Introduction to the "Strategic Decision Series" Game System

The idea behind the Strategic Decision Series game system was: 1) to create a historical war game that did not use dice; 2) to make the basic systems simple; 3) to tailor each game to allow for the simulation to work and not be repetitive; 4) to provide a plausible historic simulation; and 5) to make the game quick enough to play that it could be completed in one - five evening sessions by experienced players.

The first game in this series is World War II: Strategic Decision Series . This article is an introduction to the way the game works.

Units. The units represent high-level ground armies, air forces, and navies. Most units will be at the Army or Army Group level, and comparable sizes for air and naval units.

Turns. Turns are quarterly by seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter. Summer is the "normal" turn - all other turns have some impediment to movement, combat, supply or all three.

Movement. Movement occurs across railroads/roads and sea lanes. Movement is generally unlimited, but can be stopped by enemy zones of control. Weather can play a role in movement. There is no "movement factor" like in most other war games.

Combat. Combat values of most land, air, and naval units is usually just "1". Panzer/Tank/Mech/Armor units are "2". Specialty units (like parachute/airborne) are usually zero. The combat values are not printed on the counters but there is a list of them - you'll memorize them quickly. Attacks cannot occur without supply. Any attack that has units that outnumber the opponent will be successful, and the supply will be expended. Depending on the margin of attack advantage one or more defending units may be eliminated. The rest will retreat unless they are in a major fortification.

Supply. Each nation has a limited number of supply units to permit attacks. There is a land unit (supply wagon symbol), and convoys. Convoys also move land and air units across vast sea distances. When a supply unit or a convoy supports an attack it is then expended. It may be able to support several attacks if they are close together. There are rarely enough supply units to attack everywhere you might wish. You will have to prioritize. Supply units are also expensive to replace.

Weather. Spring impedes movement in the Soviet Union, and impedes many land attacks everywhere. Fall has no exploitation movement. Winter requires double supply except for the Soviet player and in tropical areas. Only Summer has no penalties.

Terrain. Although terrain is marked on the map, the current rules do not take land terrain types into effect. Instead, weather plays the larger role.

Politics. There are many rules that reflect the behavior of both small and large nations. Most of these have to do with when they will and will not fight, and when they will surrender.

Production. Production is a key to the game. There are a limited number of production areas on the two maps. The symbol is a purple star, which mean the area is a replacement area. These represent natural resources (especially oil), factories, and/or manpower that can be used to restore spent units. As you attack, you will lose supply. As you defend, you will lose combat units. Production lets you bring some of these back each turn. Capturing other nation's production areas helps you and hurts them.

Reinforcements.  New units usually appear at no cost (convoys are the exception). Some nations like the US and the Soviet Union get their best units in 1943 and 1944, while Germany and Japan get their best units early. Germany and Japan have to strike boldly to create a large enough buffer to hold off the Allies in the latter years.

Strategy. Planning and executing your strategy is key to winning the war. But your best plans are pitted against your opponent's best. As the Axis player, you have many options on who to attack, when to do it, and how heavily. You may put emphasis on knocking out Britain, while the Soviets stay alive for their counterpunch and the US - deprived of a European base - takes out Japan instead. As the Allies, you have to survive until Fall 1942 when you finally start getting enough new units to turn the war around.

No Dice. During the entire process, only your skill as a player - and your opponent's - matters. There are no dice. There are no desperation 2-1 odds where a "6" can bail you out, and no frustration when you roll the only result at 5-1 that denies you the objective. Instead, you have to manage your armies and their supply to be where they need to be, when they need to be there. Sooner or later you will have defeats. When this happens, you'll have to rebuild and adjust. But whatever you do, it's just your skill versus your opponent's. Luck is out of it.

New Players. While the system is relatively simple, there are many subtleties. The rules are long compared to our other games, and the learning curve is much steeper. But hang in there -- it's worth it!

Grognards.  Chances are this game will be unlike most other war games you've played. First of all: no dice. The system puts the emphasis on decision making, not grinding out many moves and many combats. There are comparatively few combats. But there are MANY choices. You will have to weigh your options - and your opponent's reactions -- carefully. Best that you plan 2-3 turns out, and have backups to those plans. Unlike most war games, it's relatively easy to be completely surprised in this one.