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Subject: Smoke, and the persistence thereof rss

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Darrell Hanning
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If I have read the rules correctly (speculation on my part), the single "driver" for dissipation of smoke is the end and subsequent reshuffle of a player deck.

Yet, on the scale of the game, each turn (according to the rules) equals "several minutes" of real time. The conclusion, then, is that in the time it takes to empty a fate deck, one or more hours has elapsed since that deck was started.

While I'll gladly concede that wind is highly variable, I think it a bit of a stretch that it is seldom so erratic as to be non-existent for hours, then gust suddenly for a moment in one location, then become completely still for hours, again.

In my limited experience with smoke (fireworks displays, artillery with dummy loads, burning auto wrecks, local dumps, etc.), smoke seems to gradually dissipate, once what generates it has exhausted its fuel.

In that vein, I'm considering a variation on the standard rule, and wanted to hear comments/criticisms from others. I suggest that, each time a player uses the order "Draw", to replace cards in his hand, he or she also draws one, random smoke marker for each smoke marker on the board that he/she has placed, and if the drawn marker is of a lower hindrance value than the current one, it replaces the current one. Otherwise (same or higher value), the new marker is returned to the pile.

In this fashion, smoke should gradually dissipate from the board. While this does increase "housekeeping" during the game, it adds another twist - the player who put the smoke down now has to weigh his desire to "wait" for better cards, against the more realistically temporary nature of smoke.

What precipitated this idea was playing scenario 1, and having the Germans able to hide behind some smoke they generated very early on - and hide and move behind it for a very, very long time. I was struck by the vision of a German soldier creeping into the open with a large, cardboard "stand-up" photo of smoke, and leaving it in place, while the Russian soldiers never wondered why it is that smoke never seemed to thin out.
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Mark Christopher
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DarrellKH wrote:
If I have read the rules correctly (speculation on my part), the single "driver" for dissipation of smoke is the end and subsequent reshuffle of a player deck.

Yet, on the scale of the game, each turn (according to the rules) equals "several minutes" of real time. The conclusion, then, is that in the time it takes to empty a fate deck, one or more hours has elapsed since that deck was started.

Isn't one smoke marker removed each time the turn marker advances? Or am I misunderstanding what you're saying?

Never mind, I see. A "turn" being a player's turn. For some reason, I was seeing the time marker as a "turn". Never mind!
 
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Darrell Hanning
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Quote:
Isn't one smoke marker removed each time the turn marker advances? Or am I misunderstanding what you're saying?


Correct - one out of however many are present goes from whatever density it originally had, to being completely gone, yet that smoke marker (and often several others are also present) could easily have been there for the majority of a person's fate deck, which according to the rules would be the equivalent of one or more hours.
 
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John McLintock
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DarrellKH wrote:
Quote:
Isn't one smoke marker removed each time the turn marker advances? Or am I misunderstanding what you're saying?


Correct - one out of however many are present goes from whatever density it originally had, to being completely gone, yet that smoke marker (and often several others are also present) could easily have been there for the majority of a person's fate deck, which according to the rules would be the equivalent of one or more hours.

Well no, not really. Reading 'Introduction' and 'Game Scale' on p.2, I would say that an entire game typically represents barely an hour, let alone a Fate Deck representing 1 or more. To wit: "each measure of game Time abstractly representing several minutes of real time". I take this to mean that each advance on the time track represents a few minutes.

Also: there is the Breeze event, which removes all smoke markers in play. There are 6 breezes in each fate deck.

So smoke is much more likely to be dispersed than you suggest; and even if it lingers, this is for a much shorter time period than you argued.
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Richard Irving
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If I have read the rules correctly (speculation on my part), the single "driver" for dissipation of smoke is the end and subsequent reshuffle of a player deck.


Read the "Breeze" event.

Last night I played Scenario 4 twice, once as the attacking Americans the other as the defending Germans. In this scenario, the Americans have to clear a large chateau, which is worth a 30VP swing. (Chateau=game) They have off board artillery to lay down a lot of smoke to advance.

When I attacked, it was a very windy day--Breeze came up 4 times. Needless to say, my Americans were never able to get very close. Late in the game, I got a flamethrower squad close and suddenly a breeze came, leaving them exposed to German fire. Goodbye flamethrower.

