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"Some Words On Building Scenarios " Topic

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©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
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sotek486 Supporting Member of TMP07 Mar 2017 1:54 p.m. PST

Not that anyone has asked for it … but I posted up a write up on my blog about scenario design considerations: link

Hopefully someone finds it useful. Feel free to add your own experiences and guidance below :-)



WarWizard07 Mar 2017 2:08 p.m. PST

Very good post, thanks for all the great tips. I will have to go over this again.

Ranger127507 Mar 2017 5:18 p.m. PST

An enjoyable read. I really appreciate the time and trouble you took to share your thoughts. I have come to some of the same conclusions about scenario design over the years myself. Oh, and I really liked the cartoon with the Bears.

sotek486 Supporting Member of TMP07 Mar 2017 6:41 p.m. PST

Thanks all! Happy to hear I'm not alone. I love the bears cartoon … lol ;-)

vagamer63 Supporting Member of TMP07 Mar 2017 10:11 p.m. PST

Many excellent insights offered up there Jay!!

Some of the best convention games I've enjoyed were those where the GM put in the thought and planning such as the recommendations you have laid out! Didn't matter if I was on the winning or losing side, what mattered most was I enjoyed the challenge of playing the game. If I lost it was most likely my own poor execution of the plan, and if I won, or was on the wining side it often was due to a little luck, or my opponent making a mistake he couldn't recover from! Either way never did we have to blame a poor scenario design!

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP08 Mar 2017 10:01 a.m. PST

Very nice post. I dislike point systems too. It soured me for Bolt Action. Yes I know you don't have to use points. But the game system is design for points or chess with camouflage as I call it.

Both sides are not always equal. In real life battles are seldom balanced. How you deal with it is what makes games interesting and fun.

It is a forgone conclusion that the Mexicans will take the Alamo and win the battle. But you can set the victory conditions in such a way that the Texans have an equal chance to win the game.

FlyXwire09 Mar 2017 7:18 a.m. PST

So true on the art vs. science point of view. As Jay relates, so much of this has come out of the tournaments side of the hobby. Well, years ago all we had to reference for encounters (and researched) was the actual combat history itself. Scenario crafting is sort of like workin' your muscles if you don't use it, you lose it. Tourney rules/guides fostered this over-dependency too.

gpruitt09 Mar 2017 9:07 a.m. PST

Good stuff Jay! At the end you mentioned putting too many troops in too small a space – I see this way too much in big battle ancients games. Miniatures lined up five ranks deep from one end of the table to the other…I guess we'll both just move forward then?…

UshCha Supporting Member of TMP10 Mar 2017 2:30 a.m. PST

Its interesting that it appears to be aimed ar convention games. Practicaly such things do not exsist in the UK. I write lots and the advice is all good. From my perspective I would add the scenario needs to be tailored to the players if at all possible. My co-writer is granted no quarter and neither am I. The scenatios atre large, require massive concentration and may take a few eveings to play. Others play in an evening. Theforce balance may need to account for the abilities of players. Less able players will need a bit more kit to make an interesting game for both.

Typicaly Defence is harder and best left to the more able players. Losing the odd element unwisely in defence is creitical, not so in atrtack where they have many nore elements.

FlyXwire10 Mar 2017 7:02 a.m. PST

The above post relates to the force ratios that should be considered when designing attack vs. defense scenarios ratios of 2:1 or 3:1 being good starting points for WWII and modern periods (and sometimes appropriate to earlier eras also). These ratios can then be further balanced by superior weaponry on one side or the other, the mission objectives, and then the degree terrain difficulty might augment or impede a force's capabilities (aka "force-multiplier" equivalents). Of course even within an era, say taking WW2, the contemplative act of creating competitive force ratios can be considerably different when designing say for a N. Africa scenario, versus one occurring in the denser terrain of NW Europe.

Another observation on the hobby, which also relates to this topic, is the rise in popularlity of small figure count games (skirmish-level games sometimes having figure amounts on a table barely above typical RPG-style games). It seems part of this popularity might come from the chance of better match-making possibilities with limited-forces involved, versus scenarios mixing more complex unit matchups, the later style/level of scenarios often involving powerful supporting fire from indirect artillery or airstrike assets also.

sotek486 Supporting Member of TMP10 Mar 2017 10:42 a.m. PST

Wow, great discussion guys! Thanks for weighing in!

@Rallynow – excellent example with the Alamo – exactly the thinking I was getting at :-)

@gpruitt – yes! I get that it "looks cool" -- and for some periods may make sense (thinking ancients for example), but it kills the maneuver element of the game.

@FlyXwire --- excellent point. The seemingly endless number of "skirmish" games these days definitely throws a wrench into the traditional big battles scenario approach. I think all the same considerations apply … but execution changes significantly.

@UshCha – the considerations can certainly apply to convention games – but rather as stated, they apply to non-tournament games. This is the approach I use for my home games -> again, stating in the post that some like exact historical simulation – which isn't what I'm after. I'm looking for the right combination of historical + fun + balanced game play.

Rallynow Supporting Member of TMP10 Mar 2017 1:29 p.m. PST

Even when you cover all the fundamentals, research, OB, special rules, terrain, playtest. The one factor that is difficult to control is what players actually do when the game starts.

Players are the wild card. You spend months working on your masterpiece. Picturing in your head the many ways this battle will progress.

You set up the game and on the first turn you realize, OMG one or both sides are employing a strategy, you did not anticipate and your masterpiece dies an ugly death.

FlyXwire10 Mar 2017 2:16 p.m. PST

Yeah, or as an example you make something like artillery smoke missions available to the attacking side to enable an approach against the opposition's PaK defense, and then you realize the players have no idea what its for… you intervene to advise them on "tactics", or as you say, watch your scenario die an ugly death…..and then, only to hear post-game someone say they didn't think their side stood much of a chance…..

Charlie 1210 Mar 2017 8:06 p.m. PST

Good advice on all counts. Rallynow is spot on. My group is the most unimaginative, uninformed gaggle when it comes to the ACW. Every battle devolves into 2 lines staring at each other, refusing to even try any kind of maneuver to turn a flank or crush a thin line. Very frustrating…

Powermonger11 Mar 2017 5:33 p.m. PST

Nice article! Good reading.

138SquadronRAF Supporting Member of TMP14 Mar 2017 12:04 p.m. PST

Jeff (War Artisan) has an excellent article on this subject too:

PDF link

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