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The Cardboard Wars in Lancaster are Just around the Corner, Aug 2nd – Aug 8th, 2010
It’s hard to believe, but it is already getting to be that time of year again. On July 31st, Bruno Sinigaglio’s Grognard Qualifying Tournament, along with a number of other Pre-Con events, kicks-off the early festivities at what is, without doubt, the premiere war gaming convention of the year: The World Boardgaming Championship (WBC). This tournament convention is hosted by the Boardgaming Players Association (Don Greenwood and gang), and has been meeting in Lancaster, Pennsylvania — in the heart of Amish country — for the last few years. The convention’s seven days of nonstop boardgaming (nine if you attend one of the Pre-Cons) offers attendees the opportunity to compete in well over 100 different titles; in fact, attending players’ options are limited only by the various tournament start-times and the players’ own stamina.
The WBC Convention only comes around once a year; so, if you can possibly find a way to get to Lancaster during the first part of August, I strongly recommend that you do so; I absolutely guarantee that, if you enjoy gaming, you’ll have a great time.
To find out more about this year’s WBC Convention, visit the website.
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MISSILE BOAT: Tactical Combat on, over and beneath the Sea, 1964-1984 is a tactical-level simulation encompassing both historical and hypothetical seaborne combat in the modern era, 1964-1984. The game allows players to assume the roles of opposing ship or flotilla commanders and to direct various types of vessels in the complex and highly lethal environment of modern naval warfare. MISSILE BOAT was the sixth title of Volume I of the ‘Command Series Games’ — composed of nine different games — offered by Rand Game Associates (RGA) during the first year of the company’s entry into the conflict simulation market. The game was designed by David C. Isby and published in 1974.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUNDPakistani Mirage over the Karohakam Mountains, 1971
At 1740 hours on 3 December, 1971, months of violent political turmoil in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) boiled over into open warfare between Pakistan and India. On the evening of December 3rd, approximately fifty Pakistani aircraft launched a preemptive raid against eleven different Indian airfields that lay within close proximity to the Indo-Pakistani border. Although the air attack achieved some surprise, its effectiveness was minimal; in fact, while it resulted in a few cratered landing strips, it managed to inflict no significant damage to India’s air forces or bases. Not surprisingly, following the Pakistani air raid, the armies and air forces of the two belligerents crashed into each other almost immediately. Conventional ground fighting quickly erupted on the frontiers of East and West Pakistan. However, in addition to ground operations, Indian military planners also prepared a very different surprise raid of their own. The Indian Navy, it was decided, would launch a major attack against Pakistan’s main port and naval base at Karachi, in West Pakistan. This secret naval operation was slated to begin almost immediately, and was given the codename: Operation Trident.
Indian K83 Vidyut class missle boat launching a missle.
On 4 December, 1971, the ‘Trident’ naval task group — composed of three Vidyut class missile boats (the INS Nipat, INS Nirghat, and INS Veer), two Petya class corvettes (the INS Tir and INS Kiltan), and two anti-submarine patrol vessels — sailed undetected to within 250 nautical miles (just out of Pakistani air range) of Karachi and then halted, waiting for darkness. As soon as night fell, the task group resumed its advance and at 2150 hours encountered a patrolling Pakistani naval force about 70 nautical miles south of Karachi. The engagement that ensued was both furious and one-sided. In short order, the Pakistani minesweeper PNS Muhafiz and an accompanying destroyer, the PNS Khaibar, were both sunk by surface-to-surface missiles. In addition, a third Pakistani destroyer, the PNS Shahjahan, was also severely damaged in the action and forced to withdraw. With the ‘Trident’ group’s way now clear, the Indian missile boats continued north to attack the Pakistani fleet’s fuel depot at Karachi harbor, lighting up the night sky with explosions and fires from the naval storage facility’s burning fuel tanks.
Indian Petya II class corvette.
The surface action on 4-5 December was India’s greatest modern naval victory and, to this day, December 4th is commemorated in India as ‘Navy Day’. The Pakistani ground forces fared little better in the war than their naval forces. East Pakistan was quickly overrun by Indian army units and some 90,000 military and paramilitary Pakistanis were taken prisoner by the occupying Indian army. Although fighting on the western frontier produced, for the most part, a bloody military stalemate, Pakistan’s defeat was sealed by the collapse of its forces in the east.
Pakistan surrender signing in Dhaka, December, 1971.
The end of the war came surprisingly quickly. On 16 December, 1971, Pakistani military representatives signed the instrument of surrender at Rama Race Course in Dhaka, East Pakistan, effectively bringing hostilities to a close. Pakistan’s military losses as a direct result of the two-week conflict were staggering: one half of Pakistan’s navy, one quarter of its air force, and a third of its army had been eliminated or destroyed. And even more demoralizing for the Pakistani populace and their leaders in West Pakistan, one-half of their country had, in the space of a few short days, been irretrievably lost. It was a national humiliation that neither the Pakistani people nor their military could bring themselves to accept. Thus, the repercussions from Pakistan’s crushing defeat in the 1971 war at the hands of its arch-rival, India, were far-reaching and, to a large degree, unfortunate.
Indian air force attack, 1971.
