Sunday, November 29, 2015

Campaign Games vs. Individual Battles

The biggest addition to 1864, which was just released last week, was the campaign game, so I thought I’d say a couple words about my thought process on creating them and playing campaigns as opposed to individual battles.  This is the difference between strategy (campaigns) and tactics (individual battles.)

First, there’s a rule of thumb to any game.  You only go up and down 3 ranks.  So if you’re playing a corps level game (where your top general is a corps commander) your smallest unit should be a brigade.  (Corps, division, brigade.)  If you’re playing a game where your smallest unit is a regiment, your largest commander should be a division general.  (Division, brigade, regiment.)  Anything more or less than that bogs the game down.  However, it can be done, and indeed I did do it in the 1863 expansion where the top general is an army general.  However, these games are intended to be epic in size, and should be played with full days in mind.

So when creating a campaign game where you have a huge army versus a huge army, your smallest unit is going to be a division.  (Army, corps, division.)  That was the first place I started.  This immediately created the largest dilemma in creating a campaign game; every stand will have multiple types of units in it.  While a brigade will typically be just infantry or cavalry, a division is going to have both, and batteries of artillery.  This means that record sheets are unavoidable.  I had tried to keep Command Combat: Civil War such that players never needed to take their eyes off the table, but once you get to this size, you don’t have a choice.

There is the exception of when you have an entire division of just cavalry, but even then you’ll typically have horse artillery.  And you’ll need a way to know how much cavalry is in the unit.  Plus there are commanders and possibly other features, so you need record sheets.

Fog of war needs to play a part, but without a game master, you’re going to need to place all the pieces on the table.  So the elements that can be added are the fact that division sheets are hidden from the enemy, and decoy units can be placed on the board.  Information on each unit can only be seen when in line of sight and with a certain distance.

This last element becomes important as, when you’re used to tactical battles, you tend to think of things in line of sight.  But on a strategic level, each inch can be a mile or more.  You start have the issue of the curvature of the earth, and the land itself is never fully flat.  You’ll have hills and occasional trees that eventually add up to only seeing a short distance.

I played a strategic game where the host tried to use tactical rules, and it just didn’t work.  You don’t line up the way you do in a tactical fight.  At that distance, units mash together and the specifics are laid out on the table.  In my own system, I determined that the table would be laid out based on the immediate area and units will come into the tactical battlefield based on where they’re placed on the strategic one.  But if players were going to just roll off the results, I needed to come up with a system that reflected what everyone had, where they were coming into the battlefield in relation to the enemy, and what the terrain was like.

This, by the way, was what took 1864 so long to get done.  Well, that and my personal priorities shifted.  But that’s another story.

My answer was to make it all center around the infantry, the backbone of any battle at the time, and to let cavalry and artillery support it.  Then, that final number was to be altered by the general, whose abilities will shape how those elements are used.  Did it work?  Only the players can tell you.  I’m a little biased.

No comments:

Post a Comment