When I defended, the smoke never blew away. My opponent was able to close early in the game. Although we didn't finish (the game store we were playing at was closing), I was down to 2 squads in the chateau facing about 10 Americans, with 2 time checks before SD. No chance.
 
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Antigonus Monophthalmus
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I agree smoke seems to last forever, and I've only seen the breeze event come up twice after a few games, but I don't like your variant.

If I was the defender I would discard like crazy to wear away the smoke.

Maybe every time an event is rolled? Or a sniper?
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Darrell Hanning
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I agree smoke seems to last forever, and I've only seen the breeze event come up twice after a few games, but I don't like your variant.

If I was the defender I would discard like crazy to wear away the smoke.


I don't think you read my suggestion as I intended it. If the only user who degrades the smoke is the one who created the smoke, you don't have the problem you mentioned. And if you create smoke, then draw a lot of cards, then that's your problem - you should have created the smoke when you were more or less ready to take advantage of it.

 
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Ethan McKinney
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In any case, I agree that your perception of the time scale is off. Firefights this small don't last for hours and hours, nor does the rulebook indicate that they do.

A solution in search of a problem.
 
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David desJardins
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The proposed variant sounds very unfun. Aside from that, I have a very different view of time inthis game, than the OP. I don't really think of a turn as representing a fixed or consistent period of time. (And I think a turn that consists only of discarding generally represents zero time.) One turn might represent an hour of ineffectual sniping back and forth between two pinned-down forces. Another turn might represent 10 seconds of intense activity where a squad charges a machine gun nest while their buddies lay down intense covering fire. This nonlinear representation of time doesn't bother me and all. And it seems much more realistic than a "fixed" correspondence of time, in which 98% of turns should be "nothing happens", to reproduce the punctuated equilibrium of the battlefield.
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Chad Jensen
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Quote:
If I have read the rules correctly (speculation on my part), the single "driver" for dissipation of smoke is the end and subsequent reshuffle of a player deck.

There are also 6 Breeze Events in every Fate Deck.

Quote:
Yet, on the scale of the game, each turn (according to the rules) equals "several minutes" of real time.

Incorrect: each Turn is several seconds.

[Though, to be frank, I never intended CC to have any such rigid "time frame" - GMT insisted that I break down a Turn and Time segment in this manner. I see a Turn as being "as long as it takes for the player performing it to conduct the activities within it."]

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In my limited experience with smoke (fireworks displays, artillery with dummy loads, burning auto wrecks, local dumps, etc.), smoke seems to gradually dissipate, once what generates it has exhausted its fuel.

CC is, intentionally, a design-for-effect game. This necessarily means that there are abstractions made for the sake of narrative and gameflow at every turn. Thus there are hundreds (thousands?) of additional "real-world" complexities that can be added to CC - each one of which dilutes the inherent elegance of the system just a little bit.

This is an interesting variant rule, Darrell, but I don't see myself ever using it (or suggesting its use) -- mainly due to record-keeping issues (keeping track of who placed which Smoke?) and tedium (I would be loathe to discard as the Americans in Scenario 4, for example, if I knew I then had to draw and compare smoke markers 7, 14 or 21 times) and the fact that the Smoke rules as written have been playtested extensively and found to be balanced with respect to the rest of the system.

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Darrell Hanning
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This is an interesting variant rule, Darrell, but I don't see myself ever using it (or suggesting its use) -- mainly due to record-keeping issues (keeping track of who placed which Smoke?) and tedium (I would be loathe to discard as the Americans in Scenario 4, for example, if I knew I then had to draw and compare smoke markers 7, 14 or 21 times) and the fact that the Smoke rules as written have been playtested extensively and found to be balanced with respect to the rest of the system.


And yet it only took one playing of one scenario to find smoke that (to me, at least) behaves in a most unnaturally persistent way.

As I mentioned, it increases housekeeping, agreed. But who put which smoke is not a terribly difficult matter to follow, if you orient smoke markers to face the placer of the smoke. Record-keeping is non-existent.

And if, in fact, you do have that many smoke markers on the map, wouldn't that just make it seem more artifical - that only once every exhaustion of a fate deck causes a single incidence of smoke to go from say, a hindrance of 8, to not being there at all?

BTW, page 2 of the rules states: Each complete player Turn represents
an arbitrary segment of game Time; with each measure of game Time abstractly representing several minutes of real time.


