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Russ Bensing

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About Russ Bensing

  • Birthday 07/16/1950


  • Location
    Cleveland, OH
  • Interests
    games, modeling
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  1. There's a natural tendency in playing "Historical What-If" to focus on only one side of the equation, and that seems to be what you're doing here. Yes, Hitler made his share of errors during the war, but so did everybody else. What if the French and British had developed an appropriate tactical doctrine for their tanks, which in 1940 were more numerous and of better quality than their German counterparts? What if Stalin had listened to the British intelligence reports about a pending Barbarossa? Yes, Stalingrad was a disaster, but why give out only blame and not credit? The encirclement of the Sixth Army was brilliantly designed and executed by the Russian high command. I think the other problem with your analysis is that the very things which caused Hitler to lead Germany to its destruction were the same things which allowed him to take it to its heights. The man was a psychotic megalomaniac. He cracked when things started going south; a normal man wouldn't have squandered an army in Stalingrad or Tunisia or the Russian steppes. But a normal man wouldn't have taken a nation shattered by defeat to the brink of world conquest in less than a decade.
  2. Yes, it does, and it works marvelously. Moreover, you can switch between TCP and PBEM; play for a while as TCP, do a couple of turns by PBEM, and then resume as TCP.
  3. Not in absolute terms, but in relative terms: they should be declining by 1943 at the latest, and probably by mid-to-late 1942 the Allies should be outproducing them. You also need to introduce some changes to victory conditions: you don't want a situation where the game is over, one way or another, by 1942. You could do a major/moderate/minor victory split, with a combo of conquered countries, time, and resource points.
  4. Here's my .02: VARIABILITY: I've been playing the game since it came out, and I haven't played as much in the last couple of months as I did before. One of the problems is that it gets kind of old. There are only so many main strategies to pursue, and after a few dozen games, you get into the "It's Tuesday so I have to invade Norway" routine. Solution: Borrow the variants concept from A3R. You have pro-Axis and pro-Allied variants, one for each side each game, except that neither side knows what they are or when they'll occur. You're tooling around as Germany, getting ready for Barbarossa, when all of a sudden Turkey joins the Allies. Or same situation, except Turkey comes in on the Axis side. Or the US enters with L3 planes. You could come up with about 10 or 15 per side that would add immensely to the game's replayability. GAME BALANCE: Because of their early start, the Axis maintain an advantage in production throughout the game. By late 1942 they should be getting nearly as many MPP's as all the Allies combined, and are better able to use them because they've usually reached L4 or L5 IT at that point. In reality, the Axis should have an advantage in the early years, but the tide should slowly turn as the US and USSR gear up production, eventually overwhelming the German military machine. Solution: Eliminate IT as a researchable tech. The Germans and UK start out at 1 in 1939, go to 2 in 1940, and stay there the remainder of the game. US and USSR enter at 2 in 1941 and go up 1 each year. Italy and France are at 0, and stay there. That, more than anything else you do, will accurately simulate the production of the various countries throughout the war. NAVAL COMBAT: As anybody who's played HOI knows by now, the idea that you can use the same combat engine for both land and naval combat is whack. There's a world of difference between the two. Your chances of finding an opposing army corps in 50-mile-square (hexagonal?) area are 100%; your chances of finding an opposing sub group in the same area are remote. Even finding an opposing surface group, absent air support, isn't a sure thing. Solution: Go to a sea zone system, with losses through relative attrition rather than direct combat. Eg: Allies have 2 fleets and one carrier in same zone as one German sub. Sub loses 3 points, Allies 1. Except neither side knows what the other has in the zone. Losses affected by research in sonar and subs. Same for surface combat, except deadlier, and losses affected by research in gun-laying radar. STRATEGIC WARFARECompletely broken, but relatively easy to fix. Solution: Strat bombers attack resources, even if there's a unit on top. Fighters can't attack resources. Make subs cheaper, and introduce another sea unit -- escorts -- which are cheaper than cruisers. Subs cost Britain MPP's just as in game now. I've got some more, but let's chew on these for now.
