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Subject: Wargame Design Questions and Ideas... (also posted in Design Theory) rss

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Thomas Vasquez
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(Also posted in Design Theory, just trying to get as much information as possible!)

Hello fellow boardgame designers and (hopefully) wargamers! I've always wanted to design my own conflict simulation and always have ideas rolling around in my head, and what I'm aiming for is something modern / near-future, battalion to brigade sized units, and a LARGE emphasis on combined arms. Here's a few snags I'm running into...

- What is the best way to show the vulnerability of unsupported armor? I want each combat unit to have an "anti-tank" value of sorts, but with too many values comes too many rolls and tables.

- In modern conflict where warfare has become more deadly but less lethal at the same time, what would be the best way to represent that? Step losses, while ideal for showing the gradual degradation of a unit, seems a bit archaic.

- One game I've always enjoyed from the combined arms aspect is "The Korean War." It treats armor as assets that provides potential bonuses on an attack. Is there a possible way to modernize this aspect?

Looking forward to a great discussion and some suggestions. Thanks all!
 
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Luke Phillips
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Are we talking hex and counter?
 
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Thomas Vasquez
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Currently undecided as of now if it'll be hex or area-movement, but yes it's a hex-and-counter style design.
 
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Luke Phillips
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Could you do a set collection type mechanic? I.e. If you enter combat with armour , infantry and air support you get +2 strength, or only +1 if it's just armour and infantry.?

If you went with a combat system like Field Commander: Rommel (i.e. battle points/plans) the bonus could be in the form of extra battle points.
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Steven
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bfg9001 wrote:
- What is the best way to show the vulnerability of unsupported armor? I want each combat unit to have an "anti-tank" value of sorts, but with too many values comes too many rolls and tables.
The question to ask here is, 'Why is unsupported armor vulnerable?' Your answer to that question will go a long way to answer your 'how?'

Quote:
In modern conflict where warfare has become more deadly but less lethal at the same time, what would be the best way to represent that?
How are you understanding the difference between 'lethal' and 'deadly'? What is the nuance you are going for here? Your answer to that question will go a long way to answer your 'how?'

My answers there are intentionally Socratic, because I do think they are very important factors to consider. A good design will not just parrot doctrine but will channel players into concluding that the received doctrine is indeed the best practice, as well as helping players understand why it is the received doctrine.
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Fred Thomas
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bfg9001 wrote:

- What is the best way to show the vulnerability of unsupported armor? I want each combat unit to have an "anti-tank" value of sorts, but with too many values comes too many rolls and tables.
Use armor and AT ratings to calculate CRT die roll modifiers. Supporting infantry can suppress the other side's infantry AT ratings. Column shifts should be shunned, because no other variable behaves the way odds do. Increasing the odds increases attacker victory probability up to about 2:1 where it plateaus, and it either increases your loss ratio (A/D) or doesn't affect it at all. It looks like it's the former for casualty-insensitive attackers like the Soviets, and the latter for casualty-sensitive attackers like the Western Allies. See this thread for the data.

bfg9001 wrote:
- In modern conflict where warfare has become more deadly but less lethal at the same time, what would be the best way to represent that? Step losses, while ideal for showing the gradual degradation of a unit, seems a bit archaic.
Troop quality ratings that give you die roll modifiers. These should be pretty extreme because poor quality troops are unable to limit their exposure so they take full proving-ground damage, while skilled troops can keep their losses to historical levels.

I like the Gulf Strike model where hits are shrugged off at first, but then things go downhill fast when you're near elimination.
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Thomas Vasquez
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Luke, I am unfamiliar with Field Commander: Rommel, but that mechanic sounds very interesting. Looked at a few pictures here on BGG, and the counters look absolutely beautiful. I will have to look into this game more.

Steven, thank you for the very insightful post! You forced me to ask myself questions I hadn't even considered.

- It's my belief that unsupported armor is so vulnerable because at close range it is easier for infantry to outmaneuver armored fighting vehicles. It is easier for a squad of infantry with anti-tank weapons to hide and fire at the rear of a tank than it is for a tank to "hide" and fire at a squad.

- To me, "deadly" reflects our ability to inflict casualties. Weapons and warfare in general, as I hope you would agree, is a lot more dangerous; our cannons are higher caliber, our bombs are of greater poundage, the average man carries a fully automatic weapon, and so forth. However, I believe it is less "lethal" because of medical advances. An injury that would have killed a man during the ACW or WWII due to infection or botched surgery is much more survivable today.

- As for the nuance I'm going for, I'm not exactly sure yet to be honest.

