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The Mandatory Offensive in Wargames

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Author Topic: The Mandatory Offensive in Wargames  (Read 286 times)
desertfoxleo
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« on: July 26, 2014, 09:12:08 pm »

So I've been playing my first game ever of Eric Lee Smith's Across 5 Aprils, a collection of five different American Civil War battles in one box. In specific, I've been playing the Gettysburg scenario. As I have noted earlier, I am quite enjoying the game, especially the uncertainty generated by the "chit-pull" system. However, I do see one 'issue' that I believe critics of the game have discussed in the past - the combat chit pull, and with it, the requirement to either attack or withdraw from any enemy zones of control. In my case, I am approaching the end of the daylight of the second day, and the Rebs may be on the brink of victory. They currently hold both Round Top and Little Round Top, and I believe they are close to having at least 1.5 times the victory points of the Union. However, as luck would have it, the Confederate Combat Chit has just been pulled, at a time when the Rebel units holding Little Round Top are in contact with Union forces. The choice for the Confederate side (I'm playing solo, by the way)  is either attack these adjacent Union units or voluntarily give up Little Round Top and retreat. The Confederates really have no choice at this point but to attack, because there is only one turn left before sundown and victory determination. So, we have the Confederates securely holding a victory location, and there's really no incentive for the Rebel commander to attack (in this case, the area in question is mostly held by units of Longstreet's corps, with help from a division of Ewell's corp attached.) The logical and "realistic" thing to do would be to sit tight on Little Round Top and let the Union boys try their best to knock off the Rebs. But no, the game mechanics won't allow that.

What to think of a game system that at times will essentially demand that a player do something that, given their druthers, they'd never do? Now, I realize that the entire point of the chit-pull system is to simulate the confusion and uncertainty that permeates a combat situation. I can pretty easily rationalize from a narrative viewpoint that maybe Lee, not being near the portion of the battlefield in question, sent orders for Longstreet to attack and that maybe Longstreet feels compelled to follow that order, despite what would have to be a great deal of doubt on his part. Or maybe one could imagine that Hood recklessly ordered his men to charge the Union positions based on his own reading of the situation. In effect, I could come up with a whole bunch of plausible 'reasons' for the Confederates to make what, in competitive game terms at least, is a nonsensical attack.



I'm going to guess that A5A is not the only game out there that can produce such situations, but I'm not immediately familiar with any other games I've played where this has arisen. So I ask you, how do such situations make you feel, from the viewpoint of a:
1) competitive game player
2) casual game player
3) role-playing minded game player, and/or
4) a history-minded game player
« Last Edit: July 26, 2014, 09:44:20 pm by desertfoxleo » Report Spam   Logged

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« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2014, 09:20:54 pm »

I think that unless you're playing at an unconstrained grand strategic level you're going to get this in one way or another. Such directives are often baked into the victory conditions, for example, even if you're not overtly forced to carry out such an offensive with your units. One way or another, in a wargame, you're going to be on train tracks of some sort. I've seen a few 'sandbox' wargames that transcend this, such as 'Amateurs to Arms', but not often.
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« Reply #2 on: July 26, 2014, 09:26:01 pm »

Also, with respect to your specific example, I think it's historically accurate for a unit to receive untimely orders that might not make sense given the current context. It's also historically accurate for someone like Nelson to put his telescope up to his missing eye and disregard them.   Grin
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