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"Victory conditions in wargames" Topic


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ChrisBBB11 Sep 2015 8:13 a.m. PST

I've written a short essay about victory conditions on my blog which I hope may interest and amuse:

link

I'd welcome TMPers' views on how much victory conditions matter to you in your wargames, and on what you think are good or bad ways to determine victory, either on this thread or as comments on the blog.

Chris
Bloody Big BATTLES!
link

normsmith11 Sep 2015 8:30 a.m. PST

I would agree that tightly framed scenario conditions are desirable, though see casualty rates as being just as worthy as geographical objectives if the situation demands that. The pyrrhic victory examples in history would attest to that.

I like tight victory conditions so that I know where i am going and because it reflects a thoughtfully put together scenario – though as for actual play, I am not precious about winning, i just like to play and the victory conditions give me direction.

Great War Ace11 Sep 2015 8:33 a.m. PST

You have way more victory conditions than I ever concerned myself about. Probably it's because you play way more varieties of games than I do.

But I do know this: victory is the defining core of any battle or tactical game. How you decide what "victory" is can be as variable as gaming itself.

My preference is to total up points in RPGs. In tactical army-versus-army games, whoever holds the field is the victor. A "Pyrrhic" victory is still a win, just not a satisfying one….

Big Red Supporting Member of TMP11 Sep 2015 8:44 a.m. PST

"Ignoring casualty-counting in favour of having victory primarily determined by terrain objectives, occasionally leavened with some scenario-specific task, has proven to be a thoroughly satisfactory method, generating games that give good insight into the historical events and usually produce tense and exciting finishes."

Very nice essay – good scenario design in a nut shell! However, sometimes casualties can matter as stated above.

Thanks for sharing this concise and useful guide.

MajorB11 Sep 2015 9:52 a.m. PST

Dirtside II uses a terrain objective approach much as you suggest.

IronDuke596 Supporting Member of TMP11 Sep 2015 9:57 a.m. PST

I agree with normsmith's astute approach and would only add that I would keep the victory conditions simple.

For example, opponents army suffers more than 10% casualties versus your army 1 point, cutting off the enemy's LOC 3 points, taking and holding XYZ Hill objective 3 points etc.

Russ Lockwood11 Sep 2015 10:02 a.m. PST

Scenario-specific is often the way our group goes because we are refighting a historical battle. It may be terrain. It may be casualties. It may be both.

Sometimes, we have a 'meeting engagement' that is not a specific battle on specific terrain, just representational forces on representational terrain. For these, we use 16 counters (two sets of 1 to 8). They are shuffled randomly, placed face down on significant terrain, and the side holding (or last through) a counter gets the points. We flip them to reveal the number as they are grabbed, so the fight starts to evolve around the most valuable terrain spots.

Inkpaduta11 Sep 2015 10:19 a.m. PST

My group is not much into victory conditions. They are more there to just play and have some fun. I could like say the player who destroys the most units wins and they would be happy.

Personal logo Extra Crispy Sponsoring Member of TMP11 Sep 2015 11:00 a.m. PST

Of course, in many, many instances the objective was the destruction of the enemy's army. In that case a "first army to break loses" victory condition is perfectly appropriate.

Otherwise I try to create a setting/scenario that tells a story, and give each side their "SitRep" and let them do with it what they will.

Generating stories that live long after the game is forgotten is the payoff.

vtsaogames11 Sep 2015 11:39 a.m. PST

Sometimes methinks casualties should enter into it, as in causing twice as many losses (and at least X) is worth an objective.

The "at least X" keeps a player from snapping up a defender or two and then standing off, holding their scalps and crying victory.

I can think of scenarios where excessive losses would horrify higher command, even if the objective were taken. Not all objectives were worth "at all costs".

That said, I'm a BBB fan boy (if someone as venerable can be described as such) and like Chris' scenarios just fine.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP11 Sep 2015 12:21 p.m. PST

In historical battles, terrain matters. Battles are about seizing or holding key terrain: dominant high ground, villages or towns that sit astride an important route, strongpoints that anchor a defensive line, locations that protect or expose a line of communications or axis of advance or escape.

Chris:
If we are talking about a good game, then I can agree with your points about casualties, exhaustion etc. versus Terrain.

If we are talking about why battles were fought historically and the goals commanders had for fighting them, I'm not sure your conclusions are on point. Just pulling 19th century battles off the top of my head:

Marengo
Austerlitz
Wagram
Talavera
Salamanca
Borodino
Waterloo

1st and 2nd Manassas
Shiloh
Stones River
Fredericksburg
Gettysburg
Cold Harbor

Solferino
Sadowa
Worth
St. Privat/Gravolette

So Waterloo was fought 'to seize or hold key terrain?' That's why the battle of Waterloo was fought, the goals that Wellington and Napoleon had for squaring off where they did?

At Austerlitz the Allies' goal was to seize the French LOC. The French, to destroy the Allied army. The terrain fought over in-and-of-itself meant nothing to either commander. Neither viewed seizing the Prazten Heights or holding the villages on the French right flank as victory. They were simply terrain features that were important because they provided tactical advantages…that's all. You don't have to give the terrain points for them to provide tactical benefits in the game. Neither Napoeleon or the other two Emperors count them as evidence of victory because they held that terrain at the end of the battle.

Wellington didn't choose to fight At Waterloo because he thought the surrounding farms and villages were important or taking that particular ground was significant in the campaign. The battle was fought to stop Napoleon, give Blucher time to reach him… and it was good defensive terrain… not valuable terrain that determined victory if captured.

