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Battle of Astudillo, 14th Feb

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Re: Battle of Astudillo, 14th Feb

Post  Mark87 on Fri Feb 27, 2015 1:59 am

I'd rather be defeated by a master and learn than be artificially maneuvered into fairness and interesting battles. I will eventually learn I assure you and, after all, we are only spending pixel lives.....
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Re: Battle of Astudillo, 14th Feb

Post  Father General on Fri Feb 27, 2015 2:16 am

It takes a tremendous quantity of work to put together and administer a campaign. Like the tip of an iceberg, the players only see 10% of what happens.

If you want a successful campaign, meaning you want to create enjoyable, lasting experiences, then you need to nudge and direct a little.

Players have a nasty habit of defeating themselves. Commanders on both sides will complain the odds are against them regardless of the facts. Everyone feels like they're an underdog when the battle starts. This is good, it's what keeps people coming back for more, but like any spice, it has to be measured.

Nobody wants to play and entirely scripted campaign. I don't. You have to find a balance between a campaign that lasts more than one battle and scripting the outcome of every engagement. Unfortunately, players WILL defeat themselves right from the outset. They will do the most illogical things. You will give them option A and B and they will discover a C and insist on it.

That's where your umpire skills come in.

The Lost Division wasn't scripted but in a couple battles I had to design things to prevent the immediate annihilation of one division by a corps, among other challenges.

If I were playing a true Kreigsspiel one Saturday that wasn't part of a campaign, then by all means let the chips fall where they may. But when you're running a lasting campaign with carryover results, you have to direct a little. If you don't the campaign will flop quickly.

I'm in the preliminary stages of planning another ACW campaign of my own. It won't be scripted and the outcome will be decided by the players, but it will tell a story and the players will be part of that story. I will weave them in and out to please the players. Ultimately, the story will have a beginning a middle and an end. The players themselves will decide how each chapter unfolds and who wins the battles and the campaign, but the story will be told no matter what happens, and it will be a good story.

I guess you have to umpire to get a sense of what I'm trying to say. I don't plan scripted battles, but you do have to tweak things now and then for the good of the order.

I hope that makes sense.
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Re: Battle of Astudillo, 14th Feb

Post  Leffe7 on Fri Feb 27, 2015 9:14 am

I'm all for unbalanced games for the already stated reasons.

The key question for the smaller side (once they realize they are outnumbered) is what to do next. Obviously they cannot push the larger enemy off the map. So they need to set themselves an objective which can still be achieved with an outnumbered force.
Like defending good ground, for some time, withdrawing in order, outmaneouvering the enemy to create local superiority or at least balance.

These are very interesting questions to me and lead to interesting unbalanced battles.
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Re: Battle of Astudillo, 14th Feb

Post  Martin on Fri Feb 27, 2015 12:38 pm

Yes, this is a very interesting conversation.  With several strands to it.

Re the campaign element, I'm broadly in the FG's camp.  Although I do have some reservations.  It seems to me that you can run a campaign two ways:

1. It can be entirely scripted, in which case the player involvement is entirely in the battles, but has the advantage that each battle can be made interesting - whether or not it's balanced.  Neal's previous campaign was run on these lines.

2. Campaign events are driven by map moves and other player decisions, as in Digby’s campaign.  Here the players have a real chance to influence the campaign narrative.  Of course this can throw up some very unbalanced battles, not all of which will even be interesting situations.

I don't see any problem with the umpire playing around with what's happening in 1., as the players know what they signed up for - which is to receive an entertaining campaign narrative in which they have little part to play.  Their role is largely limited to the battles, and everyone understands that.  But those battles still have meaning as they are in the context of the overall story.  And if a battle goes unexpectedly, the umpire may even decide to change the story.

To me, the situation in 2. is very different.  Whilst the umpire can nudge at times, this should be used very judiciously IMHO, and also very much in the background, or players will start to feel they have little input to the game.  In general, I feel that if players goof, it’s best to let the dice fall where they may.  If a player ends up outnumbered 3:1, then that's what happens.  It doesn't mean you necessarily have to fight the resulting battle in MP.......but you can if it's a sufficiently interesting situation.  If not, the umpire simply makes a call on result, losses, demoralisation etc and the campaign moves on.  Making players suffer for their map mistakes by enduring an uninteresting slaughter in MP does not seem like a good idea to me.

In the context of the current Peninsular Campaign, I think we have a great advantage in terms of the historical situation.  This was a campaign fought over several years, with a fluctuating cast of character and forces.  So if a clear imbalance develops, there are plenty of opportunities to adjust things by bringing in new British, Spanish or French forces, or simply speeding up the campaign clock to create a new situation.

Provided that recalibration is done after discussion, and at a natural break in the campaign, it seems to me that it is likely to be accepted by the players.  Digby did that recently when bringing in Napoleon and the large French reinforcements after the fall of Madrid.  I think that is a different – and much better - approach than making significant adjustments behind the scenes during the active segments of the campaign in an attempt to produce interesting battles, or an even campaign.

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Re: Battle of Astudillo, 14th Feb

Post  Mr. Digby on Fri Feb 27, 2015 1:45 pm

Looking at the current campaign in particular and discussing how to poke things behind the scenes or not, I am working fairly closely within the historical events. We all know that in 1808 Napoleon arrived to personally oversee the situation after Bailen. In our campaign we didn't get a Bailenesque situation until later, but Madrid still fell and Dupont's corps was almost completely lost. Napoleon's arrival was very akin to the historical sequence and his new army is based accurately on what he brought over the Pyrenees at that time.

A couple of flies in the ointment was the trapping of Verdier's corps in Burgos and the French capturing Zaragosa in October 08 instead of February 09 when it really fell.

As it turned out and without adding in any pokes on my part both these events I think made the campaign more interesting. As Napoleon, Mark was prompted to push hard to rescue Verdier in Burgos (it really was a nick-of-time moment!) and the presence of a French corps at Zaragosa affected Llamas' plans in Cataluna even though for quite a while that corps wasn't in a position to do very much.

We are lucky with the Peninsular as a campaign since it has interesting terrain and the layout of the country with the French needing communications to Bayonne and Perpignan, plus a capital in the centre where the Royal Navy can't quickly send British troops, plus the ad-hoc and splintered nature of the Spanish armies and the varying quality of French troops (mediocre at first but better later on) all makes for a very varied backdrop.

The positioning of Verdier in Burgos and Moncey in Zaragosa also meant that neither of these corps underwent their historical autumn refits and these are falling due now, so although Napoleon's position is probably stronger now than historically, he's got extra issues to attend to and the Spanish armies, played by veteran players with hindsight are offering a more subtle defence than they did historically.

Apart from winding the clockwork up and setting things running I am prodding the game very very little. I admit I have designed a couple of battles that really were not good playing experiences and I have skipped a couple as well that were either small or total no-hopers.

I can understand Neal's design philosophy and it has its merits but for me I'm more of a hands-off umpire where I like to present the players with a situation and let them have their chance of creativity and cunning outside of the usual boundaries of a 5-mile square SoW map.

I shall in future more carefully consider the pros and cons of each scenario and whether or not to play it but a good strategy by a player or players does deserve that Hannibal Smith moment of "loving it when a plan comes together". People deserve that.

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The other Martin - Charles Reille, le dernier Maréchal de France.

"Any hussar who has not got himself killed by the age of 30 is a jackass." - Antoine Charles Louis Lasalle, commander of Napoleon's light cavalry, killed in battle at Wagram 6 July 1809, aged 34.

"I had forgotten there was an objective." - Generallieutenant Mikhail Borozdin I
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Re: Battle of Astudillo, 14th Feb

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