Formation Deck Giveth to NATO and Taketh Away from WarPact

Discussion in 'World At War 85 Series' started by Sgt. Hulka, May 8, 2020.

  1. Sgt. Hulka

    Sgt. Hulka Member

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    All -

    After a number of games played in my group of friends, we have all come to a conclusion that the Card Activation System seems a bit off. And while we see this, we don't really have an answer or fix to what we see as a real problem.

    In a vast majority of scenarios, the WarPact side gets a single formation card. At the same time, NATO gets two. Yes, the size of the formations are different - let's say 3 platoons of Leos or M1s vs. 9 or 10 T-72, T-80, etc. But the odds are that the NATO side will get a "double tap" and possibly a "triple tap". At the same time, the WarPact player moves their forces and spends quite a bit of time watching the table while the NATO player gets to move his / her counters.

    Here is what we mean:

    In a turn, say the WarPact formation gets activated first. Any Opportunity Fire coming from NATO during this activation is basically free. The Ops Complete markers will be removed when NATO is activated, unless we are totally messing up that mechanic! Then if NATO gets tapped two more times with activations, seems to us that the balance tilts way in NATO's favor. This Opportunity Fire plus two activations is what we call a triple tap.

    We also had a situation in S&S: Second Wave - Scenario 3 where the WarPact activated at the top of the turn, NATO got the double tap, next turn NATO activated twice and we coined that the "quadruple tap." Needless to say the game ended that turn.

    We see that Defense of Frankfurt has Regimental Activations and maybe that helps the situation. But right now our experience is telling us that the current activation is imbalanced with NATO getting the benefit.

    Thoughts from the community?

    We don't want to start a flaming discussion, we just want to see if we are doing something wrong or missing something. So we really do welcome the comments!
     
  2. Brad Miller

    Brad Miller Member

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    Our experience has been that things are pretty balanced. Yes, it is possible for a NATO unit to get a "free" op fire as you describe but it is also possible for that to go the other way too. NATO goes first and PACT op fires, then the PACT pulls its activation card, and then the designated formation card is pulled. Ture, it can only happen once for the pact but it can happen. We're also seeing very few turns go all the way to the second end turn card an having all of the NATO formations activate twice. Depending on how the end turn cards fall, it's also possible for some formations to have 4 or 5 activations in a row without any other PACT or NATO formations activating. It's rare but it happens. In the end it's been our experience that it all evens out and most of our games have gone down to the last couple of turns to be decided. Maybe it affects the smaller scenarios more than the big ones.
     
  3. Sgt. Hulka

    Sgt. Hulka Member

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    You raise a great point with the Designated Formation card. In many scenarios, that card is not in play for WarPact. As we were bouncing ideas of how to remedy, the leading contender to try out is to introduce that card in every game for WarPact. Your comment makes me think that might be a good way to go since your games have balance when the card is in the deck.
     
  4. Brad Miller

    Brad Miller Member

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    That seems like a good idea for a house rule, which we have a few of (especially for fire). I'm not sure for us that it's broken enough to do it for all of the scenarios. We've seen enough strange and interesting events as it is. That brings up another thing that can even the field, the event/friction cards. They definitely add to the experience. I tend to like when things go off the rails a bit, it makes me think about how to get out of the situation.
     
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  5. Keith Tracton

    Keith Tracton Member
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    I have some recommendations, an anecdote, and a couple of comments to contribute to the discussion, if I may? And yes they can ll be tossed out at a moment's notice. ;-)

    I absolutely recommend if you feel you are getting lopsided results for the card draws for the PACT in a scenario, add a Designated Formation card, and see how it feels. Especially for the smaller scenarios. But I also agree that most of our games evened out, as Brad points out. (And, yes, we found that throughout the play balancing process, but that's not the point of this discussion, your experience is the point). And because of this general evening out, I would think twice about doing that in every scenario (as also was pointed out).

    My first comment is to take a look at the unit balance in any given scenario. NATO is typically much thinner on the ground. During the PACT activation when it comes, a stretch of bad luck may gut a company or two.

