Avalanche Press Homepage Avalanche Press Online Store



Strategy in
Defiant Russia

Search



ABOUT SSL CERTIFICATES

 
 

America Triumphant:
Designer Musings

My preference in designing a game is to include those elements that affected or could have affected events. In America Triumphant this took the form of German supply limitations, amply covered by the use of diminishing German command points, Hitler's influence on the allocation of forces, covered by rolling for reinforcements, and the small (read insignificant) paradrop, which has its own rule, the length of which outweighs the value, but is required to cover the unlikely event that the drop actually accomplishes something.

Other elements bear some explanation, mainly the lack of a bridge-blowing rule for the Americans and “special rules” for the U.S. 106th Infantry Division. While it is true that American engineers opposing the northern wing of the German advance blew several bridges, but only to halt the Germans in front of the positions to be defended. The bridges were not blown and then the locality abandoned. The Americans knew they were going to return and did not engage in strategic bridge destruction, and the Germans needed every bridge intact in order to continue the advance (and the Americans could place a bridge in very short order).


Hammer of the Plutocracy.

The green 106th Division was mauled in the opening days of the Bulge offensive, but more as a result of their wide frontage and unpreparedness than any particular flaw with the formation, which is simulated by the first turn special rules governing German chit draws.

Play in America Triumphant usually begins with the German player breaking through in the south and driving in the northern shoulder of the American position. The ability and willingness to exploit a hole in the enemy line is the measure of risk taking on the German part. The Allied player's risk is inherent in the decisions regarding unit placement in containing a breakthrough. Uncertainty regarding the order of, or even ability to, move can test the hardiest of souls. I have seen players who would press an opponent at every turn play circumspectly because they can no longer count on getting the next move and see in their opponent the ability to do everything.

Of course this is always the case, and players must realize that because their opponent can do 100 things does not mean that every one of them will be done. A German player’s willingness to conduct overruns, for instance, can be the difference between a steady but overly slow advance and a breakout that threatens to encircle an entire portion of the line. This also allows the personalities of the players to be an even bigger part of the game. As was historically the case, the German must take ground and destroy units, and the Allied player retain ground and not lose too many units. How each accomplishes their objectives by balancing these two all but mutually exclusive goals is the heart of the simulation.

The game system used in America Triumphant, Alsace, Gazala (with one modification), Red God of War and a number of projects in the works is the result of the combining of two of my favorite game systems to simulate the fluid and uncertain nature of war at the operational level.


Tiger Hunt?

The first system is the old SPI standard, Panzergruppe Guderian, a favorite from my youth. Many enjoyable gaming sessions have I spent playing PGG and several of its derivatives (Cobra, Drive on Stalingrad and Kiev to name the best). At one point I challenged one and all to beat me at Cobra, something that happened only once in many games (Randy Heller besting me in a wild but tight game where I killed Patton but could not win). Cobra appealed to my anal-retentive nature where understanding the relationships between game elements (movement, overrun, combat supply and replacements) made meticulous planning and careful execution a deadly combination. In the final analysis, it is a very regimented game where detailed operations can be conducted (where will all my units be placed to best exploit or contain a breakout, where is the best place to halt the retreat and establish a new line, etc.) and knowledge of who moves when and how far limits possible responses to a manageable number.

The second system is the MacArthur's Return chit system from our first pair of game releases in 1994. The drawing of chits and the limits on which chits can be played provide players with a level of uncertainty that depicts the fog of war without a mountain of rules. The uncertainty as to whose action is next (or even if they will get an action) makes for a decision-making environment where risk is a much bigger part of the equation and must be weighed more carefully, but with less certainty than I-go, you-go game systems. I find that players focus more on the objectives than the turn-by-turn movement and combat details and attempt to discern their opponents overall plans or, when on the offensive, impose their own in a more realistic fashion.


Designer Portrait?