East Pakistan did, of course, gain its independence as the newly-established nation of Bangladesh, but few other benefits, humanitarian or political, emerged from the war. Hatred and mistrust of India spurred government leaders in Islamabad to redouble their efforts to gain nuclear weapons; in addition, as a covert means of attacking both India and its then ally, the Soviet Union, clandestine support for the fanatical Islamists in Kashmir and Afghanistan was substantially increased. None of the outcomes from these various Pakistani efforts to avenge its 1971 defeat at the hands of India has, in the end, proven to be particularly beneficial to Islamabad’s long-term geo-political interests. Nonetheless, the forces unleashed by Pakistan’s understandable, but destabilizing, desire for retribution against India continue to be active; and for this reason, the world, to this day, still lives with the aftermath of the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War.
Egyptian Kohmar missle attack craft, Arab Israeli Six Day War, 1967.
For players who are unfamiliar with naval games, the movement rules for MISSILE BOAT, although reasonable, will take a little getting used to. First, of course, all ships in the game have a bow (front) and a stern (rear). This ‘hull facing’ is critically important for both combat (which will be discussed later) and for movement. Ships in MISSILE BOAT may only move forward (the direction that the bow is facing); they may not back up. Second, in the real world, ships cannot start or stop “on a dime.” Thus, vessels that begin their movement segment from a ‘dead-stop’ are not permitted to use all of their movement allowance during a player turn in which they resume movement; nor may vessels that have moved more than two hexes during the preceding movement segment come to a complete stop in one turn. Ships may ‘turn’ as they move from hex to hex; however, each vessel’s ability to turn is dependent on its ‘hull value’. In game terms, this means that ships with lower ‘hull values’ (smaller vessels) are more nimble and can turn more easily than those with higher values (bigger ships). Movement allowances (MAs) vary widely depending on unit type: thus, different ships may be permitted to move as little as one or as many as six hexes per movement segment; the MA of submarines typically ranges from one to three hexes, and this movement allowance also varies depending on whether submarines are running on the surface or are submerged; the MA of all aircraft is unlimited. Also, a cautionary note: as players become more accustomed to the MISSILE BOAT game system, they will quickly discover a problem with the standard game turn sequence: it gives the Second Commander a slight edge in maneuver and combat over the FC. To compensate for this imbalance, the designer has included a set of optional rules for simultaneous movement; and, in my opinion, players should adopt these alternative rules as soon as they have become comfortable with the game’s mechanics of play.
INS Eliat, Arab Israeli Six Day War, 1967.
Once new players master the basics of maneuvering their ships across the game map, other aspects of the MISSILE BOAT game system will probably be a lot more familiar to land-based players than the game’s movement rules. The Concentration (stacking) rules, for example, are quite simple: only one friendly ship or one friendly and one enemy ship may occupy a sea hex at the end of a movement segment. Aircraft and submarine counters, as might be expected, are completely exempt from this rule and never count against stacking. Moreover, the supply rules, such as they are, are also very straight forward and a bit less complicated than those found in most simulations of ground warfare. In actuality, because of the time scale of the various naval actions represented in the game, there are really no conventional supply rules in MISSILE BOAT. However, each ship’s starting inventory of missiles and/or torpedoes is recorded on the CIC, and these inventories are reduced as these weapons are expended. The same requirement, by the way, also applies to any aircraft that appear in the game. As attack aircraft expend bombs, missiles, or torpedoes in combat, their inventory of these weapons is depleted. Thus, it is essential that players keep a short written log for each of their air units. Fighter aircraft, because they cannot attack ships, are a special case: after fulfilling one of several possible fighter counter-air missions, they are automatically returned to base and removed from further play due to ammunition depletion.
COMBAT SYSTEMPhalanx missle system mounted on a ship's fantail.
Combat between opposing units in MISSILE BOAT is voluntary and — as might be expected, given the different types of weapons systems available to modern naval forces during the period depicted — relatively complicated. Not surprisingly, the various forms of armament present in the game (guns, missiles, torpedoes, mines, and bombs) call for the use of a variety of different tables to determine both the outcomes of specific types of attacks, and to determine the level of damage that results from those attacks. For this reason, the detailed, multi-case rules governing the major categories of naval combat represented in the game are quite dense and very richly-textured. Distilled down to the basics, however, there are five distinct forms of combat in MISSILE BOAT; each with its own subroutine. Moreover, each type of combat is assumed to occur simultaneously, and all five types follow a rigid sequence (as outlined previously) within the structure of the overall game turn. These five types of combat — listed in the order that they are most likely to occur during play — are, as follows: Gunnery Combat (ship-to-ship combat using the “A” and/or “B” batteries); Missile Combat (combat between non-adjacent ships using anti-ship missiles); Anti-Submarine (ASW) and Torpedo Combat (either one or the other or both ‘ASW’ and ‘Torpedo’ attacks may be conducted during this segment); Anti-Aircraft Combat (ships use gunnery or surface-to-air missiles against enemy aircraft); and Aircraft Combat (aircraft that survive defensive anti-aircraft fire attack enemy ships or aircraft during this segment).
The procedures for the different types of combat in MISSILE BOAT represent the real core of the game system; moreover, these different combat segments tend to vary greatly, one from another. And for this reason, the steps required by the combat subroutines for gunnery, ASW and torpedo, missile, and air attacks range from being relatively simple, to being quite detailed and complex.
Osa class missle boat.
