Rebuttal to The Wargamer's "Grognard's Review" of TOAW

Background

In April of '99, The Wargamer posted something they called a "Grognard's Review" of TOAW (The Operational Art of War). Their stated intent was to begin a "...new series of grognard reviews, a hard-hitting, fine-toothed-comb approach to examining games". What we really got was more of a hard-hitting, broken-tooth-comb approach to examining games. There have been many reviews of TOAW, some favorable and some not. I am not in the habit of responding to reviews, but this collection of misconceptions, mistakes, and outright lies was a special case. My response was originally posted at The Gamers' Net Theater of Operations site. But that site is no longer available, and I still get email on the subject. So for the curious, the text of my original response is included without changes below. The original Arras test scenario file for TOAW I is also included (playable in TOAW I, WotY, and Century of Warfare). Both of the original postings dealt with TOAW I. There were significant changes to the game system in later releases of the TOAW series, and much of what follows doesn't really apply to TOAW WotY, TOAW II, or TOAW CW. In order to properly model combat in other historical settings, some of the perceived weaknesses of the game's combat resolution logic were eventually corrected in these later releases - particularly in Century of Warfare. As predicted, the combat system changes which were indeed necessary for pre-1939 and post-1956 scenarios had little or no effect on historical scenarios of the original 1939-1955 period. Other changes (there were many) did have significant effects on play and historical simulation, but they dealt with issues that were not touched upon in the "Grognard's Review."

As I write this, I am trying to acquire the rights to the TOAW series from Take-2. If I am successful, I have plans for additional development of the system. If not, I am afraid that I am pretty much locked out of the game (no additional updates) for quite some time.

Norm Koger, July 7th, 2001

The Truth About TOAW

A few weeks ago a post regarding TOAW I appeared on the web. The author went to great lengths to point out what he saw as weaknesses in TOAW. He had a few valid points.

Very few.

I had hoped that this wouldn't be necessary. After all, I'd much rather be working on these games than clearing up bizarre misconceptions or misrepresentations. But it has become clear that the choice isn't mine in this case, so I offer this commentary in the same spirit as the original post. Quotes from the original post are in italics.

Well-done historical games and scenarios can teach us about history, geography, and military theory in a unique interactive way. But supposedly-realistic games with gross mistakes and flaws do worse than just misinform. They also can do a disservice to everyone who likes these types of games by fostering the illusion that the players are recreating or being educated about history.

Well done critical analysis can teach us much about a game. But supposedly rigorous analysis with gross mistakes, flaws and outright deception does worse than just misinform. It also does a disservice to everyone who likes these types of games by fostering erroneous beliefs about the games, their developers, and their publishers.

After doing some research, I set up two small historical battles, for which I had a good idea of what the actual historical result was from research. This was to see if it was even possible to duplicate the actual historical outcomes. Not anything even close to the result of the famous 1940 British counterattack at Arras between elements of Rommel's 7th Panzer Division and the British Matilda was rendered by the game

Let's take a look at this, shall we?

I have found that it can be helpful to set up a scenario using historical orders of battle and deployment when testing a simulation for historical accuracy. This seemingly obvious requirement for a valid test appears to escape the author of the diatribe in question.

On May 21st, 1940, the British 4th Royal Tank Regiment encountered elements of the German 6. Shützen Regiment, south and southeast of Arras. 6. Shützen Regiment had orders to screen 7. Panzer Division's right flank, and was loosely deployed in an arc from Agny to Tillois.

