Platoon Command - Design Diary

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djackthompson
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Platoon Command - Design Diary

Postby djackthompson » Sat Dec 17, 2016 5:32 am

Greetings all. Sometime soon (an official street date hasn't been set yet), Lock n Load will be releasing a game I designed called Platoon Command. I thought it would be a good idea to start posting a design diary to show off some of the background info, design decisions, art, and more for the game. If you have any questions about the game, please feel free to ask here.

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In 2014 I moved from the US to the UK. Just before the move, I started brainstorming the idea of combining elements of deck-building card games with the spatial elements of a board game. I knew I wanted the game to be a skirmish-level game, with the cards tied directly to counters on the board, but I wasn't sure what the exact theme would be. While I was working through some of the initial mechanical concepts, I went on my first vacation after the move - a visit to Normandy. My first stop was Omaha Beach, where my grandfather landed on D-Day +4 with the 30th Infantry Division (ID). Instantly I had my theme. The game would focus on the exploits of individual rifle platoons within the 30th ID as they made their way through France.

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My son and me and Omaha Beach.

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My grandfather

The 30th Infantry Division arrived in England in February 1944 and trained until June. It began landing at Omaha Beach, Normandy on June 11, secured the Vire-et-Taute Canal by June 16, crossed the Vire River on July 7, and spearheaded the Saint-Lô break-through of Operation Cobra on July 25. The 30th relieved the 1st Infantry Division near Mortain on August 6, the same day Germany launched a massive counterattack called Operation Lüttich. From August 7 – 12, the 30th clashed with elite SS Divisions around Mortain, frustrating enemy plans and breaking the spearhead of their assault.

Game Overview
In Platoon Command you take the role of a platoon leader in the 30th Infantry Division, guiding your platoon into combat in order to capture critical battlefield objectives. Platoon Command is a quick-playing game that uses cards for combat, command and control, fog of war, and attrition. The goal is to gain Objective Points by controlling areas of the battlefield. You accomplish this by issuing orders to your command group, three rifle squads, and specialized personnel.

Upcoming Posts
• Part 2: Modeling the Rifle Platoon
• Part 3: Command Cards
• Part 4: Combat Cards (Riflemen, Scouts, Machine Gunners)
• Part 5: Combat Cards (Sniper, Mortar)
• Part 6: From Design to Development
• Part 7: The Campaign

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Whiterook
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Re: Platoon Command - Design Diary

Postby Whiterook » Sat Dec 17, 2016 1:03 pm

First of all, welcome to the forum!!!

Second of all, thank you so much for not only taking the time to become a member, but also for so perfectly using this forum board for what I'd very much wanted, which was for designers to share their experience and knowledge with game design. I hope more designers follow your example and share their experiences with both aspiring designers, and fans alike.

I think this is an amazing project! I love the back story....it makes the game come alive all the more.

I am totally drawn to the scale (skirmish) and Platoon Leader concept....leading a small-ish group in combat. I was going to ask if this was going to be a 'building' platform where you literally work your way from the Beach to Berlin-type of thing, but then saw you will be covering 'The Campaign', so I know that subject will be well covered :D

The question beyond that that popped in my mind was: Is there an experience-building mechanic used in the system? In other words, effects of battle strengthens or weakens our platoon over time, dependent on past battles and decisions?
If you can't be a good example, be a horrible warning

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Duncan
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Re: Platoon Command - Design Diary

Postby Duncan » Sat Dec 17, 2016 1:24 pm

Thanks for posting this. It'll be interesting to see the game.

djackthompson
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Re: Platoon Command - Design Diary

Postby djackthompson » Sun Dec 18, 2016 2:25 am

Whiterook wrote:First of all, welcome to the forum!!!

Second of all, thank you so much for not only taking the time to become a member, but also for so perfectly using this forum board for what I'd very much wanted, which was for designers to share their experience and knowledge with game design. I hope more designers follow your example and share their experiences with both aspiring designers, and fans alike.


I's my pleasure. I just discovered the website, but I've spent the last day looking it over, and I'm very impressed. Lots of great discussion here.

Whiterook wrote:I think this is an amazing project! I love the back story....it makes the game come alive all the more.

I am totally drawn to the scale (skirmish) and Platoon Leader concept....leading a small-ish group in combat. I was going to ask if this was going to be a 'building' platform where you literally work your way from the Beach to Berlin-type of thing, but then saw you will be covering 'The Campaign', so I know that subject will be well covered :D

The question beyond that that popped in my mind was: Is there an experience-building mechanic used in the system? In other words, effects of battle strengthens or weakens our platoon over time, dependent on past battles and decisions?


Yes, I'll cover the campaign in detail, but the short answer is that it contains 10 scenarios in chronological order that follow the 30th ID from just after D-Day through Mortain. Essentially you can think of it as the story of platoons within the 30th ID fighting in France.

