Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Scenario: Cabra-Kildare War of 1962

Cabrese Militia preparing to march

This scenario was a bit of a departure from the usual sort of thing that Donogh and I put together. Normally, we're quite constrained, looking at a historical battle and trying to work out how an entertaining game can be made out of it. These can often be very challenging - as generals spend their entire careers attempting to arrange battles that are as unchallenging as possible. But until someone builds a really interesting wargame about logistics, we'll be back to the old 19th century decisive battle game. 

The other challenge was how to include all the elements that Sydney had requested.  To be honest, I tend to shy away from complexity in wargames as I think it is often mistaken for realism and can very easily suck the enjoyment out of a game. 

This is the map I prepared for the game. Donogh added the unit deployments as we thought that having the players deploy their own troops would take too much time, particularly with some novice players onside.

The strategic situation is as follows. The Commonwealth of Kildare under Prime Minister Sydney has signed an agreement with President Kennedy to allow the USN to build a base on their island. The People's Republic of Cabra object to this rather strongly as it will make it impossible to achieve their long term strategic goal of controlling the entirety of the island.  The PRC have learned of this through Soviet spy networks as the deal has not yet been made public. The PRC have decided that the best way to thwart this is to mount a sudden blitzkrieg across the island and seize control of Enfield, the largest port and the capital city. The Americans are unlikely to wish to undertake a contested beach landing.

Commonwealth Troops unaware of the coming storm

Consequently, the game was broke into two parts divided into two game days.  On the first day, the PRC blitzkrieg would be unleashed and the Commonwealth forces would have to hold on as best they could. I designed the map above with a defensive battle in mind, no doubt some of you have already recognised that it is a caricature of Waterloo, i.e. two ridges more or less facing each other with three built up areas in between. Using that as a basis, I added the tea plantations because they seemed to make sense and the roads to keep the game speedy and to offer the invaders some options.

It might seem a bit silly that the players were not allowed deploy their own troops, but we've found it can complicated matters a great deal. The players were allowed decide where certain key units went, particularly for the Commonwealth, the Field Hospital and the Supply Depot.

For those of you not familiar with Memoir '44, play is regulated by a deck of cards and it was decided that once the deck was exhausted night would be considered to have fallen. Donogh wrote some rather clever rules governing night attacks (a chancy business), entrenchments and resupply. At the beginning of the second day, the above map would be added to the Eastern edge of the first and the Western seven hexes would be removed. 

We tried a lot of different experiments with this game, two of which I think were particularly interesting. The first of which was giving the PRC players five turns worth of cards at the beginning. The thinking behind this was that they would not be drawing cards for the first five turns, but would have them in hand. This would presumably allow them greater opportunities to plan a sustained offensive. I'll leave it to Donogh to give the verdict on how well that experiment worked. 

The second experiment and this was entirely Donogh's idea was that the victory conditions were rather different than usual. Normally, we operate on one of two systems.

They are: 

Break Points - Each army is given a break point. Any army will break and quit the field once it has lost a certain number of units (usually somewhere between 30-50%).  Certain objectives grant victory points which will add to the army's break point. 

I'm rather fond of this as it closely mirrors my "he who runs away last is the winner" understanding of conflict. 

Medals scored - An army gains a point for each objective captured or each enemy unit eliminated.  This can be satisfying, but I find it gives a more "gamey" feel as units are often ordered in an apparently irrational manner to score points. 

Donogh introduced a third and made objective the sole determinant of victory. There were a number of objective points scattered around the board, eight on the initial board with two additional points going for the Commonwealth Hospital and Supply Dump. The second board contained an additional four.  There were also points going for bringing Marines on shore from USN vessels, but these troops would not arrive until the end of the Second Day and would only have a turn or two to be ordered. 

The PRC would win as soon as they controlled nine or more objectives. 

The Commonwealth would win if at the end of the Second Day, they controlled eight objectives or more. 

This was very unusual and was not something I was really comfortable with, but I was surprised as how well it worked. 


  1. Conrad - I don't know why I haven't thought about it before, but you got me pondering the 'points per objective' idea, and its effects. Your comment about the 'gamesy' feel, with apparently irrational looking decisions being made late on had me nodding in agreement until suddenly the picture of the Alpine Redoubt flashed across my mind.

    Rumours of a German Alpine redoubt - something that I gather had been mooted in German High Command, but never ever looked like getting off the ... erm ... ground - had the bulk of the US Army being directed south-east, away from Berlin and the main centres of German resistance.

    It did occur to me that given some of the dumb cluck decisions and objectives made by all sides during the war, your 'objective points' system might not be so unrealistic after all.

    1. Maybe - but I'd argue that the dying days of the Second War are not exactly representative.

  2. "generals spend their entire careers attempting to arrange battles that are as unchallenging as possible"

    Very True! They also spend most of their time in peace talking about other Generals.

    Kind regards,


    1. Traditionally in a team wargame the turn order is

      1. Move
      2. Shoot
      3. Rally
      4. Recriminations

  3. Conrad KInch,

    Wow! What a scenario! Reading it almost made me go and get my MEMOIR '44 stuff out of its boxes and begin playing straight away. The only thing that stopped me was the fact that my table is covered in other stuff that I have to finish first.

    Full marks to you and Donogh!

    All the best,


  4. I believe the game you are after is The Campaign for North Africa. For a certain value of "interesting".

  5. Aha - I see what you did there!

    It's a pity - I'd love for someone to come up with a good logistics game. Just damned if I know how to do it.

    1. It'd just end up being a close on one of those train games that people are so fond of I suspect.