#Wargame Professional – Fighting Next War (@gmtgames) using Army Multi-Domain Operations

In Next War: Poland from GMT Games (2017) the players are challenged to fight a a near-future conflict in Eastern Europe. It asks,

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GMT Games

Can you, as the Russian player, enforce your will on the West and regain your former status in world affairs? Or will you, as SHAPE (Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe) successfully use the assets at your disposal to blunt the Russian attack and save Poland?

In December 2018, the US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) publicly released their new warfare concept, Army Multi-Domain Operations in 2028The pamphlet…

…describes how the Army contributes to the Joint Force’s principal task as defined in the unclassified Summary of the National Defense Strategy: deter and defeat Chinese and Russian aggression in both competition and conflict. The U.S. Army in Multi-Domain Operations concept proposes detailed solutions to the specific problems posed by the militaries of post-industrial, information-based states like China and Russia. Although this concept focuses on China and Russia, the ideas also apply to other threats. (p. vi)

The Boogeymen in this document is the Bear and Dragon:

The Chinese and Russian militaries are powerful, but they also have vulnerabilities that MDO seek to exploit. Both China and Russia are fielding mutually supporting systems designed to be effective against the well-understood patterns, posture, and capabilities of the current Joint Force. Altering Joint Force operational patterns and force posture will mitigate existing capacity and capability gaps and create opportunities to exploit Chinese and Russian operational shortfalls. The militaries of China and Russia have and will continue to have finite capacity of critical capabilities. The Joint Force’s demonstrated capability to destroy or defeat these critical capabilities would prevent China and Russia from accomplishing objectives in competition, succeeding in armed conflict, or effectively transitioning to consolidation operations. (p. 15)

As a wargamer, either a player or designer, there is alot of fodder within. Although I am sure many veteran players of Next War will think they know how to do better, an interesting challenge is to try and use Army Multi-Domain Operations (MNO) in the game. This might necessitate a few house rules or tweaks to adjust the game engine to support the concept of Penetrate, dis-integrate, and exploit.

Penetrate, dis-integrate, and exploit. In the event of armed conflict, Army forward presence and expeditionary forces enable the rapid defeat of aggression through a combination of calibrated force posture, multi-domain formations, and convergence to immediately contest an enemy attack in depth. Army long-range fires converge with joint multi-domain capabilities to penetrate and dis-integrate enemy anti-access and area denial systems to enable Joint Force freedom of strategic and operational maneuver. Within the theater, Army forces converge capabilities to optimize the employment of capabilities from across multiple domains against critical components of the enemy’s anti-access and area denial systems, specifically long-range air defense and fires systems. Convergence against the enemy’s long-range systems enables the initial penetration. This sets the conditions for a quick transition to joint air-ground operations in which maneuver enables strike and strike enables maneuver. MDO in the Close and Deep Areas combine fires, maneuver, and deception to dislocate the enemy defense by physically, virtually, and cognitively isolating its subordinate elements, thereby allowing friendly forces to achieve local superiority and favorable force ratios. Army forces, having penetrated and begun the dis-integration of the enemy’s anti-access and area denial systems, exploit vulnerable enemy units and systems to defeat enemy forces and achieve friendly campaign objectives. As part of the Joint Force, Army forces rapidly achieve given strategic objectives (win) and consolidate gains. (p. 25)

I am sure there have been many wargames using this concept, probably in classified settings. Publicly, we have seen the RAND study of wargaming the defense of the Baltics. But you don’t need a clearance to take a wargame, some warfare concepts, and mix the two together. Just call it “professional fun.”


Feature image courtesy army.mil

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#Wargame for Train Coups & Nukes – Colonial Twilight: The French-Algerian War, 1954-62 (@GMTGames, 2017)

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Courtesy GMT Games

What do you get when you mix designer Brian Train, COIN in Algeria, and nukes? I’m going to find out soon!

I recently acquired a new-in-shrink copy of Colonial Twilight: The French-Algerian War, 1954-62 (GMT Games, 2017). This is my second COIN-series game (the other being Harold Buchanan’s Liberty or Death: The American Insurrection, GMT Games, 2016). This is also my third owned game by designer Brian Train.

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Event 66

I never really thought I would be interested in the French-Algerian War, but curiosity is sometimes born in unusual places. In my case, it was an article I ran across recently. A “Nuclear Coup”? France, the Algerian War and the April 1961 Nuclear Test is a paper that details the days before an April 1961 French nuclear test in the Algerian desert. The test takes place at the same time there is a coup by French generals in Algeria against DeGaulle. That event is captured on Event Card 66 – Coup d’Etat, and reflects the “General’s Putsch” to seize power. Nuclear tests do not appear in any of the event cards in Colonial Twilight so one cannot play out the scenario of the rebels getting a device. Granted, that situation exceeds the design focus of the game but it’s an interesting thought experiment. Hopefully by playing Colonial Twilight I will get a better sense of the background and the general situation in Algeria during that time.