4th Royal Tank Regiment (2:30pm, May 21st, 1940)

6. Shützen Regiment (Authorized strength, May 10th, 1940)

I / 6. Shützen Battalion

II / 6. Shützen Battalion

Notes:

A properly implemented Arras scenario can be had here. This half turn micro-scenario covers the advance of the 4th Royal Tank Regiment through the afternoon of May 21st, 1940, before it encountered the 88mm batteries near Beaurains. In the actual event, the British force forced the German defenders out of their position and advanced toward Tillois. Feel free to download the scenario and run your own tests. Launch the 4th Royal Tank at the adjacent Shützen battalion. Run the attack a few times. Depending upon whether the Germans make their quality check the results will range from a successful defense to a successful attack. Everything hinges on how the Germans react to the initial shock of the British attack. If you are using TOAW v1.06 or earlier, a known error in armored vehicle defensive strength calculation will cause the British to lose more vehicles than they should - but the attack will still frequently succeed as it did historically. Those using TOAW v1.07 or later will see similar results, with the exception that British tank losses will be much lower.

It also may come as a surprise to some, that the main reason for these unrealistic combat results is that the game system is adding all of the equipment together in a single attack against all the defender's equipment defense values

Ah, but now we see the true reason for the unrealistic combat result in the Arras test scenario: A drastic misrepresentation of the situation.

This particularly gets out of hand with anti-tank (AT) values, as mentioned earlier. This you can easily see if you try some tests yourself. The game system creates situations where such minimally-effective infantry AT weapons as AT rifles, MMG's, HMG's and even Jeeps (even with such supposedly very small AT values) are added together.

Reading this, I am reminded of the Russian tanks destroyed by improvised soda bottle petrol bombs at Nomonhan in 1939. The simple fact is that on real WWII battlefields tanks were lost, damaged, and abandoned as either a direct result of accumulated weak anti-tank weapon attacks, or of maneuvering to avoid them. Granted, in cases where extremely heavy vehicles are used alone to attack large but very lightly armed units the TOAW I system can cause excessive losses to the armored vehicles. This has been pointed out in numerous straw man scenarios. But in most cases the system works well - particularly from v1.07 on. Knowing this would be a problem as the gap between tank protection and the lightest anti-armor increased after 1955, I changed the way anti-armor combat is resolved for TOAW II. You can read more about the new anti-armor combat system at The Gamers Net. But as the results of the properly implemented Arras scenario imply, the existing system works well for the period covered by TOAW I - even in extreme cases. It will interesting to see if there is any significant change to the feel of existing TOAW I scenarios when the TOAW II combat resolution system is added to TOAW I later this year.

Why does the game supposedly model separate equipment when it is just combined into one large value in combat resolution? What is the point, when the same results could be achieved by having a single attack strength and a single defense strength without a bunch of unnecessary separate equipment chrome?

This is similar to the argument that everything on a dinner plate might as well be mixed and eaten as a homogenous gruel, since it all ends up in the same place anyway. Perhaps the author might benefit from a review of the TOAW players' guide. Individual items of equipment are affected differently by terrain, both for combat and movement purposes.

The combat system also has additional peculiar effects like disengagements where AFVs in effect are chasing routing 37mm AT guns or other heavy infantry-type weapons and guns without transport over several hexes (sometimes over 150 km), usually irrespective of terrain type.

Is this an argument that disengagement should be more difficult than it already is? And this is perhaps a minor quibble, but terrain type does come into play during disengagement. From the v1.06 version release notes in the help file:

Terrain modifies the disengaging unit's reconnaissance capability:

If the men are routing under fire to get away from rampaging advancing AFVs, gun crews would be preserving themselves, not the gun.

An interesting idea. I may experiment with increased retreat losses to non ranged static equipment. But I guarantee it won't have a significant effect on play.

This also brings up the question of how much equipment can actually play a part in the attack or defense. This game says that all of the equipment is available (not counting subtractions for lack of supply, and for the non-active protection factors) for the attack and the defense. How is it that in say, a 10 km hex, that the entire stack of units can bring its entire TO&E to bear against an enemy's entire stack of units' TO&E?

So we would perhaps propose an arbitrary 2/3 multiplier for all strengths on each side in order to account for reserves? Think about the effects of such a dramatic game dynamic for a moment. The implications stagger the mind. Let's see, we multiply all the attacker strengths by 66%, then we multiply all defender strengths by 66% and finally we throw it all in the pot and get... exactly the same result we would have had if we'd never screwed around with the numbers in the first place.

