22 July 2014

Developer Feature: Decisive Campaigns: The Blitzkrieg Warsaw to Paris

Game designer Victor Reijkerz discusses his latest game, the similarities and differences between it and his previous games, Advanced Tactics, and some interesting design decisions.

Published on 22 AUG 2010 10:03pm by Scott Parrino
  1. world war ii, turn-based, western front, operational, online or multi-player, single-player, europe, eastern front

Raison d'etre

The game I designed before Decisive Campaigns: Warsaw to Paris (WTP) was Advanced Tactics, which was well-received for its flexibility, but not that much for its historical accuracy. Warsaw to Paris represents my answer to this criticism. Warsaw to Paris very accurately models Case White 1939 and Case Yellow 1940, as well as Operation Sealion and a few other minor scenarios. I am not sure if it is the grognard, detail-freak, or the historian in me that made me want to do a release like this, probably a combination of all three.

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Pick your scenario or start with the campaign

Classic Wargame

In a nutshell WTP is a classic hex and counter wargame with some action cards thrown in and a lot of detail added. There is a map, there are 2 sides (or more) and each side has to attain its objective in the defined space and time. And of course all the things you expect to find in a wargame are there: Recon, Zones of control, Chain of Command, Landscape modifiers, Equipment statistics, Roads, Rivers, Rail tracks, Strategic Transfer, Bridges, Fortifications, Airpower, Flak, Artillery Bombardments, Air strikes, Ambushes, Supply, Victory Points, Concentric attack, Divisional cooperation bonus, Entrenchment, Experience, Air Recon missions, etc... In this article I cannot discuss everything and to keep things interesting I will discuss only a limited part of the rules and features (mostly those that are new or not seen elsewhere).

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9th Panzer division driving forward and securing passage over the Meuse river

Research

I believe the end product is solid. It provides a lot of background in addition to accurately modelled maps and orders of battle. I added two bookshelves in the process of researching the historical facts for this game. When playing, you can be confident that everything has a moderately high historical realism level and is researched in detail. But maybe even more important is that the scenarios play out in such a way that you are confronted with the same difficulties and opportunities presented the warring sides that actually took part in this conflict. You can thus experience how command on both sides must have felt like (To an extent since this is of course a game!).

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The Belgians fielded a limited number of tanks due to their ill conceived neutrality policy before the outbreak of war did not want to antagonize Germany. However they had a small number of their own manufactured tanks available.

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The Polish commanded a number of armoured trains. Here we see one of their units readying itself to support a counterattack. Although brave and well equipped, not many are present...

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Panzer Lehr battalion had a much higher amount of modern Panzers then the other Panzer units.

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In Poland campaign no SS divisions have yet been formed, but independent motorized battalions have joined up with the Wehrmacht.

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The Netherlands player could inundate the Dutch waterline by playing an action card.

What-Ifs

I added flexibility to each scenario but within tight constraints: what-if variants, a free setup mode, and a measure of cause and effect relations between the 3 scenarios in the campaign. All this allows some experimentation of how battles would have gone if small and medium sized events or factors turned out differently. In Case White, what-if variants include floodings, Polish forces defending the rivers instead of the borders and a variant where Stalin is sending limited numbers of volunteers instead of attacking from the east. In Case Yellow, what-if variants include further British commitment to the defense of France and cancellation of the Dyle Plan. In Operation Sealion variants include the British using Gas Attacks and deploying guerrilla forces.

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For example in Case White you can activate the variant that will give the Polish a number of heavily armoured French manufactured Somoa-35 tanks by enabling the better equipment variant.

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How would case Yellow go if the German Panzers did not drive through the Ardennes but instead the Schwerpunkt was put near Aachen?

 

Officers

In this game Corps level HQs and higher have officers commanding them. Generals like Guderian and Montgomery are thus represented in the scenarios. The influence of the officers is not overwhelming because the bonuses the HQs give are for a large part dependent on the training and experience of the 100s of staff officers that had to communicate and execute the orders the generals gave. However having a 1 star or 2 star general does make a real difference (The stars are a measure of the competence of the general.). All generals do make a difference, almost all in positive way. Almost all will have the chance to get one or more action cards available during the scenario. With those action cards they can boost the statistics of a specific division under their command.   

