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Subject: Fog of war, please! rss

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MATTHEW SPRING
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One of the most engaging and thematic features of the 1998 PC game was the way the Empire and Rebellion played a cat and mouse game, with the Rebels typically moving its HQ and construction facilities to more distant star systems and having its fleets evading Imperial forces until such time as they had grown significantly in strength. Playing as the Empire, it was huge fun trying to hunt down Rebel forces with probe droids (shades of Vader's "What of the reports of the rebel fleet massing near Sullust?") and then trap and crush them. It was also great having limited intelligence on systems on which you didn't have a political or military presence. It was, for example, fascinating to drop out of hyperspace and find that the planet believed to be uninhabited now contained a small neutral colony with growing industrial facilities (shades of Admiral Ozzel's "My Lord, there are so many uncharted settlements. It could be smugglers; it could be pirates.")

Can a Star Wars strategy board game really work without this kind of fog of war? God-level overview of the whole playing area and its contents would surely wreck the experience?

Surely FFG are going to build FoW into this game?

Oh, please do, FFG...
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Dennis Schwarz
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I really doubt it, since Fog of War-like mechanisms in a more than single-player game are far easier done in a PC-Game than a boardgame.
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Eirik Johnsbråten
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Yes, AFAIK no board game has what you ask for. The puzzle that is designing this mechanism has simply not been solved. Some play wargames with this kind of fog-of-war, but they have several copies of the game and a third person as an umpire. If FFG managed to put double-blind fog-of-war like that into Rebellion it would be a magnificent achievement in boardgame history.

Edit: You could do it with an app, of course. But that would be cheating... Not to say cumbersome.
 
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MATTHEW SPRING
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Another reason why I suspect this won't happen is because FoW is best implemented in games with blocks or record-keeping, such as the Columbia Games block series, or Pandemic (bioterrorist mode) or Letters from Whitechapel (Jack's movements).

Record keeping is out if there are multiple fleets and armies; and blocks won't cut it in a game where one of the principal draws is clearly that military forces are depicted by fancy little plastic pieces shaped like Star Destroyers, X-Wings, Stormtroopers, etc.

I suspect that the only FoW will be the hidden rebel base mechanic, discussed in another thread:
https://boardgamegeek.com/thread/1467260/speculations-about-...

I live in hope, though...

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Gandalf the Greyjoy
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What's the problem? It has been already done multiple times - see Fury of Dracula or Specter Ops. They just need to implement some special mechanic, more than "don't place units on the board".
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David SL
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Couldn't this type of thing be handled with cards? I mean, from what I understand of the article, the miniatures simply represent presence rather than an exact count. Each tie fighter gives an extra dice, the star destroyers give a few dice, etc, but the cards are really how the battles are won. So players will always know where the enemy is, but they will never know just how much competition they face beneath the surface...

Going deeper than that, I don't know. I trust FFG, and I think we won't be disappointed by the strategic depth in this game. It seems to me like the board and miniatures will only ever give away 50% of the information.
 
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Valerio Vitelli
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hismhs wrote:
One of the most engaging and thematic features of the 1998 PC game was the way the Empire and Rebellion played a cat and mouse game, with the Rebels typically moving its HQ and construction facilities to more distant star systems and having its fleets evading Imperial forces until such time as they had grown significantly in strength. Playing as the Empire, it was huge fun trying to hunt down Rebel forces with probe droids (shades of Vader's "What of the reports of the rebel fleet massing near Sullust?") and then trap and crush them. It was also great having limited intelligence on systems on which you didn't have a political or military presence. It was, for example, fascinating to drop out of hyperspace and find that the planet believed to be uninhabited now contained a small neutral colony with growing industrial facilities (shades of Admiral Ozzel's "My Lord, there are so many uncharted settlements. It could be smugglers; it could be pirates.")

Can a Star Wars strategy board game really work without this kind of fog of war? God-level overview of the whole playing area and its contents would surely wreck the experience?

Surely FFG are going to build FoW into this game?

Oh, please do, FFG...
Since the game was already announced and the release date is set to be 1st Quarter of 2016, don't you think is a little too late to ask for changes in the main mechanics?
I think that even the playtest could be over, since from production to release is about 6 months.
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Chris J Davis
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Libero03 wrote:
What's the problem? It has been already done multiple times - see Fury of Dracula or Specter Ops. They just need to implement some special mechanic, more than "don't place units on the board".
The differences are:

1) In both of those games, only one player is hidden - the other has units visible on the board.

