Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Running A Conflict Of Heroes Event At GameStorm

I am running a Conflict of Heroes event at the annual GameStorm con, held in the Portland, OR metro area (actually just across the river in Vancouver, WA). I've been putting a lot of thought into how to run such an event, which is not supposed to be a tournament per se but instead an "event". By that, I mean that a bunch of people play the game without there being so much a "winner" and "loser" but instead use the game to tell a story.

To do this for a variable number of players, I have to think carefully about how to do this. At first, I was thinking that I'd have two rounds of preplanned scenarios, but I'm starting to move away from this to a more flexible concept. I'm still nailing things down, but here is the basic idea of what I'd like to do. If you have comments or suggestions, please make them.

Players will divide into two teams, with odd numbers going over to the "attacker" side of things. Both sides would have players of varying skill or familiarity levels if there are such. The game is played out over a broad front, with several "sectors" each consisting of some number of maps. The central sectors will be larger, with smaller maps as you get to the flanks. The event is played over two rounds, with the results of the first round directly affecting the second. One team is the attacker, the other the defender, but if the attacker does poorly enough the defender may be counter-attacking in the second round!

Rather than have a given set up for each sector, each side gets an Order of Battle that corresponds to a number of organizations (I am afraid I don't have enough knowledge of such things to know exactly what size that is - platoon, battalion, or company) that will scale depending upon the number of players that are involved. For example, if there were six players on the attacking side, then there might be (say) 15 companies attacking, from tank units to strictly infantry. If there were eight players, there would be an additional 4 companies. The defending forces are based on the number of *attacking* players for balance. These numbers are for illustration only - I have no idea what the makeup of given formations will be.

Next, players will elect a Commander who will organize the various units. The goal is to break through the center of the front (or to prevent such a thing happening for the defender), so obviously the armored formations will be massed there with some infantry support, with solely infantry on the smaller flank sectors. This not only imitates actual doctrine in the field, but also allows less experienced players to have a good time while learning the game and enjoying the event. Some units can be held back as reserves if there is a breakthrough or counter-attack. The defender will have to decide where the main thrust will occur  and try to assign their companies accordingly. It will be possible to have multiple players controlling units for one side in a single sector.

Depending upon how the first round goes, commanders will be able to adjust their forces to some degree based on success, although some units may be pulled back entirely if they have enough losses. At this point, reserves can be committed, forces can be transferred between sectors, but the idea is that the original sub-commanders for each sector will remain the same, barring loss of players (or gain) between rounds.

I will need to come up with specific maps for specific sectors, probably with extras being inserted between the flanks and the center on each side to adjust for more people to give a good range of complexity for the entire front. The best plan is to "rank" the sector maps (which will need three layers per sector - initial front, area on attacker side, and area on defender side), and take them out in order according to the number of players.

Victory should be fairly obvious, but there will be bonus points awarded for not committing reserves and for units that haven't been wiped out (representing cadres that can be used to rebuild those units). I will not award prizes based on winning or losing, but for things like Worst Luck, Bravest Soviet Hero, Bravest German Hero, that sort of thing.

What I need to do is figure out exactly what level of organization I need to work with, build the formations accordingly, figure out the maps used in each sector, etc. I'm expecting something around a maximum of six sectors for this event, which means probably something like six games (preferably using both the Bear and Kursk box sets for the central areas with some slack on the flanks). I will definitely need to have six sets of cards as well. The hardest part will be creating the OoBs for both sides.

The plan is to use the battle of Kursk as a model, and there should be some good material on this that I can use, although I don't feel I will need to be completely historical. Instead, the object is to provide an "only at a con" experience, expose new players to the game, and see if this framework is worthwhile to use for other conventions by other GMs.

Like I say, I'm very interested in comments and suggestions. The con will be held in late March, with the event itself running for four hours from 1pm to 5pm on Saturday the 27th. If you're planning to attend, I will be registering the event in the next few days on the GameStorm site (

Thanks for your help, and may your tanks never brew up.

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