That's the scale on which I based my assessment of the situation.
 
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David desJardins
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DarrellKH wrote:
BTW, page 2 of the rules states: Each complete player Turn represents
an arbitrary segment of game Time; with each measure of game Time abstractly representing several minutes of real time.


That's the scale on which I based my assessment of the situation.


But you misread it, since it says that one measure of Time (the period from one time advance to the next) represents several minutes.

P.S. I think you would be a lot happier with ASL. Have you considered that maybe CC is just not the game for you?
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Antigonus Monophthalmus
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DaviddesJ wrote:
P.S. I think you would be a lot happier with ASL. Have you considered that maybe CC is just not the game for you?


I think that's a very unfair comment, and very childish. If you have nothing helpful to say why not just keep it to yourself?

To the OP: I did misread your statement, but even now I don't really like it because of how it slows down the game.

To make it a little easier and a little less time consuming I would think something needs to be scaled back. For example, maybe only the highest level of smoke on the map gets reduced, so all the 8s, and then once all the 8s are gone all the 7s, etc.

This way you don't need to worry about who placed what, you are drawing far fewer smoke markers every discard, etc.

And then only when the attacker discards do you do this. That way the defender can't cycle through cards and thus reduce smoke. In Recon scenarios... um... whoever has a radio? And if neither has a radio then... um... okay, maybe my idea isn't perfect. I like the concept but I'd like to see it simplified.
 
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Darrell Hanning
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Sigh. I played SL and ASL when they first came out, which is how I know I don't want to play them now.

Just seems odd that you have varying densities of smoke (hindrance level from 1 - up), yet do not take advantage of this to represent how smoke thins out over time. One moment it's there and thick as soup, and the next time you deal with it, it's completely gone. Or it isn't, because it isn't the one smoke marker picked when a fate deck got exhausted.

Just all seemed too surrealistic for me. But that doesn't mean I want to beat myself over the head with ASL.
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Darrell Hanning
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Quote:
To make it a little easier and a little less time consuming I would think something needs to be scaled back. For example, maybe only the highest level of smoke on the map gets reduced, so all the 8s, and then once all the 8s are gone all the 7s, etc.

This way you don't need to worry about who placed what, you are drawing far fewer smoke markers every discard, etc.

And then only when the attacker discards do you do this. That way the defender can't cycle through cards and thus reduce smoke. In Recon scenarios... um... whoever has a radio? And if neither has a radio then... um... okay, maybe my idea isn't perfect. I like the concept but I'd like to see it simplified.


More along the lines of what I was hoping to see - suggestions.

Simplification is good. I'm not crazy about it being as time-consuming as I originally stipulated, either.
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David desJardins
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BagpipeDan wrote:
I think that's a very unfair comment, and very childish. If you have nothing helpful to say why not just keep it to yourself?


I do think it's helpful, and not unfair in any way. ASL is designed much more along the lines he's suggesting. And it's a very good game. What's wrong with that?
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Chad Jensen
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Quote:
BTW, page 2 of the rules states: Each complete player Turn represents
an arbitrary segment of game Time; with each measure of game Time abstractly representing several minutes of real time.

Understood, Darrell, which makes the averages scenario last about 20 minutes.

Quote:
Just seems odd that you have varying densities of smoke (hindrance level from 1 - up), yet do not take advantage of this to represent how smoke thins out over time.

I simply didn't want to represent thinning Smoke, just like hundreds of other possibilities that didn't make into the CC rules.

Besides, maybe the "Smoke" in hex D5 doesn't thin out over time as the dust spewed up from dozens of scuffling feet moving through it adds to the obscuration. Maybe the Artillery that is laying smoke in and around hex F7 is actually continuing to lob subsequent rounds into the exact same area after YOU have moved on to other Orders, thus keeping the Smoke at a fairly steady density. Maybe....

Quote:
One moment it's there and thick as soup, and the next time you deal with it, it's completely gone.

Much like how the breaking/elimination of units happens in CC. Are you okay with this mechanic?

And the rigid delineation of Cover - for example, one person asked me during a demo why a hex showing about half-Woods and half-Open Ground wouldn't average out to 1 Cover.

Quote:
Just all seemed too surrealistic for me.


