Scenario generation system

Wargaming is a hobby about creating and fighting battles. It is a hobby which, within this paradigm, is truly multi-faceted, but this doesn't alter the need to create battles to fight.The process of scenario creation is a complex but truly rewarding one, and for most of us this begins with attempts at creating the historical battles that so often inspired us to enter this hobby in the first place. Developing these scenarios often takes time, and so we all face that tension between the desires to create the scenarios and to fight battles (let alone the painting of figures and the creation of terrain which quite a number of us find almost equally as enthralling).

There are of course times when the creative processes simply do not flow, or we simply do not have the time to research and develop the historical scenarios that so many of us crave. How much simpler it would be if we could simply meet with our opponent of the afternoon or evening, and create a scenario that offers opportunity in equal measure to both opponents. This scenario generation system is such a system. It was created by Keith McNelly, and I was involved in many early games using the system. I had previously been less than enthusiastic about games systems that relied upon points, but Keith's work showed me a system that works, and works well. I have had the pleasure of many WW2 and Moderns scenarios created using Keith's systems.

It therefore seemed a logical development to seek Keith's permission to adapt his system to the Great War, one of my wargames passions. The system that follows is that adaptation, and as with Keith's original systems it offers a great deal to the 'gamer.

The system creates a series of 'layers' of complexity which, when viewed or used together, mean that players are likely to face an enormous variation in scenarios. These layers can best be seen when you consider that players are faced with a series of connected decisions that might look like this:

Devising an army:

  1. Should I pay the points costs of whole brigades but get fewer of them, knowing that they are less likely to face morale checks and give away victory points, but of course also knowing that I will have fewer units to manoeuvre, so possibly ceding tactical flexibility within the division?
  2. How much of the divisional artillery, and how may divisional assets, will I buy with my points
  3. Setting the terrain:
    • Will I place a lot of terrain, or opt for a more open battlefield? (I recommend placing more rather than less terrain, by the way ... it will make for a better game)
    • Given that I won't know which side I am entering from, nor my tactical stance, will I try to make the objectives as easy as possible or as difficult as possible to get access to on the tabletop?
  4. Using options: Will I use either or both options from my army list in order to try to take terrain objectives, knowing that this will cede victory points
  5. Battlefield tactics: Will I use my heavy artillery for counter battery fire, or support for my fighting units?
  6. Will I try to gain VPs by taking terrain objectives, or would it be better to try to force morale checks on opposing brigades? What is the optimal combination of these approaches which, given the complexity of the terrain, is likely to get me the greatest number of VPs? Perhaps I should try for the big break-through, and exit a brigade from my opponent's base line? Where are those cavalry when you need them?
  7. One of the things that has intrigued me over many many games played in all three eras using this system is the endless variety of games that it has generated. I initialy feared that games would become stereotyped. However the subtleties of the system mean that this appears an ever more remote prospect. I have no doubt that you will enjoy the enormous variety of games, and tactical challenges, that the system creates.
  8. Here is an After Action Report of a scenario system game set in 1915, created using the scenario generation system.

    Finally I would like to acknowledge my special thanks to Keith McNelly for not only providing the original scenario generation system, but also for allowing this adaptation to proceed. His enormous patience as I (very slowly) came to understand the processes he had used, and the subtleties that he had built in to the system, is very much appreciated.

    The system can be downloaded here.