TRICKS OF THE TRADE: ‘MARENGO’ & ‘WAGRAM’ PBeM PLAY AIDS

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MOVEMENT & COMBAT TURN RECORD TEMPLATES FOR THE SPI GAMES, ‘MARENGO’ & ‘WAGRAM’ (1975)

There is really nothing like face-to-face competition when it comes to playing wargames. Unfortunately, most players will find — particularly, once they leave college and get on with their lives — that local opponents who share the same gaming interests can often be hard to find, and once found, hard to stay in touch with over the long haul. Circumstances change: gaming clubs break up, opponents move or even, heaven forbid, drop out of the hobby completely. Thus, one of the great benefits to traditional board wargaming conferred by the internet age — speaking as a long-time competitive player — has been the now almost universal ability of present-day players to substitute ‘Play by Electronic Mail’ (PBeM) for its tiresome precursor, traditional ‘Play by Mail’ (PBM). This has meant that most games between geographically separated opponents can now — if both players are conscientious in their move-making — be completed in a matter of months or even weeks, instead of the year or more that postal play used to require.

Happily, the ‘internet revolution’ has also led to the appearance of subscription (pay-as-you-go) wargame sites such as Hexwars, and also to the development of easy-to-use gaming software applications such as Vassal, ZunTzu, or Cyberboard which have made ‘electronic’ wargaming even faster (no set-up time) and more convenient. In fact, in the case of Vassal, players who are familiar with a game system no longer even have to have physical access to a copy of a favorite title in order to play it. Of course, reliance on software applications like Vassal or ZunTzu is not always either practical or even preferable. In many cases, players will find that platforms for their preferred games are not yet available online. Moreover, even when one of their favorite titles is available at one of these sites, players will occasionally find that existing internet gaming software — programmers being human — will have map or ‘order of battle’ mistakes that seriously detract from the actual playability of the game.

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:


Hexwars

Vassal

ZunTzu

Cyberboard created by Dale Larson

The Play by Email Emporium, Walt O’Hara

Boardgame Players Association World Board Gaming Championships®

Consimworld
Read On

THE ‘ALSO RANS’: S&T INSERT GAMES THAT FAILED TO MAKE IT ONTO MY ‘TOP 20’ FAVORITES LIST, PART III

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S&T Issues #’s 52, 54, 56, 58 & 59


INTRODUCTION

The 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 WAR

included 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:

  • Oil War: American Intervention in the Persian Gulf, by Frank Davis
  • Island War: U.S. Amphibious Offensive Against Japan, 1942-1945, by David C. Isby
  • Simulation: OIL WAR: American Intervention in the Persian Gulf, by James F. Dunnigan and Redmond Simonsen
  • Outgoing Mail, The Editors
  • Briefings
  • Feedback, Vox Populi, Vox Dei

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.

Based very loosely on the NAPOLEON AT WATERLOO Game System, OIL WAR is really an odd little game. In spite of the simulation’s size and its bland, even simple graphics, its integrated air-ground mechanics of play actually work together surprisingly well. Unfortunately, the game just doesn’t seem to have much else going for it. Each game turn in OIL WAR is equal to two days of real time, and map hexes are thirty kilometers from side to side. Terrain effects are negligible (where did the rivers, marshes, and other notable terrain go?). OIL WAR is played in game turns; each game-turn begins with the American player turn, and then follows a set pattern of game operations: (American Player) Air Unit Basing Phase; Air Transport Point Allocation Phase; Supply Phase; Air Transport Phase; Movement Phase; Air Combat Phase; Ground Combat Phase; (Arab Player) Air Unit Basing Phase; Reinforcement Phase; Movement Phase; Air Combat Phase; and Ground Combat Phase.

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:

  • One 17” x 22” hexagonal grid Map Sheet (with Turn Record/Reinforcement Track, Terrain Key, Combat Results Table, and Force Holding Boxes incorporated)
  • 100 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 8½” x 11” set of OIL WAR Rules (with Scenario Set-Up Instructions) which is stapled into the text of the magazine


12. Strategy & Tactics (S&T) #54, WESTWALL; Insert Game: DIXIE

In 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:

  • Westwall: Four Battles for Germany, by Stephen B. Patrick
  • Simulation: DIXIE: North vs. South in the 20th Century, by Redmond Simonsen
  • After Action Report: BLUE & GRAY II, by Joel Klein
  • After Action Report: Sinai, by Jim Dingeman
  • Outgoing Mail, The Editors
  • For Your Eyes Only, The Editors
  • Briefings
  • Feedback, Vox Populi, Vox Dei

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.

Curiously enough, in spite of the historical record of the American Civil War and the profound economic and social differences that divided the political cultures of North (industrial, urban-centered) and South (agricultural, rural-based), the opposing forces in DIXIE and their supporting “war-making” infrastructures are virtually identical. Moreover, for reasons known only to the designer, both sides begin the game with amazingly small (given the mobilization levels of the two belligerents during the Civil War) numbers of ground forces, and also (apparently) without either strategically relevant naval or air forces. The seemingly inevitable outcome of all this is that very little of any real interest actually happens in a typical game.

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:

  • One 22” x 17” hexagonal grid Map Sheet (with Turn Record Track, Terrain Key, Administrative Point Track, Initiative Track, and Holding Boxes incorporated)
  • 100 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 8½” x 11” map-fold set of Rules (with Scenario Instructions, Terrain Effects Chart, and Combat Results Tables incorporated)


13. Strategy &Tactics (S&T) #56, REVOLT IN THE EAST

which 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:

  • Revolt in the East: Warsaw Pact Rebellion in the 1970’s, by David C. Isby
  • Simulation: REVOLT IN THE EAST: Warsaw Pact Rebellion in the 1970’s, by James F. Dunnigan and Redmond Simonsen
  • FIREFIGHT, by Stephen B. Patrick
  • Angola, by Jim Dingeman
  • Outgoing Mail, by The Editors
  • For Your Eyes Only
  • Briefings
  • Feedback, Vox Populi, Vox Dei

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.