I also am looking forward to playing this game because of the designer. I always find Brian Train’s games interesting to play and educational. He certainly picks topics that are not the usual. I have played his Reichswehr & Freikorps (Strategy & Tactics, 2012) and more recently his Finnish Civil War (Compass Games, Paper Wars, 2017) – both games of civil wars. I am very happy to finally own Colonial Twilight as I believe Mr. Train is one of the foremost designers on “civil war” and counter-insurgency games and look forward to what his design can teach me. It also doesn’t hurt that Colonial Twilight is also a 2-player version of the COIN-series; a player-count that I want to explore more.

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Courtesy Hollandspiele

I am also looking forward to Mr. Train’s collaboration with Hollandspiele in his new District Commander-series coming this year. As Hollandspiele’s Tom Russell describes it:

“One more series we’re proud to be launching is Brian Train’s District Commander. These four diceless games for two players cover counter-insurgency operations in the twenty and twenty-first century. Our plan is to release the first two games (Maracas and Bin Dinh) in 2019, with the other two games seeing your table in 2020. Brian is one of our favorite designers – there’s a reason why one of his designs got our very first hex number – so we’re very pleased to be working with him on this project.”

(Darn it, Tom! Now I am going to have to get The Scheldt Campaign!)

Wargames; they’re not only for fun, but educational too.

Are you Chit’ing me? Making a #wargame solo-friendly with the Chit-Pull Mechanism thanks to @gmtgames, @compassgamesllc, & @RBMStudio1

This weekend I took delivery of designer Ted S. Raicer’s newest title, The Dark Sands: War in North Africa, 1940-42 (GMT Games, 2018). At the same time, I recently had seen a post somewhere in my wargaming Twitter feed that mentioned that chit-pull games were very solo-friendly. As a wargamer that often plays against my arch-nemesis, “Mr. Solo”, so this got me thinking…

…and it’s true. Chit-pull wargames are a game mechanism that can take a two-player or multi-player wargame and help make it solo-friendly.

Long used in the solitaire gaming world (a great example being Mrs. Thatcher’s War: The Falklands, 1982 (White Dog Games, 2017), the chit-pull mechanism is often used by wargame designers to introduce fog-of-war elements* into a game. The chit-pull “randomizer” can also makes non-solitaire wargames more solo-friendly because the game engine guides the player as to what happens next. Now, don’t take my thinking too far; just because a wargame uses chit-pull does not automatically mean it is solo-friendly, just that it is more likely to be. The interaction of other mechanics might make it impossible to play a game solo. That said, chit-pull could be a good indication that you can play the game against your evil twin alter-ego!

I asked myself why I was so slow to realize the advantages of chit-pull. Looking back in my collection, I actually have several Avalanche Press Chitpull Series games; MacArthur’s Return: Leyte 1944 (1994) and Operational Cannibal (1996). I also have Richard Berg’s Battle for North Africa: War in the Desert 1940-42 (GMT Games, 1996). In my game collection, two of these titles, Cannibal and North Africa, are amongst the lowest-rated games (bottom 15%). On BoardGameGeek, Operation Cannibal has a horrible GeekRating of 4.9. In the case of North Africa, rules issues and missing activation markers(!) made the game hard to play out of the box. I think that subconsciously, even after all these years, I had a bias against chit-pull wargames because I had played a few turkeys.

My anti chit-pull bias is now gone. In 2018 I got purchased four wargames that feature the chit-pull activation mechanic, Battle Hymn Vol 1: Gettysburg and Pea Ridge (Compass Games), Battle of Issy 1815, A Jours de Gloire Series Game (RBM Studio)Cataclysm: A Second World War (GMT Games), and the aforementioned Dark Sands. In each, the draw of activation chits is used to randomize the activation of units or, in the case of Cataclysm, to conduct national actions. In each the chit-pull mechanism and the fog-of-war element is what makes the games fun and each turn unpredictable.

Chit-pull; it’s a wargamers friend – especially when there is no friend around to play against.


* According to the BoardGameGeek Wiki, The Chit-Pull System is defined as: “Used in war games to address the problem of simulating simultaneous action on the battlefield and issues of command and control. In such a system the current player randomly draws a chit or counter identifying a group of units which may now be moved. Schemes include moving any units commanded by a particular leader, moving units of a particular quality or activating units not for movement but for fighting. This mechanism is often associated with designer Joseph Miranda who has used it in many of his games.”