  5. Yeah, you could do that, except it doesn't work. Units can only be strategically deployed within the provinces you own. Did you actually try that before you suggested it? Meanwhile, semi-good news: the 12 units that I had in Minsk and that had mysteriously disappeared have now mysteriously reappeared. Unfortunately, I can only deploy them in the US. Which means I have to schlep them by transport back to Europe, because you can't redeploy land units outside your home provinces either. Total bummer. At least when my 24 land units disappeared in Bratislava, I could redeploy them there when they reappeared a few weeks later. Of course, I couldn't redeploy them there until I stationed another unit there, but oh well. This game is seriously screwed.
  6. Doug, Thanks for your comments. I think there's pretty close to unanimous agreement that the strategic warfare aspects of this game need a serious overhaul. One of the things you mentioned -- the fact that the air fleets are a substantially superior investment than bombers -- is quite true, largely because fleets perform almost as well against strategic resources as bombers do: they have an attack value against resources of 2, while bombers have 3. Another suggestion would be to drop fleet attack value to 1 and raise bomber value to 4. (One advantage of bombers: their attack value against strategic resources goes up 1 for each level of research, while the attack of value of fleets on resources never increases.) A level 2 or 3 bomber could easily reduce an 8-value resource to 0, making it a much more desirable investment for the Allies, and investment in counter-strategies -- anti-air and planes -- much more necessary for the Axis player.
  7. But a large part of the reason for that was because Hitler felt it necessary to placate the public by devoting resources to consumer goods. (And we're actually talking about the period prior to the war.) That's not a dilemma SC presents. In short, devoting resources to IT is essentially penalty-free; the German player can easily afford the costs, and the only thing it deprives him of is the ability to research other things. Given the vastly overriding importance of IT (and given that it enables him to build those mammoth units other research will allow), no German player is going to give any thought to whether or not to invest in IT. I understand what you're saying, and I agree with it to an extent. The problem is duplicating the resource allocation during WWII. I think everybody agrees that Germany was finally overwhelmed by the superior manpower and production of the Allies. That doesn't happen here. By mid-1943 Germany is almost inevitably at IT 5, with 600 MPP's or more. Unless all the Allies are at IT 5 at that point -- a rarity -- Germany is outproducing them, and will continue to do so. And that doesn't even include Italy in the equation. I think that's one of the primary problems of the game. If you've got another way to fix it, I'm all ears.
  8. I agree with that completely, and your system would reflect that more accurately. If I recall, Germany produced more tanks in 1944 than it did in any other year of the war, and this despite the Allied bombing. Then again, by 1944 the US was producing ungodly amounts of just about everything. And that's the problem with the game. The number of MPP's for the Allies remains static; they have very little opportunity for conquest. As a result, the only way to reflect the increasing productiveness of the Allies, relative to the Axis, is by having Allied IT -- especially that of the US and USSR -- be greater than that of the Germans.
  9. I'd agree with that, except that I think IT dwarfs the other choices in significance to such an extent that there really isn't a choice. No German player in his right mind is going to ponder whether he should invest in IT or something else; in every game I've played, IT has been the first choice, and there's nothing else even in 2nd place. It's part of the corps, army and tank group structure.
