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Subject: Why I've given up on Combat Commander after 17 plays rss

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Christopher Hill
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An excellent review despite my difference of opinion. I am one who has never experienced ASL and played Up Front only once. That said, I do love Combat Commander.

From my perspective, CC is a game of patience. I try to convey this to everyone I teach the game to. Do not expect to be able to do everything you want in a turn. You need to work the cards you have or get rid of them. So many times I have been in frustrating positions with CC, like when you have several broken units and just can't draw that damn recover card! Or, you move into a position where you have an advantage on your opponent only for them to play hidden wire or mines and thus delay your plans. The randomness is what I love about CC and what others don't.

Just like ASL (when you look down at the CC map) you have a sense of God-like control, but in fact you really don't and I suspect this is what frustrates ASLers more than anything else with regard to CC. You have the same viewpoint, but not the same level of control.

Generally, I like almost every war game I play, so I am probably a bad one to comment. I take whatever a particular game offers and make the best of it. I don't think there is any one war game out there that is perfect. It just comes down to personal preferences.
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Jason Albert
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I always find it interesting when discussions pop up about how “hard” any given set of rules are. How do you quantify hard or easy? In my mind, if you’re playing a wargame, you’re probably already ahead of the curve intelligence-wise. Or at a minimum, attracted to the unique joys found in problem-solving. So I think it’s pretty rare there’s ever going to be any one concept in any one wargame that’s all that difficult for those who choose to try to learn Wargame X or Y.

But how any given set of rules work together to govern gameplay, how they’re written to cover those inevitable situations that aren’t specifically noted (and there are ALWAYS those situations), and how clear they are on a sentence level, define for me how “hard” or “easy” a game is to learn. That being: Getting past those growing pains where you’re simply trying not to make mistakes and really playing.

I love Up Front. I think it’s groundbreaking, fast-paced, and fun. But there isn’t anyone who can convince me it’s as easy to learn and play as CC. UF’s rules are dense both visually and syntactically. They’re exception-laden. There are very few examples of play. The cards are busy and non-intuitive. The AFV unit cards look like they’re dotted with hieroglyphs. Once you’ve played a few games, it absolutely starts to click and flow, but if I’m not committed to refreshing myself on the rules continually, they don’t really stick. Maybe that’s a me problem. Who knows.

What I also know is that from Day 1 I found CC breathtakingly easy to learn. Did I make mistakes, have questions? Of course. But when I took the time to look closer at that masterwork of clarity rulebook, all my questions were covered either explicitly or implicitly. Not to mention, I can get someone up and running with CC in ~20 minutes. (Not playing well, but playing.) Here’s what each number means on the counters. Here’s how each Order works. The rest? You can play an Action anytime, as many as you want, as long as the situation fits the Action’s requirements. What are those requirements? Read the card, do what it says. Imply nothing. There, you’re all set, and we’ll cover the rest as it comes up.*

In the interest of full disclosure, I enjoy playing CC exponentially more than UF. (Actually, more than any game, period.) But as has been mentioned early and often throughout this thread, some people like what other people don’t like. Cool. I’m totally down with that. Time’s short, play whatever makes you most happy. And I’m not trying to say anyone else is wrong, but I personally would never put UF’s and CC’s learning curve in the same ballpark. To me, one is “hard” and one isn’t. But I'm with Boots -- try 'em both and see for yourself!

Excellent discussion. Cheers --

Jason

*None of this is to suggest for even a second CC easy to master strategically. It’s the opposite. And for me, therein lies the game’s beauty, and deep and consistent pull.

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Edward Wehrenberg
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Excellent review man, well done.

I love CC, but can appreciate and respect other's opinions.
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Jon
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Thanks for the thread. It generated a discussion that was perceptive and interesting. Food for thought and BGG at its best, IMHO.

Timely too since I was pondering the plethora of recent tactical games out there and the fact that I never seem to play ASL despite owning all the main modules. Even thinking of parting with it as it seems odd to have an unpunched (mostly) game system for going on decade or two and never playing it. That "some day" just never arrives. Sadly.

I have played CC:E a few times now and although it did not grab me, for similar reasons mentioned in the thread, I always felt that I was missing something. So much so that I will give it more chances in the future.
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Andrew Laws
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It seems to me that those well-versed in other tactical hex and counter systems often have more trouble pushing past the first dozen games than those coming up from simpler fare.

In my humble opinion it often boils down to three things:

1. Combat Commander abstracts an awful lot of stuff and tricks you with a hex map and unit chits into thinking what you see is what you get.

2. Game time in Combat Commander is very elastic.

3. The Cards. Again.

Battles in Combat Commander are not happening in isolation, 75 guys are not attacking 100 other guys up a hill on their own. What we are playing is a zoomed in area of a much larger action. All those involved in the battle are not on the map. Artillery, Aircraft and even tank support are the obvious ordnance pieces that are abstracted, but not even all the soldiers involved are represented - with snipers being the obvious example. Even the 'Sniper!' card event is itself an abstraction of all the things that could have happened to break a squad of ten men. Maybe they got spooked? Maybe a stray shell landed nearby, maybe a sniper shot one of their number clean through the head and now they've gone to ground.