At Borodino, for instance,the French seized every terrain feature the Russians defended, yet Napoleon didn't achieve his goals for fighting the battle and the Russians did for the most part.

I think there is some confusing the historical goals for fighting a battle with the defensive ground chosen for the battle--Mixing the choice of the battlefield, Coup d'oeil with the goals for fighting the battle.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP11 Sep 2015 12:46 p.m. PST

I pretty much always have a non-attrition focused set of victory conditions. Attrition and avoiding contact then become means to your actual end.

Most objectives I set up have some degree of ambiguity. There is usually variability in how much every player knows about the critical parts of the mission. In campaigns, we vary this based on who is doing better. When we get new/novice players, we can use this as a handicap system.

When I use attrition, I usually actually use "survival" – the number of your troops surviving influences or limits your total victory points.

Edwulf11 Sep 2015 4:52 p.m. PST

Both can be fun.

Having it so red side needs to get a certain number of units off the edge of the table in good condition while Blue side is in good condition.

Blue side has to have a certain number of units still fighting by the time Pink troops can receive them on turn 6, while Red needs to break them.

Blue and Red both need to capture several key features of terrain. Crossroads, bridges, farmhouses, redoubts, towers, supply dumps, camps or hills.

Red has to carry off certain objectives from Blues possetion.. wagons, POWs, treasure, cattle or women.

Casualties SHOULD factor in some games… even if it's not a campaign, you should try and pretend that it is and that "winning" at a very high cost won't look good in the papers back home. But I agree they shouldn't be the be all and end all of games between civilized people's.

Personal Victory conditions can help with this.
"Troops under your command must avoid casualties higher than 20%"
"You must lead at least 2 bayonet charges personally"
"You must avoid having any units broken by the end of the game"
"You must not get drawn into any ungodly hand to hand fighting"
"You must not allow any Orange units under your command to have 2 casualty markers before the game ends… let the Red and Purple units bear the brunt"

That kind of thing.

Personal logo chicklewis Supporting Member of TMP11 Sep 2015 8:05 p.m. PST

Well thought out, and very nicely written. I agree with most everything you propose.

ChrisBBB11 Sep 2015 11:53 p.m. PST

Thanks for all your thoughtful comments. I'm glad I provoked such a good discussion.

Thanks especially to McLaddie for pulling me up on what battles were about. I will concede some ground and try to retreat to a better position. I said "quite often the destruction of the enemy force was an indirect object, rather than the direct aim". I'd like to rephrase that. How about, "while the ultimate aim was often the destruction of the enemy force, the way this was usually achieved was by driving him off his chosen ground or by stopping him doing the same to you." And at the end of the sentence you quoted, after "axis of advance or escape", finish the paragraph with "The side that fails to hold or take the ground it needs often does so because it has suffered too much in men and morale. Possession of objectives at the end of a battle can serve as a simple proxy for the state of an army. So in our wargames, ownership of these places should be the main and often the exclusive consideration in the calculation of victory."

That's really what I meant: not that casualties don't matter, but that terrain objectives are a good proxy that also reflect a force's – or player's – will to fight. In my games the guy who hangs back, keeps his army intact, inflicts greater casualties, but does by declining to contest the designated objectives will lose. You could say he is playing McClellan to his opponent's Lee.

Chris

Glenn Pearce12 Sep 2015 7:36 a.m. PST

Hello Chris!

Having terrain objectives as the goal for winning the game is sort of like letting the tail wag the dog. In Napoleonic war terrain objectives were at times set at a low level of command as part of an overall plan. They were never predetermined as win or lose the battle criteria by a third party.

What your doing as most objective based games do is force the players to develop a plan to take or hold objectives. This boxes the players into a limited frame work that is controlled by the objectives, not the players. Most Napoleonic commanders developed a plan first and then stated some terrain objectives if they were vital to their plan, while others did not, if they didn't have any.

I think your much closer to the mark with "suffered too much in men and morale". Which can be combined into one word COHESION.

I've just written a horse and musket rule set covering North American Wars for Baccus in their Polemos series which could be released next year. It deals with cohesion at three levels, battalion, brigade and army. The side whos army cohesion collapses first is the loser. Losses, command control and cohesion are all monitored so if you want to end a game at any time the side who is winning in most of these categories is the winner. This also allows you to play battles where one side is a sure winner by simply putting a time limit on it. If the historical winner is not winning when the clock runs out it's a loss for them.

Napoleonic battles were all about quantity, placement, movement, discipline, orders, timing, execution, morale, quality, weapons, formations, casualties and cohesion. Terrain objectives are so low in priorities that using them as the deciding factor in your games seems inappropriate.

Best regards,

Glenn

Big Red Supporting Member of TMP12 Sep 2015 8:29 a.m. PST

"Napoleonic battles were all about quantity, placement, movement, discipline, orders, timing, execution, morale, quality, weapons, formations, casualties and cohesion."

Yes indeed all the above were/are important to accomplish the assigned task which was often to capture a terrain objective and hence disrupt the enemy's cohesion. If you accomplished your objective but paid too high a price in time or casualties or disorder (ie. cohesion) then you loose.

If you include all of the above as separate considerations, you might be looking at a detailed rule book. Some abstraction as stated by ChrisBBB might be necessary to move the game along.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP12 Sep 2015 9:17 a.m. PST

Hi Chris:
Of course, we are talking historical scenarios here. For fictional scenarios, anything goes. And as I said, viewed as game goals, terrain objectives are clean, clear and simple.

