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Mark Herman's Wargaming Blog
Wednesday, 2 September 2015
What do Churchill Military Victory Points Mean?
Topic: Churchill Design

Based on several discussions on Boardgamegeek over the rationale for this or that decision made by me in the design I have chosen to write a blog post. This will let me reference it more easily in the future. I have done this for my other designs and it helps answer new entrants that renew an old discussion.


 There are several situations that players in my Churchill design receive victory points for (hereafter VPs). They fall into four basic categories. Political, Performance, Technology, and Military. This blog post will deal primarily with the military VPs, but for completeness I will define the other three.


 Political VPs are awarded for influence as represented by the position of Political alignment and Clandestine network markers plus the state of the Global issues. Performance VPs are a surrogate for how you used your historical team to manipulate the course of the war and subtle advantages this conferred in post war crises that followed. Technology is primarily the A-bomb, but also includes the capture of Nazi technology at the end of the war. With this as preamble, what does a military VP represent?


 I thought about military VPs as comprising six basic components: how your military impacted Axis surrender, how the former Axis power perceived your victory, territory conferred by occupation, domestic opinion on your military’s performance, how your military is perceived by your opponents, and how your military is perceived by the world community. Now there is no absolute standard for how to quantify these things, so I represent it in Churchill as different scenarios for how the war ends.


 To start off with, failure to cause Axis surrender (Germany and Japan) equates to less VPs and a chaotic view of the outcome. It assumes that one or more of the Allied powers have cut deals with successor governments (e.g., Hitler is dead in all such outcomes) and in some respects the Cold War, which I believe had already started by Potsdam (Conference 10) is more pronounced and aggressive.


 Beginning with Europe the historical outcome is both the Western and Eastern fronts cause German surrender with an even split of 9 VPs each. In addition, the British and the US have gained additional points for Northern Italy that represents not as has been suggested making them surrender twice, but Allied occupation of Northern Italy keeping the Soviets out (slight edge for UK prestige). The Soviets occupying more of Germany gives them additional benefits in geography, prestige, and how the Western Allies see the situation that would likely have redrawn the occupation zones. The opposite situation pertains for the Western Allies whereby beating the Soviets to Berlin would have resulted in significant benefits. In this category would have been the avoidance of the first Cold War crisis (Berlin Airlift) and it would have change the character of the conversation over the fate of Polish borders and elections.


 This creates three VP scenarios for Europe whereby the scores are centered on the 9 VPs for each side in the historical outcome, with an alternative outcome being who wins the race for Berlin. The race for Berlin is modulated by how far the other front gets so if the Soviets win the race for Berlin they receive 15 VPs minus Western Front final position of Zero, 2 or 5 VPs for a net differential of 15, 13 or 10 VPs respectively. The opposite situation has the Western Allies scoring less of a differential due to Soviet dominance over Eastern Europe with the Western Allies receiving 9 VP for a net differential of 9, 7, or 4 VPs.


 The Pacific is handled in a more complicated and nuanced manner as it represents more of the world population and resources and its post war history witnesses several power vacuums due to the loss of colonial power prestige. In fact many issues raised by World War II are still being worked out even today (e.g., South China Sea).


 The historical outcome for the Pacific is the Western Allied fronts occupying Okinawa, Philippines, and Malaya with the Soviet Far East in Korea. The Emperor surrender conditions end the war in the Pacific yielding for the US 10 VPs, UK 0 VP, and the USSR 8 VP for a net differential between the Americans and the Soviets of 2 VPs. This sets the center point around which other outcomes array themselves.


 First I will cover the lesser Emperor surrender cases that all assume the Soviets are in Korea. The two main scenarios represent the US has recaptured the Philippines and does not suffer ISR, which places the Central Pacific in the Mariana Islands or Iwo Jima. In these cases the US receives either 7 (Iwo Jima) or 5 (Mariana Islands). In both cases the UK suffers an 8-point differential with the Soviets and 7 or a 5 VP differential with the US. The US differential is a one or three point deficit versus the Soviets representing reduced US military resolve.