Another minor point. Attackers already have the option to launch six different types of attacks:

While it would be possible to increase the amount of micro management of unit attack deployment to include an additional level of choice (i.e. Attack: Limit Losses: Commit Reserves), most players would probably not enjoy navigating another layer of flyout menus. Do you think it might perhaps be reasonable to assume that deployment of reserves by individual unit commanders is affected by your orders when planning their part of the battle? As for full unit reserves (holding back entire units that could participate), that is a player decision.

This also fails to take into account a unit holding back reserves, which was almost a given to exploit attacks or shore up defenses.

And such reserves are used when needed, aren't they?

Something tells me that things like this were not thought out very well.

Ironically, I am experiencing a similar feeling.

How do 56 Humber III's, 56 Scout Trucks, or 56 motorcycle squads, in effect, double the attack strength of a division?

The question reminds me of one I heard 25 years ago. A friend and I were playing the AH classic Panzerblitz, and my opponent wondered what in the world all those stupid Russian Reconnaissance companies and German armored cars and Lynx units were good for. He had a point. Panzerblitz was a great game, but while it included reconnaissance troops in most scenario orders of battle it didn't do anything to model their true effect.

So how does reconnaissance act as a force multiplier as opposing forces come into contact and local reserves are committed (or not)? Well, most professional military people would probably tell you that it can be downright helpful to know where the bad guys are. The people who spend large amounts of money on reconnaissance troops might well think a 2x force multiplier for best case reconnaissance during an advance to contact to be a bit of an understatement. Keep in mind that the reconnaissance multiplier applies only to the first round of combat.

I do not think that recon assets had anywhere near the effect allowed in the game. I have never heard of any historical event or board simulation where they had such an effect.

Failures of reconnaissance are better known than successes. Perhaps those who read this document can provide a few cases where a large difference in available intelligence proved significant? How about the events in the Ia Drang Valley, November 14th-17th, 1965? Seen as a single engagement in a half-week turn scenario, this is a perfect example of force multiplication by differential reconnaissance.

... most authors seem to have very little understanding of how to portray units in scenarios...

Most?

...is really asking a lot of most scenario designers to research and assemble even reasonably-accurate historical TO&E's.

Yes it is. Some do seem to have difficulty finding enough information to create a reasonably accurate historical scenario. One particularly badly flawed Arras test scenario comes to mind.

Word processors ask a lot of those who would use them to use them to create stories.

Notice for example , the German 50mm AT guns (38 value) are rated better than German 75mm AT guns (34 value). This incredible error is duplicated throughout the game with every single vehicle that uses those respective guns.

Incredible error? How ludicrous. There is a reason for the rating, and it carries through all of the weapon assignments in TOAW I. Unlike many wargames, TOAW takes rate of fire into account in its weapon ratings. Gunners using the 50mm piece could get three rounds off in the time it took 75mm gunners to fire two. Granted, the 75mm gun hits harder - thus its value is almost as high as the excellent German 50mm piece.

How do you explain the fact that the Germans went through their entire Army and removed all their 50mm AT guns from service, and replaced them with more expensive and considerably more, not less, effective 75mm AT guns?

Easy: While the 50mm piece was adequate to the task in most cases, there were times when the 75mm piece was needed. It can be pretty demoralizing to run across the occasional enemy vehicle that actually needs the extra punch if you can't deal with it. Remember that to some extent the weapons folks on both sides were reacting to imagined threats as well as real ones. That's how things like JägdTigers and MiG-25's happen - weapons designed to fight something the enemy never deployed, but could have. You have to keep in mind the fact that TOAW I was designed to deal with each weapon's typical utility on the battlefield - not every special case that might come along.

The ratings of many types of artillery, are likewise very wrong. Any artillery equipment bigger than 155mm has a lower fire value, as it gets bigger in caliber. Incredibly, a 75mm howitzer is rated the same as a 210mm howitzer!