Historically, subordinates to the army command, corps or division leaders might have terrain objectives in a battle. However, battles were fought for strategic reasons, not tactical. For the army commander, there are only a few terrain objectives that I can think of that would be specific locations on the table:

*The enemy Line of Communications
*In connection to that, road junctions or choke points such as passes and fortifications and other terrain blocking movement.
*Supply Depots and army magazines [usually in towns and cities] That is why Leipzig, Petersburg and Dresden were attacked and defended.
*An enemy flank or specific weak spot in their line.

Beyond destruction of an army, battles were fought to move/displace the enemy, forcing them to retreat from an area in order to destroy them later. Mars-la-Tours is one such battle with a 'non-destructive goal'…to contain the French, make them retreat back to Metz.

The problems I see with terrain objectives for winning a battle beyond what I have already mentioned are:

1. It encourages terrain fixation, tactically, something that is often criticized. At Waterloo, the French fixation on the Hougamount was a bad thing and aided Wellington's defense. Yet, I see most Waterloo scenarios giving big points for the capture of the Hougamount. The same thing can be seen in a number of FPW scenarios battles like Worth and Fouschwiller.[sp?]

2. Battle tactics are all about achieving battle objectives. Make terrain the objective rather than the defeat of the army and you get different tactics…often head-on pounding matches like Waterloo and Borodino, where capture of a piece of terrain, a farm or redoubt becomes a goal in-and-of-itself. A generalization of game play, but something to consider in making terrain objectives. I saw this transformation of a battle happen with a replay of Salamanca where the various high ground and hills were the objectives rather than the destruction of the French/British army.

3.It encourages players to rescript the purposes of the battle. Wargamers have a propensity for rationalizing history based on the game rather than rationalizing the game mechanics based on history. Perhaps a subtle distinction, but the terrain goals vs historical goals question at the moment is a good example of this.

Determining what it means to seriously damage or destroy the opposing army short of a mass rout like Waterloo or Leipzig isn't easy to do simply, but I think it can be done depending on the system and the battle.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP12 Sep 2015 9:39 a.m. PST

I pretty much always have a non-attrition focused set of victory conditions. Attrition and avoiding contact then become means to your actual end.

etotheipi:

I agree with that. 'Attrition' was never a battle goal as far as I can see, other than in some strategic situations like Grant facing Lee where both wanted to inflict 'unacceptable' losses on the other.

Even there, attriction wasn't the only or even main reason for Grant and Lee's battles in 1864-5.

Glenn Pearce12 Sep 2015 10:30 a.m. PST

Hello Big Red!

I fully agree, a brief rule book is extremely important. The one I just wrote only has 18 pages of rules, that are summarized on the front page of a single sheet of paper!

I also agree that abstraction is very important if you want to move the game along, but terrain victory conditions are not a requirement for that.

Best regards,

Glenn

Big Red Supporting Member of TMP12 Sep 2015 7:57 p.m. PST

Glenn,

You are most correct. Terrain victory conditions are only one way, not a requirement.

Bill.

ChrisBBB13 Sep 2015 9:06 a.m. PST

Glenn, McLaddie,

Thanks again for taking the trouble to provide such extensive and thoughtful responses.

On terrain fixation and the "tail wagging the dog": I agree this is a major hazard of designating terrain objectives. Likewise what you say about rationalizing history from the game. We designate point X as an objective, so the game revolves around fighting over point X, and then we all nod sagely and say "oh, now we see why point X was so crucial in this battle".

But I still maintain that, provided terrain objectives are judiciously selected, they can work in game terms without wagging the dog unduly. In my essay I specifically referred to the Hougoumont example you cite, and offered a way to mitigate the problem. As I said, "multiple objectives are important", precisely because they allow players multiple different ways to win, and do not straitjacket them into repeating history. With 4 objectives in a Waterloo scenario – Hougoumont, La Haye Sainte, Mont St. Jean and Plancenoit – the French player can win without taking Hougoumont, he just has to out-fight and/or out-manoeuvre Wellington enough to sit on his LOC at MSJ (having taken LHS either to pin or to smash the main Allied line), and hold off the Prussians long enough to hang on to Plancenoit and protect his own LOC.

And the Mars-la-Tour example you offer is surely a perfect one where casualties really DON'T matter! If the French don't succeed in breaking through, the level of their casualties is irrelevant, because they will all end up trapped in Metz and surrendering two months later. And the Germans don't really mind how many of the small forces engaged they lose, so long as they stop the French, because plenty more Germans are on the way. So my Mars-la-Tour scenario in BBB revolves around who holds four towns along the French escape route. Clear, simple, and (I think) a good way of determining how good a job the French have done of escaping.

But there are many ways to skin this particular cat (dog?). I think the terrain objectives approach is a good one, but of course others based on casualties, cohesion etc may be as good or better in important respects.

Glenn, good luck with your Polemos rules.

Thanks again to everyone for all the comments.

Chris
Bloody Big BATTLES!
link
bloodybigbattles.blogspot.co.uk

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP13 Sep 2015 10:38 a.m. PST

But I still maintain that, provided terrain objectives are judiciously selected, they can work in game terms without wagging the dog unduly….But there are many ways to skin this particular cat (dog?). I think the terrain objectives approach is a good one, but of course others based on casualties, cohesion etc may be as good or better in important respects.

