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Breaking the Chains: War in the South China Sea» Forums » General

Subject: Regarding Complaints About Dice Rolling rss

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Rodney Clowsewitz
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I've seen a few complaints around BGG about the amount of dice rolling in this game that seem unwarranted. The majority of dice rolling occurs in the General Quarters Phase (movement and combat phase), so I'm going to focus on that.

There are six General Quarters Phases per turn. Each GC Phase consists of air movement, naval movement, engagement, and administration. There is dice rolling only in the engagement phase.

The engagement phase begins with an single initiative roll. The player who rolls the highest gains the initiative for the entire engagement sub-phase. There can be many battles in the engagement phase.

An attack is declared and the defender may try to evade. A single evasion roll is made for the entire defending hex and every unit in the targeted hex adds it's own modifiers individually and adds it to the original dice roll to see if their evasion attempt was successful. Any units that failed their evasion check must stay and fight.

After this we go down a list of engaged units in battle. First air to air and then submarine and finally surface ships. These follow the same sequence. Line up the units according to stealth rating and roll for a strike. Each unit must roll their strike individually. This is akin to Columbia Games battle system. Players get to choose their targets so there is also a chance of units being destroyed before they get to fire.

In summary: 1 initiative roll, 1 evasion roll and a variable number of strike rolls per engagement.

In Breaking The Chains you are rolling for each individual unit so there is more dice rolling than a game where you add up all the attack value of units in a hex, roll once and consult a CRT. The amount of strike modifiers are miniscule (2 drms I believe, a few more for ground combat) so I find the game plays just as quick as any game where you roll once but have a dozen modifiers to consider.

Through stacking limits it is possible to have an unlimited amount of units in an open ocean hex and you could have a Task Force of 30 units fighting a similar size Task Force in the open ocean and rolling 60 some times but I don't think this would ever happen. I haven't played the campaign game yet and I am excited to see how large these task forces can get.

So far I have no gripes with the amount of dice rolling necessary nor do I find that a player must rely more on luck than strategy. I'm only two games in and I'll update this and eat my words if need be after some more plays but as it stands now, I like this game.






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Apex
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I can't believe this is the biggest complaint about this game!

I didn't find it any more dicey than World at War from LnL and there are plenty of folks who support that title for better or worse.

There are some inherent issues with the game ... like the Arleigh Burke still being used as the Destroyer in this future. Or perhaps that any weapon system that would have made this seem reasonable was "eliminated" in some way before the shooting starts. Maybe even that a major feature of ASW was completely abstracted, yet subs are not completely abstracted.

It's as good a game as there is right now tackling modern naval, but it's still pretty rough around the edges. Dice shouldn't be the complaint though. It's not that dicey compared to other games across the hobby.
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John Gorkowski
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Good Points for Discussion
What is there to replace the Arleigh Burke by 2020? At the current build rate, devised after the "pivot" toward Asia, we MIGHT have three Zumwalts by 2020 - possibly only two! We will have scores of Arleigh Burke's for the next decade. The key here is that the DD is no longer an ASW specialist, but rather an anti-air specialist as evidenced by the area missile defense numbers.

Detailing ASW capabilites is tougher than people think because they are a function of ASW rockets, helicopters, drones, and many other "small" things. A single Areligh Burke carries dozens of ASW rockets and can carry 2-3 drones or helos. Since there are two Burke's per peice that means dozens of these small things per unit. Hence, further detailing ASW would be like accounting for individiual machine guns in a battalion-level ground game.

I think some of dice rolling critique comes from a misunderstanding of the evasion rules. That is, if you fire, you can't evade. If you evade, you can't fire. So, if you don't want to fight then run, i.e. move away from the action. Otherwise, stay there and don't roll for evasion except in those rare cases in which the initiative puts you in a really tight spot.
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M. Kirschenbaum
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I assume this is at least partly in regard to my comments. And I was indeed playing the evasion rules wrong--rolling for each individual ship. But the question of "wristage" isn't one to be considered only in isolation. It seems instead directly tied to the quality of the narrative and decision-making that a game is generating. For me, in a game like LnL (which someone mentioned above) there's a rich narrative that really serves to visualize the unfolding action. Because die rolls are potentially representing so many different things, immersion overcomes the raw repetitive process. In BtC the strike mechanism is ultimately too homogenized and abstract for my tastes--so the die rolling really just feels like die rolling, without the immersion that other game systems generate.

