Historical Research - standards, rules of thumb for deciding OB

Cult.44

Member
Joined
Apr 23, 2012
Messages
724
Reaction score
244
Location
Minneapolis
Country
llUnited States
In my short, happy ASL career, it's become pretty clear that the level of historical research can vary quite a bit from scenario to scenario, and publisher to publisher. MMP standards appear to be pretty high (especially for HASLs) but I've still seen offical scenarios where an OB designation might say something like, "Elements of the 2nd Ukranian Front." (I'm assuming that in those cases, what historical detail was available came from the German side.) Obviously there's a lot of "judgment" involved in chosing the OBs of a scenario, a lot determined by what sources are available and also by what portion of a given battle you're trying to reproduce in game form.

What strategies, rules of thumb, etc. do designers use to help them figure out an OB?

Are there any consensus standards that publishers, say MMP, use to determine if the historical research is adequate?
 

witchbottles

Elder Member
Joined
Feb 26, 2010
Messages
8,867
Reaction score
1,955
Location
Rio Vista, CA
Country
llUnited States
In my short, happy ASL career, it's become pretty clear that the level of historical research can vary quite a bit from scenario to scenario, and publisher to publisher. MMP standards appear to be pretty high (especially for HASLs) but I've still seen offical scenarios where an OB designation might say something like, "Elements of the 2nd Ukranian Front." (I'm assuming that in those cases, what historical detail was available came from the German side.) Obviously there's a lot of "judgment" involved in chosing the OBs of a scenario, a lot determined by what sources are available and also by what portion of a given battle you're trying to reproduce in game form.

What strategies, rules of thumb, etc. do designers use to help them figure out an OB?

Are there any consensus standards that publishers, say MMP, use to determine if the historical research is adequate?
It's been said one cannot assure absolute historicity and remain a balanced game, after all one side lost for a reason.

It's been also said that there is a happy medium somewhere between Historical accuracy and playability. After all, if a game is not fun, you won't play it, and you won't recommend it to others.

My beliefs in the accuracy vs playability balancing act a designer walks.


1. Work as hard as you can in the time you have to identify and verify the historical elements to the best of your ability. If you do this, at least you will feel it was as close to verifiable as possible. And it gives you a start point for OB selections.

2. Obtain or get help with as many different primary sources you can arrange in order to verify historical aspects of the action. Becoming a "history detective " is a good way to ensure you are not misrepresenting based upon a single erroneous entry in a secondary or worse tertiary source document. History is written by the winners. It is not always accurate in its perpectives, or its deductive reasonings, as LtCol Glantz does such a wonderful job of showing all of us. A wise designer ( ok Tom Morin) once told me that time spent in design research is never wasted time. He was entirely correct. This will allow you to refine the orignal OB concepts.

3. Now playability will come into the factor. One has a good basis for the OBs, but you can be extremely historically accurate, and yet have a horribly unbalanced game, ( see ABtF CG III for a perfect example).
So now one needs to "fiddle" with the historically accurate OBs to achieve a balanced match that will at least allow either side to win say , 40- 60% of the time. This is achieved through PTing, and lots of it. Take the suggestions to heart, use them in various forms. If 3 or more PTers come to the same conclusion about the use or elimination of a unit, what are you waiting for, a brick to fall on your head? :)
Keep a side record of which OB units are placed or eliminated in each step ( or altered.) Frequently, the best way to do the scenario balance step is to add or subtract the last OB changes for each side.

4. Pick anyone's brain you can find on the subject. I discovered that the "official" OB of a unit in 7/44 showed it only equipped with StG III G for AFVs. Yet the WaffenAmt strength report for AG North for 7/1944 showed the Army commander reporting the unit with a strength of 7 PzKpfW VG and 10 StG IIIG as of the 15th of the month, in operationg order. ( also noting a huge lack of spare ammunition for the PzV's). This was verified in 2 primary sources and a secondary source, so it was justified to add a Pz V in place of a StG; with a SSR to reduce the special ammo depletion #s. ( Arguably, a Pz V is more useful overall than a StG;' having more and more powerful MGs as well as a rotating turret and better armor.) I got the AG North strength report scan from a friend who had relative access to the BundesArchiv records ( being a "day trip" for him), and armed him with the primary source records I had of the fact the panthers were there, so he had a start point to look for.

5. consider all aspects. It may seem that the axis minor 2-6 B11 LMG is the best choice to represent the Czech ZB -30 in the OB, but if all your counters a german blue, why not use a Hun 2-6 B11 LMG instead? It will ease FTF ?ment play with the edges of the counters matching colors. Think " outside" the box.

6. Another wise designer ( ok Chris Olden) says, remember to thank everyone who PTs your OB choices. After all ,there is only so muchy time each of us has for ASL play, and with 1,000s of already published scens, these guys are willing to try an unpublished ( and most likely unbalanced) one for you. That deserves a special thanks.