  10. Now let's talk about Game Play and Air Power, because once again I think they're related. One of the most problematic aspects of SC is that the combat resembles WWI far more than WWII, on both fronts, with one side using massed air fleets to bomb an opposing unit or two into oblivion in order to effectuate a breakthrough. I've been on both the giving and receiving end of the 20-airfleet strategy, and to tell the truth it's not much fun either way. Again, there seems to be a consensus that air power is too strong, and several suggestions of how to remedy that, from limiting the number of air units to making them more ineffectual against ground units. The problem with this is that it seriously distorts game play. Not game balance; the Western Allies will be just as negatively affected as will be the Germans in Russia. But the reason the massed-airfleet strategy has come into vogue is because, in view of the game mechanics -- particularly no stacking, the linearity of a hex system, and no coordinated attacks -- it's the only effective method of countering the massed-corps defensive strategy. I can break through a line of corps because I can concentrate 5 (or 10 or 20) airfleets against a single unit; in most cases, I can concentrate only 3, and often 2, ground units against a single unit. If you tone down air power, you're going to wind up with the same trench warfare, except that there'll be no way to break through the trenches. Unless you tone something up in its place. And that's where tanks come in. I think SC substantially undervalues the role of tanks. In every single offensive in WWII -- from the Ardennes in 1940 to Barbarossa to the Russian counterattacks to Patton's breakout in Operation Cobra -- tanks played the pivotal role. That doesn't happen here. Tanks aren't any more effective against infantry units than other infantry, and it remains that way throughout the game; a King Tiger has the same attack strength against infantry as a PzII. Fixing this involves getting under the hood with the game mechanics. I'd beef up the infantry attack strength of tanks from 4 to 5 or even 6, and have it increase by 1 for each advance in tanks. (Right now it stays constant.) I'd reduce the attack strength of air fleets against infantry from 2 to 1, but have it also affect readiness (which is related to supply): for each air attack, the defending unit suffers a loss of 1 in supply. I'd change the combat results formulas to make supply much more significant, especially on defense. Right now, supply only affects how much damage a units inflicts, not how much it suffers: a corps at 0% readiness will suffer the same losses as a corps at 100% readiness. Frankly, I think it should be the other way around, but it seems clear that, at the least, loss of supply should have a substantial effect on the losses an attacked unit suffers. Last, I'd change the combat system to include a retreat rule, so that a defending unit retreats when it suffers a certain loss. That, coupled with the change in the supply rules, would make armored breakthroughs and envelopment a much more possible and more rewarding occurrence. A grand strategic game should, of course, focus on grand strategy: economic decisions, who to attack and when, and so forth. But it should also should include what might be called operationally strategic decisions, especially on a front as wide as Russia: deciding to mass forces in a particular area to effect a breakthrough, anticipating where your opponent will strike and building your forces there for a counterthrust, keeping sufficient reserves to deal with any sudden threat. For the most part, SC does not capture that. These changes, I think, would introduce a good deal of fluidity to the battlefield, and would greatly enhance the enjoyment of game play.
  11. If you came here expecting to see dead horses flogged yet again, sorry to disappoint. There's virtual unanimity that certain aspects of the game -- strategic warfare, the Med -- need to be fixed. (Although I think the 1.06 patch will go a long way toward solving the latter.) Numerous suggestions on how to do that have been proposed, and I don't intend to rehash them. There's also a consensus that other aspects -- MPP allocation, research, game balance, air power -- need fixing, and again a number of suggestions have been advanced. I'd like to take a fresh look at those, offer some of my own suggestions, in the hopes of moving the discussion of SC2 forward. Let's start with MPP Allocation and Research, since I think they're somewhat intertwined. Here's what I would propose: Research follows a 3-2-1 model (3% chance per chit for the 1st advance, 2% for the 2nd, 1% for every advance after that). Plunder is reduced by 1/2. Ind Tech is no longer a researchable advance, but is hardwired into the game: Germany starts at 1 and goes up to 2 in 1940, UK starts at 0, goes to 1 in 1940 and 2 in 1941, and US and USSR start at 2 and go up 1 each year thereafter. Why? First, research is much too fast overall; it's not at all unusual to have a game where there are L4 tanks and planes running around by late 1942 or early 1943. After I press the DONE key, I'm disappointed if I don't get an advance. It shouldn't be that way; research should be an unexpected occurrence, not an expected one. Secondly, the game balance is affected by the MPP allocation, and the IT advance. Germany gets a whole bunch of MPP's in the first year or so, which it dumps into research, especially IT. (The German player is the only one who almost never has to make a choice between investing in research or buying units; he can do both.) By mid-1942, Germany is substantially outproducing all of the Allies combined, and although that edge can be reduced somewhat, it is usually not eliminated. Historically, what should happen is that Germany has its best chance to win in 1941 and 1942, but after that the combined weight of increased Allied production simply overwhelms them. This brings up one last point here, and that's victory conditions. We've talked a lot about game balance; I think part of the problem here is that victory is defined as total, i.e., the German player wins if he completely subjugates the Allies (which he will almost invariably do if he takes either Russia or Britain), and vice versa. The result is that the game is not deemed to be balanced unless the German player has a 50% chance of doing that. It's just my opinion, but I think you could make a good case that the Germans had only about a 30% chance of doing that in actuality, in terms of this game; it was only incredible incompetence on the part of the French and Russians that allowed them to do as well as they did. So why not have "levels" of victory? Major victory for the Germans is conquest of either Russia or Britain, substantive victory is holding on to part of France or Russia by game's end, marginal victory is holding out until game end. For the Allies, victory is conquest of both Axis and dependent upon when that occurs: major in 1944, substantive by May of 1945, marginal thereafter. That could make the game more interesting, too; as it is, most PBEM games usually end when it becomes clear that the German player is or is not going to conquer one of the Allied countries. That's my two cents. Now, here's a couple more...
