Coffee Break #5

Ah ! coffee.

Not really a break, just a step away from the lazy day.

Being a lazy sod means I should’ve done a lot of paperwork this morning, which i didn’t. Planning kriegsspiels is a harsh lesson on stamina when accumulated with all other projects and plans for the weekend. Anyway, still plenty of hours to go so i’ll eventually get to it.

The purpose for the break is not about the kriegsspiels and can somewhat related to laziness.

Lately i’ve been more and more “concerned” about how reconnaissance played a role into operational planning and more especially at the terrain types and how they affected the course of the engagements, and obviously it links itself to the wargaming hobby.

While in a three dimensional environment one can model a certain fidelity, via terrain pieces and terrain boards populating the table, in a two dimensional medium like the cardboard variants it becomes, interestingly enough, closer to the challenges posed to the commanders.

Obviously we are pointing out at higher echelons and nothing under Battalion, where the immediate couple hundred yards is their only concern and even at battalion level the three dimensional view of the battlefield is often conveyed by recon squads in whatever shape or form.

Looking at two specific examples – the Normandy bocage and the Arnhem first wave landing grounds.

The maps show us plain terrain, almost like an aerial view the same as the planners had. And thus we are faced with the same original problems albeit NOT with the original outcomes.

Bocage is not all the same and can certainly be qualified in 4 ranks, from the tree line with bush to the centuries old high embankment sunken lanes more 3 or 4 meters high. But the games qualify progression and combat in equal measure like as if bocage is all the same ( note: if you travel there you’ll see that roughly 7 out of 10 bocage line is the same as in ww2 ).

all 4 levels are present in this photograph, yet the shadow density does not guarantee anything

Clear ground. Perfect paratrooper drop and glider landing area. Wasn’t. The ground was really soft and broken, almost like the fresh plow fields. Gliders had a very very rough time and paras didn’t move as expeditiously and was still a couple miles to the nearest town.

The “clear” ground wasn’t important. Roads were. With roads the 7 miles could be covered. Across the “open” ground, as we know, it became an impossible task as the opposing forces used roads and rail embankments to stop the cross country move and eventually block any advance entirely. Yes, rail embankments are massive, authentic fortresses ready to control an area and how often do we see them being important ?

While adding terrain chart sub levels would increase the complications to a game there must be an intelligent way to put these dynamics in play and even in a dynamic format, so there’s always this indirect fog of war that can imply that not all operations go according to plan and is not only about supply lines and strength factors but actually, on occasion, the terrain is the most important player.

Anyway, just food for thought. Have a good weekend.

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