Deep Battle Design Notes 2 – Musing on Operational Game Resolution

Things are shaping up in my head for my proposed Deep Battle rule set. One of the key decisions is what game resolution to pitch the game at. Obviously Deep Battle has to be Operational – that is the whole point of the exercise. But, unfortunately, it is not as simple as that. In fact I think Deep Battle has to work at two game resolutions: Front Operations and Strategic Operations.


What is game resolution?

Game resolution, to me anyway, means the level of command the game is pitched at. This in turn leads to decisions on unit size, ground scale, and game duration.

As it happens these are four of the five criteria I used to define a game system as truly operational in my Review of Wargaming Rules I could use for the Operational Level of War. The criteria I used were:

  1. Command: Allow the player to command, on table, an entire corp, army, or army group
  2. Stand: A stand represents a Regiment / Brigade (two levels of command lower), or, at the absolute outside, a battalion (three levels of command lower)
  3. Ground Scale: Have a ground scale of 1:25,000 (or more)
  4. Game Duration: The time scale of the game must span multiple days and perhaps weeks or months
  5. Logistics: The game includes rules to penalise troops that are out of supply

To be honest I was trying to be inclusive in my review so my matching criteria at the time were fairly generous to let as many rules as possible meet the criteria. But when thinking about designing my own set of rules, I’m inclined to be more stringent. Bigger.


Soviet View on Operational Wargame Resolution

The Soviets did not, of course, have a view on operational game resolution. They did, however, have a view on the terminology to use for operational warfare, the relationship between actions of different resolutions, and force to use at each level. The Soviets used specific terms for different levels of action and each level was associated with a force.

Action Force
Strategic Operation Group of Fronts under a Theatre of Military Operations (TVD)
Front Operation Front
Army Operation Battle Army or Corps
Battle Corps or Division or Regiment or Battalion

(Based on Table 3 Relationship of Terminology with Mission, Territory, Action, and Force from Glantz, 1991, p. 40)

Only two of these Soviet levels of action are purely operational in nature: Strategic Operation and Front Operation.


Deep Battle Game Resolution

I think it sensible to follow the Soviets on operational resolution and hence game resolution, if for no other reason than I’ve adopted their name for these types of conflict i.e. “Deep Battle”. Following the Soviets Deep Battle has to cover two game resolutions: Front Operations and Strategic Operations. Ideally the rules wouldn’t distinguish between these game resolutions, but I struggle to see how that is possible so they will be differentiated. A particular game will either be at the Front Operations game resolution or the Strategic Operations resolution.

Soviet Levels of Military Action

Soviet Levels of Military Action

A Strategic Operation will involve one or more Soviet Fronts, will be played on a table where a hex/square is 40 km across, and the units will be corps or Soviet armies. Game turns will be 3 or 5 days depending on ground conditions.

In contrast a Front Operation will involve one or more Soviet armies, will be played on a table where a hex/square is 20 km across, and the units will typically be divisions or Soviet corps. Game turns will be either 2 or 3 days depending on ground conditions.

Here is the summary:

Game aspect Front Operation Strategic Operation
Soviet Order of Battle One or more Soviet armies One or more Soviet fronts
German Order of Battle One or more German corps One or more German armies
Unit size Divisions and Soviet Corps Corps and Soviet Armies
Hex/Square size 20km 40km
Game turn duration 2 or 3 days 3 or 5 days

There is nothing revolutionary here. I’m just following in the foot steps of work that has gone before. Tabletop Operational Wargame Inspired by Drive on Moscow is at the Strategic Operation game resolution – this should be no surprise since inspiration was the Battle of Moscow. In contrast, Tabletop Operational Wargame Inspired by Hell’s Gate is a Front Operation. I have used attributes of these games to define the game resolutions within Deep Battle.


Order of Battle

I’m talking big. One or more Soviet armies for a Front Operation and one or more Soviet fronts for a Strategic Operation.

You might think that a Front Operation was conducted by a single front. This wasn’t quite correct. In an offensive operation a single army from a particular front would lead the charge. However, other armies and corps would lend support. This is why I’m going for a Soviet order of battle that is “one or more Soviet Armies”. And I don’t mention a front because not all of these supporting formations would be from the same front as the assault army.

Similarly a front is the organisation unit assigned for a Strategic Operation. The front assigned would lead any assault. But again the assault formation would be supported by others, hence I choose the language “one or more Soviet Fronts” for the order of battle.

The Germans get comparable orders of battle. Comparable means one or more corps for a Front Operation and one or more armies for a Strategic Operation.


Unit Size

For Deep Battle I’m interested in two sizes of unit:

  • division or Soviet Corps for Front Operations
  • German Army Corp and Soviet Army for Strategic Operations

This more or less corresponds with the principle that commanders directly control the formations one level of the command hierarchy lower, and are typically interested in the activity of the formations two levels lower.


Ground Scale

I have already decided on a grid of hex/squares like Tabletop Operational Wargame Inspired by Drive on Moscow and Tabletop Operational Wargame Inspired by Hell’s Gate. Following the lead of these two games, I’m adopting 40km hex/squares for the Strategic Operations and 20km hex/squares for Front Operations. Assuming a hex/square is 10cm from flat edge to flat edge, this is a ground scale of 1:400,000 and 1:200,000 respectively.


Game Turn Duration

2, 3, or 5 days. I quite like the variable game turn duration of Tabletop Operational Wargame Inspired by Drive on Moscow. The ground conditions dictate how long the game turn lasts; effectively this means in bad weather troops move slower. Game turns are either 3 or 5 days for a Strategic Operation game resolution with 40km hex/squares. For a Front Operation on 20km hex/squares I’m opting for 2 or 3 days. The relative proportion is similar at the two game resolutions.


References

Glantz, D. M. (1991). Soviet Military Operational Art: In pursuit of Deep Battle. Frank Cass.

4 comments to Deep Battle Design Notes 2 – Musing on Operational Game Resolution

  • This is fantastic work. I had been looking for a ruleset that would allow me to re-fight Market Garden or Ardennes on an 8×5. Perhaps the level you are targeting is actually too big for what I was after – which at the very least, makes us consider the size of Eastern Front battles.

    • Steven Thomas

      I’m not sure of the order of battle for Market Garden or Ardennes. But if it is smaller than the sort of operations I’m interested in then I suggest Martin Rapier’s PanzerGruppe.

  • Great Stuff! I can’t wait to see where you go with this. But please remember sometime in the future, we poor gamers who have only US, British, French, Japanese, Australian, etc. etc. troops

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