Tuesday, May 30, 2017

BCS -- Indeed! But what does the "C" stand for?

     Back in 1995, I designed and published a computer wargame called Combat Command. It was a company scale WWII game at 500 yds per hex and 4 hour turns. In addition to the on-map companies, there were also "off-map" heavy  weapons units you could attach to your primary combat units. You could move them around from unit to unit as you liked, but they never actually appeared on the map. An AT gun section could be placed with one company, a mortar team with another. Cut down on counter clutter. One review of this first iteration of the game called it "ball-breakingly complex." Regrettably, I took this out of Combat Command 2 for simplicity's sake -- and to ensure that a man this eloquent might have the chance to reproduce. We can only hope!)
     So I was intrigued when I first dove into The Gamers' "Battalion Combat Series" only to find so much verbiage, rulebook space and, ultimately, confusion surrounding this very same idea. Let's just say I'm very glad I don't have to push millions of counters depicting platoons, squads and individual men around the board ad infinitum. But for crying out loud! It's not that this is anything mind-blowingly original or even ball-breakingly complex. It's just very poorly -- very poorly -- explained.
     What The Gamers seem really good at is coming up with cute little terms for otherwise common elements, elements that would be easy to understand if not for the cute little terms. "Crossing the Streams" is just embarrassing. Do I have to say that during play? "Double-Tap." "Some call this a Double Tap," snickers the rulebook. Oh, please. Just write the damn rules, would ya. Cringe-worthy, the whole damn thing -- including the chest-thumping, self-aggrandizing, narcissistic Design Notes. If you have to point out your own accomplishments, maybe they aren't really worth mentioning.
     What The Gamers does not do well, is explain how to play this game. For example, you've spent the last half hour preparing for your first "Engagement." So you look up "Engagement." There it is. Rule section 7.1. Wonderful, you think. Everything I need to know about Engagements right here in good ol' 7.1. Sure enough, you find explanations of  Support Engagements and other kinds of Engagements, but before you're through you just happen to notice something called "Stopping Engagements" in the ZOC rules, 6.0, completely unreferenced in "7.1 Engagements." Turns out, you've been engaged in a Stopping Engagement without even knowing it.

Single Tapped Objectives, a PrepDef and a Target Dropped. Yeah, me neither.

     Okay, got that sorted out. Now, you take your shot and get a "Target Dropped" result. Awesome! I love when something happens in a new game. I consult the Engagement Table only to find no explanations of the combat results. I assume this whole "dropping" business has something to do with the Support of the attacked unit by the supporting tank destroyers, similar to Combat Command, only more ball-breakingly incomprehensible, apparently.
     So I look up Support, section 9.2 There I find two types of Drops. (I'm starting to glance up at the baseball game on TV now more and more. The Cardinals are on.) Okay, back to section 9.2. I think the unit is Temporarily Dropping its Support. Maybe the Support is Dropping the unit. I dunno. Dropping is a pretty cute term, like when your insurance company "drops" you. What it means in military parlance, I'm not sure. So I read up on Permanent and Temporary Droppage, but I'm not exactly sure of the distinction. It is clear that you can mark Temporary Droppage if you want to. Or not. Whatever's your bag, man. One thing's for certain, as it's highlighted in red: the unit has to have a "Support Establishment Safe Path."
     Now, if ever there was a term that needed a cute little catch-phrase, it's this one. (Was that a crack of the bat I heard?)
     Anyway, I still don't know what this means. So I go looking for "Support Establishment Safe Path." In the glossary, I look up "Support." Nope. "Establishment." Nope. "Safe Path." Ah, it might be here. Four or five paragraphs and a bunch of bullet points. Looks promising. No mention -- until the second-to-last bullet point. There I find the magical words "Support Establishment." But that's it. No explanation. I guess we're just supposed to know that a Safe Path is a Safe Path is a Safe Path.
     I wonder if the runner was safe at second? To hell with this torture. Go Cards, Go!!

1 comment:

  1. Can I just say I'm really glad that I have the hobbies I have and not yours? This sounds AWFUL.