From: Smyrna, Ga, 30080
Patience, my avid scenario designers, we are getting there. This week I want to talk a little more about purchasing or choosing units. This is one of the most important parts of the process.
As I said earlier, this is one of the parts of scenario design I enjoy most. So many things to buy! Make your purchases carefully, however, as they will largely be the determining factor of your victory or defeat.
Let's begin by loading your saved scenario into the editor. By now you are familiar with that process. Once loaded, you are going to "buy" units for both sides. Notice under the flags that there are some buttons. The two that are of interest to you are "buy" and "deploy." The first one allows you to purchase your units. The second one lets you place them as you think best. Both factors are very important.
Making Purchases: No Credit!
Just before you begin picking and choosing, there are a couple of things to keep in mind.
The Amount of Units in the Scenario: Except for campaign or battle scenarios, the purchase points have no relevance. You are only limited by what the game can handle. A couple of words of caution here. Don't make your first scenario a monster. Keep it manageable. I would suggest limiting yourself to 40-80 units for both sides in your first attempt.
The natural inclination is to buy, buy, buy ("Oh," you say to yourself, "I just gotta have another platoon of tanks!"). Avoid this in the beginning. Once you improve your expertise, you can expand your horizons. Keep it simple. It's already difficult enough without adding to your grief. Big scenarios are not always good scenarios!
Keep in the back of your mind the resume you have written for your scenario. It will serve as your guide in setting up your scenario. Ever read a resume that has little relationship to what is happening on the computer screen. You don't want that.
If it is historical (or even hypothetical), you need to be cognizant of what weapons were available during that time period (the choices you are allowed are not always accurate), the type of units involved and the type of battle you are developing. For example, don't give one side all tanks and the other side only infantry unless the historical situation calls for those kinds of units.
Another reminder: Be sure the date for your scenario is correct. This will generally offer you the weaponry and unit organizations available during that time period. In the newest version of SPWAW, units that are unavailable are now in red. Generally these are pretty accurate, and this will help those who do not have an in depth knowledge of just what units might or might not be available.
Note: There are a number of enterprising SP enthusiasts who have developed their own unit and weapon files. They are called "OOB" files. OOB stands for Order of Battle. There is an OOB file for each country represented in any SP game.
The modified OOB files can be put into your Steel Panthers main directory and may (or may not!) give you more accurate men, materials, and limitations. I hesitate to recommend any particular set of these. Ask around, especially on the SPWAW Discussion forum. The guys who have done these are more than willing to provide them for you along with instructions as to how to use them.
If you do use outside OOB files, it is important to remember that only other gamers with these same files installed can play the scenarios as you design them if you use OOBs different from the game.
I would also urge you to zip up the current OOB files and save them in a separate directory. I make one and call it "Default." There I keep any files that come with the game in a special zip file. For example, I would name this file OOBdefaultSPWAW.zip.
The Basic Setup:
With all of this roaming around in your head, look at the main editor interface. You will see the "Buy" under each flag. Click on this and another screen appears. This one will vary, depending on the particular SP game for which you are designing your scenario.
In the original SP, Sp2 and SP3, the process is slightly different. In SPWAW it is straightforward and easy to do. Remember your resume. What kind of units do you need?
In the game most of you are playing, units may or may not come with transport. It depends on your choices.
Before going any further, browse through some of the lists, clicking on units to see what is included. Don't buy right now. You are just "looking." You'll find this very interesting.
You will have lists of units, based on classifications. The basic classifications are four in number. They include armor, artillery, infantry and miscellaneous (you put everything into miscellaneous when it does not fit somewhere else!). I would recommend that you jot down a few notes as to what kind of units you will want to include in your fighting force.
In a tank-heavy scenario, you will have little of infantry, except as perhaps support for the armor. It might be a mixed armor-infantry type of engagement. Rely upon your expertise in military history for your choices or ask here on the forum from those you know to be good scenario designers. These guys are more than willing to help you.
There are a number of books on the subject of orders of battle. Mr. Scott Grasse has done an excellent job on units for World War II. They are an integral part of SPWAW. The Nafziger collection is also another good source for most beginners.
