I have been disappointed with operational-level WWI games for the entirety of my involvement in the wargaming hobby. Contrary to majority opinion, I find that WWI military history is rife with dynamic situations, or, should I say, the possibility of dynamic situations. There are numerous occasions of “what-if” where one side had the possibility of winning the war, or at least, breaking through: Marne, Cambrai, Strafexpedition, Caporetto, Gorlice-Tarnow. The opening battles of 1914 were highly dynamic and rich in opportunity. As were the battles of 1918, with its advances in tactics and technology. And yet, I cannot find a game, or game system, that can capture the changing tactical and operational landscape of the war in its entirety.
A Series of Catastrophes is the working title of a game series that I am designing to capture this period of military history. Taking advantage of the double-blind TOCS system, I am rescaling its tactical focus into an operational game. Instead of WWII companies, or WWI battalions, as the primary unit size, divisions will be the fundamental unit, with regiments, more or less, comprising the step size, or unit of damage. Tightly coupled command and control will rule the battlefield, as it did in 1914. Double-blind, multi-phase movement will model the German march, and Allied strategic retreat, without using special rules. The unknown will drive each player forward, either conservatively in front of Paris instead of around it, or into an exposed flank, the nightmare of commanders on both sides of the conflict.
I’m purposely setting the bar high. To that end, I’m digging deep into research material in order to derive workable TO&E (Tables of Organization & Equipment) and OOB (Orders of Battle) data for the combatants across the entire war. My aim is to reach the level of OOB detail found in GRD’s March to Victory and Over There games, while not being tied to a terrible game system.
To that end, on the heels of working on an embryonic French OOB for 1914, I’ve purchased more research material and discovered more websites. I’m now working on an Austro-Hungarian OOB and the French fortress system. My WWI spreadsheet now comprises 19 worksheets of ordnance data, TO&E information, OOB and fortress data across 5 nations with more to come.