Gunnery attacks, as might be expected, are the simplest to execute and typically require only that the attacking player be within range of his target, that his vessel’s ‘electronic warfare’ (EW) rating be sufficient for the attack, and that the field of fire for his battery or batteries be clear (ships, needless to say, cannot fire through their own superstructures); thus, the forward “A” battery could fire directly ahead, for example, but the aft “B” battery would be blocked and unable to fire. Gunnery attacks occurring in the same hex or within one-third of maximum range or less (rounded down) are doubled. Also, an attacking ship with a low (1 or 0) EW rating is significantly penalized during night actions.
Soviet missle cruiser.
Torpedo and ASW attacks, like gunnery combat, are also comparatively straight forward in MISSILE BOAT. Ships may only engage enemy vessels with torpedoes that are within range and are either to the port or starboard of the attacking vessel. On the other hand, submarines — because of the limitations imposed by their bow and stern torpedo tubes — can only fire at targets to their front or rear. ASW combat may be conducted against submarines once they have been detected; and although the ASW weapons systems represented in the game vary widely, the actual procedures for resolving attacks and assessing damage are virtually identical to those used to resolve missile attacks and, for this reason, readers are referred to the detailed discussion on combat procedures in the section on missile combat.
Wessex HU5 hovers above two Harrier GR3s on the MMS Hermes during the Falklands War.
Aircraft, depending on their type, may attack ships, submarines, or — in the case of fighters and fighter bombers — other aircraft. Anti-aircraft combat — which relies primarily on gunnery and surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) — although somewhat detailed, is nonetheless familiar enough in its player operations that it need not be discussed at length. Fighters are an exception, however, because they serve a unique, if somewhat abstracted, role in the game: their mission is to protect friendly surface vessels by shooting down or driving off enemy aircraft (planes or helicopters), or by forcing enemy aircraft to jettison their bomb loads. And bombs — both the smart and dumb variety — represent the primary difference between the weapons systems available to aircraft and those of the other combat assets in the game. Aircraft that attack ships using bombs, unlike those armed with short or long range missiles, must do so from the same hex (dumb bombs) or from an adjacent hex (smart bombs); this means, in short, that bombers cannot ‘standoff’ and attack their targets from a distance.
HMS Antrim, 1970, damaged during the Falklands War.
Not surprisingly, given that the title of this game is MISSILE BOAT, missile combat is, in some ways, both the most interesting and the most tedious of the game’s several combat subroutines. It and ASW combat are also the most time-consuming. For starters, the missile combat segment involves a total of seventeen different player operations. Moreover, unlike most of the game’s other combat segments (except for ASW combat), once weapons have been assigned to specific targets and the ‘Missile Combat Ratio’ — a complex compilation based on missile type, target speed, and both the attacker’s and defender’s EW ratings — have been determined, the two players, in their dual (and simultaneous) roles as both attacker and defender, secretly select — using the game’s two sets of six ‘TAC’ cards — their offensive and defensive tactics from the menu of options listed on the ‘Missile Combat Analysis Chart’ (MCAC) for each and every one of the segment’s missile attacks. This means, for example, that the firing player would choose one ‘TAC’ card for each of his missile targets (however many missiles were being launched against that target) from among the following six offensive options: ‘TAC’ Card #1 — Individual Shots; #2 — Salvo; #3 — Pattern Right; #4 — Pattern Astern; #5 — Sequence; and #6 — Pattern Left. At the same time, the opposing player (in his role as the defender) would secretly choose a specific defensive countermeasure for each of his targeted ships from the following alternatives: #1 — Turn Right; #2 — Rely on Countermeasures; #3 — Turn 180 degrees; #4 — Turn Left; #5 — Zig-Zag; and #6 — Full Speed Ahead. Once ‘firing’ and ‘target’ tactics have been selected for a specific missile firing, both players then reveal their ‘TAC’ cards and cross-index their tactical choices on the MCAC matrix to determine if the missile attack resulted in a ‘potential’ hit. This preliminary outcome, however, does not guarantee that the missile attack is successful. Instead, if a ‘potential’ hit is scored, the players next refer to the ‘Anti-Missile Table’ (AMT) and a die is rolled to determine if, based on the target ship’s total Gunnery Strength (GS), the missile actually scores a hit, or not. If the target ship is hit and has a high enough ‘hull value’ to not be destroyed outright, then the attacker — depending on the type of missile (or missiles) fired — rolls on either the ‘Gunnery Damage Analysis Table’ (GDAT) or the ‘Torpedo Damage Table’ (TDT) to determine the actual damage to the target. This process is repeated for each missile attack until the final outcomes of all of both players’ attacks have been resolved.
MISCELLANEOUS ODDS & ENDSUSS Bon Homme Richard (CVA-31) DD-748 destroyer, shown operating in the Gulf of Tonkin, November 2,1964.
In addition to the basic rules that underpin the MISSILE BOAT game platform, the designer has included a number of specialized and optional rules which add significantly both to the ‘nautical warfare’ feel of the game, and also to the variability of play. These rules include: Unalerted Ships (ships that are restricted in movement, and in offensive and defensive combat until converted by an enemy attack or a random die-roll to ‘alerted’ status); Mines (and mine-clearing); Hidden Movement (for submerged submarines); the Variable Forces Option (opposing players secretly spend a predetermined number of points — based on the values listed on the ‘Ship Types and Capabilities Chart’ — to purchase their respective starting forces and weapons for a pre-selected scenario); and the Ship Construction Option (players freely design the various capabilities of their own ships prior to the selection of a scenario). To reproduce the ‘fog of war’, the designer also suggests that players insert a screen (the large Rand game cupboard works nicely) between the two sets of CICs, so that neither commander can see the types or capabilities of any of the enemy’s vessels until such time as they come within twenty hexes of a friendly ship.
