Sunday, December 20, 2015

One-Hour Wargames Scenario #14, Design thoughts on "time"

Our playtesters after a hard day at the all around?
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So, had another read-thru of the rules and was pleased with 95% of them.  A couple of the concepts regarding time and interaction gave me some pause for thought.  The One-Hour Wargames are all IGOUGO rules, with distinct, separated turns for each side.  While this seems quite unrealistic, as posted in my ECW blog he has some legitimate points on the merits, especially how easy it is to learn and manage. What I dislike more than IGO-UGO I'm discovering is the very artificial Move-Shoot-Assault that so many like, especially in modern games where Shoot-Move is more useful for prep fire or covering a retreat.  Assault should be part of movement, in any event - it is a movement-based action. 

Still, overwatch - the use of reactive shooting to cover an advance or respond to enemy movement with quick and accurate fire - isn't in IGOUGO.  I evaded this with my use of the "ready" mechanic [stolen from the wonderful "Starship Troopers" miniatures game by Mongoose Publishing].  If you don't act in your turn at all, you may go "ready" and fire in the opposing player's Actions Phase just like one of his units.  

This covers that occasional event of enemy units moving into your line of sight or into close range and protects the ability of the defender to fire before moving attackers usually.  It also represents, in essence, a "double-fire" in that a prepared defender, lying in wait with a "ready" marker can shoot at you in your turn, then hit you again in his immediately following Actions Phase.  This represents that a lot of rounds could be fired off once the enemy was definitely there and closing in for an assault. But yes, you need to be "Ready" for it! 

Time, however, becomes a critical issue.  How much time does the turn represent?  The time factor places some restriction on firepower, but much more so it places restrictions on movement.  Firepower in WWII was already so strong that ten minutes could wipe out a battalion [a prepared defense against a clumsy attacker, most likely], so doctrine was already responding with training that emphasized using all available cover and concealment for an advance.  This takes TIME, and slows movement down a lot from a walking / driving on a hike pace. You need to pause, let noise die down, look listen and smell for the enemy [diesel fumes? cordite on the wind?].  

So I've now divided movement into Tactical and Marching, with correspondingly greater movement that is vulnerable to enemy fire for Marching and less distance for Tactical moves. Today was the first time I used these rules, and a few other little corrections but not major changes.  I also added a -1 penalty to "Ready" Fire to make it worth awaiting one's own turn to shoot, normally, and also represent the "snap-shot" of some responsive fire.  It would've been odd for units to almost always be shooting in each other's Actions Phase! 

So playtest at the FLGS went well. Another FoW burned-out pal and another occasional WWII player squared off.  I repeated Scenario 14, which I've gotten to know very intimately - this makes it very easy to host the game. The Italian player took the option of ATGs and one Infantry in the town, the Mortars and an Infantry on the hill, and the tanks working the gaps around the wood between.  The British cruds went for the hill, screening their right flank with one Tank and the Infantry platoon. 

The ATGs got some Hits on the screening tanks, but they managed to consistently rally as they were at Long Range. As they weren't being pressed too hard, and the town looked too tough to take, the British Infantry shifted over to the woods to protect the right flank and intercept enemy Units from cover. The screening Cruds moved back a bit more to keep the distance Long Range. 

Meanwhile, the CS tanks hit the enemy Tanks and Mortars for a few points of damage here and there as the three other Crud platoons leap-frogged forwards, destroying the opposing Italian Carri platoon minding the gap between the hill and wood [at a critical moment, the Italian player chose not to rally them back but rather take a shot - the next turn they were overwhelmed with direct fire]. 

In the below pic, around turn 5 or 6, the Italian Infantry have departed the town to challenge the British Infantry in the wood.  The surviving Italian Carri platoon has advanced down the gap between the town and wood to push against the British right while the ATGs pull out and set up a crossfire against British armor advancing against the hill, the obvious British objective at this point.  Hits on British armor are 5-5-3-0, not bad at this point in the game.

Below, turn 7 or 8, the British continued their advance, with the lead left Cruds taking several Hits in the process, pushing them up to 9 while the other two platoons also closed in.  As neither the Mortars nor the Infantry are tough against Tanks, and they're outnumbered 3-2 by armor sure to outflank them and supported by mortars, it's really a 4-2 attack with maneuver power v. Dug-in power.  The Cruds will certainly win without some help from the rest of the Italian army.  This is coming with the ATGs moving into firing position this turn, but failing to Dig-in, taking a shot instead.

Below, turn 9 or so. The Italian Carri Tank platoon moves back a Marching rate, while the Bersaglieri hammer the British Motor Platoon in the woods, calling in Mortar Fire to help, and driving them past ten Hits [note the red dice, which = permanent 5 Hits].  It is at this point quite possible for the Italians to hang onto the hill, despite the fact that they managed to overwhelm the Infantry Dug-in on the forward slope with firepower.  The ATGs and Tank platoon are pretty dangerous to the Cruds, altho the Mortars themselves are pretty useless, and just represent a target to destroy at this point.

The next couple of turns saw the Italian ATGs blown apart by mortars, and the Infantry failing to make it into the town as the right flank Cruds moved into intercept position to threaten the town. The lead Cruds worked around the hill and closed in against the Mortars, so with two platoons at double Hits, and only the one Carri platoon helping, the Italian had to concede.

A good game with two newbies.  They could easily have played again and not had any help from me. I only added a couple of pieces of advice and one reminder that mortars could be called in against the Infantry in the woods - the opposing infantry command stand can call it down.

Overall, a good game that demonstrated the strength of the system. Decisions are easy to understand and the game's stress on tactics over special rules - or the rules in general - made it easy for the players to understand what they needed to do and why.  It all played out in about an hour, without counting setup time. As the choices are clear and the learning curve low, I think that they could've switched sides and played again in under an hour easy. 

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