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Re: [GZG] ground combat campaigns

From: Tom B <kaladorn@g...>
Date: Tue, 29 Dec 2009 10:16:01 -0500
Subject: Re: [GZG] ground combat campaigns

My concept for having linked scenarios over a weekend was:

1) If you want to put on a weekend of fun, you need to be able to
supply forces. Doing that while in another country (usually where I
attend such events) means having a very accurate grasp of what to
bring before you leave.

2) Having linked tactical events with limited player input into force
compositions and reinforcement schedules makes for fun games at the
table with predictable force sizes. If you tinker it right, no battle
will be a walkaway.

3) In order to have any sort of narrative throughout such a series of
events, you need to either presume outcomes strategically (in my
example, the ESU land on New Providence) because 'that's what should
happen given they are invading' OR you have to have a first event with
some sort of decision tree behind it for possible outcome scenarios
(ESU failed to invade and were decimated, ESU failed to land troops
but their space fleet is intact, ESU landed successfully). You then
have to tree off potential options for subsequent games (some of which
could link back to other options you develop). If you go the 'decision
tree' route, you can end up with quite a forest of possible outcomes
when you get 4 or 5 sessions deep.

This is why I went with a narrative. Besides, most historical
campaigns, you know the general scope of what happened (ESU invaded
Winchester, for instance) and you might even know the outcome, but a
lot of the details (how many people died, who was the hero, what
objectives succeeded or did not) are unknown.

The problems with the free form campaign where people can build
anything or deploy any mix of available strategic forces as they see

1) Logistics - If you can't decide until the day of the game, you'll
have to have all your game resources on hand
2) Walkaway battles - You'll get someone who brings a tommy gun to a
knife fight.
3) Lack of Miniatures - You'll eventually get someone to build
something (like say a particular cruiser design) for which you just
don't have 20 of them for a given battle.

The momentum problem RBW mentioned is also likely. I know Robert M
says he likes battles at the board to determine outcomes, but
realistically, this isn't the truth. Sun Tzu will tell you that you
are supposed to arrive at the field of battle having already one. In
the real world, production advantages, technological breakthroughs,
etc. will inevitably give strategic advantage which will show up at
any battle. "Hmmm... that blasted American showed up with USAF.... I
guess we don't get to do much with our armour...".

Truly free form games with no referee exerted central narrative or at
least significant confounding factors will tend to lead to fights you
can't or won't run. And they WILL be what would be the turning point

On the other hand, you can apply constraints to the campaign:

- timescale is such as to preclude ship construction

- timescale is such as to preclude all but smaller ship replacement,
don't lose your wall of battle ships

- winner of an engagement gets more salvage % due to holding the field
(where that makes sense)

- external political/command direction determines the course of
battles you will fight

- the 'turning points' are taken to be key, fairly even battles, in an
overall even conflict where things actually did hang in the balance OR
where VPs are not awarded for winning a fight (if the battles aren't
even) but for how well you did versus how well you probably should
have (did you have good luck/skill, or the reverse?)

- One other approach is to include some rules that say 'as your forces
grow and you win more systems/land hexes on the planet, your
logistical expense and your patrolling commitment grows' - to help
keep things even for future battles, despite somebody winning prior
battles - this means a player can be winning the strategic campaign
but the tactical battles will still be a challenge... it sort of
decouples the tactical result from the strategic result in a way to
counteract momentum. Imagine that the strategic game is a linear scale
from -10 to +10 with -10 being one player winning, +10 being the other
player winning. It's results don't have much effect on tactical
battles, because as one of the players wins strategic battles, he has
to allcoate his larger strategic forces out to cover more (imaginary)
territory or placate more (allies/conquered areas). So strategic
battles have similar feeling, but where on the +/- track is dictated
by the results, so eventually someone will secure a victory on the
strategic level.

- Also, you can take a page out of Imperium. They had an odd mechanics
where, IIRC, peace could break out at odd times, the Imperial or
Terran player could get benefits/hindrances (Imperium releases more
ships into the war, Imperial shipbuilding bans are lifted, etc). These
factors can sometimes end the campaign suddenly or throw the strategic
trend into reverse because a 'major' outside impact suddenly comes
into play.


"He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy
from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a
precedent that will reach to himself." -- Thomas Paine

"When men yield up the privilege of thinking, the last shadow of
liberty quits the horizon." -- Thomas Paine
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