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MOVEMENT & COMBAT TURN RECORD TEMPLATES FOR THE SPI GAMES, ‘MARENGO’ & ‘WAGRAM’ (1975)
Finally, there are still a few modern ‘Luddites’ like me who just don’t much care for the ‘point and drag’ method of moving counters on a computer screen; gamers who, instead, would actually rather have the real map and counters in front of them when they play. For this type of player, using a ‘spreadsheet’ format for internet gaming is a convenient alternative. And it is also, not surprisingly, the online gaming format that I still tend to prefer.
The Excel spreadsheet files offered with this post are for the original versions of the SPI classic games, MARENGO and WAGRAM (1975). These files have been set up to permit competing players to exchange new game moves via email attachments and, at the same time, to keep an accurate and detailed, ongoing record of all of the various game operations that can potentially occur in the course of a complete fourteen turn match of either of these two games.
MARENGO Excel spreadsheet link
WAGRAM Excel spreadsheet link
Additional useful game-related Internet links:
Cyberboard created by Dale Larson
The Play by Email Emporium, Walt O’Hara
Boardgame Players Association World Board Gaming Championships®
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S&T Issues #’s 52, 54, 56, 58 & 59
INTRODUCTIONThe following short list of specific issues of S&T represents the third installment in my series of short descriptive reviews covering S&T magazine games that were published during what is sometimes referred to as the “Golden Age” of SPI: the 1970s and 80s. These are S&T insert games that did not make it — often for painfully obvious reasons — onto my “TOP 20 FAVORITES LIST.” Some of the early S&T titles featured in this particular post were well-received when they first appeared, either as simulations or as games, some were not. One of them, CONQUISTADOR — after being revised and expanded — was reissued by the Avalon Hill Game Company (TAHGC); while another, OIL WAR, served — at least partly — as the inspiration for 3W’s richly-detailed ARABIAN NIGHTMARE. The other three games in this collection, whether deservedly or not, have more or less faded into obscurity. Still, whether widely popular, or generally reviled, I believe that all of these games are interesting at least from one standpoint: their place, however fleeting, in the history of game design and development. I hope that you, my readers, agree with me.
FIVE MORE S&T PROFILES
11. Strategy & Tactics (S&T) #52, OIL WARincluded a game of the same name and, like the other magazines in this series of posts, S&T #52 (Sep/Oct 1975) dates back to the “Golden Age” of SPI. This particular issue featured the following articles:
S&T #52 Magazine Game: OIL WAR: American Intervention in the Persian Gulf, designed by James F. Dunnigan and Redmond A. Simonsen, is a two-player operational (brigade/squadron) level simulation of a hypothetical attempt by the United States and its Allies to use military force to seize the oil-producing regions of the Middle East.
Regrettably, because I didn’t play this title enough to develop any genuine expertise, I really can’t describe how the game actually holds up after repeated replays. Interestingly, in the games that I did play (virtually always as the Arabs, I should note) the US seemed to have a surprisingly awkward time of it. Still, I personally could never really develop any enthusiasm about this title; and after only a few play throughs, I never took OIL WAR out of its mailer again. Instead, I largely ignored games dealing with the Gulf Region until the appearance a few years later, first of Mark Herman’s much more detailed GULF STRIKE (1983, 1988 & 1990), and then of Jim Dunnigan’s and Austin Bay’s richly-textured treatment of Middle East conflict (both real and hypothetical), ARABIAN NIGHTMARE (1990-91).