Chris:
I wouldn't argue with that. How objectives are applied/valued in a scenario is the bottom line, what game dynamics the chosen objectives produce visa vie the game and history.

In-and-of-itself, terrain objectives are neither good or bad design choices. It's how they are used. I was simply pointing out the pitfalls of terrain objectives. They certainly can be avoided if recognized. grin Your Mars-la-Tours example is a good one.

Bill

Skarper13 Sep 2015 11:36 a.m. PST

If you have an umpire they can adjudicate victory/defeat.

I always considered the idea of running a postmortem as a matrix game with both sides setting out their 'why we won' arguments and the umpire ruling on the result.

You shouldn't know clearly what it takes to win a battle as it leads to some very gamey behaviour.

E.g. I need to kill too more elements to break the other side so I'll throw in my best units versus their worst and just accept the losses even though no real commander would/could know that.

If I hold the chateau at game end I win – never mind my army is destroyed….

I prefer orders/objectives and then some way of judging how well they are achieved. It would be ideal not to know the other side's objectives.

Bill N13 Sep 2015 11:41 a.m. PST

In the last few games I've played we have not had specifically stated victory points or conditions. Rather there are generally defined goals as part of the game scenario, and we let the player decide for himself whether he met those goals.

When I do play games with stated victory points or conditions, one I like to see included is a penalty for suffering more than a certain number of casualties.

ChrisBBB13 Sep 2015 12:57 p.m. PST

Skarper, Bill N,

It's true that clearly known victory conditions can lead to gamey behavior. I don't really have a problem with that – it doesn't happen that much, and it's a small price to pay for the benefits (in my view) of a well-framed game.

I do agree that it's nice to be given orders (Ground, Situation, Mission etc) without knowing exactly what the other side is up to. But I like refighting major historical battles, and that was the context of my essay. And with well-known historical battles like Waterloo, players often already know both sides' historical objectives, forces, deployments etc. So having clearly known objectives doesn't cost you anything on the fog-of-war front.

Letting players decide whether they met the goals they were given, or letting umpires adjudicate, is fine if that's how people want to do it. I was quite happy doing things that way myself for a long time. But if you want "some way of judging how well they [orders/objectives] are achieved" – well, you know what I think!

Happy gaming, all!
Chris

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP13 Sep 2015 3:05 p.m. PST

For a game, the objectives/win determinations have to be clear and finite. That's a game need.

For history, you have to ask what the historical objectives were. What was to be gained by fighting the battle?

I don't think those two elements are necessarily incompatible.

GreenLeader13 Sep 2015 9:38 p.m. PST

Good morning, Chris

I really enjoyed the Blog well written, entertaining and some great ideas.

I was particularly interested the idea of the opposition gaining a victory point if a given 'high profile' unit was 'spent'. This is a real bug bear of mine in wargaming historically, any commander worth his salt maintained a powerful reserve up his sleeve… in most wargames rules, there is simply no point indeed, most of the time it is actually detrimental so to do: much better to push forwards with everyone at once and overwhelm the enemy with sheer numbers (aka: sheer numbers of dice to be thrown).

Of course, there are many ways to tackle this problem (hidden units / fog of war / more restrictive and 'realistic' rules about command and control etc), but your idea is also a good one. I would suggest that, in some circumstances, the enemy should get a victory point even if the reserve is just committed, and additional points if they end up as 'spent' (or however your preferred rules portray this). There are many examples throughout history where units were kept in reserve and were not committed at all perhaps the preference was to keep fresh for operations the following day, and they were only to be committed in dire emergency: anything that throws a spanner in that, more strategic, plan will be a feather in the cap to the opposition.

GreenLeader13 Sep 2015 10:23 p.m. PST

On the subject of terrain objectives being worth VPs: it is a good and well made point that (eg) the capture of Hougoumont was not the reason Waterloo was fought; but that is not to say that the capture / defence of Hougoumont was not critical to the result of that battle.

Many battles throughout history could have been 'somewhere' else a given general decides to make his stand at X, but he could just have easily chosen Y or Z. As soon as he picks X, however, certain terrain features immediately become important, and thus to my mind it is logical that the holding / capture of these should be worth 'victory points' if that is the method one wishes to use to decide the result.

Using the Boer War as an example, the battles of Belmont, Graspan, Modder River and Magersfontein were all fought to try and halt the British relief forces from reaching the besieged town of Kimberley. None of the battles were fought because the terrain the Boers selected to defend was in and of itself important, and all the sites picked were the subject of much debate and disagreement within the Boer ranks: but the moment the Boers did indeed dig in to defend those various locations, the capture of certain terrain features nevertheless became key objectives of the British.

It's all a bit of 'chicken and egg' I suppose is a given hill / village / ridgeline defended because it is important? Or is it important because it is defended? In the end, players (like Generals in reality on occasion) might get sucked in to attacking an otherwise worthless objective, just because that's where the enemy has chosen to make his stand.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP13 Sep 2015 11:12 p.m. PST

As soon as he picks X, however, certain terrain features immediately become important, and thus to my mind it is logical that the holding / capture of these should be worth 'victory points' if that is the method one wishes to use to decide the result.

Again, the question is WHY the terrain was important. Generally, because it offers tactical benefits, not because it is the reason the battle was fought or what either side saw as determining victory.

