Germany 1985: An MBX failure

fbscheuer

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As I have recently made an attempt to run a Tacops MBX I might as well share my experiences from it.

THE CONCEPT: This was a multiplayer MBX with a total of fourteen players participating. The idea was that the game was running as a standard two-player game on the umpire’s (my) computer, and players had to submit written orders stating what they wanted their units to do. The umpire then carried out these orders and ran the combat phases. All players were afterwards sent .tac files so that they could watch the action between turns. Five Tacops turns were carried out after each orders deadline, forcing players to plan ahead more than in a usual game. (I assume this was the â€old†way of playing CPXes)

There were also an elaborate set of rules for the giving of orders where each player had a personal commander who could only issue a limited number of orders, depending on LOS to subordinates and other factors. Other special rules included the ability of engineer squads to place hand-laid minefields, FASCAM, aerial recon and the building of improved positions among other things.


THE SCENARIO: The game was set in 1985 in the Fulda Gap, and was played on three overlapping 29x29 km maps simultaneously, covering the terrain from the East German border close to Fulda to the city of Friedberg (some 10 km north of Frankfurt am Main).

The attacking force was the 1st Operational Maneuver Group of the 8th Guards Army, consisting of the 39th GMRR, the 79th GTD (2nd echelon) and the 8th Guards Air Assault Battalion (that could be airdropped anywhere on any of the three maps at the start of the game).

The defending force was the 1st Sqd/11th ACR in forward positions, and 3rd Bde/3AD at their barracks positions near Friedberg, some 120 km from the frontline.

I consulted a multitude of sources in designing this scenario and had a invaluable help from the members of the Tacops mailing list. Only later did I realize that HPS has released a game called Fulda Gap 85, by John Tiller. If I may say so, I think that I ended up with more accurate OOBs than mr Tiller.

LESSONS LEARNED: The MBX was cancelled after only 35 turns. The main reason was that I had severly miscalculated the workload for the umpire; preliminary tests had led me to believe that I would need 3-4 hours to execute each five-minute MBX turn, but in reality 8-10 hours were needed, and there was nowhere I could find that time. In the end I was severly mentally exhausted and could not bring myself to even open Tacops for several weeks.

There were also several other things I would have done differently:

The planning phase: This was completely unstructured and hundreds of emails were exchanged between players. It was not clear what role each had in the hierarchy, or which plans were still valid and which had been discarded. Some players felt run over, and some outright quit during this phase. Clearly, some sort of rules or directives from the umpire during this phase would have made it go much more smoothly.

The concept: Apart from being far too much work for one umpire to handle, I regretfully must say that the concept was flawed from the very beginning. Many players were discontent with this way of running a game, feeling that control was taken out of their hands. The elaborate system for giving orders was hardly used at all, perhaps because it was too complex for players to adapt to when they already had so many new concepts craving their attention (in theory, though, the orders system was great).


Currently, this MBX is being run in a much simpler form, with two players on each map playing out the action as standard PBM games. I think that is the way to do it, if one would ever attempt to run a Tacops MBX again. I never thought I would give it another try, but looking at Don Maddox’ awesome maps of the Kholikov gaming area it is hard to resist…
 

Dr Zaius

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Thanks for the insight. It was still a worthy experiment, even it the results weren't what was expected.
 

GCoyote

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Hi Fredrik, At least you tried and you were able to share some insights with the group. I'm working on a long range plan for an MBX myself which could accomodate 8 - 10 players. I really appreciate your comments on the umpire workload as that will be a key limiting factor for me.
 

Dr Zaius

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I should probably take this AAR and make it into a .pdf file for the TacOps Zone so that the information doesn't get lost in the shuffle. There are already three AARs posted over there that deal specifically with lessons learned from the umpire's point of view. Very informative.

One of these days we'll be to a point where they'll be an SZO vs. CGSC CPX... ;)
 

Rattler

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The umpire is IMHO the guy that ***really*** has to think ahead in a MBX (and needs co-umpires).

When looking at global thunder I understand Riki only lately (2 yrs later) has taken up TacOps playing again, it can be overwhelming.

This might be allright as long as youre rewarded with exciting game results and player reactions (players dropping off is normal and has to be anticipated), but if the whole thig goes awry it really can destroy your morale.

Thanks a lot for trying, maybe with the lessons learned nd some co-umps you might do it again?

Rattler
 
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