CC is a game, after all, and was never intended to model real-life in anything but a free-flowing abstract manner. I chose playability over complexity wherever possible.
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Ben Vincent
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If you want smoke to dissipate faster, then instead of removing 1 smoke marker when resolving the TIME! trigger, remove 2, or 3, or more.
 
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Antigonus Monophthalmus
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How about every Time trigger all the smoke dissipates per your idea instead of one of them dissapearing?

How about...

every time an "event" trigger is rolled the phasing player also dissipates one of the largest smokes? That adds about 5-10 seconds per trigger, and only if there's smoke on the map. That's about... another 2-5 minutes of game time. Not so bad.

I just think having to differentiate smoke would be a pain and just make the system too cumbersome. I also don't want to make smoke less effective, so I think if there's a way to change "removal" to a more gradual "dissipation" it could only help the game. Removing multiple smokes every time trigger doesn't really fix the problem, too...

well I'm out of ideas. Good luck, and hope my suggestions helped
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I really haven't played the game enough to know if Smoke is problematic in its persistence, but I understand that it dissapates and can shift or disappear at the most inopprtune times. In general, I like Darrell's idea of dissapating smoke as an optional feature.

Based on my limited knowledge of the military use of smoke, there are some uses that exploit it better than others.

Upon a time, I had heard the phrase "pop smoke and run" more times than I could remember. The point being that smoke is often used to cover an exit. In the game, it's a lot easier to take advantage of one or two smoke grenades to leave an untenable position than it is to assault through it.

One or two smoke grenades really won't generate a lot of smoke. It might be used to mark a friendly or enemy position. You'd need a lot of smoke grenades to build up enough cover to mask a move forwards. And with THAT much smoke around, the bad guys can figure out what's going on and perhpas use it to vacate the premises themselves. Or at least prepare for the inevitable.

Of course, whenever possible, "build up" smoke. Folks can guess that the best way to build up smoke is to call it down, if you can. Two or three calls on (or close) to a position should be plenty to mask (most of) an assault and certainly to leave a position with near impunity.

But if I were to introduce a new way to handle the build-up and dissapation of Smoke to satisfy Darrell's request, I'd probably go through the trouble to make a new set of Smoke counters.

I haven't sifted through the mix, but I'd consider making all Smoke counters of value 5 and lower just 1/2" double-sided counters. The full numeric value would be in BOLD on one side, with a half-value (round up) in italics (or some such) on the other. For values 6 through 10, the counters would be treated the same, but on larger 5/8" counters.

All the the smoke counters would be in a cup or bag and when you throw out a smoke grenade or smoke round from a medium mortar, you'd draw (by feel) a 1/2" counter. When you call down Smoke from off-board arty or make it with the smoke-capable infantry guns and pack howitzers, use the larger 5/8" counters and draw them the same way: by feel. Whatever counter is used, place the counter BOLD side up.

When the Breeze Event comes up or a Time Trigger (or attacker hand discard or whatever), remove any Smoke marker currently on its italicized (half-value) side and simply flip the BOLD (full value) faces to the italicized (half value) side. If you want to build up a 1/2" Smoke counter or flipped 5/8" counter, you could replace it with a full value 5/8" counter with the surety that the new value will be higher.

Maybe too much effort for most, but if anyone else is looking for a serious recommendation, that's mine.
 
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Richard Irving
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How about this as a variant (or a scenario specific rule--very light breeze at the time of the scenario): Whenever a hex location check is made for an event or sniper, any smoke in that hex is removed from the board. (Or another possibility, the drawing player choose a smoke to remove from that hex or an adjacent hex.)

This would increase the dispersal rate somewhat, especially if a lot of smoke was laid down via artillery.
 
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Darrell Hanning
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The spectrum of attitudes a simple question about smoke has elicited has made me realize something, here. Some responses are defensive about the game to the point of being arrogant, ridiculing, and/or plain, old-fashioned hostile. Others have actually taken the question seriously, with at least a modicum of respect.

I realize now that my fundamental question went unasked - where the heck this game actually fits, in the landscape of tactical combat games?

I started playing games of this type with Squad Leader, went through ASL (too much in the D&D direction), and SPI's Sniper (and StarSoldier), and Butterfield's Soldier (which, while the least publicized and played, was possibly the best, overall combination of fun and realism).

Recently, we had at one end of the spectrum games such as M'44, and at the other end, ASL still rocked back and forth on the front porch, sipping a glass of lemonade, and bitching about kids these days.