I also think that giving victory points to one side or the other when committing important units or some 'designated reserve' creates the same issues as terrain objectives. Tactically it was important, but getting the enemy to commit their reserves was a step towards possible victory, not a victory in itself. ALL tactical moves can be seen as steps towards victory, but you won't give victory points for one side advancing or another defending or a cavalry charge or setting up a grand battery.

Let tactical advantages be that rather than overall battle/game objectives… the purpose for fighting the battle. Two different things. There is no 'chicken or egg' analogy can apply here. Tactical advantages and terrain benefits certainly do affect an army's ability to achieve their objectives… but they aren't the reasons for the battle or the objectives determining victory.

GreenLeader13 Sep 2015 11:23 p.m. PST

McLaddie

I don't think anyone is saying that these things should be the be-all-and-end-all of determining victory only that they are ways one can view how well a certain side has done. For example, even if the enemy broke through, but to do so, had to commit a division which was not deployed historically, the defending general can reasonably be assumed to have done well.

I am glad you feel confident to simply dismiss my 'chicken and egg' analogy out of hand, but you will forgive me for not bowing to your opinion for that (like mine) is all it is at the end of the day.

Take the Magersfontein Hills, for example the original Boer plan was not to defend them at all, but rather to dig in further north. In the days prior to the battle, British scouts even rode over the hills, but the British made no effort to occupy them: neither side considered them an important feature at that time.
However, just a couple of days later, once the Boers decided to defend those hills, they suddenly became one: the British needed to capture them because, now they were occupied, republican artillery placed on them commanded the railway line. Methuen launched his attack against the main hill in in the ridgeline had he taken this, it would have allowed his troops to overlook and dominate the rest of the Boer line, thus rendering the whole position untenable which is why, I feel, if you are using this system, it would be worth giving that particular hill VPs in any re-fight. It was the key to the position, and the moment it fell, the rest of the Boers would have had little choice but to pull back. The loss of that high ground would have represented a more devasting blow on the defender's morale than, eg, losing 20% of their force.

Of course, you could 'game' all this instead, and (once the heights were captured) go through all the rigmorale of testing morale for the rest of the line, and putting in place special rules which come into effect once the defence line is overlooked etc that's another (perfectly valid) way to do it, even though the player in charge of the Boers might be tempted to do all manner of ahistorical things as a result. But awarding VPs for the capture of the heights is (in my mind) no less valid, and more practical from a 'getting the game finished' point of view.

Personally, however, I don't use VPs at all, but think Chris has made some interesting and valid points. The way I would handle Magersfontein is that I would simply declare the battle to be over if and when the British capture that particular hill, otherwise the Boer player will throw everything he can at it, in an unrealistic 'do or die' attempt to re-take it.
Of course, the flip side of simply declaring the battle ends in British victory if they take the hill is that the Boer player could say that, by inflicting a huge number of losses on the British, he didn't really lose the battle, even though he lost the hill… and so we get back to the argument in favour of victory points.

ChrisBBB14 Sep 2015 3:50 a.m. PST

Green Leader, I'm glad you enjoyed the blog and got something useful out of it. You said "I would suggest that, in some circumstances, the enemy should get a victory point even if the reserve is just committed". I agree, to the extent that I have actually used just such a device at least a couple of times.

Specifically, I did this for two Crimean War battles, Balaclava and The Chernaya. In both cases, both sides are at the end of long and tenuous lines of communication, with no support nearby. Consequently both the Russians and the Allies were wary of committing everything to battle, "fearing defeat more than they craved victory" as I put it in my scenario brief. They therefore kept large forces out of both battles. To reflect that hesitancy – which was based both on the military situation and the political context – if either player commits one of the designated reserve contingents, he rolls a D6 and there is a chance it may cost him an Objective. This seems to work in the Chernaya game; the Balaclava one is only a draft, not yet playtested, but we should be able to make that work too. (It's in the files of the BBB Yahoo group if anyone wants to take a look.) A variation on that theme could certainly be employed in many many scenarios, to embody the many off-table imponderables in an on-table risk if reserves are committed.

Bill (McLaddie): yes, terrain is generally important because it offers tactical benefits. But the terrain I choose as Objectives tends to be terrain that offers some _strategic_ benefit. It's key terrain because it opens (or closes) some significant strategic door. In The Wilderness, it's mostly road junctions, of no defensive value but vital for strategic movement. At Sedan, the French have to string Objective villages together along a choice of routes to open an escape route to either east or west. (They're still doomed, but that's beside the point.) At Le Mans, the Germans are trying to capture enough of the 7 river crossings to be deemed to have broken through the French line. Etc etc etc.

Well, we could go on and on debating this but I think we are probably closer together in our understanding of this than the arguments might suggest. It's a pleasure to discuss such interesting topics with such knowledgeable fellow enthusiasts.

Chris
Bloody Big BATTLES!
link
bloodybigbattles.blogspot.co.uk

GreenLeader14 Sep 2015 4:59 a.m. PST

Chris

I think you make a good point the holding / seizing of key features can be considered an abstraction of events in a bigger picture. To return to my Magersfontein example, assuming the British force fails to capture the main hill, but ends the day in possession of part of the lower ridge line to the east, this could still be considered a minor gain in terms of the bigger picture maybe worth 10 VPs instead of 50 VPs or whatever. It might not give any real tactical advantage in the current battle, but we can still look at acknowledging its impact in terms of the bigger picture.