In retrospect, I do have to admit that OIL WAR offers — given the events that have transpired in the Middle East over the last three decades — a trio of weirdly prophetic, hypothetical scenarios: the Arab-Israeli War Scenario; the Oil Embargo Scenario; and the Iran-Iraq War Scenario. Each of the game’s scenarios is eight game-turns long. There are no Optional Rules. A complete copy of OIL WAR includes the following components:
12. Strategy & Tactics (S&T) #54, WESTWALL; Insert Game: DIXIEIn a break from SPI’s usual magazine format, this issue of S&T included a game on a completely different topic than that presented on the magazine cover. Content-wise, a copy of S&T #54 (Jan/Feb1976) featured the following articles:
S&T #54 Magazine Game: DIXIE: North vs. South in the 20th Century, designed by Redmond A. Simonsen, is a two-player operational level (brigade/division/corps) simulation of a hypothetical, alternate history, war between the independent Confederate States of America (the South) and the United States of America (the North). The underlying premise of the game is that, had the Confederacy won its independence in the American Civil War, then festering political, social, and economic conflicts between the North and South would finally have led to a full-blown war between the two American Republics in the 1930’s.
DIXIE is played in game turns composed of two symmetrical player turns preceded by an Initiative Determination Interphase. Each game turn is equal to 15 days of real time, and each map hex is approximately 70 kilometers from side to side. A player turn is composed of eight operational phases: the Administrative Point Level Determination Phase; the Replacement and Reinforcement Phase; the Unit Breakdown Phase; the Movement Phase; the Rail Movement Phase; the Unit Formation Phase; the Disruption Recovery Phase; and finally (we knew it had to be in there somewhere), the Combat Phase.
In so far as it matters at all, victory in the game depends on a player’s understanding of the proper use of the zone of control rules, the exploitation of any advantage in initiative, and the careful accumulation and proper use of administrative points (think BRPs). In this sense, I suppose that DIXIE is as much an economic game as it is a conflict simulation. Unfortunately, while this type of approach can work extremely well for a strategic simulation like THIRD REICH (1974), it fails miserably when it comes to this game.
DIXIE offers three make believe scenarios: Alternate World I: The War for Hemisphere Security, 1936; Alternate World II: The Property War, 1937; Alternate World III: The War for Access and Free Labor. DIXIE includes the following components:
13. Strategy &Tactics (S&T) #56, REVOLT IN THE EASTwhich also included a copy of the game of the same name. A copy of S&T #56 (May/Jun 1976) includes the following featured articles:
S&T #56 Magazine Game: REVOLT IN THE EAST: Warsaw Pact Rebellion in the 1970’s, designed by James F. Dunnigan with graphics by Redmond A. Simonsen, is a corps/army level simulation of a hypothetical revolt of Warsaw Pact Nations against the Soviet Union sometime in the 1970’s. This two-player game examines the consequences of such a revolt, and the possible military reactions both of the U.S.S.R., and of NATO to such an eventuality.
REVOLT IN THE EAST offers four scenarios: the Standard “Revolt” Scenario; the Yugoslavian Revolution Scenario; the Czechoslovakia Resists, 1968 Scenario; and the Hungarian Revolt Scenario, Seven Days of Freedom, 1956. REVOLT IN THE EAST includes the following components:
14. Strategy & Tactics (S&T) #58, CONQUISTADORwhen it was originally mailed, included a copy of a game of the same name. S&T #58 (Sep/Oct 1976) contains the following articles:
The game mechanics for CONQUISTADOR are reasonable, if somewhat involved; in addition, as seems typical of many of Richard Berg’s designs, the rules — although intuitively logical — are both a little murky and awkwardly organized. This means that, while seasoned players should have little difficulty understanding the various elements of the design platform, novice gamers will probably have to work a bit to really learn the game system. Each game turn is sequenced as follows: the Royal Council Phase (taxes are raised, random events occur and, based both on the players’ respective treasuries and on the capabilities of their individual monarchs, “player turn” order is determined for the balance of the game turn); the Initial Naval Phase (basically, eligible ships move from the Old World to the New or move from one location to another in the New World, and naval attrition losses are also determined); the Land Phase (most of the game’s real action takes place during this stage: discovery, colonization, combat between colonial powers, subjugation and/or extermination of Native Peoples, native revolts, looting, etc.); the Final Naval Phase (successful players sail whatever loot they have managed to acquire in the New World back to their European bases); and finally, the Maintenance Phase (players decide which fleets, armies, etc. they want to field in the coming game turn and pay for their maintenance).