The winner in MISSILE BOAT is usually determined by destroying or inflicting damage on enemy vessels. In certain cases, victory may also be dependent on a player’s ability to protect or to damage an enemy convoy, or to penetrate an enemy sea zone. Thus, given the variety of different types of naval engagements represented in the game, it should probably be noted that actual victory conditions will depend on the type of action being simulated and are listed with the instructions for the individual scenarios. Moreover, a particular action need not end in a victory for either side; for this reason, in MISSILE BOAT, it is completely possible, although somewhat unlikely, for an individual game to end in a draw.
USS Harry E. Hubbard DD-748 destroyer operating in the Gulf of Tonkin, 1966.
MISSILE BOAT offers nine two-player Historical Scenarios, five two-player Future Scenarios, a Future War Solitaire Scenario, and a virtually unlimited number of Design Your Own Scenarios for players to try. The various historical scenarios cover a broad spectrum of different types of medium and small ship actions; these include: Scenario 1 — Incident in the Gulf of Tonkin (8/2/64); Scenario 2 — Quemoy-Matsu (8/9/65); Scenario 3 — The Sinking of the ‘Eliat’ (10/23/67); Scenario 4 — Attack Off Karachi (12/4-5/71); Scenario 5 — Action in the Arabian Sea (12/5/71); Scenario 6 — The Sinking of the ‘Khukri’ (12/7/71); Scenario 7 — Israeli Attack off Latakia (10/6/73); Scenario 8 — Action of Port Said (10/10/73); and Scenario 9 — Action in the Red Sea (10/11/73). The five future (World War III) scenarios include: Future Scenario 1 — Sea Control; Future Scenario 2 — Convoy Defense; Future Scenario 3 — ASW Warfare; Future Scenario 4 — Island Defense; and Future Scenario 5 — Attack on Anti-Mine Forces. The single ‘Future War’ solitaire scenario pits the commander of a British County-Class missile and helicopter cruiser, the H.M.S. Norfolk, against a group of four Russian Nanuchka missile boats that are attempting to break out of the Skagerrak in order to raid NATO sea lanes. Finally, the selection by the players of any of the many possible Design Your Own Scenarios can be made using the Variable Historical Option (VHO) or the Ship Construction Option (SCO). These options are particularly interesting if the starting forces are selected in advance, and then one of the five Future (World War III) Scenarios is chosen at random.
A PERSONAL OBSERVATIONThe motor torpedo boat, Phaethon, comes under Turkish air attack during the Battle of Tilliria, Cyprus Turkish War, 1964.
MISSILE BOAT, although somewhat unorthodox in its design, is still, along with CAMBRAI, 1917 and SARATOGA: 1777, one of my favorite picks of the nine games published by Rand Game Associates as part of the ‘Command Series, Volume I’ collection of titles. Moreover, according to its surprisingly good ‘Geek’ rating of 6.55/10 over at http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/13800/cambrai-1917-the-first-blitzkrieg, it would appear that at least a few other players agree with me. Granted, the graphics for MISSILE BOAT are painfully drab and even a little ‘hokey’ by today’s standards, and the rules could probably be a bit clearer and better organized; nonetheless, the mix of interesting ideas and the game’s virtually unlimited capacity to produce fresh combat situations makes this obscure little game — in my opinion, at least — a real ‘undiscovered gem’ among modern naval warfare simulations. Despite this well-deserved praise, however, MISSILE BOAT is not without its blemishes.
Cyprus navy's Arion patrol boat of R151 Group received Turkish F100 fighter jet strafing during the Battle of Tilliria, but escaped to Paphos, 1964.
A minor but recurrent criticism of the game comes from the fact that, despite the designer’s inclusion of the multiple CIC displays (useful as they are), players are, even when not using the Simultaneous Movement rules, often required to maintain and update written records as the game progresses. This is particularly true for those scenarios that include submarines or aircraft, or both. This problem is further exacerbated by the faint, almost indistinguishable difference in colors between the ship counters of the two opposing sides, and the uniform color scheme used for all of the aircraft and submarine pieces. Players really do have to maintain careful written records just to keep track of which of the non-ship counters belong to which player.
The various multi-step combat subroutines, upon which the MISSILE BOAT game system depends, not surprisingly, are another major source of frustration for some gamers. This is certainly a fair criticism: the various player operations required by ASW and missile combat, in particular, can be both confusing and time-consuming to plow through, turn after turn. And these procedures are not made any easier by the fact that the characteristics of different ASW and missile weapons systems vary widely and so, must all be meticulously recorded and updated as these weapons are expended in combat. Thus, under most circumstances, I would probably find myself firmly on the side of the critics. However, in the case of MISSILE BOAT, I am inclined to give the game a pass. First, because the additional procedural steps required by the various types of combat actually contribute something tangible to both the historical content and the modern naval ‘feel’ of the game. Moreover, I also personally find it reassuring that the designer took the time to incorporate the varying performance characteristics of ten different types of surface-to-surface missiles (SSMs), nine different types of SAMs, and six different types of ASW systems into the fabric of a game with only seventy-two counters and a 17” x 24” map sheet. Second, unlike a more conventional simulation such as WOODEN SHIPS & IRON MEN (1975) in which a player might have to record and execute the moves of literally dozens of different vessels (think the Battle of the Nile or Trafalgar), in MISSILE BOAT, neither of the opposing players is ever required to direct and record the moves of more than four ships and, in some scenarios, a few additional aircraft or submarine counters. Moreover, none of the vessels in the game is equipped with an unlimited number of missiles or ASW weapons so these combat segments, time-consuming as there are, do not occur all that frequently.
