If we're talking design ...

Brien Martin

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... I'd love to see discussion on the "how" of it all.

Mark's book was nice, but what I really wanted from that compendium, and what fell short for me, is a discussion on how you determine the troop quality and type.

We often see things like, "Well, the fallschirmjager platoon of a typical Tyrolian unit in 1945 was a 4-4-7 ..."

Okay, as you're designing ... based on what evidence and anecdotal material you have ... how do you know you should make the unit a 4-4-7 as opposed to a 4-6-8? How do you determine if the units should have Engineer capabilities?

Terrain ... I can figure out. Vehicle rarity ... I have the charts for that. But troop type and special characteristics ... I suppose it's all a guess anyway, but if there were some "codification" to it all ... I'd feel more comfortable maybe trying my hand at design someday.

Maybe there's no way to do it, but at least by asking, I'll find out for certain.

Brien
 

wrongway149

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...Terrain ... I can figure out. Vehicle rarity ... I have the charts for that. But troop type and special characteristics ... I suppose it's all a guess anyway, but if there were some "codification" to it all ... I'd feel more comfortable maybe trying my hand at design someday.

I'd feel less so. Too many variables and 'game effects' to consider.

Are 667 /low ELR appropriate for a veteran but fatigued US unit? Or do 666 s with a 4 ELR work better?

How many and what quality leaders?

It's best for a designer to start with an idea of how he would like a scenario to play, and then place the components to promote the proper 'feel'. .

Of course, there are limits to this concept. (More limitations than freedoms, actually.)
 
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Michael Dorosh

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We often see things like, "Well, the fallschirmjager platoon of a typical Tyrolian unit in 1945 was a 4-4-7 ..."
We do?

I used first line squads in my book as an example, but as Pete points out, research into the actual battle being portrayed, tempered by playtesting, will determine squad types. You may have picked a bad place to start as the Germans had a wide variety of forces.

The Marines are probably the only forces in ASL that are really broken down distinctly by TO&E differences. The US Army and British forces, for example, are plain vanilla - the 4-5-7 and 6-6-6 are stock, with the only difference between 1st line and Elite being the extra morale factor. That being the case, how would TO&E be a determination in deciding which squad to use? The answer is obvious - it can't. The same applies to just about every other nationality as well. The Germans seem to have the most different types of squad organizations, so perhaps your example is what is causing the confusion.

There are some other very basic parameters, which I touch on in my book, such as the scale of issue of automatic weapons, which will determine such things as SMG squads for the Russians (6-2-8) or the well-armed Waffen SS squads (6-5-8) as opposed to the foreign volunteer formations of the SS which were not so lavishly equipped.

But on the whole, with few exceptions, it's simply a matter of distinguishing between 1st Line and Elite, perhaps even considering Green or 2nd Line. It's not any more complicated than that, and Pete describes the process well.

As for engineer capabilities, a look at a battalion organization would do the trick. My book breaks down the majority of battalion types for the major nationalities and indicates which ones had organic engineers. You would still need to research individual battles to see if they showed up to fight - infantry battalions usually only had a platoon of their own pioneers, if any, with more at regiment or divisional level. My book provides a listing of divisional engineer assets but not in ASL terms, simply the presence of engineer units at the divisional level.

I'm not aware of any detailed discussion in any ASL literature specifically on the makeup of engineer units, their employment, etc. It would make for a good article on its own somewhere; I'm not convinced that the use of "SMG squads" is accurate, but it seems to be the community standard.
 
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paulkenny

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I use the basic first line squad as the standard and work from there. if the unit has seen alot of combat it may justify it going up or down. units like airborne or high quality will justify a jump in the quality.

units say in Barbarossa North were clearly second line german troops an afterthought to the Babarossa invasion so I used alot of 447's

It really comes down to experience, read alot of WW 2 stuff look at a whole bunch of scenarios, compare like units in existing scenarios.
 

paulkenny

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the system has ELR tables which are an excellent starting point or rule of thumb
 

cryophobia

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My book breaks down the majority of battalion types for the major nationalities and indicates which ones had organic engineers.
...
I found chapter 6 pretty helpful in terms of getting an idea of unit sizes for each nationality. I must admit this was something missing from Mark's guide for me personally.

Something that I've been wondering about is the following: Is there a magical ratio in terms of defending vs. attacking units in a scenario? Obviously a lot more should come into consideration, but it seems to me that this should be a consideration in terms of initial perceived balance?
 

