In most games like Hearts of Iron or Civilization research is a key component as part of the game toward victory. I decided since WarPlan is a wargame that research will have a minor function but give players some operation options. Since the focus of WarPlan is thinking about strategy and not empire building I thought this approach was best in keeping with a historical recreation. In my education of WW2 military history I came across many situations in which technology was not the main factor in determining the outcome of a battle but experience. The story of Ilmari Juutilainen came to mind. A Finnish ace that for most of the war flew a Brewster Buffalo B-239 plane vs the Soviets. The B-239 was considered largely obsolete when Finland entered the war. For me this showed the man was more important than the machine. So research was set as a feature of the game not a main function. This analysis also extends to tactics and experience. By 1942 the Royal Navy had the U-boat force defeated more through the realization of formations and group effectiveness than technology. These were the conclusions found in Black May by Gannon. I wanted to keep WarPlan focused on military and logistical strategy like a chess or poker game without a single element of the game impacting all battles all at once.
To compensate I gave players options that allow for a greater unit variation. The variations are small but have a long lasting effect on losses and effectiveness over time. This is important because the measurement of victory in WarPlan is not only survival but how long you hold territory. A country with a higher technology level in tanks impacting a year’s worth of combat would misalign the balance of play. So every unit has at least 2 research fields it can gain that have minor effects over the long term.
Research years increase abilities slightly for a unit. While they are not critical if you are a year or even 2 years behind they are important enough not to ignore. If you enter 1944 with 1939 interceptor aircraft you are going to have problems in air to air combat.
The research system is kept very simple. Players just get research centers they can distribute as they please to the fields available. Combat can potentially lower the amount of days it takes to get to the next year advancement for land, air, and naval forces. More research centers are gained by eureka moments based on a country’s production. There is a maximum amount a player can invest in a category and each year makes achieving success in that category more difficult. In exchange players may place 1 addition point per year advancement in a category.
If a player feels a unit and its technology are not viable at a certain time during the war they can sell that unit for production and manpower to create a new unit with another technology.
Some have asked why I did not include industrial production as part of the advancement tree. The reason is that for me this is an absolute decision. You must always place points in it. Failure to do so critically changes the late game by the size of its effect. Even a 5% difference in production is the difference of a balanced frontline and a crumbling one. So all production increases run through the economic multiple as detailed in the production diary to give a nice steady realistic feeling of industrial capacity.
Advancements on units work in a couple ways. Upgrades automatically happen as time goes on. Players can turn off or on reinforcements and upgrades on a unit. They can prioritize a unit for reinforcements and upgrades.
Most advancements increase combat ability, some increase operation points or range. Some of the advancements above increase maximum supply or ranges in the case of air units. Upgrading a unit costs 10% of its 1939 cost per year of advancement. This means a 1944 large infantry corps is 50% more expensive than a 1939 infantry corps.
There are 17 different advancements representing research into different improvements of unit armament and doctrines.
Assault – Increases the firepower of infantry type units in a balanced method for offense and defense.
Anti-Tank – Increases the firepower of infantry type unit’s defense giving up some offense capabilities.
Breakthrough – Mechanized and armor units gain extra operation points at the sacrifice of firepower and armor.
Heavy Armor – Mechanized and armor units gain more firepower and defense.
Interceptors – Focuses on increasing air to air combat ratings of air superiority groups.
Escort Fighters – Focuses on increasing range of air superiority groups.
Fighter Bombers – Focuses on increasing bombing capabilities of air superiority groups.
Close Support – Focuses on increasing tactical ratings of bomber groups.
Strategic Bombing – Focuses on increasing strategic ratings of bomber groups.
Naval Air Training – Focuses on increasing naval air ratings of bomber groups.
Sonar & Electronics – Focuses on increasing anti-submarine ratings of bomber groups.
Large Warships – Greatly increases surface combat ratings and defense for battle groups only. No other group type may use this advancement.
Warships – increases surface combat ratings for any type of naval group.
Carrier Operations – Increases naval air ratings for carrier groups. No other naval group may take this advancement.
Convoy Escort – Increases anti-submarine ratings for any naval group.
Attack Submarine – Increases surface and defense for submarine groups.
Long Range Submarine – Increases the maximum supply for submarine groups to 5 at the expense of firepower and defense.
The advancement system is a different way to do research but I think it gives a good flavor to the game. Instead of saying I have level 3 fighters a player says I have 1942 fighters. Looking at what the next year will bring an incentive for achievement. With some air groups a new year advancement brings significant range increases like in escort fighters. Advancements are loosely based on historical improvements to units over time. The idea came from when I asked a group of wargames if they liked yearly increments followed by force pool additions like in World in Flames or level increases with a dynamic force pool like in Hearts of Iron. They said a little of both and so this system was born as a combination of both recommendations. Dynamic force pool with yearly advancements technically rated on levels that read as years.
Of all systems in the game diplomacy is the least important aspect. It is only included in WarPlan because players like it and it is optional. World War 2 is a unique situation balanced by forces and alliances that create an end game that we can predict, measure, and adjust for. When some of these forces change it can greatly impact the game.
Scenarios like Finland never going Axis or Italy joining the Allies can drastically change a game. Spain joining the Axis dramatically shifts the balance of power in WW2 or Turkey allowing Germany to pass through its lands to attack Baku.
I highly recommend not playing with diplomacy in the base WarPlan scenarios. Many nations have set adjustments in their entries depending on how the Axis or Allies perform based on history. Shifting these historical situations through the manipulations changes the experience enough to unbalance the game. With that said I still included the diplomacy system in WarPlan so players can get creative if they wish. So if you want to see a lot of “what ifs” turn on the diplomacy system.
Each turn players have a chance to get influence actions based on their political influence level. Other countries resist based on their political influence level. With the War Panel players can declare war, negotiate a peace, influence a country, or intimidate a country. The latter two are part of the diplomacy system while the former two are always a part of the game.
Loyalty – This is the alliance the country favors. Influencing countries that share your loyalty is easier than those that do not.
Entry Level – How far along is a country toward an alliance based on their loyalty. Entry level also directly impacts the production of that country as a percentage of their current production levels from resources and the economic multiple. A country can only declare war when their entry level is 100%.
Alliance – Which alliance are you part of? Axis or Allies. When a country reaches 100% entry they join the alliance that is their loyalty. It doesn’t mean they are at war but are now capable of declaring war.
Declaring war is exactly what it is. When you declare war your minor allies also declare war on the enemy.
Neutral major countries can do everything a non-neutral nation can except declare war on another country.
Negotiating a surrender is forcing a country to surrender. France and Italy are both capable of having a forced surrender placed on them. The UK, USSR, and USA can’t be forced to surrender. Negotiating a surrender is based on the number of strategic locations that have production or morale you capture. In most cases it is production locations. In some instances it is just important cities with manpower. For example France is willing to negotiate when enough cities are taken which might or might not include Paris. But Paris is has a huge impact on negotiated surrender because it has a high production. This gives options for the Axis on how to attack France. Just because a country wants to negotiate a surrender doesn’t mean a player has to accept it. Any country will fight until all of their production and manpower cities are captured before they automatically surrender. In France’s case this includes their colonies.
Influencing a country moves their entry closer to your alliance or loyalty.
Intimidating a country has a small change of greatly increasing a country’s entry toward your alliance or loyalty but a high chance of doing exactly the opposite.
What I like about this simple system is that players can adjust it in the editor to create some interesting scenarios. Even create a scenario that dates earlier than 1939 with major powers influencing different minor countries creating a whole new World War 2 experience.