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Mark Herman's Wargaming Blog
Tuesday, 29 March 2016
What is Victory, or when does the race not go to the swiftest?
Topic: Churchill Design

One of the my recent design choices that has caused quite a stir amongst some gamers is the notion that having the most victory points in Churchill only confers victory sometimes. The two most frequent comments that I hear are if the Axis do not surrender the game is decided by a die roll or the guy in second won. 


The purpose of this blog post which I believe I will expand in my next Clio's corner is what is victory in a game of alliance politics? 


Churchill is about my 65th published game design, give or take a couple. I look at each game as I send it on its way into the world like a parent who only wants what's best for the new born. Each design is imbued with its structure that will be tested in the market and opinion is rendered. Churchill has been a success from all of my usual metrics. It has sold so well that it is not available at the time of this writing and it has begun to garner awards for excellence, most recently it won the Golden Geek for "Best Wargame for 2015", despite the fact that the first four words I wrote for box copy say that, "Churchill is not a wargame". I guess few if any have turned over the box as I cannot imagine how I could have been clearer about my view on this design.


What I have found more interesting is that the game has generated a fair amount of "Nerd Rage", a term that I have heard that perfectly describes the tempest in a teapot that is the gaming hobby when someone touches a third rail issue. For those who are not familiar with the term the third rail is the high voltage rail that powers the New York subway and to proverbially touch the third rail is to get burned. I intentionally touched the third rail in Churchill to create a design that was both cooperative and competitive. From the gamer feedback, most have not only gotten what I was going for, but have embraced it. Then there are those who ran the spectrum from its boring to outright rage that a game would propose victory conditions where the person with the most points does not always win.


For those who are not familiar with the game it is a game about fighting a war as an alliance. The game's victory points offers historic incentives  that reflect the national agendas at work during the war. There are three conditions that determine the winner.


-If the Axis Surrender and the difference in score between the leader and the player in last place is 15 points or less, the player with the most points wins.

 -The condition 2 variant of this condition is if the Axis Surrender, but the score is greater than 15 points (plus variable die roll), then the player with the second highest total of victory points wins. 

-The last condition, three, is if the Axis do not unconditionally surrender, then the players in first and second take a VP loss due to a 1d6 die roll whereas the player in last place has their score increased by a 1d6 with the highest modified score the winner. 


The two main points about the victory conditions that I hear and no amount of logic or explanation can resolve are first, why does the person with the second highest number of points win and not the side with the most points (condition 2: Axis Surrender, Broken Alliance)? Second, why did I play for three hours and the winner was decided by a die roll? I will now take these questions on so I can record what I have said before and to have a place to point folks when I get asked the question the next time.


These victory conditions stand in stark contrast to the accepted industry norm of the person with the most points wins. I have written enough words in the rules to explain the logic, so I will not repeat what I have already put in print, but I would like to answer the questions and how I see what is written differently. In regards to the first question around why does the person in second win sometimes I would offer that this is a simplistic way to look at what is being depicted. It is an artifact of math to say that the person with the most points does not win. The person with the second highest individual score  is really in first place as they are the leader of an alliance. The player in the mathematical first place has broken the alliance and has set their nation up for a two on one post war world where they are the weaker faction. The mathematical proof is if you add up the scores of the second and third place players they almost always exceed the individual score of the player with the most points. Hence, the stronger player, the one in second place wins in the post war world. Not sure why that is so hard to understand, but there it is again.


The situation where the Axis do not surrender unconditionally whereby a die is used to modify the final scores is also a Chimera. This is the lane for the crowd that wants to win by having the most victory points. If you go your own way you have opted out of the historical alliance. In this winner take all version of World War II, you are willing to sign a conditional surrender with one or both Axis powers in a bid for global hegemony in the post war world. In condition 3, if you have a lead of 13 or more points, you win, full stop, as no combination of two dice can produce more than a 12 point change in score. When I see people complain that the game was decided by a die roll what it really says is, "my strategy failed to achieve the required level of victory to win". Now if you play more than two games where this is the outcome and you cannot figure out why you have not won the game I refer you to Einstein's definition of insanity. Just for the record I supplied in the published game an alternate method for determining victory that does not require die roll, but somehow this also is lost on the confused.