CONQUISTADOR offers only two scenarios, each lasting 21 game turns: The Campaign Game (1495-1600); and The Solitaire Scenario, Spain in the New World. A complete game of CONQUISTADOR includes the following components:
15. Strategy &Tactics (S&T) #59, THE PLOT TO ASSASSINATE HITLERlike the other magazines in this series, came with a copy of a game with the same title. A copy of S&T #59 (Nov/Dec 1976) contains the following articles:
At its core, Dunnigan’s “outside-the-box” design pits members of the Abwehr and their OKW and civilian co-conspirators against the Schutzstaffel (SS), Gestapo, and those members of the NAZI hierarchy committed to Hitler’s physical and political survival. The game’s mechanics are fairly straight forward. For starters, the largely empty hexagonal game map represents the territory of the Third Reich — along with a few small neutral regions — as variously-colored blocks of hexes, while key power centers (Foreign Office, Communications, various Faction Headquarters, etc.) are depicted as independent three-hex clusters. [Note that the game starts with 63 units to be placed, but only 62 starting hexes on the map are actually designated; this is a bit frustrating, I admit. On the other hand, there are several different solutions to this problem which have popped up in various quarters, and virtually all of them seem to work out equally well.] The game counters, for the most part, come in three basic types: information markers, event chits, and counters that represent the various (political, military, and civilian) historical actors who were (or who could have been) important to the ultimate outcome of a plot against Hitler and his NAZI lieutenants. Each game turn follows the familiar (Igo-Ugo) format and is composed of four segments: the Assignment Interphase; the Abwehr Player Turn; the SS Player Turn; and the requisite Game Turn Indication Interphase. Interestingly, the Abwehr player usually tends to devote the early turns to recruiting allies in preparation for the inevitable "coup" attempts against Hitler and company. When combat occurs, it takes the form of attacks (against adjacent units) conducted by the phasing player using the game’s abstract vision of political weapons (intimidation, interrogation, blackmail, murder, etc.); the object of these attacks, not surprisingly, is to displace or destroy opposing units. Somewhat unexpectedly, the game even includes zones of control (ZOCs); however, in THE PLOT TO ASSASSINATE HITLER, ZOCs really reflect the reach of a unit’s political influence rather than its purely military effect on adjacent hexes.
Unfortunately, this innovative game system, although fairly dripping with historical color, is nonetheless actually pretty thin in the “simulation” department. Thus, despite the fact that it includes, among its counters, both obscure and well-known historical characters (e.g., Bormann, Skorzeny, Yorck, Treskow, Rommel, Himmler, and Guderian, to name a few), it has still proven to be a bit too weird for the vast majority of players. This, in turn, has led to a situation in which, although there are a few experienced players who really like THE PLOT TO ASSASSINATE HITLER, a far larger number of gamers have made it abundantly clear, over the years, that they thoroughly detest the game; very few players seem to come down in the middle. All things considered, this is probably too bad. Taken on its own (admittedly unorthodox) terms, I personally don’t think that THE PLOT TO ASSASSINATE HITLER is really all that terrible a game. Moreover, because of the randomness baked into the design (there are a slew of different “resolution” tables, and also lots of “chit” drawing and die rolling), it even plays reasonably well as a solitaire game. Also reassuring, at least to a grognard like me, is the fact that a player must still use a combination of traditional military-style tactics and shrewd (political) timing to win. Needless-to-say, a bit of good luck is very helpful, as well. To determine a final victor — which will usually require five to six hours of play — either Canaris’ Abwehr or Himmler’s SS will have to be completely destroyed by the other side. This seems reasonable enough: historically-speaking after all, the price of failure for the anti-Hitler conspirators was, with very few exceptions, immediate arrest and rapid execution. THE PLOT TO ASSASSINATE HITLER includes the following components:
A FEW THOUGHTS ON THIS BATCH OF ‘ALSO RANS’As I noted previously, installments in this ongoing series of S&T descriptions, beginning with this one, will contain a more orderly and complete list of magazine issues than was featured in either Part I or Part II of this project. Where gaps in the numerical sequence of S&T issues do appear, readers should assume that I have probably already profiled the missing magazine game in a separate post. Moreover, because of the relative obscurity of several of the titles covered in this particular post, I have fleshed-out some of these profiles a little more than usual. That being said, I sincerely hope that my readers will find this expanded treatment of S&T magazine/game descriptions both interesting and useful; particularly, as I currently plan to add additional installments to this series of posts as time goes on.