And now, in the middle, we have the latest iteration of "card-driven" games, and CC:E apparently wants to be taken as something of a simulation, while reserving the right to tap-dance over to "not being taken too seriously". Any system that has as many as 5 values on its counters, 3 sheets of counters, and 23 pages of rules wants to be taken as something of a serious exercise, and yet the simplest thing such as temporal scale falls squarely in the realm of the whimsical.

Card-driven systems have been raved about for years, now. Where the player once had total control of all options, he or she now has to deal with a "middle man" - the hand of cards. The desire to imbue the players with a more realistic set of constraints is admirable, and goes all the way back to the venerable Mr. Berg tying up the Union player's hands with "McClellan chits".

But who are we tying up, here? In a game at this level, where one or more commanding officers and/or NCOs are in the field of play, are we representing them? If so, shouldn't the game end, when our counter is a casualty? And if not, then why must we wrestle through hands full of actions/orders we have no desire (or even opportunity) to execute?

The action on the field has been made "card-driven", and if design is a series of check boxes, then that certainly can be one of them. But for a game at this scale, the approach seems a tad too formulaic, and as someone mentioned above in regards to my original question, "a solution in search of problem".

M'44 has its problems - of that, there is no doubt. But what it does not do is bog us down with the semblance of realism - it makes no pretenses about its objectives of being a pretty and fun game . ASL also has its problems, but again, it makes no pretenses about its primary objective of being richly-detailed. And where does that leave CC:E? Obviously, I (for one) am not sure about that.

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Richard Irving
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DarrellKH wrote:
The spectrum of attitudes a simple question about smoke has elicited has made me realize something, here. Some responses are defensive about the game to the point of being arrogant, ridiculing, and/or plain, old-fashioned hostile. Others have actually taken the question seriously, with at least a modicum of respect.


No, Darrell you made two statements were WRONG:
Quote:
If I have read the rules correctly (speculation on my part), the single "driver" for dissipation of smoke is the end and subsequent reshuffle of a player deck.

Yet, on the scale of the game, each turn (according to the rules) equals "several minutes" of real time. The conclusion, then, is that in the time it takes to empty a fate deck, one or more hours has elapsed since that deck was started.


You were pointed out you were wrong about both statements: Breeze can remove all smoke in an instant AND time scale of several minutes for each time check, not each card play. When your assumptions have been shown to be wrong, you then claim the designer didn't know what he was doing (like the comment below).

Why are YOU so arrogant and hostile?

Quote:
I realize now that my fundamental question went unasked - where the heck this game actually fits, in the landscape of tactical combat games?

I started playing games of this type with Squad Leader, went through ASL (too much in the D&D direction), and SPI's Sniper (and StarSoldier), and Butterfield's Soldier (which, while the least publicized and played, was possibly the best, overall combination of fun and realism).


There's ONE infantry game you don't mention: Up Front, which Chad has said was one of the inspirations for CC. Up Front has the best historical notes I have read for any wargame. The rules for Up Front are available on the geek--the historical notes start on page 32.

http://files.boardgamegeek.com/viewfile.php3?fileid=9395

Read the notes, and I think you'll get a appreciation for what Chad had in mind.

Quote:
And now, in the middle, we have the latest iteration of "card-driven" games, and CC:E apparently wants to be taken as something of a simulation, while reserving the right to tap-dance over to "not being taken too seriously". Any system that has as many as 5 values on its counters, 3 sheets of counters, and 23 pages of rules wants to be taken as something of a serious exercise, and yet the simplest thing such as temporal scale falls squarely in the realm of the whimsical.


No, again you have taken different assupmtions--possibly WRONG ones:
- The number of pages in the rules and number of pieces of data on the counters is NOT a measure of realism. I think ASL, for all its rules and data, fails as a simulation WW2 infantry combat for a very important reason: you have perfect control over your units, you have nearly perfect information on your opponent's position and capabilities. Neither of these things are true at this scale.
- Time, or at least the perception of it, does NOT flow smoothly. A few miutes in an exciting situation, like a firefight, can seem like hours to the participants. In CC, some of the orders take a split second (rallying), some might take a few seconds (firing), maybe a minute to move 200 yards along a road or clear terrain (But most moves are shorter and take less time).