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Battlestack and Battledelay

These are 2 rules that enforce realism in a relatively easy and understandable way. When you attack a hex you will get a penalty if you attack with more troops than the stacking limit for an attack. However in a lot of games you can do the attack again and again, in WTP the previous land, artillery and air attacks are remembered so that you cannot use gamey techniques to break a hex. And when a hex is taken and combat took more time then moving into a hex without combat would have taken, the follow up troops (who didnít spend any action points in conquering the hex) will have to pay a penalty to move through the hex. These two rules make it possible to hold fortresses against massive attacks and also to use well placed defensive strongpoints to delay the enemy advance.

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Attacking again will make you overstack and will cause high casualty rates

 

Allies and Teamplay

Itís possible that the units of different players share the same hex, this way allies, like with the execution of the Dyle Plan in Case Yellow, can cooperate in a natural fashion. Furthermore it is possible to split up the Germans (and Polish) in multiple sides. This can be done in up to 7 sides in Case Yellow. When you split the forces up this way the player controlling the OKH will be able to take troops away from a subordinate Army player and reassign them to another player. Granted this is not much use in solitaire play, but I wanted to provide some interesting options for PBEM-ing. 

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High command can take away divisions from subordinate players

 

 

Campaign

To add some extra variety the three main scenarios are also linked in a campaign. The campaign basically generates a randomized version of each scenario by choosing from a variety of variants. When you play the campaign, not only do excess losses carry over but so do political points. Before each invasion you can use your political points to influence the battle. Furthermore some allied troops will transfer from scenario to scenario like Polish escapees after the Polish surrender and BEF evacuees from a Dunkerque-like ending in France.

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Considering playing a card to tip the balance of the campaign in your favor

 

Easy and cheat free PBEM-ing

WTP uses the same PBEM system as Advanced Tactics does. It is a well tried and tested system and it should be impossible to cheat without generating warnings that you did so. When you play by email you can use the history screen to go step by step through the moves your opponent did.

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Reviewing the results of an attack made by your PBEM opponent

 

AI

The Artificial Intelligence used in WTP is a completely new one and is not at all the same one as in Advanced Tactics. Itís quicker, smarter and it uses a number of techniques that should enable it to cope with situations I did not think of.

Where my previous AI would use a number of hardcoded rules on which units to attack and how to advance, the new AI goes about things completely differently. The new AI devises a plan consisting of a number of semi-randomised moves, then it looks at how well that plan will go through some guessing and simulation. The AI then evaluates the data from its guesses and simulations (much like a real player would) using a points system.  The AI will then adapt its current plan and try random variations until it eventually actually plays the move which comes best out of its analysis.

I am not saying this AI is the best thing out there, and some fine-tuning will continue over the coming years, but its much better then my last one.

Maybe even more importantly, except for 1 minor supply rule thatís different for the AI, it does not cheat or enjoy any advantages.

However as a wargame is infinitely more complex then something like chess, any good human player might need the AI to have a little extra 'gusto'. You can fine-tune the AI bonus from none to extreme in the scenario setup screen. Also you can give the AI extra thinking time, which will not give it any advantages but will let it ponder its move a little longer.

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Select the amount of help you want the AI to have

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While the AI is executing its moves you can watch them as the moves come in

 

Post Scriptum: A word to people looking for more Advanced Tactics

Advanced Tactics was the game VR Designs released before WTP. I am very aware that the new title might not please the same crowd as Advanced Tactics Ė wellÖ not in the same way at least. Historical realism and flexibility are hard to combine. Also Advanced Tactics is the VR Designs title that comes with an extensive editor. Decisive Campaigns: Warsaw To Paris is a first game in a line of limited content only titles. Making a line of these Decisive Campaigns games enables me to focus more on historical research and crafting more historical rules. (As WTP already shows!) But also it allows me to branch out and hopefully extend the number of titles available. Since WTP comes without editor, to support further wargame community creativity, random games and player made scenario designs the Advanced Tactics game line will be continued and is scheduled to be updated with some new features in the near future.

 

About the Designer

Victor Reijkersz, also known as 'Vic' has majored in history on the Erasmus University in the Netherlands. He held public office for 2 consecutive terms in the city council of Rotterdam and developed a number of wargames including People's Tactics, Advanced Tactics: World War II and Decisive Campaigns: Warsaw to Paris. In 2008 he founded Victor Reijkersz Designs. You can find more info on VRDesigns on www.vrdesigns.nl.