30 Oct 2022

Procedural Combat Series

Conflict Simulations LLC sells what they call their Procedural Combat Series of one-map theater level operations set in post-WWII (designed by Ray Weiss). So far there have been five games in the series:

  1. 1950: The Forgotten War
  2. 1987: On to Kaliningrad
  3. 1968: Tet Offensive
  4. 1995: Milosevic's Last Gamble
  5. 1973: The Yom Kippur War

The system uses a simple untried unit mechanic in which unit strengths are determined randomly after combat is declared - similar to SPI's Victory in the West and Operation Typhoon.

As of October 2022, only 1, 4 and 5 are available for purchase. 2 and 3 were withdrawn from the CSL catalog when the designer had second thoughts about them. This is a recurring issue with CSL in general - half-baked games rushed to print and overly optimistic production forecasts (i.e. Afrika Army Korps series). To their credit, CSL has offered store credit to purchasers of withdrawn titles. 

Despite these production problems, the game system seems interesting, so I decided to make a VASSAL module for the first game of the series and give it a try.

1950: The Forgotten War

Here's my vmod for 1950:
Download the 1950 module.

The module uses a trimmed version of the map, since most of the tracks and boxes on the paper map are not used in this module. The units are Game-Piece images that mimic the printed ones.

The Terrain Effects Chart from the printed map is provided as a Chart Window in the module. Normally my modules don't include charts and tables, unless they are from the map.

Note the following procedural differences in the module vs. the rules as written.

Static and Fresh

Instead of flipping units over to indicate that they are Static (i.e. performed an activation), the module places a white stripe through the NATO symbol, toggled by the F1 key. There is a Global Key Command (GKC) on the Toolbar to refresh all static units at the end of each action phase.

Supply

The F2 key toggles an Out-of-Supply indicator on each combat unit: a magenta stripe through a unit's strength and movement factors. 

Strength Chits

The module does not use separate game pieces for unit strengths (which can vary each turn). Instead, each piece has a right-click command to set the strength to a random value that is within the correct range for each Class of unit (A, B, C, D).

The layout of the combat units has been changed (from that of the printed game) to show a "?" for untried status. There is a small class identifier at the bottom center of each unit.

Ctrl-W = Set strengh to random value from class range.

Strengths thus determined are shown directly on the unit, temporarily replacing the "?" untried status. There is a GKC on the Toolbar to reset all unit strengths to "?" at the end of each turn (Game Turn step 3.ii).

Air Missions

There are no mission boxes on the main map as in the printed game. Instead, there is a separate Air Missions map window. Air units mission types are defined in rule 3.3:

  • "G" type - Ground Support, Strategic Bombing, or Interdiction
  • "F" type - Patrol/Escort only  

Note that (unlike ground units) air units DO have a flip side that is used to take a combat reduction prior to being routed.

CTRL-F = flip (toggle reduced/full)

Routed Units

Ctrl-X = send to the Routed Units area at the east side of the map.

Soviet Units

Rule 3.1.3 (Color Key) does not say what brown units represent. Rule 11.3 designates the foreign intervention unit for the Communists as a Soviet infantry unit, which is a brown A-6 labeled "Int" (intervention). This means that brown = Soviet. There are two brown air units in the counter mix without a turn of entry indicated in the top left corner. These should enter the game with the Soviet infantry unit when foreign intervention occurs.

1995: Milosevic's Last Gamble

Download the 1995 vmod file. In this game, the PCS system is used for a hypothetical conflict in the Balkans between NATO and Serbia (backed by Russia). 

Unit's are color coded and bear 2-letter country abbreviations. Some that may not be obvious are:

  • HR = Croatia (Republika Hrvatska)
  • RS = Serbia (Republika Srbija)
  • SI = Slovenia (Republika Slovenija)

Players have a choice of using the Air Mission sections of the main map or a separate Air Missions window. 

1973: The Yom Kippur War

Download the 1973 vmod file. This entry in the PCS (the 5th iteration) comes with a better-organized set of standard rules. It is a step up in complexity, with its dual map situation.

Errata

  • Stacking: Rule 3.6 says stacking to one infantry unit. Actually, this limit should apply to all units. Only one unit of any type per hex at the end of any movement or combat phase.
  • Arab air units: Air 1 and Air 2 are Egyptian, Air 3 is Syrian (per Ray Weiss on BGG 1973 forum). Arab air units may execute missions only on their own front.
  • Israeli air units may execute their assigned missions on either front.
  • Arab reinforcements: There are two Moroccan reinforcements designated (in the published games) as "MEF" and "Maroc" (sic). If the Arab reinforcement result is "Morocco" both Moroccan units arrive. They are labeled "Mor" in the vassal module.

Random Elements

The strength chit mechanic provides a second random element in combat (along with the die rolls for each battle), but lasts until the end of the current turn. Once you determine how good a particular unit is going to be in the first half of the month, you have that certainty in combat during the second half.

It must be said that having two random elements in combat resolution is superfluous. All random elements can be subsumed into the die roll. But creating another unknown before the odds are determined adds to the suspense. You could draw a good strength chit, but then get a bad CRT roll (or vice versa).

It could be that the only reason that the untried units mechanic was invented was to keep players from slowing down a game with factor counting in order to attain a particular odds ratio.

24 Aug 2022

U.S.N.

The first strategic level wargame on the WWII Pacific theater was Jim Dunnigan's U.S.N. (SPI 1971). It first saw the light of day as a magazine game in S&T 29.

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11 Aug 2022

Iron Lady's Fleet

The first game of the Japanese Fleet Series published in 2007 by Technical Term Game Company is a treatment of the 1982 Falklands war using the 7th Fleet game system. It is a five-scenario Fleet mini-game having a small footprint.

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19 Apr 2022

1815 The Waterloo Campaign

Before 1975, if you wanted to play an operational game on Napoleon's June 1815 campaign, you were limited to Waterloo (1962) by Avalon Hill. Then two games game out in quick succession to provide a more sophisticated look at the situation.

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23 Mar 2022

Operation Jubilee

Operation Jubilee is the small step-child in the "D-Day at..." series of solitaire games by John Butterfield. This game depicts the disastrous 1942 raid on Dieppe by Canadian forces and Royal Marine commandos. A grim situation but a good first-step into the game system. The problem is, the game is out of print and hard to find, with no reprint expected.

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1 Mar 2022

HSN Scenario 6

Posting on the 2021 GCACW tournament in which Hood Strikes North scenarios 4, 6, 2 and 7 (in play order) are tested. I'm in the PBEM division. This is Round 2, with runs from January 15 to April 15, 2022.

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13 Feb 2022

Tannenberg

From the Great War in the East (GWE) series by David Isby (SPI 1978), a game system that portrays early WWI campaigns NOT on the western front - operations that had not been covered in any other wargames at the time of publication.

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20 Jan 2022

Frigate

One of the problems with naval wargaming is that there are so many published rules sets available (on all eras of naval conflict) which one do you choose? Boardgames of sailing ships fighting on hex maps are a subset of naval miniatures rules, and there are, once again, several to choose from. James Dunnigan's Frigate (1974 SPI) offers a distilled look at fleet command with a simplified damage model and generic classes of ships.

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