viernes, 5 de enero de 2024

Defiance: 2nd Russo-Ukrainian War 2022-? Interview: D.B. Dockter and Mark Herman

Defiance: 2nd Russo-Ukrainian War 2022-? Volume 1: Miracle on the Dnipro 2022 (“Defiance”) covers the initial 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine with the Kyiv and Chernihiv campaigns from February 24, 2022 to roughly April 1, 2022. Defiance builds upon Victory Games’ (Mark Herman’s) Flashpoint Golan (1991), adds a strategic political component, and updates the system for modern multi-domain warfare/the expanded revolution in military affairs (eRMA).

The rules and images shown here are not final.

You can find it in P500
-Why did you decide to make this game?

It’s an extremely compelling topic – and we have a story to tell.

A compelling topic generates interest…and chatter. Lots of chatter. Defiance has generated a few hundred thousand impressions on social media to date. Some chatter has been a hue and a cry regarding designing a simulation on this hot conflict: “it’s too soon”...”the bombs are still falling”…”you’ve got an agenda!” And, other chatter shouts it’s: “timely…relevant…will provide us with a better and deeper understanding than we can get by reading a book or watching tv”.

One of the designers of the game, Mark Herman, has been professionally designing wargames for over 35 years, including modern (and ongoing) conflicts; Gulf Strike: Desert Shield (1990) by Victory Games being a prime example. Similar to that effort, Defiance is a simulation is NOT for entertainment, but rather for understanding the nature of 21st century multi-domain warfare. If that topic interests you, you’re in business. Otherwise, save your money and spend it on some other content (movie and some hot buttered popcorn).

Additionally, the story – a European Republic resisting an invasion by a totalitarian (fascist) state - captivated citizens in Western Republics – and even a gained a worldwide audience - beginning D1 of the invasion (air assault on Hostomel airport). People had a real need to better understand what is actually happening beyond what is reported in the news; where the military analysis is often simplistic, many times wrong and frequently just pure disinformation bots. We know that if the public in writ large wanders into the future without understanding 21st century warfare the issue will not be “too soon,” but “too late.”

Related, we believe it is important for Western Republic citizens to become MUCH more engaged in understanding modern conflict – and a conflict simulation can do that much better in our opinion than a TikTok vid – or even a book or movie – and not just trust policy makers to manage (their history the last few decades on issues of war and peace is not so good). We believe that we can add at least a decent drop in the ocean of educating people regarding this conflict. Hence, the prudent and professional treatment of the subject…much more of a simulation (study), much less of a game (entertainment). Back to Defiance…

We believe our simulation will reflect a number of lessons we’ve drawn from the conflict including:

Economics of war changing: Very expensive platforms (airplanes and cruise missiles ) are being neutralized by less expensive high technology (and adaptive) air defense systems. Witness the Patriot system that just shot down 10 of 10. Russian hypersonic missiles on New Year’s Day…or four su34s (at $50m each).

If you can see it, you can kill it. The proliferation of drones means all is seen 24x7. Defiance utilizes a sensor to shoot model of war. The more comprehensive and integrated the data streams, the more actionable the intelligence. Ukraine is at the cutting edge of crowd sourced Intel, OSINT and integrated nets. This emerging capability represents profound military opportunity and extreme civilian population vulnerability.

What is old is new again. Mines, defensive positions and artillery across a 1,000 KM frontline. Remember, Russia won Kursk, not Nazi Germany.

Manpads can rule. Man portable missile systems have reached a lethality that in many situations neutralizes expensive armor systems. Small Ukrainian hunter killer teams supported by artillery & Intel stopped the initial Russian attack cold.

Morale is to the physical 3 to 1. Motivated, well trained troops significantly outperform ill equiped, poorly led and untrained conscripts using cannon fodder tactics. Donbas looks like WW1 Western Front for a reason.

Fiction in the information space can trump battlefield reality. Disinformation can often overwhelm facts on the ground: where you sit is where you stand.

Political space can trump battlefield space. Aid to Ukraine has been a critical determinate in their battlefield success. So, fights in Congress, the EU and European capitals have dramatically impacted the level of aid provided to Ukraine pre and post invasión. Russia seeks to play Western political space to its benefit on the battlefield.

Expanding battlespace depth. Platforms have greatly expanded battlefield depth. RMA (Revolution in Military Affairs) is undergoing further evolution. Which side best masters “depth” will likely prevail.

Tires matter Logisitics wins wars. Russia is a rail bound 20th century army. We saw that demonstrated with Russia’s 65 km supply column that died in the forests northwest of Kyiv in March 2022.

…these, and additionally lessons that we’ve drawn will be reflected in Defiance.

So, if you are interested in 21th century multi domain warfare - and are interested in how a republic fights off an invading fascist state – or not, we’ve got a timely conflict simulation for you.

-What are the mechanics?

Defiance uses Mark Herman’s Victory Games’ Flashpoint Golan as a basic engine with some significant updates. An extensive article on the InsideGMT blog, November 2023, and GMT Games’ P500 listing for Defiance covers game mechanics in detail. In summary:

At its core, Defiance is a game where players pull chits, activate a formation, and conduct movement & combat while hopefully avoiding enemy detection & response (“sensor-to-shoot”). HQs figure prominently in the game with support, electronic, and combat enhancement capabilities.

