Saturday, September 19, 2009

The direct and indirect approach to war

We were talking in design class about how to modify Risk to make it a better game, and the following came to mind.

It was said in the WWII era that the Germans felt the Americans fought in the pattern of American football. This is the "T" era, four yards and a cloud of dust, line up a big mass and crash your way through, with occasional passes: get more of everything and smash the enemy in their strongest position. (But there WAS some passing.)

The British traditionally use what B. H. Liddell-Hart called the "indirect approach"--there's a book with that title that I read about 40 years ago--which is much facilitated from/by the sea: choose the weak points of the enemy, send a sufficient force to achieve your objective (economy of force), ultimately defeat the enemy without having to confront his strongest force.

Some games seem to encourage one method or the other. For example, Risk is the "American method of war" game par excellence.

Britannia appears to be much more the British method. When people try to play the American method, they may kill a lot of armies, but they don't win the game. Sometimes I say this is playing Britannia as though it was a conquest game, which it is not. Force preservation is very important.

I occasionally wonder if I should have limited the "unlimited" stack size to maybe 5 or 6 armies, if that would make Brit even more the "British method" game. Certainly, I limit the max stack size in all of the successor games. The two-dice combat method might help too, making some attacks less risky.

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