Size Matters

This year’s Expo provided a sharp contrast between the gamut of possible play options within the Operational Combat Series.  The upper limit, in terms of size, for the first dozen years or so had roughly been been the 4-mapper.  Titles in this category include EatG, GBII, Beyond the Rhine, and DAK.  At the lower end were the 2-map games: Tunisia, Sicily, Hube’s Pocket, Burma, and Baltic Gap.  Korea and The Blitzkrieg Legend are both tweeners, with 3 maps, but the former is commonly grouped as a lower end iteration of the series, and TBL with the big ones.  

Two new size categories developed over the past dozen years.  Most notable was Case Blue, so large a beast that it conceived a linked world of East Front “map sets" that created a joined game that staggered the imagination: it was GBII plus EatG plus yet another 4-map+ area for the Caucasus region.  To this startlingly large physical scope (a dozen full-sized maps and several smaller ones) was paired a time coverage at least as staggering: 19 months of heavy combat, from October 1941 to April 1943.

It seems a lifetime ago now, but my conversion from OCS dabbler to OCS nut came during playtesting of Korea.  During the 18 months that a couple of us in Des Moines tested that thing, it never left my table and never sat idle for more than a week or so.  I noticed an odd thing, however: we rarely played far into 1951 and spent almost all of our sessions going over and over the opening few months.  Maybe it’s due to the fact that ever since then most of my OCS-play has been during testing, but due to the length of most titles it seems really hard to ever play one to the bitter end.

At one of the early Expos, thought was given to using a chess clock to force rapid play to a degree that would allow a big OCS game to actually be completed.  Alas, the clock was forgotten at home… but it made me wonder what size game could be finished at a long convention. I recall a Beyond the Rhine 2-map 1945 campaign of 24 turns was finished a few years back, but never a 2-map Baltic Gap of 38 turns.  This got me thinking about realistic choices for a convention like this, considering full campaigns of the OCS games published (or in latter stages of development).

Game               Units    Maps   Cache  Turns   Score
Reluctant Enemies    1.0    1.0      .5     21       11
Sicily II            1.5    1.0     1.1     16       18
The Blitz Legend     4.0    2.5     3.2     13       42 
Burma II             2.0    2.0     1.0     45       45 

Sicily               2.5    2.0     1.6     30       47
Enemy at the Gates   3.5    4.0     1.5     34       52
Tunisia II           2.0    2.0     1.0     58       58
Smolensk             2.5    1.0     3.1     19       59
Korea II             2.0    3.0      .7    109       73 
Baltic Gap           3.0    2.0     2.3     38       86 
Hube’s Pocket        3.5    1.5     4.1     32      131
Hungarian Rhapsody   3.5    2.0     3.1     52      159 
DAK                  3.0    5.0      .9    213      192 
Beyond the Rhine     5.5    4.0     3.8     70      265 
The Third Winter     6.0    4.0     4.5     63      284 
Case Blue            8.0    9.0     3.6    178      633
Guderian’s Blitz II  6.5    4.5     4.7    178      836  
GBII + CB           14.5   13.5     7.8    178     1386
AVERAGE              3.5    3.0     2.1     69      144 

Notes:  “Units” is number of non-markers included ÷ 280.  “Maps” is number of full-sized maps.  “Cache” is Units^2 ÷ Maps.  “Turns” is campaign length.  “Score” is Turns x Cache. 

The Cache rating is my way of putting a number to the complexity of any given turn of the game.  One can definitely quarrel over the results — for instance, is a turn of Reluctant Enemies really twice as simple as one of Burma? — but it serves the purpose of establishing a pecking order.  I am calling it a Cache rating because I feel it can also serve as the number of Supply Cache markers each side should get in each game per month.  For instance, in The Blitzkrieg Legend each side would begin the game with 3 of the markers, and then each would get 3 more on the 1st of June.  (You could also roll a d10 against the decimal in 3.1 to see if a side gets 3 or 4.)

The second is Score, which attempts to show the relative lengths of full campaigns.  These combine to form some interesting results.  For example, TBL is shown as both a fairly complex game (a 3.2 Cache score), but because it only has 13 turns its overall Score of 42 makes me think it is the “meaty” game that is easiest to finish in a convention setting.  

Of the seventeen games in the series, note the average Cache and Score  

© John Kisner 2019