2) In both of those games, only one unit is hidden. Rebellion would require dozens of units to be hidden.

As others have said, the problem of creating a true double-blind mechanic in a board game (without using an app) has not been solved.
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zoran
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bleached_lizard wrote:
Libero03 wrote:
What's the problem? It has been already done multiple times - see Fury of Dracula or Specter Ops. They just need to implement some special mechanic, more than "don't place units on the board".
The differences are:

1) In both of those games, only one player is hidden - the other has units visible on the board.

2) In both of those games, only one unit is hidden. Rebellion would require dozens of units to be hidden.

As others have said, the problem of creating a true double-blind mechanic in a board game (without using an app) has not been solved.
Not sure double-blind is what's called for, rather 'I know where my units are but not where yours are' ala Battleships. Double-blind for exploration of planets, planetary resources etc can be implemented with face down tokens.

I don't care for FoW in the type of game this seems to be. It's enough for me that the Rebel Base is hidden. It seems there'll be lots of uncertainty in the game already through the dice and tactics cards.
 
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mikael mordai
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Why not just stick to the pc game then?..then you save yourself the 99 usd too...i am sure this game can stand on its own...
 
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Eirik Johnsbråten
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zemus wrote:
Not sure double-blind is what's called for, rather 'I know where my units are but not where yours are' ala Battleships. Double-blind for exploration of planets, planetary resources etc can be implemented with face down tokens.
Here's what the OP is asking for:
1. I know where my troops are, but my opponent doesn't.
2. My opponent knows where his troops are, but I don't.
3. When my troops and my opponents troops are in the same spot, they will do battle.

Now, here's the nut. How do you check for #3 without breaking #1 and #2?

Yes, I know, it sounds simple. But if you can crack that nut, you're famous.

zemus wrote:
I don't care for FoW in the type of game this seems to be. It's enough for me that the Rebel Base is hidden. It seems there'll be lots of uncertainty in the game already through the dice and tactics cards.
I agree with you. Just the hunt for the hidden rebel base will give this game an extra layer of tension that War of the Ring doesn't have, as the exact location of the fellowship didn't really matter.
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Frank Z
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I strongly disagree. There are several fog of war games. Just look at these lists:

classic:
https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/1917/stratego

Block wargames:
https://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/66440/blocks-war-my-top-1...

several:
https://boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/24206/hidden-units-or-fog...
https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/73171/earth-reborn
https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/12891/friedrich
https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/177725/they-come-unseen
https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/84419/space-empires-4x
https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/82168/escape-aliens-oute... (FOG for both sides!)

Scotland Yard types (okay not real wars):
https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/59959/letters-whitechape...
https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/20963/fury-dracula-secon...
https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/101013/ninja-legend-scor...

... and so on.

You can do a special search for the option "Secret Unit Deployment" to get a huge list.

(Maybe a topic for another geek-list?!?).
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Claudio Hornblower
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Tjohei wrote:
Now, here's the nut. How do you check for #3 without breaking #1 and #2?
By playing Space Empires 4X wargame. The gold standard (imho) in this field.

But I do hope that FFG could come up with something interesting as well.

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EinBrettspieler wrote:
I strongly disagree. There are several fog of war games. Just look at these lists:
I don't wish to sound rude or arrogant, but the fact that you include Scotland Yard-style games in your list tells me that you haven't quite grasped what we're discussing here and what the OP is asking.

None of the games you list features a double-blind fog-of-war mechanism that allows for the three points I listed above.

They do, however, present many exciting mechanisms for hiding information from the other player. Not knowing the details of your opponents forces or not knowing the location of the other player can create many great game experiences.

Rebellion includes rules for the hidden rebel base, for which we still know very little about. But what we know and speculate sounds very intriguing. And argument could be made for more hidden information, like force composition, leader identities or production details. But there will be rules complexity with every type of hidden information mechanism included, and I'm sure FFG has contemplated pretty thoroghly what to include in the game.

However, rules that allow me to keep my forces hidden from my opponent and at the same time keep my opponents forces hidden from so that I don't know they're coming until they're right on top of me, which I define as double-blind fog-of-war, will not be included in Rebellion, and I have yet to see a game that features this without an app or umpire.
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Eirik Johnsbråten
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Mythologem wrote:
Tjohei wrote:
Now, here's the nut. How do you check for #3 without breaking #1 and #2?
By playing Space Empires 4X wargame. The gold standard (imho) in this field.