MISSILE BOAT is a promising, innovative game that, for whatever reason, just never really caught on with a lot of gamers, including many of my friends. Still, it is interesting to ponder what this title’s fate might have been had it had a bigger map, additional and more colorful counters, and a few more game charts and tracks when it first came out in 1974. Alas, it had none of those things, so we will never know. In any case, while I personally like MISSILE BOAT a lot, I would hesitate to recommend the game to anyone who does not have an interest either in tactical-level games dealing with contemporary conflicts or in modern small-scale naval actions. The scenarios that deal mainly with naval gunnery duels are exciting and usually relatively fast-moving; the scenarios that incorporate the more sophisticated types of weapons systems, on the other hand, are a bit more cumbersome and considerably more challenging to play. In short, this is really not a simple game. Despite its size, the game’s designer, David Isby, managed to pack a surprising amount of simulation density and operational detail into a relatively small package. For this reason, MISSILE BOAT is probably a poor choice for either novices or inexperienced gamers. That being said, I still recommend it highly both to collectors with a penchant for unorthodox, but innovative game systems, and to those experienced players with an interest in simulations of modern-era naval warfare. And finally, for those eccentric players (like myself) who enjoy late Twentieth-Century games, but who also like to experiment and to design their own scenarios, this game is probably a MUST OWN.
Universal ‘Command Series’ Components Required:
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NORMANDY is a historical simulation (based on the same game system as KOREA) of the opening, widely-separated battles between the Germans and Allies as invading American, British, and Canadian troops attempted first to establish, and then to expand the Allied lodgment along a 50 mile stretch of the Normandy peninsula. NORMANDY, 2nd Ed., was designed by James F. Dunnigan and published in 1971 by Simulations Publications, Incorporated (SPI).
HISTORICAL BACKGROUNDGeneral Dwight Eisenhower with the Paratroopers on the eve of D-Day, June 5, 1944
Late on the night of 5 June 1944, thousands of Allied paratroops began to parachute into occupied France. Their mission was to seal the approaches to the nearby invasion beaches and to secure safe landing zones for the glider-borne infantry that was scheduled to come in behind them. Within a few hours, the follow-up glider infantry — along with heavy equipment and artillery — began their landings to reinforce the paratroopers who were already on the ground. Because of unexpected cloud cover over the drop zones, however, these airborne units were widely scattered and disorganized during the first hours after the drop. At the same time the gliders were plowing into French fields, waves of Allied planes roared over the Cotentin Peninsula. It was now 0300 on 6 June, D-Day, and flights of Allied bombers had begun to rain thousands of tons of bombs down on the German coastal defenses that bristled along the beaches of the Normandy Peninsula. The initial phases of the most complex military operation in history were finally under way.
Field Marshal Gerd von Runstedt
At 0500 hours, the vast naval armada that had escorted the 150,000 American, British, Canadian, French, and Polish troops who would shortly be landing in occupied France began to shell the German defenses directly behind the beach landing zones. Operation “Overlord,” the amphibious invasion of Hitler’s “Fortress Europe” was about to begin. In the coastal waters off the 7,000 yard wide American landing sector, code-named “Omaha Beach,” the first of many assault teams prepared to come ashore in occupied France. Naval bombardment had commenced almost as soon as the Allied air strikes had stopped. At 0630 hours, 96 specially-equipped amphibious Sherman tanks, the Special Engineer Task Force, and eight companies of assault infantry — four each from the 1st and 29th Infantry Divisions — began their invasion run into the target beach.
B-26 Marauder bomber over Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
The supply rules to NORMANDY impose somewhat different requirements on the two sides. German units are in supply if they are able to trace a supply path of three or fewer hexes to a road that connects via unbroken road hexes of any length to the land portions of all four edges of the game map. For an Allied unit to be in supply, it must be within three hexes of a road that can then follow an unblocked path back to one of the five pre-designated Allied supply areas. In addition, German units that can trace an unblocked route of three hexes or less to a viable map edge (a map edge from which an Allied unit has not exited) are in supply; Allied units occupying supply areas are automatically in supply, even if German units are adjacent. However, if a German unit enters an Allied supply area — even temporarily — it is considered to be destroyed for the remainder of the game. Supply effects for both sides are identical: unsupplied units may not attack and are halved for both movement and defensive combat; ZOCs are unaffected. Only German reconnaissance units and Allied commandos may voluntarily move out of supply; all other units must remain within supply range, if possible; should a unit be placed out of supply by enemy movement or combat, it must move by the most direct path to reestablish its supply line. All Allied units, except paratroops, are automatically in supply on the invasion game turn.