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I agree with Pete re troop quality. There are only a few types, so it is not as if you have a huge number of decisions ahead of you. You start off with a feel, based on the historical situation. You can adjust as needed to help with balance. There are no hard and fast rules.

Re ratio of attacking vs. defending units. I usually try to go by the historical situation to start off with, assuming I have enough info. If after having done that, an inspection of the scenario suggests there might be balance problems in so doing, I may make adjustments. But I don't know of any (to quote you) "magical ratios." It's history plus gut feeling plus trial and error.
 

Michael Dorosh

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Just to add to Paul's excellent points, don't believe all the propaganda either. Even the ASL Rulebook gets it wrong sometimes, too. For example, Canadian soldiers were not "all volunteers", though until early 1945 that was so. Even in the autumn of 1944, however, remusters were going into the line in large numbers. These were artillerymen and engineers and cooks and clerks who were technically volunteers, but had little or no infantry training and were being stripped from cannibalized anti-aircraft and rear area units to be thrown in with strangers as "reinforcements", usually against their will. Not what they signed up for. Many had no idea how to use a grenade or fire an LMG and no idea about fieldcraft.

Should Canadian troops be considered "Elite" in the autumn of 1944 as the rulebook suggests, then? I would say definitely not.

As Paul suggests, a bit of reading will guide you in this regards too. My book (sorry to keep plugging it, but this is exactly why I wrote it) lists all the major nationality articles that appeared in The General, The Annual and The Journal, but there are major gaps in the coverage. Most notably, the Germans - aside from an article on Mountain Troops, there was little written on their army in any meaningful historical way in all those years of articles. It's a broad subject.

A really good source, and relatively inexpensive, is the Osprey Men-at-Arms series, if you have specific nationalities that you are interested in. If it is the Germans that interest you most, they have books on specific divisions of the SS, for example, or the German Air Force divisions, etc. Look on Amazon first to see their reviews, some titles are better than others. GERMAN INFANTRYMAN EASTERN FRONT 1943-45 is abysmal, for example.

Never hurts to post to the Axis History Forum, either - it is an outstanding internet resource for specific questions on specific units - Allied and Axis. Want to know Kurt Meyer's adjutant's middle name? They can probably tell you.

http://forum.axishistory.com/

And of course, there is this forum. A designer's sub forum would be great...
 
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BruceC

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....Something that I've been wondering about is the following: Is there a magical ratio in terms of defending vs. attacking units in a scenario? Obviously a lot more should come into consideration, but it seems to me that this should be a consideration in terms of initial perceived balance?
Start with basic ratio of first line 3:2 attacker to defender and go from there. Allowances must be made for elite, OBA, armour, etc, but also terrain must be considered. This is what makes a good scenario designer, being able to balance these things in the mind before going to paper.
 

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that is why i think scenario design is an art you need to balance number, type, elr, sw, san, SMC and SSR (to name some of the basics only) that go into a scenario design.

someone mentioned a 667 with a low elr representing a fatigued unit, that could be OR you could go with a 666 and a high ELR, a unit that has lost some personnel and its FP and effectiveness is lowered but still is tough in the pinch.

and a 667 with a low ELR could represent a highly trained unit that is hitting its first beachhead or first battle where the shock of battle could make the unit brittle reducing in effectiveness rather quickly.

again a balance.

i do find myself falling into the 9-1, 8-0, 7-0 leader mix though and that bugs me, like to throw in 6+1 or -2 leaders for variety.
 

Michael Dorosh

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What would be really interesting would be to send a dozen of you designers into your rooms for a month with the same publicly available source material and have you write a scenario independent of each other, with detailed designer's notes, then see what you come up at the end of the 30 days. And how. And why.
 

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What would be really interesting would be to send a dozen of you designers into your rooms for a month with the same publicly available source material and have you write a scenario independent of each other, with detailed designer's notes, then see what you come up at the end of the 30 days. And how. And why.
Do I sense another Dorosh competition coming on here? A copy of the designers handbook to the winner (or the winners designated person as I'm pretty sure most people have got it).

Got a situation in mind?
 

Michael Dorosh

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Do I sense another Dorosh competition coming on here? A copy of the designers handbook to the winner (or the winners designated person as I'm pretty sure most people have got it).