But I do hope that FFG could come up with something interesting as well.
Then I will study Space Empires 4X with great interest in the morning. (It's bedtime here in Norway... )
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Claudio Hornblower
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Tjohei wrote:
(It's bedtime here in Norway... )
Same here in Italy, bro! I'm finishing compiling the work for tomorrow then I'm off, too
 
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Dan
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Eirik Johnsbråten
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Concerning Space Empires 4X, as far as I can see only unit identity/force composition is hidden information, not units' position. Hiding what the units are is done in many games. Hiding where they are, for both sides, has not been done.


OrangeCat X wrote:
If the Abbess' position was hidden as well it would be double-blind. But the novices can see where the Abbess is, so this is in the Scotland Yard-category, where one side has perfect position information and the other has not.

The key here is where, and that it aplies to both sides. That my hidden unit can bump into your hidden unit and that neither of us would know until they did.

The closest thing I've found so far is Battleship and The Ares Project. But Battleship doesn't qualify, as the position of your units has no effect on where you're able to fire your shots. You could say that you would only be allowed to fire at spaces withing two spaces of one of your ships. But for it to be double-blind your opponent shouldn't be informed of where you shoot unless you hit. Which is contradictory with the current rules.

Ares Project conceals very well that it's not double-blind by giving you extensive building options behind your screen and by abstracting position to three locations. But you still know where your opponent is. Only exception is when your opponent attacks you and you don't know if you should defend the frontier or your base. But that isn't double-blind as your opponent knows where your troops are. If the game should be double-blind, you could be in a situation where you attack the neutral frontier, only to discover that your opponent is already there...

For the record, I'd like to say that I'd love to be proven wrong, that someone has made an app- and umpire-free double-blind board game, so please continue making suggestions.
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Brodie Isaac
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This is not necessarily an actual suggestion on my part, but what about Battleship?

Here's an example:

Imperial player to rebel player "I am probing sectors 1, 5 and 9." and places a card in each sector.

Rebel player "Contact in sector 9"

Imperial player flips card in sector 9, it was a star destroyer, not your average probe droid... His fleet was probing that sector (or simply moving into it.) and they have made contact with a rebel base. A Battle ensues... (Sector 1 and 5 were probe droids)

Kind of thrown out there as a lark but it does sort of allow both sides to have a fog of war aspect

Probably a million reasons why this doesn't work, but I wanted to see the responses!
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Tjohei wrote:
Concerning Space Empires 4X, as far as I can see only unit identity/force composition is hidden information, not units' position. Hiding what the units are is done in many games. Hiding where they are, for both sides, has not been done.
There are decoys in Space Empires 4x and you can easily mask your main force with many small forces that fly around the map. Usually there are counters everywhere in your sector and scouts are needed to explore where there really is a weak spot (or no defense at all).
But SE:4x is a game that requires massive bookkeeping and while i enjoy a game every once in a while, it certainly is only a game for a small minority of players.
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Eirik Johnsbråten
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That's an interesting suggestion, Brodie, although it's not a double-blind. The Imperials will hide their force composition but not the position, again the what and not the where. It'd be an interesting mechanism, as the Rebels would have all their information hidden. But it might be better suited for a card game with player screens like Ares Project. I think FFG wanted the big sprawling map and plastic miniatures for Rebellion.

Had a look at Escape from the Aliens in Outer Space and it's pretty close to, but not quite, double-blind. The fact that you can lie about your position doesn't take it away from the double-blind mechanism, but the fact that you can be in the same spot as another player, even opponent, without noticing do. And to make the definite check if two players are in the same position the alien player must declare his position, thus giving away information that shouldn't be available to the other players for it to be a double-blind.
 
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Kelteel wrote:
There are decoys in Space Empires 4x and you can easily mask your main force with many small forces that fly around the map. Usually there are counters everywhere in your sector and scouts are needed to explore where there really is a weak spot (or no defense at all).
But SE:4x is a game that requires massive bookkeeping and while i enjoy a game every once in a while, it certainly is only a game for a small minority of players.
Hm, that's interesting. Using massive amounts of decoys could probably simulate a double-blind situation, although technically it's bluffing. The location of the decoys is still known, but if there's enough of them, you'll be closing in on a double-blind experience. It might be better suited for a more static battlefield though. The important thing for double-blind is that you could probe a sector where I have some presence and discover that it's empty (decoy). But then I must be able to move a force in there while you're not looking and without you knowing, until you probe again or I attack you with that force. In that regard, the probing unit's identity must not be revealed, so that I don't know if you're coming with a force or just sending probes.