Though our games end at an artifical point either after 20 turns or when the wife throws our mates out / the cat smashes up the table or something, this was obviously not the case in real life and had Methuen's force managed to cling on to at least part of the ridge, this might have proved important the following day or even a few days later. We cannot game on and on forever (alas!) so some things need to be abstracted in this way, I would suggest, and this is when awarding VPs for capturing terrain might have a place.

Similarly, if the French player 'wins' a given battle, but in so doing, has to commit the Imperial Guard and they are all but destroyed, then it stands to reason that this will have an impact on the next battle in the campaign. Of course, this impact cannot be handled on the table except by playing every single action one after the other (which would be fun), so abstracting it by using VPs makes good sense to me.

(Phil Dutre)14 Sep 2015 9:06 a.m. PST

When determining victory conditions in a wargame one has to differentiate between:
- victory conditions to declare a winner to the game.
- victory conditions to declare the winning side of the battle if the battle would have been fought in real life.

In the ideal wargaming world, these two should be the same thing, but in practice, they are not. Limitations w.r.t. game are the cause of this: absence of strategical context; no real-life consequences for CiC when losing/winning a battle; limited time and ground (what happens before and after, or to the left and right) etc.

Hence, we need proxies to declare a winner in the game. %casualties caused are one way, holding certain key objectives might be another. But you can always come up with situations in which these will not work as intended.
The format might also be different whether you consider generic encounter games, or scenario-based games with clear mission objectives (hold the ridgeline, hold the crossroads, delay the enemy, bring a convoy to safety, …).

BTW, you could also come up with strange proxies that are equally valid: winner is determined by most figures killed painted with brown hair – or winner is the one with the most inches moved. Although these do seem silly, they could as well serve as a proxy condition for declaring the winner.

In my group, we usually have a debrief after the game, in which we discuss how the battle would have likely proceeded, and who has "moral victory". Moral victory might be different from the literal victory defined by the victory conditions.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP14 Sep 2015 10:42 a.m. PST

But the terrain I choose as Objectives tends to be terrain that offers some _strategic_ benefit. It's key terrain because it opens (or closes) some significant strategic door.

Chris:

I think we agree on that and as you say, not that different in our views. [We aren't arguing are we?] As Phil points out, there are the victory conditions that establish the winner in the game and then those that where the historical reasons/goals for fighting the battle.

For victory points, The division of minor, tactical and Strategic victory levels also speak to this too.

I just know that victory conditions are what directs game play. If the purpose of the game is to recreate a battle in some way, the victory conditions have a big impact on that recreation… which also means how gamers play the game. Soooo, it is an important issue for any game design, but a duel complication with double the impact for a historical wargame.

It isn't an either/or issue of terrain or any other victory criteria, but how they are used. What is the effect on game play and representing history?

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP14 Sep 2015 11:10 a.m. PST

I don't think anyone is saying that these things should be the be-all-and-end-all of determining victory only that they are ways one can view how well a certain side has done. For example, even if the enemy broke through, but to do so, had to commit a division which was not deployed historically, the defending general can reasonably be assumed to have done well.

Greenleader:
I wasn't suggesting you were were saying it would be 'end all.' It is the difference between a boxing match and a street fight. The boxing match has points awarded for hits etc. If I was simulating a boxing match, like any artificial competition, the points make sense. You have to determine a 'winner.' If I am simulating a street fight, the goals are far different and to start including points is a 'game' thing that has nothing to do with the actual conflict or the 'victory conditions'.

It is the same comparison with giving points to the player who compels the opposing player to commit more forces than historically committed.

I have no problem with that as a victory point determiner. It is a game need, but let's not confuse that with the historical meaning/value of that action.

That's it.

I am glad you feel confident to simply dismiss my 'chicken and egg' analogy out of hand, but you will forgive me for not bowing to your opinion for that (like mine) is all it is at the end of the day.

That's true and I certainly have no expectation beyond that, so no forgiveness necessary. You wrote:

It's all a bit of 'chicken and egg' I suppose is a given hill / village / ridgeline defended because it is important? Or is it important because it is defended? In the end, players (like Generals in reality on occasion) might get sucked in to attacking an otherwise worthless objective, just because that's where the enemy has chosen to make his stand.

They might well get sucked into attacking a worthless objective if the game rewards that behavior with victory points. Then it isn't a chicken/egg issue.

And it also has to do with what you mean by 'important'. Tactically significant or a goal for fighting the battle? If it became 'significant' because some general got sucked into attacking it or simply attacked because it was defended, where victory or defeat achieves none of the goals for giving battle… are the victory conditions then encouraging--and rewarding--the same pointless actions?

there are no black and white answers to those questions, and your suggestions are not 'wrong or right'. I simply see it as important to question all the criteria for victory in designing a scenario that recreates the conditions of a battle rather than simply rewarding the players for making the very same decisions as the original commanders.

And yes, that is my opinion.

Old Contemptibles Supporting Member of TMP14 Sep 2015 12:16 p.m. PST

It just depends on the battle. I use victory conditions to balance, unbalance scenarios.

Terrain
casualties
Exit off board.
Turns

Glenn Pearce14 Sep 2015 12:30 p.m. PST

Hello Chris!

Thanks for taking the time to address my points. Thanks for your well wishes on my rules. Also well done on your rules which seem to have found a following.

It's very interesting that you have chosen Waterloo as one of your examples as we recently played it and plan to do it again shortly. In our game we ran out of time but were clearly able to acknowledge the French as the winners. It's possible that if the game had played on further they could have lost but the odds were clearly starting to stack up in their favour. Since we don't use VPs or reserve credits we can establish a winner whenever we stop a game. Oddly enough if we were using your VPs, I think the French would have not been allowed to claim any victory or chance thereof.

