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"Why are they called 'Bathtub' campaigns?" Topic


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1,357 hits since 31 Dec 2009
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Comments or corrections?

Crusaderminis Inactive Member31 Dec 2009 2:08 a.m. PST

When forces, areas, distances etc are scaled down for a campaign why do folks call it a 'bathtub' campaign?

Just wondered where the term came from. I know GDW used it for a Command Decision Russian front campaign that came with CD I or II (I forget which) but its always seemed like a strange term to me.

Plynkes Inactive Member31 Dec 2009 2:55 a.m. PST

It would make a lot more sense if it had originated in naval wargaming, though I have no evidence that it did.

E.g. "We're going to do Jutland in a bath tub."

(A bath tub has a much smaller area of water than the North Sea, you see.)

Of course, I'm making this up. It is not fact.

Chris V Inactive Member31 Dec 2009 4:36 a.m. PST

It is not fact.

It is now! :-D

fred12df Inactive Member31 Dec 2009 4:49 a.m. PST

(A bath tub has a much smaller area of water than the North Sea, you see.)

Of course, I'm making this up. It is not fact.

You must have a bloody big bath then.

Jamesonsafari31 Dec 2009 4:57 a.m. PST

I think the terms comes from statistics or engineering.

It's called 'bath tub' because they've scaled down the orders of battle. So instead of a company you've got a platoon or section.

It's a way to get your 'historically accurate' scenarios when you're looking for platoon sized actions but can only find accounts of battalion or company sized actions. So a rifle battalion with a platoon of tanks becomes a platoon of riflemen with an MMG and a mortar supported by a single tank. Scale down the battlefield so the town becomes a single farm and there you go.

Plynkes Inactive Member31 Dec 2009 5:00 a.m. PST

"It's called 'bath tub' because they've scaled down the orders of battle. So instead of a company you've got a platoon or section."

That statement does nothing to explain why it's called 'bath tub', it merely restates the facts we already knew.

Kelly Armstrong31 Dec 2009 5:38 a.m. PST

Because after making so many compromises after reducing the order of battle and terrain, you feel dirty and need a bath.

Yeah not sure where the term originates. The first campaign/battle I specifically recall being a "bath tubbed" design is F. Chadwick's "Barbarossa" campaign for Command Decision. 1980's era I think. I wouldn't think that was the first. Anyone think of an earlier application of the term?

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP31 Dec 2009 6:23 a.m. PST

I think the naval source most likely. After all the navy also gave us "square meals" and "son of a gun."

Jamesonsafari31 Dec 2009 6:52 a.m. PST

I think it's because in statistics or engineering if you view things on a graph the line curves like the sides of a bathtub.

So you perform your tests further down the curve where it's easier/cheaper and then hope the data and results scales up the curve.

Not trying to insult anyone's intelligence P but I don't want to assume knowledge someone may not have.

to me "Command Decision" (the example given) that uses a stand of three guys to reperesnt a platoon isn't really a bathtubbed OrBat. They call it a platoon and try to make the game work it like a platoon (successfully or not is open to debate). But something like the "Skirmish Campaigns" scenarios that has a section of 10 figures and treats it as a group of 10 individual riflemen when the historical action really had a platoon or company is an example to me of bath tubbing.

Maybe the CD Russian Front campaign cited did do that I don't know, I'm not familiar with the product. I don't know why they would since it's pretty easy to have a couple of battalions on the table for CD, unless they presented scenarios that started calling battalions divisions or something.

vaughan Inactive Member31 Dec 2009 6:55 a.m. PST

How about a connection with bathtub gin, rather rough and ready stuff brewed illegally at home, rather than the proper stuff?

Plynkes Inactive Member31 Dec 2009 7:08 a.m. PST

Intelligence and knowledge aren't the same thing, but I'm happy to admit I don't have much of either! I'm not insulted James, and not ashamed to say that I've never heard of that before.

Could be the answer, I guess.

Kelly Armstrong31 Dec 2009 7:12 a.m. PST

My engineering experience says that the "bathtub curve" relates to high failure rates at the beginning and end of a product's life. Thus a "bathtub curve." Nothing to do with reducing or scaling, but jamesonsafari's comments are also applicable. Neither seems to answer the question. the idea that the term comes from a naval heritage seems to make the most sense. Ask Frank Chadwick.

The CD Barborossa Campaign 'bathtubs' by turning an Army into a division (1st Panzer Army becomes a panzer division, for example) and ignoring most OB elements smaller than a division. Ground scale is reduced on order of 30 to 1 or thereabouts. Time scale is also 'bath-tubbed.' Still a very large wargaming undertaking!

Kelly Armstrong31 Dec 2009 7:18 a.m. PST

From the TMP Refernce page,
Bathtub
A Bathtub Campaign is one which has been shrunk or reduced to fit the resources (number of players, number of miniatures, table space, etc.) on hand. The term originated with, but is not trademarked by, GDW. For example, GDW has published a Bathtub campaign of the 1941 Russian Campaign, and of the first few months of World War One in Europe.

Kelly Armstrong31 Dec 2009 7:28 a.m. PST

Grover Norquist thinks the Gov't (presumeably just the US Gov't, but why stop there?) should be reduced in size so it can be drowned in a bathtub.

that was 2001 so I don't think that is the origin of the term!

Martin Rapier31 Dec 2009 7:38 a.m. PST

" unless they presented scenarios that started calling battalions divisions or something."

That was exactly what they did, artillery range was something like from Brest-Litovsk to Minsk, which I always thought was a bit silly;-)

VCarter Supporting Member of TMP31 Dec 2009 9:17 a.m. PST

I seem to remember the term was used as "fleet in a bathtub". I think it dates from the late 18th century.
As in a child sitting in the tub surrounded by his fleet of toy ships.

Farstar Inactive Member31 Dec 2009 10:18 a.m. PST
Streitax Inactive Member31 Dec 2009 10:58 a.m. PST

From Farstar's link…

"The first game where the reduction in scale took place was Frank Chadwick's reduced-scale Barbarossa campaign. Frank boiled the Soviet navy down to a handful of vessels, and created models of them which were . . . shall we say . . . lacking in certain details.

John Harshman saw the models, and remarked that they looked like something suitable for sailing in a bathtub. Frank loved the notion, and the campaign was henceforth called "Bathtub Barbarossa."

The rest, as they say, is history."

aecurtis Fezian Inactive Member31 Dec 2009 12:30 p.m. PST

The answer is frequently on TMP, once one looks…

vtsaogames31 Dec 2009 2:16 p.m. PST

I do like that creation myth…

Personal logo Martian Root Canal Supporting Member of TMP01 Jan 2010 9:13 a.m. PST

Farstar has the right of it, as I was a part of that gaming group in the 80s.

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