Chestnut Lodge Wargames Group

Conference (2018) Onside Report #2 – Balkan Wars OpSys

Rehearsal For Armageddon – The Balkan Wars

Further attempts at a megagame operational system (by Peter Merritt)

The intention of this session was to present the latest in my series of attempts to get a fast-to-play, easily understood system which would form the ‘third leg’ of my design for a – possible – megagame of the Balkan Wars, © 1912/13. In summary, the three elements are:

  1. A ‘national government’ for the main protagonists. Split into three nominal factions, only part of their duty is to run the war; for the rest, it is to achieve – and hold – power…
  2. A ‘peace conference’ game involving representatives of the national governments AND the five ‘Great Powers’, each with their own agendas.
  3. An ‘operational’ game, the results of which feed directly into the peace conference in terms of occupation and control of specific areas of terrain in each contested province.

It was the last one which has caused me so much concern for the last few years, as no amount of traditional hex, point or area mapped terrain gave me the speed and undisputed ‘control feed’ that I was after. So, earlier this year, I had another brainwave – and dumped them!

I decided to list the key elements of what I had read about the operations:

  • Appointed generals had a significant effect on operations in terms of effective use of what may appear overwhelming numbers, tactical advantages etc
  • There were essentially only a couple of broad routes an army could use in any province
  • Logistics were almost non-existent the further an army advanced from its own border
  • Like the ACW, sickness rates accounted for more casualties than combat. It was casualties vs gain which govts worried about
  • The weather went from ‘ok’, to ‘atrocious’ during the winter, but this simply slowed operations (and increased sickness), rather than halted them

So, after a while I have ended-up with:

  • ‘NPC’ generals – these beauties are appointed by the National Govt teams, and are chosen from a set of profiles (like the beginning of ‘Mission Impossible’!). They are rated not only for general CMD ability, but also for ‘morale’ (aggression) – and ‘political connections’. This last can feed into the National team game, as success or failure in the field has a direct impact on faction standing at home…
  • ‘Province Control Cards’ – literally one suite from a deck of ordinary playing cards! The combat results system allows for the direct transfer of cards, the trading of which can be done in the ‘peace conference’ before final decisions are adjudicated.
  • ‘Tactical Cards’ – these are potential bonuses, ranging from foreign medical aid to ‘heavy artillery’. Each card has the terms of use and effect written on it. Some cards come with a given commander, others via the National Govt (or Great Powers), or even to reflect special terrain in a province (bunkers, ‘mountain passes’ etc).
  • A ‘bucket of dice’ for deciding overall effects, run 1:1 by players with very ‘light touch’ umpire involvement…

So, how did it all work?

Well, each turn the National teams send one representative to any given operations table. The exact number of forces should be unknown, but each side will get some idea by the sounds of a bucket of d6s hitting the table, or reading the London Times! Essentially it goes:

  1. Player sets what should be the army ‘orders’ for this turn (ATTACK, DEFEND, RETREAT, REST). An army choosing ‘retreat’ fights normally but causes and receives less damage, while losing more terrain.
  2. Now check for the NPC general’s view (this can change things like attack to ‘ALL-OUT ATTACK’ or defence to retire).
  3. Check for any ‘Tactical Cards’ to be used this round
  4. Determine the ‘army effectiveness’ (1d6 per strength point; less than/equal to CMD level = ok)
  5. Now each rolls 1d6 per ‘effective’ unit in the open; note any ‘hits’ and ‘sickness’
  6. Loser must give-up a mix of province and terrain cards, plus ‘prisoners’ = number of hits
  7. Both sides check for recovery of units already sick

And that’s that!

There are some siege rules as well, just in case, but they work along the same lines. Likewise, should more than two National forces contest the same province, forces should be divided beforehand and the terrain they cover proportionate to their size (so 2/3 of an army does not ‘protect’ 5% of the land) – although I am considering making that a player choice, for ‘political’ reasons….. Combat actions are then resolved simultaneously.

What to do next? I was pleasantly surprised by how well it went and was received, a real boost to my morale. The comments were very useful and my main problem was my usual one of being too terse with written ‘quick-reference’ rule sheets!

I want to offer once again my enormous thanks to a fab set of testers – my Dutch-Belgian friends, Rob Cooper and Andrew Hadley. Rob took the Turks and, after several rounds of action, had lost control of the mountain passes and much of the province but lured an increasingly sickened Bosrovian force to the outskirts of the provincial capital where his small and barely damaged force prepared for a heroic winter siege….. At least, I think that’s how he was going to explain it to his govt!



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