A game turn has three phases: Strategic, Operational, and Logistics.

During the Strategic Phase, players draw one of three random SitRep cards that move four political tracks (Zelenskyy, NATO, Lukashenko, and Putin Tracks) and provide bonuses/ penalties for players that accomplish (or fail to accomplish) specific tasks. Logistics points are generated and utilized to purchase HQ chits (which activate formations), logistics supply, and replacement points and improve readiness/muster troops. A Cup of Chaos is constructed which includes purchased HQ chits, a Berg random events chit, bonus chits, and chits that cause the turn to end. Supply is determined (and checked upon a unit activating). Supply states include offensive, full, partial, and out of supply. Russians have a significant challenge, given their dependency upon railroads. Finally, turn strike assets (aircraft, helicopters, drones, and long range missile platforms) are generated for use.

During the Operational Phase, players activate HQs and units from that formation to conduct movement and combat (either meeting engagement or set piece battles) during two activation segments (movement and exploitation). Each HQ may draw upon capabilities (support assets) that may be employed to assist friendly operations or thwart enemy efforts. Two types of Combat: Meeting Engagement and Set Piece Engagement. Combat considers primarily troop quality and die roll modifiers (drm’s) for terrain, supply, and combat support (air and artillery). A Troop Quality check is made. If the result is higher than a unit’s TQ (troop quality), that unit suffers a reduction in morale (normal, disorganized, broken, cadre). Depending upon which side or sides suffer morale reductions, battle outcome is determined. In the case of Meeting Engagements: Standoff, Repulse, Retreat, Stalemate. In the case of Set Piece Engagements: Defender or Attacker Victory (slight, moderate, substantial), a Draw or Flex (defender optional retreat).

During the Logistics Phase, players conduct reorganization (units recover a morale level if they reorganized the entire turn), spend replacement markers (that were purchased during the Strategic Phase) to recover morale levels/replenish ammunition, and conduct a few other odds and ends.

-How do the different sides work?

Russia has more forces/assets, but has a number of challenges. Lower troop quality (ability to conduct cohesive operations), various states of readiness, supply constraints and political “friction” will test the Russian player to implement their plans. Ukraine has fewer forces/assets and a different type of political “friction.” Ukraine possesses a special forces/partisan mechanic – “Vovk [Wolf] units that will pop up and stymie the initial Russia thrust towards Kyiv and Chernihiv.

-Tell us about the scenarios and the campaign mode

The campaign mode is ten 3-4 day turns: roughly the period from FEB 24, 2022 to APR 1, 2022.

Scenarios? A variety of them…with different starting positions: historical, one favoring Russia and one favoring Ukraine…depending upon political tracks.
Defiance will have a bot to play the Russian side to allow for solitaire play.

-Don't you think the game can generate some controversy? Isn't it too soon?

Yes, the game will generate controversy…much controversy. When we first posted on Twitter, we had a few hundred thousand impressions and MANY comments. About 2/3 were quite positive and 1/3 quite negative. Such is the nature of putting out relevant content in 2023. However, we are quite familiar with publishing simulations regarding ongoing conflicts. Mark Herman’s Gulf Strike is a great case in point.

Mr. Herman has indicated that a classified version of Gulf Strike was used the day of the Iraqi invasion to map out potential US policy reactions. At D+1, the report was delivered to the Office of the Secretary of Defense. The story that is not well known is a week before Desert Storm (the offensive), the US Army used the game to look at their war plan. So, we’ve been on this road previously – designing simulations and publishing them while a conflict is ongoing.

And, of course, our friend Volko Ruhnke, published Labyrinth, regarding the War on Terror. Labyrinth is ranked 57th on Boardgamegeek (BGG) of all wargames ever published. So, simulations on current conflicts can be done well, tell a compelling story and be very well received - despite the inevitable chatter & noise surrounding any important and relevant topic.

Too soon? ISW began in-depth military reporting of the war D1. The Marine Corps University wargamed the conflict two weeks prior to the war. In mid-June 2022, Rand had assembled a group of individuals involved with wargaming aspects of the conflict stretching back to 2014. Consequently, we are plugged into those efforts, plus others. So, given this, we believe this simulation is quite timely and relevant.

-What can we find in future releases of this series?

If Defiance is well received, we are planning future volumes for the initial Kherson campaign (FEB-APR 2022), the campaign to liberate Kharkiv oblast (AUG-SEP 2022) and Ukraine’s counteroffensive (JUN-SEP 2023). The counteroffensive is particularly interesting to us. It is clear that campaign was not one of operational maneuver like we all thought it would be (well, except for the Ukrainians and Russians!); but rather one of mine fields, freshly trained troops in NATO doctrine on new platforms, elastic defense, drones and extended depth (artillery, counter-battery and stand-off air support). We anticipate tweaking our game model accordingly.

Given that the basic “plumbing” will be complete with our initial Defiance release, we believe we can turn out subsequent volumes fairly quickly.

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