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In this discussion thread we hope to cover a few of the older board wargames that still do a terrific job of teaching maneuver warfare. Some of these can be had for relatively cheaply on the secondary market (Ebay and the like) while others are still considered sought-after collectors items commanding high prices.
For the grognards who want to interest Marine Maneuver Warfare Wargamers in the "golden oldies," here is your place to do it!
Napoleon At Bay: Defend the Games of Paris, designed by Kevin Zucker (various editions from Operational Studies Group and Avalon Hill Game Company--all are good!)
When this game was first published by OSG in 1978 it rocket the Napoleonic wargaming aficionados as it was the first to portray operational-level campaigning in a way that seemed to fit what players read in their history books. What made it so special was its treatment of competing OODA Loops--and after many games made in this "Napoleonic Campaigns" system, this title nevertheless remains the best of all of them.
Here, Napoleon is the proverbial little Dutch boy with not enough fingers to plug all the holes in his front, trying to stave off defeat at the hands of the Sixth Coalition armies made up of Austrians, Prussians, Russians, Swedes, and number of other minor states. He's got an army that is a shadow of its former self but he has the capability to dash hither and yon, to and fro, to snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat. His superior operational tempo just might make that possible. The Sixth Coalition has its hands full trying to coordinate their armies to pose multiple threats to create complementary force dilemmas at the operational level in a way that Napoleon cannot counter.
The 1983 Avalon Hill edition (basically the second edition of this title) is the most affordable on the secondary market and many say is the cleanest version.
Frederick the Great (Avalon Hill Edition) showcases the entire Seven Years' War in Europe in seven digestible scenarios, each on playable in an afternoon. The thesis of the game rests on leadership--the Prussians had better ones (particularly in King Frederick II himself) and on the geographic situation facing Prussia--it and it's Hanoverian ally get the advantages of interior lines while its foes (Austria, Russia, and France) are forced to cope with operating on exterior lines, making it difficult to spatially support each other. From a temporal sense, however, they can do a good job cooperating/coordinating against Frederick.
The focus here is on campaigning with battles and sieges abstracted. Logistics is everything as armies must leave a trail of magazines/depots every so many miles to sustain them, and this becomes a potential vulnerability. Friction is high as players are never sure how far they will move from turn to turn, but the Prussians enjoy higher probabilities...yet nothing is guaranteed.
The AH edition is extremely cheap on the secondary market as of this writing--well worth taking the trouble to locate a copy. The earlier SPI Strategy and Tactics magazine edition doesn't cover every year and the leader counters are more generally presented but is worth it if the price is right!
Panzer Command (1984) by Victory Games. Forgive this title its horrible box art. Inside is a terrific game on the Chir River battles fought between Hermann Balck's 11th Panzer Division and elements of the Fifth Tank Army. These were pivotal conflicts in the larger Stalingrad campaign as the Soviets hoped to break out past this battlefield and negate any possibility of a German relief of the Stalingrad pocket. Historically, Balck ran a masterful mobile defense while significantly outnumbered, stabilizing the front well enough so that a relief attempt could be mounted.
The games does an excellent job in highlighting the OODA Loop competition--the Germans dance like a butterfly but stings like a bee. This system was the basis for the Grand Tactical Series (GTS) published by MMP, which it very much resembles in play. Headquarters have Command Points and Dispatch Points to replicate historical command and control performance. These points must be spent to activate single units (Command Points, representing direct commander intervention on the field) or formations of units (Dispatch Points, representing staffs drafting and issuing written orders). Better headquarters generate more of both these points, which translates into doing more in a specific period of time. The Germans, naturally, have the better headquarters. An added feature of this system is that Dispatch Points purchase formation chits that go into a mug, along with a free "Direct Command" chit and an overall force chit. Players pick these chits blindly out of the mug so that neither knows who will get the next action--or which formation/units will get the chance to move and/or fight.
While long out of print, copies are still available on the secondary market and are relatively inexpensive given what you get in the game.