatically. In the real world attacker retreats are a matter of yards/meters or perhaps a few miles/kilometers. Mandatory AR make no sense in games with hexes of about 5 miles or greater. Voluntary attacker retreats may be appropriate, depending on the game scale and situation.

A CRT must have Attacker Eliminations. This is a combat result that is over-used, and another result tossed into the mix without adequate analysis. Attackers didn’t necessarily attack to annihilation. There are some eras and game scales where AE is appropriate, but not always.

If it’s a wargame, it must have ZOCs. In some games ZOCs can be helpful, but not all games are at a scale where ZOCs are appropriate. The designer has to look at the basic unit size in the game, the hex scale, and the historic situation. For example a brigade in a 40 mile hex should not have a ZOC.
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Pelle Nilsson
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melchett1 wrote:

Differential CRTs work. No they don’t.


Oh, someone has to read my old ramblings on logarithmic (differential) CRTs, to learn about the special cases when you can make it work (and be functionally equivalent, or superior to, odds-based CRTs):

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/667989/logarithmic-crt

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Michael Dorosh
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melchett1 wrote:
Panzer divisions should have all the armor in the armor regiments. WWII games at regimental level often show German panzer divisions divided into a panzer regiment, one or two motorized infantry regiments, and an artillery regiment. This is wrong. German doctrine didn’t put all the tanks into the tank regiment. A panzer regiment commander didn’t just command tanks. He had tanks, motorized infantry, and artillery blended for maximum effect. Combined arms was the key, and regimental commands had combined arms. In games, the regiments of an individual panzer division should be roughly equal in strength, and they should all have combined arms.


I'm not sure you're explaining this very well. The paper establishment, or (TO&E) is what you described - not in error, in other words. What the Germans employed was a flexible "battle group" organization which is pretty much de rigeur today. What's little understood is that the western Allies did it too - a lot. They called them Task Forces, and the British just named them "Force X" after the commander, or even SMITHFORCE or BOFORCE etc. by adding the commander's name directly to the word "force" to come up with one of those compound words that the Germans love. The Americans actually formalized the "task force" concept, I think, into the system of "combat commands" in their armored divisions. Whatever you called them, they were a system of cross-attachments so that, as you suggest, infantry, armour, artillery, engineers (i.e. the combat arms) were combined.

For administration, recruiting, reporting and other purposes, the regiments did exist as separate entities. They were distinct enough that there are even regimental histories - see History of the Panzer Regiment Grossdeutschland as one example.

The Germans were not the only ones to use the "battle group" concept during the war, but they seem to get the lion's share of attention for it. Note that there were three different kinds of Battle Group; those consisting of a single unit, and named after their commander; groups of units assembled for special missions (like a western Allied task force, and this type continues in modern military organization) - in German practice, these were sometimes named for geographic localities ("Kampfgruppe Nord") or sectors ("Kampfgruppe I"); and finally battle groups consisting of a sub-unit of a unit (i.e. a company of a battalion split off for a special mission.

Putting aside the question of battle groups, the entire purpose of the panzer division was to fight as a team, as noted. Cross-attachments were normal, but that doesn't mean the regimental headquarters ceased to exist. Don't forget that the German panzer regiments were usually short of tanks, and the infantry usually short of vehicles if not men.

I have an operations order from a mechanized infantry unit on one of my websites:

http://tacticalwargamer.com/articles/procedures/operationsor...

Note that for this battalion attack, in Russia in 1942, the Germans are assaulting prepared Soviet positions dismounted with a handful of assault guns in support. I expect that was not unusual for the German Army, even a "panzer" division.
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Jon Gautier

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Where is all this coming from, as if these were rampant, universal problems in wargames? It looks like you are creating issues where there were none. Are there particular games you have an issue with? Why not just talk about those?
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Ted Spencer
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Ok. Please name designs that violate none of the myths in both posts. Thanks.
 
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Igor Kwiatkowski
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superflat wrote:
Ok. Please name designs that violate none of the myths in both posts. Thanks.


Combat Commander: Europe perhaps?
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Pelle Nilsson
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Most of the "myths" are just things that might or might not be a bad thing to use in a specific game. It all depends on the scale, era, designs-for-effect etc. Something that looks weird at first might make perfect sense after you read the designer's notes, or after playing the game a few times. Attacker Retreats are probably often like that. They probably exist for a reason, and probably represents something that should happen to make the game/simulation work as intended, or the game must have been very sloppily playtested for no one to notice.
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Pelle Nilsson
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The one really big prevailing myth is about realism vs complexity (or game vs simulation). The OP got that one right.

But it is something that has been discussed to death. Many, many times.
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Ryan Powers
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pelni wrote:
Most of the "myths" are just things that might or might not be a bad thing to use in a specific game. It all depends on the scale, era, designs-for-effect etc. Something that looks weird at first might make perfect sense after you read the designer's notes, or after playing the game a few times. Attacker Retreats are probably often like that. They probably exist for a reason, and probably represents something that should happen to make the game/simulation work as intended, or the game must have been very sloppily playtested for no one to notice.