Omaha Beach, American troops landing on D-Day, June 6, 1944.
Besides the rules already described, NORMANDY (2nd Edition), also includes a number of special rules cases. For example, most Allied and German regiments and brigades may be broken-down into battalions, and these component battalions may also be recombined to form their parent regiments or brigades. In addition, to reflect the critical importance of shore bombardment during the first days of the battle, the Allied player is allocated eight ‘Naval Gunfire Support’ missions which can be used on each game turn, assuming the targeted units are within range, to increase both the attack and defense strength of Allied ground units. Along with naval support, the Allied player also starts the game with seven operational ‘Paratroop’ units that — if they are to be used in an airborne role — must be dropped on the first turn of the game. It should be noted, however, that paratroop units are automatically eliminated if they scatter onto a German unit and, once dropped, may not move or attack until they have been brought into conventional supply. In addition, as noted previously, both sides may attempt to ‘Entrench’ any units that are designated for this purpose at the end of their player turn, and do not move or retreat during the following game turn. Entrenched units are covered by a blank counter and the contents of an entrenched hex may not be examined until the hex has actually been designated for an attack. Entrenched units may not attack, but do receive a significant defensive bonus because of their entrenched status. Interestingly, this ‘Improved Position’ concept shows up again in David Isby’s SOLDIERS (1972), but really comes into its own as a critically important element for Russian strategic planning in Dunnigan’s WAR IN THE EAST (1974).
Tank belonging to the Panzer Lehr Division, at Normandy, 1944.
To duplicate the imperfect nature of Allied pre-invasion intelligence, the first game turn of NORMANDY imposes a number of special restrictions on the Allied player prior to the start of the game. Before play actually begins, the Allied commander must select his landing beaches, his supply beaches (important both as future supply sources and as entry points for later-arriving reinforcements), and the specific hexes to be targeted by his paratroopers and commandos. These various sites are all written down by the Allied player; only when the Allied player has completed his pre-invasion planning, does the German player set-up his own defending units. Finally, Allied units may not use ‘road movement’ on the first ‘invasion’ game turn.
British Royal Marines landing on D-Day.
The winner of NORMANDY is determined by tallying the total number of ‘victory points’ that the Allied player has accrued by the end of the game. The Allied player receives victory points in two ways: through the capture and uncontested control of certain geographical objectives; and ‘bonus’ victory points depending on the strength of the German Order of Battle actually used in the game. The German player wins by denying the Allied player victory points; the lower the number of Allied victory points, the more advantageous it is for the German player.
Canadian troops landing on Juno Beach, D-Day, June 6, 1944.
Besides simulating the historical battle, NORMANDY also offers five optional scenarios, each of which presents various possible battlefield situations through the use of different German ‘Orders of Battle’ and reinforcement schedules. The Allied Order of Battle and reinforcement schedule, however, always remains the same. Thus, NORMANDY actually provides the players with six different gaming situations; these are: Order of Battle “A” — The Armored Reserve Plan; Order of Battle “B” — the Historical Deployment of German forces; Order of Battle “C” — the Fast Response option; Order of Battle “D” — the Strong Seventh Army option; Order of Battle “E” — the OKW Plan; and Order of Battle “F” — the Rommel Plan. To increase the ‘fog of war’, particularly for the Allied player, the game’s designer recommends that the German player secretly draw one of the six possible Order of Battle options, but hold off revealing his draw until the end of the game. There are no other ‘optional’ rules.
A PERSONAL OBSERVATIONField Marshall Erwin Rommel inspecting the German defenses, Normandy, 1944.
The second edition of SPI’s NORMANDY appeared in 1971. It was an upgraded replacement for the original version of the game which had first seen print in 1969. This 2nd edition version of SPI’s first attempt at a D-Day game was an improvement over the first edition mainly because it received some much-needed, additional development work at the hands of John Young, Redmond Simonsen, and the game’s original developer, Bob Champer. Interestingly, the original game started out, like PANZERBLITZ (1970), as one of SPI’s ‘Test Series’ of simulations — in this case, Test Game #6 — and, after its second edition make-over, ended up being published in both a US and a UK (SPUK) version. The primary difference between the two, by the way, was that the UK version had a nicer (colored) game map than its American counterpart.
D-Day, Gold Beach, King Red Sector, Normandy.
Not surprisingly, like the rest of the games from the early days of SPI, NORMANDY (2nd Ed.) is, to put it kindly, a little on the plain side. Nonetheless, despite its bland game map and drab counters, NORMANDY introduces a number of interesting ideas that, as already noted, show up in later SPI designs. For players who are used to the KURSK Game System, the dual movement phases of non-mechanized units take a little getting used to; on the whole, however, the design works well enough at simulating many of the critical elements of the battle. One of the game’s main appeals is that it is relatively short and comparatively easy to learn. Another is the game’s built in “fog of war”: the mix of variable German orders of Battle with the requirement that the Allied player commit to his invasion plan before he sees the actual German deployment can make for some very exciting, even hair-raising, game situations.
German prisoners at Utah Beach, D-Day, June 6, 1944.