The game mechanics that Dunnigan chose for REVOLT IN THE EAST are surprisingly simple, even pedestrian; in fact, one of my regular opponents liked to refer to this game as Dunnigan’s version of “whack a mole.” This, I suspect, is probably why this title is generally held in low esteem by most players. Nonetheless, REVOLT IN THE EAST, despite its dearth of operational detail, is still — in my view, at least — an enjoyable little game. For one thing, it is fast-playing; and for another, the randomness of the events dictated by the “Revolt Table” insures that no two matches ever develop along exactly the same lines. Chance, needless-to-say, plays a big role in this game, but this aspect of the design also makes it both enjoyable as a “beer and pretzels” game for experienced players, and a good candidate as an introductory title. Each game-turn in REVOLT IN THE EAST represents one week of real time, and each hex is fifty-six kilometers across. Individual turns follow a simple and very familiar (Igo-Ugo) pattern of player actions. In each game turn, the Warsaw Pact/NATO forces move first followed by the Soviets; in addition, the player actions for each game turn can be further broken down into the following phases: Warsaw Pact/NATO (WP/N) Revolt Phase; WP/N Reinforcement/Replacement Phase; WP/N Movement Phase; WP/N Combat Phase. The Soviet player turn is identical, except that there is no Revolt Phase.

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:

  • One 22” x 16” hexagonal grid Map Sheet (with Terrain Key, Warsaw Pact Revolt Table, Combat Results Table, and Turn Record/Reinforcement Track incorporated)
  • 100 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 8 ½” x 11” set of REVOLT IN THE Rules (with Scenario Instructions and Terrain Effects Chart) still stapled in magazine


14. Strategy & Tactics (S&T) #58, CONQUISTADOR

when it was originally mailed, included a copy of a game of the same name. S&T #58 (Sep/Oct 1976) contains the following articles:

  • CONQUISTADOR! Pizarro and the Conquest of Peru, 1524-33, by Richard Berg
  • Simulation: CONQUISTADOR: The Age of Exploration, 1495-1600
  • SSN/ASW: Nuclear Submarines and Anti-Submarine Warfare, by Lou Dolinar
  • Outgoing Mail, The Editors,/li>
  • Briefings
  • For Your Eyes Only
  • Feedback, Vox Populi, Vox Dei

S&T #58 Magazine Game: CONQUISTADOR, designed by Richard Berg with graphics by Redmond A. Simonsen, is a solitaire, two or three player strategic/operational simulation of the exploration and conquest of the New World. Players represent one of the three great colonial powers during the age of exploration: Spain, France, or England. [Please note that the Avalon Hill version of the game adds Portugal as an additional colonial power and also more than doubles the number of game counters.] As might be expected, the goal of each player is to use his explorers, fleets, soldiers, missionaries, and colonists to establish control of territories in the Americas, for the purpose of accumulating more wealth, land, and prestige (actual discoveries) than his opponents by the end of the game. This competition, besides assuming the guise of exploration and colonization, will often result in direct combat between opposing players, both at sea and on land.

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:

  • One 22” x 32” hexagonal grid Map Sheet (with Turn Record/Reinforcement Track, various Combat Results Tables, Treasury Track, Build & Maintenance Chart, Terrain Key, and many other Events Tables too numerous to list)
  • 200 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 8½” x 11” Rules Booklet (stapled into magazine)

15. Strategy &Tactics (S&T) #59, THE PLOT TO ASSASSINATE HITLER

like 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:

  • The Plot to Assassinate Hitler 1938-1944, by Virginia Mulholland
  • Simulation: THE PLOT TO ASSASSINATE HITLER, by James F. Dunnigan and Redmond Simonsen
  • The Russo-Japanese War, by Sterling
  • Outgoing Mail, by The Editors
  • Briefings
  • For Your Eyes Only
  • Feedback, Vox Populi, Vox Dei

S&T #59 Magazine Game: THE PLOT TO ASSASSINATE HITLER, designed by James F. Dunnigan with graphics by Redmond A. Simonsen, is an SPI Power Politics Game (like THE RUSSIAN CIVIL WAR and AFTER THE HOLOCAUST). Because of the unique nature of this game’s underlying premise, both the time (length of game turn) and the map (hex size) scales have been HIGHLY ABSTRACTED. This alone, takes a little getting used to on the part of the players. Nonetheless, reduced to its basics, this two-player game is a simulation of attempts by certain anti-NAZI members of the German hierarchy to assassinate Hitler and to seize control of the German Government. Hence, whatever its flaws, THE PLOT TO ASSASSINATE HITLER offers players an interesting and unusual gaming experience.

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:

  • One 22” x 34” hexagonal grid Map Sheet (which comes with all Game Tables, Game Charts, the Terrain Key, and the Turn Record Track incorporated)
  • 200 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 8½” x 11” set of THE PLOT TO ASSASSINATE HITLER Rules (with Set-Up Instructions) stapled into the magazine

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.

