Wargamer's Corner

In regards to the Command series of games, there's now a third edition of "Fleet Tactics and Naval Operations", by Hughes and Girrier, available from the Naval Institute Press. This is a book intended for both professionals (US Navy personnel) and interested laymen/amateurs - journalists, historians, politicians, wargamers, and so forth. It is noteworthy because it continues the timely updating that has turned the book into a sort of series. The first edition covered the history of naval tactics, including discussions on how tactics and weaponry interact, and then discussed the state of the art in the mid-80's, and how tactics informed policy (shipbuilding, planning, deployment, enemy capabilities, etc) and strategy as well. This continued in the second edition, in 2000, which was prompted by the entry into common use of cruise missiles, and the consequent change in focus of naval strategy from the "blue water" navy to so-called littoral combat - the "green water" naval operations conducted within missile range of coastal targets. That added a number of chapters and changed the emphasis of the book. Last year, a third edition was released, which adds in "cyber and robotic warfare", as the authors describe it.

Normally, I jump on these as they come out, but I missed the third edition release last June because, unbeknownst to me, it was only available in hardcover; it was not even listed on Kindle. I finally ran across it last week and ordered it. So it's only available in physical form at the moment.

The book is built to teach the author's concepts of the six cornerstones of naval tactics:

Sailors matter most (training, leadership, morale, etc drive performance);

"Doctrine is the companion and instrument of good leadership" (standard practices exist for a very good reason - they work);

Tactics and technology are inseparable (you have to fight with the weapons you have);

"The seat of purpose is on the land" (you can't just aim to blow ships up, you have to further the strategic goals, and they are not exclusively the destruction of enemy naval forces);

Admiral Nelson's observation still holds - "A ship's a fool to fight a fort" (coastal engagements are always subject to the ability of the land forces to apply overwhelming power, and tactics must take that into account);

And the number one rule of naval combat is, "Attack effectively first" (hopefully this needs no further explication).

So the book is written in a lively fashion to keep the reader's interest, while walking through history and the changes in naval forces that arose over time. As it reaches the 20th century, the tactical lessons become more and more detailed and relevant, and the 21st century discussions (including engagement descriptions and the outcome of staff training exercises) are deeply informative.

This book is great for gamers who are interested in tactical lessons from the mid-17th century to the present and near future, but it also teaches the limitations of naval power for those wanting to understand how naval strategy and policy influence the way that nations deploy their forces and respond to possible conflicts. This will cure anyone of the vague belief that because the Iowa could throw an explosives-filled shell the size of a VW beetle dozens of miles inland, that we should never have gotten rid of battleships. There are a lot of other misconceptions that will go by the wayside, dealing with all sorts of topics (subs, airpower, logistics, electronic warfare, and others) in ways that go beyond the usual American fascination with the technical specs of individual weapons systems ("naval holster-sniffing" as Paleocon might put it).

This book is a gem, informative and accessible, and if you are into tactical/operational naval games, this should be the first book you read when you go to learn about the topic. Highly recommended.

So I just listened to the 3MA podcast on Armored Brigade, and it sounds just fascinating. Are any of y’all playing/still playing it?

Planning to get back to it soon. I wanted to wait until they had the road travel algorithm fixed, and then I kind of got distracted after they did it. It's a solid sim, I find it fun.

I need to look at the patch notes to see what else they fixed. Road travel was the big issue, but helicopters use seemed oddly static? very passive? nonsensical? all of that together? to me as well.

It was good fun even when it had those issues, though. I also want to get back to it soonish.

Is there a good strategic game of WWII in the air? I want to plan air defenses and bombing campaigns, support ground offensives, that sort of thing. I thought about getting WITW in the sale for this but punted on that because pile, but I could override that for the right game.

Heck, I'd be ok downshifting to large-scale tactics, something like the old Flight Commander games, or a PC equivalent of GMT's Wing Leader series.

Veloxi wrote:

So I just listened to the 3MA podcast on Armored Brigade, and it sounds just fascinating. Are any of y’all playing/still playing it?