So, there it is in a nutshell. That said, as the game is moving toward a reprint I have begun testing the game with a slightly modified set of victory conditions to hopefully improve the enjoyment of folks who just cannot get past the idea of using dice in a final victory determination and refuse to use the supplied tournament scoring that takes the dice out of the equation.


Alliance Victory: (Revised Condition 1 Victory) If the Axis surrender and the score differential between first and last place is 20 or less victory points, the player with the most victory points wins.


Broken Alliance: (Revised Condition 2 Victory) If the Axis have surrendered and the score differential between first and last place is more than 20 victory points you compare the score of the player with the highest score against the combined score of the players in 2nd and 3rd place. If the score of the player in first place EXCEEDS, not equals the combined score of the 2nd and 3rd place scores, the player with the highest score wins. If the first place score DOES NOT EXCEED this combined score the player with the second highest score wins. In case of a tie, then the final tie breaker procedure is used to determine the winner.


Global Hegemon, Axis Conditional Surrender: (Revised Condition 3 Victory) If the Axis have not surrendered then the player in first place subtracts 5 VPs, the player in second place subtracts 3 VPs, and the player in last place adds 5 VPs. After adjustments the player with the most VPs wins. In case of a tie for first, both players subtract 5 VPs and the player in last place adds 5 VPs. If there is a tie for last, then the player in first subtracts 5 VPs and the players tied for 2nd and 3rd add 5VPs. If the adjusted scores, very likely, result in a tie, then the final tie breaker procedure is used to determine the winner.


This takes all die rolls out of the final equation, but has the downside that they can be precisely calculable. I will leave the originals in a designer note who liked it the way it was, but hopefully this will let folks enjoy the game more after a long session. It is likely that these will find their way into the reprint and the reprint rulebook as always will be available to everyone via a free download.


Well that is all for now... back to Pericles.


Mark Herman


Baxter Building

Posted by markherman at 12:48 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 29 March 2016 4:33 PM EDT
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Monday, 14 December 2015
Churchill Victory Conditions Thoughts from BGG
Topic: Churchill Design
I like Robert's answer and the commentary around it stand as a great answer. The question that keeps getting asked is 'why doesn't the guy with the most points win, like all the other games. I just did a rudimentary search on BGG and there are 50 electronic pages of games (5000 titles) that play this way, so if folks want their regular experience, lots of choices and I did not want to add one more to the list.

First and foremost I am an historical boardgame designer. Not a historical themed boardgame designer. If you are in a military alliance and all you do is run over your Allies the historical precedent is your former partners will ally against you. Review Napoleon's modis operandi to see what I am talking about.

The victory conditions are designed to reflect this historical alliance attitude and structure. You are not held to it as you can just go for the get the most VPs, and extend the WWII struggle for national gain that would create the narrative for WWIII. So, its included as it was a serious possibility if some of the Big Three fell off of unconditional surrender which is an American not a European concept.

Last night I played in a really interesting Churchill game where I was the US and won by 2 VP in a condition 1 victory. My goal when I play is to have a good time, so at the beginning of Potsdam the Germans had surrendered where the Western Allies won the race for Berlin with the Soviets in East Germany, so Roosevelt and Churchill had gained a net four VPs over the Soviets who had been in first place the entire game by less than 15 VPs. Churchill was now in first by 10 points over my last place US with the Soviets sandwiched in between. So, the war would likely be a VC1 or VC3 (conditional axis surrender) outcome.

The discussion was around how the USSR conditional issue should be resolved from the perspective of each side. It was our view that the UK wanted the war to end to win a VC1 as being in first in a close VC3 game is usually a defeat, which on my part is intentional as you avoid chaos when you are in a close game. As the US I had my late game Pacific VP opportunities as a way to climb back into first, so I wanted the war to end.

The Soviets had no opportunities for any additional military VPs and calculated that he would be in last place, but close enough that the chaos favored him, so he did NOT want to declare war on the Japanese. The USSR needed to win the agenda segment to make that happen. As it turned out it almost happened as the British had no 5 or 4 cards on their last draw and played a 3 card for the Agenda segment. Since both the USSR and the US anticipated a 5 play we both played our Chief of Staff cards hoping for a 6. We were stunned by the UK three play and as it turned out Zhukov tied with a 3, but the Imperial staff plus 1 carried the day and the UK won the agenda segment. 