 Soviet perception of US military resolve is an important piece of my thinking on how the post war world initially unfolded. Stalin’s thinking was to ignore the US A-bomb monopoly in his dealings with the US as he believed that by being aggressive he would force Truman/Marshall to either go to war, which he did not believe was possible, or yield to superior Soviet ground power. This is the basis for Stalin’s thinking when he precipitated the Berlin crisis of April 1948, only three years after the end of the war in Europe. My point is anything the West does during the war that shows conventional military prowess has a modulating effect on Stalin’s behavior.  So, in the other scenarios that follow any Western Allied act that shows increased military resolve over the mean is a net advantage to the West in the eyes of Stalin/ world minus that impact on domestic opinion.


 Now there are several scenarios for Japanese surrender that yield more points than were gained historically. The major theme for these is that some portions of Operation Downfall (Invasion of Japan) have occurred.  Operation Downfall had two major components, Olympic (SW Pacific front captures Kyushu) and Coronet (Central Pacific front forces Japanese surrender by invasion). If we look at the Western fronts in Okinawa and Kyushu with A-bomb use both shows US resolve (Olympic) plus technological prowess. This scenario has the US gaining 15 VPs due to the invasion of Japan’s impact on Soviet perceptions and the A-bomb monopoly for a net differential of 7 VPs. US domestic opinion without the historical reference point is neutered by the view that additional casualties were avoided by the A-bomb.


 The next scenario has either the Central or SW Pacific fronts invading Japan to force its surrender representing the full execution of Operation Downfall, resulting in a score of 13 VPs for the US and 8 VPs for the UK. This outcome is inferior to the Olympic only case as the increase in casualties is a minus with US domestic opinion with no offsetting A-bomb monopoly.  If we take this example to the extreme and have both the Central and SW Pacific fronts invade Japan the US and the UK receive 8 VPs reflecting extreme Allied casualties reducing US military prestige with a further penalty from domestic opinion.


 The last cases are extreme cases where the US has the Central and SW Pacific fronts in Kyushu and Okinawa and the invasion of Japan is conducted by the CBI front or potentially the Far Eastern front. In this situation, the US would maximize its military impact, as Operation Coronet would be a joint US/UK venture and increase the UK VPs from 8 versus 5 VPs to represent their alt-history participation in the occupation of Japan. In this scenario the US would gain 18 VPs for the reduced domestic impact on lower US casualties. The flip side is if the USN ferried the Soviet front into a joint attack on Japan, there is in my mind a zero sum impact, as the extraordinary and unnecessary casualties incurred after losing 20 million citizens would offset the Soviet participation in the occupation of Japan. Even Stalin could not entirely ignore Communist party opinion regarding an unnecessary loss of life. If you disagree just look how the Soviet public responded to subsequent quagmires.


 So if you look at the various Pacific cases described as a spectrum where on one end you have a poor US military performance emboldening the Soviets beyond what led to the Berlin airlift to Stalin being more circumspect about US political resolve. This spectrum runs from the US garnering from 7 to 18 VPs with the Soviets and British scores varying the net differential points gained or lost. In all of these scenarios where the A-bomb does not cause Japanese surrender, the A-bomb remains a super secret military program that continues as an undemonstrated capability into the early Cold War.


 It is the combination of how the war ends in the two theaters that cumulatively portrays how the respective player's military performance impacts the games victory conditions. I know that my view on how I treated the military VPs will garner its share of disagreement, but that’s why I get paid the big bucks. Anyway I hope that more insight on how I thought about the military dimension of the Churchill design will increase your enjoyment with my game.


 Mark Herman

Baxter Building


New York City  

Posted by markherman at 8:27 PM EDT
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Saturday, 19 September 2015 - 11:36 AM EDT

Name: "Herr Dr"

Good post, Mr.H. It's fantastic that you bake in so much to your games with design elegance; makes them rich content. Can't wait to see the Churchill system taken to the peloponnesian war.

Friday, 2 October 2015 - 10:35 PM EDT

Name: "GaiusNicholas"

Great post; I am constantly bewildered by how much historical detail was parceled into the scoring system of this game, which is otherwise very mechanically simple.  Most games are the other way around.  I think that idea by itself opens up a whole new way about thinking about wargaming.

Quick question about something you said above, though: you said if the US got both of their fronts into Japan, that would be 8VP.  According to the map itself (on the actual Japan space), you get "8VP for each front present at surrender."  So shouldn't the US get 16VP in that instance?  Or is the map wrong?

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