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Subject: Give me your honest opinion on...(3rd in a series) rss

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Jack Stalica
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WHICH SYSTEM FEATURES THE BEST COMMAND & CONTROL RULES?

My Take: For the longest time I've been a fan of the various flavours of the "chit-pull system" of which Panzer Command (by Eric Lee Smith) was the first - and one of the best IMHO, although the game itself never went far - and has since been used by such games as Across 5 Aprils and A Victory Lost to The Devil's Cauldron and many, many others. It seemed of offer the best compromise between planning coupled with the uncertainties of an evolving battlefield situation and - to some degree - the "fog of war" (although unknown units simulate this better of course). Certainly far better than the IGO-UGO method. However...

My acquisition of Angola! changed all that. The ability to plan out one's "perfect" strategy each turn (in such a simple and elegant way) and then have it collide with those of other players is IMO the "truest" I have seen yet. I prefer the it over the "chit-pull" one because it's not random - and yet is . I always get have the feeling that I'M the one controlling my destiny (and not a random pick) and it is the collision of my plans with those of my opponents which throws in the "chaos element" - very true to real life IMO. Just brilliant and a leap ahead wrt. this aspect of war gaming. Perhaps this is only possible with a multi-player game like Angola! and not a 2 player war game - but I'm not convinced of that yet.

So in summary my C&C preference is that of Angola! (love to see more games using it - Lebanon seems like a good fit) followed by the "chit-pull" system.

Your Takes:

Which C&C system do you like the best? What are the aspects of those systems which you find particularly appealing? Are there "failed" C&C experiments you've tried that we should be warned about? Please include some specific game references so we can all know which games use the C&C systems discussed.

The floor is yours gentlemen,

Curious Jack
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Jack Stalica
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I'll mention a game which was a complete failure for me: East Front Tank Leader. It featured a card C&C system which promised better German leadership vs. greater Soviet numbers. I had very high hopes that this game would teach me something about the nature of East Front combat when it first came out. Unfortunately the numbers turned out to be similar and the whole game was one big German "Turkey Shoot". Awful. However, I'm have suspicions that it was due to the horrible execution of the idea rather than the idea itself - which I liked. So perhaps - in the right hands - this system could still be viable.
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jstalica wrote:


My acquisition of Angola! changed all that. The ability to plan out one's "perfect" strategy each turn (in such a simple and elegant way) and then have it collide with those of other players is IMO the "truest" I have seen yet. I prefer the it over the "chit-pull" one because it's not random - and yet is . I always get have the feeling that I'M the one controlling my destiny (and not a random pick) and it is the collision of my plans with those of my opponents which throws in the "chaos element" - very true to real life IMO. Just brilliant and a leap ahead wrt. this aspect of war gaming. Perhaps this is only possible with a multi-player game like Angola! and not a 2 player war game - but I'm not convinced of that yet.


Sounds like the premise in Diplomacy actually.


Quote:
Which C&C system do you like the best? What are the aspects of those systems which you find particularly appealing? Are there "failed" C&C experiments you've tried that we should be warned about? Please include some specific game references so we can all know which games use the C&C systems discussed.


I'm torn between the written orders type systems that CWB exemplifies,
and the roll to change orders systems like Musket & Pike. Both hinder
that absolute command aspect in a manner which is both pleasing and
not obtrusive to me. I like the pre-planning forced by written orders,
but often feel I have just too much control (compared to rolled orders
games).

Chit-pull just doesn't do it for me, as a C&C mechanism. My units
do precisely what I want. I just can't control who goes first.
They are a mechanism similar to the GBoH initiative one (though in
their pure form they don't even freeze a unit for a turn), as evidenced
by how easily the initiative design was replaced by chit-pull in
Chariots of Fire. They do not represent the kind of significant breakdown
in command which all too often happens.
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Jack Stalica
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calandale wrote:
jstalica wrote:


My acquisition of Angola! changed all that. The ability to plan out one's "perfect" strategy each turn (in such a simple and elegant way) and then have it collide with those of other players is IMO the "truest" I have seen yet. I prefer the it over the "chit-pull" one because it's not random - and yet is . I always get have the feeling that I'M the one controlling my destiny (and not a random pick) and it is the collision of my plans with those of my opponents which throws in the "chaos element" - very true to real life IMO. Just brilliant and a leap ahead wrt. this aspect of war gaming. Perhaps this is only possible with a multi-player game like Angola! and not a 2 player war game - but I'm not convinced of that yet.


Sounds like the premise in Diplomacy actually.


