BCS shines a light on OCS

The Operational Combat System (OCS) is a holy grail system for many. In players circles, critics are shunned, negative judgement  about OCS are burned at the stake or better yet dismissed as fools who don’t understand what they have.

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You would be a fool to offer any sort of radical changes to the iconic system.

With this in mind I present just such a thing! :).

Actually this blog presents to you no rule changes, but more of a call for a discussion about supply in the light of Dean Essig’s revelations in the BCS designer notes. Which frankly excited me more for OCS than BCS. I was imagining the possibility of not having to shuttle donkeys and wagons and trucks full of 1 Token counters across the Steppes of Russia or round the mountains of Sicily! The giddy thought of being freed of the shackles of accountancy (I took a faculty pass in College to get me thru it then…OCS is now my penance).

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BCS which I think is going to be superb, based on what we have seen and read so far, does a curious thing to me. It shines a 10 GW spotlight light on the inherent flaws in the way supply is modeled in OCS. ..WHOA…..Sorry...Maybe flaw is too strong a word. It shines a light on the way  Supply is modeled in the game system that makes me wonder if it ain’t time to revisit that bad boy! Lets continue to look at what Essig has to say about logistics:

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What applies at the Battalion level would surely apply at the Regimental scale too right?

Sure. But wait, OCS is divisional scale. With 1/2 week turns. Really? Are you sure?

German, Soviet and Commonwealth forces all have break down units for the most part that are Regimental. Yes there are indeed limits to the number of break downs. Why? Likely counter printing costs, and play ability issues. This means we are playing with Battalions and Regiments more often than not, even if the time scale is different across different systems.  As a player you end up using the most bang for the buck combat value units (CF & AR ratings)  that cost the least to get into the fight. If BFS can evolve a supply system to manage Battalions of guys (probably with company break downs) into something more streamlined then why not OCS?

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One element of the OCS system is the inherent static nature of forces and the lack of ability to ever really use arty (OCS Korea anyone?).  In a combined game of Case Blue GBII you can have literally 100’s of units doing very little or nothing for turns on end.

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Precision players max – min not combat results but Supply in OCS. “How can I squeeze that one extra supply point to execute my desired uber plan? ”

“Ahh, yes lets leave those motorcycle Bns in the rear, or lets not move that set of motorized regiments this week.”

Don’t get me wrong boys and girls. There is a sublime satisfaction from pulling of that massive un expected strike deep into the enemies heartland. but is the rest of the Army really chilling….please dont trot out the “oh you must imagine low level conflict along the front!!!!” canard either. Action must and did occur in many parts of a given front.

 

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I think in a nutshell what Essig is doing here inside the guts of BCS is the same as he did to the combat system for OCS. by applying a random element (surprise rolls and a wide distribution of results for the combat system) he breaks the back of the ASL style, or perhaps its the Avalon Hill style accounting players hold on the game in terms of game play.  You will be subject to variation..to chance and there can be no perfect plan.

Instead now you are forced to deal with a situation where you may not be able to use all the assets where you wanted them for what you wanted them for. Due in part to logistical foul ups, or day to day problems. The could end up being problems with this method inside BCS. There are many situations from the war histories that show plentiful supply was on hand for operations and the level of freedom to act was much higher than this new SNAFU table would permit. I imagine this can be handled with X activation free from the table or some similar factor.

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It would be interesting to see a review of Supply for OCS and all of its effects with this new level of thinking that has been applied  to BCS. The fact is that OCS is largely a Bn and Regiment level scale game in most instances with larger divisional units all able to be broken down to Regiment size generally speaking.

So there is some justification to take a review of how Supply is used, what mechanism could be refined, how combat and mech movement are applied and what impacts this has upon Trace supply constructs. This might change the value and use of HQ’s also.

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This might be too big a change. It might not work. It might not be worthwhile!

But what if we had the choice?

What if there was a way to still a way to garner the feel and struggle of OCS’s logistical system without the fiddling with tokens and SP, trucks, donkeys and wagons with  their carry distances and HQ Draw Throw ranges?

That could be amazing!