Related Blog Posts

  1. THE 20 BEST S&T MAGAZINE GAMES FROM THE “GOLDEN AGE” OF SPI
    A Subjective List of My Personal Picks of the Best S&T Magazine Insert Games Published during the 1970’s and 80’s
  2. THE ‘ALSO RANS’: S&T INSERT GAMES THAT FAILED TO MAKE IT ONTO MY ‘TOP 20’ FAVORITES LIST, PART I ,S&T Issues # 38, 41, 43, 45 & 48
  3. THE ‘ALSO RANS’: S&T INSERT GAMES THAT FAILED TO MAKE IT ONTO MY ‘TOP 20’ FAVORITES LIST, PART II ,S&T Issues #’s 37, 39, 42, 44, & 46
  4.  THE ‘ALSO RANS’: S&T INSERT GAMES THAT FAILED TO MAKE IT ONTO MY ‘TOP 20’ FAVORITES LIST, PART III , S&T Issues #’s 52, 54, 56, 58 & 59
Read On

REGISTRATION FOR CONSIMWORLD EXPO 2011 & MONSTERGAME.CON XI IS NOW OPEN!

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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 feature that really sets the CSW Expo/MonsterGame.Cons apart from other wargaming conventions is that, along with presenting its participants with a bevy of traditional game-related activities, it also opens up unique opportunities for interested convention-goers to compete face-to-face in their favorite monster game titles, both old and new. Moreover, in addition to providing attendees with a rare chance to indulge in seven days of non-stop monster gaming, Expo 2011 will also provide attendees with, among other things, prize tournaments, game demonstrations and play-test sessions for new titles, seminars with well-known hobby personalities, a game auction, flea markets, breakfast-meeting speakers and After Action Reports, and even door prizes. Thus, when all is said and done, participants’ options at this year’s CSW convention — whatever their individual gaming interests — will be limited only by their personal tastes, the number of hours in the day, and by their own stamina. Hence, in spite of the CSW convention’s long-time support for monster games and monster game fans, competitive play at Expo 2011 will not be focused exclusively or even predominately on “super-sized” games. And although many players do make the annual pilgrimage to the Consimworld Expo/MonsterGame.Con specifically because of the unique opportunity it affords them to actually play, rather than — as is too often the case — simply admire their favorite monster games, almost half of the Expo’s attendees will, if previous conventions are any guide, spend most, if not all, of their competitive “table time” at open-gaming in the several excellent (comfortable and well-lit) playing venues set aside specifically for this purpose.

Tempe Mission Palms
Finally, it is also probably worth noting that this June’s gaming at the Tempe Mission Palms will not be restricted only to traditional “map and counter” conflict simulations. Quite the contrary, dozens and dozens of old and new titles (from CDG, to “block”, to Euro-style) will — as they have in years past — all be a part of this year’s CSW Expo experience. This means that the convention is both large enough and varied enough to offer players a broad menu of both conflict simulations and multi-player social gaming that — new attendees will quickly discover — should suit virtually any visitor’s taste in games. Nor is the convention aimed strictly at long-time (hard-core) participants in the hobby. Instead, players who make the trek to Arizona this coming spring will find that there are abundant opportunities for the young and not-so-young, and for both inexperienced and seasoned players to enjoy their favorite titles in a matchless gaming environment.

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/
Read On

SPI, SEELÖWE (1974)

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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).

INTRODUCTION

Hitler and members of the OKH.
SEELÖWE is a quasi-historical (fantasy) simulation of the proposed, but never executed, German cross-Channel invasion of Britain in the fall of 1940. Unlike the majority of hypothetical situations that somehow show up as game designs, this one, at least, has some basis in fact. It is clear, for example, that — in the months immediately following France’s surrender — the OKH did at least consider the feasibility of a major seaborne attack against England. However, the German High Command believed, rightly, that such an amphibious operation was fraught with risk, even under the best of circumstances. Thus, the OKH and Hitler both concluded that, at a minimum, a cross-Channel assault against Britain would demand that two preliminary conditions be met before such an operation could be seriously even contemplated. First, such an invasion would require that the Luftwaffe decisively defeat the RAF and drive it out of range of the Channel Coast; and second, it would also require that the Germans devise a foolproof method for neutralizing the powerful British Royal Navy. An unfettered Royal Navy would represent an enormous danger to the initial German assault, and — even if the first landings were successful — to the Wehrmacht’s follow up efforts to reinforce and resupply German troops once they had gained a beachhead in England. Given the outcome of the “Battle of Britain” and the many other obvious risks, it is not difficult to see why Hitler decided not to invade Britain. Nonetheless, the tenuousness of the British military situation following the Allied evacuation from Dunkirk does make this hypothetical situation interesting. What would have happened if the preconditions for a German invasion had actually been met, and the Wehrmacht had managed to land on the English Coast in September 1940? John Young’s game, SEELÖWE, attempts to answer that question.

DESCRIPTION

SEELÖWE is a two-player operational (regiment/brigade/division) level simulation of the planned-for, but never executed invasion of England in the summer/fall of 1940. Since the Germans would not have attempted an invasion as long as the Royal Navy and the RAF were still in a position to seriously challenge their cross-Channel operations, the game begins at the point at which (hypothetically-speaking) both of these bulwarks of the British defense have been either eliminated or, at least, largely neutralized. Thus, the vessels of the Royal Navy play no role at all in the game, and the strength of the RAF is represented as being significantly diminished prior to the beginning of the German invasion. To describe SEELÖWE as an “invasion” game, however, is probably still a bit misleading. This is because the German landings, at least in the “Historical” Scenarios, are all unopposed; which is to say: the game begins with the Wehrmacht simply wading ashore without being obliged to overcome any serious resistance at all from the British army. And although this unexciting start to Hitler’s planned air and sea-borne campaign against Britain is probably justified from a historical standpoint, it does, nonetheless, impart to the game a rather unusual play dynamic.

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.