RockyMountainNavy #RPG Item of the Year for 2018

This is a bonus posting in my series of 2018 “of the Year” posts. This one covers role-playing game (RPG) items. The regular posts cover boardgames, wargames, game expansions, and the last is my Game of the Year. Candidate RPG items are taken from those published and which I acquired in 2018.

My candidates for the RockyMountainNavy RPG Item of the Year in 2018 are:

…and the winner is…

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Courtesy RPGGeek

First, a little backstory. In 2018 I lost my RPG-mojo. I used to play around with my Classic Traveller, Cepheus Engine, Traveller 5, The Clement Sector setting, and other Alternate Traveller Universes (Orbital: 2100, HOSTILE, These Stars Are Ours!) all the time. This year I hardly touched them. Even the RockyMountainNavy Boys, lovers of Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars (especially Edge of the Empire) had all-but-stopped messing around with the books. The last major RPG System book I bought was Genesys. My Kickstarter for Cortex Prime: A Multi-Genre Modular Roleplaying Game is “only” about a year overdue.

At one point this year I backed a Kickstarter for a RPG setting that seemed right up my alley. It featured “tense space fighter combat, swaggering pilots, and interplanetary adventure!” However, after reading the preview version I dropped my pledge in disgust because I wanted a GAME, not a political statement. It was part of a trend I see in many parts of the RPG industry and it turns me off. Now, I’m not naive, nor do I desire to avoid the “issues” but I deal with them enough elsewhere and I just don’t want them in my RPG. I want to play RPGs for a bit of escapism, not political activism. It was yet another nail in the coffin of my RPG enthusiasm.

Then I read Alegis Downport’s Cepheus Light Three-Format Review. I liked what I read. I bought a copy for myself. I read though it in one sitting.

Now my RPG-mojo is back!

Omer Golan-Joel and Josh Peters have reignited my interest in RPGs. To use some Traveller 5 definitions, I tend to be a Casual Player (travel, explore, interact, negotiate, combat, etc.) with a heavy dose of world building and System Engineer (explore the universe in detail) thrown in. With Cepheus Light I can get back to making adventures for myself and the RockyMountainNavy Boys. Indeed, using Cepheus Light I may just try to make my own RPG setting based on the wargame Talon from GMT Games.

Feature image from tedlindsey.com. Go look at their work; it’s excellent! 

2018 Holiday Military Reading for #wargaming and #scalemodels

My squadron.com Holiday Book Sale items arrived. Awesome deals with one of these books costing only $1!

After playing the WWII aviation combat wargame Wing Leader from GMT Games I realized I need to study Soviet aircraft in WWII a bit more. The in Action books will also get me ready to play Wings of the Motherland from Clash of Arms when it publishes next year.

The Walk Around and Detail in Action books are for the RockyMountainNavy Boys to support their scale model building hobby. Youngest RMN Boy already built an M8, Middle RMN loves his Hetzer. The Elefant? Shh! Let’s not spoil Christmas, ok?

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Built by Youngest RMN Boy

Giving Thanks for #Wargame Sales

If you missed the great GMT Games 50% sale earlier this year there are many other chances to get in on great wargame sales. Here are a few that I am aware of. For the record, not a single company has compensated me in any manner for these mentions; indeed, I am actually “compensating” many of them by making a purchase!

Academy Games

Compass Games Holiday Sale

  • It’s time to celebrate the holidays with special savings from Compass Games! We invite you to download our 2018 Holiday Catalog with special savings galore. Our holiday price brings you 30% off the retail price. Use the catalog order form or go online and use coupon code: HOLIDAY18. Note that special prices and preorder prices are already discounted so no holiday code is necessary at check-out. See catalog for more details. The holiday and special prices are valid through 1/15/2019.

Conflict Simulations LLC

  • CSL is having 15% off sale, just use the discount code: THANKSGIVING at the checkout.

Flying Pig Games

  • From RIGHT NOW, through Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Flying Pig Tuesday (Nov 27th), all in-stock, boxed games in the Flying Pig inventory are 50% off. That includes, Armageddon War, Burning Lands, Old School Tactical Vol I, Old School Tactical Vol II, Old School Tactical Airborne, Night of Man, and ’65 Squad-level Battles in Jungles of Vietnam. Click here to visit our website and Happy Shopping!

Hollandspiele

  • No sale yet, but I saw Tom Russell post in a BGG forum that his sale starts 01 Dec.

OSS (One Small Step)

  • From all of us at One Small Step, please accept our wishes for a safe and joyful Thanksgiving holiday! To help celebrate, we are now running our annual Black Friday sale. 25% off published games and magazines. Simply enter the following code at checkout: BLACKFRISale runs now through Monday the 26th. Does not include pre-order items, subscriptions, or games already on sale.

Revolution Games

  • November Sale – Save up to 40% on select titles.

