The table layout worked very well and I have George Gush's article written in miniature wargames back in 1982 to thank. I think this has given us a new way of gaming that prevents the sense of "fizzle out" that is a risk of two day games but gives the big game, that I think, we all want to play. It also gives a format for fielding an entire army on a regular basis.
ObjectivesThe objective of the whole exercise is to create as large a game as possible, with all players involved, utilising all the tables and with a clear result by the end of one days game. This is an opportunity to use specialist units that seldom get used in standard games, especially air assets, engineers and transport units. The emphasis should be on manoeuvre and grand tactical decision making. The defending players must feel that they have the ability to retire, defend and attack whilst the attacker has the chance to use reinforcements to influence particular combats.
MechanicsThe mechanics of the overall game must be simple.
The rules used must be well understood by all the players involved.
The umpire must facilitate all the objectives and resist doing anything that will slow the game down.
The attacker/defender ratio must be 100% v 50% (in games where there is a disparity in weaponry or command and control this ratio can be altered but only after a great deal of consideration). Most military pundits would argue for a 3 to 1 ratio for a successful attack but my ratio allows for local superiority by both sides.
The defender must have units that are capable of counter attack or the game will only flow one way.
The terrain must give opportunity for both movement and defence. Roads and rivers should be fixed, as should the difficulty or amount of terrain on each of the boards. I would say the layouts we have should be fixed as it enables the players to get better and quicker at making decisions (as we found using Russ' original spearhead table) as we already have an appreciation of the tactical issues for each table. Like professional generals, we already weigh up the issues regarding a terrain feature. This results in a quicker game - or more turns in a day.
The points on the tables reflect the distance advanced by the attacker and the number of objectives on a given table. Points for objectives are vital as this makes it obvious as to which side has the points at the end of the game and avoids any vague debate as to who dominates a particular table.
12 turns or less in a day is a fail. 18 should be the minimum. We got 25 in our last game which got a decisive result.
Ideally, we could do with another two players as CinCs. These would enable a better level of overall decision making and commitment of reserves. Air assets would also be easier to control. Messages between both sides of the table would be better managed. However, we would need to ensure that any extra players understood the rules well and got on with all the other players. (Any suggestions?)
The left and right side of the overall game must be allowed to play at their own speed but must be kept informed by the umpire of the number of turns played on the other side. Units can move from one side to the other limited only by the correct phase being played.
Air attacks on the hour (or half hour if the on table airfield is used) irrespective of the turns played gives a framework to the game and is a useful reminder to all the players of what time is passing. Lunch breaks should not be taken on the hour as this gives quite a large bonus to the defender.
Communication between players should be minimised and limited to texts. Collective decisions should be allowed to make air attacks but the umpire should only allow a brief meeting. Players can talk openly across the tables (uncoded radio traffic) as long as this doesn't interfere with game play. Lunch should be the only opportunity for detailed conversation. Again, CinCs would greatly facilitate this.
ConclusionThat's basically it. With the same tables and general layout, numerous different games can be played. The road can become a motorway, railway, canal and the towns can become fortifications, monasteries or prepared positions and the river could be a wadi, frozen river, impassable ridge with limited passes or a mass dragons teeth obstacle. As long as you keep the restrictive or enabling feature of the terrain you can change the flavour without ruining the balance.
The easiest items to change are the troops. I am beefing up my Soviets for a 1942 game, Mark has his US division (attacking the Siegfried Line?) and Phil is working on a winter war eastern front setting. Tunisia would make an excellent setting, as possibly could Malaya and Burma.
WW1 would be another easy option with the three lines of table allowing for the three defensive lines with the gun line on the back tables - in the scale we play I think we could use two corps for the attacker! ACW could also be easily transferred to this system and I don't think the above rules would need much altering.
For the future I am also working on an amphibious version of this game, but that will be for a later blog. However, everyone has confirmed they can attend the rematch on the 2nd April which I hope will confirm the attack/defence ratios - if so I will use a points system for the defender in future games.
Please let me know what you think of the above as the most important ingredient is that five different players are committed to what is a very intense day of gaming!