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The Cardboard Wars in Tempe, Arizona are fast approaching: June 6th – June 12th, 2011
It’s hard to believe, but it will soon be that time of year again. On June 6th, the first convention arrivals will kick-off the early festivities at what will be — in my view, at least — one of the most enjoyable and unique wargaming events of the coming year: Consimworld Expo 2011. This year’s convention is the direct descendant of MonsterGame.Con which, thanks mainly to the vision and hard work of John Kranz, first opened its doors in 2001. And after more than a decade of event additions and enhancements, this once-a-year gathering has become a truly must-attend event with some of the best and most affable players from all over the country, along with some of the leading figures in simulation design, all coming together for this week-long celebration of the wargaming hobby. The CSW Expo is still hosted by John Kranz and company; and convention attendees, as they have in years past, will again meet in the heart of the Old West at the luxurious Tempe Mission Palms Hotel, in Tempe, Arizona.
The CSW Expo only comes around once a year; so, if you can possibly find a way to get to Tempe during the second week of June, I strongly recommend that you do so. Of course, I may be a little biased seeing as how the convention site is only a thirty-minute drive from my house. Nonetheless, if you enjoy both congenial company and lots of gaming, I'm pretty much convinced that you won’t be able to avoid having a great time.
To find out more about CSW Expo 2011/MonsterGame.Con XI, or to register online for this year’s convention, visit the website: http://expo.consimworld.com/
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SEELÖWE: The German Invasion of Britain, 1940, is a hypothetical (what if?) simulation, based on the KURSK Game System, of a German invasion of the British Isles following the Fall of France. SEELÖWE was designed by John Michael Young, and published in 1974 by Simulations Publications, Incorporated (SPI).
For starters, this means that any “drama” associated with the German invasion actually occurs in the game turns following the initial landings; hence, instead of worrying about the fate of his first-wave invasion forces, the German player will usually find himself mainly concerned with the turn-by-turn success of his reinforcing “follow-up” waves in reaching England. Available German sealift is limited and, to add the the German player's worries, it is vulnerable both to British air attacks and, more importantly, to the vagaries of Channel weather (more on this, later). Thus, SEELÖWE is not so much concerned with illustrating the possible challenges that the Germans might encounter in gaining a lodgment on the southern coast of England, as it is in simulating the Germans’ problems building-up and then expanding their beachheads once the first landings had actually come ashore. This makes a certain amount of sense, viewed strictly from a design standpoint, because the early German follow-up operations represent, for both sides, the most critical phase of Hitler’s plan: after all, it would be during this relatively short time period that the German invasion force would be most vulnerable to a British counterattack. Not surprisingly then, the German problems actually simulated in the game are primarily those concerned with expanding and linking-up the initial beachheads as quickly as possible, followed by the seizure of useable ports, and then by the rapid build-up of the combat forces necessary for a future major push into the English interior. In contrast, the British challenges presented in SEELÖWE are essentially those of containing and limiting the build-up of German forces in the south, and then of assembling and transporting British units into positions from which they could launch attacks against the Nazi invaders.