KRL, and enjoy the ride!!!

Jon H
 

Kevin Kenneally

Elder Member
Joined
Dec 29, 2003
Messages
17,808
Reaction score
601
Location
Central Texas USA.
Country
llUnited States
In my short, happy ASL career, it's become pretty clear that the level of historical research can vary quite a bit from scenario to scenario, and publisher to publisher. MMP standards appear to be pretty high (especially for HASLs) but I've still seen offical scenarios where an OB designation might say something like, "Elements of the 2nd Ukranian Front." (I'm assuming that in those cases, what historical detail was available came from the German side.) Obviously there's a lot of "judgment" involved in chosing the OBs of a scenario, a lot determined by what sources are available and also by what portion of a given battle you're trying to reproduce in game form.

What strategies, rules of thumb, etc. do designers use to help them figure out an OB?

Are there any consensus standards that publishers, say MMP, use to determine if the historical research is adequate?
Also,

Visit the thread that talks about Good websites to visit.

There, you will find links to Historical websites I have used to download historical books to read.
 

witchbottles

Elder Member
Joined
Feb 26, 2010
Messages
8,867
Reaction score
1,955
Location
Rio Vista, CA
Country
llUnited States
Also,

Visit the thread that talks about Good websites to visit.

There, you will find links to Historical websites I have used to download historical books to read.
oh yes, if you are looking for or at resources, be sure to read the "fine print" or the reviews on them. The US Army Green books are all online for free pdf download, and make good initial reference. Wikipedia -well use it as a start point to identify search terms for amazon . com or B& N for books about those topics or people.

Clean out your entire local public library supply of history books and read them all ( but do return them). Remember, fair use does allow you to take as many notes of the info on the pages therein as desired for personal study.

Do not buy a book without reading the reviews on it. History is written by the winners, and the losers, and on both sides lie historians with "bones to pick".

I personally like the Combined Arms Research Library at the C&GS College of the US Army; the BundesArchiv ( expensive in most cases to get what you want from them); NARA( also expensive but the good part is fellow ASLrs live near the Nat'l Archives and you can usuaslly get someone to make a "day run" for a reimbursement of fees, public transportaiton tickets, and buy em a lunch for the effort.); and the Nafziger Collection ( avail online for a small monthly access fee); published by the Institute as a "living histriography" collection of papers and analysis therein. Nafziger does offer one very detailed and well researched OrBats for many organizations from 1699 to 1945. Not surprising for a research think tank that's been working diligently to root out mistakes in conventional wisdom and perceptions since 1979.

There are many good (and many poor) website resources. These are 3 of the best.

and remember to corner Herr Andre ( Von Marwitz); Senor Kenneally; and of course the tankmeister himself; Paul M Weir PhT( Doctorate in track - driven AFVs); at some point, each have an extensive library and can offer up a tidbit or info- nugget for the right price ( amazing what a fine beer and a good meal can get ya ;-)..... ok just lots of pleases and thank - yous and oh yeah don't forget to publicly embarrass them for their generosity every chance you get.)


KRL, Jon H
 

Cult.44

Member
Joined
Apr 23, 2012
Messages
724
Reaction score
244
Location
Minneapolis
Country
llUnited States
Historical - Hypothetical: Where do you draw the line?

It seems to me in some sense, no matter how well researched the starting situation is, every scenario is a hypothetical ( once play starts and that Tiger tank deviates from what it did historically). I'm wondering how designers and publishers gauge what is appropriately historical and how much room there is for hypotheticals.

As an example to illustrate what I'm getting at, before I took up full ASL, I worked on a Starter Kit scenario. SK3 includes Firefly tanks and I thought it would be cool to have some kind of Panther/Firefly duel. In trying to think of an interesting tactical backdrop, I imagined a situation where a Panther was being pursued by a troop of Shermans, one of them a firefly. The panther would enter the board on the first turn and the Sherms would come in on the same board edge the next turn. Meanwhile there's another fight going on where the Germans are attacking an Allied infantry position. The decision for the German player would be whether or not to turn the Panther and try to take out its pursuers or have it assist in the infantry attack and fend off the Shermans in some other way.

I scoured what literature I had and the internet, looking for some matching historical situation but wasn't able to find anything. I did find a general situation where such a scenario might have been plausible -- Operation Goodwood near Caen in Normandy. During that offensive there was a large tank melee between a bunch of Sherms and Panthers. It seemed reasonable that a Panther could have become isolated from its unit and tried to flee in a sideways direction in order to avoid destruction while some Allied tanks took up the chase. Meanwhile, nearby, within a mile, a Canadian offensive to finish taking Caen was underway, so it was possible the Panther and Shermans could have become entangled in other combat that was taking place in the area.

I designed a scenario along the lines I was thinking using that backdrop. Tactically, I think it's potentially fun and interesting. But I don't think it would pass muster for most scenario publishers, nor would a lot of players be interested, because it's not based on specific historical action. I'm okay with that standard but making room for plausible hypotheticals could open the door to some interesting possibilities.

