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Re: [GZG] ground combat campaigns

From: Robert Mayberry <robert.mayberry@g...>
Date: Tue, 29 Dec 2009 11:13:45 -0500
Subject: Re: [GZG] ground combat campaigns

I wouldn't say that it's *realistic* that battles are balanced going
in. Instead, I had two things in mind:

1) A campaign consists of tons of battles-- most of which are lopsided
or tactically uninteresting. But the ones we decide to *play* (the
ones of historical or tactical significance) are the ones where the
outcome isn't decided ex ante.

2) With that said, most generals don't have the luxury of sending
overwhelming force. Instead, they send whatever they can spare. And as
John A. points out, they are plagued with limited and often faulty

3) Running a ton of lopsided battles is boring. So (as often happens
in the Tuffleyverse) we sacrifice some realism to increase the

I'd add a few other things:

As several other people have pointed out, there are disadvantages to
winning a battle also (that breaks momentum). In WWI, the Germans
didn't have a logistics train that could keep up with their troops, so
they couldn't exploit their victories in the field. So I do like the
suggestion that momentum-breakers be included. I also like the idea of
exogenous shocks (political, economic, diplomatic) that act as

>From a game design perspective, balancing army lists is rough, but
balancing army lists PLUS terrain PLUS varying mission objectives (so
that the points are awarded on a "better/worse than expected" basis is
nigh impossible. Too many variables.

The goal of a battle is often NOT "annihilate your opponent" except as
a means to some larger end. A good campaign system would set
interesting objectives of a battle beyond than simply attriting the
enemy force, and setting limits on HOW you're allowed to accomplish
your goals. A good political system gives its military what it needs
to accomplish the objectives set for it, and avoids meddling that
restricts how the military pursues its objectives. Anyone ever heard
of a good political system? Me neither.

Instead, we have vague, inconsistent, irrational and mutually
exclusive objectives. The resources and tactics used are highly
constrained, and the goals shift over time. Even (perhaps especially)
military dictatorships seem plagued by this problem.

I think the first thing that has to get thrown out is a constant scale
for time and space. Time shouldn't be divided into hours or days, it
should be chopped up into significant events. Space shouldn't be
measured in hexes, it should be irregular districts or (better yet)
key locations. The details of getting from key location to key
location are the midlevel officers' problem.

A challenge to any science fiction campaign system is ortillery.
Orbital bombardment is a problem for obvious reasons, and so we're
constantly forced to invent excuses for why ships aren't available on
EITHER side.

Going BETWEEN star systems, things change a bit. Communication lags of
months or more, and an inability to see enemy ships before they enter
the system, imply that local governors and ship captains will have far
more autonomy. Encounter battles won't be centrally planned, they'll
be haphazard affairs that evolve organically based on what's
available, what's needed and how the local commander thinks the
objectives should be adapted to the reality on the ground.

In a multipolar world, you also have natural coalition-building
behavior, where lesser competitors team up to counterbalance the
strongest. Technology would diffuse faster than navies can be

On Tue, Dec 29, 2009 at 10:16 AM, Tom B <> wrote:
> 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...".
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