Let's hear it again: R_A_T_E O_F F_I_R_E

Otherwise, why were 8 inch, 210mm, 240mm, or bigger guns even manufactured when 150mm/155mm howitzers appear to be the best guns in the game?

1) special case use.

2) long range

There is no published Combat Results Table

How could there be? The game doesn't work that way. CRT's are dinosaurs, relics of a simpler time.

Many times you have to open the TO&E window to see the real rating...

Yep. That's because real world military units are a bit more complex than the traditional "5 attack, 5 defense, 10 movement" model most of us cut our teeth on. A unit can be perfectly capable of whipping one enemy handily yet might have a very different capability against a similarly rated unit composed of dramatically different equipment. Computers can give us freedom from "5-5-10".

Here's a hint that most grognards probably don't need. Try to include more than one kind of unit icon in any attack or defense. Works wonders for smoothing out the rough edges of combat result predictions.

You really don't have any idea of what really is in the realm of possible results anyway. You are supposed to go on "gut feeling."

The numbers do provide quite a bit of help, but "gut feeling" (having some idea of how your forces will fare against the enemy based on experience or the scenario briefing) is a major element. Most players seem to develop a pretty respectable "gut feeling" pretty early in a scenario.

I also am suspicious that the total losses are not available at the end of the scenario, or clear values for these losses towards victory.

This was done partly because I don't particularly see the use for such a thing, and partly because I feared some folks might not understand exactly what losses mean. After all, it is abundantly clear that even among those who represent themselves as experts, some tend to wander off down strange logical goat paths.

The game has an inadequate air and naval system, even after allowing for the fact that the game is primarily concerned with land combat. These are so overly simplified that they have little capability to portray the War In the Pacific in World War II...

Guilty as charged. We had no intention of modeling the Pacific War in any detail. Please see page 95 of your players' guide, under the heading "Make It Fit".

All ports/beaches have the same capacity to handle shipping or supply. I am sure the Western Allies wished that was the case on D-Day! If the game's model were accurate, they must have been confused about needing to take Cherbourg or Antwerp. How about weather, or damage from combat having an effect on any of these capacities? These real-world considerations were overlooked too.

Two words: Event Engine.

There isn't one item on your list that couldn't be handled with a few events.

Then there is the flawed set of time-scale/hex-scale combinations, where the movement rates do not yield consistent movement allowances. This is true especially at the high and low ends of the scales.

They do at any combination near the middle of the range, for which TOAW is optimized. The rates had to be scaled at the extremes because scenario designers insisted on using these extremes, with the predictable result that their scenarios didn't play very well. Rather than simply making extreme scales illegal, the system scales rates up at the low end and down at the high end. There seemed little point in limiting scenario designers' freedom.

It should have been more flexible or, better yet, editable.

More flexible? The "problem" complained of here is the result of extreme flexibility. Editable? Why? Scenario designers have enough to worry about without setting the speeds of every item of equipment in the game. And that's what it would take, since (as with every other characteristic of a unit) a unit's movement allowance and capability are based on assigned equipment. For example, a unit's movement allowance changes if the ratio of transports (trucks, etc.) to transported equipment changes. There's something else you don't see in a classical "5-5-10" game.

The loss of proficiency suffered when breaking down a unit is never recovered...

Never recovered? Not quite true. As units participate in combat they gain proficiency. This is more than just a matter of the troops operating in a different environment - the command staff has a learning curve to climb too if they operate in a way other than what they're used to.

...despite the fact that the Germans in particular did this frequently and effectively. They also often combined several units from different formations, even with different branches of service present, without usually any detriment whatsoever.

See Formation Support Levels, page 98 of the players' guide. This sounds like a good case for using small units and a relaxed support level (Force or Free) for these units in scenario design. They will work and play well together, and do it effectively. But break up an infantry regiment that trained as a regiment and send its constituent battalions to separated locations, and you should expect a drop in proficiency. In some games, this has been called "unit integrity". Units intended to be used separately can be created that way in the editor. Major Everyman may look forward to his first independent command, but if he is used to fighting his unit as a subordinate of Colonel Überdude it is reasonable to expect that he will need to be broken in.

