Saturday, April 24, 2010

More on Scenarios

I played in a 25mm WWI battle set in Palestine today. It was great fun. Nice figures, good terrain, and simple rules made for a good game. As always, there were a few points of confusion/contention but not so much that it really detracted from the game. It was interesting to watch Scott trying to "run" the game and his struggle to translate the battle as he saw it in his head onto the gaming table. It was then that the light dimly flickered into life in my brain. It sort of illuminated the struggle that I have been having over scenarios and games.

I am having trouble turning what I know into a framework to allow two sides to compete against each other with a fair chance for either side to "win" the game. I am still learning to "balance" the game so that each side has some obtainable goal that can make even the most unbalanced games "winnable", and therefor enjoyable, for both sides. In most cases, I take an historical situation and scale it down for our game's scale while trying to be accurate about unit density (number of units in a given geographic area), historical positioning, unusual terrain or situations, and leadership abilities of the real life leaders. Where I seem to lose my way is the simple question of "So how do I win?" asked by each side's commanders. It seems simple enough, but sometimes I really don't seem to have an answer, other than "You need to destroy enough of his units so that he runs away..."

I gotta work on that...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Scenarios: To try hard or not to try hard...?

I have run a few ACW scenarios lately for our gaming group and I am not entirely satisfied with the results. I find it difficult to strike a good balance in regards to game size (how many units per side) and victory objectives. My last two scenarios were lifted from historical situations; The Assault on Oak Ridge at Gettysburg and the opening hours of the first day at Chancellorsville, and in both cases there are very few possibilities (at least as I designed the scenario) for a CSA "win" unless there was a total Federal collapse. In both cases this led to an unsatisfying "tie game" sort of situation that indicated a Federal victory. Each was unsatisfying because the Federals didn't have to do much, other than survive, until it was time to pack up and go home. I say that not to belittle my Federal opponents but rather to indicate that I gave them very little to do really...

The first scenario (Oak Ridge) I worked on for a few evenings while researching accounts of the action and learning about some of the characters at that specific encounter. In the case of the Chancellorsville game, I only drew up the scenario late on the night before the game. Yet, in both battles I produced eerily similar scenarios with predictable results. Frustrating.

I am not sure how to overcome the common factor here, ME, to improve my scenario design. I think that the biggest problem I encounter is seeing a battle from only one side. I am going to try to develop my next scenario as two versions of the same battle so that I can "see" the contest from each side. Hopefully, by combining these two views together I may come up with a better scenario that will keep everyone more involved and make for a better game...