The events that occur on the cards more or less at random further abstract the battle. Events like 'interdiction' abstract a machine gun firing at a nearby unit, without any normal fire attack taking place. Pretty much every event is an abstraction of some kind, allowing a lot of variety to the battles without the rules overhead at the price of player control. This I find is very much like Marmite. Either players love it or hate it.

You mention that wire and blazes can appear randomly, rather than thinking that a fire has just started, it makes more sense that the 'appearance' is just your soldiers becoming aware of it. The map is itself an abstraction of real terrain, maybe they only just noticed that wire in a dip in an apparently flat field?

Given your apparent appreciation of Up Front, a game where entire terrain types can pop up from nowhere I am a little stumped to see how this feels 'stupid'. Not noticing an entire hill in UF is more 'stupid' than not noticing a fire in a wood hex.

The elastic nature of time takes a bit more getting your head round. Particularly to players who are raised on games where a hex = 50m and a game turn = 20 minutes and that is locked. CC is not like that, time will bend and warp and not just the turn track.

Over and over people will complain that by shooting at attackers the defender can effectively speed up time and end the game sooner. Well sort of but not quite. The best way to think of it is rather than time going faster, the amount of time you have to accomplish your goals got shorter, BECAUSE your men are now moving slower. For example, a patrol wandering through a wood is going to be moving faster than a patrol who just had the trees around them shredded with (ineffective) gunfire. People so often complain that there is no way for the defender to suppress the attacker and they're wrong. By shooting at attackers the defenders are putting them more and more on guard, reducing their speed and increasing the rate at which the time track goes by.

Finally onto the cards. Oh the cards.

People who claim to think strategically and then complain that they are right next to the enemy and can't advance or fire (or assault fire!) leave me baffled. How did you end up in such a position? Where's the strategic thinking there? Or people claiming that they discarded 3 times in a row and didn't get a recover so all their units got killed.. Well, what we're you doing charging them out into danger without a recover card in hand? You were hoping on a card pull to save you? Would a real commander make a choice like that?

When I attack I broadly do it on different 'mini-fronts' to ensure that as the game situation changes I have more options on the map to maximise card play. One group will be 'runners' looking to get off the board, another group might be 'shooters' with heavy weaponry aiming to temporarily break those out to stop runners and maybe another group will be the assault squad looking to close and kill. This means I have lots of things to be doing and a wide variety of card requirements. This makes cards a lot more useful.

So far so good.

Before I make a big push to assault an objective I might spend a turn juicing up my hand with some of the cards I think I will need to carry it out. A recover for use after my move so if anyone gets shot I can bring them back etc. etc. However, this has the effect of reducing a 6 card hand down to maybe 4 or 3 cards that I am actively looking to use, which IN TURN means that I can only effectively use a smaller number of units. I might need to save a couple of 'ambush' actions to crack a well-manned strongpoint, so my hand size is down to 4.

But then I need an advance to ensure I'm not twiddling my thumbs in front of the bunker, so now I'm down to 3. This restricts what I can do and means I have to focus on one set of units. In my opinion this is an intentional design decision to prevent utter bloodbaths when units get up close, and to encourage a bit more thought in play. You want a really strong hand but then you become less and less flexible the stronger it gets. How far do you push it?

Of course all this time I spent getting the perfect hand, my opponent has probably changed the game situation and now I can't advance after all. Make the best of what you've got

This ties to the notion of the chaos model being flat. Your men are only 'just as unlikely to fire next to the enemy as they were when far away' if you didn't save a fire card. That's not Chaos. That's your fault.

Good gracious, what a lot of rambling. In summary, I implore you to try CC again but come at it like you're playing Up Front rather than ASL.
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HarlemMimeSchool wrote:
Good gracious, what a lot of rambling. In summary, I implore you to try CC again but come at it like you're playing Up Front rather than ASL.
Mr. MimeSchool regularly schools me at CC:E, although I have won a scenario or two...

I generally agree with his take on CC:E.
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Steven Goodknecht
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A great review and a great discussion. Just added to the wargame review Geeklist.
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/127822/in-praise-of-bg...
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Brian Sinclair
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I'll put in my 2 cents. I think if you are having issues with the deck and chaos I will suggest that you give Combat Commander Pacific as it was designed after CC Europe. I played CC Pacific before CC Europe and I definitely feel that CC Pacific is tighter with less chaos than CC Europe. In Pacific you just don't have as much cycling of the deck.
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I know that "chaos model is flat" thing gets thrown around because it sounds insightful and appears to be correct on the surface but it's really not if you think about it.

As the deck size decreases the chance of drawing cards you haven't gotten yet increases. So if you keep drawing fire orders it becomes more and more likely that you will draw something that is not a fire order. Are you just as likely to draw a fire as a move on turn 1? Yes. From then on? No, and you can increase your chances with proper hand management.