Actually, a case could be made that it actually enhanced units through utilization of combined arms.

Yes indeed, just as happens in the game.

Why is there automatic bridge destruction by any unit without any delay? Oh sure, every unit is carrying around hundreds of pounds of explosives, primer and charges with the skilled personnel to use them ?

It's a pretty good bet that anything larger than a company would have the explosives available if they were tasked with taking a bridge down. Granted, they may not always carry them around with them - but since bridges are usually blown by orders from higher up the command food chain (blowing up bridges without orders can be injurious to one's career) it isn't unreasonable to expect that the means to accomplish orders would be made available.

Just read about the events at Remagen or Arnhem, it should be obvious that sometimes things can and do go very wrong.

Perhaps a very small chance of failure might not be such a bad idea.

Rivers run through the hex (I thought this obsolete design concept went away a long time ago). Marsh has only an anti-armor multiplier effect.

Rivers are not infinitely thin, like some kind of abstract geometric concept. They take up real space. The choice of hex side vs. through-hex is strictly a matter of personal preference, and which set of distortions we wish to live with. There is also the matter of graphic representation. I've yet to see a hex side river graphic that doesn't highlight the hex grid, and there are quite a few gamers out there who really don't want to see "hexes".

In TOAW II we have riverine units, something that was originally planned for TOAW I but dropped after scenario designers couldn't think of any real need for it in the pre 1956 time frame. Some Vietnam scenarios in TOAW II would be a practically impossible with hex side rivers.

There is a health indicator on the unit counter that does not take into account future equipment upgrades, which it is supposed to do.

Oh it is? I can't seem to find the reference in the players' guide. Equipment upgrades are features of longer campaigns - which stretch the game system as well as most definitions of the word "operational". They have been used quite successfully in many scenarios, and except in cases where they represent wholesale rearmament of a unit they have little effect on the health indicator - which after all is a very general gauge of a unit's capabilities.

There are ahistorically too-low stacking limits of units at every hex scale. For example, The Operational Art of War says that only 68 AFVs can stack in a 2.5 km hex without suffering a negative multiplier to combat losses.

Increased losses start off small, and are based on historical average frontages as called for by typical national doctrine.

According to the research: 1.8 km to 3 km is the average offensive frontage for an entire German Panzer Division which in 1941 on average contained 165 AFVs and other active pieces of equipment.

It is appropriate to model units at the battalion level at the 2.5km scale, as most scenario designers have done. The Germans typically assigned a frontage of about 1km to an armored battalion on the attack. So by doctrine, a frontal attack might place two tank battalions and (if the commander was a combined arms advocate) a battalion of infantry in the attack - at full strength perhaps 150 "active defender" items. Of course frontal attacks are known for their inefficiency, but sometimes they are unavoidable.

This example will indeed result in greater losses for the attacker than would be the case if the density were lower, but perhaps not as many as a shallow analysis might predict. Since loss ratios are based on relative strengths as well as target density, and the strength of the attacker is increased with additional units, the target density penalty actually has the effect of limiting the artificial decrease in losses that would otherwise occur simply because of increased defense of the additional attacking units.

I watched war movies as a child too. And all those tanks sure looked cool lined up track to track in Battle of the Bulge. But the fellows who come up with doctrine discourage this kind of deployment for good reasons, not just because they are stingy and hope the other fellow will follow the same rules to increase the frontage that can be covered by a given force.

This is the main reason why operational games with modern topics play so differently from those covering 19th century campaigns. It used to make sense to bunch everything up to concentrate at a single point. Rifled small arms, rapid fire guns (especially that 75 mm piece some seem to despise) and to a lesser extent the machine gun made this a very inefficient way to deploy troops.