There is not a campaign or experience system. I toyed with something like that early on, but instead settled on an approach where the scenarios slowly build in complexity, introducing new game elements gradually. So at the beginning of the game, you focus just on the core elements and by the last scenario you're juggling the command of three squads, mortars, snipers, etc. I also wanted to allow for a system wherein players could just play any scenario they wanted, without concern for whether they completed earlier scenarios.

djackthompson
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Re: Platoon Command - Design Diary

Postby djackthompson » Sun Dec 18, 2016 2:27 am

Part 2 – Modeling the Rifle Platoon

Platoon Command is a thematic abstraction of skirmish-level engagements following the Allied invasion of occupied France in WW II. To that end, a core part of the game is modeling gameplay around the rifle platoon construct. The US rifle platoon model from June 1944 was used as a reference. German rifle platoons follow the same composition as the US model, which was due to two factors: inconsistency in the composition of German rifle platoons during this period and a preference for gamplay over historical accuracy.

Rifle Platoon
The rifle platoon consists of a command group and three rifle squads.

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Command Group
The command group consists of the platoon leader, platoon sergeant, platoon guide, and two messengers.

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• Note: Platoon Command does not include representations of the command group's two messengers. That is because the primary role of the messengers is to allow for communication between the platoon leader and his upper echelon commander in the rifle company. Interaction with the rifle company is beyond the scope of action in Platoon Command.

Rifle Squad
Each of the rifle platoon's three rifle squads consists of a squad leader, an assistant squad leader, an automatic rifle team (automatic rifleman, assistant automatic rifleman, and ammunition bearer), and seven riflemen, two of whom are designated as scouts.

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• Note: Platoon Command does not include an antitank grenadier with an M1903 and M1 grenade launcher, as antitank combat is beyond the scope of action in Platoon Command.


Platoon Command models the Rifle Platoon by providing US and German players with decks of command and combat cards. The cards will be covered in depth in later posts. However, it is worth noting that the cards are not designed to reflect a 1:1 correlation to men in the rifle platoon. For example, the three Scout cards in Squad A exceed the number of actual scouts (2) in the squad. Instead, the cards serve as a high-level abstraction of the efficacy of each element of the rifle platoon.

List of card breakdown in the decks:

Command (5)
• Platoon Sergeant (1)
• Platoon Guide (1)
• Squad Leader - Squad A (1)
• Squad Leader - Squad B (1)
• Squad Leader - Squad C (1)

Combat (39)
• Mortar (3)
• Sniper (3)
• Scouts - Squad A (3)
• Scouts - Squad B (3)
• Scouts - Squad C (3)
• Riflemen - Squad A (5)
• Riflemen - Squad B (5)
• Riflemen - Squad C (5)
• Machine Gunners - Squad A (3)
• Machine Gunners - Squad B (3)
• Machine Gunners - Squad C (3)


In the next post I'll talk about the command cards in greater depth.

djackthompson
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Re: Platoon Command - Design Diary

Postby djackthompson » Sun Dec 18, 2016 2:36 am

Duncan wrote:Thanks for posting this. It'll be interesting to see the game.


Thanks, Duncan. Let me know if you have any questions about the design development or the game in general.

djackthompson
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Re: Platoon Command - Design Diary

Postby djackthompson » Tue Dec 20, 2016 2:17 pm

Part 3 – Command Cards

Command Cards represent members of the platoon command group as well as the squad leaders for each of the three squads. Command cards are not used in direct combat. Instead, they are responsible for command, control, communications, and support. Command Cards share the same attributes as Combat Cards, but they do not have associated combat counters on the board.

Each Command Card offers a player a choice of two actions. One of these actions — Bolster Force — allows players to add extra Combat Cards (e.g. Scouts, Machine Gunners, Snipers) to their deck, either supporting existing units or adding new ones. Managing the cards in your deck lies at the heart of Platoon Command.

Platoon Leader

The platoon leader is the first fighting man of the platoon. He is responsible for the training, discipline, control, and tactical employment of the platoon. (FM 7-10, par. 101a.)


Because the players take on the role of the platoon leader, there is no platoon leader card. Rather, the platoon leader's actions are reflected by the gameplay choices made by each player.

Platoon Sergeant

The platoon sergeant is second-in-command. He assists the platoon leader in controlling the direction and rate of movement of the advance. During all operations he takes post as directed by the platoon leader so as best to assist in the control of the platoon. (FM 7-10, par. 101b.)


The Platoon Sergeant is the single most powerful card in Platoon Command. The Platoon Sergeant allows a player to either add 3 Combat Cards to their deck (Bolster Force 3) or to take additional actions by drawing and using the top 2 cards from their deck (Command 2).

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Platoon Guide
The platoon guide prevents straggling and enforces orders concerning cover, concealment, and discipline. His position is usually in rear of the platoon, where he observes the situation on the flanks and the rear. (FM 7-10, par. 101c.)


The Guide is an extremely versatile member of the Platoon, allowing a player to add an additional Combat Card to their deck (Bolster Force 1) or to take an additional move action with any unit (Guide).

