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Re: [GZG] What are the pitfalls of standardised forces?

From: "Robert Mayberry" <robert.mayberry@g...>
Date: Sun, 13 Jul 2008 08:06:23 -0400
Subject: Re: [GZG] What are the pitfalls of standardised forces?

On Sat, Jul 12, 2008 at 5:14 PM, Adrian1 <> wrote:
> The original reason for choosing wheeled CFE was because that was the
> tech option.	It should theoretically be possible to repair and
resupply the
> equipment using local resources - SLAMs are low tech dumb fire weapons
> could be supplied locally too.  Like most theories though, fact just
> fit.

That depends on where you are. As John points out, CFE and HMT both
use hydrocarbons that require some significant infrastructure to
support (though fusion is another story-- depending on your setting it
might be ideal, as in my setting, or tricky to maintain and
expensive). On earth you're always just a few thousand miles from the
oil wells and refineries. On a newly colonized world, there won't be
oil deposits even if you had the resources to drill and refine. You'd
need some kind of chemical refinery and power source (probably
nuclear, possibly solar, wind or biological).

Keep in mind that many technologies actually REDUCE cost rather than
increasing value. Integrated SCM systems, for example, let you do lean
production (with all its financial advantages) and can be a component
of a quality improvement regime, but they also just plain save you
money. For a concrete example, consider that in a modern setting the
lowest-tech option for transportation is animal riding. We don't use
it because we have a ton of money to spend on technology, but
cash-strapped militia-quality forces also don't use them because in
our (modern) setting it's simply pricier than using a pickup truck.

> I was hoping for a modular design where if say a turret was damaged,
> could just take an undamaged turret from a identical vehicle that had
> suffered different damage.  This wouldn't have any effect in a battle,
> the campaign.  If you had forty identical damaged vehicles, you could
> the working modules and make a few working vehicles quickly instead of
> trying to repair each one seperately.

For an example of this, consider the Stryker
( It's an example of a US
modular design, though I'd love to hear John's experience with it in
actual combat. Mostly an APC, but with anti-vehicle, and various
support/utility versions. In a business setting, modularity is used to
cut costs through economies of scale while offering more customized
products for differentiated needs.

Also, with modern CAD/CAE, you can have two seemingly-dissimilar
vehicles which share a surprising number of parts. For example, the
heavy variant of a vehicle (in a setting where cheap fusion generators
are available) might sport two light engines instead of a new,
separate design. Minor components like screws and bolts, wiring and
even software, can be aggressively standardized.

Something else to consider: when you're controlling costs, ask
yourself if this is a high-volume or low-volume product. If it's
high-volume, like a military vehicle design, then you'll want to trade
higher fixed costs for lower variable costs. Then remember your total
cost of ownership (TCO). That includes things like maintenance, spare
parts, fuel, etc, but also things like risk and cost of capital. A big
expensive generic design wastes capital.

In most settings, populations in off-world colonies will be very low,
and life support costs for transportation will be very high. Except
for wars in undeveloped areas on Earth, expect your most valuable,
expensive commodity to be your trained soldiers. You'll want to gear
them out so that you'll need fewer of them to do a job, and you'll
want to protect them so that you won't have to deal with the high
costs and long lead times of replacing them.

For an expeditionary force, cut off by design from its logistics tail,
you should treat maintenance-reducing and resource-efficient designs
as a performance factor, not just a cost factor. That includes

> Yes there are three.
> First is that I reckon good campaign construction and supply rules
> make variety a real pain to deal with.  To make this have an effect,
> items built are tracked through the supply lines and can be lost to
> action.   So it's not impossible for a force to be in urgent need on
> for desert warfare but end up with boats.  I know this sounds (and is)
> complicated but I always preferred the campaign to the battles anyway.

If you're aiming for good campaign rules, you're not alone. However,
my preference is to center the game issues around the role of the
player. In a DS game, we don't worry about whether Private Funk is a
good shot or not, or whether senior command gave you a rational
objective, or whether the logistics department gave you enough fuel,
except in a very general way. In general, the game assumes that each
side is approximately the same in (in)competence so that the key
difference is the commander (that is, you).

There are a ton of ways a supply chain can go wrong. Mis-routed gear
is obviously one, though computerized supply chain management makes
that less frequent. On the other hand, forecasting is a pain in the
ass, and computers haven't helped much in highly volatile markets. Are
you familiar with the "whiplash effect"? It's easy to create shortages
and unwanted surpluses even in a near-future setting, not to mention
the fact that people with guns are shooting at your supply chain. FTL
and space travel in the Tuffleyverse gives you very long resupply lead
times, which is perfect for an evil game master who wants to create
havock for his players. It also complicates resupply because
communication only goes as fast as the fastest available message
courier. A convoy that heads for Epsilon Eridani doesn't know if the
fleet/army it's resupplying will even be there when it arrives.
Factory ships with flex-manufacture capabilities might be required,
and of course those would be prime targets for the enemy.

You can even resupply locally, by confiscating from local civilians.
This is great from a mechanics perspective because there's a clear
trade-off between keeping popular support and having enough fuel/spare
parts to fight, if you want a political dimension.

Or try looting from your enemy. In a mercenary setting both sides may
be using the same commercial, off-the-shelf military equipment.
Manufacturers might sell to mercenary companies and small nations by
touting their interoperable, standards-compliant designs.

Anyway, there's a world of fun in logistics without having to resort
to crippling your force with artificial constraints.

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