Back in 1986, Frank Chadwick designed Battle for Moscow as a free introductory board wargame published by GDW. Ten years later, it got a new lease on life as a downloadable version from Web-Grognards. More recently it has been converted into a Cyberboard Gamebox. ("Gameboxes" are what Cyberboard modules are called.) In an attempt to figure out CyberBoard, I tried the Gamebox recently.
As I mentioned
previously, the available documentation for Cyberboard isn't very good. Nevertheless, there does seem to be a rather enthusiastic fan base for this tool, its features and the fact that it is free. So I decided to slog ahead and learn by doing. I needed a simple and short game to try it out on.
Battle for Moscow fit the bill. I had looked at the original free board wargame version of this game back at a 1986 LA game convention. But since that time, it had basically remained buried in my game collection. The game includes historical background. But just so you know the basics, the game is about the German attack on the Russian front in WWII to take Moscow in 1941 (which failed). As an introductory game, it's pretty good. It has short rules, short playing time, introduces a lot of standard board wargame concepts and is a reasonably interesting situation. My own experience leads me to believe that among experienced players, the German side may have an edge. While the rules recommend cutting the German replacement rate, another minimal fix might be to allow the Soviet player "free" setup of the unit normally positioned in Mozhaisk anywhere to the east an existing Soviet setup hex (I am thinking at the South Edge near Bryansk).
My experience with Cyberboard has been very favorable. While I still haven't been able to figure out all the features (e.g. does turning on the snap grid really do anything?), the core stuff works quite well. The basic idea is that the tool maintains state in a "game" file. As you go through your turn, everything is recorded (movement, combat, rolls of the dice, notes describing your actions, etc.) in a "move" file. When your turn is over, you send the move file to your opponent. He plays back the action to see what happened and to update the state in his game file. Then, the opponent goes through his turn recording his moves in the same way and sends you his move file. When you use it for solitaire gaming, you don't have to send move files back and forth. I have found the playback features very interesting. You can try different strategies by going through the playback to a critical decision point and then saving as a new game file.
As with "real" computer games, there are some drawbacks. When you have a large map the navigation is somewhat of a pain. Also, the social interaction with your fellow player is missing. But as way to keep games "virtually" setup, as an enabler to play by email and as a way to try alternative strategies, Cyberboard seems like a real winner.
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