Coffee Break #17/2022

Again I am struck with awe by the insistence of many rules sets in breaking down perfectly authentic and historical combat formations into smaller formations just for the sake of fitting the rules rather than making the rules reflect the warfare doctrine…I know there’s no correct formulas and it will come down to the players preferences but bear with me throughout.

Let’s imagine we are playing a wargame, napoleonic wars, that is marketed as “brigade command level”. I interpret that as the players acting as brigade commanders, thus ordering regiments and, on occasion, battalions and cavalry squadrons around, along with cannons if the brigade has any attached.

More often than not I am sold a different game altogether. I am actually sold a game where we command an entire corps divisions brigades down to the battalion. This makes me wonder what is the game philosophy intent when handling the command of an entire corps to the player but also expecting the player to manage battalions… something must break.

In truth the games are trying to replace a multitude of players by delegating the several levels of command to the one player – that is, assuming there’s only a player a side. It is obvious that any wargame may and should be played with multiple players a side where it is possible and models the different command levels.

Let’s pick several examples, from both the miniatures and board games, such as ‘General de Brigade‘ and ‘Great Battles of Alexandre‘ and many others you are certainly familiar with and all those are sold as representative of the entire command structure throughout the detailed order of battle at any given point in history.

So I ask you… Aren’t these games better suited for multiplayer per side than just a face to face 2 players ?

One player acts the overall commander, several others the division commanders and maybe add a few extras as brigadiers.

True there’s no rules included in any of the “boxes” to manage several players per side but would we really need instructions on how to communicate intentions to other players !?…

Let’s say Sally is Alexandre and I am taking the seat of Parmenio. All she has to do is look at the map situation and tell me what, in general terms, my brigade is expected to accomplish. Then I will play the pieces accordingly. And if I happen to have players that actually represent troops under my brigade then I may not act on those troops myself but rather relay orders to those players and let them act on the game pieces.

In essence we start using any game as a ‘free kriegsspiel’ format without the need of Umpires.

We simply use any wargame and breakdown commands and invite more players to the table.

Maybe even in a play by post PBEM…

So back to the beginning…

Some rules are sold to me as “brigade commands” when in truth I am expected to command not only a brigade but also the battalions and companies under it and more often also all other brigades in the division and at the extreme I will probably have to also command all the brigades of all the divisions of all the corps of an entire army…

True, it is just a title but maybe, just maybe, the game itself is telling me that it should be entertained not with 1, not with 2 but with as many players as possible ?

After all the chain of command will break down once the first orders start being given and interpreted.

Have a good week.

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