Because any German invasion of Britain would begin with landings aimed at seizing English ports directly opposite the French Coast, SEELÖWE is played on a two-color hexagonal map of England [interestingly, as is the case with 'NORMANDY', the SPIUK version of the game uses a more colorful map than the US game] which covers most of the southern coastline and which stretches from the Channel Coast in the south to Birmingham in the north. Each map hex is five miles from edge to edge, and there are only six types of terrain represented in the game: clear/beach, hill, marsh, river (hex sides), all sea, and cities. There is also an “Extended Range” line printed on the game map which indicates the boundary between normal and extended range Luftwaffe missions over southern England. Terrain effects are the usual combination of variable movement costs and modifications for combat die rolls (+2, in this case). However, the game design does include one ingenious wrinkle when it comes to terrain: for purposes of movement (only), British units — as well as German mountain, paratroop, and air-landing units — treat all terrain on the map, including river hex-sides, as clear hexes; this means that terrain effects apply only to regular Wehrmacht combat and supply units. [Please note that certain hexes on the original map were printed with the wrong terrain symbols; this error, however, has been corrected in the game’s errata.] The matte-finished game counters represent the various combat units (as well as abstract air assets and British partisans) that potentially could have taken part in the battle for England. A game turn in SEELÖWE is equivalent to two days of real time, and each of the game’s several scenarios is fifteen turns (30 days) long.

The mechanics of play in SEELÖWE will, in most cases, be familiar to experienced players. Ground movement follows the usual KURSK pattern: an initial movement phase, followed by a second movement phase for eligible mechanized units. In addition, the British player (only) may transport units up to thirty hexes by rail. However, because units traveling by rail must expend one full turn to entrain and another to detrain, most rail movement will be confined to those British units entering the game as reinforcements after turn one. As might be expected, the action of the game is organized around traditionally-structured game turns which are further divided into two asymmetrical (Igo-Ugo) player turns. Each game turn follows a set sequence of player actions — the German player is always the first to act — and begins with the Weather Phase (the German player rolls to determine weather for the entire game turn). Next, the German player executes his Landing Phase, followed by his Reinforcement Phase, the Supply Judgment Phase, the German Air Attack Phase, the Initial Movement Phase, the Combat Phase, the German Mechanized Movement Phase, the German Disruption Removal Phase, and finally, the Embarkation Phase. The British player turn is next and proceeds as follows: British Reinforcement Phase; Unit Activation Phase; Supply Judgment Phase; Air Attack Phase; British Initial Movement and Rail Movement Phase; Combat Phase; British Mechanized Movement Phase; Entraining/Detraining Phase; and the British Disruption Removal Phase.

Not surprisingly — given that all but one of the game’s scenarios takes place in September and we are, after all, talking about the English Channel — weather plays a significant role in the operations of both sides in SEELÖWE. Starting with turn two, the German player begins the play sequence by rolling a single die; the outcome of which determines weather conditions for both players for the balance of the game turn. These weather conditions will fall into one of four categories: Clear (C) — no restrictions on air or naval operations; Rough (R) — no restriction on air operations, but German units transported by sea may only disembark in ports; Rough with “zero” Visibility (RV) — no air missions permitted and disembarkation is restricted (as before) to ports; and Storm with “zero” Visibility (SV) — no air missions allowed and German units already at sea may not disembark, but must remain at sea until the weather changes for the better. To add to the German player’s problems, on game turn seven — the turn immediately after he receives a big influx of fresh combat units and supplies, the weather table changes for the worse. By way of illustration, beginning on turn seven, the chance of a Clear Weather die roll drops from 33% to 16%, and the chance of a “0” Visibility game turn increases from 33% to 50%.

Britsh Home Guard, London, 1940.
One interesting feature of the SEELÖWE game system — particularly, given the preceding discussion of weather effects — is the two-stage procedure required to transport most German follow-up combat units and supplies across the English Channel. Although the German player has a modest amount of airlift capacity, the bulk of the invasion force’s reinforcements will inevitably be transferred from French ports to Britain using naval transport. However, to successfully get his reinforcements across the Channel, the German player must first organize his combat and supply units into “Waves” based on his current sealift capacity (reckoned in terms of combat factors). Once a Wave has been created, the actual naval transfer requires, at a minimum, two game turns to complete; which is to say: the German player embarks his units at the end of one game turn, and disembarks those same units (if possible) at the beginning of a subsequent turn. For example, in the Navy Scenario, the Germans may embark up to fourteen points worth of combat units in the first, second, and third Waves of reinforcements following the invasion. The main difficulty with this multi-turn process is that all of the units in one Wave must be completely landed (whether in England or back in France), before the next Wave can be loaded onto transports. What this actually means to the flow of the game is that on “clear visibility” game turns, the RAF may be able to interfere with German landings by attacking and disrupting units at sea; more importantly, however, in “rough” weather, already embarked German units may only land at ports; and in “stormy” weather, German units may not land at all, but, instead, must remain at sea until the weather improves. Thus, although the transfer of German reinforcements and supplies from France to England can require as few as two game turns, the actual process may, depending on either the success of the RAF or the weather conditions in the Channel, take considerably longer.

British Defiant Squadron.
The combat rules in SEELÖWE are pretty much what one would expect from a game of this sort. Combat between adjacent enemy units is always voluntary, and — fortunately for the British player’s defensive plans — “overruns” are not included as part of the game’s movement or combat rules. Defending stacks must be attacked as a unitary whole; in contrast, different units in an attacking stack may choose to attack the same or a different adjacent hex, or even to make no attack at all. One feature that does set SEELÖWE somewhat apart from other similarly-scaled designs, however, is its Combat Results Table (CRT). Although Retreats and Exchanges tend to predominate among the possible combat outcomes of all but high-odds attacks, Defender Eliminated (DE) results — unlike the combat outcomes that show up on the CRTs of most other members of the KURSK family of games — first appear at odds as low as three-to-one. This means that SEELÖWE is actually surprisingly bloody when compared to other comparable SPI games. The zone of control (ZOC) rules are also relatively standard fare for World War II operational-level games from this period: ZOCs are semi-rigid and “sticky,” and block both enemy supply paths and retreat routes. All units pay two extra movement points to enter, and one extra movement point to leave an enemy ZOC, and mechanized units may, assuming that they have sufficient movement points, move through enemy ZOCs.