Just last night I was playing a game where I had two hand grenade actions in my hand that shared the cards with two orders that were useless to me. Now, I didn't want to waste a turn discarding those cards so I used a fire order (that otherwise wasn't immediately useful to me) where I had a squad adjacent to an enemy squad to get rid of that fire card and both hand grenades actions and still order a stack elsewhere on the board. In that turn I played four cards and drew four cards.

Now, what I really wanted was a movement order, and I drew one at the end of that turn. I could have skipped my turn, discarded (for fewer than four cards because I was the Russians) and got that same movement card but I would have forfeited ordering other squads. Having drawn the fire and other useless orders I had already increased my chances of drawing a movement card (since I was thinning the deck) and I needed to get rid of cards in my hand to dig for that card I wanted.

Furthermore I would not have had the opportunity to play those hand grenades actions if I had not previously moved my squad adjacent to an opponent's squad. My board position directly influenced the card flow and thus the order availability.

A flat chaos model would be one in which you rolled a die to determine which orders you had available each turn. The die doesn't have a memory of which orders were already generated, the deck does. For instance, if you rolled on a chart six times and generated six advance orders you would have the same chance of doing so on the next turn. If you are using the Russian fate deck and draw six advances on turn one you know there are no more advances left in the deck. This is not flat.

I also agree with HarlemMimeSchool about the abstraction and elastic time but since I have posted about those things in the past and he stated them very eloquently I will not repeat them here.

Of course it's okay if Boots doesn't like any of these things, but stating that the chaos model is flat is incorrect. Boots should play what he wants for whatever reasons he wants.
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Russ Williams
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alfonzo54 wrote:
I know that "chaos model is flat" thing gets thrown around because it sounds insightful and appears to be correct on the surface but it's really not if you think about it.

As the deck size decreases the chance of drawing cards you haven't gotten yet increases. So if you keep drawing fire orders it becomes more and more likely that you will draw something that is not a fire order.

While true (more so as the deck gets depleted, not true after a reshuffle), I think that perhaps misses the point of the "chaos model is flat" notion (and the notion is perhaps misleadingly named).

I understand the point of the notion to be rather that the card draws are not influenced by what's happening on the board. E.g. in a "normal" wargame, if the opposing sides are far away, you'd expect players to do a lot more movement than firing. If they are all in close contact, you'd expect players to do more firing than moving. If a player acquires artillery, you'd expect him to start using it. Etc. But the cards come out in a random order which is independent of the board situation.

But perhaps I have misunderstood or misremembered what the "chaos model is flat" proponents mean.
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Michael Lind
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You've hit on exactly the reason I love CC. In the past I've played with too many gamers who wanted to be able to figure out, literally calculate, how to make the game do just what they want. You know, "if I get a 3:1 attack then you're dead" kind of thing.

The excitement for me is in having to constantly adapt to whatever happens just like in real life. It's no fun for me if you know just what to do to be successful in whatever event.

Ever play paintball? Make a plan and run with it. It lasts, oh, 3 minutes maybe. That's my idea of a real challenge. Sure, make the plan in general and make it a great plan but then implement it when lots of things seem to be hell bent to block your success.

I haven't played Up Front but I'd like to and I have played ASL and didn't care for it - too, too, too much detail and trivia.
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John McLintock
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russ wrote:
alfonzo54 wrote:
I know that "chaos model is flat" thing gets thrown around because it sounds insightful and appears to be correct on the surface but it's really not if you think about it.

As the deck size decreases the chance of drawing cards you haven't gotten yet increases. So if you keep drawing fire orders it becomes more and more likely that you will draw something that is not a fire order.

While true (more so as the deck gets depleted, not true after a reshuffle), I think that perhaps misses the point of the "chaos model is flat" notion (and the notion is perhaps misleadingly named).

I understand the point of the notion to be rather that the card draws are not influenced by what's happening on the board. E.g. in a "normal" wargame, if the opposing sides are far away, you'd expect players to do a lot more movement than firing. If they are all in close contact, you'd expect players to do more firing than moving. If a player acquires artillery, you'd expect him to start using it. Etc. But the cards come out in a random order which is independent of the board situation.

But perhaps I have misunderstood or misremembered what the "chaos model is flat" proponents mean.

No, you've got it right Russ. Myself, I think this is quite an insightful criticism on Sean's part, even if I'm not sure I agree with him completely. I mean to say: Sean's critique seems to me to rest on the idea that a scenario should start relatively chaos-free because one or both sides has a plan and therefore knows what they're doing, so to speak. I think this can be challenged on 2 counts:
1. CC scenarios typically start at the first point of contact, which isn't necessarily (and probably is rarely) the same thing as a force's startline in the overall action. So you could say that CC's scale focuses scenarios on the moment at which chaos escalates.
2. I've read enough accounts of problems at or before the startline for me to wonder if Sean's critique misses the point because battlefields were simply more chaotic than his analysis seems to give them credit for. Even if this is so, Sean's remarks are constructively critical because they are thought provoking.

