A Tale of Two Wargames

I first conceived of General Staff as a very simple, introductory wargame that might be the first real wargame to be released for the Xbox (clearly, an under-served market). However, two things stopped this plan dead in its tracks: first Microsoft closed down the independent online games channel for Xbox and then, after being approached by a major wargame publisher, I was told that there was, “no market for wargames on the Xbox,” however a new version of my UMS series, could, “sell 25,000 units in its first year.”

So, I went back to the proverbial drawing board but I also asked you, the Grognards, what kind of a game you wanted. And here are the results:

Clearly, almost as many people want a simple, Kriegsspiel type game as want a complex military simulation.

After pondering this conundrum I had an epiphany: ‘simple’ wargames and ‘complex simulations’ actually share about 80% of the same code and data. Why not make a wargame that the user can decide which he wants to play? Sometimes people aren’t up for hours long complex simulations; other times people are.

Screen capture from General Staff showing the set up for ‘Simulation’ mode (note the button in the upper-left hand corner). Click to enlarge.

In the above screen capture the user has selected ‘Simulation’ mode. Note that there are headquarters units displayed. Headquarters play an important role in General Staff in simulation mode. All orders are given through the commanding general to the subordinate commander (via courier) and then (again via courier) to the actual unit. For example:

In this screen capture an order from Marshal Beresford will take 8 minutes of game time to be delivered to ths subordinate commander. (Click to enlarge)

It will take 8 minutes for the courier to ride from Marshal Beresford headquarters to the subordinate’s headquarters.

It will take an additional 6 minutes for a courier to deliver the order to the subordinate infantry unit. Click to enlarge.

Additional time (based on the headquarter’s Leadership value) will be added before the next courier is dispatched to deliver the order to the infantry unit. So for a command to go from Marshal Beresford, to Major General Stewart to Colborne’s Brigade will take a minimum of 14 minutes of game time plus additional time penalties based on the leadership abilities of Beresford and Stewart.

Detailed information about a unit in Simulation mode. Even the number of volleys remaining are tracked. Click to enlarge.

Lastly, the leadership of Colborne’s Brigade is used to calculate how quickly the unit will act upon the received orders. This is an example of the detailed Simulation mode for General Staff.

However, in Kreigsspiel mode,  all headquarters units are removed and the user issues orders directly to the units that immediately respond to the commands.

General Staff in Kreigsspiel mode. Note the button in the upper left-hand corner, headquarters units have been removed and unit strength is either 1,2,3 or 4.

Also, all unit information except a simple value (1-4) is ignored. Kriegsspiel mode is the simple, introductory wargame that I originally envisioned.


Video Demonstrating the Scenario Design Module!

Below is a video describing how to use the Scenario Design Module for the General Staff Wargaming System. Yes, it really is that simple: just combine two armies previously created in the Army Design Module with a map created in the Map Design Module and create a new battle scenario.

Also, there’s a gameplay surprise in this video!

Announcing the Scenario Editor!

The Scenario Editor Module for General Staff allows the user to combine any two armies created in the Army Design Module with any map created in the Map Design Module and create a scenario or battle. In the screen capture before we’ve combined the Allied Anglo-Portuguese Army from the Battle of Albuera (May 16, 1811) as the Blue Army with Napoleon’s Imperial Guard as the Red Army and placed them on a map of our own design.

Screen shot of the General Staff Scenario Editor. Note that the time to deliver orders via courier between units is displayed. Click to enlarge.

Also, note that when you slick on a headquarters unit the route, distance and time that a courier will take to deliver orders to the next subordinate unite are displayed. This is just the beginning because General Staff is actually two wargames in one.

We will be posting a video showing off some of the new features shortly.



How to Add Scale to Created Maps

One of the many interesting features in the General Staff Wargaming System is the ability to import maps from old atlases or from the internet. While we intend to film a complete instructional video (we’re thinking of including a set of instructional videos explaining how to use the Army Editor, Map Editor and Scenario Editor) we thought we would first share a sneak peek of how to import a map from an old atlas.

An integral part of my office library, a well-worn volume of “The Official Military Atlas of the Civil War”

The “The Official Military Atlas of the Civil War” is one of my favorite books and, like many Grognards, I have dreamed about maneuvering units across these famous maps. I recently realized that I now had all the tools to do exactly that with the General Staff Wargaming System.  First I scanned the map I wanted (the First Bull Run / Manassas battlefield) using an inexpensive flat-bed scanner attached to an ink-jet printer. Then I imported it into the General Staff Map Editor using the built-in feature.

Next, measure the distance between two key geographic points on the map using your trusty Rock Island Arsenal Museum & Gift Shop souvenir plastic ruler.

Measure the distance between key geographic features using a ruler.

Next look up the scale of the map at the bottom:

The scale of this map is 2,000 feet to the inch.

Use Google to do the math (yes, this is actually a programming assignment that is often assigned to first semester college students in CS1).

Three inches = 6,000 feet. Convert to meters.

Just learned that the reprint of the Official Atlas of the Civil War was printed 10% smaller than the original so 3 inches actually equal 5,400 feet!

Next, select the ‘Add Map Scale’ feature in the General Staff Map Editor.

Select the ‘Add Map Scale’ menu item.

Click and drag a line on the map between the same two key geographic features that you previously measured and enter the length in meters:

Enter the length of the line you just drew on the map in meters.

And – voila! – General Staff automatically calculates the map scale:

General Staff calculates and displays the scale of the map you just imported.

A Big Thank You to John McNamara!

Yes, I really do have a doctorate in computer science but often that just means I’m aware of how much I don’t know about computer programming. General Staff is being written in Microsoft WPF and sometimes it seems very arcane to me. I recently had a major problem with something very small; I just wanted to add a ‘thousands comma’ in the display of unit strengths. Well, because of a number of weird programming issues specific to WPF and the Victorian typography that we’re using, it took a couple of days to straighten it out and then only because John McNamara of Maine spent a great deal of his personal time to help me understand how Hierarchical Data Templates work in WPF. Here’s what the final results look like;

Sneak peak at the Scenario Editor Module. Just click and drag units from the Order of Battle Table on the left onto the map to place them for the beginning of the scenario. (Click to enlarge)

Again, thanks John! You’re the greatest! You want a free copy of General Staff when it ships?