British Cromwell hunts Whittman!

British Cromwell hunts Whittman!
A pic from a Fireball game at Fall In 2010

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Artillery - the raging debate

Last night we replayed the scenario titled "Steel Curtain" which is the first time we see artillery in the rules. Everything played very well and people had a great time. The Germans lost on teh final turn because the interdiction effect of the off-board artillery caused their tanks to lose initiative. (In the game this is the ability for a unit to have two activations in one turn. Usually units only have one activation.) We are currenly playing that off-board heavy artillery can try to prevent an opposing player from using his initiative. So far so good on that one.

The on-board 60mm mortars were directed to fire indirect by the company commander which caused the German's attack to be a bit broken up....that was until the company commander was killed. The mortars had to redeploy to fire direct fire which they were able to do and held the German infantry (actually SS Combat Engineers) at bay. So far so good on that one.

But it seems that gamers (other than the ones that playtest with me and participate in the rational discussions) want the ability to drop 81mm and higher on the table. I have two big reasons not to model heavy artillery hitting the gaming board:

1. In the scenarios I am crafting it just didn't seem to be done. I have read broad histories, the official US Army history, the US debrief of General Bayerlein, commander of Panzer Lehr, and memiors (the best being 'Clay Pidgeons of St. Lo' by a US battalion commander.) They all talk about isolating the battlefield or firing before or after the battle. So it seems to me that if it happened it was the exception not the rule and/or gamers want to do it because they come from a gaming tradition that allows it. (ie. squad leader)

2. How do you model the effects? I have played many games where you are having a great time and then BOOM!...the artillery lands, wipes out everything and the game is over...not very satisfying.

What are your thoughts? I would love to hear them as I am crafting this game for all of you guys.


1 comment:

  1. I think in general, I am with you on this Mark, with the caveat I expressed before. Rules are mechanics - how things work. Scenarios are stories - characters, situations, etc. Right now you have very strong control over the scenarios that will accompany FBF - for all intents and purposes the game doesn't exist independently of the scenarios at this point. But that won't be the case forever (well in principle it won't be - who knows if the game audience will ever expand to the point where FBF stuff is going on without your involvement).

    Define rules for artillery interdiction/disruption, and define rules for direct fire, but use the scenarios to determine how and when they are used. It is perfectly reasonable to say "You can't drop that howitzer round this close to your troops because you either a) don't have clear communication to brigade or division command, or b) they have orders to do what they're doing and they're not going to change just because Capt. So-and-so is yelling at them." That's the story part. But at least having the rules for how it would work if you or someone else wrote a scenario like Omaha Beach means that the base is covered in the future.