True, however in Angola! the resolution of every element in your plan does not occur simultaneously with all those of all players. Each element is interleaved with those of others (with a semi-random start player each turn). Also the planning process is simple, elegant, and effortless: you simply make a stack of cards in the order you want your plan to unfold. Additionally, one needs to carefully establish one's command structure (again simply done) as it is somewhat difficult and inefficient to later change that structure.
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Lance McMillan
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While the 'Angola!' system does offer interesting insights into how sequencing can effect operations, it still affords the player too much control over how his plans are executed. When you plan out the sequence of activation for your columns, the chief variable is what your opponent's activation sequence will be -- if you planned for Column "A" to activate first and Column "B" to activate second, you know they're going to do so in that order. A real battlefield commander would be delighted if that were always the case.

What's lacking from 'Angola!' is a mechanism that injects chaos into the equation. 'A Victory Lost' accomplishes that by making the activation sequence completely random -- the downside of this being that the player has no real control over the activation sequence at all and thus the notion of long-term planning goes out the window as the player is constantly forced into a reactive mode, responding to chit pulls as they occur and not able to impose any order on that random sequence.

A more "accurate" system (which, to my recollection, hasn't been tried in any game to date) might be to combine the two systems: start by planning out your activation sequence, but then require a roll to see what happens when each specific Column (or HQ, or Leader) comes up in the sequence. Optimally they'd activate with full capabilities, but on some results it might only partially activate, or have its activation delayed by one or more slots in the queue, or possibly not even activate at all. This would give the player some control over the planning sequence, but would make the system more unpredictable than the simplistic sequencing used in 'Angola!'
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Jack Stalica
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Lance, my take is that Angola! allows you to make your "perfect" plan but then you set it into motion (often not exactly on the timetable you'd wished) and must stick with it. Then other players actions may then mess with that "perfect" plan and force you to react - however imperfectly (and often with great difficulty) due to the actions you've already committed yourself to. For me - so far - it's the best I've seen.

I should also mention that I'm a mainly face-to-face gamer - not a "simulationist" nor a primarily solitaire gamer. So for me, elegant, untedious game flow is very important.
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I don't know of any elegant way to do this with large numbers of units. There have been attempts at bidding (such as Duel for Kharkov) and reaction movement (such as Lost Victory: Manstein At Kharkov, Winter 1943). None have caught on.

I have certainly seen it work for small numbers of units via plotted movement. The original Star Fleet Battles had plotted movement, the plot unfolded in an impulse by impulse manner, interleaved with your opponents' move. Certain things were public (ship speed, turn mode and point of last turn) but the overall plot was not. You could take a variety of actions during the turn, such as firing weapons, using transporters, dropping mines etc. which meant you got to make lots of interesting decisions during the turn - a way to take advantage of/mitigate the unfolding movement and facing situation, all while guessing what the enemy had plotted so you could fire at the most effective times.

It was quite brilliant and I lost interest in the game when the SFB community moved to the tedious "free movement" paradigm where there was no movement plotting and the ships followed each other like planes in a dogfight rather than making passes like large ships of war. A pity.
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Tim Korchnoi
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I enjoy the chit pull system.
I like it because it:
1. Simulates chaos well (you never know what you're going to have to work with)
2. Is great for solitaire play because it does allow you to make the best move for each side each turn
3. Simulates the idea that yon can NEVER do everything you want in a given situation no matter how hard you try!

That is all
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Andrew Laws
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calandale wrote:

Chit-pull just doesn't do it for me, as a C&C mechanism. My units
do precisely what I want. I just can't control who goes first.


Agree with Calandale 100%, not even sure chit-pull is a command mechanism, it's more a way to break up i-go, you-go and keep players engaged at the table.

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Tim Korchnoi
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HarlemMimeSchool wrote:
calandale wrote:

Chit-pull just doesn't do it for me, as a C&C mechanism. My units
do precisely what I want. I just can't control who goes first.


Agree with Calandale 100%, not even sure chit-pull is a command mechanism, it's more a way to break up i-go, you-go and keep players engaged at the table.



But some chit pull systems do break things up. I think the best example is Carthage: The First Punic War. You never know which commander you will get or in what order. Plus, will they keep going after they lay siege to the city you want or will that be it?
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Paul Glenn
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I love chit pull systems, but to be fair I haven't played a huge variety of them. I love the fact that such systems can allow for easy shifts in combat capability (i.e. AVL's variable number of chits per turn). I don't know if they actually model C&C that accurately, but I quite like it.

Probably the simplest way to model C&C is simply to limit the number of moves you can make a turn, like in Napoleon or in A House Divided. But that only captures the fact that C&C can seriously limit how much you can do.

