One of the key themes I am planning to incorporate into an Operation Unthinkable Megagame is that after almost six years of a world at war, most of the combatants want nothing more than to go home. So there will be a mechanical thread running through the game of a “clock” of political will that is running out of time. I also needed a way of modelling initiative at a theatre level, logistics and replacements, military capabilities, and all the wunderwaffe of alternate history. My ideas have developed a bit since my last post.
First, for logistics, I started with some data on comparative munitions production by the allies in 1944 (the original numbers were something like millions of tons of munitions a year). This broke down as follows:
- Canada – 1.5
- United Kingdom – 11
- USA – 42
- USSR – 16
Because the UK and USA have commitments in the Pacific Theatre of Operations, I divided their scores in two, and added the Canadian score to the UK score to reach:
- UK and allied forces (Canada, Poland, etc) – 7
- USA and allied forces (Free France, Brazil, etc) – 21
- USSR – 16.
This gives me a baseline score for how many supply tokens each side gets. Each token is a bonus attrition effect die to cause enemy casualties in battle.
While thinking about this, I was also thinking about the problem of how to determine which side starts the war, and how to handle initiative at the European scale. During the Second World War you generally had one side on the offensive, while the other side was on the defensive. A traditional I-go-U-go initiative system just did not feel right to me. So what I plan to try testing is having each side’s supreme command group (4-6 players) secretly allocate 100 points among the following five categories:
- Alternate History
- Military Capability
- Political Will.
Alternate History points will allow players to use military capabilities that are not part of their historic force for mid-1945, including captured German equipment, vehicles that were only in prototype or blueprint form (such as high-altitude fighters for the USSR), and atomic weapons. It will also represent potential political choices, such as propaganda campaigns, influencing neutral nations, sending troops to secondary fronts like Greece and Norway, and redeploying forces from the Pacific. Some Alt-history cards are in both decks, so the first side to draw and spend the points for it gets it.
Each turn the Supreme command team will get to draw five cards for free. They can then spend Alternate History points to draw extra cards (the first card costs one point, the third three points, the fourth six points, etc). Each card has a cost to be played, either one, three, six, or ten Alternate History points. The cost will be weighted based on just how implausible the event is. For example, in the aftermath of WWII the Soviets managed to secure about 200 tons of Uranium oxide from German facilities, while the Western allies secured about 1000 tons. The allies let the Soviets have the plans for A9/10 rocket capable of reaching America, but there was no actual rocket prototype anywhere. So having a card option for a one-off dirty bomb is probably going to cost one or three alt-history points, getting a working A-10 ICBM is probably going to cost 10 alt-history points, and a German A-bomb to go in it another 10 alt-history points, as that is more alternative universe material than alternate history.
The side that allocates the most points to Initiative is the side that starts with the initiative. In a tie, the western allies get initiative.
Victory conditions will then be switched so that the side starting the war is the side that needs to try and get to the far side of the game map to win.
When you have initiative, you get to make most of the attacks in the game, but you only have a finite number of supplies to help. When you do not have initiative, you get to stockpile supplies, accumulate replacements, and make limited counterattacks.
After each game turn, the supreme commander for each side makes a bid in initiative points. You must bid at least one point, and can bid up to half of your points. The side with the highest bid has initiative next turn. The losing side’s bid carries over to the next turn.
I think how this will play out is some back and forth, but the side with the higher pool should be able to do several two turn offensives, and a month of continuous operations is about the maximum that the Red Army could do in WWII.
I discussed the baseline for logistics above. Allocating points to logistics increases the stockpile of supplies you have at the start of the game after the six week pause since the German surrender, and increases the baseline logistic supply (representing improved road, rail and port supply networks). I will apply a diminishing return here, possible a square root, so a 16 bid gets you +4 supplies and a 25 bid gets you +5 supplies.
Logistic points are also used to buy replacement cards to reinforce units suffering from battle casualties:
- the UK and the USSR are both exhausted for manpower, barring play of some alt-history options, so each time they play their replacement cards it costs more
- the USA has not exhausted its manpower, so has a fixed cost for replacements.
I am still thinking about whether airpower draws replacements from this pool, or has its own fixed schedule of replacements. I am leaning towards the latter option.
This pool is used to refresh military capability cards. These cards represent the chrome and colour of history, such as the Russian all female bomber regiment “the Night Witches”, or the deployment of the M-26 Pershing tank, as one use cards that grant a bonus.
Once used Military capability cards are returned to supreme command, who can spend points to regenerate the cards, and they then pass back down through the chain of command to front line commanders.
Political will represents how long you can keep your armies fighting before you start to have major problems on the home front and the front lines. When your Political Will hits zero, the other side starts getting “Morale” cards that can be used to facilitate desertion from your combat forces, and to try and reduce your Political Will by an effect die roll.
Game options to increase Political Will will be rare. In most cases its just going to keep going down. Each turn you do not have initiative, you roll an effect die for Political Will loss. This is a cumulative effect. So the third turn in which you do not have initiative, you roll three effect dice. I may also have a drain on Political Will for key cities or river lines being taken/crossed by the enemy.
Back of the envelope calculation, for an eight turn game, you probably want a Political Will of 25+ to avoid having morale cards used against you. There is an obvious interaction with Initiative – a high Initiative pool means you will lose less will due to being on the defensive, but the combat advantage for being on the defensive should even this out a little.
The Effect Die
Events tend to have a no long term effect, a small effect, or a large effect. Borrowing from the 2d20 damage system when Operation Unthinkable asks for an effect roll it means rolling a d6 for:
- A one point effect
- A two point effect
- No effect
- No effect
- A five point effect
- A six point effect.
Interaction Between the Pools
When any points pool, except Political Will, hits zero the following process is used.
- The Pool is refreshed to its current maximum score.
- Roll two effect dice, plus one effect die for each prior time the pool was exhausted.
- Each die roll must be applied to either Political Will or the Pool that hit zero.
For example, an Initiative Pool of 25 hits zero for the second time. The player rolls three effect dice and gets two, three, and five. The player chooses to reduce the Initiative Pool by two and Political Will Pool by five. So the Initiative Pool is now refreshed to 23. They could also have chosen to reduce either pool by seven.
When Political Will is reduced to zero:
- Refresh Political Will
- Give the opposing side a Morale card, plus one Morale card for each previous occasion Political Will hit zero
- Reduce all five option pools by one effect die roll.
If any pool is permanently reduced to zero, its zero effect is then applied each game turn. This will probably result in a collapse of Political Will in a few game turns.