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Subject: Anzio Beachhead, and the problem of designing for effect rss

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I've played a bit of Anzio Beachhead, and one of the annoying things about it is the Allies can't "win" Operation Shingle. They can win the game, but they can't ever break out of their beachhead, really.

On alternatehistory.com, there is discussion that the Allies should have driven to the Alban Hills on day one and held the high ground. That's not even possible in this game. The Hills aren't even on the map!

Are there games that give the Allies a chance in Anzio? Have any of you played Anzio Beachhead?
 
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In a larger sense this kind of design flaw (if we chose to describe it that way) is deeply entrenched (pun intended) in the wargame hobby. This sort of thing is shrugged off by devoted wargame players but it probably wouldn't pass what Redmond Simonsen called "The Man From Mars" test.

Simonsen put forward the idea that a "professionally published" wargame product would be instantly recognized as such by the proverbial Man From Mars who knew nothing about the hobby. The same principle could apply to historical analysis by the game designer. Issues like the Alban Hills being MIA on the Anzio Beachead map might be questioned by any non-Grognard with a little knowledge of the campaign... this person (or Martian) could quite logically ask, "Where are the Alban Hills mentioned in the history books?"

To my knowledge Bulge 20 is the only Ardennes Campaign title with Antwerp on the map. However, a entire generation of wargame players has cheerfully gobbled up most of the Battle of the Bulge games produced in the last 40+ years with little complaint.

Take your pick of proverbs:

We can't see the forest for the trees.

--OR--

Our emperor has no clothes.
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Tom Krynicki
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Obviously, this is a little late in coming (almost three years) but with all due respect to the late and truly great R.A.Simonsen, I can't help but say this is an over-simplification of the issue.

Sure, you can produce an Anzio game with the Alban Hills actually on the map....or a Ardennes game with Antwerp (hell, why not include Paris and London while we're at it).

Unfortunately, a wargame is supposed to be an historically plausible simulation, with an evaluation of the capabilities of the combatants, and a realistic conclusion of what was actually achievable with the forces, resources and time available, given the luxury of hindsight.

The HOPE of the Allies (in particular W. Churchill) was that a landing at Anzio, coupled with a renewed offensive against the Gustav Line would panic the German command, resulting in the collapse of their resistance south of Rome. However, far from panicking, the Germans had planned for just such an eventuality and reacted quickly to contain the invading Allied force.

Given the swift and considerable German reaction, it soon became apparent that the Allied forces earmarked for the invasion where not sufficient to push into the Alban Hills, cut Highways 6 and 7 and still maintain a LOC back to the beachhead.

Churchill's "Wildcat/Whale" comments aside, the real "variable" in the equation is: Could the Allies have applied enough pressure on the Gustav Line in conjunction with SHINGLE to make the German defenses south of Rome untenable? Historically they didn't and in any case these are factors which are outside the scope of a simulation dealing solely with the Anzio landings.

So in simulating Operation SHINGLE; Sure, we could postulate that the Allies commit more forces, say an Operation Cobra like buildup followed by a breakout, but if we are going to go down that road, then why not have the ability for the Allies to invade somewhere else, say north of Rome, or on the Adriatic coast.

Somewhere along the line, our wargame has ceased to be the simulation of an historical event and has become an exercise in alternate history. At some point we have to ask ourselves; What EXACTLY are we attempting to simulate?

BTW, I think the whole design for "cause" vs. "effect" argument is rubbish. Any board game, by it's very nature is using some fabricated mechanic whether it be a strength ratio comparative analysis, movement rule, combat chart, chit pull system, whatever, in order to convey to the players the "effect" of some situation, circumstance or force faced by the particpants. Thus, ALL wargames, being an abstraction of an event, are designed for effect.
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Mike Szarka
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Any wargame that allows for only minor deviation from the historical outcome is either a poor design, or an inherently poor topic choice for a wargame. I think there is a tendency for "armchair historians" (such as most of us here) to learn a modest amount about an event, seeing all the constraints and to declare the historical outcome as inevitable. There's so much chaos in something like a military engagement that even if one allows no variation at all in the "boundary conditions" of the simulation, there should still be a wide range of possible outcomes. And since most of the boundary conditions were merely the result of choices made by individuals acting with far from perfect information and intelligence, there should be a variety in these as well.
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Tom Krynicki
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Mike,
I agree absolutely...therein lies the would be designer's analysis of the event.

A commander, acting with limited information, chooses action A which triggers a set of counter-actions/reactions.

Knowing this as historical fact, we then postulate:

What if he had instead chose action B (or C or D)?

What would have been the counter-actions/reactions which would have followed such a deviation?

This IS the rub in design; because even with the luxury of knowing WHAT happened, interpreting WHY it happened and whether an alternate action and or outcome was Probable, Possible or Impossible will always be open to argument.

Thus no matter how "open ended" or "designed for cause" someone claims their design is, they have already made many conclusions about the "effects" of many of the variables.
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