An observation: Individual locations in the Korea scenario are 400 square kilometers in area. The North Korean army mustered approximately 325000 troops in June of 1950. In a single location, that works out to 1230 square meters per soldier. If they had wished, the North Koreans could have moved their entire army into one location, lined the hex with their vehicles and weapons, and held a simultaneous elimination soccer match with 100% participation. There would have been plenty of room for their wives and sweethearts to cheer them on from the bleachers. Following this morale building exercise, they could all have turned south, picked up their weapons and attacked on a 20km frontage. Just think of the firepower they could throw out in front of them while those foolish South Koreans deployed their force across the width of the entire peninsula. One wonders why they didn't do this.

A really clunky, sluggish, and small-windowed editor makes it difficult, to say the least, to create scenarios of any size.

Small "windows" of this nature are frequently called dialog boxes in Windows applications.

You are further hampered by only having 24 slots for equipment assignment per unit.

Which is at least twice what is usually needed.

Not to mention not being able to see all of the equipment in the window that could have been bigger and scaleable.

Dialog boxes are frequently not scaleable. Most of the standard Windows utility dialogs are good examples. Of course there are those who claim Microsoft doesn't know their stuff when it comes to designing applications.

Then, you basically have to program the AI...

This is a task that faces most game designers. Here's a shocker. Those who use word processing programs to write short stories and novels have to come up with their own plot lines.

There should be an option to turn it off and just make PBEM or hotseat games.

Ridiculous. Why limit players in their choices? If you really want to create a hotseat only scenario you always have the option of setting only one objective per formation. Of course it would only be fair to warn those who might wish to play your scenario that you weren't capable of doing what other scenario designers have managed to figure out. After all, there are so many good scenarios out there that players might appreciate a warning that any particular scenario isn't worth their time.

After working hard to design a scenario, you are expected to see into the future to try and figure out where all the units will be in 23 turns.

Military campaigns are not all alike, just as not all units fit the "5-5-10" scheme. If you turn any arbitrary scenario over to a generic programmed opponent, it will most certainly not do what you want it to do.

Then there are the excessively dark graphics in the game.

Not just a grognard, but an art critic as well. The author would appear to be a man of many talents.

There was some small hope that in the in the 1.05 patch they would correct this, since they claimed official graphic improvements. Then the basically minor graphical improvements turned out to be a negligible change and were still in need of a lightening correction.

Minor graphic improvements? They weren't "improvements" from an aesthetic point of view. Some players asked for increased text vs. background contrast and we provided it. Bright silver and gold against dark charcoal is about as much contrast as one could wish for short of the black on white display most of us use in our office applications.

Adding to all the other problems is the obvious fact that this is not really a true WIN95/98 program.

This is a false statement. Hmm... What's another word for a false statement? It's almost there, just on the tip of my tongue.

Aha! Got it.

The proper word to use in describing this statement is: LIE.

No scaleable windows...

How about the main game screen?

...no choice of fonts...

Looking through my stack of Win 95/98 games, I don't see very many that allow font changes.

...no efficient use of memory.

Another lie. The fibs just seem to be piling up, rather like the stuff that accumulates on the bottom of my aquaria. Hmmm... That reminds me, I must remember to run the gravel vacuum over the bottom of the office tank this evening.

Here are a couple of minor memory optimizations: Sounds and bitmaps are loaded only when needed. TOAW is not loading all 100+ MB of resources for every scenario. Dialog boxes are non-sizeable. The screen does not refresh by magic when a dialog is erased. This requires memory.

Constant delays while the hard drive is accessed frequently.

There are only two reasons why the hard drive accesses would delay game play:

Frequent switches of map view mode (which requires release of current view resources and loading of the proper resources for the chosen view - one of those memory optimizations the author claims isn't there).

Low memory - for whatever reason (limited RAM, other applications running, damaged Windows installation) the system doesn't have enough available RAM to run the game without massive use of virtual memory.

The editor and user interface is shamefully slow, inflexible, and too small.

An interesting opinion, particularly when one compares the editor interface with all the other operational game editors on the market.

In the playing of The Operational Art of War it runs so poorly in WIN95/98, that it would have been much better off as a DOS game.

Another opinion, one apparently based on the assumption that DOS is somehow superior to Windows.

