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Subject: Feedback on modeling modern naval warfare. rss

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Rex Populi
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Hello,

I'm in the very early stages of a concept for a game about modern naval warfare. My main concern is designing mechanics in such a way as to both represent naval combat relatively realistically while making it more than just a dicefest.

At this point, my main question is not about game mechanics, but rather about modern naval warfare itself - what are the primary tactical dimensions that define modern naval combat? In earlier historical periods, naval warfare was primarily about positioning and maneuvering, with fleet commanders trying to move in close in such a way as to maximize number of guns on target (such as broadsides, 'crossing the T', etc.), but in the last seven or so decades battleships have become extinct and navies have gradually become delivery systems for air power and cruise missiles. From a gaming perspective, this could have the unfortunate effect of having players largely just exchanging missiles and air attacks (i.e. rolling dice), attempting to intercept incoming missiles (more dice), and perhaps some sort of damage results table (still more dice)...So other than spotting enemy vessels (via recon planes/drones), and launching missiles and air attacks, what are some other dynamics in modern naval warfare?

I don't mean to suggest that modern naval war is dull or simple. In fact, I think it can be quite interesting and complex if modeled in a way that forces the player to face choices at every turn. Toward that end, the basic framework I have in mind in an action point system, but unlike other such systems that I'm aware of, various actions may be worth different numbers of points. In addition, actions may interfere with each other in certain ways (moving at full speed and shooting main guns would result in a shooting penalty, for example). Vessels will have limited munitions, unlike most other games I'm aware of. Something else I'm considering is an initiative system where players roll a d6 at the beginning of each turn, then add a number of action points (secretly written on a slip of paper) to their roll to determine the final result. This may introduce an interesting game dynamic where going first happens at the expense of operational flexibility.

Weather, positioning of islands and shoals, and water depths would be factors as well. I'm even considering finding a way to work ground assets into the game (such as missile batteries or coastal defenses for scenario play).

Instead of having a points-based fleet building system (like almost every wargame ever made), I'm experimenting with something a bit different. All players would have to fill out the same Fleet Chart (i.e. army list) with pre-determined categories (Carrier, Support Vessels, Aircraft Choices, Recon Assets, etc.). They would, however, have the option of eliminating a certain number of vessels in exchange for "Battle Assets" - such as more advanced recon planes, satellite support, extra munitions for remaining vessels, etc. The 'bigger' the eliminated vessel, the more Battle Assets you could choose to compensate.

On a thematic sidenote: How would you feel about a modern naval combat game that is not actually set in our world, but rather a rough parallel with a similar level of technology? I would write a brief back-story with outlines of major nations for thematic immersion. It occurred to me that this would both be unique for a modern wargame and, more importantly, it would give me the freedom to innovate and create more balanced fleets or even weapon systems that would otherwise be unrealistic if I were to use real nations (i.e. the US navy would almost always have an advantage if I stuck to realism, unless I did something contrived to balance it out). I'm definitely not married to this idea, and I understand that most modern wargamers could be turned off by this somewhat fanciful approach.

So, to summarize, here are my two main questions: 1) What are the main tactical considerations of modern naval warfare, and 2) What do you think my main design concerns should be?

Thanks!






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Marco
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I think it is a little though to answer your question.

Modern naval warfare is a multi-dimensional topic. It is not just exchanging missiles...that is only true during ship vs ship combat (eg. clash between patrol crafts) and even then it is more complex (electronic warfare etc.). Anti-Submarine Warfare does work in a complete different way and so on.

In principal, the major goal is to locate your enemy as first and then hit him hard. But since you have different platforms (subs, airplanes, ships etc.), this is not an equation with one variable. An option for you would be to buy the simulation http://www.matrixgames.com/products/483/details/Command:.Mod... to learn more about the topic.

Concerning your action point system...aren't you mixing things up here ? The ship speed for example is a state and not an action for me.

And I wouldn't create a fantasy naval war game...I think the immersion is better when using real units.
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Rex Populi
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hawkeye_de wrote:
I think it is a little though to answer your question.

