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Subject: Attack/Defense Factors VS Combat Factors rss

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I'm probably going to make a fool of myself with this post but I'm working on my own wargame right now, so fool or no, here I go.

I guess what I'd like to find out is everyone's opinion as to why some wargames have unit counters where the combat factor is a single number, shared for both attacking and defending, whereas others use one number for attacking and another for defending.

The obvious answer that I guessed at was: play balance. Games that are designed with an obvious "attacker" and an obvious "defender" might need units with individual attack/defense values. (The "defender" having a seperate, and probably larger, defense factor than an attack factor.)

But then there's games like AH's old Battle of the Bulge. It uses a single factor and it's pretty obvious to me that the German has the roll of the attacker.

There must be more to it.

Or am I just being stupid?

TIA,
Chas
 
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Steve Hope
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I think there's a significant scale component to that decision--in a strategic or operational-level game, it can be hard to differentiate between "attacking" and "defending" strength, since any given attack probably includes any number of micro-battles where either side may be the attacker. At the tactical level, where an individual unit can fire on another unit, it makes a lot more sense to provide different attack and defense abilities.

You can also imagine larger-scale games where you really want to highlight the defensive strength of e.g. infantry and weakness of e.g. artillery, but there are likely going to be less fiddly ways to do that than including separate attack and defense values for each unit.

My
 
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Wow. Great response that made me realise how vague my post was!

I can totally understand your point about infantry vs. artillery units. That makes total sense. Also, I see your point about scale. But that's what got me thinking about this. There are operational-level games out there that use units with seperate attack/defense values.

And in that sense, I guess I should rephrase my post to limit it to a theoritcal situation of an operational scale involving only units of the same type, like infantry. Two infantry units (divisions, say) going at it in (somewhere) in WWII: separate combats factors or a combined one?

Thanks!
Chas




 
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Steve Bernhardt
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I'm not sure there is a "correct" answer to that one. Pick a method and see if it works for what you are trying to model.
 
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Phillip Heaton
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Even in an operational scale, there could be differences that you want to highlight. Infantry units may be good for holding ground (high defensive factor), but not so good on the attack - especially against armor.

What era are you trying to represent? What level(company, battalion, division) is your standard unit going to be? What different types of units are there? How do they interact? How long is a turn? Are you going to use unit elimination or step reduction? As wargamer66 said, you need to find out what works for you.
 
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Leo Zappa
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In Panzergruppe Guderian, Soviet units represent divisions. The tank divisions have a single combat factor, while the infantry divisions have separate attack and defense factors. I think what might have been modeled here was that the typical Russian infantryman in the early stages of the war was a fierce defender, hence the higher defense factor, while attacking took a degree of leadership, skill and coordination that the Russian infantry lacked at that point, hence the lower attack factor. The tank units had a single factor perhaps because the tank units were a more elite formation and therefore their leaders at least had some ability to organize and lead an attack as well as defend. All of the German units in the game have single combat factors, again because of the level of training, equipment, and leadership in these units made them equally effective in attack and defense.

This example may illustrate why a designer would use one approach versus another, or even both in the same game, as was done here.
 
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Jeff Paul
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My (as an aspiring designer as well)

Rather than look at the game mechanic - look at the abstraction you are trying to make.

What is it you are trying to represent in the real world that requires the added complexity of two combact factors? If the real world situation has units that were significantly different on attack than on defense - then you need to find an abstraction to represent that.

Alternatively, perhaps the defense factor represents a units "staying power" - so a unit like artillery might have a very high attack factor, but if ever engaged in combat, it should quickly wither.

Enjoy the exercise

 
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Robert Crawford
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I think it might simply be the fact that defense is inherently stronger than offense. Assets (squads, artillery tubes, AFVs) used in a defensive position are x times more effective than the same number used in an offensive deployment. Isn't the rule of thumb that the offense needs a force ratio of 3:1 to succeed? Of course, it's all an abstraction, but I think that is why a lot of wargames assign the same unit two factors.
 
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Steve Hope
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Sure, but that can be modeled by terrain or CRTs in a less painful way than adding a second combat factor to units.

I think the advice to figure out what the battle you're trying to simulate was like and see if you really need 2 factors or can get by with 1 is a good idea. I'd have a strong inclination to avoid a second factor, but there may be reasons (including some good examples on the thread) why you want the added complexity.

But be very aware that you're making the game more difficult when you do it and make sure you're getting the play/simulation bang for your rules buck!
 