What do you think, Chris? Are we closing in on a double-blind here?
 
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Eirik Johnsbråten
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Also, we seem to have completely taken over this thread and made it into a discussion on double-blind and hidden information. I'd like to ask the OP if this is what you wanted in Rebellion. The way you describe not knowing what's on planets until you're there would probably call for a double-blind mechanism, but would you settle for less?
 
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Tjohei wrote:
Concerning Space Empires 4X, as far as I can see only unit identity/force composition is hidden information, not units' position. Hiding what the units are is done in many games. Hiding where they are, for both sides, has not been done.
Yup. But from a practical point of view, this works exactly the same I tell you. The warfront is too big to cover entirely. Maybe the merchants, or some friendly outposts, have spotted a big fleet of "something" and so you're aware of their position (but not their composition).

Under the chits there are not only "true" spaceships but also empty decoys, so imagine big stacking of units covering 7-8 hexes far away. Yes you see them. But the decision to where invest your precious forces is by no means less crucial: waste them with a big pile of decoys and the enemy will sneer at you while your colonies burn down; commit them with a much larger force made of few ultra-huge ships, and you'll face a sound defeat.

All of this in a uber-simple, practical consim where this "hidden" part is almost mistakes-free: there are no "Oh I'm sorry did you say hex 1905? I've heard 1805..." because everything is there. At least, that works wonderfully for me - concerning sci-fi space empires wargames.

But if you seek double-blind at all cost, please consider some old classics:
- 8th Army (nice)
- Normandy Campaign (so-so)
- Operation Market Garden (great)
- Cityfight (plain great Balkoski's design)

The old classic Ambush! was a solo system where your WW2 squad advanced from hex to hex, checking if a event is triggered by cross-referencing the sliding mission screen. That was pure genius and one of the best fog of war I've seen so far.

Another excellent and somewhat even better example is the (again, solo only) Fields of Fire: here the AI makes contact and position a real deadly dilemma and unless Ambush!, each mission is randomly generated so you really have a fresh surprise.

My beloved Command Commander goes another way entirely: you know where the enemy is, and you see its stats; nothing is hidden. But you don't know where and when you'll be able to perform the actions needed, because you're chained to your hand of cards to perform them ("fog of command"). That makes for a great, cinematic and "visceral" experience.

Hope that helps! Enjoy
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I have an idea for a double blind mechanism that might just work (just not really for Rebellion and I wouldn't wish to include something like that there):

How about something similar to Chaosmos?
In that game there is an envelope for each planet and when a player lands on that planet, they get to look at the contents of the planet's envelope and may modify the contents, take stuff out and put stuff in.

When you do something like that in a 4x game and have your units be cards, you could deploy or move units by placing them into / taking them out of the planet envelopes. And when flying to a new planet, you would get to look at what is already contained in that envelope, too, so you would only then see if the opponent is already there or not.

Of course a system like that would have to be based largely on the honor system, needing you to trust your opponent to look only at the envelopes that they are allowed to and don't switch around stuff when realizing a bad decision...

The envelopes would be in a container and when a player makes his move, he would announce something like: "I build something", then take only the envelope of the planet where he is building his stuff to put it there. Only when a player announces a move, he would take out two envelopes (one from the planet where the units come from and one from the planet where the units are moved to).

Now if the envelopes only have the names of the planets on one side, the opponent could verify that only the contents of one envelope (or only two) are modified without knowing which planet this happened on.

The problem with this system would be that it would be very hard to keep the overview of all the things that happen in the game and not forget where your own, let alone the enemy troops are.

There would probably have to be some sort of redundant bookkeeping that each player does behind a screen to have fast and easy access to all the information that is open to him. The envelopes would only be the means of sharing partial information between the players.

You could even easily include a real exploration mechanism by seeding certain cards into the envelopes randomly at the start of the game to define what sort of planet has been explored, what sort of alignment it has, etc.

When combining this with a legacy aspect, you could make a completely different 4x game out of this, naming planets after they have been explored for the first time, having pre-defined hidden planets containing game-changing surprises in their envelopes, etc.

But that might go a bit far for this discussion

What do you think about the idea?
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