Even the use of the executable switch "nodelay" barely speeds up the program at all when playing a large scenario.

"Nodelay" is a command line parameter used to speed testing of scenarios in a computer vs. computer mode. This undocumented feature removes all time delays in movement animations and combat reporting. That is all it does, and all it was ever intended to do. The effect is most significant on faster systems, where a significant amount of time is tied up waiting to display the next frame. On the 200Mhz Pentium MMX system used for original development it speeds this kind of test substantially. For example, on a quick computer vs. computer test run this morning under v1.05 (the version currently installed on the secondary system in my office) the first turn (both sides) of the Korea scenario took 2 minutes with the nodelay switch, and 31/2 minutes without the switch.

The scenarios with the game might be fun games to some, but none are really well-researched or otherwise properly rendered.

I can only speak with absolute certainty of the Korea scenario, but it was well researched and properly rendered. Any claim to the contrary is not an opinion, but (here's that word again) a lie.

Others may have varying opinions on other scenarios, but in at least this one case the author of the original post has made a blatantly false statement, for which an apology is in order.

The Operational Art of War is, to put it simply, in many ways incomplete...

I will agree here. Hopefully we will continue to develop the game over time. The topic covered is so broad that it could easily absorb a lifetime of productive work.

Such a lack of documentation was and is for the most part unheard of in the simulation board wargaming industry...

Such breadth of scope is unheard of in the wargaming industry. Compare TOAW's 156 page players' guide with that of the typical wargame - especially in "the simulation board wargaming industry."

I don't think that any board wargame with such a strange game system ... that The Operational Art of War has, would have been published by Avalon Hill, let alone SPI, GDW, GRD, GMT, or The Gamers.

At their peak, Avalon Hill, SPI, and GDW were quite open to new ideas. Were these outstanding companies as hide bound as the author suggests, we'd all still be playing Tactics II. SPI in particular was well known for experimenting with creative game mechanics, within the limits of their medium. Perhaps I am not the only party to which the author owes an apology.

I cannot help but wonder, with all of the excellent simulation boardgames that are out there, why try to "reinvent the wheel"?

The wheel has been with us for quite a while. It is a very useful device. Indeed, in many cases it is still the most efficient means of accomplishing a task. But even in our time, many other useful devices have been invented. When my grandmother was a little girl, the wheel was just about the only choice available for transportation. In the German hill country of central Texas at the turn of the century, the wheel was generally pulled by a horse. Things change, even in Fredericksburg. The local newspaper is no longer printed in German. My grandmother now drives a car. A couple of years ago she flew to Las Vegas for the weekend.

Time marches on, even in wargaming.

There are so many well done diverse game systems in existence that could have been studied and emulated.

Or perhaps copied, complete with the limits of the medium?

This should have been the course, instead of making a new inadequate combination of Tanks!, Age of Rifles, and Conflict: Korea.

The only thing shared with TANKS and Age of Rifles is the concept of a game with an editor that allows players to design their own scenarios. As for Conflict: Korea, the only similarity is the historical setting of one scenario in TOAW I. Even that was reworked from the ground up - with a new order of battle, map, and background "chrome". There certainly isn't much similarity in game mechanics, except perhaps as viewed by one with a tendency toward shallow analysis.

In summation, unfortunately we hardcore/serious wargamers are left with few choices, except to move on to something else since computer games like The Operational Art of War miss the mark.

Summary time. Thank heavens. With a bit of luck I can get back to a more productive use of my time.

Everyone is entitled to an opinion, and they are free to express it as such. Flawed analysis is forgivable in a medium (the web) that encourages amateur contribution to any discussion. To some extent, even lies and venal misrepresentations should be tolerated. I would be saddened to see the free wheeling nature of the networked community chilled by litigation over an unfortunate choice of words. The fact that anyone with access to a computer and a modem can contribute is one of the greatest strengths of the web. But as this example shows, the opinions of some contributors should be taken with a grain of salt.

Back to work..


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