It's very good. I'm still playing and trying to get better at it. I've found that playing it 'wego' style suits me better than playing it in realtime. My RTS side wants to micro my units and that's very bad.

qaraq wrote:

Is there a good strategic game of WWII in the air? I

This is probably the best you can get these days:

http://www.matrixgames.com/products/...

It's very, very good.

PWAlessi wrote:

It's very good. I'm still playing and trying to get better at it. I've found that playing it 'wego' style suits me better than playing it in realtime. My RTS side wants to micro my units and that's very bad.

Oh, so it has a pause function?

Veloxi wrote:
PWAlessi wrote:

It's very good. I'm still playing and trying to get better at it. I've found that playing it 'wego' style suits me better than playing it in realtime. My RTS side wants to micro my units and that's very bad.

Oh, so it has a pause function?

Yes, it has a pause function. But, you can also set a game up as WEGO from the start so you don't have to manually pause.

Gary Grigsby's War in the West also has a strategic air component, and several campaign variants that allow you to manage the air war while the ground war is automatically resolved. However, it's functionally similar to Bombing the Reich, so I'd suggest that you get the latter for just the air war, and the former if you want a huge but intricate West Front game that happens to have a full air game built into it.

Bombing the Reich is really an experience. It's the last version of the venerable Talonsoft "12 O'Clock High" and "Battle of Britain" games, and basically you assign each day's raids and then watch them play out (as the Brits) or set up your defenses and hope you anticipated the right areas of concentration as the Nazis. Individual crewman are tracked and can gain experience, while planes, squadrons, air defense guns, factories and more are individually modeled. There are 18,000 pilots, for example, as well as special-use units (like night fighters, pathfinders, special forces raiding bombers), and of course a huge variety of factories that come online at historical dates. They even get moved around as the war progresses and air bases are captured by one side or the other. All that said... This game is about 10 years old this year, so be prepared to have to learn the interface and how to shortcut some of the daily tasks. But I have played this game every few years and it definitely scratches the itch.

Great, thanks. Bombing the Reich sounds like the sort of thing I'm thinking of. I may have to wait for a Matrix sale or the yearly anniversary discount they send me, but I'd like to give it a try.

I used to play a lot of "B-17 Flying Fortress: The Mighty 8th" and planning the bombing runs was a lot of fun. Unfortunately there were some AI issues; flak wouldn't chase you vertically, so you could dodge most of it by just nudging your formation up or down a couple thousand feet.

Veloxi wrote:

So I just listened to the 3MA podcast on Armored Brigade, and it sounds just fascinating. Are any of y’all playing/still playing it?

I gave up on it. The unit pathing is just awful, primarily due to the inability to have more than one vehicle in a square (which makes no sense, since the squares are quite large - in some cases your whole force would physically fit into one square). When giving orders by formation, units that find their path blocked will take absurd alternate paths to get where they want to go, often doubling back, moving in circles, or stopping in the open when a path is permanently blocked (like with a wreck). This makes the AI very easy to defeat when playing on the defense because the attacking units trickle in and get destroyed one by one. Conversely, attacking is extremely tedious because you have to constantly watch your units and correct their insane movement - all of which is subject to the command delay penalty.

And there's many other problems that can frustrate your plans. Helicopters are unable to perform pop-ups or use terrain masking, so they are required to have LoS to their targets, which means that AA platforms have permanent LoS to them. They can't really move or evade (you can only assign two places for each flight to fight from), so they often get slaughtered by AA before they can do anything. Conversely, if the enemy AA was delayed by pathing or destroyed, the helicopters will kill EVERYTHING. And AA getting destroyed is relatively common, because the unit AI doesn't have a problem with driving an AA unit out into the open right into the teeth of the enemy defensive positions.

Units are unable to pre-select alternate firing positions or automatically displace after firing. Tanks that fire are routinely not spotted, even at insanely close ranges like 50 meters - and if you've seen a modern tank fire its main gun, you know how silly this is. The unit AI will often take low-percentage shots and waste ammunition; this is somewhat controllable but it has to be micro-managed. Artillery cannot be adjusted, you have to select a new target and wait out the command delay. Mortar units carry absurdly small amounts of ammunition, and it's not immediately obvious how much of which type of ammo they have (you can find out, but you have to dig into the details of each unit). Self-propelled artillery is usually invisible even in the open, despite having even larger firing signatures than tanks. You're unable to target direct fire at an unspotted unit, or just at a general location for suppression. Spotting can be really, really weird - sometimes units are easily spotted even at hundreds of meters, and other times you can't see them even when they are in an open field only a few meters away. And finally, the unit AI is sometimes just inexplicably suicidal.

