Take a look at these victory conditions:
- The British win at game end if there are no Good Order German (non-vehicular crew) MMC(s) in any multi-hex building on/between hexrows H and P.
- The Germans win at game end if they occupy two or more buildings with a Good Order MMC.
- The Republicans win at game end if there are no Good Order Nationalist MMC(s) in the following buildings: sW4; sBB2; qY8; qS9.
- The Americans win at game end if there are no Good Order German MMC(s) in building rW7 and no Good Order German MMC(s) on any hexes of Hill vH7.
- The Russians win at game end if they have a Good Order (non-vehicular crew) MMC in [four or more] of the stone building/rubble hexes.
- The Germans win at game end if they have at least one unbroken German (non-vehicular crew) MMC(s) in [two or more] of the following buildings: 63T5, 63W5, 59V6, 59V7.
What do these conditions have in common? Two things. First and most obvious, they all share the same nature (even though some are written from the defender’s perspective rather than the attacker’s). Second, they all come from the two most recent products from Schwerpunkt: Schwerpunkt Volume 17 and Rally Point 6.
Actually, they represent what seems to be a growing trend over the past several years in Schwerpunkt scenarios: eschewing control of buildings or hexes/locations for victory conditions and relying instead on a variation of the “no Good Order MMC” provision.
It is true that the “no Good Order MMC” provision in a sense dates back all the way to the earliest days of Schwerpunkt. If you look at Volumes 1 and 2, it is fairly common. However, in many of those situations, the provision was for an area (like “between hexes V and BB” or “on any hill hex”) rather than for specific buildings. Recent Schwerpunkts have kept the tendency to use the area variation of the provision, but also seem to have increased the use of this provision in lieu of building control provisions.
Why would a designer do this? For one thing, it is easier to break units in a building, or engage them in Melee, than it is to actually control the building itself, because there could be a million broken units in the building and it wouldn’t matter. One could posit that use of this provision over a building control condition shaves roughly half a turn from every scenario in which it is used.
Moreover, with regard to Schwerpunkt scenarios specifically, the vast majority of such actions are designed according to the “Schwerpunkt” style, which in essence forces an attacker to attack aggressively or risk running out of time by the end of the scenario. There is little room in a typical Schwerpunkt scenario for a more cautious attack, or for “indirect approaches” that might take a little more time to complete. More often than not, the scenario time limits mandate a fast and “straight up the gut” approach.
With this fact in mind, one can see how building control can throw a spanner into the works in a Schwerpunkt scenario, especially if the building is a multi-hex or multi-level building. After all, a single broken half squad in a corner of a building is enough to deny control, and might necessitate that extra half turn to clear out. But Schwerpunkt designers are loathe to give players that turn. As a result, increasingly often, it seems, Schwerpunkt scenarios have victory conditions that focus on the presence of Good Order enemy troops in buildings rather than on building control, in order to allow them to lop off that last turn without drastically affecting play balance.
Is this a good thing or a bad thing? In one sense, it may be a good thing, particularly so since it may help eliminate some of the gamiest situations where building control is denied, such as that last broken half squad meaning the difference between defeat and victory.
Are there any ill effects? On its own, there may not be. However, combined with another common feature in Schwerpunkt scenarios (and fairly common generally, one should note), there are some potential problems. That feature is the feature of ending a scenario on a half turn rather than at the end of a game turn.
Here is how those two can work together to create a potential problem. Many Schwerpunkt scenarios have few enough turns that any significant delay, self-imposed or otherwise, on an attacker may mean that the attacker has to do that desperate last-turn dash in order to get to the building in question and break its occupants or engage them in melee. If they cannot physically reach a defender to engage them in melee, they have to stand outside the building and attempt to break them (with Advancing Fire, no less). And a defender can defend in fairly gamey way by just making a single unit inaccessible to attackers. There could be five broken units and a Good Order half squad in or near a building, but if the broken units block attackers from advancing into the half squad’s hex for CC, the defender will likely win, barring some incredibly lucky Advancing Fire shot. It may be good tactics for the defender to set up that wall of brokies, but it is still, in the end, just as gamey as holding onto control of a building with that broken 6+1 leader.
Since I am not crazy about adding another attacker turn to a scenario just to be able to mop up a building, I guess personally I don’t have a problem with the “No Good Order” type of VC provision itself. However, I think that in a lot of scenarios in which it is used, those scenarios would be less gamey if they ended on a game turn rather than at the end of the attacker player turn. This way, the defender still has to survive a round of Defensive Fire without breaking before being able to claim victory.
What do you think?
Mark: This is really good analysis. I’ve been thinking about analyzing win ratios and balance according to publisher (I just need to find the time to write down the publisher for each module. However, that brings up the question of complexity of VC. It seems that with each new release, victory conditions get more and more complex. Scenario designers and editors are trying to remove the cheats, but create problems in other ways. Thanks for noticing this. I’ll see if I can’t put some data together later to confirm your hypothesis.
Mark, some very thought-provoking analysis in this piece. The “broken half-squad roadblock” being actually more effective because of the half-turn ending is I think much more significant as you note.
So often in the “Tampa style” the attacker forgoes anything close to optimal fire and movement or fix, pin and reduce low level tactics on the last half-turn because it is actually detrimental.
That full final game turn would actually then reward better tactical placement as you conclude.
Chris Doary says
I think we need more of this sort of analysis (and debate).
Will an extra half-turn make a difference? Maybe. It will not help if the defender is still in a position to “skulk.” But then, the attacker needs to plan for this eventuality, just as the attacker needs to plan for a “zombie” defence.
The other problem with adding another half turn is that it allows the defender to then advance back into the victory area to re-claim it. Overall I think adding that last half turn would benefit the defender far more than the attacker. In many cases the unit that needs to be broken in defensive fire can be shifted to a position out of sight then moved back into danger when all threat of hurting it has gone. Adding one spare half squad out of the VC area that can be sent in via a safe route and you have a big swing.