21 November 2012

GameTalk - Engineers

How can you best portray what engineers are truly capable of on the battlefield in a wargame?  What do engineers do well that hasn't been accurately captured on the tabletop?  What do they do poorly that's yet to manifest as an actual penalty in a game?

By: Brant


Brian said...

The kind of really necessary things engineers do well (fix and/or build roads, warehoses, docks, tank farms, supply clean water, find mines, etc.) tend to get glossed over in wargames because
a) what they do takes a lot of time and
b) it's not bomby-shooty enough.

Most board wargames just say something like, park a generic engineer unit somewhere, leave it alone for a turn, and it will lay whatever kind of egg you want it to - a fixed rail line, an airstrip, fortifications and so forth.

Some games go a bit further and differentiate between construction and combat engineers, usually when it's quite pertinent to the situation - for example, the Avalon Hill tactical game Arab-Israeli wars.

One type of games that seems to treat this well is some miniatures rules sets, where engineers have to have time and resources to build things on the map during the game.

I'm not sure what your last question means. Talk to an engineer and he'll tell you his unit can do anything, and do it well.

besilarius said...

There are differences between different armies, tha might make it interesting or fun.
I remember being amazed to see some ARVN engineers laying out a Bailey bridge and they seemed to skip over the moggy surface. They were carrying metal sheets and just could move so easily.
American engineers would slog slowly into the muck, cursing their McNamara jungle boots which would start deteriorating at becoming so wet.
Now one thing engineers do very visibly occurs after a river assault. You know how there are always pictures of bodies floating around an assault bridge?
Those are engineer casualties. Assault troops are weighted down by ammo and equipment and sink like a stone. The engineers have to move quickly and manhandle heavy loads so they are not overburdened and float.

Anonymous said...

Many years ago, I played the Assault series of games from GDW. They had an engineer module and units.
Most of the work they did was completed before play started, laying minefields, obstacles and defensive positions. The amount completed was dependant on the time allowed. I don't remember how this was determined.
During the game they had some capability to blow or laydown bridges, breach minefields and obstacles. Each task took some many turns (each of which were 5 minutes). They were respresented by counters of individual vehicles and small units.

Brian said...

Yep, the Assault series was one of the few board game systems to have a module where engineers came into their due.

To make it complete, they should have had a "Logistics" module that covered doctrines and actions for loading and running supply convoys, restocking, and managing supply dumps, feeding points, medical facilities, and Mobile Laundry and Bath Units.

And called it "Beans, Bullets, Beds, Bath and Beyond...."

TAH said...

Most engineer units operate in a different time/space compared to the gunfighters. Combat engineers should be able to breach/reduce most types of obstacles in the time frame that many tactical level games portray. Bridge units should be able to conduct some type of assault river crossing using rafts or floating bridges.

Other types of engineer tasks (empalcing minefields/obstacles, building field fortifications, constrcuting anything) just take too long.