Rather than run aÂ conversational design session at the November meeting I decided toÂ try and do something that was at least vaguely playable. My reasoningÂ was that I’d been somewhat frustrated at the conference withÂ discussions of games that looked like they could actually have beenÂ played, and I’d felt that perhaps by playing it we could have testedÂ whether or not the perceived problems were actually real.
Anyway, I did a sort ofÂ role-playing game about re-constructing an infantry company after theÂ evacuation from Dunkirk. John Rutherford was the first person toÂ arrive (after me) and so I cast him as the first officer to report toÂ the village in Devon I’d decided to put the company in. Chosen onlyÂ because the OS map of Devon/Dorset was the first to hand when I wasÂ collecting materials for the game, they might equally have ended upÂ in Scotland! John’s character, 2/Lt Robson was a recentlyÂ commissioned officer who had been sent to France within days of beingÂ commissioned and then evacuated a few weeks later.
On arrival in theÂ village by train 2/Lt Robson discovered that he wasn’t expected, andÂ nor was his company! He set about contacting the local policeman, theÂ vicar, chair of the parish council and other notables in the village.
Staying overnight in the village pub he established that the companyÂ could be billeted on the Mill when it arrived. Within a day theÂ remainder of the company arrived by train under command of the MajorÂ (Jim Wallman). Shortly afterwards Lt Hanse (Mukul) and 2/Lt DuffÂ (Dave Boundy) reported for duty. The company was swiftly sorted outÂ into platoons and sections, on the basis of sharing out theÂ experienced men and the good NCOs as well as those with dodgierÂ records.
The first few weeksÂ were played out in organising the company, the accommodation,Â acquiring weapons, worrying about area of operations, responsibilityÂ for guarding bridges etc and also getting everyone to do lots ofÂ drill. Having worked all this out and got to the beginning ofÂ September I moved to monthly turns where the OC set the trainingÂ priority and each month I asked for volunteers for Officer trainingÂ (and later on Commandos) as well as setting some small incident forÂ resolution, e.g. scrounging a coal lorry, or the Christmas do. If IÂ was going to run this game properly I’d do some more research on someÂ of these things and ensure that the players had some betterÂ background. As it was I was making it all up as I went along,Â including the mechanisms, so it was in areas no doubt thinner than itÂ ought to have been, and probably quite ahistorical.
On the whole we managedÂ to pass four and a half hours playing the game before I drew it to aÂ halt so that we could have some discussion. For me the main point isÂ that there is a game in all of this as there are many decisions to beÂ made. Largely it is a building/development game in its purest sense,Â although what you are building/developing in this case are yourÂ soldiers. Probably the best way to improve the game would be to makeÂ a small card for each soldier which could be updatable with theirÂ stats, rank etc. That would simplify record keeping as the platoonÂ commanders can just keep those in front of them organised intoÂ sections etc. The platoon commanders could also have a mechanism forÂ developing people which would give them some decisions about how toÂ improve their platoon, and also about how to interpret the OC’sÂ training priorities.
We had some discussionÂ at the end about leadership styles and now these should affect theÂ development of a platoon/company. This certainly needs furtherÂ thought, and I think it could be a good way to develop things, butÂ I’m not sure exactly how it ought to impact on the game mechanisms.
If I do get further thoughts from people then I will do something onÂ this.
One thing I amÂ conscious of was not having a well thought out mechanism forÂ exercises, partly this was because I didn’t think we had enough timeÂ to break into a proper wargame. My inclination would be to play thisÂ sort of game as a campaign, and play each exercise as a largelyÂ kriegspieled wargame using the figure resolution of the combatÂ mechanisms (which I did prepare, but didn’t use and I think I’ll needÂ to re-do in the light of the outcome of the session).
On another point, weÂ semi-randomly picked 6th Battalion DLI to be the battalionÂ that we were part of. A quick look at google afterwards showed that 6Â DLI were a territorial battalion and went to France with 50th Northumbrian Divison in early 1940 and then were evacuated throughÂ Dunkirk, they went to North Africa in April 1941 (when we finishedÂ our game) and then fought through the rest of the North Africa campaign, Sicily & Italy. They came back to the UK at the end ofÂ 1943 and were in the assault troops on Gold Beach on 6th June 1944. Probably one of the few battalions to have been at theÂ sharp end all the way through the war.
Here is the spreadsheet (Open Document Format) that I used to speed things up during play (although this will be printed onto cards before I next try this game). Company Roster.ods