Got a situation in mind?
Oh, I don't think they need my book. (I'd gladly donate it as a prize if I thought it would be sought after but we can do better I'm sure). If I could think of a situation that had the same level of detail available as the Battle of Singling, I'd suggest it. Singling has been twice already in ASL though, once in an ASL scen, once in DASL. But the battle is outlined in painful detail on the Army's historical site and is a model for historical reporting at the nitty gritty level a scenario designer likes to see.

If anyone else has some source material that is as accessible and detailed, maybe we could think of something.

Summer (in the northern hemisphere) is the worst time to be planning wargame projects though.

Then again, maybe you want a source that is a little vague, just to see how good their researching skillz are...but I'd rather compare and contrast design choices as opposed to research ability.
 
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MrP

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If anyone else has some source material that is as accessible and detailed, maybe we could think of something.

Summer (in the northern hemisphere) is the worst time to be planning wargame projects though.

Then again, maybe you want a source that is a little vague, just to see how good their researching skillz are...but I'd rather compare and contrast design choices as opposed to research ability.
Oh just choose something Canuckian - I'm sure there's a bunch of stuff available out there.

The last one you did was before Xmas so maybe there is never a good time?
 

jwb3

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...and we are!

Well, here is a concrete example of determining troop type. Keep in mind that my approach to scenario design is very much "historical accuracy first".

Due to the amount of research I've put into this design, I'll be a bit vague about the details -- but it takes place during the opening stages of the Battle of the Bulge. As many of you will know, in the south the German attack was into the sectors of the 4th and 28th Infantry Divisions. Both units had been mauled in the battles for the Huertgen Forest, and then moved to the "quiet" sector of the Bulge in order to rest and refit. Both divisions were hugely overextended, meaning the American line was formed in many places by defending only the key villages, with each one garrisoned by a line company, plus usually some supporting elements of the battalion's heavy weapons company and/or an AT unit and/or some tanks. The scenario represents a historical German attack on one of these villages.

When I first encountered the battle it was by way of the Army green book on the Bulge, which simply said the Americans were "Company I" supported by elements of Company M (which was the associated heavy weapons company). Knowing the above history, I could determine the following:

  • The division was one of the most highly experienced, toughest American units on the Western Front.
  • However, the rifle companies had been practically gutted by the Huertgen.
  • The division was there to have replacements fed in to bring it back up to strength.
A full strength American rifle company should be represented by roughly 12 ASL squads/squad-equivalents, depending on how you look at the TO&E. So my initial thought was that I was representing 12 squads of recently-reinforced veterans. How to represent that in ASL?

The discussions of ELR in the Chapter A appendix and the old GI:AOV rulebook explain that an ELR failure may represent (for example) what happens when a single experienced old hand is taken out of action, leaving a bunch of relatively raw troops to fend for themselves. From this it makes sense that the proportion of veterans to replacements should bear some relation to the ELR. A squad of veterans with few replacements would logically have a high ELR (3-4), a squad of replacements with a few veterans would have a low ELR (2 or even 1).

But in this case the equation was complicated by the fact that before taking the replacements into account, these troops clearly deserved to be represented by 6-6-7s. So it wasn't just a question of, "How long do these troops deserve to stay 6-6-6s?" It was also a question of, "How quickly do they stop being 6-6-7s?"

  1. The company could be represented by 12 x 6-6-7s with an ELR of 2. Their cadre of veterans would help them immensely at first, but over time the vets would be lost and the rest would quickly degrade toward 2nd line.
  2. The company could be represented by 12 x 6-6-7s with an ELR of 1. The vets would either stand firm and keep the others together, or run like rabbits at the first shot and take the others with them.
  3. The company could be represented by 12 x 6-6-6s with an ELR of 4. The squads' overall competence would already have suffered due to all the replacements that were brought in, but with enough time to train them to stick together and a core of steady veterans, they wouldn't be running anytime soon.
  4. The company could be represented by a mix of squads that reflected the appropriate proportion of troop types (veteran versus repl). Perhaps it would have 4 x 6-6-7s and 8 x 5-5-6s. However, in general this does not reflect American practices, because they usually tried to spread the replacements out among squads; I'd only use it if there was evidence in the history that a commander knew the abilities of each of his squads and distributed them accordingly.
Which of these options to choose? One could easily just pick one, see how the resulting scenario plays out, and then switch to another to try to improve it. They could even be used as different options in a choose-your-OB scenario, or as balance provisions.

