Seize Warsaw – Offside thoughts by Mukul Patel
My role in this online game by Nick Luft, was as Chief of Staff to Deborah at 5th Panzer Brigade HQ.
This game worked fine using Discord. The different channels worked fine or maybe fine. It took me a little while to get idea of the game, and it moved very fast, so I was left a little behind at times. Quite reasonably perhaps as many commanders have been accused of being out of touch with the frontline and reality. Communication between Battalions and Brigade were very efficient and timely perhaps too slick?. It would have been fine if communications had been slower. Brigade HQ listening to battalion orders and reports seemed ok. Brigade HQ getting feedback from Battalions every half hour? Maybe not. As in a lot of operational games we get a tricky thing. Higher HQs as a brigade HQ in games don’t need shorter turns than the lower levels HQs such as a battalion would like. This is same thing that crops up in Terror at Torzhok and many other games. I recall Andy Grainger saying something like he only needed to make one key decision in game once things got going in a game that lasted a few hours. Now maybe he exaggerated? I think Deborah the Brigade Commanding Officer made few key decisions after a initial burst of orders after settling in. She didn’t have to micromanage and didn’t.
But she did think and listen carefully and focused on her plan, get the bridges across the Vistula. The Warszava Citadel was another objective. Citadels never down easy in the Great War or the Second world War straight off a march unless you are lucky.
Perhaps Andy is right we need more signals training/ guidance for a game like this. Brigade HQ does need to have an impression of what its battalions are doing and what Brigade wants the battalions to do, perhaps not always the location and status of every company. Deborah did that fine. The shared map created map created in the game was great player tool but as said in the debrief too good. I didn’t really use it all, and only glanced at to get an impression of where battalions were. Splashes of colour, yeah that looks right, ok move on.
In boxing and other sports they say styles make fights i.e. interest, it was really interesting to observe the different varied styles of the 4 subordinate battalions very different personalities indeed. No other comments needed on that.
One of the battalions started shooting prisoners and this was quite interesting. Not nice at all…but still worthwhile having in the game. Watching a tv show about the Rhine crossings in 1945 a German general was called out of retirement to try and help. He had been retired in 1939 after objecting to German atrocities in Poland in 1939. Spicy events in game are worth having a bit of colour such as the traffic jam in old Warszava, in the old way to narrow streets. A similar thing came in a tv i watched about an attack on hill top Italian small town one main road fit for tanks and everything else rubbish or small side streets and mazy alleys.
I think running the game with teams of two was fine, I know one team was a single player. That can be difficult as social experience. I was very happy in a team , I wondered how the Single person team Jerry Elsmore in the reconnaissance Battalion felt? Still it was only two hours on your own.
If there was a version of a simple sharing program that allows layers to be hidden and visible to various people that could work for what Nick seems to want. I think Nick’s comment about cognitive overload is very relevant. If its too easy for the umpire its probably very simple for the players. I tried for a much simpler approach in terror on Torzhok, but my simple verbal only approach would not have worked with more units and two sides. Nick did it help having Jim help in the first chestnut run of the game? I was really hopeful that you would crack this issue and i could use your system for my game.
Big thanks to Nick and Jim and all the other players , very good session.
The onside report by Nick Luft can be found here.
Very interesting, Mukal, as ever.
Two of the biggest factors in any megagame involving organisations (not honour-led Celts/French etc) have always been:
(1) Spoken with Andy many times on this; totally agree. Lack of ‘proper’ comms training for players (writing orders/reprts etc); in most cases this is a shared culture, even if the opponents have radically different ones. Pro-formas have helped in the past (simply insisting that you complete the ‘from’ as well as ‘to’ sections!)
(2) Lack of an actual staff (funnily enough, a sub-standard Napoleon and couple of mates plus a complete stranger did not suddenly plan and run the 1809 campaign, invasion of Russia etc etc.in 30mins). We as designers need to plan and build around this as with computer games (the ‘point and grunt’ approach). Even the time taken to draft a simple comms note or plan takes up vast player resource compared to the original. Area movement, setting ‘commitment’ levels of orders (you know, ‘probe’, ‘advance’, ‘all-out assualt’ etc) can help elevate the player to the command level view being modelled.
It would be interesting to find out the true size of some staffs available to the Germans in the real operation. I know from recent ACW reading how many cock-ups in operations were caused to Robert E Lee by his lack of a decent staff all through the war (many Southern officers thought it ‘beneath’ them). MacClellan of course had the opposite problem – a large, ok staff, but no idea what to tell them in terms of fighting the enemy…!! But that fascinating situation is for a forthcoming article and certainly game (another non-megagame), once we are face-to-face.