Monday, September 21, 2009

Interesting contrast

I received my S&T Issue 258 game package today -- The Santiago Campaign of 1898.

It appears to be standard S&T fare, with 11 pages of game rules, a standard-sized map and 98 counters, mostly units. It does look like it has some interesting twists. More on that later.

The game also includes a bunch of variant counters for Red Dragon Rising, which appears to be one of the most popular S&T games in years. I wouldn't be surprised to see it juiced up for a boxed release someday. A could of the counters are errata for the original game but most represent order of Battle variants. There are also a couple of pages of variant rules that add some new operations for the base game and there are counters and rules for a "Hyperwar" variant that adds some more what-if options.

It struck me that there's quite a contrast between the US forces represented by the two games.

The 1898 US Army was an anachronistic force, not all that different in character from American troops of a century before. Sure, there were some hints of modernity. The rifles were modern bolt-action types, there were Gatling guns and even an observation balloon. But in organization, training and general level of professionalism it was an early Nineteenth Century army, with battalion-sized regiments, ad hoc brigade and division organizations, politically connected officers, volunteer militia, spotty supply services and minimal staffs. It's only because the Spanish in Cuba were even more backward and ill-led that the Americans found success. The Navy, of course, was well along in its transformation into a modern fighting force, but it doesn't appear in the game except on its margins.

On the other hand, the US Army and all its sister services in Red Dragon Rising is the epitome of high tech warfare. While the 1898 US Army would have been a recognizable force to Anthony Wayne's 1796 Legionaires. I doubt that an 1898 veteran would recognize much about his 2009 descendent, particularly at the higher levels. The 1898 Army and Navy barely talked to each other to the extent that the game doesn't allow the player any control over where to land or who gets landed. Warfare in the 21st Century is all about jointness and there's little evidence of interservice rivalry now. Navy, Marine, Army and Air Force assets are used completely interchangeably -- and also integrated with Allied forces.

It's just coincidence that these two games shared a counter sheet in this issue of S&T, but it does illustarte how much has changed.

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