We then discussed that the Soviets needed to win the Global issue (the UK had two in their corner for +10), but the campaign card was 10C and the British had the global issue on their 6 space. I wanted to divert my two Allies, so I helped the USSR get the Global issue onto their track and I quietly won three issues and the conference for 3 VPs that ultimately gave me a 2 VP win once you calculated in my successful advance into Iwo Jima.

The point of all of this detail is the victory conditions are a major strategy point in Churchill beyond having more. It is not only how many points but the character of the post war world that determines the winner. So, when the OP (what does that stand for?) asks, "So my real question is why was the normal "trailers cooperate against the leader" mechanism not sufficient for this game?" That is why...

Posted by markherman at 1:45 PM EST
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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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Monday, 10 August 2015
Post Publication Musings on Churchill
Topic: Churchill Design

Well Churchill has finally hit the market and I am very pleased with the production values and the initial reception. Only time will tell if this one becomes a cross over design, but I could not be happier with how it came out.


I was at the World Boardgaming Championships (WBC) in its farewell to Lancaster PA and I never saw less than four ongoing games of Churchill being played in open gaming. A new phenomena for me was in most cases there were at least one if not two females playing in each session (three person game). This is the one game that I have done out of over sixty that my wife will play, so it hopefully will be a more accessible game to the most important part of the human race.


For those who have not followed my earlier blog posts I wanted folks to experience a different narrative of World War II. Don’t get me wrong I am a sucker for Third Reich and the multitude of big picture strategy games on the war, but I have been there done that and I have over 50 games in that category. Churchill’s genesis was based on his World War II memoirs and his big picture perspective. I wanted to sit in the big chair and win a global war not drive tank divisions across Europe. 


I used the periodic Allied conferences as the main mechanism for players to metaphorically debate issues and decide the strategy for prosecuting the war. The winner of the game is the player who can work cooperatively to defeat the Axis, while prosecuting their national agenda to gain leverage in the Cold War that follows. The primary mechanic in the game is you are dealt a hand of staff cards. Each staff card is a named personage who was directly involved in the discussions leading up to a conference or who actually participated in a conference. Each conference has three segments: agenda nomination, meeting discussion, and decision implementation. 


Each conference opens with the play of the conference card where historical events and agenda items offer some shape to the discussions that follow. A player may find that he has to use some amount of production in a particular theater of war or an Axis offensive such as Kursk is initiated. Each session plays with one variant of three for every conference to keep the events fresh.


Agenda nomination is where the players put a subset of the available issue categories on the map board conference table. The British have an advantage based on their imperial staff structure for determining the order of play. The winner of the agenda segment also gains a bonus on the first issue picked.


The heart of the game is the meeting segment where players in turn use one staff card to advance an issue. Advancing an issue has you move it toward your side of the table. What is being simulated is the personage used has made a compelling argument for how that issue should be resolved. the strength of the argument made (strength of the card) is how far it moves toward your side of the table. Each staff card also has an attribute which is their historical area of specialization, so if you play a staff card on an issue that they are an expert on you get a bonus to their strength.


Once you have played all of your staff cards the player whose staff dominated the conference (won the most issues) gains some victory points and then you implement all of the issues at the conference. Issues directly impact the war which comprises support for partisans, governments in exiles and the military fronts whose inexorable advance wins the war. If you can add and subtract the number two you will have no problem with the military mechanic for how fronts advance on the Axis. Prior to each advance the Axis reserves deploy and try to retard the Allied military advance. Once the Axis surrender or the Potsdam conference is completed the game is over and the winner is determined.


Churchill uses a different sort of victory determination. Unlike the majority of multiplayer games the person with the most points only wins if its close. If you build up more than a 15 point lead over last place the player in second place wins the game (known as condition 2). Condition one is the Axis surrender with the score differential to 15 or less points is victory for the player with the most points. As already mentioned if the Axis surrender and the score differential is more than 15 points (sans some die rolling) the player in second place wins (condition 2). And if the Axis do not surrender by Potsdam (condition 3), then the player with the most points wins with several die roll adjustments to determine the final winner. The antidote for a would be global hegemony (conditions 3) is for the other two players to force Axis surrender and have that player lose in condition 2. The point is the end game calculations and card play should ensure an infinite level of re-playability.