German Wehrmacht infantry assault Gruppe.
Although there is a great deal that is relatively commonplace about Young’s basic game platform, there are also a few design elements — in addition to the unusual terrain rules mentioned above — that make the play of SEELÖWE an intriguing (if frustrating) challenge for both sides. To begin with, unlike the other members of the KURSK family of games, stacking for both sides is limited to only two units per hex (German supply units are exempt from this rule). Also, although there is a “Free Deployment” option (which is highly recommended, by the way) in both the standard July and September “Historical” Scenarios, the starting positions for all British combat units as well as the allowed German invasion zones (seven are actually marked on the map, but only certain zones may be used in each scenario) are pre-designated prior to the start of play. Moreover, British movement is severely restricted during the first few turns of the game; in fact, almost two-thirds of the British player’s on-map units begin the game “frozen” in their starting hexes; furthermore, until turn five — when this restriction is finally lifted — each of these frozen units requires an “activation” die roll of 1 or 2 in order to be released and allowed to move normally. And perhaps as an acknowledgment of Churchill’s “We Shall Never Surrender” speech, the game also includes rules covering local militias and partisans; however, the actual effect on play of these British irregular forces, in most cases, is negligible.

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.

Britsh Home Guard prepare defenses.
The supply rules in SEELÖWE are, on the whole, both logical and comparatively straight forward; and although certain elements of this important part of the game system will immediately be recognizable to most experienced players, other aspects will be relatively unfamiliar. German units, for instance, can only be in one of three supply states: supplied (normal attack and defense strength), unsupplied (zero attack strength, but defend at full strength), or isolated (zero attack strength, defense strength is halved); British units, on the other hand, can only be either supplied or isolated. Interestingly, the game’s supply rules — at least when it comes to the Germans — seem to have been at least partially lifted from PANZER ARMEE AFRIKA (1973). In fact, this design element represents the single biggest advantage in the game for an otherwise badly out-numbered and out-classed British army. The reason for this is simple: British combat units are supplied (for all purposes) so long as they can trace a supply path through any unblocked line of hexes (no matter how circuitous) which ultimately connects with the northern or western map-edge or, alternatively, to any friendly-city that is two or more hexes in size; German combat units, on the other hand, except for the first “invasion” game turn during which all landing units are in “attack” supply, are completely dependent on supply units to power their offensive operations. Thus, while German units within three hexes of a friendly-controlled port are considered unsupplied rather than isolated, for the Wehrmacht to actually attack a British-occupied hex, the attacking Germans must all be within five hexes of a supply unit and, furthermore, the supporting supply unit must then be expended (removed from play) at the end of the combat phase. The good news for the German player is that a single supply unit can sustain any number of different attacks (shades of AFRIKA KORPS), but only so long as all of the attacking German units are within the five-hex supply radius of the supporting supply unit. The bad news is that the Germans start the game with only three supply units and DO NOT receive any more until the sixth game turn, at which point ten additional supply counters finally appear in France ready for transport to Britain. This means, in essence, that the German player — even taking into account the special invasion turn "automatic" supply rule — may not support attacks during more than four of the first five game turns; in addition, if weather conditions do not cooperate, the Germans may be unable to freely conduct new assaults against British positions even after new supply units enter play on turn six. This built-in limit on German supply capacity rather than the combat power of the British army — particularly when England’s defenses are at their weakest and most disorganized — is, without doubt, the single greatest obstacle in the German player’s path to achieving a quick knockout against the beleaguered British during the early stages of the game.

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.


German Junkers Stuka.
SEELÖWE offers three different invasion scenarios, each of which is fifteen turns in length: the OKH “Dream” (September) Scenario — this is what the German high command would like to have done; the Navy (September) Scenario — this is what the Kriegsmarine (German navy) was more likely capable of; and the German “Early” (July) Scenario — this is what might have been possible if the OKH had decided on an ad hoc post-Dunkirk, amphibious assault. In addition, as a means of increasing the scope and variability of the basic simulation, players can also experiment with a “Free Deployment” option as a substitute for the set-up and invasion beach restrictions mandated in the “Historical” game.

A PERSONAL OBSERVATION



HMS Nelson battleship, flagship of
Home Fleet Commander Admiral Forbes.
Of all of John Michael Young’s many game designs, this one and the S&T #39 magazine game, THE FALL OF ROME are probably the two that I like least. In the case of the largely unplayable THE FALL OF ROME, I seem to be in agreement with the general consensus within the hobby; however, when it comes to SEELÖWE, my generally unfavorable opinion — at least, based on the game’s relatively impressive “Geek” rating of 6.23 — appears very much to be a minority viewpoint. This puts me in an awkward spot because when it comes to game designers, both past and present, John Michael Young is one of my all-time favorites. Nonetheless, SEELÖWE, despite displaying a number of really quite ingenious design touches, is still an oddly unsatisfying game. And even more distressing — at least to me — is the fact that it is unsatisfying on several different levels.

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.