Warning: In SP and SP2, if you click on that famous "buy" button after you have selected your units, the list is erased and you must start over. So the advice is once you have purchased your troops, do not touch the "buy" function again. In SP3 you can.
Of course, in SPWAW these inherent problems have been eliminated. You can buy, delete, and add without having to start over. This is a great feature!
Now it is time for action. Begin picking your units. Choose carefully and be sure and save your work before you begin to fiddle with your choices. Balance your forces depending on the type of scenario you are designing. A good basic rule of thumb is 2 to 1 in advance or assault scenarios. This means two attacking units for every one defending unit.
"But how can I balance a scenario?" That is a good question. Balance in a scenario depends on so many factors that there is just no cut and dried formula for success. You will learn how to balance scenarios only by trial and error.
As a basic rule of thumb, in meeting engagements, I choose units on both sides that total up to the same amount of "purchase points" (purchase points are what a unit costs to "buy"). If I use 2,500 purchase points for side A, then I would do the same for side B.
On the other hand in advance-delay or assault-defend scenarios, I usually give the attacker at least a 1.5 advantage over the defender, sometimes more.
All of this will vary somewhat depending on the type and quality of the units. For example, two M-5 Stuart tanks are not really the equivalent of one Panther tank. Here you might want a platoon of M-5s (and that probably is not enough!). A couple of Sherman Jumbos might be better!
If you have some question about the units and their capabilities, consult the encyclopedia of weapons included with the game. It has been updated in 5.1. While not filled with detail, you will have a better idea of just what the unit is and can do.
One more thing - After I purchase my units for both sides and go to "deploy" I find them all crowded into the left and right extremities of the map.
I start with the A0 unit of each side and place them in the middle of the map in order and by formation. Of course, I am going to move them later, but for now by doing this I can see much better just what each side has. I can also pick units easier for any modifications I wish to make to them.
Now for the more advanced scenario designers the possibility exists to (a) replace a unit, (b) reconstruct (modify) a unit, or (3) replace a unit that has been chosen. I don't recommend this for beginners. Stick with the basics. But I'll include a few ideas for that day when it comes.
REPLACING A UNIT: If you click on the top right button in the button list to your right (the "H" button), you will see a listing of your units by formation. These are the forces with which you will fight your battles. Before placing them, however, you may wish to change a unit, either to another of the same type, or one that is completely different. For example, if you have a platoon of M4A1s, you may want to change them to M4A3s for the increased benefits of a later model of Sherman.
The process is simple. For an entire formation, simply go to the buy menu, delete the unit and then choose the platoon of M4A3 tanks. It will pop right into the slot left vacant by the deletion of the M4A1 formation. To change an individual unit, first click on the unit you wish to change while the map is in front of you. You will have to do it one unit at a time.
After you click on that unit, look at the deploy buttons on the right. Look for the one with a tiny "R." I call it the "replace" button. Click on it. A list of possible substitutes will appear. Choose the unit you prefer and then return to the deploy screen. Your unit has been changed. Note: When you do this in SP3, you will have to re-click on the hex where the original unit was to make the new unit appear in that space.
You can do this at any time in the editor. Perhaps after testing your scenario, you may want stronger or weaker units. Simply use this process and replace the forces and then save into the same slot. If you are unsure of any changes, you can also save this new scenario in a different slot. If you like the changes, you can delete the older scenario and replace it with the newer. Then simply delete the material in the second slot.
Reconstructing Units: But what if you replace artillery with tanks? Is the process the same? Well, yes, for the most part. There is one extra step, however, when you replace a unit with another that is a different type. You will have to open the new unit's detailed information. To do that, click on the button just to the right of the Replace button. I call this one the "Data" button. It allows you to modify the unit to your taste.
With the new unit highlighted, click on the data button. A new screen with the attributes of the unit will now be in front of you. Many of these attributes or characteristics can be changed. For example, by clicking on the name of the unit, you can then put a new name in its place. Weapons, armor values, the number of men in a unit can be modified to your specs. You can effect changes to make a unit stronger or weaker, according to history or the need of your scenario. This is a very useful feature when balancing your scenario.
