Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hex War Games - Strategy Part II - Hex Combat - Ideal Defense

In the previous entry, we defined Terrain, discussed how the Hexes which partition the boards into spaces may be viewed as terrain, and discussed the three primary ways hexes are used to affect movement.   'Terrain' we defined as "something which affects movement or combat".  "Natural Terrain" has a real life counterpart, whereas Hexes do not.  We then discussed the ways in which various game systems have implemented Hex Style Movement.

In this article we will discuss the impacts of hexes on combat in.  A few grounds rules will be made for this discussion:

  1. No Natural Terrain is considered,
  2. Ranged units (such as artillery) are not considered, combat is only from one hex to an adjacent hex,
  3. Units must end movement if they are adjacent to an enemy unit and, lastly,
  4. Units starting adjacent to an enemy unit may only move 1 hex at a time
This allows us to review the impacts of Hexes on combat.  It also provides a baseline to review the impacts of various Natural Terrains in later articles.

Hexes and Grain
For many of the discussions, it is necessary to discuss "Grains".  A hex normally has six (6) grains.  A Grain consists of a straight, continuous line of hexes crossing only hex sides.  When arranged "along the grain", a series of units are aligned in such a way the units could move from one to the other without having to execute any "turns".
Grain Lines
Combat Limitations
Hexes reduce the impact of combat by limiting the number of units that may impact it at once.  In the case of single unit by itself, a unit may only be attacked on a maximum of six sides.  Normally, such a situation will result in the destruction of the unit.

The objective in combat is normally to breach the enemy's lines to reach some objective.  As such, it is first useful to describe the different forms of defensive arrangements and what happens when the loss of a unit creates a breach.

Ideal Defense
The ideal defense consists of a situation where all units are lined up along a grain line.  The ideal defense means only two units can attack any given unit at a time.  A major drawback to this type of defense is it does not provide any greater means of the defender to counter attack.
Ideal Defense
The best a player can hope for is to wear down the enemy units through attrition or by extending the line faster than the opponent.  In the first case, the battle will usually go to the player with the greatest production capability or the fastest healing rate.  In the second situation, the players will rush to add units to the end of the line until it can "wrap around" the other player's units.

Essentially, this is what occurred in The Great War (or World War I as it is known today).  The weapons of the time (machine guns, artillery and barbed wire) outpaced tactics (large infantry groups).  These led to strongly defensible positions.  These positions were practically impregnable if infantry were entrenched.  The best the generals could hope for was to extend the lines beyond that of their enemies.

When a breach occurs, it usually is a single unit, often with severe damage.  The breaching unit, if lucky, can now bring greater firepower on the enemy line and widen the breach. More than likely the breaching unit will be destroyed, probably by any units held in reserve and the line will be restored.
Ideal Defense Breached
Breaking the Stalemate
The ideal defense ends in a stalemate.  Normally, the only way to break the stalemate is to introduce an element which changes the conditions.  In games, the change in elements could be a technological change, a change in tactics, or a sudden surge in strong units.  Otherwise, it will end with a production battle.

The Great War experienced many of these changes, to greater or lesser extents.

Technological Advance
First, the introduction of Armored Tanks allowed allied units to breach the enemy lines.  However, the armored vehicles of the time were not reliable and the tanks available were never deployed in great enough numbers to make a difference.  When the breaches did occur, they were never adequately followed up, and so the results was essentially the situation described in this article: a minor gap was created, quickly driven back, and the gap filled.  Theoretically, the introduction of the tank in sufficient numbers could have swayed the balance of power, but in The Great War they were ineffective.

New Units
When the Americans entered the war in April 1917 , three years after the war had been going on.  These fresh units allowed the Allies to gain some ground.  Potentially the greatest benefit these units presented to the war effort was a reduction in Germany's soldier's will to fight.

New Tactics
All country's in The Great War fought using antiquated tactics for the advanced weapons of the time.  Germany developed the Ludendorf Offensive, a change in tactics and strategy which made fantastic gains after several years of no advances.  It is arguable at least a portion of these gains were caused by low morale on the allies soldiers, but the gains would not have been possible without the development of infiltration and stormtrooper tactics.  These changes in tactics came too late to save Germany, as the American's arrived on the scene.  However, the change in tactics did manage to disrupt the "Ideal Defense".

Production War
Germany lost The Great War when it gave up its will to fight.  The collapse occurred mainly due to an inability to produce more soldiers, food, and material for the war.  In short, it had lost a production battle.  With starving civilians, ammunition shortages, and the introduction of new weapons of war (Tanks), the end for Germany became obvious.
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