Also, the problem of course is that there is really no way round the 'flat chaos' because it would surely be simply impossible to create a deck that was somehow responsive to the board situation. This can be done to a limited extent in CDGs with split decks, eg. Twilight Struggle, but CC just can't be scripted that way.
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J Mathews
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sdiberar wrote:
I think any ASLer worth his salt would disagree. Things go wrong in ASL all the time, and one of the marks of an excellent player is their ability to quickly assess and reassess the situation as it changes, quite rapidly in my experience. I don't doubt that an ASLer's approach to CC their first couple times out would be different than other players' experiences, but flexibility wouldn't be in short supply. CC has many surface similarities to ASL that mask fundamental and vast differences in design approach that can easily trap the unwary -- but critical thinking and strategic planning are not among them.

Let me try to explain in a different way that hopefully sounds less like I am taking a shot at ASLers (which was not what I intended). The ASL players that I have played in CC:E are far more purposeful than the non-ASL players I have played. They are more likely to discard and dig for certain orders at multiple times during the game. That sense of purpose and interest in finding the "right" cards needed to enact a plan is missing from the non-ASLers I've played with.

I did not mean to imply that ASLers are tactically inflexible, quite the opposite is true in fact with regards to unit movement and placement (and that is one reason why I love playing ASLers at CC:E- I can usually learn a lot about on-board tactics). But I have noticed a greater willingness from people without an ASL background to try and create situations where they can benefit from lucky events or other vagaries coming from the CC:E system and relish rolling with whatever the cards give them. I see it as a different play style more than anything else and I have seen good and bad play from people from all backgrounds. Again, this is just my observations so the requisite YMMV disclaimer is needed.
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HarlemMimeSchool wrote:
It seems to me that those well-versed in other tactical hex and counter systems often have more trouble pushing past the first dozen games than those coming up from simpler fare.


I think that's a fair analysis of the situation.

HarlemMimeSchool wrote:
Battles in Combat Commander are not happening in isolation, 75 guys are not attacking 100 other guys up a hill on their own. What we are playing is a zoomed in area of a much larger action. All those involved in the battle are not on the map. Artillery, Aircraft and even tank support are the obvious ordnance pieces that are abstracted, but not even all the soldiers involved are represented - with snipers being the obvious example. Even the 'Sniper!' card event is itself an abstraction of all the things that could have happened to break a squad of ten men. Maybe they got spooked? Maybe a stray shell landed nearby, maybe a sniper shot one of their number clean through the head and now they've gone to ground.


This is also fair, but I think it's true of just about every other platoon or company-level game. It might be true that CC:E abstracts events on-board that are generated by other units in the action that are not represented.. I'd never thought about it that way and it's an interesting idea.

HarlemMimeSchool wrote:
Given your apparent appreciation of Up Front, a game where entire terrain types can pop up from nowhere I am a little stumped to see how this feels 'stupid'. Not noticing an entire hill in UF is more 'stupid' than not noticing a fire in a wood hex.


This needs a proper reply.

I think it's fair to say that the central assumption of hex-and-counter games is that the player represents some sort of company commander.

Flowing from this assumption, game designers ask a number of questions about how much information should the player, representing that commander, have? Hex and counter games reply: they should have somewhere between a rough and perfect idea of the terrain and somewhere between rough and perfect idea of the forces against them.

There's also the question of how much knowledge can be assumed to be shared between the player's pieces and the player themselves. Can a player assume the inherent sergeant of that counter have the same perspective on the battlefield he does? Probably not. Then the question becomes, how do I model that? That's a much, much harder question to answer.

Of course games are always abstraction, no matter how 'perfect' the knowledge the player has. The map the company commander had might have been wrong, or missed describing a feature like a shellhole, copse, or some long-buried barbed wire. The commanders knowledge of the position of his units might be incorrect, leading to a tactical mis-step. Etc.

This is where abstraction comes in. How do you model the restricted perspective and choices of a chit's inherent sergeant? How do you limit the player's choices based on the assumption that the sergeant has imperfect infother things on his mind (ie the germans in the hedge in front of him)?

CC:E does this with the cards. It assumes that a unit that does nothing does nothing because it cannot see the tactical potential of a given action - NOT because it's frozen for some reason. The problem is that the player CAN see that potential. Up Front solves this problem by not having a map. It doesn't let the player see the potential because his pieces are themselves unaware of it. Everything in that game is from the perspective of the individual soldiers. Can't see a building? It was behind a hill, or off to the side, or you were more focused on keeping your head down. Didn't see the wire? It was in a dip, or you were too busy running for cover to notice it.