The air rules in SEELÖWE are quite unusual. Unlike the air subroutines in other operational-level SPI games in which air units may be assigned to perform one of several different tasks, in this game, air power really has only one mission: to deny mobility to key enemy units by disrupting them through air strikes. That is to say: the effect of air attacks, when successful, is to reduce the movement allowance of affected enemy combat units to only one hex per movement phase. And because the British player possesses very few powerful combat units to start with, German air attacks tend to seriously retard the Commonwealth player’s ability to assemble the forces necessary for a credible counterattack against the invasion beachheads. The powerful British 1st Motorized Infantry Division, for example, will probably be attacked on every game turn that the Luftwaffe can fly. The Germans, on the other hand, have air-related problems of their own: as noted previously, the RAF can, and usually will, attack sea-borne follow-up waves, rather than the German units that are already ashore, in an effort to delay or turn back the German player’s seaborne reinforcements before they can actually land in England. Also, it should be noted that, although there are no provisions for counter-air attacks in SEELÖWE, air missions nonetheless still carry with them a certain amount of risk for the attacker: every time an air attack is conducted (whatever the odds), the phasing player takes a chance on losing one of his air units. Moreover, the likelihood of such losses double from 16% to 33% whenever air missions are conducted at “extended” rather than at normal range.
The winner of SEELÖWE is determined both by the number of German-controlled British ports, and by the ratio of (supplied or unsupplied, but not isolated) German versus British combat strength points present in England at the end of the game. By way of example: German control of eight ports with a one-to-one or better ratio of combat strength points is good enough for a Substantive German Victory; ten controlled ports, and a two-to-one or better ratio of German to British combat factors, on the other hand, is the minimum requirement necessary to give the German player a Decisive win.
A PERSONAL OBSERVATION
First, there is the real versus the potential scope of the game. What I mean by this is that, although much of southern England is depicted on the map sheet, very little of the playing area will actually see much, if any, action in the course of a typical game. In point of fact, quite a lot of the map surface seems to serve little purpose other than to display terrain over which the British army must trudge during its determined, but usually painfully-slow march to the coast. The problem, for both players, is that while the Germans can benefit from driving inland — capturing part or all of Greater London, for example — given the game’s victory conditions, there really is no reason for the Wehrmacht to do so. Thus, the opportunity presented in the game for either side to experiment with unorthodox or creative tactics is really quite limited. In short, there is seldom much chance for truly clever play in SEELÖWE; once the Germans grab the ports they need for at least a Substantive Victory, they can simply turn their attention to building up their forces and methodically pushing inland, while picking off the odd British unit or two whenever the opportunity presents itself.
These titles are recommended for those readers interested in further historical background.
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S&T Issues #’s 37, 39, 42, 44, & 46
INTRODUCTIONThe following list of magazine articles and games represents the second installment in my series of short descriptive reviews of many of the issues of S&T magazine published during the 1970s and 80s, when James F. Dunnigan and Redmond Simonsen were still at the helm of Simulations Publications Inc. (SPI).
FIVE MORE S&T PROFILES
6. Strategy & Tactics (S&T) #37, SCRIMMAGE,included a game of the same name and, like the other magazines in this series of posts, S&T #37 (Feb/Mar 1973) dates back to the “golden age” of SPI. This particular issue featured the following articles:
7. Strategy & Tactics (S&T) #39, THE FALL OF ROME,included a game of the same name. Content-wise, a copy of S&T #39 (Jul/Aug 1973) featured the following articles:
I wish that it were not the case, but unfortunately, this is one of the few games designed by John Young about which I can find virtually nothing good to say. The underlying concept of this simulation is, I think, quite appealing; however, it really falls down when it comes to execution. In point of fact, because of a rushed and incomplete development process, the game — at least as originally published — is literally unplayable without the inclusion of the follow-up errata (dated 1 September 1973) that appeared in S&T #40, PANZER ARMEE AFRIKA. And even then, it requires both a lot of work and some genuine creativity on the part of dedicated players to actually make this title a moderately enjoyable gaming experience.
