Sunday, 24 May 2009

Operational-level Wargame Design 11: Some thoughts about the play-test

Although the play-test went well, and none of the mechanisms used in the rules failed to work, there were some aspects of the play-testing that I was unhappy with. These are:
  • Prepared defences were not strong enough. The results of artillery fire seemed to be much more effective than I had expected. Admittedly the Russians were fielding considerably more artillery than the German (a ratio of 6:1) but I would have expected that troops in prepared defences would have suffered fewer casualties than they did. I am therefore considering increasing the transient effect of a unit being in defence works from - 2 to - 4. This change would not have altered the results obtained during the play-test but would have made the results much closer than they were.
  • The length of the battle was very short. The play-test lasted one turn*, although I could have played out at least one more turn to obtain a definite result had I needed to. At present the battle should last 12 turns; I think that this could easily be reduced to 6 without any serious impact on the overall game.
  • The number of activation cards does not give tactical flexibility. There are two ways that I could go with this. I could either have activation cards for each regiment – which might have made the battle somewhat more disjointed than it was – or I could follow the example set by SOLFERINO IN THIRTY MINUTES and have several activation cards for each formation in the pack. Once the pack was used up, the game would be at an end. The latter would make for a more interesting and less predictable game but might not be to everyone’s taste.
Other things that struck me were:
  • It would have looked better if the bases had a larger number of smaller figures and vehicles on them. Possibly I could have used 15mm or 10mm models and figures on the bases to make them more aesthetically pleasing to look at. I don’t have either but it is worth thinking about for the long-term if I decide to fight lots of operational-level games.
  • The use of both a D12 and D10 for the different nationalities worked without any problems but did not have too significant an impact on the results.
  • The game was enjoyable … but it lacked the Old School ‘fun’ element of RED FLAGS AND IRON CROSSES – TARRED AND FEATHERSTONED. It is usable for re-fighting historical operations but may be too serious for everyday wargames.
*After finishing the play-test proper I did play the battle to a conclusion before packing everything away. In fact the Germans managed a fighting retreat off the tabletop although it was a close run thing. This was possible because their activation card came out first during the second and third turns, which allowed them to move away from the attacking Russians. In addition, the Russian threw some appallingly bad dice scores for the rest of the game.

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