Where NORMANDY seems to fall down most, in my opinion, is in two important areas: the German Orders of Battle and the supply rules. In the first case, this is particularly noticeable when it comes to the Historical German starting forces. In point of fact, the units defending the beaches arguably are, given the actual record, just a little too weak, both in units and in combat power. So far as the game’s supply rules go: these appear to be both too restrictive and too liberal, depending on which aspect of the rules system one examines. The draconian requirement that — on each and every game turn — units must be rigidly tethered to their supply lines seems, at first blush, to be a little severe. On the other hand, the ability of the Allied player to comingle British, Canadian, and American forces with no restrictions on their supply sources appears to be overgenerous, especially given the significant differences in the logistical requirements of the different national contingents. Interestingly, SPI quickly moved to correct this obvious historical lapse. By the time that Dunnigan's next Normandy game, BREAKOUT & PURSUIT, appeared in 1972, the logistical rules had become a lot more restictive when it came to supplying the different multi-national Allied armies; and when Brad Hessel's COBRA appeared in 1977, the logistical divide between Dempsey's British Second Army, and Bradley's First and Patton's Third American Armies had been made, more-or-less, complete.
Finally, the game procedures governing the actual invasion have been greatly simplified, so players should expect to get very little sense either of the historical drama or the nerve-racking uncertainty of the first few hours of "Overlord." Thus, unlike the real landings, the invasion troops in NORMANDY are always going to come ashore where the Allied player wants them to, and the majority of the Allied amphibious (DD) tanks (unlike their historical counterparts) are not going to be swamped and sunk by the heavy Channel surf.
German reinforced concrete casement, Pointe du Hoc, Normandy, gun removed to escape Allied bombardment.
In the end, I suspect that players will either like or dislike this title based on their taste for simulation detail. Certainly, NORMANDY is readily accessible to almost any type of player, but its relative simplicity and lack of much in the way of historical texture will probably be off-putting to experienced players who are used to denser, more complex game systems. On the other hand, like John Hill’s OVERLORD (1977), it may not be all that complicated, but it still can be both an interesting and exciting game to play. And, perhaps most importantly, unlike virtually every other game that has attempted to simulate the battle for the beaches and hedgerows of Normandy, it doesn’t require a major investment in time to play.
See my blog post Book Reviews of these titles; both of which are strongly recommended for those readers interested in further historical background.
THE WEST POINT ATLAS OF AMERICAN WARS (Complete 2-Volume Set); edited by Brigadier General Vincent J. Esposito; Frederick A. Praeger, Inc. (1959); ASIN: B000MTBTEU
Recommended ReferenceThis book is a handy guide of maps for the Normandy landing beaches.
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‘LEE’S LIEUTENANTS’ (in 3 Volumes); by Douglas Southall Freeman; Charles Scribner’s Sons. (1942, 1970); SBN: 684-10175-0
Gods and Generals, Antietam Campaign, Leesburg, Virginia, September 5, 1862. Painting by Mort Kunstler
The wheel of history is often turned as much by luck as it is by the conscious plans of men. This, at least, is the underlying thesis of Douglas Southall Freeman’s brilliant Civil War study of the commanders of the Army of Northern Virginia, ‘Lee’s Lieutenants’. If Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson had not been mortally wounded by his own pickets at the battle of Chancellorsville in May 1863, the dynamic and aggressive General Jackson, “Lee’s strong right arm” — and not the cautious Lt. General Richard Ewell — would have commanded the corps on the left wing of Lee’s army at Gettysburg on 1 July, 1863. And unlike Ewell, who broke off his attack in the afternoon just when the Union right was most in peril, Jackson would almost certainly have thrown his exhausted troops forward, with or without orders from his commanding general, to storm and capture Cemetery Hill on the first day of the battle. By such accidents, history is determined. The Confederate capture of Cemetery Hill on the first day would have broken the Union position and forced General Meade to abandon the field to Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia; there would not have been a second or a third day at Gettysburg, and the Civil War might well have followed a very different and possibly much more unfortunate course.
General J.E.B. Stuart's Ride Around McClellan, painting by Mort Kunstler
Besides the quality of his scholarship, another reason that Freeman’s works have remained popular with serious students of history for so long is that he just writes very well. The author’s prose, although a little formal by today’s standards, is nonetheless graceful, compelling, and even elegant; moreover, it draws the reader’s eye effortlessly from page to page. This is probably a good thing, because although the author may be a careful scholar and a gifted wordsmith, he is not particularly stingy with his prose. ‘Lee’s Lieutenants’ requires three volumes and well over two thousand pages to bring its narrative to a satisfactory conclusion. As such, it is actually one of the author’s shorter works: ‘Washington’, Freeman’s biography of our first president, weighs in at seven volumes, and the author’s chronicle of the life of the South’s greatest general, ‘R. E. Lee’, is told in a mere four volumes.
Of course, Douglas Southall Freeman was a Virginian as well as an historian, and he labored during the first half of the Twentieth Century; thus, he wrote from a different perspective and, I suspect, for a different, more patient audience. Not surprisingly, his admiration for Lee, the man, is obvious; but Freeman is not a Confederate apologist: nowhere in any of the author's writings does he suggest that a Southern victory in the Civil War should have been preferred to that of the ultimate historical outcome. Thus, the author is sympathetic to the men he writes about, but not to the greater cause that they served. And understandably, Freeman's chronicle of the Army of Northern Virginia and its leaders is, given the author's interests and background, exhaustive in its breadth. Still, in the age of MTV and half-hour TV ‘Sit-com’ — were the author working now — I have a hard time believing that any present-day publishing house would have undertaken to print and market his long and meticulously researched works without a considerable amount of editing. And, in fact, Freeman’s wonderfully-detailed works are all now available in much shorter — at least, compared to the originals — abridged versions. For my own part, however, I have found it worthwhile to stick with the author’s original writings; although I confess that while I have reread ‘Lee’s Lieutenants’ several times, I have yet to take on the challenge posed by ‘Washington’.