But what I was going for was a different narrative of the war. What follows is a narrative of a specific situation that was written in response to the question, why would I ever make a double move. I find that when a new game is released amongst the initial interest and such, people want to understand their options and interesting strategy threads begin. This one was around the strategy for when to debate an issue during a conference. To answer the question I had to relate some of the richness of a specific  situation which I think is instructive on how the game plays and what considerations you may be faced with during a session.


Question: Why would I ever want to make a double move, it makes no sense as it is no different than advancing an issue on my turn?


Answer: If you are looking for a rule of thumb in the situation it does not exist. If you are saying that it never makes sense then there are more examples of how this impacts the game than those presented that are beyond the mechanical examples cited above in this thread. Factors such as what staff cards are available, or is there a staff bonus for the debate that overrides the loss of a card, or you want to block the guy to your left from debating (he has no leader) or your leader cannot advance only debate an issue, etc.


I will offer one example, but all examples of double moves are based on specifics that go beyond the mechanical dimensions mentioned in this thread. So, here is one story that I once experienced, but if you want to say that this is rare, well there are many rare situations that add up to it happens once every couple of games. I will say that it usually occurs at the close of a conference when players are down to their last couple of cards. It is in the design to create that extra bit of uncertainty and hopefully excitement.


For example, let's say the US won the agenda segment and let's say that Churchill/Stalin are inactive (previously used). Let's say its Potsdam and the US (Truman no A-bomb) wants to freeze the political situation, but Churchill and Stalin each have captured a Pol-Mil issue with none remaining. 


Now we pick up the action where Churchill has one card (already played second to last card), Stalin has two cards remaining and the US has two cards. Stalin plays Budonny (five when Stalin is inactive) on the Global issue (US 3 space), US debates to keep it on the 3 space, then plays Truman to ensure capturing the issue (cannot be debated). 


Why did he debate and not wait? Well Budonny would move it to the Soviet two space and the US is holding one strong and one very weak card. The US on its next play could have moved it back to the US three space. However, the US is afraid Truman without the A-bomb might be a four not a seven and if the British or the Soviets play on the Global issue with their last cards the US may not have enough juice to win this issue. 


For example a British 4 play on Global followed by a debating Molotov would put the issue out of reach with a 4 strength Truman (its a 2 to 5 and I never roll dice well when it matters by the way). Since winning the Global issue is essential for a US win this double move sequence auto captures the Global issue. In addition when I did this, with all three leaders now inactive, I knew that I would win the conference on a tie using my Arsenal of Democracy national characteristic, so I did not need to go last. The US characteristic is a nuanced but powerful capability.


The US then used the Global issue to create the UN blocking either player from removing any US political alignment markers as they now have insufficient resources from the already won Pol-Mil issues to do so.


The main point is there were two different outcomes based on a number of unique factors and how you could use a double move to lock down the one you wanted.


That is a lot of detail, but there are lots of unique situations like this. Another is you are also assuming that you always want to play efficiently, so a double move might allow you to run out of cards or change who goes last to allow another player to win the conference. 


It is just not a simple this makes no sense and I would never want to do it so why is it in the game. The reason is it is another tool in the Churchill tool box that I intentionally put there.


If you have not read the rules or played the game the above sequence may not make that much sense, but all of those interactions are based on 5 pages of rules. Churchill uses a few simple concepts and rules, but can still generate a very complex narrative with decisions to match.


I will leave it there for now, but more to follow as the Churchill saga continues.


Mark Herman

Baxter Building

10 August 2015

Posted by markherman at 3:47 PM EDT
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Sunday, 3 March 2013
Topic: Churchill Design

Churchill is my most recent design that is now getting into the latter phases of its development cycle and has passed its GMT P500 level, so it will be published in the later half of 2013.