The problem, for me, is that CC:E's commander perspective constantly jars with the troops' perspective. The commander CAN see the building, but more importantly, can't see why the troops can't see it. Teh commander CAN see the troops' proximity to the enemy, but more importantly, can't see why the sergeant remains unaffected byt hat proximity. It's an ambitious project, asking players to keep two levels of abstracted consciousness in their minds. Some players obviously manage it better than others, and it's obviously rewarding. I don't manage it very well (in games at least - it's part of my everyday job, and that might be why I'm not so interested in doing it for fun as well. That might also be an impossibly pretentious thing to say). But for me, it's backwards. The player's hand generates potential, the board state responds to it. I would prefer it if it were the other way around - the hand responds to the board state, because for me, the board is the more important facet of the game.

So as to why I think it's stupid in CC:E and not in Up Front, it's because to me, Up Front models the sudden discovery of terrain well by building the map as you play, rather than giving me a map and then making pronouncements about it. There is only one driver of the game state, and that's your hand. It's appropriate in that game, for thematic as well as mechanical reasons, that your hand drives everything. If CC:E had barebones maps, and you could add woods and buildings to it as your troops discovered and responded to them, maybe that would work better... Or maybe it'd take a fast game and bog it down into ASL-like bookkeeping. I think probably the latter.

HarlemMimeSchool wrote:
Over and over people will complain that by shooting at attackers the defender can effectively speed up time and end the game sooner. Well sort of but not quite. The best way to think of it is rather than time going faster, the amount of time you have to accomplish your goals got shorter, BECAUSE your men are now moving slower.


Oh, I wasn't complaining - I actually like that about this game. I don't mind gamey tactics in games at all.

russ wrote:
While true (more so as the deck gets depleted, not true after a reshuffle), I think that perhaps misses the point of the "chaos model is flat" notion (and the notion is perhaps misleadingly named).

I understand the point of the notion to be rather that the card draws are not influenced by what's happening on the board. E.g. in a "normal" wargame, if the opposing sides are far away, you'd expect players to do a lot more movement than firing. If they are all in close contact, you'd expect players to do more firing than moving. If a player acquires artillery, you'd expect him to start using it. Etc. But the cards come out in a random order which is independent of the board situation.

But perhaps I have misunderstood or misremembered what the "chaos model is flat" proponents mean. :)


This is exactly what I meant by "the chaos model is flat" - that the relative positions of your units in no way modifies your available options. This makes no sense to me because even within the "chaos" of the battlefield, surely it makes sense of some actions to take place more often than others in given situations, and the determining factor is relative positions, not whatever the deck and your hand represents.

JMcL63 wrote:
Also, the problem of course is that there is really no way round the 'flat chaos' because it would surely be simply impossible to create a deck that was somehow responsive to the board situation.


There is one simple fix - change drawing behaviours in certain circumstances. Have one squad adjacent to an enemy squad? Draw an extra card at the start of your turn, or discard and replace once at the start of your turn. I could see an argument that that was an abstraction to represent the fact that a squad leader knows that "when the enemy is in range" is the same as "when you should fire" but that also accounts for the fact that squad leaders weren't all in agreement over what "in range" and "most obvious threat" meant.

This is just an example. It'd probably break something in the game.
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Boots01 wrote:
JMcL63 wrote:
Also, the problem of course is that there is really no way round the 'flat chaos' because it would surely be simply impossible to create a deck that was somehow responsive to the board situation.


There is one simple fix - change drawing behaviours in certain circumstances. Have one squad adjacent to an enemy squad? Draw an extra card at the start of your turn, or discard and replace once at the start of your turn. I could see an argument that that was an abstraction to represent the fact that a squad leader knows that "when the enemy is in range" is the same as "when you should fire" but that also accounts for the fact that squad leaders weren't all in agreement over what "in range" and "most obvious threat" meant.

This is just an example. It'd probably break something in the game.

An interesting post with a lot to think about, but I'll just comment on your reply to my point. And my comment? That's an interesting idea Boots. It probably would break CC because hand sizes are so tied to posture; eg. giving a defender 5 cards would make it so much easier for them to OpFire or to drop wire or mines. And that's leaving aside the effect a rule like this would have on the flow of time in the game, driven as it is by the card decks. So I think that this would be bad for gameplay.

More importantly perhaps, I'm not at all sure it'd have that much effect on the 'flat chaos' issue. Why? I'm not sure to be honest. It's just a feeling I have, but I'll have to think about it some more before I can articulate it at all clearly. All that said, your idea would be an interesting mechanic to consider in contexts other than CC.
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russ wrote:
alfonzo54 wrote:
I know that "chaos model is flat" thing gets thrown around because it sounds insightful and appears to be correct on the surface but it's really not if you think about it.

As the deck size decreases the chance of drawing cards you haven't gotten yet increases. So if you keep drawing fire orders it becomes more and more likely that you will draw something that is not a fire order.

While true (more so as the deck gets depleted, not true after a reshuffle), I think that perhaps misses the point of the "chaos model is flat" notion (and the notion is perhaps misleadingly named).

I understand the point of the notion to be rather that the card draws are not influenced by what's happening on the board. E.g. in a "normal" wargame, if the opposing sides are far away, you'd expect players to do a lot more movement than firing. If they are all in close contact, you'd expect players to do more firing than moving. If a player acquires artillery, you'd expect him to start using it. Etc. But the cards come out in a random order which is independent of the board situation.

