This newer version went rather quicker than last time, we managed to get through both a seven day bombardment and made it into the afternoon of the assault, at which point a likely outcome could be predicted. I was a bit disappointed that we didn't make it right to the end of the day, but I am still trying pack a lot of activity into a couple of hours. The revised move and combat mechanisms are rather slicker than before, and halving both the German troop density and effectiveness of their artillery made for a slightly more enjoyable game for the attackers!
In the light of the latest playtest, there aren't really any fundamental mechanisms I want to change as I think if I strip out any more it will just end up as a newer version of my old 'Cambrai' game, which in the absence of massed 20mm tanks, will make for a very trivial game. One observation made by Jerry Ellsmore was that if the players could run more of the mechanisms themselves it would go a lot faster, and having been through so many re-writes I am tending to turn up with a great mass of notes and jottings which I have to leaf through. Unlike a lot of operational games, every unit is heavily engaged each and every turn, so the level of abstraction needs to be high to keep things moving. Things I can actively do though are:
- Do some proper playsheets for the players.
- Do an umpires playsheet with the information I actually need on it to run the Germans, rather than hunting through various bits of paper. Better presentation of key information will make the game run faster.
- Get rid of even more dice rolling, particularly for movement. While this introduces plenty of friction, it is still too time consuming. I need to keep it for the assault phase though and I will keep some sort of activation roll for reserves.
- Simplify the creeping barrage resolution even more, or at least make the mechanisms more transparent so the players can resolve it themselves.
- The German defensive barrage strength calculations are as simple as I can make them without losing key aspects of the simulation, however I can simplify the way the barrage reacts to the British advance, as well as make it more transparent so the players can resolve it themselves.
- Make the suppression and disorganised combat outcomes internally consistent. Essentially this means making them the same, so suppressed units will have to rally. Not such a good simulation but easier to manage.
- Reduce or even eliminate some of the low effectiveness ranged fire. The easiest thing is to say that suppressed units can't conduct ranged fire. Similarly, don't let battalion remnants fire.
- Make the level of unit representation more consistent, just have infantry battalions, stormtroop companies and outposts, ignoring half battalions. This will help simplify the resolution of defensive fire. Again, it isn't very realistic but it will make the game flow quicker. An alternative would be to up the ground scale to 1 square = 1 mile (which is what I did for Cambrai) but this makes a typical divisional assault frontage 1 square!
- Aim for simultaneous resolution of movement and combat rather than one square at a time. Clear playsheets and presentation of key information will help this. The aim is to execute the assault phase in one hour, or an average of ten minutes per move. Inevitably the earlier turns will be slower than the later ones. Half an hour setup, half an hour bombardmant, one hour assault and half an hour takedown would actually be a playable game.
- The victory points seem to be a bit screwy, so I might have another look at the scenario generator again. I'm fairly happy with the generated German setup, it is just the VPs which might need some tweaks.
I did take some photos of the game, as did Tim Gow, so when I've got time I'll upload them and do a photo report. Thanks to my long suffering playtesters for undergoing yet another trial by fire! At least none of them got sacked this time.