Winston Churchill during The Battle of Britain.
Second, there is the “luck” factor. Obviously, almost all wargames incorporate “chance” in one form or another into their design platforms. In SEELÖWE, however, luck exerts a disproportionate — I would even say an excessive — amount of influence over the flow and tempo of the game. This factor significantly affects the narrative arc of the game starting with the critical, but unpredictable British “unit activation” die rolls on turns one through four. Moreover, if the German player is treated to better-than-average weather conditions in the Channel, particularly after the flood of German reinforcements belatedly arrive on turn six, then the British player will be hard-pressed to prevent the Wehrmacht from gaining at least a Substantive Victory; and the British commander can almost certainly put aside any thoughts about scoring a win for King and Country. On the other hand, if the German player is particularly unlucky with his weather rolls, then his invasion force will be forced to sit impotently on the English coast, while stormy weather in the Channel blockades both his reinforcements and his desperately-needed supplies back in French ports where they can do him no good.

RAF C-I-C, Air Chief Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding
Finally, there is the issue of the underlying premise of the game. By completely eliminating the Royal Navy as a factor in the battle for England, the designer more-or-less abandons any pretense of presenting SEELÖWE as a plausible historical simulation and, instead, opts to make the strategic situation for the British — which, without the determined intervention of the Home Fleet, would probably have been untenable — as interesting (purely in game terms) as possible. This problem, of course, is not really the fault of the designer; the historical record of amphibious operations, both in the Pacific and in the European Theaters, shows pretty conclusively that, if a powerful enemy force was able to establish a reasonably secure, supplied beachhead during the critical first few days of a sea-borne invasion, the defender would not subsequently be able to drive the invaders back into the sea. This last point brings me to my main complaint about the game’s design; that is: since the basic premise for SEELÖWE is that the Wehrmacht will land successfully in England, and, once ashore, will not have to contend with any interference from the Royal Navy, it seems reasonable — at least to me — that the game would have been far better if it had been lengthened to cover the battle for the English heartland. The challenges to both belligerents implicit in the planning and conduct, especially in winter, of a protracted ground campaign — besides introducing both operational depth and scope for maneuver into the design — would also have posed, I think, a much more interesting set of game problems for the players to solve than the ones actually presented in the standard game. That being said, there are many gamers (perhaps, even a majority) who will disagree with me on some or all of these criticisms; I completely understand their point of view, even if I don't share it; to such players, no changes or improvements are necessary because they like the game just the way it is.

Luftwaffe leader Hermann Goering
 speaking to German fighter pilots, 1940.
In accounting for the standing of SEELÖWE in the eyes of many contemporary gamers, I suspect that at least part of the popularity that SEELÖWE continues to enjoy probably stems from the fact that it has had very little real competition when it comes to other titles on the same topic. Marc W. Miller’s Operation Seelöwe — one of the three games that, along with two different air campaign treatments of The Battle of Britain, make up GDW’s THEIR FINEST HOUR (1976) — is certainly not a viable alternative. This is because despite several rules revisions and reams of post-publication errata, it still comes perilously close to being unplayable, even for experienced and dedicated EUROPA fans. FIGHT ON THE BEACHES (1985) — which was the insert game in The Wargamer #40 — is not a terrible rendition of the German plan for the amphibious assault against England; nonetheless, the map is a big disappointment and the air rules can lead to some very odd results; perhaps most frustrating of all, however, is the fact that the newer title, by completely ignoring the British Home Fleet, largely retraces the same path as Young’s version, yet fails to match many of the clever design elements that characterize the earlier SPI game. Undoubtedly, of the several games depicting the (hypothetical) German invasion of England that have followed the publication of SEELÖWE, the best one — at least, that I know of — is probably GMT’s BRITAIN STANDS ALONE (1996). Designed by Jim Werbaneth, this integrated air-sea-land simulation — like the 1976 game published by GDW — restores the Royal Navy (even if it seems somewhat weakened) and the Kriegsmarine to the design mix and, in the process, adds a significant amount of additional historical texture to the game’s air-sea operations. Admittedly, the complicated nature of the naval subroutine can be a little cumbersome, but the game plays well (if not particularly quickly) and tends to produce historically plausible battlefield results. The only real problem with BRITAIN STANDS ALONE is that, because of the “guess/double-guess” multi-step nature of naval missions and interceptions, it is virtually impossible to play — or, for that matter, to really even experiment with — as a solitaire game.


Humber armored vehicle, Yorkshire.
In the end, I suppose that I would have to give SEELÖWE a “lukewarm” recommendation. BRITAIN STANDS ALONE is undoubtedly a better and more compelling historical simulation, particularly for experienced players; on the other hand, the less detailed SPI game is probably both more accessible to the typical gamer and, because of its clear-cut advantage when it comes to solitaire action, also probably much more likely to see multiple replays. Finally, for those gamers who, like me, are interested in a post-invasion scenario for John Young’s design that picks up where the basic game leaves off, A. McGee has designed a Variant for SEELÖWE titled “The Lion’s Tail.” Instructions for this intriguing alternative to the standard game can be found at: http://www.grognard.com/zines/ph/p1106.txt .

Design Characteristics:

  • Time Scale: 2 days per game turn
  • Map Scale: 5 miles per hex
  • Unit Size: regiment/brigade/division
  • Unit Types: armor/panzer, mechanized infantry, amphibious armor, infantry, mountain infantry, motorized infantry, partisan, parachute infantry, airlanding, air unit, supply, and information counters
  • Number of Players: two
  • Complexity: average
  • Solitaire Suitability: high
  • Average Playing Time: 2-3 + hours (depending on scenario)

Game Components:

  • One 23” x 28” hexagonal grid Map Sheet (with Turn Record/Reinforcement Track, Scenario OOB Set Up Locations, German Invasion Boxes, and German and British Available Units Holding Boxes incorporated)
  • 200 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 6” x 11½ ” accordion-fold Rules Booklet
  • Two 6¾” x 6¾” combined Combat Results and Air Attack Tables
  • One 6¾” x 9½” combined Terrain and Supply Effects Chart
  • One 8½” x 11” back-printed combined Player Notes, Designer’s Notes and Errata Sheet
  • One small six-sided Die
  • One SPI 12” x 15” x 1” flat 24 compartment plastic Game Box (with clear compartment tray covers) and clear plastic game cover with Title Sheet

Recommended Reading


These titles are recommended for those readers interested in further historical background.