They are working on the stacking issue, but it is apparently integral to the game engine and not easy to change. The other stuff is being slowly fixed, and I'll probably take another look at it in a year or so.

Rule the Waves 2 out 4/25/2019: http://nws-online.proboards.com/thre...

tboon wrote:

Rule the Waves 2 out 4/25/2019: http://nws-online.proboards.com/thre...

Day One purchase. Really, I'm more interested in playing an improved RTW1 without caring much about the aviation, but I expect that'll be fun too. I'm already reading Norman Friedman's Fighting the Great War at Sea so I've got dreadnoughts on the mind anyway. ($1.30 right now for the Kindle version is a steal.)

Thank you for posting that Qaraq! More gems for the mind-vaults!

After 4 tries and some researching online, I finally completed and won sub tutorial 1.4 in CMANO! I had the right idea to start, but didn’t realize the ship took a hard left towards me. Once I figured it out, it wasn’t too bad, although I did get a little nervous and fired torpedos while it was still in front of me. It was tense for a while, as I was afraid the ship may have been able to outrun my torpedos! All in all, it was really fun and I’m looking forward to the next tutorial.

Did you pick up the fleet tactics book mentioned a few posts back? That will really help you anticipate what the enemy may do. And it gives background and depth to what otherwise seem like unrelated systems in the game. It helps you go from “Oh, that ship has anti-sub helos, I can send it to find the sub maybe?” To “Might be a sub, I need to put out helos, vector in a P3, and scare up some ASW ships or a sub to box it in and kill it”. In other words, how to knit the various capabilities into a coherent whole.

I really need to spin up in this game again. Soooo rusty lol.

I haven’t, but it’s now added to my wishlist! I’ve also been watching Baloogan on YouTube, as there’s a lot to learn!

Slitherine Pick and Mix thing on Fanatical. Some good stuff to choose from there, especially if you like AGEoD games.

fogrob wrote:

I haven’t, but it’s now added to my wishlist! I’ve also been watching Baloogan on YouTube, as there’s a lot to learn!

Turns out he doesn't make videos anymore because he was hired on by WarfareSims. Which is unfortunate for us, but really cool for him.

Steel Division 2 Beta started today. It will release on May 2nd.

https://www.steeldivision2.com/

The previous Steel Division was a great RTS wargame that focused on the Normandy campaign in WW2. This new game focuses on Operation Bagration on the Russian front in 1944. The original game was a departure from the modern/cold war Wargame series that preceded it. While an awesome game, it was not well received by the Wargame crowd. It had a lower unit count and lowered complexity than the original games. Wargame was famous for overwhelming many players in sheer mayhem. I was always a mediocre Wargame player and found Steel Division to be much more to my ability level. Though I loved them both.

Steel Division 2 looks like a return to the Wargame model. They have brought back deck building - a welcome return! Most Wargame players spend more time building decks than playing the game. It also has larger maps, longer firing ranges and higher unit density. They have also added defensive structures like trenches and barbed wire. These are each a plus and a minus. But, the core game is still there and after playing all night I think it will be great. And there are options, boy are there options. Infantry and support weapons can be brought into the game aboard many different vehicles, tanks and AT guns have special ammo, each unit can have its veterancy customized and there are new commands that help setup ambushes and keep units from engaging when they have little chance of success.

The beta so far has one map, Orsha, that has three prominent hills and plenty of forests and villages in which to maneuver. There is only 1 division per side released so far, both armored divisions. There will be four more beta sessions over the next month, so I expect that new maps and divisions will be opened up.

The graphics are awesome, with each unit model detailed and fully animated. It's fun to give them orders and then just zoom in on them and watch.

