How I write a historically unbalanced scenario

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50th
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How I write a historically unbalanced scenario

Postby 50th » Sun Jan 31, 2016 8:43 pm

Some historic battles were one sided. The battle of Kursk comes to mind. The Soviet army had more that twice as many infantry, twice as many tanks, and about four times as many guns (both anti-tank, and artillery). The Soviet army did win, and push the German army back to it's starting point. But if you make a totally one sided scenario, who would want to play it? So I try to find other ways to make the scenario a little more balanced.
Basically, there are four different things I can use to provide balance to a scenario:
1. Terrain (when possible)
2. Units (when possible, either by number or types)
3. Cards (whether command cards, combat cards, strategic cards, or operations cards)
4. Objectives (whether by complexity or quantity of objectives)

Let's look at each, starting in order.
1. Terrain
The terrain should,for the most part, follow the map of the battle site. There are some elements that can be adjusted, such as sandbags (or entrenchments), use of cover (or lack thereof), presence of tank traps, minefields, and barbed wire)
Most of the time, I start planning a scenario by looking at maps of the area where the bulk of the scenario takes place. Although with the board game systems I write for, you cannot exactly duplicate the map, you can come close enough for board games with map elements provided, either with the base game, or expansions. I try to get the rivers, roads, forest, cities and towns, and elevation as close as possible with included map overlays, or Primary Elements. I then add Secondary Elements, such as the minefields, tank traps, barbed wire, bunkers, ect.

2. Units
Sometimes the units can be adjusted within a scenario. If the number of units are pretty static, sometimes you can adjust the types of units. In other words, use Panzer IV tanks instead of Panzer III's, or six pound anti-tank guns instead of two pound anti-tank guns. But many times that is according to the time period of the battle.

I will finish this article later in the week! look for Part two
"It is my hope that my son, when I am gone, will remember me not from the battle but in the home repeating with him our simple daily prayer, 'Our Father who art in heaven." Douglas MacArthur <><

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Re: How I write a historically unbalanced scenario

Postby josta59 » Wed Feb 03, 2016 1:42 pm

Well done, looking forward to the rest.
"...military glory, that attractive rainbow that rises in showers of blood—that serpent's eye that charms to destroy..." --Abraham Lincoln, 1848

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Re: How I write a historically unbalanced scenario

Postby 50th » Sun Feb 07, 2016 9:00 am

Part Two: Cards
Some games like Memoir 44 have Command Cards and Combat Cards.
Command Cards are the cards used to give commands to your troops. These are used in the Commands and Colors style games like Ancients, Battle Cry, and Memoir 44. The more Command Cards you give a side, the higher the probability that they will have a good card to play, and the reverse is also true. If a side has twice the troops, giving them fewer cards will give them fewer commands to give those troops when needed.
Combat Cards are cards that modify the command cards in some way. Sometimes to the detriment of an opponent, such as "out of ammo", or "out of gas", and sometimes to the betterment of one of your own Command Cards, such as Attack adjacent city at +1, if your unit moves this turn, give it +1 move. By giving one side more Combat Cards for an action, they have better opportunity to receive a card that gives just the right help and the right time.

Other games have Strategy Cards, Operations Cards, or Other Cards
Strategy Cards are cards that give the player off-board events and forces that players may bring into the battle to the betterment of their forces, or the determent of the enemies. Operations Cards enhance the scenario by bringing in special rules. Rules that may enhance the defensive side by adding cover, or taking away movement of the enemy by bad weather, or Other Cards that may help the offensive side by adding movement or the ability to ignore certain movement restrictions. They might add to the effectiveness of certain types of units, such as giving special forces rules to infantry units.

Objectives
Objectives are what is required for you do do to win the game or the scenario. It could be something destructive like destroy twelve units, or it could be more defensive like hold the most city tiles in an area, or hills in an area of the map. Most players like objectives that are not merely destructive, especially in historically accurate objectives. That's why I like to write objectives to hold a certain city, or hold the majority of the city hexes, or hold a bridge, or even destroy a bridge if there is a historically accurate point in it. Too many scenarios from fans are to simply destroy the enemy. In one of my Memoir 44 scenarios, there were two major objectives; (1) Take the fortress and (2) Take the landing craft up the river and land troops on the airfield and hold it
To balance out a one sided scenario, you can make the objectives more numerous or harder for the side that has the most troops. For example at the battle of Kursk, hold the Germans at a certain point. Many times a defensive objective may be easier than an aggressive objectives, depending on the situation.

Designing a one sided historically accurate scenario can be a lot more challenging that a fairly balanced scenario! That's one reason I like them. but then the testing phase will be longer as you test, adjust one of these factors or more, and test again. I like the scenario to be a least winnable by either side, not easily, but winnable!
"It is my hope that my son, when I am gone, will remember me not from the battle but in the home repeating with him our simple daily prayer, 'Our Father who art in heaven." Douglas MacArthur <><

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Re: How I write a historically unbalanced scenario

Postby OldTymeGamer » Wed Mar 23, 2016 10:35 am

Very good read. Thank you for sharing.

Unfortunately, no battle is truly balanced, so why do you feel the need to balance the game? I recall a Zulu game as a kid where the British had superior units compared to the spear chucking (literally) Zulu tribesmen. Long story short, the Zulu had more units and typically got slaughtered. For the Zulu player, the objective was to either inflict as much damage to the British troops or be able to drag out / delay the British player's victory. For example, the Zulu player could proudly proclaim that he lasted 15 turns instead of 11.

Using the Battle of Kursk as an example, you could allow the German player to either attack early (thereby reducing the Soviet build up) or offer options for the tank reinforcements that delayed the German engagement. Alternatively, you could allow the German player to set up a strategic defensive that was originally proposed.

Even if the game is unbalanced, there can still be victory conditions for a losing side. For example, holding particular locations, reducing troop losses and time on the board.

In other words, victory can be achieved by reducing battlefield losses.

Can playing the losing side be fun? I wouldn't know (grin), but I had a friend who was always the first one eliminated in Diplomacy, Civilization and Risk and he still loved the games.


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