But perhaps I have misunderstood or misremembered what the "chaos model is flat" proponents mean. :)


Obviously you didn't misunderstand them at all, but I still disagree. In your quoting of me you neglected the part where I could draw more cards because I played more cards which I was able to do because of my board position. I'm not going to repeat myself with other examples but that's the basis of my thoughts on the matter. Card play affects board position affects card play affects card draw affects card play, and on and on.

Reshuffles don't happen enough to preclude a bit of card counting.

For the "I should move when I'm far away and I should shoot when I'm close" argument I would refer back to the abstraction point. There are a variety of reasons why troops in those situations would take or not take certain actions even though the reasons may not be immediately obvious to us as non-omniscient observers. Also movement in close quarters isn't always a bad idea. Perhaps you want to move up in preparation for an advance into melee? Perhaps you want to move off the board for exit VP?

The flat chaos argument also ignores events (the other part of the chaos model) which do not happen at all unless dice are being rolled (by shooting, obviously part of the board situation) and many of them only happen if there has been interaction with the enemy (Walking Wounded, Scrounge, etc.).

I think the argument is based on literal interpretations of half of the game state and a linear train of thought. Not to say those are bad things for other games but they are for this one.

Boots01 wrote:
Teh commander CAN see the troops' proximity to the enemy,

Can he though? This is the elastic time bit again. Is the enemy there yet or are they in the process of moving up? Are you moving up simultaneously with the enemy and neither of you spot each other? Just because the counters are being moved around in a turn based fashion doesn't mean the conceptual soldiers are.

Boots01 wrote:
There is one simple fix - change drawing behaviours in certain circumstances.
Your drawing behavior changes with your card play, which changes with the board circumstances blah blah blah I'm beating a dead horse.

Again it's cool if you don't like juggling the layers of abstraction (and no, I don't think it's pretentious at all) but I think you have some misconceptions about certain things. It works for some people but it obviously doesn't work for you. I'm not going to implore you to play more CC like HarlemMimeSchool because you should play what you want.

(Edited for some dumb grammar and spelling stuff.)
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It sounds like you and I treat abstraction - and how much of it we should "have" to do as players - in very different ways. Which goes a long way to explaining our differing acceptance of CC:E's game concepts.

I accept your card-counting arguments - after all, why else would you get the card telling you relative quantities? And you're right - the shuffles aren't so frequent that it screws you up.

It's about directionality - I would prefer the board position affect the card draws in qualitative terms. I would rather the board was the prime mover of a tactical board wargame. I expect a game that goes soemthing like this: I do a thing on the board, it opens up possibilities relative to last turn, when the board state was different.

The game as you describe it (and I think your analysis is spot on) moves in a contrary direction - although there is an inter-relationship between board positon and card flow, ultimately the cards decide what you do on the board - I do a thing with my hand, which in turn makes me change board state to take advantage of that hand.

I personally don't like that directionality, though fans of the game seem to love it.
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Boots01 wrote:
The player's hand generates potential, the board state responds to it. I would prefer it if it were the other way around - the hand responds to the board state, because for me, the board is the more important facet of the game.


Though I don't think CC is the right game for it, I think this idea is pretty cool.

The trouble is it sort of works the opposite to how real command does. Commanders start with a plan, their units obey the plan at the start of an operation, until contact or something other unexpected and then command degrades rapidly until they are left with individual units struggling to meet objectives.

What you seem to be describing with extra cards for being close to the enemy is increased flexibility and greater command at the very moment a real commander would have the least of those two things.

The presence of 'command confusion' cards in a CC deck is designed to model just that. By using 3-4 'good' orders per turn you are slowly allowing 'bad' orders like Command Confusion and Rout to accumulate until you have to flush your hand and grant your opponent a double turn. That is how CC models the friction and ultimate loss of initiative in combat.

The feedback from board to deck to board again is a very interesting idea though.

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Boots01 wrote:
It sounds like you and I treat abstraction - and how much of it we should "have" to do as players - in very different ways. Which goes a long way to explaining our differing acceptance of CC:E's game concepts.
It would seem so, yes.

Looking at your what you wrote in the comments section about Walking Wounded really highlights this. None of that bothers me. The guys were walking around and nobody saw them, they could be people who just wandered in from off the board, they could have been troops from a previous battle who were holed up in a barn somewhere hiding, whatever. It doesn't bother me. I'm more interested in the way it will affect the game than anything else. Same thing with random fires and whatnot. I love it, but it's easy to see why you don't.

Boots01 wrote:
I accept your card-counting arguments - after all, why else would you get the card telling you relative quantities? And you're right - the shuffles aren't so frequent that it screws you up.
Actually in the playbook under the "Sal says" section it says "to maintain good sportsmanship, don't card count..." which immediately made me wonder why they put a manifest card in for each nationality. I think it can be an important part of the game regardless of what Sal says (whoever he his).

