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"Stolberg's Death Ride: pivotal moments in wargames" Topic


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ChrisBBB2 Supporting Member of TMP01 Dec 2023 12:57 a.m. PST

Our game of the Franco-Prussian War battle of Loigny/Poupry (1870) set me to musing on the 'pivotal moment': that crucial decision, big event, critical roll of the dice mid-game that changes the whole course of the battle and where it could all have gone so differently. My thoughts here, along with some pics of a pretty winter battlefield:
link

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP06 Dec 2023 12:35 p.m. PST

I think games/battles that are determined by some 'pivotal moment' tend to be those which are evenly balanced, so neither side can lose much while maintaining an even chance at a win.

Others are only decided at the end: a case of general ebb and flow, push and shove, where neither side is really on top until the last couple of turns, and maybe it comes down to the last few dice on the last few assaults.

I have read in any number of places that designers purposely create games and scenarios to create that very game outcome or 'balance.' It makes for an exciting game. If so, then any deviation from that dynamic is player error, i.e. your first and third type of game dynamic.

ChrisBBB2 Supporting Member of TMP06 Dec 2023 4:17 p.m. PST

I don't think it's that simple, Bill. Of course player error will often be a factor, but it can also be simply down to a concatenation of bad luck despite the best plans.

Having just played Chickamauga this week, which is in much denser heavily wooded terrain than the wide open spaces of Loigny/Poupry, I reckon terrain plays a role too. Dense terrain slows everything down and creates 'firewalls' so that everything breaks down into smaller local fights and it is much harder for a 'pivotal moment' to have those dramatic rapidly cascading effects.

Escapee Supporting Member of TMP07 Dec 2023 7:21 a.m. PST

BBB is my go to for FPW. It just matches up with the scale of the conflict so well. Battles are a series of pivotal choices, big and small. Dice remind us that even in real life events are not subject to absolute control. Thanks for the interesting post, still hoping for a FPW board here!

ChrisBBB2 Supporting Member of TMP08 Dec 2023 4:41 a.m. PST

Cheers, Tortorella. OK, you convinced me – I'll vote for an FPW board!

Personal logo McLaddie Supporting Member of TMP12 Dec 2023 3:24 p.m. PST

I don't think it's that simple, Bill. Of course player error will often be a factor, but it can also be simply down to a concatenation of bad luck despite the best plans.

Having just played Chickamauga this week, which is in much denser heavily wooded terrain than the wide open spaces of Loigny/Poupry, I reckon terrain plays a role too.

Chris:
The terrain is under the designer's purview in designing for a 'balanced game.' It isn't outside his control and certainly has to be taken into account to balance play.

If the designer is 'surprised' by how his design operates to unbalance the game, then is that to be expected or an problem the designer should have seen in creating his game or scenario?

Chris, you work to balance your scenarios. Is terrain or any other part of a 'chance' occurrence outside a designer's control? What players do after that is 'directed' by the scenario/rules. That's what rules are: A technical 'how to do it" manual.

ChrisBBB2 Supporting Member of TMP14 Dec 2023 9:11 a.m. PST

Bill, there are different things going on here. A balanced scenario can still produce a one-sided game and a game that is close throughout doesn't necessarily mean the scenario is balanced, depending on dice and players' choices.

Yes, I aim to design balanced scenarios. That just means that, given players of similar ability and reasonably even luck of the dice, both sides should have a reasonable chance of achieving their victory conditions.

A 'pivotal event' happening during the course of a game may unbalance the game but doesn't mean the scenario is unbalanced. (And, conceivably, a second pivotal event in the same game could change the course back in the other direction. If I trawled back through 200 or so AARs on the BBBBlog I'd probably find some of these.)

My point about terrain is that dramatic events with rapidly cascading consequences are less likely in dense terrain than in more open country. That is independent of any designer's efforts at scenario balance.

ChrisBBB2 Supporting Member of TMP14 Dec 2023 12:20 p.m. PST

And a bit more to say: a big error at the start doesn't necessarily doom you to defeat, it just makes it harder to retrieve. The structure of the BBB games and the nature of the rules combine to ensure most games remain a contest until the end or close to.
- The scenario structure: because typically there are five or six objectives on the pitch, of which side A may need 3 to draw and 4 to win, so there are multiple different paths to victory (or to a draw, which is an important possible outcome), and of which several are usually still contested on the last turn;
- The rules, because the beauty of the 2D6 bell curve for unit activation and combat results means there is usually an outside chance of success. Your error on Turn 1 just means you have 17% chance in the crucial final combat on Turn 10 rather than the 41% you might have had (or whatever).

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