The original post seems to be suggesting (if I'm reading it correctly) that Panzer Command was the first chit pull game. Is that true? If so, this type of game isn't quite as old as I expected.
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Lance McMillan
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jstalica wrote:
...Angola! allows you to make your "perfect" plan but then you set it into motion (often not exactly on the timetable you'd wished) and must stick with it. Then other players actions may then mess with that "perfect" plan and force you to react...


Yes, but when you put the card for Column 'B' second in your activation queue, you *KNOW* that it *IS* going to activate, and that it will do so after your Column 'A' and before your Column 'C' -- admittedly, you don't know whether it'll activate before or after your opponent's columns, but you do at least know precisely when it will activate within your own pre-planned sequence. And that's my point, the absolute surety of knowing even that limited amount of information about the activation of your Column 'B' undermines the credibility/validity of the 'Angola!' system. Conversely, the "chit pull" activation system is entirely too random. With it, the player doesn't really need to do any advance planning -- he merely needs to react to whichever chit happens to come up.

jstalica wrote:
I should also mention that I'm a mainly face-to-face gamer - not a "simulationist" nor a primarily solitaire gamer. So for me, elegant, untedious game flow is very important.


Which, to some extent, is my primary point: neither system is a good representation of the real-world operational cycle, but both are eminently "user friendly" and make for good game play. One might argue that the "chit pull" mechanism is more Ameritrash in its randomness while the 'Angola!' activation stack is more Euro-style because of its more rigid structure. My contention is that nobody has yet (to my knowledge) tried to combine the two approaches for a "best of all possible worlds" solution. It might be a bit less "elegant" but the increase in accuracy/realism could potentially provide more insight into an appreciation of what actual combat operations entail.

Edit: I'll add that (for the most part) I loathe games which require written orders. The process of preparing them drags out play time and reduces player interaction, both of which are major negative aspects in game design as far as I'm concerned.
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Steven McBride
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HarlemMimeSchool wrote:
calandale wrote:

Chit-pull just doesn't do it for me, as a C&C mechanism. My units
do precisely what I want. I just can't control who goes first.


Agree with Calandale 100%, not even sure chit-pull is a command mechanism, it's more a way to break up i-go, you-go and keep players engaged at the table.



I love chit-pull, but I would have to agree with this. It seems to be more of an initiative mechanism than a C&C one.
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I enjoy the orders system in the MMP/Gamers' Civil War, Brigade (CWB) Series, and not necessarily being able to control if and when your orders will be accepted and executed. Add to that possible attack stoppage due to attrition, ability for individual commanders to seize initiative, and the feared "loose cannon" result, and you've got yourself some interesting game narrative.

EDIT: That orders system also appears in their Napoleonic Brigade Series and Regimental Sub-Series games as well.
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Lance, while I respect your opinion, I think your assessment of the gravity of knowing that 'B' will come after 'A' cripples Angola! is way, way too harsh.

It's certainly not perfect - but the best I have seen thus far. Would you agree with that?

I do 100% agree with you that logging is tedious and soooo late 70s' early 80s' thumbsup
 
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To me Command and Control in a game means it makes you feel like you are playing from the perspective of only one person. Everything you know and can do in the game is predicated on only one point of view, that of the commander.

Fields of Fire is the only game I've ever played that made me feel that way. Though I think Kriegsspiel would if I ever got enough enthusiastic people together long enough. Hell, at this point I'd umpire the thing just to see it done once.
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jstalica wrote:


I do 100% agree with you that logging is tedious and soooo late 70s' early 80s' thumbsup


So, with written orders, one can achieve an almost RPG level of
explicit control and planning. With some set of cards, the planning
is either merely sequence (as Angola seems to be) or more limited
a scope of possible contingencies that can be addressed.

I think what I'd most prefer is something along the lines of the written
orders of CWB or Ranger, mixed with the possibility of
things going horribly wrong. CWB's initiative system seemed like a good
mechanism for this, but the level of disobedience (and the player must
essentially ask for that risk anyhow) doesn't strike me as sufficient to
reflect some of the truly boneheaded moves in the ACW.
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Mike Hoyt

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PanzerGrenadier has a mechanism where you can activate a Leader, every unit in his hex, any subordinate leaders in the six adjacent hexes, every unit in their hexes, any subordinate leaders adjacent to those previous leaders, any units in their hexes, etc.

So one of the tactics of the game is to set up these chains of subordinate leaders in adjacent hexes so you can activate the whole chain in one action.

Which bears so little resemblance to reality that I just hate it.
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Jack Stalica
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QUICK INTERJECTION: if you feel this discussion has been of some value to you or edified you in some small way - could you kindly give this forum thread a thumbs-up thumbsup up top?