Boots01 wrote:
It's about directionality - I would prefer the board position affect the card draws in qualitative terms. I would rather the board was the prime mover of a tactical board wargame. I expect a game that goes soemthing like this: I do a thing on the board, it opens up possibilities relative to last turn, when the board state was different.
A perfectly valid opinion and it sounds like the basis of an interesting game.

Boots01 wrote:
The game as you describe it (and I think your analysis is spot on) moves in a contrary direction - although there is an inter-relationship between board positon and card flow, ultimately the cards decide what you do on the board - I do a thing with my hand, which in turn makes me change board state to take advantage of that hand.

I personally don't like that directionality, though fans of the game seem to love it.


Personally I feel like the cards show me my possible choices rather than make decisions for me. I feel like every turn my hand is a puzzle to solve in terms of utilizing (or disposing of) my cards in the most efficient way possible. I can easily see how people wouldn't like that constraint.
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HarlemMimeSchool wrote:
The trouble is it sort of works the opposite to how real command does. Commanders start with a plan, their units obey the plan at the start of an operation, until contact or something other unexpected and then command degrades rapidly until they are left with individual units struggling to meet objectives.

What you seem to be describing with extra cards for being close to the enemy is increased flexibility and greater command at the very moment a real commander would have the least of those two things.

The presence of 'command confusion' cards in a CC deck is designed to model just that. By using 3-4 'good' orders per turn you are slowly allowing 'bad' orders like Command Confusion and Rout to accumulate until you have to flush your hand and grant your opponent a double turn. That is how CC models the friction and ultimate loss of initiative in combat.


Without wanting to quibble over realism, this reading of company command ignores the tactical flexibility of the squad, built around tactical doctrines ingrained into squad leaders. Now CC:E doesnt' represent individual soldiers, but the individual chits would have a certain amount of operational initiative, depending on the training the particular army had received.

Yes, no plan survives contact witht he enemy, but it's at that moment that general tactical training takes over. The gap in CC:E is the gap where no order card translates to complete inactivity. The card system does not allow for individual squads to have initiative outside the broad plan.

I think this is a product of the two levels of abstraction I was talking about a few posts ago. Cards work in Up Front because they are trying to model small-scale decisions - move, fire. Combat Commander asks you to assemble a broader strategy from those elements, but without the bigger tactical picture a captain might be able to brign to bear.

It feels a bit off - you're asking a captain to ration out sergeants' decisions, but he has fewer decisions available than sergeants. He's not making Captain's decisions though... Does that make any sense?

I agree that one of the masterful elements of the system is modelling that lack of control - but there's more on the spectrum of lack of control than just "do what I tell you or do nothing".

On a different note, can I also just say that this has been one of the most constructive discussions I've ever been in on BGG? Thanks to everyone for your amazing replies!
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Ossessione wrote:
RLarsen wrote:
Neither game is in any way realistic


This is a bit harsh. I’m sure both games are realistic in some ways.


I guess its a matter of perspective. But it's another discussion that should not derail this one.
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alfonzo54 wrote:
Boots01 wrote:
I accept your card-counting arguments - after all, why else would you get the card telling you relative quantities? And you're right - the shuffles aren't so frequent that it screws you up.
Actually in the playbook under the "Sal says" section it says "to maintain good sportsmanship, don't card count..." which immediately made me wonder why they put a manifest card in for each nationality. I think it can be an important part of the game regardless of what Sal says (whoever he his).

I remember some forum thread about this and if I recall even the game's designer Chad said something like he would be annoyed with a player who was counting cards too closely by regularly examining the discard pile (even though the rules explicitly allow that). It does make me wonder.

It's rather mixed signals.
"Counting cards and doing 'gamey' stuff with running out the deck etc is explicitly allowed and part of the game".
vs
"Counting cards and doing 'gamey' stuff with running out the deck etc is cheesy and unsporting and annoying."

---

As a thought experiment: what if CC used dice to generate your options each turn according to some constant defined probabilities instead of using cards (but you could still save options from previous turns, just like cards in CC as it exists). Setting aside the practical question of how to physically realize this concept, would removing the whole card counting issue make the game better or worse? Or simply different?
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Boots01 wrote:
Because you have a god's-eye view of the tactical situation, I constantly find I chafe at my inability to impel my troops to an appropriate action.[/i]


Well written essay, congrats. And it's turned into a very good overall discussion too, one of the better BGG ones about the CC series. Bravo.

I too liked your argument a lot but personally disagree with your conclusion. But 17 games is, I feel, more than enough for me to play any game and judge whether or not it's a personal fit for my life, way I game, what I like in terms of narrative or mechanic, etc. I knew in less games than 17 that Endeavor really works for me, and that after a dozen games of Carcassone in no way shape or form will I ever like it.

To take one thing from your excellent post though: I personally find, though, as a tactical wargamer, that the above quoted bit IS THE MAJOR PROBLEM with all hex-and-chit wargames at this scale.

Having a gods eye view never happened. No commander at this (or any?) scale was fully aware of terrain, obstacles, and environmental conditions on a battlefield.