That could shorten game play time, increase the enjoyment and radically expand the potential market of players of this superb system.

Now. Would that not be something noteworthy to ponder for a bit?

The full designer notes are here:

http://www.multimanpublishing.com/LinkClick.aspx?fileticket=Cd4EVS2yoek%3d&tabid=59

8 thoughts on “BCS shines a light on OCS

  1. It’s very interesting that you post this now. I was just rooting around for what to play next, and settled for my clipped-but-as-yet-unplayed copy of Reluctant Enemies. As I was setting up, I pondered what supply problems I would encounter in this “backwater” campaign.

    The more cynical gamer would have wagered that the OCS system could never be successfully revamped, and yet the changes made to the combat and (to some extent) supply system between the earlier releases and the current ones have been received well.

    I wonder what Dean has to say about this possibility – an overhaul of the canonical OCS supply system. I hope he addresses it at some point!

    1. Well thanks for the note. I doubt Dean will ever see it, not many hard core OCS players read the blog or watch the vids. You make a good point about changes tho!

  2. Hey Guys!

    Can’t say as I agree with JV’s opinion, but I doubt that shocks anyone. 🙂

    As for revamping OCS’s supply system along the lines of BCS, I’m of a mind that scale would prohibit it from functioning as might be hoped.

    While Kev points out the unit scales are arguably similar (though it would be more accurate to state that BCS is Battalions with some smaller units running around (as the battalions don’t break down like divisions in OCS), OCS is divisions with a lot of smaller units running around, plus some ‘divisions’ that are shown in smaller components)… the bigger ‘scale’ issue is one of space.

    A big map BCS game, like Last Blitzkrieg _might_ have a 60 hex pathway from a divisional HQ to a supply source (and that’s probably extreme). That is around 60 miles in the ground scale there. A lot of hexes to be sure, but only 12 at OCS scale and that is a fairly typical corps HQ throw and draw distance.

    Therein lies the rub. All those wagons, trains, trucks and (lol) donkey’s (did you remember the elephants in Burma?) don’t operate in that zone, they move tons of stuff from points further back. Much further.

    While the style of filter used in BCS could be used to direct the limitations on the behavior of the units based on ‘some’ ability to get ‘stuff’ to the back edge of that firehose (the corps draw and throw that you see on the BCS maps), the bigger scale stuff of moving that bulk supply over hundreds of miles to merely to be available at that map edge is OCS material and a different animal than BCS deals with. That ‘backfield’ stuff is not part of a BCS game, you can’t take your battle and move it a few hundred miles across a bigger map… and that is a major part of the logistics puzzle in OCS.

    Plenty of ways to simplify the crap out of the OCS supply system, but they invariably lose the flavors of distance and volume delivered vs concentration of transportation assets that gives the system a look at _operational_ logistics.

    Just like I said that BCS couldn’t be ‘little OCS’, I rather doubt one could flip that and make OCS be ‘big BCS’.

    I could be wrong, but that’s my opinion on it.

    Dean

    1. Dean,
      First off, thanks for taking the time to respond. I’m a big fan of all the systems you have designed to date, so taking your comments on board at face value, as I’m no game designer.

      We novice OCS players are not as ‘optimized’ when it comes to shovelling those SP to where they need to be. So, I’m often the guy racing a truck load up to a break through because the HQ’s are a turn behind!…or more…

      I hear you on the scale issue, and well, I’ll just wait to see how the BCS rules read and play, maybe something will make sense in all of that .

      Thanks for reading Kevin

  3. It will take me a while to digest all of the above, but I appreciate your attention to the subject of logistics every time you get around to it, Kev. This is a very well-constructed piece–between your observations and Dean’s. I’m a way-back fan of Dean’s. I used to contribute to his Gamers magazine years ago, with articles on my umpired play-by-phone Civil War Brigade Series battles and line-of-sight algorithms.

  4. Sounds good to me.Somewhat like DBx’s random player initiative points restrict the number of moves in a miniatures game in a much simpler but arguably as effective way to an old-school written orders system. Of course some people wouldn’t like such an approach but it certainly could have higher playability.

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