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"What is a Bathtub Campaign in Wargaming?" Topic

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740 hits since 4 Jan 2018
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Tango01 Supporting Member of TMP04 Jan 2018 10:09 p.m. PST

"A Bathtub campaign is when the forces, areas, distances etc, for the historical campaign are scaled down to match those of the wargaming rules used. A Bathtub campaign is a way to give historical flavour to your wargaming campaigns, whilst still using your existing forces that you recruited based on rules that simulate a much smaller scale of conflict.

For example, your preferred rules might have squads organised into companies, however, you might find an account of a interesting battle involving a brigade a side. To bathtub this incident you would represent the original brigade with a company, battalions would become platoons, and companies become squads. Then you'd fight out the incident using squads, platoons and companies.

Bathtubbing is different to the figure-to-men scale. Three figures on a Crossfire stand represents a squad. In the rules this stand represents a squad and acts like a squad. In a bathtub, the squad acts like a squad but represents a larger formation, perhaps, for example, a company, battalion or regiment…"
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Mick the Metalsmith Inactive Member05 Jan 2018 6:05 a.m. PST

I hate it with a passion if you consider it a simulation, it can be useful to create some sort interesting tactical scenario for a fictional game but I have never had to resort to it.

Dynaman878905 Jan 2018 6:42 a.m. PST

I stay away from them too. First time I ever saw one I thought it was a stupid idea. Take the challenges of an operational situation and try to resolve them as a tactical situation? Lunacy.

Personal logo Saber6 Supporting Member of TMP Fezian05 Jan 2018 7:04 a.m. PST

works best as a mega-game. 20+ players and lots of tables/rooms. A way to make theater campaigns playable. Not for everyone

Personal logo Jeff Ewing Supporting Member of TMP05 Jan 2018 7:47 a.m. PST

What I particularly dislike about some rules like this is when a company of tanks, let us say, is more vulnerable from the side "because they only had 30mm of armor there." What, the tankers have never heard of all-around defense? They can't tun in the ground scale to face threats? Maybe I just have a problem switching conceptual scale.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP05 Jan 2018 9:07 a.m. PST

To be absolutely fair, I have seen both bad and good bathtubbing. If you're actually trying to check out the details of a military problem--yes, of course, it's the wrong way to go: units don't behave as they should, places are within range which ought not to be and so forth.

But a good bathtubbing can present you with portions of the same strategic or tactical dilemma while still using rules you're familiar with. Paul Koch used to do them very well at the tactical level, and I've seen it done well at the strategic, but not with published systems. You just have to remember the limitations, and focus on the parts of the problem you're trying to represent.

Sudwind Inactive Member05 Jan 2018 10:57 a.m. PST

I remenber Chadwick's Command Decision using some bathttubbing for campaign games. They played well. I used the same concept to run a Market Garden campaign. We had online players using an SPI game to maneuver the various battalions around and we used bathtubbed OOB's to play the battles using CD3. Everyone had a good time, the games were manageable within the limited time and space our group had for gaming, and the battle results seemed reasonable. CD rules fit the concept of bathtubbing well. Using Crossfire to play the games generated by the Boardgame moves would not.

balagan07 Jan 2018 3:30 a.m. PST

As I say in the post Tango01 linked to, I'm not a fan of bathtubbing. I am sympathetic with Danaman8789 view: "Take the challenges of an operational situation and try to resolve them as a tactical situation? Lunacy."

@Saber6, so I have to agree that it is "Not for everyone". I have no problem if people choose to use this approach. However, for the sake of discussion, I'll test a few reasons for using bathtubbng and explain why it is not for me.

If the goal is a "mega-game. 20+ players and lots of tables/rooms," you don't need to bathtub. That could be just a big version of the normal game with more tables and players. I've run big Crossfire games, with 8 players so not quite as big you you mention, but it is still Crossfire with a stand representing a squad. This allowed us to simulate a bigger historical action. No bathtubbing involved. I'd be game to organise a Crossfire game with 20+ players … I just don't know that many wargamers.

If the goal is making "theater campaigns playable" I'd suggest using an operational level wargame. Taking Jeff Ewings point further, if a tank model represents a Panzer division, it should behave like a Panzer division under the rules and we should not be "shooting" at it nor care whether we are shooting at the flank because the historical vehicle has thinner armour there. That is the key point. A Panzer division behaved differently to a Panzer III G, even if the main armoured vehicle within the division was a Panzer III G.

However, if the goal is purely to provide historical flavour for a scenario/campaign/mega-game, then fine. Bathtubbing can provide that flavour. The original CD example of Barbarossa 25 is like this. The entire eastern front gives the historical context … flavour in my terminology. Whether or not bathtubbing by a factor of 25 gives a good historical simulation is a different matter.

@robert piepenbrink, you can use bathtubbing to "present you with portions of the same strategic or tactical dilemma while still using rules you're familiar with" but you can do the same thing without bathtubbing. I cut out interesting bits from historical actions all the time to provide the basis for my scenarios. For example, I have a Crossfire campaign/mega-game, Krasny Bor, where four Soviet Divisions attack the equivalent of five Spanish battalions. Using Crossfire as tactical rules yes a stand is a squad. The scenario does not attempt to simulate all of Krasny Bor, it just focusses on eight key moments. And each of those key moments becomes a normal Crossfire game.

UshCha11 Jan 2018 11:32 a.m. PST

As described it would appear to have no merits. A squad behaves as a squad. As has been said many rules that pretend to have on vehicle to represent many, fail utterly to understand that higher formations have different frontages and arc of fire.
There is some logic in scaling a battle down so perhaps the real frontage was 1 mile, reducing it to 1/2 mile may be acceptable with the appropriate scale down in unit size, IF and only if, in scaling down does not cause some key terrain feature to become unrepresentative.

In out own armoured big battles we use only a frontage of about 600m but a depth of around 10 km. Therefore a battalion or even a regiment is playing the role of perhaps a division and the logistics scale down as the are abstracted anyway. This is much better than using the troops to represent 6000m front and bigger forces. Again it does force compromises but we have found plausible workarounds.

GreenLeader26 Jan 2018 7:09 p.m. PST

About 30 years ago, this sort of thing was being debated in Wargames Illustrated, and I never liked the sound of it then. The (short-lived) fashion at the time was for rules which claimed to be 'suitable for any size of engagement', as the 'units' could equally be sections, platoons, companies, divisions or whatever.

Rather like some have mentioned side armour on tanks above, I remember one letter in which someone pointed out that a sniper would be very relevant in a platoon-level game, but there was no logical equivalent at higher-level games.

To be fair, this was for battles – not campaigns as per the question asked.

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