 Churchill is a game of Inter-Allied Politics during World War II. The players explicitly represent Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin and their Military Staffs. The game is played as a series of Conferences where the players resolve who determines Theater Command, Type and Deployment of Production, Deception Operations, and Theater Offensives. The goal of the game is for the three players to cooperate to defeat the Axis powers in 5 Conferences or less while competing for a superior post war position. Players score victory points for which powers are present in an Axis country when it surrenders and key areas of Western and Eastern Europe. The player with the most Victory Points wins with Conference performance determing the winner in tie breaker situations.


Churchill at its core is a simulation of inter Allied cooperation and competition. I use the term simulation to denote one dimension of the game, the Allied conflict for who drives Grand Strategy. In all other ways the other simple game mechanics are designed to move the strategic narrative along. In this manner many will view it as an historically themed game but as I have written in my c3i column we often diminish psychological history versus physical history in our hobby. The reason that Sun Tzu is still relevant in todays world is its strong focus on the mental dimension of warfare, which has been augmented by technology while humans still remain humans. 

While the strategic narrative is totally unscripted, geography and victory conditions drive the war along recognizable historical paths. This is a game of Grand Strategy where high level Joint Allied decisions drive Command, Production, Deception, and large scale conflict (e.g., Battle for the Atlantic). What it is not is a strategic level game ala Empire of the Sun where you worry about a particular theater. Combat resolution is designed to be simple to implement and generates successes, failures, and attrition, with little insight beyond numbers matter with some assistance from special situations injected through the conference cards (e.g., Market Garden). One important but simple rule that has huge strategic implications is one whereby if an Allied production center (UK or Eastern US for example) has more Axis forces adjacent to the space than exist in the production center, that sides production is halved for the next conference, as you can imagine this is a bad thing. Therefore, while no rule exists to force winning the Battle for the North Atlantic, Roosevelt and Churchill will quickly tire of having their production halved and build naval forces to avoid the situation. Now while at first blush it would appear that Stalin would prefer this situation and might even work to engineer it, the balance is the Axis will not lose the war and the Soviet forces alone will be insufficient to win the game without US and UK forces in the mix. 

If Germany falls before Italy (Marshall's preferred strategy), the remaining Axis forces are still considered German as they have fallen back into the Festung Alps. 

If Italy falls before Germany (Churchill's preferred strategy), then it follows fairly historical paths. 

Japan is the wild card and while historically the US was the sole historical occupant, although Soviet influence (Manchuria) and British (naval) were in the mix. Any outcome that sees other powers fulfilling the surrender of Japan would be viewed as the A-bomb causes Japanese surrender and which side(s) are in the best position to occupy Japan first. 

Value is also achieved for who has sole or joint control of Western and Eastern Europe at the time of Axis surrender. It behooves the US-UK to try and consider Churchill's Balkan strategy to try and limit Soviet post war advantage in Eastern Europe. 

In all cases what happens in the game is driven by who wins the agenda battle during a particular conference. So while it may feel very strange to have the Soviets moving US forces in the Pacific, what it simulates is the Soviets winning the argument on where the various offensives should occur. A similar situation occurred for most of the British offensives in the CBI which the British reluctantly agreed to execute. It should also be remembered that the US argued for earlier Soviet participation in the Far East and in retrospect that may not have been to US post war advantage. 

How much cooperation and how much competition the players need to exhibit is determined by how ahead or behind schedule the Allies are on the historical timeline for ending the war. The self correcting mechanism in the game are the players. If the players do not successfully hinder or support each other at the right times then what happens is your groups strategic narrative for the war. 

There is almost no luck in the game. So, player skill alone will determine who wins. The rules will not force obvious player actions, it is for the players to sort through the Grand Strategy puzzle that is confronting them from a Realpolitik perspective. Weird stuff only happens if you let it. So, far I have found no advantage for any particular side as I have now won or observed every side winning with most games coming down to a few critical decisions as the war comes to its conclusion. 

I hope these continuing posts are helpful for folks, but I am not aware of any games that have gone down this path in this manner. I suspect that for the hardcore tactical crowd this will not be their cup of tea. For those who are looking for a Grand Strategic vice Strategic game, with a different perspective on the war this may be worth a look. 

My thanks to all those who have already P500ed the game as it is now slated for production which I would expect would start in the late Spring to early Summer. As always I am not in a rush, but the game is starting to get set in its final form. 


Posted by markherman at 4:33 PM EST
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