I have to say spending an evening sending swarms of T-34/76's and T-34/85's in sweeping attacks, supported by SU-76's and 57mm AT guns, while my IL-2's rocket the enemy has been a blast. What remains for me to determine is how the added scale and unit density affect gameplay in multiplayer. I only got to play against the AI tonight, but will try some multiplayer soon.

More Steel Division 2. Vulcan has some good vids up showing off actual gameplay, he is a very good player and good source of info on the game.

I've never been one to be swayed by eye candy in wargames, but the graphics on Division II are impressive. The tanks firing animation seems to get everything right.

"Fighting the Great War at Sea" is an absolute delight to read. The language and tone are entertaining and beyond, and Friedman clarifies (where he can) the dense tangle of considerations that go into making naval policy and also into ship planning. A work of genius that will keep you entertained as you read what should be the most dry as dust book ever. I have no idea how he did it beyond his immense grasp of the subject and the clarity of his thoughts.

So I decide to dive in on TOAW IV, which I've played 2 or 3 times since I got it. I managed to remember the basics, but my playthroughs didn't go that well, and I set it aside. Now, reading through the rules, I see why that happened. They've tweaked pretty much *everything* in the game, which is great, since the changes are all in the direction of more clarity, more accuracy and more playability.

But the big change is in the time adjustments that occur for all units after the first round of combats in a turn. The old way had you moving units to contact, then "saving up" the combats till you were ready, then firing them off one after another. After that, the duration of the longest lasting combat (up to 10 "rounds" of fighting, each taking a discreet amount of time from the turn) saw every unit's movement and combat ability adjusted as if they had also spent that amount of time doing stuff.

This gave a great tension to the turns, as you didn't know how long a combat would last and risked losing significant remaining time in the turn, even all of it, making breakthroughs potentially dicey. The downside is, you could easily tie up a few units blasting a hole in the enemy line intending to rush through, but get bogged down in fighting and lose the opportunity. The edge cases sucked even as the mechanic had serious promise (after all, your HQ planning resources *are* limited).

So now, the time reduction is limited to the *mean* of the turn length of each combat, and also is limited to units in the vicinity of the combat (participants and units that could have participated). This reduces the likelihood of losing vast parts of your turn, and also limits the effects to those near the combat, such that (for example) a unit on the other side of the map does not lose time for an unrelated action. This is great!

I just point that out as the premier example. Supply and morale and weather and combat support and all sorts of other things have been gone over with an eye towards accuracy and playability, and the changes look very promising. I'll dig in over the next few weeks and let you know, but for now, I'm retracting any hesitance I had about recommending this game. It's got a whole new engine under the hood, based on the original but massively updated, and it deserves a spin on the track.

Good to hear the good review of TOAW IV. I picked it up in the last Steam sale but am still working on finishing up some CRPGs first. I really enjoyed III.

Yep. Roundly ass-kicked by the AI in a few turns of a Normandy scenario. Just wanted to get a feel for the system again. Now I need to re-read the manual and see how badly I screwed up while winging it lol.

What is the best WWI naval war game?

I’ve never played it, but “Rule The Waves” is ubiquitous in these kinds of discussions. It allows you to take control of ship design, production and deployment pre-war, and then play through the conflicts that come. Sequel is imminent and I’m actually looking to dive in.

I think TBoon has played it.

RTW is more of a navy management and age-of-dreadnoughts scenario generator. It's primarily about managing your budget and designing ships while technology is constantly increasing.

The combat engine was originally used in "Steam and Iron" which is more historically based, with WWI scenarios. It also has a campaign expansion for the full North Sea war with some variants. $20 now, with a free demo. It's very barebones in terms of graphics and UI, even for indie wargames, but it works.

I've played a lot of RTW but don't have SAI, mostly for time reasons.

There are a couple of Jutland games listed here but all I know about them is that they exist.

Robear wrote:

I’ve never played it, but “Rule The Waves” is ubiquitous in these kinds of discussions. It allows you to take control of ship design, production and deployment pre-war, and then play through the conflicts that come. Sequel is imminent and I’m actually looking to dive in.

I think TBoon has played it.

Sequel is for WWII right?

Sort of. It adds aviation and radar so WWII tech can be modeled, but also expands on the original game's ship design in the earlier years as well. The campaign begins in 1900 with pre-dreadnought technology.