Read On

THE ‘ALSO RANS’: S&T INSERT GAMES THAT FAILED TO MAKE IT ONTO MY ‘TOP 20’ FAVORITES LIST, PART II

6 comments

S&T Issues #’s 37, 39, 42, 44, & 46


INTRODUCTION

The 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:

  • The Ardennes Offensive: The Battle of the Bulge, December 1944, by Stephen B. Patrick
  • Caporetto: The Austro-German Offensive in Italy, 24 October-23 November 1917, by Albert A. Nofi
  • Simulation: SCRIMMAGE: Tactical Professional Football
  • Outgoing Mail, by The Editors
  • Sackson on Games, by Sid Sackson
  • Pass in Review, by Albert A. Nofi
  • Feedback, Vox Populi, Vox Dei

S&T #37 Magazine Game: SCRIMMAGEis a tactical-level simulation of the combat-like dynamic inherent in the competition between two opposing professional football teams. Although it was widely-reviled when it first appeared, this title is at least modestly intriguing because of the designer’s use of tactical-level conflict game mechanics to simulate an athletic contest. However, the fact that Dunnigan never personally revisited this type of simulation topic is probably proof enough of the lack of popularity among S&T subscribers of this attempt to broaden SPI’s product line to include “sports games.” As one of my disgusted friends — who, like me, was also a regular subscriber to S&T when this issue appeared — once observed: “If I wanted a game about football, I wouldn’t get it from SPI, I’d just join a fantasy football league!” On the other hand, purely from a collector’s standpoint, this game is interesting in that it is one of only a few “sports” simulations ever published by SPI (I can only think of one other title inspired by baseball that was designed by either — I don't remember which — Irad Hardy or Richard Berg). SCRIMMAGE was designed by James F. Dunnigan and includes the following components:

  • One 22” x 34” hexagonal grid Map
  • 100 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 8½” x 11” map-fold style Rules Booklet

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:

  • The Fall of Rome, by Albert A. Nofi
  • The Battle for Guadalcanal: 7 August 1941 – 7 February 1943, by Stephen B. Patrick
  • Simulation: THE FALL OF ROME: The Barbarian Invasions, 100 – 500 A.D., by John Michael Young, with graphics by Redmond A. Simonsen
  • Outgoing Mail, by The Editors
  • Pass in Review, by Albert A. Nofi
  • Feedback, Vox Populi, Vox Dei

S&T #39 Magazine Game: THE FALL OF ROME, designed by John Michael Young, is a solitaire (or two-player) strategic level simulation of combat between the legions, auxiliaries, and other forces of the Roman Empire and various national groups of barbarian invaders that pushed against and through the Roman frontiers from approximately 100 to 500 A.D. To better simulate these long-duration historical developments, the designer makes use of an “area movement” rather than a hexagonal game map. In addition, the game is played in multi-phase game turns; each of which represents one year of real time. Not surprisingly, given the time scale and the complex nature of the historical events being simulated, each game turn is structured around a complicated set of interwoven player actions that are arranged in the following rigid sequence: the Internal Revolution Phase; the Non-Roman and Non-Loyal Roman Movement Phase; Non-Roman and Non-Loyal Roman Combat Phase; Barbarian Creation Phase; the Loyal Roman Movement Phase; Loyal Roman Combat Phase; the Legion Rebellion Phase; Control Determination Phase; Barbarian Attrition Phase; Tax Collection and Disbursement Phase; the Roman/Persian Replacement Phase; Barbarian Bribe Phase; and the Game Turn Record Phase.

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:

  • One 17” x 22” area movement Map Sheet (with Turn Record/Replacement Track, Combat Results Table, Legion Rebellion Table, Barbarian Creation Table, Internal Revolution Probability Table, Internal Revolution results Table, and Barbarian Creation Frequency Table incorporated)
  • 200 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 8½” x 11” brochure-fold set of Game Rules (with Scenario Instructions incorporated)


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 East is Red: The Potential for Sino-Soviet Conflict, by Stephen B. Patrick
  • Napoleon at Waterloo: 18 June 1815, by Albert A. Nofi
  • Simulation: THE EAST IS RED: The Sino-Soviet War
  • Outgoing Mail, by The Editors
  • Sackson on Games, by Sid Sackson
  • Pass in Review, by Albert A. Nofi
  • For Your Eyes Only, by The Editors
  • Feedback Questions, Vox Populi, Vox Dei

S&T #42 Magazine Game: THE EAST IS RED is a corps/division level simulation — based on the popular KURSK Game System — of a hypothetical war between the Soviet Union and China, sometime in the late 1970’s. This title, besides being a nice little players’ game, is also interesting in that it represents (along with the 1973 game, NATO) one of the first of SPI’s numerous forays into the simulation realm of possible warfare in the near future. The game was designed by James F. Dunnigan with graphics by Redmond Simonsen. THE EAST IS RED offers four different scenarios (each 10 turns long): M+1 Current Readiness; M+1 Full Readiness; M+30 Current Readiness; and M+30 Full Readiness. In addition, the game also proposes two optional (what if?) rules: North Korean Intervention; and Soviet Strategic (nuclear) Strike.