    Anecdotally, I can say that in the larger scenarios, the stretches of one side's activations can actually get even longer. In Scenario 19, The Rhine and especially the Defense of Frankfurt Monster scenarios. there have been stretches where formation after formation for one side or the other would go. But it is a double-edged sword: for example, I had a BLAST maneuvering 3 full M-1 Abrams companies up the middle at Contact: Atlanta last year (a minis mini-con where we played DoF Scenario 2). Activation after activation. Forward Ho! Unstoppable! Then the PACT landed a full-strength Air Assault BATTALION on my M-109s I had left in the rear where I THOUGHT they were perfectly safe. And they did it in a single formation impulse, a single move in fact across FIVE maps hidden from our AA assets behind too many hills. Now THEY were unstoppable. (OK I got them back with an MLRS strike in the middle of them after they had disposed of my M-109 Battalion, but that was sheer dumb luck...). Sometimes what compensates is not the logistics of the cards, but being in a position to take advantage of the opportunity when it finally arrives.

    We found that there are simply more PACT units in the larger scenarios to allow us to survive setbacks - including a run of NATO cards. In a shorter scenario sometimes you do not, and that, I think, is why most people who cite long NATO card runs mention the shorter scenarios.

    I do strongly recommend the Battlefield Event/Friction table: they are supposed to be in all scenarios unless you are using it as a learning scenario. It mitigates some of the runs because it can give the PACT an unexpected extra Formation Impulse. It is factored into the balance of the scenarios. Add in a Designated Formation card too? Interesting... ;-) It's balancing act, very much about scenario design and less about card mechanics. ;-)

    Thank you to you all for playing and caring enough to discuss this!
     
  6. CRFout

    CRFout Member

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    Real world context: NATO units in general, and US units in particular, are much larger than Soviet/Pact units. US tank platoons had 5 tanks, whereas the Soviet platoons had 3. Every US tank had a radio or two. Only Soviet platoon commanders had radios. US units were generally lead by experienced NCOs, with junior officers more or less along for the ride (unless they were actually decent). Soviet platoons were commanded by junior officers, and they really didn't have any experienced NCOs. (Soviet Sergeants were the biggest, toughest guys in their 4th, 6-month training cycle.) US units were trained and expected to react to changing conditions. (Why yes, we did practice chaos on a daily basis. Thanks for noticing!) Soviet units were expected to follow The Plan, whether is made any sense or not. US weapons systems were much better, making getting hits faster and easier. (Not more powerful - better.)

    Bottom line - US units really were a lot better and faster their Soviet counterparts. The Soviets make up for that with mass and artillery. As long as the plan went well, they could roll over the US/NATO forces that were much thinner on the ground. (Think of US forces as eggshells armed with sledgehammers. They can dish out the pain, but they really can't take losses and stay combat effective.)
     
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  7. Sgt. Hulka

    Sgt. Hulka Member

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    @CRFout - I agree with the real world comparison of tactics. But that really isn't the issue. The issue is how that is represented in the game via the activation process. It is almost like it should be I-GO-U-GO until the shooting starts. This would denote the change in the plan.

    And if the size of the formations were the same and the second activation card is caused by training and radios, then why not increase the penalty for out of command? Instead the "benefit" is a second activation by a unit, which based on the above is approximately the same size. I am not sure that is really the optimum way of reflecting the difference in doctrine.
     
  8. Sgt. Hulka

    Sgt. Hulka Member

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    @Keith Tracton - Thanks for the reply! A lot to consider and weigh. We really like the game and will continue to support the game. In my group along we now have 6 players that have bought the whole enchilada!
     
  9. CRFout

    CRFout Member

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    I, for one, am a huge fan of the "activation by card draw with two jokers" system. I've seen it used quite successfully in other games, and have made games with it myself. It is true that this system works better with more formations rather than fewer, but that is the nature of rules systems.

    You may notice that the scenarios represent unit exhaustion by limiting the number of activation cards they have. In the later scenarios, some of the NATO units only use one activation card. In some early scenarios, the Soviets have "designated formation" cards to represent the effectiveness of planned maneuvers and drills.

    A reminder - You bought it, it's now your game. If you want to play small scenarios with a different activation system or sequence, nobody is stopping you. If you really want, you could give both sides in small scenarios a "designated formation" card. That way the card draws would be 3 to 2. Or you could take out the "End Ops" cards, so every formation activated every turn. But to me, that would take away a lot of the joy of replaying the scenarios. The jokers (and the event card) add a realistic and entertaining "fog of war" element that is otherwise lacking in board games. It also represents the ability of soldiers to make mistakes, get confused, and screw things up. That happens a lot more than most people realize. (Most soldiers operate in a haze of exhaustion and fear. And that's before the shooting starts.)
     
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  10. Sgt. Hulka

    Sgt. Hulka Member

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    Thanks everyone for contributing!

    I think the leading options are Designated Formation and Battlefield Friction. We will certainly take a look!
     

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