Anyway, I've rambled enough but I'd be interested in peoples' thoughts.
 

dlazov

Elder Member
Joined
Mar 22, 2004
Messages
7,524
Reaction score
859
Location
Toledo, Ohio
First name
Don
Country
llUnited States
Re: Historical - Hypothetical: Where do you draw the line?

Its a "social" game, with a story wrapped in with that game being played.

"Hey Joe, remember when you drove that LVT4 with that 9-2, 2x 7-6-8, half squad, HMG, and BAZ through the Kunia and I sent that one THH and you gunned him down expending your ROF and then I popped up that other THH with a DC and charged you fired at him with that one LVT but I pass my 2MC and then made it to your hex and got a snake eyes on the DC explosion! That was some funny sh1t man, should have seen your face!"
 

Cult.44

Member
Joined
Apr 23, 2012
Messages
724
Reaction score
244
Location
Minneapolis
Country
llUnited States
Re: Historical - Hypothetical: Where do you draw the line?

A scenario is almost all hypothesis.
That's why ASL is a game not a simulation.
Agreed. I think the difference I'm trying to get at is modeling a scenario after a specific combat action (the model, of course, will always be hypothetical) versus imagining a possible action and then placing that into a historical setting. Kind of different levels of hypothesis. The former seems like accepted practice, the latter does not. But maybe there's more "hypothesizing" going on than I realize.
 

witchbottles

Elder Member
Joined
Feb 26, 2010
Messages
8,867
Reaction score
1,955
Location
Rio Vista, CA
Country
llUnited States
Re: Historical - Hypothetical: Where do you draw the line?

the actions that occur once the first unit begins setting up are all conjecture from there.

ASL is a "Design for feel" game.

So the disgner takes this in stride and designs to give an appropriate "feel" of what considerations and dilemmas the real - life counterpart unit commanders may have had to struggle with while deciding their own course of action. Then , one simply devises VCs based on the "correct" applications of tactical thought as to what SHOULD have been the appropriate response to the tactical problem being presented. The Vcs should award the palyer who applies correct tactical principles immediately to the given situation with a large possibility of a win, and reduce those who fail to apply correct principles of combat ( as Don Greenwood and John Hill defined the "feel" of those principles in the ASLRB) to a situation where their chances for wining are penalized appropriately. The VCs will ultimately offer "wiggle room" for both players to experiment, deviate, fail and try again and basically get lucky once in a while. Hey, even the real life counterparts got lucky once in a while. But luck alone should not offer more than a dim chance at recovering if one has incrrectly judged the tactical principles being applied.

As a designer I strive for hitorical correctness in the units present, in the lead up and aftermath of the action, in representative views of the terrain. The rest is as they say, history.

How many scens have you played where the result was very far from the aftermath printed? Happens to me a lot.

KRL, jon H
 

von Marwitz

Forum Guru
Joined
Nov 25, 2010
Messages
9,581
Reaction score
2,731
Location
Kraut Corner
Country
llGibraltar
Re: Historical - Hypothetical: Where do you draw the line?

A scenario is almost all hypothesis.
That's why ASL is a game not a simulation.
Yep. And even if painstaiking efforts have been taken to research OoBs etc., it all ends with the use of any geo board. That's why I would not take the pain to try to overdo the attempt to "simulate" history.

von Marwitz
 

Srynerson

Senior Member
Joined
Jun 4, 2011
Messages
2,605
Reaction score
365
Location
Denver
Country
llUnited States
Re: Historical - Hypothetical: Where do you draw the line?

Agreed. I think the difference I'm trying to get at is modeling a scenario after a specific combat action (the model, of course, will always be hypothetical) versus imagining a possible action and then placing that into a historical setting. Kind of different levels of hypothesis. The former seems like accepted practice, the latter does not. But maybe there's more "hypothesizing" going on than I realize.
With the very, very huge caveat that I've never even attempted to have a scenario published, the rule that I've adopted for myself is that I have to know that the battle I'm depicting actually happened: i.e., the geographic location, date, units, and historical flavor text all have to be true. Also, I've decided that any AFVs or ordnance that I include have to be reasonably inferrable from the sources I have. (For example, I know from a variety of sources that the Soviets had BT-7 and T-26 tanks at the Battle of Changkufeng, so when there are references in the sources to Soviet "tanks" without further elaboration, I feel it would be OK to use either or both of those models in a scenario as strikes my fancy and balance concerns permit. I wouldn't use a Soviet AFV of a type that I could not document participating in the fighting there at all.)

I've just come up with these requirements for myself based on observing common criticisms here and on BGG where people complain that various scenarios contain "impossible" OOBs or that a scenario must not be good because the units that are referenced in the scenario didn't actually square off against each other on that particular date.
 
Top