Thanks!
 
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Lance McMillan
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jstalica wrote:
...knowing that 'B' will come after 'A' cripples Angola! is way, way too harsh.


I wouldn't say "cripples" (and yes, that would be too harsh, if it had been what I was trying to say). Let's just say "doesn't reflect the whole picture" and leave it at that.


jstalica wrote:
...best I have seen thus far. Would you agree with that?


Calling it "best" would be a bit too strong an endorsement from me. Perhaps "one of the more novel and promising approaches" would be closer to reflecting my opinion.

I also suspect we're looking for different things from a game in this regard: I'd be willing to accept a (slight) impact to "elegance" and ease of play if a C2 were able to accurately capture the nuances of both the chaos/friction of battle and the need to plan operations in advance, whereas I'd guess from your comments that you're more interested in a clean and easy to play system even if it doesn't "accurately" reflect those concerns.

sitnam wrote:
To me Command and Control in a game means it makes you feel like you are playing from the perspective of only one person.


I think this is an astute observation (although I'd qualify that by saying "the perspective of one specific level of command" rather than from that of an individual).

I believe there's a definite split in the hobby between those who want to study a battle from the perspective of an individual commander/staff and those who prefer a "God's Eye View" of the engagement (and being able to control the action from the perspective of, say, Eisenhower all the way down to individual company or platoon commanders landing across the Normandy beaches). To the first group, C2 rules are a tool used to try and capture the decision making process at the specific level of command the game is trying to model; the the second group, C2 rules are a method for limiting the degree of player control so that he can't do more than was historically possible. While this may at first sound like alternate views through the same window, the differences go much deeper than that.

For one thing, the first group views C2 rules in a positive light: they're there to give you the proper perspective and shape your in-game activities along historial/realistic lines. To the second group, C2 rules are seen in a more negative light: they prevent you from doing everything you'd like to be able to do (in effect, the C2 rules are the player's enemy). I think that perspective exerts a profound influence on how a particular player approaches the C2 question: whether more (or perhaps more "realistic?") C2 rules make a game "better" or "worse."
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Jack Stalica
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Lance, semantic squabbling aside, I think I can agree entirely with your last post.
 
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stemcider wrote:
HarlemMimeSchool wrote:
calandale wrote:

Chit-pull just doesn't do it for me, as a C&C mechanism. My units
do precisely what I want. I just can't control who goes first.


Agree with Calandale 100%, not even sure chit-pull is a command mechanism, it's more a way to break up i-go, you-go and keep players engaged at the table.



I love chit-pull, but I would have to agree with this. It seems to be more of an initiative mechanism than a C&C one.


Also agree - thinking of the chit-pull games that I've played, most have other mechanics in place that actually affect command. Even The Ancient World series has the continuation system in place - initiative determines the odds of activation, but they may end up being able to do very little before failing a continuation die roll.

The other system I can think of, GBACW - there, you've got chit-pull initiative, but an orders system that can break down pretty easily, so you've got massed formations that you cannot coordinate properly, or units unable to get where you need them, or attack when you need them to, just like in a typical ACW battle.
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Sluggonics wrote:
The Ancient World series has the continuation system in place - initiative determines the odds of activation, but they may end up being able to do very little before failing a continuation die roll. The other system I can think of, GBACW - there, you've got chit-pull initiative, but an orders system that can break down pretty easily, so you've got massed formations that you cannot coordinate properly, or units unable to get where you need them, or attack when you need them to, just like in a typical ACW battle.


Excellent point -- the type of C2 mechanism used in a game has to tailored to the scale, period and environment being covered. What's appropriate for Agincourt or Crecy may not necessarily work with Waterloo, let alone for the Battle of Midway. A cookie-cutter approach to C2 won't work (except in a very narrow set of circumstances).
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I'm trying to think of a chit pull system that I've liked. The Legend Begins I guess.

A Victory Lost was certainly terrible. It had (clumsy, amateurish, slow) Soviet infantry divisions dancing around, surrounding, and destroying (through the stupid "retreat through a ZOC" mechanic) veteran, mobile, proficient German panzer divisions. Completely ridiculous. I sold it soon after.

I am hoping it works in Clash of Giants II which I acquired recently.
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Despite my psychotic love-hate relationship with this game and nearly 1900-word comment/review, where I start buy calling it "A masterpiece that is incredibly flawed and maddeningly frustrating", I would have to say Fields of Fire is right up there if we're talking about command and control.

Maybe the upcoming third complete rewrite of the rules will help? I don't know. a version that I could play in 30 minutes on my iPad definitely would.
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