No commander ever gets to impel his troops to an appropriate action anywhere near as often as he'd like ... morale, suppression, training, situational awareness, the human desire to stay out of harms way, ineffective firing, etc, all contribute to a lack of getting one's men to do what you'd like them to do.

The 4Fs with flank and finish (in close combat) being the main focus of the tactical game, without the gaminess of not being able to react (fire, flee, surrender) to a closing enemy, mean all games get it wrong to a greater or lesser degree.

CC series is no exception. Until a tactical game manages to capture fog of war properly (ever?) and the unwillignness and uncorodinatedness of men to do things like enter combat effectively most of the time, I think we all just find a tactical game that we can accept the flaws with (and every game, from CoH to ASL have well-noted flaws), and play that.

There has to be some level of disorganization/randomness/fog of war messing up your plans in hex and chit games to model chaos that, without question, exists in battle, right? Too bad no tactical wargame system will ever find a perfect way to do that.

I love CC and now BoB for similar and different reasons, but ASL personally doesn't do it for me because I can game that system in ways that I personally don't like. But we game games and still play them, warts and all because they're fun.

leroy43 wrote:
HarlemMimeSchool wrote:
Good gracious, what a lot of rambling. In summary, I implore you to try CC again but come at it like you're playing Up Front rather than ASL.
Mr. MimeSchool regularly schools me at CC:E, although I have won a scenario or two...

I generally agree with his take on CC:E.


HarlemMimeSchool and leroy43 are two reasons I should have not left Vancouver years ago. I'd have two more CC buddies I could F2F game with.

JMcL63 wrote:

1. CC scenarios typically start at the first point of contact, which isn't necessarily (and probably is rarely) the same thing as a force's startline in the overall action. So you could say that CC's scale focuses scenarios on the moment at which chaos escalates.
2. I've read enough accounts of problems at or before the startline for me to wonder if Sean's critique misses the point because battlefields were simply more chaotic than his analysis seems to give them credit for.


Yes, I think this is very accurate. I just finished reading last night about the devastating chaos caused by a German artillery, mortar and rocket bombardment on a Canadian assault start line that was timed to hit the Canucks right after their own creeping barrage had started signalling an assault was about to get underway. Stopped the Canadian attack launch cold.
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Quote:
I remember some forum thread about this and if I recall even the game's designer Chad said something like he would be annoyed with a player who was counting cards too closely by regularly examining the discard pile (even though the rules explicitly allow that).

To clarify, I was referring to the extreme of *constant* counting and recording of cards in both discard piles in order to min-max every decision. That is tedious and breaks the rhythm of the game.

On the other hand, simply paying attention in real time and knowing that "more high-valued rolls have been dumped into my discard than low-valued rolls" or "all of my Jammed triggers are in my discard" can be a valuable asset without derailing the flow of the game.
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russ wrote:
alfonzo54 wrote:
I know that "chaos model is flat" thing gets thrown around because it sounds insightful and appears to be correct on the surface but it's really not if you think about it.

As the deck size decreases the chance of drawing cards you haven't gotten yet increases. So if you keep drawing fire orders it becomes more and more likely that you will draw something that is not a fire order.

While true (more so as the deck gets depleted, not true after a reshuffle), I think that perhaps misses the point of the "chaos model is flat" notion (and the notion is perhaps misleadingly named).

I understand the point of the notion to be rather that the card draws are not influenced by what's happening on the board. E.g. in a "normal" wargame, if the opposing sides are far away, you'd expect players to do a lot more movement than firing. If they are all in close contact, you'd expect players to do more firing than moving. If a player acquires artillery, you'd expect him to start using it. Etc. But the cards come out in a random order which is independent of the board situation.

But perhaps I have misunderstood or misremembered what the "chaos model is flat" proponents mean.


Well, as the person who is quoted on it, I guess I'll chime in. Yes, the chaos model is not particularly responsive to the situation on the board, and it does a poor job of portraying the dynamics of a firefight. Firefights begin with (relative) order and devolve into entropy. Troops become harder to maneuver because they tend to focus in on the nearest immediate threat and blast away at it, and commanders gradually lose the ability to maneuver committed elements, which is what makes the maintaining of a reserve so vital. What makes Fields of Fire such an interesting game is the way it captures this essential quality of the firefight--it's entire system of command is built to address the issue of entropy. A game like Band of Brothers manages to capture the same basic feel without any command rules at all, thanks to the way its suppression model works. Units out of contact are responsive, but the more a unit is engaged, the harder it is to get it to do what you want.

Combat Commander, to put it simply, doesn't work that way. If anything, it works the opposite way, as hand management makes it more likely that you will have the cards you need to maneuver in the middle of a firefight than at the start. Units that are out of contact with the enemy at the start of a scenario are arguably less responsive due to the fact that they player hasn't had a chance to comb the deck yet. And again, there is no relationship between what is happening on the map and the card draw, so you are looking at two only tangentially related systems at work.
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