THE FALL OF ROME offers six scenarios: Scenario One (starts in 67 A.D.) lasts fifteen game turns; Scenario Two (247 A.D.) runs for thirteen turns; the Third scenario (260 A.D.) is fifteen game turns long; Scenario Four (332 A.D.) runs for twelve game turns; Scenario Five (420 A.D.) is twelve turns long; and Scenario Six (starts in 530 A.D.) covers the period of the final collapse of the Western Roman Empire and lasts for twenty game turns. THE FALL OF ROME includes the following game components:
8. Strategy & Tactics (S&T) #42, THE EAST IS RED,included a game of the same name. S&T #42 (Jan/Feb 1974) contained the following articles:
The game mechanics of THE EAST IS RED are below average in complexity; this, plus the fact that the game is fast-moving and action-packed, makes it an excellent choice as a “beer and pretzels” game. In keeping with the game’s uncluttered design, the rules are clearly-written, short, and easy to learn; also, all of the game’s scenarios are only 10 turns long. Even better, the game system is familiar and the piece density is low; thus, besides being a fun title for experienced players, it makes an excellent introductory game. As an added bonus, it even plays surprisingly well as a solitaire game. THE EAST IS RED includes the following components:
9. Strategy & Tactics (S&T) #44, TANK!This issue also dates from the “golden age” of SPI and included a game with the same title. S&T #44 (May/June 1974) featured the following articles:
10. Strategy & Tactics (S&T) #46, COMBINED ARMS,included a game with the same title. S&T #46 (Sept/Oct 1974) features these articles:
Victory in COMBINED ARMS is based on the physical occupation or control, by one side or the other, of specific map hexes; for this reason, casualties are irrelevant except in so far as they affect a combatant’s ability to satisfy the specific geographical requirements for that side’s victory.
COMBINED ARMS offers six scenarios that examine tactical combat from the 1930’s to the 1970’s. These scenarios are, in order of appearance: Introductory Scenario Nr. 1 (hypothetical action in Russia, 24 April, 1944 — 16 game turns); Scenario No. 2 (the Defense of the Vistula Bridges along the Line Tczew, 2 September, 1939 — 12 turns); Scenario No. 3 (Prochorovka, 12 July, 1943 — 12 game turns); Scenario No. 4 (Arrancourt Tank Battle, 19 September, 1944 — 6 turns); Scenario No. 5 (Battle of the Chinese Farm, 15 October, 1973 — 8 game turns); and Scenario No. 6 (Heartbreak Ridge, 13 September, 1951 — 16 turns). The individual scenarios are all reasonably interesting; however, the nice feature about this sort of highly-abstracted game system is that it is relatively easy for players to design their own scenarios once they become bored with those presented by the game’s publisher. COMBINED ARMS includes the following components:
A FEW ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS ON THIS ONGOING PROJECTWhat should immediately be apparent to those visitors who have both worked their way through this list, and who have also looked at my first batch of “Also Ran” magazine descriptions, is that I have gone back and done a little back-filling when it comes to the S&T issues discussed above. Thus, while I have not relisted magazine games that I have already profiled elsewhere in this blog, I have added a few early issues that I had originally planned on ignoring completely. There are two reasons for this: first, it occurs to me that although I might personally find some of these early titles unappealing, it is possible (if not probable) that a few of my readers will disagree with my own highly subjective assessment of these games; and second, I have, upon further reflection, concluded that it might be helpful for me to provide additional information to those of my visitors who either presently collect old issues of Strategy & Tactics, or who plan on doing so at some point in the future. That being said, I have therefore decided, insofar as it is possible, to continue this series of descriptions with future posts that contain a more orderly and complete a list of magazine issues than was featured in either Part I or Part II of this project. I only hope that my readers will find this expanded treatment of S&T magazine and game descriptions useful.
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