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Joel Langenfeld
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rcrawford wrote:
Isn't the rule of thumb that the offense needs a force ratio of 3:1 to succeed?


That all depends on how you measure "force" doesn't it?
 
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Joel Langenfeld
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stephenhope wrote:
Sure, but that can be modeled by terrain or CRTs in a less painful way than adding a second combat factor to units.


Call me naive, but I've yet to see where terrain or CRT modifiers "simplify" a ruleset. They generally add realism which is often desirable, but introducing them simply to avoid the "complications" of a second combat factor is robbing Peter to pay Paul - with interest.

stephenhope wrote:
But be very aware that you're making the game more difficult when you do it and make sure you're getting the play/simulation bang for your rules buck!


That is the key. I'd strongly advise being very clear about what you want your game to accomplish. Obviously, you are going to want to balance a lot of factors such as realism, simplicity, playing time, etc, but you need to understand ahead of time how you will resolve any irreconcilable differences.

You only get "bang for your buck" when you move closer to your goal - simply making decisions and introducing random changes when you aren't clear on what you want will probably do more harm than good.
 
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Steve Hope
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SkunkyBeer wrote:
stephenhope wrote:
Sure, but that can be modeled by terrain or CRTs in a less painful way than adding a second combat factor to units.


Call me naive, but I've yet to see where terrain or CRT modifiers "simplify" a ruleset. They generally add realism which is often desirable, but introducing them simply to avoid the "complications" of a second combat factor is robbing Peter to pay Paul - with interest.


Call me crabby, but I didn't say it would simplify a ruleset to have terrain rules or a CRT (note: having CRTs reflect the advantage of being the defender is not the same as having CRT modifiers)!



I guess I would suspect most wargames will have rules for terrain and/or combat systems to start with. Making defensive advantages inherent to these two rules elements is a good idea to my mind. If you have something very specific you are trying to model which requires different attack and defense factors, it may be a necessary evil.
 
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Darrell Hanning
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Quote:
Sure, but that can be modeled by terrain or CRTs in a less painful way than adding a second combat factor to units.


There is an assumption made with modeling by terrain or CRTs that is not made with separate attack-defense factors on units, and it is most often a faulty assumption - that is, that each unit type benefits to an identical degree for being on defense.

In most of the cases of wargames I've played that have different attack and defense factors, terrain (appropriately) modifies the factors used to alter the portion of the CRT used - either by column shift or roll modifier, most usually. And I have little doubt that said CRT does not already have embeded within its results the paradigm that defense normally requires less force.

In short, the factors on a unit do not necessarily represent the same effects that a designer would integrate in terrain effects and or CRT results. Rather, they represent distinctions unique to certain units or unit types, and in this respect, methods imposed outside the values of the units would not provide the desired granularity.
 
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Very helpful feedback. Thanks.

I can definetely understand the idea of mutliple combat factors reflecting different unit types; ie. artillery having a stronger attack factor than a defense factor, which is a great example.

But I think what I'm hearing here most is something that causes me to reconsider the term "combat factor". DesertFox's post really opened my eyes on that one. I might not have understood this subject because I was getting hung up on the word "combat" when in fact, there might be a lot more to that factor than just fighting ability, things such as leadership, morale, reliability, etc. That really makes sense and would explain a unit defending better than attacking. (Or vise-versa?)

I suppose a solution to units with a single combat factor would be to employ rules that would adjust/modify that factor due to those more intangible elements listed above. Of course, then your trading off an extra number on a cardboard counter for several more paragraphs of rules.

It's the old "playabilty vs. realism" isn't it?

P.S. Has anyone played a wargame that has infantry units with higher attack factors than defense factors?
 
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Michael Von Ahnen
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The simple answer is that having different attack / defense factors allows you to have more realistic results of combat. Infantry units might not have the firepower (at least in WWII) to create breakthroughs, but well entrenched were hard to to attack.

Some games also modify combat factors based on terrain, with armor being penalized for combat in cities and forests as most common. It all depends on the scale. At a strategic level, armor formations have a considerable number of infantry units, artillery, and support. So the combat value probably makes sense at a very high level
 
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Mark Aasted
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Just to add fuel to the fire you could check out the old SPI game Highway to the Reich where each unit, infantry, armor and anti-tank plus others, all have different attack values depending on the type of unit it attacks; if I remember correctly this is done on the CRT. The game is at platoon level so each unit fires independently of the others which will allow this type of mechanic.