As the preceding commentary should make amply clear, ‘Lee’s Lieutenants’ is not intended for the recreational reader, or even for those with only a casual interest in history. However, for those students of past events with a genuine curiosity about the American Civil War, in general, and about R. E. Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia, in particular, I consider this book to be a Must Read. ‘Lee’s Lieutenants’ may be long, and the numerous and carefully documented annotations may be tiresome to some; but, in my opinion, it is nonetheless one of the truly great works on the subject of the War Between the States, and on both the powers and the limitations of command.
General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson on Little Sorrel, painting by Mort Kunstler
Finally, I feel obliged to conclude this review by at least noting my one criticism of this book. The only real shortcoming of ‘Lee’s Lieutenants’ is the disappointing and inexplicable paucity of useful, detailed cartography. This is not to say that Freeman’s work does not include maps of the movements of specific Confederate commanders (i.e., Stuart’s “ride around McClellan,” 12-15 June, 1862) or of the numerous engagements described in the text; only that the maps used, without exception, tend to be very simple line drawings and hence, surprisingly uninformative as to terrain and specific unit positions. More importantly, even the few diagrams provided by the author to illustrate the strategic movements of different elements of the Army of Northern Virginia are invariably too small, and of only limited utility because of their omission of important geographical detail. For my own part, I found it very helpful to follow the author’s chronicle of events with my copy of ‘The West Point Atlas of American Wars’ near at hand. I probably should add, however, that, as a nice off-set to the generally disappointing maps, each of the volumes of ‘Lee’s Lieutenants’ is prefaced with a collection of full-page, and often little-known photographs of the major characters featured in that particular volume’s narrative.
For anyone interested in the American Civil War, this is an incredibly useful resource.For that reason, and despite its cartographical shortcomings, I give ‘Lee’s Lieutenants’ my strongest possible recommendation; it is the definitive scholarly work on the campaigns of the Army of Northern Virginia under Robert E. Lee, and an absolutely essential reference on the War for Southern Independence for anyone, like me, whose avocation is the study of military affairs.
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SOLDIER KING is a fantasy conflict simulation — based on the A HOUSE DIVIDED Game System — of a hypothetical war of succession set in a mythical European kingdom during the 18th Century. The game is intended to be played by two, three, or four players and is based very loosely on the major adversaries and events of the Seven years War; as such, SOLDIER KING presents a highly abstracted treatment of battle and diplomacy during the era of Frederick the Great. The game was designed by Frank A. Chadwick and published by Game Designer’s Workshop (GDW) in 1982.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUNDA Hunt in Honor of Charles V at the Castle of Torgau, painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1544, Museo del Prado, Madrid
The Emperor had ruled over his people for almost four decades; however, his sudden death from an unlucky fall, while hunting stag, had unexpectedly thrown the Empire into turmoil. With no undisputed heir to the now empty Crimson Throne, four ambitious rivals hurriedly prepared to press their claims for the Imperial crown: King Ronalf of Arcadia; King Zog of Hrvatska; King Leonardo of Bravance; and King Ludwig of Argozia. Each of the four rulers saw himself as the natural and obvious successor to the Emperor, but each also knew that the imperial prize could only be gained through a combination of diplomacy, subterfuge, and warfare. Moreover, all four rivals knew that their long-term goals would have to be subordinated to short-term threats. King Ludwig’s territorial holdings were, by an accident of geography, particularly well positioned to support a successful early military advance into the heart of the old Empire; thus, if his three rivals were to have any chance at grabbing the imperial crown for themselves, they would have to put aside their mutual distrust and immediately unite to block the Argozian usurper before he could seize the throne. In short, Ludwig would have to be deceived and then lured into a trap.
With the onset of good campaign weather, all was ready. When spring at last arrived, the Argozian King’s troops began to advance south into the Imperial heartland with the still unsuspecting King Ludwig at their head; at the same time, three enemy armies marched out of winter quarters to intercept them. A battle was coming, and King Ludwig and his veteran troopers would soon unexpectedly find themselves attacked by enemy armies each approaching from three different directions.
A player wins SOLDIER KING when he controls (through capture or rule) four of the seven ‘electoral’ cities — those marked with a crown — on the game map. To be counted for control, all four cities must be held against all comers for one complete non-winter game turn.
A PERSONAL OBSERVATION
Interestingly, despite a game system that is virtually errata-free, SOLDIER KING never managed to garner the kind of long-term interest that led to the extensive post-production design improvements that fans like Alan Emerich lavished on A HOUSE DIVIDED. This is probably too bad. The addition of STRATEGO type counter-stands to hide unit strengths (to create an element of the ‘fog of war’), and even the addition of a few leader counters might have added significantly to the excitement level of this game. A more interesting game map, and nicer unit counters probably wouldn’t have hurt the game either. In any case, none of that happened; so SOLDIER KING remains the same today as it was when it first appeared, twenty-eight years ago.
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