Battlefront Post-Mortem: How Market Garden shaped Battlefront28 May 2007 0
I don't propose, in this article, to openly take sides in the long running 'Was Monty Mad?' debate, fascinating as that question is. However, all sides of that question would agree that Market Garden was a very singular battle. When we decided that we wanted our new battalion level combat system to cover Market Garden, we had to make numerous design decisions to account for the many different factors that come together in the Market Garden battle.
The Tyranny of the Map Edge
The map edge is a problem in most wargames. After all, the map has to end somewhere even if the real world doesn’t. The problem is exaggerated by the nature of the Market Garden battle, with a single, narrow penetration and no solid flanks. In the real battle, German defenders under pressure could always give ground and wait for an opportune moment to counter-attack. In a map limited game, they face the prospect of being corralled against the map edge and unfairly slaughtered.
The addition of Off Map Areas (OMAs) to the Battlefront system solves this problem. German defenders can stay and fight or jump on exit hexes scattered through the map which take them to the OMA system. Once there, the German player can move them to other OMAs and eventually back onto the map. The scenario designer controls the linkages between various OMAs which prevents units turning up in a militarily or geographically incorrect location. Obviously the opposing player doesn’t get to see any of this, and must wait until the units emerge from the fog of war.
OMAs are not just used for exiting units. Reinforcements can be designated to arrive in an OMA which can be connected to several other OMAs which are then connected to the map. The owning player gets much more control over where he deploys his reinforcements and the opposing player is no longer certain where and when reinforcements will arrive. The German player in Market Garden can use this feature to assemble forces notionally off map and out sight before launching an attack on the Arnhem road.
It should be said that OMAs are not a new idea, boardgames have done the equivalent for decades, but they belong to the class of ideas that are actually harder to implement on a computer than in cardboard.
Fire in the Hole
Unsurprisingly, the correct treatment of bridges is critical to Market Garden, and there are several problems that needed to be solved. Hitler forbade the destruction of certain critical bridges, arguing that they were needed for one of his mythical counterattacks. If you give gamers the choice between implementing the wishes of a dead dictator or getting extra Victory Points, they choose the VPs every time, so some bridges, like the one at Arnhem, cannot be destroyed. On the other hand, many lesser bridges were prepared for demolition, although this didn't always happen. These bridges have a chance of blowing up on the first approach of an enemy unit. There are a number of these on the road to Arnhem and the randomness of their destruction means that the scenario gameplay never follows a predictable path. Of course, combat units from both sides can still attempt to destroy bridges, although the Allies are not going to embrace the practice.