I'm willing to concede that much of that may resolve to personal expectations or taste, and so while I'm happy to have the correction on the evasion rules I don't see it changing my overall views (which is not that this is a bad or broken game, just for me, and thus far anyway, not an indispensable one).
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Rodney Clowsewitz
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Yeah, rolling an evasion roll for each ship would get pretty dicey. I agree that the game doesn't have a strong narrative and this is due mostly to the level of abstraction but this abstraction comes with far less rules and far less micro management and that's fine with me. I'm trying to put the games with rule tomes behind me and focus on more playable fare anyway.
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John Gorkowski
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Yes, very perceptive!

In my experience, "strong narrative" is often code speak for "heavily scripted play." Strong narrative is ideal for your first run through of an unfamiliar conflict, but less flexible for scenario analysis over time. If you prefer flexibility and player choice than feel free to join me in the "Scaffold School" of game design. You can read all about it here Balance of Powers

Thanks
John
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M. Kirschenbaum
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gorkowskij wrote:
In my experience, "strong narrative" is often code speak for "heavily scripted play."


To be honest, that actually seems like a strawman to me. I gave LnL as an example of a game that I think tends to manifest a "strong narrative" and I don't see how it would meet the definition of "heavily scripted" in the hobby's usual definition, which most often takes the form of things like "Lee cannot commit more than three divisions before the second day" or (for a CDG) "If X is played before turn 5 then Y must also occur." Etc.

Narrative in a game, for me, is an emergent property, not one that is hardwired.

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M. Kirschenbaum
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John, I just read your Balance of Powers comments, and I see that for you, "narrative" is indeed a function of exactly the sort of scripted play I mention above: "If X happens, then Y . . ." But that's not what I have in mind at all. A few years back I wrote about what I then termed "procedural granularity." Here's an excerpt, in which I contrast the action of the old SPI Napoleon at Waterloo (low procedural granularity) with Ben Hull's Musket and Pike games (high procedural granularity):

In the situation depicted above, we see French cavalry closing unsupported with the British lines, much as happened at the height of the historical battle. Historically, the British and allied infantry adopted a square formation, and the cavalry attacks were ineffectual. Here too these attacks are unlikely to succeed, given the low odds ratios. One can well imagine a colorful after-action report that would describe the foolish French gambit as well as the heroic charge by the individual cavalry brigades and their inevitable repulse. But there is nothing in the game’s procedures to license more particular narrative elements, such as whether an attack fails because the infantry has formed square, or because it has stood in line and delivered a withering fusillade of musketry. Similarly, we won’t know if the cavalry retreated from casualties or if it simply wheeled about the squares ineffectually before retiring. Ben Hull’s This Accursed Civil War from the Musket and Pike Battles Series (2002), by contrast, tracks individual unit integrity along three separate vectors: morale, formation, and casualties (mechanically, this is accomplished by placing markers above or below the unit). Thus, narrative detail as to whether a given unit sustains too many casualties to fight on, or has its ranks in disarray or simply loses its collective nerve--or some combination thereof--is licensed by explicit procedural representations.

To which someone might reply, "Oh I get it, you think more complexity means more narrative." To a point, yes. But what's interesting about that is it seems counter-intuitive: rather than distracting us with endless chart lookups and die rolls, the *higher* the complexity of a game often the *more* immersive it is. In BtC we have what I would describe as relatively high mechanical overhead (all of that wristage) but still relatively low procedural granularity, hence my sense of disconnect.

All of that said, I respect your prerogative as a designer and I'm not asking for BtC to become Harpoon. But I do want to push back against what I perceive as a strawman notion that what we're calling narrative only comes from the kind of heavy-handed scripting you describe. Thanks.


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