When you use VPs your looking at the battle with hindsight and picking the features that you think are critical. It clearly means that you are trying to force the players to follow the historical activities to produce similar results. This is counterproductive to why a lot of players want to play historical games. They want to play out a game that shows that they can do better. Well if their forced to follow the yellow brick road it's pretty much a no brainer the outcome will be very similar.

In our game despite being handicapped with some scenario rules that would encourage the French team to also follow the yellow brick road, they did not. Because they were not locked into VP objectives they were able to develop an unconventional battle plan that was paying off rather well for them.

So my problem with VPs are two fold. First they do in fact control the game and force players to conform to a plan that rewards them for achieving them. Which greatly restricts their ability to think outside of the box. Second you really can't end a game until the VP issues are clear, i.e. who could of, would of, etc. The endless wargame debate.

I would add that when you get into fictional scenarios the wheels really start to fall off the bus as now everybody is clearly at the mercy of the scenario designer and his level of skill. The players have no chance of truly being creative.

Best regards,

Glenn

GreenLeader14 Sep 2015 9:16 p.m. PST

McLaddie

The statement 'chicken and egg' was used merely to ponder if (historically) a feature is sometimes defended because it is important, or sometimes important because it is defended. Neither Hougoumont nor the Magersfontein Heights were really important in themselves, but became important as soon as they were defended. If one is using a VP system, then it would seem reasonable that these features should therefore be worth some. If one is not using a VP system, then (logically) their retention / capture should still somehow factor when deciding 'who won' (if one cares about that, of course).

Just my opinon, of course.

Glenn

I think you make some very valid points, and the problem with VPs is that they do indeed tend to steer players in a certain direction not that this is always 'wrong' as such, but certainly has the potential to be so.

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP14 Sep 2015 9:46 p.m. PST

Glenn:

I agree with what you say. I think I understand your 'chicken and egg' analogy…. I just didn't think it addressed the issue raised.

VPs are just fine: it all depends on how the VP system is applied, what generates victory points.

What made the Hougoumont [Never can figure out where all the 'ou's go. Hougoumont?] and Magersfontein Heights important were the decisions made by the French and British commanders. There was no intrinsic reason for a concerted attack in either case and other points could have become just as important in the battle had the commanders attacked there instead.

So are the VPs channeling decisions already made by the original commanders--basically making them for the players, or simply offering the rewards possible on the battlefield for the players to choose from like the original participants? There isn't a simple answer to that question, very much a scenario by scenario issue, but it is an important one when considering VP criteria.

Best Regards, Bill

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP14 Sep 2015 9:53 p.m. PST

I would add that when you get into fictional scenarios the wheels really start to fall off the bus as now everybody is clearly at the mercy of the scenario designer and his level of skill. The players have no chance of truly being creative.

Hi Glenn P:

Please elaborate on this. I would think that players are always 'at the mercy of the scenario designer, regardless.' grin I have always thought that fictinal scenarios had the potential of allowing players to be far creative than a historical scenario.

Best Regards,
Bill

GreenLeader14 Sep 2015 10:02 p.m. PST

McLaddie

And there I was, thinking I was the only one having to check the spelling of 'Hougoumont' for each post.

Waterloo not my specialist subject, so I cannot comment on how important Hougoumont 'really' was and the good news is that I might not have to try and spell it again.

Re. Magersfontein, though I would suggest that it was the decision made by the Boer commander (not the British) which made it important. Though the Boers actually dug in at the foot of the heights, Methuen rightly saw the high ground as the key to the defensive line and (perhaps not rightly who knows) thus decide to take it.
In truth, he had little choice, and neither (I would suggest) should a player in his position he did not have enough mounted men (or any way to keep them supplied with sufficient water) to outflank the position by swinging left, and the Boer line on the (British) right was anchored on the river… plus he needed the railway to be clear to get civilians out of Kimberley, and as long as the Boers had guns on the Magersfontein heights, the railway was useless.

So perhaps awarding VPs for holding the main peak will 'force' the British player to pretty much repeat the attack which is constricting and all the rest, but in this case not entirely unreasonable, I would suggest. Perhaps giving a player too much lattitude can be just as bad as giving him not enough.

KTravlos15 Sep 2015 2:36 a.m. PST

Excellent discussion!

ChrisBBB15 Sep 2015 4:43 a.m. PST

Bill: insofar as we are "arguing", it is in the civilized-scholarly-exchange sense, not the pub-car-park-at-midnight sense. :-)

GreenLeader: thanks for pointing me towards Magersfontein, not a battle I'm familar with – the only Boer War battle I've fought is my South African buddy Anton's Colenso BBB scenario (and an excellent game that was).

Glenn: Waterloo is maybe a slight red herring in that we haven't playtested it yet so I don't claim the Objectives in the draft are perfect. As for whether terrain Objectives force players to "follow the yellow brick road" or "restrict their ability to think outside of the box": so long as the designer builds in enough Objectives to allow multiple ways of winning – which you'll remember I stressed in my blog posting – that's simply not true. In the majority of BBB games you will find there are several different plausible strategies available to both sides (never mind the implausible ones), and players are certainly not forced into any particular plan.

