Thursday, June 30, 2011

Slow down

At 03h00 last night I woke up and decided to start a new company here in Kenya. This means my time for hobbying will be very limited for some time to come but will strive for an hour per day.

Patience is a virtue, so I am told..

Sunday, June 26, 2011

WW2 Organisations

Moving along a bit now to examining the dynamics of Panzer Division organisation change yields the table below.
Over time the division lost tanks but gained infantry. Also, some internal command changes occurred highlighted in green (Brigade HQ components dropped after 1939) and yellow (Motor Cycle Bn moved) and orange ( Flak Bn added).
More units were armoured as equipment became available and finally the Artillery was strengthened - 1st Panzer Division used as model.

Next move is to draw organogram and develop data tables.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Campaign Management Software Investigation

Weeellllll, a week spent on this investigation and here are some findings to share with you (I will keep the headache and red eyes to myself).

Firstly no doubt a lot of effort has been invested by extremely committed individuals to put their ideas into practice as software. It is not worthy of me to knock them and their efforts, intelligence and sweat in any way whatsoever. I don't have their level of commitment or even remotely the ability to beaver away at the programming but I do know what I want and will tell you at the end.

Secondly, it must be clear that there are different ways of managing a campaign so to clarify:

  • Play By E Mail (PBEM) - In these situations players move pieces in accordance with their rule books by on-screen mouse manipulation – this has been described as one level above kidney stones in pain and I concur heartily:
    • 2 or more players conducting a campaign not able to play face to face
    • 2 or more players enjoying the lack of a God view in a game but able to resolve battles face to face
    • blah blah etc
  • Real Campaign Management 
    • All the PBEM conditions apply but the pain level is hugely diminished by intelligence built into the software to manage forces, bookkeeping and combat.

Ok, on with it.

In the course of this affair one thing is common to all the software – they all have absolutely terrible descriptions of what they can do and manuals and tutorials vary from semi-useful to utterly ludicrous, but Berthier has some merit here. Which is indicative of the output of highly talented people who did it out of commitment in their spare time for which we extend our grateful thanks and appreciation - except ADC2 which should be noticeably better as a commercial product.

I looked at these but there may be more, please inform me.

What I Want
umm.... just be reasonable
Eye Candy
Er, no, thanks to DOS heritage
Graphic Editing
Yes with rocket science degree
Yes, lesser degree
Yes, logical and straight forward
Yes, limited
CyberBoard and Berthier combined
Terrain and elevation definition
Could not discover elevation
Could not discover elevation
No elevation functionality
Yes, limited
CyberBoard and Berthier combined with more
Line of Sight
Possibly but documentation bad
Possibly but documentation bad
Berthier with more
Berthier with more
Unit definition
Berthier with more
Berthier with more
Combat resolution
Yes but basic
Berthier with more
Rule mechanisms
Some for movement and supply
Berthier with more
Management type
Campaign and PBEM
Berthier with more
CyberBoard and Berthier combined with more

Some more thoughts 'n things about what I want:
  • Unlimited terrain types
  • Unlimited unit types
  • Unlimited units
  • Hierarchical definitions of units
  • Ability to change component units on the fly during a campaign
  • Supply definitions – Berthier is good but more flexibility and options such as POL, LOG and Repple
  • Movement definitions more flexibility and options
  • Terrain elevations – more
  • Line of sight
  • Combat resolution per specific tables
  • Turn sequences 
  • Also ability to choose map layer shapes, e.g. hexes, squares, interconnected circles etc.
  • Link sub-campaigns into a parent campaign

Clearly there should be more and this is an inadequate requirements definition, for instance perhaps some sort of work flow mechanism is needed to manage it all. This is intensive, extensive and expensive programming.

I remain in hope..

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Not The Corner Store

I consult on Business Systems for a living and if you think war is hell then try using these systems in Africa.. but let's keep focused and more importantly KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID.