A unit, in addition to its weapons, radio, and other features, has four values. These are its morale, infantry, artillery, and armor capabilities. These can be changed to make a unit stronger or weaker in each of these aspects. Notice that an infantry unit has a higher infantry capability than artillery or armor. This number refers to the unit's skill and proficiency in that field.
I use the number 70 for all of these attributes as the average. Anything above 70 makes a unit stronger. Anything less than 70 debilitates the unit. So if you want an elite, well-trained tank crew, you would give them an armor value of 85-95. You can make the number even higher if you wish. The higher the number, the less chance they have of being killed and the better chance they have of killing the enemy. Anything over 150 makes the unit nearly invulnerable. Its skill is seen in making kills and avoiding being killed.
Morale, on the other hand, is the unit's staying power. The higher the number, the less is the possibility that the unit will be pinned or routed. A unit with a morale of 40 or less will just about break whenever it is fired upon, whether it suffers casualties or not. A number over 90 makes it a tough, "hang in there" kind of unit.
You can also change an infantry unit in number. Instead of a squad of thirteen men, you can change it to reflect casualties that have not been replaced (which was often the case in the real war). You may want it to have 10 men in the squad. Using this feature you can make a squad a team. In SP3 you can make platoons into squads, changing the number from 33 to 11. The possibilities are many.
By the way, you can modify your leader the same way. Click on the button for your leader. A similar screen appears. Make the leader stronger if you wish. The first unit in a formation (Letter) 0 is the leader of that formation and will influence the rest of the formation. By making a leader stronger, you automatically increase quality of the units under his command, as long as they stay in contact with him.
All of these features will help you to balance your scenario and mold the scenario to your needs.
Reassigning Units: The SP series offers one more great feature. You can reassign units from one formation to another. If, let's say, you have a platoon of four tanks and you want to add a fifth, you can purchase a sniper unit, convert it to a tank of the same type, and then assign it to that formation. Of course this skips letters in the formation Ids, but it does not affect the game in any way.
Open your scenario with the deploy button if it is not already open. Look at the list of buttons on the right. See the one with the little soldier saluting and an arrow? That is it. Now follow these simple steps.
Click on the unit you wish to reassign.
Click on the Reassign button.
Click on any unit of the formation to which you wish to attach the new unit.
You will see a small screen that tells you it has been changed. You can verify that by looking at the roster list (top button, right hand side). It should show the unit as being reassigned to the new formation.
Here is an example. I want to add a squad to infantry formation B. I purchase a sniper and he comes up with the designation of S0 (S zero). I first change him to the infantry squad I want by using the replace button.
Now I click on S0. Then I click on the reassign button. Now I click on one of the units in formation B. And that is it!
I find this very handy when I wish to have an HQ unit for a platoon. By adding a squad I can go back to the first unit of the formation and replace it with an HQ unit of that nationality. Thus I have the platoon HQ and the proper amount of squads.
I recommend that you make these changes before deploying the units. Sometimes it is difficult to find the formation to which you wish to attach another unit when they are scattered all over the map. You can do it, however, by clicking on a unit of the formation in the roster list, then exiting to the map. The cursor should be resting on the unit of that formation.
These are some simple steps to replacing, reassigning and reconstructing your units before you position them out on the map. This is the next step.
Homework: I want you to read again the text file for our scenario, "Breakout." Now I want you to pick for both sides a mixed armor-infantry force. Keep your scenario small. This is a company-sized engagement. I would recommend probably a platoon or two of mechanized infantry, 2 or 3 platoons of armor and some recon vehicles.
When choosing, it is very important to remember the superior quality of German tanks over American ones at this point in the war. Remember also that the US counted on numbers or "quantity" to often overcome "quality."
I'll show you my picks next week and then we will place them.
Till then, my students of war!
In Arduis Fidelis
Wild Bill Wilder
Independent Game Consultant