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:

  • One 22” x 34” hexagonal grid Map Sheet (with Turn Record/Reinforcement Track, Combat Results Table, and Terrain Effects Chart incorporated)
  • 100 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 6” x 11” map-fold style Rules Booklet


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:

  • Tank! A Weapons System Survey, by Stephen B. Patrick
  • Sea War in the Age of Sail: 1650-1830, by David C. Isby
  • Simulation: TANK! Armored Combat in the 20th Century, by James F. Dunnigan and Redmond Simonsen
  • Outgoing Mail, The Editors
  • Sackson on Games, by Sid Sackson
  • For Your Eyes Only
  • Pass in Review
  • Feedback Questions, Vox Populi, Vox Dei

S&T #44 Magazine Game: TANK! Armored Combat in the 20th Century, designed by James F. Dunnigan and Redmond A. Simonsen (graphics), is a two-player tactical level simulation of armored warfare from the 1930’s to the 1970’s. TANK! is played using an interactive simultaneous movement/combat system in which players plot the movement and opportunity fire missions of their units prior to the start of every game turn. Each game turn follows a set sequence of two action phases: the Plotting Phase, and the Execution Phase. The Execution Phase is further divided into five operational segments: the Panic Segment; the Initial Facing Segment; the Direct Fire Segment; the Movement [and Execution of Triggered Opportunity Fire] Segment; and the Final Facing Segment. Frustratingly, the designer mentions neither the time scale nor the map scale of the game. As an odd little note: this title is modestly interesting because, as a one-time marketing experiment, SPI offered an expansion kit (for the basic magazine game) to anyone who was intrigued enough by the original design to send the publisher a self-addressed, stamped envelope to offset the cost of mailing the expansion kit back to the interested customer. TANK! includes the following components:
  • One 22” x 34” hexagonal grid Map Sheet (with Target Aspects and Scatter Directional Pattern Charts incorporated)
  • 100 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 8¾” x 11” map-fold set of TANK! Rules
  • One 10¾” x 11” back-printed Game Chart (with Terrain Effects Key, Terrain Effects Chart, Combat Results Tables, Spotting Table, Weapons Characteristics Chart, Scenario OOB Chart, and Scenario Instructions)

10. Strategy & Tactics (S&T) #46, COMBINED ARMS,

included a game with the same title. S&T #46 (Sept/Oct 1974) features these articles:
  • Combined Arms: Combat Operations in the 20th Century, by Stephen B. Patrick
  • Patrol: Modern Infantry Tactics, 1914-74, by David C. Isby
  • Simulation: COMBINED ARMS: Combat Operations, 1939-70’s, by James F. Dunnigan, with graphics by Redmond A.
  • Outgoing Mail, The Editors
  • Sackson on Games, Sid Sackson
  • Footnotes, Everybody
  • Players Notes, Simonsen & Young
  • Feedback, Vox Populi, Vox Dei
S&T #46 Magazine Game: COMBINED ARMS: Combat Operations, 1939-70’s was designed by James F. Dunnigan, with graphic design by Redmond A. Simonsen. It is a two-player tactical (battalion/company) level simulation of the development of integrated, combined arms (infantry/armor/artillery) tactics from World War II to the 1970’s. The game map is an abstract representation of typical (western) European terrain and each map hex is scaled at 300 meters from side to side. COMBINED ARMS is played in game turns; and each game turn is equal to one hour of real time. Furthermore, a single game turn is divided into two symmetrical player turns, and each player turn is executed in the following rigid sequence of player actions: Command Control Determination Phase; Movement/Reinforcement Phase; Combat Phase; Disruption Removal Phase; and the Interdiction Removal Phase. Once both players have completed the preceding set of game actions turns, the turn record marker is advanced one space, and the next game turn begins. The actual mechanics of play for COMBINED ARMS, by today’s standards, are comparatively simple. Stacking is not permitted, except when mounting or dismounting infantry from vehicles; friendly units may, however, pass through each others’ hexes without penalty. As is typical with most tactical-level games, there are no supply requirements for infantry and armored units; artillery, however, is an exception: artillery units expend adjacent “artillery supply” when executing “rapid” fire missions. Another interesting feature of this game system is that, unlike some tactical simulations, combat units in COMBINED ARMS exert zones of control (ZOCs) into the surrounding hexes; further, these ZOCs are further divided into two classes: a Primary (adjacent) ZOC and a Secondary (extended range) zone of control. Trucks and armored carriers exert ZOCs only when transporting infantry units. The combat rules, unlike those governing supply, are fairly detailed. Combat between enemy units can take one of three forms: fire (ranged attacks); assault (adjacent infantry and mechanized infantry attacks); and air strikes. In addition to regular attacks conducted during the combat phase of a player turn, “overrun” attacks may be performed by armored vehicles, assault guns, and either mounted (armored carriers) or dismounted infantry. Truck-mounted infantry may not perform overruns because trucks are not permitted to enter an enemy ZOC, at all. It should also be noted that “overruns” represent a special form of combat that is performed only during the movement phase of a player turn. There are only four types of terrain in COMBINED ARMS: clear, rough category #1 and #2, and rivers. Finally, in order to simulate the challenges of coordinating the actions of different units during tactical combat, the game also includes detailed command and control rules.

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:
  • One 22” x 34” hexagonal grid Map Sheet
  • 200 ½” cardboard Counters
  • One 8½” x 11” map-fold Rules Booklet (with Scenario Instructions and Players’ Notes incorporated)
  • Two 8½” x 11” identical back-printed Player Aid Cards (with assorted Combat Results Tables, Scenario Unit Values Charts, Terrain Keys, and Terrain Effects Charts incorporated)

A FEW ADDITIONAL THOUGHTS ON THIS ONGOING PROJECT

What 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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