This. Most of the "myths" make sense in the contest of specific games. Singling them out and losing the context is a fool's errand. And most of the points are just plain wrong as blanket generalities to begin with. That doesn't mean they're *always* wrong, just that applying them in a vacuum is less than useful
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Continued from thread 1:


... I am not concerned enough about CRT odds distribution to make the effort to adjust them. (regardless how elegant the logarithmic CRT may appear.shake)
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Pelle Nilsson
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No, sorry, I just remembered the biggest common wargame myth: That the location of units in a turn-based game (ie all boardgames) are well-known between turns and can in a meaningful way be used to make complex and detailed simulations, and that a unit that moves before another unit are assumed to have completed their movement before the next unit even starts to move, while in reality the moves may very well overlap.

The more I think about it the less significant do any other errors introduced by abstractions/simplifications feel. We don't even know if a unit is in the hex it appears to be or if the representation we see of the simulated battle is out of sync at the moment.

Not quite a myth. It is more like the elephant in the wargame design room, it is almost never even mentioned, everyone just pretends very hard it is not there and that the simulated moves are always sequential and that units do stop for a coffee break between turns/activations.
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John Theissen
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Michael Dorosh wrote:


For administration, recruiting, reporting and other purposes, the regiments did exist as separate entities.


Absolutely. My point is that in the field, the panzer divisions did not use rigid paper administrative units. But that's exactly how many games portray these divisions, by having a separate panzer regiment, then a separate infantry regiment, then a separate artillery regiment.
 
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John Theissen
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keethrax wrote:
Most of the "myths" make sense in the contest of specific games. Singling them out and losing the context is a fool's errand. And most of the points are just plain wrong as blanket generalities to begin with.


Well, I'm not convinced. Are you really suggesting that all wargames should have Attacker Retreat results, and that all games accurately portray German Panzer Divisions, or that all games should use ZOCs, etc? The broad generalities are accurate enough. There are far too many titles that have erroneous elements in them to name them.

I could give examples though I suppose. One would be the popular Third Reich by Avalon Hill (and its various later editions by other publishers). This game has a preposterous three months per turn, even though it's a WWII game at 60 miles per hex. At that scale the time per turn should be one month per turn. No amount of tinkering with Third Reich will ever fix it until the game is played at monthly turns.
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Warren Bruhn
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pelni wrote:
No, sorry, I just remembered the biggest common wargame myth: That the location of units in a turn-based game (ie all boardgames) are well-known between turns and can in a meaningful way be used to make complex and detailed simulations, and that a unit that moves before another unit are assumed to have completed their movement before the next unit even starts to move, while in reality the moves may very well overlap.


Sequential movement is just an easier way to design a game. That aspect of games in general must go back to ancient games before chess (thought of chess because the world championship match is in progress now). The only games I remember that involves units moving simultaneously are "real time" computer games and games that involve simultaneous exectuation of written or pre-selected maneuvers. These can be as simple as the cards in Wings of War or as complex as the movement system in Star Fleet Battles. It's somewhat common in tactical naval or air miniatures. One of my favorite games using simultaneous action is Gunslinger. Love the way the cards work with increments of 0.4 seconds totalling 2 seconds per turn.
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Michael Dorosh
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melchett1 wrote:
Michael Dorosh wrote:


For administration, recruiting, reporting and other purposes, the regiments did exist as separate entities.


Absolutely. My point is that in the field, the panzer divisions did not use rigid paper administrative units.


Except that they did.

Quote:
But that's exactly how many games portray these divisions, by having a separate panzer regiment, then a separate infantry regiment, then a separate artillery regiment.


Because that's how they were organized. Another poster suggested you should discuss individual games that "got it wrong", and I tend to agree. A game in the Tactical Combat Series would be better equipped I think to portray the unique challenges of cross-attachments and the ability of sub-units of one unit/formation to inter-operate with another. Other games like The Longest Day may not really discuss that much, but they are considerably higher up in focus (operational rather than tactical).

Specific examples would be useful, in other words.
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melchett1 wrote:

Absolutely. My point is that in the field, the panzer divisions did not use rigid paper administrative units. But that's exactly how many games portray these divisions, by having a separate panzer regiment, then a separate infantry regiment, then a separate artillery regiment.


There is a solution for this. Play Campaign for North Africa, which allows formation of kampfgruppes. How many points of infantry, trucks of different weights, artillery of different calibers, AT guns of different calibers, AA guns of different calibers, tanks of different models, etc. does one want in the kampfgruppe? Now that's hot! (also time consuming, of course...)
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Warren Bruhn
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melchett1 wrote:

I could give examples though I suppose. One would be the popular Third Reich by Avalon Hill (and its various later editions by other publishers). This game has a preposterous three months per turn, even though it's a WWII game at 60 miles per hex. At that scale the time per turn should be one month per turn. No amount of tinkering with Third Reich will ever fix it until the game is played at monthly turns.


