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Gathering of Engineers

Ludographic considerations from the Silicon Forest

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Gaining Weight

I'm not really sure why this is happening, but it is.

I'm finding myself irresistably drawn towards large, long, heavy, complex games. Maybe it's because it's getting dark earlier. Maybe it's a cycle. Maybe it's wishful thinking. Maybe it's because I've managed to play a couple different wargames in the last month. I'm just not sure.

In any case, I've managed to get Panzer Grenadier (Battle of the Bulge edition) and Under the Lily Banners on the table in the last month. And the DBM miniatures tournament I played in at the beginning of last month was great fun. The next month looks like at least Panzer Grenadier and Roads & Boats games, with the possibility of more. And the group keeps threatening to have a Die Macher day.

Ever since Jodie and I rearranged the two extra bedrooms into separate offices, I've realized I've created space to keep up to a single-map wargame scenario setup for solo play. So, I intend to take advantage of this situation.

Side note to those readers who don't have much, if any, wargaming experience. Solo play is a very common activity among wargamers for a variety of reasons. Finding an opponent isn't generally that difficult, but when you're looking at a scenario that might take seven or eight hours (or significantly more) to complete, finding the time to play becomes difficult. And if you can't do it in one chunk, you either have to come up with a system to replace the game in the exact state you left it or leave the game set up over time. Neither of those are particularly attractive options. Compounding the situation is the nature of the games themselves. As 95% of wargames use scenarios based on actual battles, they tend to not be balanced. After all, if you were in charge of an actual army, you're not going to roll the dice on a 50/50 shot, are you? Of course not. You're going to manipuate the situation however you can to get things to your advantage before committing to battle. Unless you don't have a choice, of course. Which is why many historical battles don't make great games – one side has a significant advantage. These scenarios lend more towards solo play, as it really doesn't matter in that case. You're playing to learn why things happened the way they did.

Of course, tools such as Cyberboard, Vassal, and Aide de Camp make solo play less necessary as you can play via email (or live over the internet) with anyone in the world.

Currently, I'm reading through the series rules to The Gamer's Operational Combat Series (OCS) line of (primarily) WWII wargames. The rules weigh in at around 46 pages, not including game-specific rules or designer notes. But, despite their length, they look to be VERY playable. The biggest adjustment from a standard wargame on this scale is the role supply takes on. You literally have to pay supplies to fuel your units so they can move. And supplies have to be shuffled around the map. It adds a logistics layer to the game that, while a tad abstract, seems to force the “fierce fighting interrupted by lots of waiting around” flow of campaigns that occurred all through WWII. I haven't seen another operational level game that does that in any playable way. There's a lot of stuff to track in the game, but it's all rather compartmentalized. Kind of like Puerto Rico in that respect, but an order of magnitude more stuff going on. I'll put the Operation Compass training scenario on the table – there's a couple walkthroughs of it posted on the internet. Between reading the rules and following the walkthrough, I should be ready to go.

Shuffling supplies around the map seems to be my thing lately, as it's just about time for my old gaming group's annual Roads & Boats day. We've done this two years in a row now, right around New Years. This year might be a couple weeks later, but we're all looking forward to it. I'd really like to play this game more. It apparently doesn't have the greatest reputation in the Rip City Gamers, but I know KC and I think Chris both like it. Maybe I'll work on getting it to two or three plays this year instead of one. We've talked about adding Antiquity to the mix, but that might be a bit much for a single day.


  • At 3:03 PM, Blogger dave said…

    I own and love Roads & Boats. My only concern with it is that, in my experience, play length is two hours per player. I know that others claim it will come down, and I'm willing to give it a go. I do think we should restrict it to no more than four players at first.

  • At 3:43 PM, Blogger Eric said…

    In the five or so playings I've managed, we've never gone over five hours, and that's with up to four players, and having at least one new player every time.

    Now, adding in &cetera might increase things a bit...

  • At 9:20 AM, Blogger Dug said…

    I've always been up for trying Roads and Boats, but there have been roadblocks (no pun intended) every time we try to pull it out. Time, number of players, etc, all keep us from going through the motions, much in the same way that Civ never comes out in our group.

    Eric's comment that we could play in five hours is heartening, and I'm all for giving this huge and expensive title a real shot.

  • At 4:24 PM, Blogger Eric said…

    Two things I like about R&B is that it's playable from 1 to 6 (with &cetera) and adding more players really doesn't change the play time THAT much as the bulk of each turn can be done simultaneously unless you're really being anal about things.

    I see R&B as a two-three hour game with two people, and adding no more than an hour per person after that. It does depend on the scenario a tad, but not that much.

    For the game to last two hours per person tells me either someone is REALLY slow, or there was so much conflict that everyone was forcing player order resolution every turn.

    Given that I now know there's interest in the game within the group, I might suggest it some time. I know it was going to hit the table at the WSS that got iced out last winter, but maybe we can try it again.


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