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TEE-EEE-CEE (by Tom Russell)

Detail of Plan 1919 map, map art by Ilya Kudriashov

I've tried, with varying degrees of success and failure, to impart my love of wargaming to others. Sometimes it's an uphill battle. I've had folks who told me they weren't interested in war (but who started playing Call of Duty immediately after abandoning our game of Hammer of the Scots). I've had folks who weren't thrilled with the cardboard and paper. There have been surprisingly few people who have had problems with odds ratios, for all the hay that's been made about math anxiety. Extra little chrome rules don't pose much of a problem to experienced Eurogamers and tabletop RPG enthusiasts, and anyways, when I'm trying to indoctrinate someone into our little cult, I stay away from the chrome-y games.

No, the single biggest obstacle, for whatever reason, has always been the Terrain Effects Chart. It's not that it's a hugely complicated or arcane concept, paying different movement point costs for entering different hexes, and having different defensive bonuses for occupying different terrain. If folks can wrap their heads around ZOC, stacking, and exploitation phases, TECs theoretically don't pose a problem. And it's not that they have a problem with consulting a chart, because for certain types of wargames, every time you fire or charge, you're going to be cross-referencing results on a chart. I think where the problem is, is that in the TEC you have a chart that you're consulting every time you move one guy to one hex.

Terrain Effects Chart from The Scheldt Campaign. This one is not too complicated and nimbly captures the difficultly of the terrain and its effects on the campaign.

Tactical games can be especially trying in this regard, but I've run across a couple operational level games with higher granularity in the movement costs. I tend not to use them as introductory games, and I tend not to play them myself - I get tired of constantly having to look up whether this hex costs 3 or 4 MP.

Instead, I lean toward models of terrain movement costs that render an actual, formal TEC unnecessary (at least as far as the movement point costs go).

One of these models, "2 for Forests", runs something like this: each hex costs 1 MP, except for forests, rough hexes, cities, what-have-you, which all cost 2. It's simple and it gets the job done. It makes teaching the game easy-peasy. Usually, this model works so that every type of terrain that costs double MP also doubles the defender's combat factor, or gives them a shift, or what-have-you, instead of twice for this and three times for that thing.

Another model, "Stop in the Forests", only really works for those games where movement is usually restricted to two or three hexes. Here, the slowing-down of your troops by certain types of terrain is represented by ending the unit's movement when it enters that hex. A related idea is that old chestnut, "you can only cross a river if you begin the movement phase adjacent to it and spend all your MP to do so". I'm not always a huge fan of this one, but it works alright for certain simple games.

My favorite model however is "plus-one for Forests". Basically, the idea here is that every hex costs 1 MP, but the presence of certain hex or hexside features adds one to the cost to enter that hex. +1 MP for a Forest, +1 MP because I'm going uphill, +1 MP because I'm crossing a river, +1 MP because it's adjacent to enemy artillery, whatever. No need for a chart, it's just looking at the hex and adding a bunch of little ones until you get to your total.

For my money, any of these are preferable to "It's 2 MP for this hex, and 3 MP for that one, no wait, that's the cost for a tracked vehicle, and this is a wheeled vehicle, so it's this many MP instead".

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2 comments

  • There is another method other then the ones you’ve described. In the War Stories series of tactical WWII games, the board contains 7 hex megahexes. Each megahex (representing open terrain) costs 1mp. Other terrain (forests, towns, hills, etc) is added to the base map as overlays. It costs 1mp to enter any 1 area in an overlay. Lesser woods might be a 3 or 4 hex area, dense bocage might only have 1 hex per area. Any overlay automatically blocks LOS between 2 ground level hexes.

    The whole system is very straightforward, it’s too bad the games didn’t attract a larger following.

    Ron

  • never really thought about it – but there is a fine line between easy-peasy and the designer trying to get down into the weeds – or bogs or dirt vs paved roadways… if it all kind of comes out in the wash anyway I am sure in favor of simpler and easier to remember – just barely survived Roads to Leningrad – I am sure we got 70% of the moves and 40% of the attacks per the rules…. thanks for the article! Mark

    mark dreyer

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