Modern naval warfare is a multi-dimensional topic. It is not just exchanging missiles...that is only true during ship vs ship combat (eg. clash between patrol crafts) and even then it is more complex (electronic warfare etc.). Anti-Submarine Warfare does work in a complete different way and so on.

In principal, the major goal is to locate your enemy as first and then hit him hard. But since you have different platforms (subs, airplanes, ships etc.), this is not an equation with one variable. An option for you would be to buy the simulation http://www.matrixgames.com/products/483/details/Command:.Mod... to learn more about the topic.

Concerning your action point system...aren't you mixing things up here ? The ship speed for example is a state and not an action for me.

And I wouldn't create a fantasy naval war game...I think the immersion is better when using real units.




Thank you for the feedback and the link. As to the actions example - as I said, moving at full speed would be the action (the speed itself is obviously not the action). So, if you choose to move full speed and shoot with the main guns (so the ship takes 2 actions), there may be shooting penalty (i.e. a negative die roll modifier, for example).



 
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Martin McCleary
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Games like Harpoon - both in miniatures and computer - have attempted this topic to allow players to utilze everything from individual ships to CVBG's. I started playing Harpoon when it was first relased. To be honest it was somewhat dull with minis as there wasn't a lot of movement given missile and sensor ranges. The puter versions allowed resolution of greater time scales and all the accompanying technical factors. The game is still popular among detail focused players.

NWS has a new board cold war naval game/system out so you might want to go to their website and see what they describe.

I've been thru all the "Fleet" series and others. You may also want to check out the recent Compass Games: Breaking the Chains.

Not clear to me from your post what your focus is: low tactical or something larger but with less detail. I think the latter?

Any modern game whether ground, air, or sea immediately runs into accuracy problems given the classified nature of ships, planes and weapon capabilities. Those who profess to know - don't - and if they do they can't talk about it.

So given the availability of previous board, miniature, and computer games on the topic what is it that your system will offer that is new or unique in perspective?

It's a great topic I'll admit and one I have a strong interest in, primarily in ASW. Not interested in the fantasy option on this particular topic.

I would like to see the old puter game "Subwar 2050" converted to a good board game.
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Seth Owen
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First thing I would do is read The book Fleet Tactics by Hughes.
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Andrew Kluessendorf
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I think some of it depends on what type of game you are interested in designing - I like Dan Verssen Games (DVG)'s card game Modern Naval Battles: Global Warfare for my modern naval battles. But maybe you are thinking of something more hex-and-counter based like something Avalanche Press would put out. Or maybe you are looking for more of a miniatures game like a modern version of Axis & Allies War at Sea. So I think the focus of your game would have a major impact on what aspects of modern naval warfare you would want to incorporate.

I personally would not be interested in an alternate earth type game with the same types of weapons we currently have in our reality. I would rather go old school WWII (real or hypothetical battles) or I'm going straight sci-fi like Star Fleet Battles.
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Karl Kreder
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Hello,

If I may voice a couple of thoughts I had reading your ideas.

I always felt that naval warfare is an extension of diplomacy as all military actions are. Countries have goals, those goals sometimes need force to implement them. So bearing that in mind what is the use of a country having a navy? Usually it is to project their interests in the sea around them, sounds obvious really but what does that mean?

You may want to check out Breaking the Chains: War in the South China Sea by Compass Games. They solved a problem you mentioned with using real world navies by projecting in to the near future where China begins to have a navy equal to the United States. China is interested in claiming islands in the South China Sea that they have claimed for years and now have have the sea power to stand up to the US and her allies to bring them under China's direct control.

What motivates the US and other countries to create such large expensive fleets and what those fleets do, I think is as important as the the capabilities of the individual weapon systems on the mechanics and "feel" of the game.

My two cents, hope it helps

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Robert Fox
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RexPopuli wrote:
2) What do you think my main design concerns should be?


It'll depend on what level you want the game to be. It sounds like you are looking at the tactical/battle fleet level.

If you want to include the U.S., you'll either have to go back to late cold-war era, jump ahead to a near future conflict with China, or maybe design a solo game where the player is the admiral in command of a carrier task force.