An army runs on it's stomach, tanks 'n trucks 'n planes run on gas 'n spares and guns and bombs kill - aka POL and LOG.

Each nation for each type of division has a daily POL and LOG needs requirement tabled according to it's posture - a daily shopping list varied according to the social activities and guests expected that day, in a manner of speaking. Also true is that some nations have armies which can exist on less than others - more anon.

This POL and LOG is generated by production centers, accumulated into a pool (on paper) and then pushed out to the units in the field along Supply Routes which have to be reliable transport assets such as railroad systems and good road networks - air supply is too little too late at exorbitant cost and risk. The Berlin Airlift is a well known exception but it was only a short distance and the Reds weren't shooting.

All armies do it, and all armies mess it up.

Of course it doesn't help if the Route passes through unfriendly neighborhoods as this magnifies the mess e.g.:
  • sabotage - especially prevalent and successful in the Western Front such as wrong routes and bills of lading resulting in U boat propellers going to Panzer Divisions in Russia and their ammo going to U boats! Also Panzerschrecks in Normandy and Fausts in Russia where the ranges compromised effectiveness.
  • partisans - famous on the Eastern Front and to a lesser extent in the West requiring units to protect the Routes which in turn uses more supply and can't be everywhere at once
  • interdiction - mostly air attack which requires air superiority to succeed tactically against the Supply Routes or strategically against the production centers and transport nodes a la Bomber Harris type stuff but please pick the right types of targets.
The tabletop supply requirement is nicely encapsulated by operational type rules such as MegaBlitz which works great if you are either fighting one off battles or playing a campaign. So this Supply Chain 101  discourse is really all about the mechanisms needed to manage said campaign.

More anon.

Western Front developing

Firm decision bearing fruit already per work in progress image below; map board scanned and conformed to the corporate livery.

You can see the Fronts clearly marked, very neatly and proper too.

The national capitals are covered with tarted up symbols being part of the developing Logistics Supply Network - doing the research by way of Paul Carell (real world constraints), Holocaust site (railway networks) and others.

Original is largish so this is squashed a bit but click and enlarge.. erm  it's not too big though in current format.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Campaign Management

I spent 2 days (and most of the nights too) mucking about with CorelDraw, hex templates and world maps.

Utterly frustrating and pointless; so time for a decision.

I will use commercially available game maps for my campaign planning and to kick it off I hauled out my old Avalon Hill 3rd Reich, spent 30 minutes reminiscing and ruminating, then downloaded a Vassal game box and voila! I have a map of the Western, Eastern and Mediterranean theaters.

Details are scanty on the map but easy peasy to fill in.

Time to move along now...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Building the Site

There are so many thoughts still whirling that I really need to remind myself Rome was not built in a day!

Things to do include:
  • write up on campaign management
  • build better campaign map
  • terrain definitions
  • terrain construction
  • organisations
  • etc.
All in good time.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Campaigns and Games

Thoughts are crystallizing in the direction of software for drawing maps AND managing campaigns AND providing an opponent of sorts. As I live in Kenya my expectation of locating a war gaming club here is low so I need software to take care of some independent bits such as store keeping and dice rolling; aka bias corrections!

Exploring ADC2 and Vassal right now, results soon.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Operations Planning

My mapping thought process is whirling about in my head which means the goals and outcomes are still undefined but I need to put some thoughts down to give direction.

The goal is to manage the logistics and resources flows without a paper overhead; as well as the progression from 1 battlefield to the next within the context of a campaign. At the same time, administration of the units is required to account for the ebb and flow of strengths and experience. And, I need a tool to decide the general sequence of model procurement for building my armies.

The scope defines 3 levels which implies 3 mapping levels but probably campaigns and operations could be compressed onto 1 map.
I have always favoured hexes in principle but begin to think a simple network diagram much like that used in the Barbarossa to Berlin boardgame would be more useful; my IT experience will become evident here.
I remain committed to the tabletop hex because to me the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.