As for the supposed problem that "you really can't end a game until the VP issues are clear": the point of BBB is that you can end a game in a reasonable time, and with a defined number of turns you know when it's ended. The game ends when it ends. If you don't have fixed turns and you just call it when time runs out, you have the problem that the side that's ahead can get gamey and play real slow so there isn't time for them to lose. We've all seen it happen.

Phil: yes, our battles also generate plenty of post-battle debate. Because victory is clearly defined, the debate about that is greater in the playtests, when of course we're debating whether it's been defined appropriately. So it's more about which crucial incidents (and extreme dice) victory hinged upon, or about which troops or weapons particularly demonstrated their value/inadequacy. But often it tends to be discussion of the other plans that either side could have employed with greater or lesser success.

Chris

Glenn Pearce15 Sep 2015 7:12 a.m. PST

Hello Bill!

Long time since we last spoke. Looks like your doing well. I don't think Greenleaders name is Glenn, so I'm ignoring your response to him with my name on it.

When it's historical the designer has to draw on historical points, so his creativity is limited. This in turn limits the players creativity. When he takes the gloves off and goes fictional they generally have a tendency to tighten the VP box. They need to do that so that the players are locked into their vision of how the battle should be fought. When it's fictional they have no frame of reference to help guide them, so it's strictly their view or perspective in play. They can't even read about alternative battle plans.

Historical battles generally flow a certain way due to a number of factors, none of which are VPs. When you can't draw on those historical factors your at the mercy of the skill level of the designer. Without the support of historical factors the fictional VP game has no where to go but down. It's like trying to build a house with very little support.

So yes players might be required to be more creative in a fictional game, but it's to overcome the restrictive VPs. Their never encouraged to develop a creative historical battle plan as the driving factor is VPs which don't exist in the real world. So their creativity is focused on none real life factors. I would even go as far as calling VP fictional games pure fantasy.

To me all VP games are restrictive. Forcing players to create fictional battle plans is less creative in my view as it bears very little if any resemblance to actual historical problems. So my reference to being creative is always back to reality.

Best regards,

Glenn

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP15 Sep 2015 11:10 a.m. PST

Glenn:

You are right. He was directing an answer to you. *Mea Culpa* Sorry GreenLeader.

Without the support of historical factors the fictional VP game has no where to go but down. It's like trying to build a house with very little support.

Well, maybe. I imagine that would depend on the designer.

To me all VP games are restrictive. Forcing players to create fictional battle plans is less creative in my view as it bears very little if any resemblance to actual historical problems. So my reference to being creative is always back to reality.

I don't think that is imperative. The creative part of playing a wargame is creating a plan and developing tactics to achieve it. History/reality is far more restrictive than a fictional approach. Any writer of historical fiction knows that.

It does have a lot to do with the approach. I am designing a Napoleonic Corps level game where the fictional games are divided into types of missions: Meeting engagements, formal battles as an independent force and part of a larger army with cards that are drawn which give the specific combat mission within that context for the players. The idea is to generate a wide variety of battle objectives and combinations of objectives for the players, which strike me as more 'realistic' and certainly what corps commanders often experienced.

Glenn Pearce15 Sep 2015 11:17 a.m. PST

Hello GreenLeader!

Thanks for your supportive comments.

I see it as not so much as right or wrong but simply a style of game. VP games seem very gamey to me with no real life comparison. I like to play games that reflect as much realism as possible. So naturally VP games don't turn my crank.

Best regards,

Glenn

Glenn Pearce15 Sep 2015 11:48 a.m. PST

Hello Chris!

"I don't claim the Objectives in the draft are perfect"

I understand it's a draft, but my question is how will you ever know if it's perfect?

"enough Objectives to allow multiple ways of winning"

That's certainly good, but it only means that you have a bigger box.

"players are certainly not forced into any particular plan"

I agree, but if they want to win the game it has to be a plan that stands the best chance of them accumulating more VPs then the opposition. A plan that allows them to destroy most of the opposition but fails to gain the majority of VPs is of no direct value to them. That severely limits their plan selection.

Even the dialogue is different in VP games. Most of the game conversation evolves around getting and keeping VPs. All other strategic and tactical maneuvers come up second if at all.

Best regards,

Glenn

Glenn Pearce15 Sep 2015 12:01 p.m. PST

Hello Bill!

"Any writer of historical fiction knows that."

Absolutely, no question. But when that fiction gets transferred to a wargame scenario with VPs I've found the options to be extremely limited. Such as take or hold three out of the four towns or you lose.

Best regards,

Glenn

AussieAndy Supporting Member of TMP15 Sep 2015 8:35 p.m. PST

Interesting discussion.

We have never felt the need for victory points in our WSS, SYW or Napoleonic games because (1) we are not too worried about who wins or loses; and (2) even if we were, it is generally fairly clear which side has come out on top (which is largely due to the rules that we use – Grande Armee and Might and Reason).

We have recently started doing ACW games with Fire and Fury. In the limited time that we have, we never seem to get to the point where there is a clear victory for one side. It eventually dawned on me that we were unrealistic to expect decisive victory, in a Napoleonic sense, in large ACW battles (for a variety of reasons). Fire and Fury reflects the difficulty of achieving decisive victory quite well. Consequently, it makes sense to me to have some sort of victory objectives for most of our ACW games, not to give the winners bragging rights, but to avoid the deflating feeling of playing for hours with no clear result.

Ideally, however, I think that the umpire should disclose each side's victory objectives only to that side, with the other side only being given such information as they might need to know to reasonably assess what might be important to the other side (eg that this road leads to Richmond).

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