  12. It's not worth investing in because what it's intended to protect against -- strategic bombing -- isn't worth doing. The Allies can't afford to invest much in bombers -- they have other needs more pressing -- and the game mechanics don't really allow much in the way of strategic bombing. There are a limited number of hexes to attack, you suffer more losses than you inflict, and your opponent can avoid the infliction of any losses by the simple technique of sticking a corps on top of the resource. I think you could go a long way toward solving this problem in three steps: 1. Increase the initial Strat Bomber level of the UK to 1, and give the Americans a Strat Bomber when they enter the war. 2. Allow strat bombers to bomb the resource rather than any garrison on it. 3. Reduce air defense strengths of all resources to 0 (right now, cities are at 2, ports are at 1, and mines and oil fields are at 0), and increase it by 1 for each level of anti-air research. Having the Western Allies blow away about 30 or 40 points of MPP's a turn, without suffering any losses, will give you ample reason to invest in radar.
  13. I'm not too keen on that. I think it's important to realize what SC is, and what it can and can't be. There's a preview of Hearts of Iron over on the Wargamer Board; HOI has gone gold, and will be released next week. It sounds pretty promising: it covers the whole world, you can play any country, it's incredibly detailed, there's diplomacy, there's this and that... But then you read that it took the guy who previewed the game six hours to play the first three years, and that's before the war started. (The game covers 1936 to 1948.) Plus, you run into Bensing's Rule #146, which is that in any computer game, the AI's competence is inversely proportional to the game's complexity. It was pretty neat reading how the German player could persuade Czechoslovakia to join the Fascist alliance, but I'm betting that by the third time you play the game, anyone who hasn't flatlined his latest EEG will have figured out exactly what you have to do to make that happen. I'll get HOI, and maybe it will be the definitive global strategic level WWII game, and maybe not. Or maybe it will be, but it'll be real hard to come up with PBEM players who will be around for the four or five months it'll take to complete a game. With SC, I can complete most PBEM games within a couple of weeks. There's some things that definitely need to be changed in it, but I believe that making it into the definitive global strategic level WWII game isn't a desirable, or even achievable, goal. No pun intended, but there's a world of difference between modeling the Eastern and Pacific Theatres. Hubert's done a fine job with this game, but he's one guy, and expecting him to create a game which accurately simulates tank combat in Russia and carrier combat in the South Pacific is expecting too much. I'd rather get the European Theatre right. (And it's not, yet.) Same thing with some of the other ideas. Paratroops are nice, but not in this kind of game. Having subs fighting the Murmansk convoys would be cool, but not in this kind of game. I'm not even keen on little things like choosing when to intercept air attacks. The great virtue of this game is the ease of playability. Correcting some flaws to make it function more realistically and more fluidly seems to be a more worthwhile and more achievable goal than trying to make the game everything to everybody, and winding up with something that really doesn't work at all.
  14. First, I'm not keen on doing anything which enhances experience in this game; I think the effects of it are too dramatic as is. Second, you can largely avoid your problem by the simple technique of not reinforcing your units. I had a game a while back where my (Axis) opponent was beating the hell out of my corps on the Russian front with armies at strength 3 and 4, so I plugged the combat formulas into a spreadsheet and took a look. Some interesting stuff. An army at 3 strength with 3 XP's will inflict the same damage as an army at 10 with 0 XP; the difference is that the former won't suffer any damage. Here's another interesting little tidbit, for those who've advocated having air fleets reduce the readiness of ground units they attack, instead of causing them to lose strength points: readiness affects the losses that a unit causes, not the losses that it suffers. In other words, a defending unit at 0% readiness will inflict fewer losses on an attacker than a unit at 100% readiness, but there won't be any difference in how many strength points it loses.
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