Following on from Phil's post I thought I ought to explain the thinking and logic behind Saturday's game to enable any one else to put on a similar battle.
|What the hell - I thought it was funny!|
The whole point of the exercise is to create a large battlefield, using a reinforced division against a suitably balanced opponent, in which we use all the terrain, get a result in a day and both sides feel they could have won. I must admit, this is an ambitious game to put on and many things needed considering.
Large BattlefieldThe aim was to use all or most of the tables, forcing both sides to consider flanks and offensive/defensive options that you do not get on a Thursday night game. I had an increasing amount of points linked to objectives on each table to keep it simple and force both sides to use all the available space. It was also intended that both sides could easily judge at any point how well they were doing. All the tables had troops deployed on them and by 4.00pm the Germans still held 12 points out of 18!
My feeling was if we got 12 turns it would be an interesting exercise but not worthwhile repeating. 18 was the target but we did 25! The two sides run by two different players were allowed to go at their own speed only tying in when units needed to move from one side to the other. The aircraft arrivals on the hour gave some background to the moves but I was surprised at how the moves kept pace. Fighting on one side would slow things down but a lull would allow a catch up and the spread of battle meant that the playing time equalised across both sides.
Balance of units
This is a difficult one to judge and in a game where disparity of numbers is important, it takes a lot of thought. I went with a 2 to 1 ratio in favour of the British; Russian doctrine was never to attack unless you had a 3 to 1 superiority so I thought I was running a risk with higher odds in favour of the Germans. A British infantry division of 9 x battalions supported by an armoured brigade of 3 regiments gave me a core strength of 12 x fighting units. Against this powerful formation I went for units from a 1944 Panzer Division; experienced, well equipped and reasonably typical of the type of mobile defensive formation you might expect in this period. A full infantry brigade, plus panzer battalion, anti-tank battalion, artillery battalion and 2 x ersatz battalions gave the Germans 8 x fighting battalions of mixed morale. The British would have extra assets to add to their units but again this could be offset by the better firepower and command and control of the German units. The British would have Fireflies and seventeen pounders but the German ability to mass Stugs and Pak 40s would enable them to create local superiorities.
The tables were supposed to get more difficult, more or less, as you progressed from one to three. The river line gave an obvious line of defence but the points ensured that this strategy would at best result in a narrow defeat. Again, there needed to be balance to give the Germans opportunity to defend but not result in a slogging defeat for the British on one table. The river was no surprise to the British and they had the equipment to cross it but the Germans had the opportunity to use this as a barrier on one side of the table whilst being flexible on the other.
Command and control
The map had another important function of simulating the difficulties of organising a large scale attack and allowing for the different doctrine and training of the Allies v the Germans. The movement arrows meant that the British had to think about axis of attack and commitments from reserve whilst giving the Germans the advantage of a flexible defence. This was meant to be a balance of British superiority in numbers versus the greater tactical flexibility of German interior lines.
This is a tricky one and something that is crucial for any game we put on. There must be something for everyone to do without feeling they are over taxed. The complexity must be carefully managed without slowing the game down through too much admin or unfamiliar rules. Again, the layout of the game spread responsibility across all the players; although I was worried that the British player with the greater number of units could struggle under the workload - in this case Russ - but I think he enjoyed the chance to use all his units. I do feel this format would benefit from more players, especially C in Cs to coordinate the air, order reserves, and to give an overall watch on the battlefield strategy which, I think, would speed things up. However, we have to manage with just the five of us and I think we would be lucky to find others of a like mind! I had quite a fun game and I wasn't over taxed with rule queries or arguments (there were none of these and the whole day was good natured without any tensions) but I do think an Umpire is necessary just to push the day along and remove any log jams in what is a rather complex game.
In general, the whole approach to this kind of game is to create a different set of opportunities and difficulties for each side that on the whole is balanced. The British had the two advantages of superiority of numbers and choice of when to commit reserves. The Germans had superiority of command and control, tactical flexibility on the table, and the terrain. The disparity in numbers, I felt did not favour the British enough, and I was concerned that the British would struggle, especially as it would be very hard to keep track of all their units with the same number of players. Therefore, I was very impressed when the British pulled off a narrow victory in the last hour and that the Germans had nearly held on and even had an opportunity to launch a counter attack that may well have ruined the British plan.
I think all the above should be considered if you are thinking of putting on a similar game; and if we play these regularly we will appreciate the differences and exploit them to make some very exciting games just as we did with Russ' original terrain board.
I suggest we replay this game but with the teams on opposite sides giving both sides an opportunity to use the experience they have gained from being the enemy. Len has pre-booked every first weekend of the month for the rest of the year - is everyone free for Saturday 2nd April?