In general I believe it all depends on what you want to create in your game and how you want to represent it. Once you start play testing you’ll see if it feels right and if you are capturing what you set out to represent.

Good luck with you efforts.
 
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Joel Langenfeld
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>>Has anyone played a wargame that has infantry units with higher attack factors than defense factors?<<

It would really depend on how the entire combat resolution system worked. FWIW: Attack and defense factors don't even have to model the same thing. For example, attack factors may only be a parameter for a CRT, while defense factors might indicated "resiliance" or "staying power", etc. You might have combat resolution that goes: the attack strength of 7 is resolved on the 7-8 column of the CRT, a die roll of 5 results in a "3". The defender's DS is 4, so it isn't forced to check morale....
 
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Greg Jones
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I am not a grognard. The only game I've played that is applicable to this question is Axis & Allies. In that game, having separate attack/defense values made for a better game. I can't say if it's realistic as a simulation of WWII. In that strategic-level game you are not only making decisions about how to move units, but which to build. Separate attack and defense values make for more differences between units, and therefore more interesting decisions about what to build. If you plan to go on the offensive, buy tanks - but you need some portion of infantry in case you are counterattacked.
 
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Mike Haverty
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Back to the design decisions... do people really consider having separate attack and defense values on a counter "fiddly"? It seems odd to me that in a game of some minimum expected complexity, such as a wargame, that a counter that read "2-4-2" is fiddlier than one that reads "2-2".

To those people (and the original poster), what if you simply include an * next to the combat value of certain units (or perhaps [] around the digit), and that simply means "This unit is +2 strength while defending." This exchanges the fiddliness of an extra digit with the fiddliness of an extra notation on the counter, but perhaps you could also use the same symbol on fortification markers, etc. to indicate the bonus as well, offsetting the fiddliness with some consistency across counters...
 
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Jeff Paul
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I am not sure "fiddly" is the right term. It is slightly more complex. It will require slightly more rules.

The issue becomes - as you continue to add "slightly more complexity" - where do you stop?

So really, if the game (or simulation, or battle, or ...) does not require, KISS
 
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Byron Collins
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As a designer, the key for me is balance. Playability and simplicity vs. Realism. Speed of play vs. Realism. Now what is realism? If you are setting out to approximate what really happened or could really happen in a particular war with mechanics and rules, then you share my definition of realism. I believe that all designers generally strive for balance in combat mechanics, and once they and their group of playtesters are satisfied that those mechanics work, the game is published or otherwise made available to others. Combat is the foundation of most wargames, and it must work.

I agree with the previous posts that the best thing you can do as a designer is to envision what level of play you want to simulate up front... skirmish, tactical, operational, etc., and stick to that level of simulation in all aspects of your game. Start there, and attempt to find balance with respect to time required for turns, combat simplicity vs. complexity, abstract factors vs. historic information, etc. As the game elevates to higher levels of command, the details of multiple factors for attack/defense becomes more cumbersome (IMHO). At this level of detail, most designers tend to work toward the goal of simulating command strategy rather than focusing on combat realism. For instance, you mention your experience with Axis and Allies- Every tank is generally the same, every bomber is generally the same... but combat is not just a game of numbers, since you may choose to take command risks by sending in a weaker force than what should be required to take the objective... command decisions become the focus.

As you zoom in on scale, you can achieve much more detail with your units, even going as far in as the individual tank or soldier and what weapon(s) they used. All kinds of rules may be drawn up in an attempt to approximate human behavior (such as morale, or leadership), mechanized performance, damage effects, and much more. This level of detail (in my opinion) warrants differing attack / defense values for individual units, and those differing values can work quite well to make your units more unique and to simulate their actual performance. However, remember balance and strive for it. The fewer stats players have to deal with, the faster the turn, which usually means more time to focus on strategy. When combat becomes cumbersome, the game is less fun (to me, anyway). With whatever method you choose to use in your game, ask yourself, "Is this really fun?" Test and re-test until you've solved as many problems as you can with solutions that work. In my particular case, I've worked on a game for about 10 years, and I'm on my fourth version of it, which I'm finally working on bringing to the public as a "Beta" Version. I have totally re-designed my combat mechanics 3 times, and I'm still adding some minor changes, but I am finally satisfied with them. The key is to test your combat system as much as possible, stick with the scale you set out to simulate initially, and be consistent across the board with all of your units and mechanics.

Best of luck with your game!

-Byron
Designer of "Frontline General"
 
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