14 March 2012

GameTalk - POW's

Is managing POW's an interesting and / or realistic game mechanic? In Close Combat, surrendered enemy soldiers followed your nearest unit around the map. In Combat Mission, you could give POW a "move" order. Any examples from boardgames? And should you be able to execute POW's without penalty?

By: Jack Nastyface


Brian said...

It would be a realistic thing to have in games, but I feel players would not find it interesting.

It's just like logistics, we all know how important it is but many players have no patience with anything more than the most rudimentary supply rules - they just want to fight.

Rules for POWs and how they are treated are one of those funny combinations of tactical and strategic: rounding them up and taking them away is an issue for tactical games, but how they are treated is a higher-level issue.

I'd be surprised if Squad Leader/ASL didn't have some voluminous, process-heavy way to deal with these things....

Brian said...

Oh, and I am sure that any number of war crimes are committed in the playing of wargames, it's just that rules are almost never written about it and so the players never notice them.

Think about it, it happens in wargames of any scale: recce-by-fire on populated areas, use of White Phosphorus smokescreens and other chemical weapons on a massive scale, conscripted civilian labour to dig all those field fortifications that magically appear, wholesale destruction of towns, landmarks and historical sites by bombardment, looting, etc. etc..

The only games I can think of offhand that has rules for this kind of thing are Grunt/Search and Destroy, the old SPI Vietnam games, where you get docked Victory Points for overenthusiastic interrogation of prisoners (who may be civilians or guerrillas). And Operation Whilrwind, a game I did on Budapest 1956, docks the Soviet player for massacring crowds of civilians.

RockyMountainNavy said...

Tomorrows War (and I assume Force on Force) has rules for handling captured soldiers. Tend to slow you down and become a burden, similar to when you have to escort civvies. Rules like this work at the skirmish and tactical levels but anything higher is probably not worth the pain.

besilarius said...

Wasn't there a strategic level game, from GDW?, on the Roman Empire. During a Civil War, it was possible to convert enemy units into either brand new units on your side, or into reinforcement points to fill out depleted units.
Maybe I'm thinking of WestEnd's Imperium Romanum?
Whatever the game, it really made you think about detachments. They weren't just lost, but they could become opposing formations.
Put a totally different slant on garrisons.

Zachary said...

Q: Is managing POW's an interesting and / or realistic game mechanic?

It could be, but I think Brian & RockyMountainNavy are right, most players don't want to worry about the logistical side of a wargame, they want to focus on the fighting side of a wargame.

If the game were designed solely to deal with this idea, I think it could be very interesting, especially if these forces could be converted to fight for your side as Besilarius describes. If the designer wanted to reflect dealing with POWs in a wargame, it seems the more simple the abstraction the better. Say, supply points are siphoned off if there is a large influx of POWs, or if the game used some sort of point system for logistics, those are expended on transporting POWs back instead of supplies to the front.

Q: Any examples from boardgames?


Q: And should you be able to execute POW's without penalty?

Absolutely not! However, the penalty may not be what you at first expect. Penalties could be a loss of victory points for executing POWs, but an alternative might be opposing units stop surrendering and fight to the death, therefore causing more casualties to your units and making obtaining the victory conditions harder. I'm not sure if this is a direct penalty, but it would seem affective enough to make a player think twice before killing POWs, if that were allowed in the game.

Anonymous said...

I personally haven't played any boardgames that include POW management with the exception of Force on Force.
As previous contributors have mentioned, POW's, like logistics, is probably not included for the simple reason that it isn't that much fun. Organizationally, all (modern) militaries plan for POW managment, but who really wants to include a counter for the 3rd Security Company whose sole funtion is to escort an enemy counter from point a to point b?

It is interesting (academically speaking) to reflect upon how the mass Iraqi desertions had an effect on Iraqi and coalition troops during GW-I, and whether this deserves recognition in gameplay.

I table the question regarding killing POW's was modelled (in a way) in both CC and CM. Although you couldn't technically target such a unit, you could "area fire" to where it was. A number of flight-sim games (notably Secret Weapons, Falcon 3, and IL-2) allowed you to machine gun pilots as they parachuted down. None of these games penalized said activity.

On a slightly related note...I just finished reading "A Dawn Like Thunder" and was amused (perhaps not the right word) by a vignette from Guadacanal where a Japanese troop plane came into land at Henderson and was shot down by Marine AA. Seems like the Japanese in Rabual had received word that Henderson had been taken, and the plane contained a contigency of officers to congratulation Japanese command, and accept the surrender of the USMC.

Yours in gaming,

Jack Nastyface

Anonymous said...

I gotta get me a google account so I can go back and correct spelling and grammar...