Splendor vs Elegance

I think the following falls within one standard deviation of reality. What about you?

Jim Krohn’s lucid designer notes from the first game in the series are tonic against the rules creep one finds in other tactical systems which, considering historical realities, do not hesitate to color outside previously established lines. ASL and ATS invent new systems for new situations; they do not address these needs in terms of existing rules opting for a maximalist approach. They take a stab at splendor at the cost of adding distinct procedures, rather than taking an exacting look at previous rules and grinding out some elegance. Elegant rules are brief. They are also easy to internalize. Consider, for example, the ease with which a contemporary “no lookup” system like BoB or LnL conduct infantry fire with respect to ASL, ATS, Panzer, TCS, et al. Enough about that. The base game, Band of Brothers, sensibly avoids the complexities of separate locations within a hex.

One of the AOs in From the Ground Up features an important fire lane that the Germans identified and exploited, impacting the subsequent battle in a decisive fashion. They did so with machine guns placed at elevation in buildings. My cartography is accurate enough to show the same fire lane, but no such line of fire could exist at the base elevation. BoB doesn’t accommodate upper levels, wisely foregoing the rules bloat in-hex locations entail. The historical record even bears out this choice — I’ve seen little US tactical doctrine of the era that supports exploitation of upper levels at assault ranges. (Even though there is plenty of documentation of doing so in tactical practice.) Additionally, the historical record of the battle in question includes an explicit order to avoid using buildings for defense to limit post-combat damage claims by civilians.

Most Second World War tactical designs still echo John Hill’s Stalingrad. From what I’ve read of tactical doctrine and combat reports, in a fluid battle (not Stalingrad) it was rare that a squad would place itself in an upper level if area security was not secured. Weapons companies often set up in good supporting positions, but this is usually well outside danger close range for artillery (~500 yards), mostly outside of BoB’s scale. It was Squad Leader (SL), in its first scenario that encouraged the multi-locational aspect of hexes. The first SL scenario actually proposes a quantum state for units in buildings: they may both fire and be fired upon as if occupying upper and lower levels simultaneously. The interchangeability won’t work for a protracted battle. Here’s what I came up with:

An MG WT (only) may count the base elevation of its line of sight as including that of the building for infantry fire attacks (only) if another squad, unrevealed decoy, or WT accompanies it in the same hex. Place the MG WT on top of the two-unit stack to signify that it is upstairs. So long as the MG WT has a squad beneath it to ensure area security, the MG WT may now fire as if were at an elevation equal to the base elevation plus the obstacle elevation. Signify an MG WT is downstairs by placing it underneath an accompanying squad. MG WTs without an accompanying squad may not benefit from being upstairs. Melee against the hex is conducted normally.

The upstairs MG in M12 may fire on A as its level (base elevation 16 + obstacle height 2 = 18) is superior to the intervening garden hexes; the squad on the bottom level may not trace LOS across two garden hexes. The MG (level 18) is superior to the intervening elevation 16 hex in M11 to fire on B, although fire would still be modified for the bocage; the squad may not see it at all, as it does not enjoy superior elevation to all intervening hexes. Similarly, the squad may not fire on C as the same hex cannot be seen over. However, the bocage, (level 17; elevation 14 + 3 obstacle height) creates two blind hexes behind it, one of which is cancelled because it is a hexside obstacle. The MG could fire into N8 with the bocage modification but N7 is a blind hex.

There is a bit of a problem with this that I’ll address in a subsequent post. Perhaps live playtesting will tease it out.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *