Who Needs Those Pesky CRTs Anyway?

February 5, 2015–I commend to your attention my new game just out from Turning Point Simulations and titled The Victory of Arminius. At the time I didn’t have much of a chance for extended comments or designer’s notes on that project, so let me take this opportunity to say something about what I think is the most intriguing feature of the game–its use of dice and elimination of any Combat Results Table.

In The Victory of Arminius battle action is resolved by a simple adding up of dice plus addition of the raw strength of units. This is quite deliberate. In many board strategy games, including some of my own, the use of tables and charts becomes quite overwhelming. In particular the long-honored “Combat Results Table” (CRT) is central to game play. So much so that as designers attempted to model more and more complex combat processes, the CRTs in and of themselves became too intricate.

For some time I’d also been concerned with the hobby’s demographic. Age does not just affect the size of type gamers can read (and, hence, size of counters or game pieces preferred), but also attention spans and the ability to calculate. The standard CRT requires players to derive a ratio (usually of attacker vs defender combat strength), therefore to perform mathematical calculations. Some game titles even have fractionated odds ratios (such as 3 : 2, or put differently, 1.5 : 1). With high amounts of combat strength and tired old brains those calculations start to get onerous, especially when you might have a dozen or more battles to resolve every turn.

I began to do something about this long ago. In the early 1980s, beginning with Warsaw Rising and Monty’s D-Day, I introduced a “differential” CRT. Using that mechanic required only subtracting the strength of the stronger side from that of the weaker, deriving a difference (hence differential). That was good but it still required comparisons between the sides. I strove to devise an arrangement under which each side in the game generated an outcome from its own possibilities, with a comparison of the two only coming in at the end to establish a victor in the battle. This created mechanics which became familiar in games of mine beginning with Campaigns of Robert E. Lee.

But I had also gone another route altogether. In 1983, in a game I have never published that dealt with the battle of Dien Bien Phu, I reasoned that battle outcomes are the result of two things–the essential strength of the participating forces (within such constraints as may result from their deployment mode, supply status, command, and so forth) plus the conditions which prevail in a given combat situation. In that game system I used dice to reflect combat conditions. The dice used by each player in each combat resolution would take into account the specific elements which applied to that side at that moment.

When Steve Rawling asked me to take on the Teutoburgerwald project it not only pleased me to be able to craft a Roman Empire-era game, I realized that the battle situation was perfect for the application of the “Action Dice” mechanics for combat resolution. The Victory of Arminius not only does away with the CRT it dispenses with that portion of the Terrain Effects Chart that is usually occupied by specifying combat impact. I am pleased to bring this to you. Enjoy!