From my love of these two systems came the desire to combine the best elements of each. The first opportunity came when I selected the Soviet 1942 “Mars” winter offensive as an area of study. Recently-revealed Soviet records and the interesting timing and nature of the battle made it very attractive as a game. Here was a major Soviet offensive not previously covered in a wargame. The battle was huge in terms of scope and was expected to eliminate a major German salient in the North and possibly lead to a repeat of the Soviet Winter 1941 success. That it did not succeed was by no means a certainty and required the commitment of German forces from Army Group Center that could have been sent south (and later were) to oppose the Soviet “Saturn” offensive that ultimately destroyed the German Sixth Army at Stalingrad. Soviet estimates of German strength and their own forces’ capabilities were optimistic and the improved tanks and fresh forces could not overcome their own poor command and control and a tenacious defense. The German line was repeatedly bent, but never completely broken. Even in terrible winter weather conditions, the Germans were able to reinforce and even counterattack in those sectors most threatened. The offensive did succeed in wearing down the Germans so that a similar offensive on their part was not possible and the dispatch of reinforcements south delayed.

Command limits in the game represent the supply (all forces) and command (Soviet) problems that plagued commanders on both sides. Weather, as always, is an outside force that can destroy the best laid plans. Soviet forces include those poised to launch the second phase of the operation and pinch off the salient. Players can optionally release these forces to operate with the first phase, although supply problems will reduce the effective period of operations if they do so.

 

I was very happy with the game and the system and set it aside as one to be produced later. It wasn't too many months later when Mike asked about doing a game on the Bulge in a small format. I offered to do one using the same system and America Triumphant was quickly produced. Supply was not a problem for the Americans, so it was dropped, but German fuel shortages were conveniently portrayed by the command limits table. The possibility of the German player receiving outside reinforcements was pretty good and additional units were historically committed after the offensive began. The replacement pool concept was born and the German player given the ability to request additional units.

Two additional games have been produced: Gazala, which uses a scale different enough to require the addition of anti-tank combat, and Alsace, a small game covering operations along the southern French-German border in late 1944 and early 1945, most famously the German Nordwind offensive. Each game includes scenarios of operations that were planned, but not conducted and Alsace can be played in conjunction with America Triumphant and forces and supplies from one game sent to the other. Alsace, and others, include outside political and command influences which may limit operations, the commitment of forces, or the definition of victory. The system is ideal for covering large to very large battles and campaigns. Future games might include the fighting at Alamein, the Italian campaign, the battle for Normandy, the battles for the Kerch peninsula or many, many others.

Brian L. Knipple
June 2005

Clarifications to America Triumphant

(Not applicable to other games.)

Major Rivers.

The river running through Liege is the only major river on the map.

Machine Gun Units.

The three factors on German machine gun units are (from left to right) attack strength, defense strength and movement.

Section 13.

The late insertion of the special rules in section 13 led to a mismatch between the rules index and rules body references to section 13. In all cases a reference to a 13.# rule should read one higher (13.1 should read 13.2 and 13.5 should read 13.6, for example).

ZOC costs.

Somehow the costs to enter and exit enemy zones of control were deleted in the final map file. The cost to enter an enemy ZOC is +1 movement point. The cost to exit an enemy ZOC is + half of the unit's current movement allowance (round any fraction down).

Corps Headquarters.

The American VIII and V Corps headquarters unit set up locations are reversed (this has no effect on game play).

Use of Air Power.

Air power is available on both clear and cloudy turns. Rule 3.2 is incorrect; rule 11.3 is correct.

Weather.

Weather conditions have no effect on reinforcements or German supply points (3.1 is misleading in this regard).

Engineers.

Engineer units have no special powers in combat or in river crossings other than to build bridges (the implications in 11.7 are misleading on these points). The Allied player may not destroy bridges.

American Regiments.

The 507th Parachute Regiment should be part of the 17th Airborne Division, not the 82nd. The 289th Infantry Regiment (of 75th Infantry Division) was duplicated; the extra piece is not used.

Operational Halt.

The only modifier to this die roll is to subtract 2 from the result in snow turns (the plural “modifiers” should be singular).