Tiny Battle Publishing

  • From RIGHT NOW, through Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Tiny Battle Tuesday (Nov 27th), all in-stock, games in the Tiny Battle Publishing inventory are 25% off. Click here.

Don’t forget your FLGS either. Some of them are having sales too!

For all my wargaming friends out there, have yourself a blessed Thanksgiving and a happy Christmas season. May all your favorite wargames find their way into the trench beneath your tree and breakout in the New Year.

Featured image courtesy worldoftanks.com

Game of the Week – Silver Bayonet: The First Team in Vietnam, 1965 – 25th Anniversary Edition (GMT Games, 2016) – Game Mechanics

The 25th Anniversary Edition of Silver Bayonet is a substantially updated version of the original game that first appeared in 1990. Designer Gene Billingsley calls Silver Bayonet “my first published game” even though it appeared alongside two sister titles, Air Bridge to Victory and Operations Shoestring (which I talk previously talked about here).

According to GMT Game ads, Silver Bayonet is an operational game that features, “innovative combat resolution, integrating maneuver combat, close assault, artillery bombardment, gunship rocket and air support into one easy to use system.” All that certainly sounds like alot. So just how does it work?

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Courtesy GMT Games

To explore this question and learn the game I followed the advice in the Standard Scenarios portion of the Rule Book. The part I focused in on was this passage:

The scenarios are numbered in chronological order. To play them in an order that gradually adds size and/or complexity, use the following order: 6a, 6b, 3, 5, 4, 1, 2, 7. These scenarios all use the Standard Sequence of Play.

Scenarios 3, 4, 5, 6a & 6b are intended to be played directly on the scenario cards provided.

In general, Standard Scenarios do not use Helicopters, Patrols, Observation, Ambush, or Hidden Movement, although they may use a form of these concepts (Rule Book, p. 29)

The “innovative combat resolution” system is the heart of the game design and models the interaction of Bombardment, Maneuver Combat, and Assault Combat. Although I had exposure to this system in Operation Shoestring I did not fully understand how it works until the far easier to understand rules and player aids in Silver Bayonet taught me.

Maneuver & Assault Combat

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Courtesy GMT Games

In a typical turn, following the placement of reinforcements and movement the active player must declare his combats. This phase involves more than just pointing to a stack of units. The type of combat (Maneuver or Assault) must be declared. Maneuver Combat can be thought of in terms of levering a unit out of a position. In game terms the possible combat results are fatigue, retreat, step loss, and elimination. Assault Combat is in many ways a frontal assault; possible combat results are step losses and elimination. Both combats use a different CRT. Maneuver Combat uses an odds-based CRT with the attacker resolving the combat with a single die roll. Assault Combat rolls on a different CRT using straight combat strength with defender, then attacker, both getting rolls.

Bombardment

In Silver Bayonet, Bombardment is performed by artillery, some helicopters, and abstracted air points (air support). Bombardment can happen at three different points in a turn. Regardless of the firing platform, or when in the turn the bombardment happens, all use the same Bombardment/Support Table. While the table is the same the results are interpreted differently depending on the type (Offensive, Defensive, or Maneuver Support). This is a very interesting model of how artillery and air support work in combat. Although at first glance one might think that resolving bombardment at three different points in the turn is cumbersome, the use of a single table with common DRMs but different interpretation of results actually makes resolution quick and (mostly) painless.

Efficiency Rating

Rule 2.4.5 defines Efficiency Rating as:

The efficiency rating (ER) of each unit represents that unit’s level of training, effectiveness, and cohesion. The higher the ER, the better.

ER is used at several points in a turn, most importantly during Combat Refusal, Attack Coordination, and Maneuver Combat. ER is what makes units really distinguishable; a Attack Strength 3 units with an ER of 5 is a much different animal than Attack Strength 3 with and ER of 3.

Hidden Movement

Hidden Movement is actually a Campaign Scenario rule and admittedly much harder for me to fully explore as I am learning the game by playing against my evil twin, “Mr. Solo.”

Creating a Battle Narrative

The combination of the Bombardment-Maneuver-Assault and Efficiency Rating mechanics creates a “battle narrative” that feels thematically correct. It is possible in Silver Bayonet for that 100-man US infantry company to hold off that NVA regiment given enough artillery and air support. It is equally possible for the NVA or PAVN to ambush the US or ARVN and then fade away into the jungle. For a great example of a how Silver Bayonet builds a “battle narrative” look at the original COIN game designer Volko Ruhnke’s (@Volko26) Operation Silver Bayonet (Part 1) AAR on the InsideGMT Blog.

The more I play Silver Bayonet the more the game is growing on me. I am pretty sure I am going to place this game in my personal Top 10 wargames. In this case, the innovative mechanics just “fit” the campaign and make the game come alive for me like few cardboard simulations have before.