Chad has made no bones about CC being designed withg playability in mind. If he listened to the Darrels of this world and put a fixed time scale per turn (say of 10 seconds): most of the orders & actions probably could be carried out in that time frame, but something like movement could not be. Would you need a movement card for each hex of movement? (And continuous movement when troops are already moving gets suddenly stopped due to lack of movement cards? Would there have to be double or triple the ratio of movement cards in the deck?) Would it be allowed to use a single movement order over several turns? (I could see several reasons why that would be extremely unplayable.) Leaving time scale deliberately somewhat vague is probably the best solution.

To steal from Douglas Adams: (Fixed) time (in CC) is an illusion. Lunch time (meaning a full hour) doubly so.

Quote:
Card-driven systems have been raved about for years, now. Where the player once had total control of all options, he or she now has to deal with a "middle man" - the hand of cards. The desire to imbue the players with a more realistic set of constraints is admirable, and goes all the way back to the venerable Mr. Berg tying up the Union player's hands with "McClellan chits".

But who are we tying up, here? In a game at this level, where one or more commanding officers and/or NCOs are in the field of play, are we representing them? If so, shouldn't the game end, when our counter is a casualty? And if not, then why must we wrestle through hands full of actions/orders we have no desire (or even opportunity) to execute?


These questions can be asked about almost ANY wargame--especially those games that do give total control (which is to say most of them). Yet, you seem to not have asked them about other games.

What the cards in CC represent is NOT necessarily the ability (or inability) of a single leader. It represents an opportunity bottleneck for all of the soldiers on your side. Just because you don't have a particular order card, means your troops are afraid to risk their lives and limbs for at least a few, possibly crucial, seconds to execute that order. (Or maybe Sarge is afraid to risk his life and limb to give the order. Or maybe they can't hear or comprehend the order because they are huddling behind cover from enemy fire a few seconds ago.)

The reason is NOT that important, what is important is that the soldiers are unable to execute the order at this time.

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The action on the field has been made "card-driven", and if design is a series of check boxes, then that certainly can be one of them. But for a game at this scale, the approach seems a tad too formulaic, and as someone mentioned above in regards to my original question, "a solution in search of problem".


The problem is "How do you make a playable game that realistically represents the chaos, din, and fear of WW2 infantry combat?" I think CC succeeds brilliantly at that design goal.

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M'44 has its problems - of that, there is no doubt. But what it does not do is bog us down with the semblance of realism - it makes no pretenses about its objectives of being a pretty and fun game . ASL also has its problems, but again, it makes no pretenses about its primary objective of being richly-detailed. And where does that leave CC:E? Obviously, I (for one) am not sure about that.


How do you make a playable game that realistically represents the chaos, din, and fear of WW2 infantry combat?

Has it ever occurred to you that the problem might be YOUR assumptions are in error? Or at least wildly different from the designer's?
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DarrellKH wrote:
Any system that has as many as 5 values on its counters, 3 sheets of counters, and 23 pages of rules wants to be taken as something of a serious exercise, and yet the simplest thing such as temporal scale falls squarely in the realm of the whimsical.


CC has some mechanisms that are more abstract than other tactical games (like ASL). That doesn't make it whimsical. The wild swings of fortune in CC seem a lot like the wild swings of fortune in real small-scale combat. One leader gets hit by one random round, and suddenly everything changes. I can think of a lot of words that one could use to describe the fluidity and chaos of tactical combat, but "whimsical" isn't one that I would use.

Frankly, I'm glad that you don't like the game. I wouldn't want to find myself playing it with you.
 
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CC:E apparently wants to be taken as something of a simulation

Sorry, Darrell, but this statement is incorrect. I have never said this and, indeed, state quite the opposite in my Design & Development Notes in the CC playbook.

For example, and I quote: "CC was born of a desire to make a game about WWII tactical infantry warfare that had more feeling and flavor to it than pedantic historical detail. This is not to say the game is unrealistic; just realistic in a broader, more visceral manner while abstracting things like caliber, rate of fire and muzzle velocity into a more streamlined presentation."

CC is all about playability and feeling, necessatating many abstractions in order to achieve this. There are exactly zero rules and mechanics in CC that mirror real life in detail - exactly as many as I intended. Yet most if not all of the rules and mechanics in CC impart a feeling of "being there" - an experience - when the player takes a step back from the pedantic and views the narrative as a whole.
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