Sunday, May 11, 2008

OCS Sicily - Thoughts

OCS, as a game system, continues to totally impress me. Every time we extend our knowledge of the system the additions fit in without screwing with everything else, and just work. This time it was the whole naval component, from ships to amphibious landings and beach assaults. Pretty straight forward, although with all the landings it does take time.

Mid way through the 8th turn (07/22/1943) (we stopped after the Allied player turn) how was the game progressing? According to the scenario set ups for the next turn (24th), the Allies should have been in Palermo with the US 2nd Arm., and driving through the middle of the island, with the Brits getting as far as the south of Catania. In our game the US had barely pushed west of Porto Empedocle, and only as far as Naro, 15 miles inland. In the east the Brits hadn't got as far as Augusta. Overall, about as far as they'd got by 07/12 in the original campaign, so I was feeling pretty good about that, and my position in general. However, as with a lot of these games, it can all go wrong pretty quickly, and there was still a lot of game to go. Especially with so many weak Italian units around, and even more so when all it would take is a bad surrender roll for complete divisions to disappear.

This is a big game, no doubt about it. Eric felt that perhaps we bit off more than we could chew, but this has been my favorite OCS game so far. Primarily, I think, because we were involved in the whole campaign, and had total control over where and how the battle was fought. In previous games we've had set ups defined, which kind of forced the nature of the game. Here I dictated where and how I defended, and Eric had the choice of where to land, so the game felt less scripted. (OK, we started with the suggestions from Operations Magazine, but I fiddled a little, and there's a few things I'd change for a second go, but I hope you get the point I'm trying to make.)

Yes, there was a lot to think about, but that's fine, and I certainly didn't find time dragging during Eric's turns, although I generally used that time to catch up with my notes on what had happened, and his plans were usually more clear cut so his moves took less time anyway. I must admit that I did rush myself a little in a couple of places (especially in the turn that Eric mentioned, which was turn 7 not 6, where I missed that a couple of units were out of trace supply, with no SP access to eat off the map, which had me totally pissed at my own stupidity), as I was very conscious of taking a long time on my turns. But there was a lot to make decisions on: fall back or hold; where to fall back to; how to fall back; where to place those units in the new line; do I want to reallocate my divisions; what about a reserve; when to commit a reserve; any opportunities to take advantage of, and are they worth the risk; what about supply. All in all a big puzzle, with lots to think about. And I really like that sort of puzzle.

(In fact it reminded me a lot of our attempt to play Drang Nach Osten when at college. I had the map mounted to the wall of my dorm room by Blu-Tak, and would stare at it for hours, planning lines of attack, potential moves, likely responses, and counters to those responses. My opponent, playing the Soviets, would come in and do the same, thinking for ages and moving a few counters. We didn't get too far, but I really enjoyed it.)

It was in the rushing that I made mistakes. A unit out of position here. Forgetting to move a replacement unit there. Missing an air base refit. Lots of little (and a few not so little!) things, but I'm sure we were both missing little things, so they even out over the game. However, I was getting towards a limit on the size of game that I'd like to address for the time taken. As Eric said, we got through 7.5 turns in around 16-17 hours of gaming, around 2 hours per turn, although that did include a large period of down time discussing how to barrage naval units. I'd say that I occupied way more than 50% of that time, but I think the Axis player has more to think about than the Allied player, so that shouldn't come as a surprise. (Unlike our Race for Tunis game, where the Axis defender has an easier time of it, and the onus is on the attacker, in my view.)

It would be interesting to try one of the Case Blue scenarios to see how that feels in comparison to Sicily. More counters to handle, but would the front lines be denser and more static such that there are actually fewer decisions to make and the game is actually easier/quicker to play? Often those games with fewer units are harder to play because each unit and its position is more critical to your success, but perhaps may be more satisfying. (I think this touches on the same issues we had with Red Vengeance over Defiant Russia.)

Getting back to my preference for Sicily over DAK2-Gazala, it would be really interesting to try the full DAK2 campaign game and see whether I still preferred Sicily. Now that would be an undertaking!


Dug said...

While I have yet to play one of these games, it seems to me that the solution to having so many things to consider is simply to play with teams. Everything I read about these games says that the games truly shine in the campaign settings over a long time with multiple players per side. The trick, of course, is leaving a game like that set up for long periods of time.

While teams don't mean you won't make mistakes, at the same time the game will go a little faster with people handling troops in different parts of the board. You'd need to coordinate for supply and other limited resource mechanisms, but the game play would be faster and less prone to brain farts.

Mike, if Eric can't make WBC-West, I'll commit to playing one of the OCS games with you. I have the 4.x rules, but only Tunisia and Case Blue, and Tunisia is probably the best bet for a learning game anyway.

Eric said...

It's official - with Jodie forking over miles to send me to WBC in Lancaster I most definitely won't be going to WBC West.

Which is both exciting and sad at the same time.

What I'm hoping to contribute to the cause, however, is the small scenarios from Enemy at the Gates updated for use with Case Blue. That'll give you guys plenty of options to choose from for a manageable OCS experience at WBC West.