Another design concern is once you figure out the level and setting of your game, try to focus on what role you want the player to command from. If they are an admrial of a carrier battle group, make sure most of the decision points involve what the commander would be concerned with. If you want the player to be an admiral in charge of a regional campaign (multiple battle groups with supporting land assets), try to keep the focus on what that admiral would be doing and abstract away lower level processes. I feel a lot of wargames let the player operate on too many levels, giving them more control then they should have while increasing both playtime and complexity.

The best game example I can think of is Fields of Fire. Ben Hull really distilled the major decision points down to what an actual company commander would be concerned with (platoon positioning, support element allocations, casualty evacuations, etc).

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Leo Zappa
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As someone with a complete Axis & Allies Naval Miniatures: War at Sea collection, the entire Fleet Series, a half dozen games in the Great War at Sea series, Dan's original and new Modern Naval Battles / Modern Naval Battles: Global Warfare naval games, and the new Breaking the Chains: War in the South China Sea, I'd say I'm probably your target audience. If I am, I'd say the following:

1. Give me named, individual ships to command. Don't genericize my fleet.

2. For modern warfare, center your model on search/detection mechanisms, weapon systems, and countermeasures, not on tactical maneuver. As you note, most naval warfare now will take place with the fleets out of sight of one another.

3. Do NOT set this in an alternate universe. There is no way you are going to be able to write a backstory rich and textured enough to match the reality of our real world navies. If you are worried about balance, use the victory conditions to balance scenarios. Make the more powerful faction's victory condition's more difficult to achieve.

4. Think about most naval operations today - they directly support land operations. Missions should include the requirement for a naval force to remain on station to provide support for whatever land operations are happening, with the opposing force using a combination of naval, air, and ground-based systems to disrupt that naval force's ability to remain on station.

5. If your game is set in the present or near future, it has to account for possible new weapons, such as anti-ship ballistic missiles, drones, satellite killers (for denial of communiciations and intel) and so forth.

Me - I'd love to see a game set in the late 50's to mid 70's modeling a Cold War naval situation. Essentially something set just prior to the times modeled in the Fleet Series and Dan's original Modern Naval Battles.

Edit - another thing - scenarios can help to balance the game as well. The US Navy is huge, but it is spread across the entire globe. A scenario can have a small USN task force against the full weight of a regional power. Quality versus quantity. Also, not every scenario has to include the US. Some non-US scenarios that would be interesting might be: Japan-China conflict, Second Falklands War, Russian-China conflict, Russia-UK/France...point is, the US doesn't have to take center stage each time, and when you remove them from the equation, perhaps you can get some more balanced force-on-force situations.
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Paul Procyk
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The radar jammer on the Nulka did its job as the home on jam seeker in two of the SS-N-22 Sunburn missiles caused them to harmlessly pass by the task group.

Next up the RIM-162 ESSM's roared out of the vertical launch cells and homed on the remaining missiles with a closing speed approaching Mach 5. At the intercept point the proximity fuse detonated. The continuous rod annulus expanded out in milliseconds slicing through the body of the Sunburn causing the remaining fragments to tumble from the sky. The fusing on the second Sea Sparrow was off and it harmlessly detonated past the intercept point, leaving one remaining incoming missile.

Last chance was the Mk 15 Phalanx. It took less than a second to train on the bearing of the incoming missile and lock onto the target. Engaging at one thousand meters it took a half second and 25 rounds to bring the remaining missile down at the 650 meter mark.

It is good there were only four of them, this time.

Sorry everyone, felt the urge to write some war porn, did not suppress it.

RexPopuli wrote:

moving at full speed would be the action (the speed itself is obviously not the action). So, if you choose to move full speed and shoot with the main guns (so the ship takes 2 actions), there may be shooting penalty (i.e. a negative die roll modifier, for example).


As the above example shows there are a LOT of computers and sensors in modern warfare and timing is in milliseconds if not faster. The hard part is keeping the human in the loop.

I suggest you do more background reading. The following are both excellent sources to learn more about the technology.



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