Being the stickler for historical accuracy that I am, instead I put the scenario aside and waited for more information to present itself, so I could better judge what the "historical" answer was. (Besides, this wasn't the only question I had about the history.) Recently I came across a new source, which stated that the strength of Company I at the time of the battle was only about 80 men; it turns out that the process of getting replacements into the ranks was much further behind than my earlier, less detailed sources had led me to believe!

Under the circumstances, Company I will probably be represented by 8 x 6-6-7s with an ELR of 4, especially since they have a whole lot of Germans to hold off until the cavalry shows up!


John
 

Brien Martin

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I know this is heresy to say this, but I've always wanted to get into fictional scenario design with a purpose. For your knowledge, "fictional" means ... right units, right time frame, just not based on real events. So, no King Tigers up against French tin cans ... no PF capability in 1939, etc.

Not just to design scenarios with interesting and fun situations, but to create puzzles for players to figure out. For example ...

-- being able to set the defensive range to affect close engagements ... using 4-range troops instead of 5-range troops to force the attacker to get in close (in which case, the VC would require building control) ... or, using 6-range or 7-range troops that can engage the enemy fully two turns before melee-range combat

-- picking morale levels that reflect the resilience of the attack or the defense ... to customize the level of intensity in both

Now, I reallize that's what the historical scenarios do ... but you need to find a well-documented battle in which you can easily identify the various elements and design around them. However, the historical designer will not want to use a 5-range unit if, at that time of the war, most of the units fighting in that particular area were 4-range units ... lest the historian hack off his audience.

I've always felt that ASL scenarios didn't have to be historical only ... in fact ... I almost never read the narrative that comes with the scenario ... I always look for things like unit density, VC, number of funky rules, SSR, overlays ... and then pick scenarios that just look like they'd be fun.

Fictional scenarios would allow designers to really stretch the envelope in terms of creating challenging scenarios with interesting situations and multiple "solutions". Kinda like designing golf courses ... once you've done all the standard stuff, you start looking for unique challenges that push players to excel.

Now, I know that no one would be interested in such designs ... I wish that were not the case, because once you wander into the fictional realm, you unleash the restrictions that history places on what you can do.

JMO, YMMV, UPS, CNN ...

Brien
 

cryophobia

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Re ratio of attacking vs. defending units. I usually try to go by the historical situation to start off with, assuming I have enough info. If after having done that, an inspection of the scenario suggests there might be balance problems in so doing, I may make adjustments. But I don't know of any (to quote you) "magical ratios." It's history plus gut feeling plus trial and error.
After posting last night I decided to look at some scenarios, the ones at hand was from Dispatch from the Bunker #2 - #10. Got side tracked after #3, started reading the articles, but realized a "magical number" could be hard to find. BruceC's comment of 3:2 seems to make sense looking at other scenarios though.

I guess the best way forward is to actually put something down on paper and see where you end up with it.
 

jwb3

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I know this is heresy to say this, but I've always wanted to get into fictional scenario design with a purpose.

{and}

I've always felt that ASL scenarios didn't have to be historical only ... in fact ... I almost never read the narrative that comes with the scenario ... I always look for things like unit density, VC, number of funky rules, SSR, overlays ... and then pick scenarios that just look like they'd be fun.
Not heresy at all. It's just not to my personal taste. There are plenty of people like me, but there are also plenty of people who enjoy DYO, which I consider a total waste of time.

For example, Combat Mission has a huge scenario database, about half of which are fictional, and about half of which are more or less historical. Some people love the fictional battles that are designed to make interesting head-to-head matches. I love the historical battles and play them against the AI, even though the AI is limited and doesn't put up a very historical game. I still feel like I'm getting more out of the experience than I would playing a battle that never really happened. It's just "Different strokes for different folks."

For another example, the scenario that Michael's message points to -- my interest in it, my appreciation of the elegance of the design, dropped like a rock as soon as I realized that it wasn't really a recreation of a historical incident. Why? Just because it wasn't a recreation of a historical incident. Why do I care? I can't even explain it.

However, knowing what the scenario actually is, and what Michael's goal is with it, did appeal to a different part of my brain, and I've been intending to get back to that conversation ever since...

...but then I've also been intending to read Slate magazine's Special Issue on procrastination for almost two weeks ago... :shy: :)


John
 
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