Why bother? World in Flames using two month turns that have variable numbers of "impulses" seems to fill the need.
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John Theissen
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Ok, I'll give an example. If I remember, The Desert Fox (SPI S&T) has panzer divisions divided into a panzer regiment counter, a mot infantry counter, and an artillery regiment counter. I don't agree that the Germans put all their tanks into the panzer regiment in the field (one counter), then put all the artillery into another place (another counter), then put all the mot inf in another place (another separate counter). To accurately portray a panzer div at this scale (a division with one motorized infantry regiment), the designer should make a pz reg counter and a mot inf counter. They should be of about equal strength. They both have tanks, inf, and artillery. I believe The Gamers "Ardennes" game did this properly if I remember correctly.
 
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Ted Spencer
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waffel wrote:
superflat wrote:
Ok. Please name designs that violate none of the myths in both posts. Thanks.
Combat Commander: Europe perhaps?
Let us hope you are correct. I have every title & add-on in shrink, waiting for the right moment. Knowing CC avoids the pitfalls of myth, perhaps now is the time! I hope so...I'm tired of waiting!
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John Theissen
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It would be a mistake to believe that because a game is published, that makes it right. It may have been Richard Berg who said that a wargame is a DIY kit. When you open the box, you have a certain amount of Do-It-Yourself work to correct the errors the designer made. This is not infrequent. Time per turn, movement rates, attacker retreats, ZOCs, etc. should be analyzed according to the historical situation. Sometimes the designer just doesn't do this, or doesn't do it accurately. "We make this stuff up, so can you." is another quote attributed to R. Berg. Sometimes the stuff the designer makes up is wrong.
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John Theissen
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OK, another example... The Kaiser's War, WWI, 60 miles per hex. This game has Attacker Retreat results, some even more than 1 hex retreats! This is wrong for the scale of the situation. If an attack was stalled or repulsed, retreats would be a matter of yards/meters, maybe a few miles/kilometers. Better for this game to not have mandatory attacker retreats, it would be a more accurate depiction of this situation. In other words the game actually works better without the attacker retreat results.
 
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Ted Spencer
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melchett1 wrote:
...Sometimes the stuff the designer makes up is wrong.
I don't disagree that many wargames are DIY kits. Those are the one's I typically trade or sell. YMMV.

I like a wargame I can get a lot out of without house rules and errata longer than the rules. That isn't exactly what the OP is suggesting, I understand. It's where I'm coming from.

Though it appears the OP merely wants players to stop perpetuating the myths, I want to know if, under his terms, an optimal wargame has been designed. I don't know. But If Combat Commander is one, then there is at least one, and I'm glad to own it. Perhaps I should start playing it soon!

How many other wargames avoid the myths listed in these two threads?
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Michael Dorosh
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melchett1 wrote:
Ok, I'll give an example. If I remember, The Desert Fox (SPI S&T) has panzer divisions divided into a panzer regiment counter, a mot infantry counter, and an artillery regiment counter. I don't agree that the Germans put all their tanks into the panzer regiment in the field (one counter), then put all the artillery into another place (another counter), then put all the mot inf in another place (another separate counter). To accurately portray a panzer div at this scale (a division with one motorized infantry regiment), the designer should make a pz reg counter and a mot inf counter. They should be of about equal strength. They both have tanks, inf, and artillery. I believe The Gamers "Ardennes" game did this properly if I remember correctly.


What is a "counter", or rather, what does it represent.

You could argue this with the same degree of precision that angels dance on heads of pins.

Once we're done bashing strawmen, I think we can turn to finding the needles among the stacks.

In all honesty, most German "panzer regiments" for the majority of time they existed probably amounted to a battalion of tanks or so, and the "motorized infantry" probably spent about 1/100 of their time actually riding in motorized conveyances. Armoured halftracks equipped maybe somewhere between on average 1 in six or 1 in 9 infantry companies at best in the Schützen/Panzergrenadiere and the trucks the rest were supposed to have were poor at off-road movement - a drawback in the Soviet Union as one can surmise.

I don't disagree that there are many "myths" and "errors" in wargaming research, but I don't think you've correctly identified what the significant ones happen to be with regards to the Germans.
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John Theissen
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For me, I don't mind house rules if they actually simplify the game while at the same time making the game more realistic.

I'm not familiar with Combat Commander so I can't comment on it.

Optimal game? Well, I think that Danny Parker's Battles of the Ardennes was good. It didn't need a lot of tinkering to the rules as written.
 
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Ted Spencer
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melchett1 wrote:
...Optimal game? Well, I think that Danny Parker's Battles of the Ardennes was good. It didn't need a lot of tinkering to the rules as written.
Been on my radar for a while. But does it avoid perpetuating the myths listed here and the other thread?

Which raises another question. Are there games that avoid these myths pre-Y2K only or post?
 
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