Squad Leaders

The squad leader is responsible for the discipline, appearance, training, control, and conduct of his squad. He leads it in combat. The squad leader must train his squad to use and care for its weapons, to move and fight efficiently as individuals, and function effectively as a part of the military team. (FM 7-10, par. 134a.)


While critical to the success of the platoon, Squad Leaders are less versatile than the Platoon Sergeant and the Guide. They can be used to add new cards (Bolster Force) or perform additional actions (Inspire), but only for the units in their Squad.

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djackthompson
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Re: Platoon Command - Design Diary

Postby djackthompson » Sun Dec 25, 2016 10:26 am

Part 4 – Combat Cards

Each Combat Card is associated with a counter on the board, representing an element the platoon. Combat Cards are used to move these counters, attack with them, or perform other special actions. In this entry, we cover the three core teams elements of the platoon – Riflemen, Scouts, and Machine Gunners.

Riflemen

Riflemen are the core of the rifle platoon. In Platoon Command, this pivotal role is encapsulated in the Rifleman's Control Objective action, which no other unit possesses. This action is used to claim control of objectives on the battlefield, the core goal of the game.

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US Squad B Riflemen token


Scouts

A leading platoon covers its zone of reconnaissance with scouts. They act as a screen to investigate possible danger areas, seek out the enemy, and prevent surprise hostile fire. The distance the scouts precede the platoon is governed by orders of the platoon leader and varies with the ground and with the probable position of the enemy. (FM 7-10, pars. 106f and 142d.)


Scouts play a pivotal role in the platoon's advancement across the battlefield. Each tile must be explored with the Scout action before it can be entered by other units. However, with each newly scouted tile, a player must add a Fog of War card to their deck, reducing the efficiency of their platoon. The Scout's Recon action can be used to remove these Fog of War cards, but at the cost of slowing down the advancement of the platoon.

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US Squad A Scout card


Machine Gunner
The automatic rifleman supports the rapid advance of other members of the squad from flank positions. (FM 7-10, pars. 144b.) The assistant automatic rifleman and the ammunition bearer also carry ammunition for the automatic rifle. (FM 7-10, pars. 139a.)


The Machine Gunners' Suppressive Fire action can be used to neutralize a key opposing unit before it has the chance to act. Other units in the platoon can then seize this opportunity to advance or attack, free from interference. Machine Gunners are also more effective in combat than both Scouts and Riflemen. They roll two dice instead of one, doubling their chances of successfully hitting an opposing unit (Attack 2 vs. Attack 1).

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US Squad B Machine Gunners token

djackthompson
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Re: Platoon Command - Design Diary

Postby djackthompson » Thu Jan 05, 2017 5:58 pm

I realized that it's probably a good idea to post what the game looks like for those who didn't get a chance to playtest the prototype.

Huge caveats: These are screen grabs from Tabletop Simulator, which is what I use to playtest the game online. Also, the graphics are the in-work prototype graphics from Lock N Load, so they are not final and include stuff like bleed areas, etc.

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djackthompson
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Re: Platoon Command - Design Diary

Postby djackthompson » Thu Jan 05, 2017 7:02 pm

Part 5 - Combat Cards (Sniper and Mortar)

In this post, we continue our discussion about combat cards. Now, however, we turn our attention beyond the core elements of the rifle platoon and expand the discussion to snipers and mortars.

Sniper

A sniper is an expert rifleman, well qualified in scouting, whose duty is to pick off key enemy personnel who expose themselves. By eliminating enemy leaders and harassing the troops, sniping softens the enemy's resistance and weakens his morale. Snipers may be employed by platoon leaders in either offense or defense. The mobile snipers act alone, moves about frequently, and covers a large but not necessarily fixed area. He may be used to infiltrate enemy lines and seek out and destroy appropriate targets. (FM 21-75, par. 165.)


Note: Typically one sniper rifle (either the M1903A4 or M1C by mid-1944) was issued per rifle platoon.

The Sniper does not have any unique actions in the game. Instead, the Sniper benefits from the highest Attack ability (Attack 3) and the best Defense in the game. Players seldom begin scenarios with Snipers in their starting deck. Usually players use their Platoon Sergeant to Bolster the platoon with Snipers.

Mortar

In the approach march, a 60-mm mortar squad frequently is attached to a leading platoon. This not only provides additional fire power, but enables the platoon leader immediately to engage defiladed targets, or small areas believed to contain the enemy. (FM 7-10, par. 12d(3).)


Note: The Mortar is the only element included in Platoon Command that is not organic to a rifle platoon. Instead, Platoon Command includes the abstraction of a mortar squad from the rifle company's weapons platoon attached to the rifle platoon.

The mortar uses a unique attack mechanism in Platoon Command. Rather than targeting a specific counter, the Mortar targets an entire area. Any counters in the area – including allies – are targeted. To execute an attack, the Mortar must first designate a target area with the Target action. The Mortar can then attack the designated area with a Lethal Blast action.

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