Fred, those graphs you created are great. I was always under the impression that the optimal force ratio was 3 to 1 (as in constantly shown in innumerable CRTs) but that data would seem to indicate otherwise. The thing I'd be curious about, though, is if you took equipment and technology into account. More often than not, a unit's combat factors don't represent just manpower, but also weapon and equipment systems too. So while a brigade-sized infantry unit and a battalion-sized tank might have the same combat factor, their manpower levels differ vastly.

- One way I was considering doing the whole "armor VS anti-tank" thing was as a pre-assault Shock. All attacking units with a Shock value (primarily AFVs and some IFVs) fire against the defending units with AT values, which is expressed as a ratio. Depending on the result, this has a chance of disrupting the defenders or even causing them to retreat, but at the same time all participating attack units have a chance of taking losses. Once the initial Shock phase concludes, both sides then go into (relative) close-combat and Assault each other, which is where infantry shine and tanks lack.

- I definitely plan on Troop Quality being a big factor, especially on DRMs. I've never been a big fan on column shifts either, with the rare exception of defensive terrain. The way I'm currently planning it is that both attacker and defender roll 1D6 and add their troop quality. The defender subtracts his result from the attack to achieve our combat result. If unit qualities outweigh each other in such a way that our result is off of the normal scale, then the combat result is more heavily in the favor of the better trained side.

- I am not familiar with Gulf Strike but that sounds like an interesting concept. Is that "realistic" though? I'm not sure. Do you know of any resources or studies out there that detail a unit's effectiveness as manpower and equipment degrades?

Thanks again, all! I'm loving all of the great feedback and ideas!
 
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bfg9001 wrote:
All attacking units with a Shock value (primarily AFVs and some IFVs) fire against the defending units with AT values, which is expressed as a ratio.
This conception of shock seems more compatible with a smaller scale than your expressed

Quote:
modern / near-future, battalion to brigade sized units
which are inherently combined arms
 
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Fred Thomas
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bfg9001 wrote:
Fred, those graphs you created are great. I was always under the impression that the optimal force ratio was 3 to 1 (as in constantly shown in innumerable CRTs) but that data would seem to indicate otherwise. The thing I'd be curious about, though, is if you took equipment and technology into account. More often than not, a unit's combat factors don't represent just manpower, but also weapon and equipment systems too. So while a brigade-sized infantry unit and a battalion-sized tank might have the same combat factor, their manpower levels differ vastly.
These battles were large enough to be combined arms, so equipment was assumed to be pretty much a wash. And it was mostly later WWII so technology was also assumed to be a wash.

Combat factors should be raw numbers. Technology belongs in the armor, AT, and artillery ratings.

bfg9001 wrote:
- I am not familiar with Gulf Strike but that sounds like an interesting concept. Is that "realistic" though? I'm not sure. Do you know of any resources or studies out there that detail a unit's effectiveness as manpower and equipment degrades?
The artillery isn't attriting away, and that causes most losses. I recall reading in the Phaseline Smash designer's notes that in Desert Storm most of the 24th Mech's engagements were handled by artillery. Putting artillery aside, armor and infantry weapons are so powerful that it doesn't take many of them to gun down every exposed target.

There is a paper (AD875820) proposing some graphs detailing how many men are effective and how many are suppressed as a unit takes casualties. But the introduction states "Although there exist almost no quantitative data to support our findings in detail...", and it ignores the question of diminishing returns.

There's also ADA170631: "The Relationship of Battle Damage to Unit Combat Performance". The conclusion is "However, there is no discernible pattern here."
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Thomas Vasquez
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Blockhead, I am currently aiming for a system that uses multi-phase combat. While large formations such as brigades are typically combined arms, I am hoping to give each combat arm their own distinctive role to play.

Fred, I am leaning more and more to your school of thought, with Combat Factors representing manpower and having additional ratings for Armor, Anti-Tank, Artillery, et cetera. As I'd said, I am thinking about doing more of a multi-phase combat system. What is your opinion of fire tables versus CRTs, especially for something like where the defender fires anti-tank first, then the attacker fires his armor, and so on and so forth.

I'll have to take a look at those papers. That conclusion seems a bit inaccurate, but what do I know?

Actually, open question to everyone: What is your opinion of fire tables versus ratio-or-differential CRTs?

 
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Fred Thomas
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bfg9001 wrote:
As I'd said, I am thinking about doing more of a multi-phase combat system. What is your opinion of fire tables versus CRTs, especially for something like where the defender fires anti-tank first, then the attacker fires his armor, and so on and so forth.
Fire tables are hopeless. With them, bringing more forces to the fight will improve your loss ratio, which is unrealistic Lanchester Square Law behavior. There's also the problem of determining who retreats. My favorite example is Operation Spark. Historically it was an A7D1R or an A23% D14% DR. I am not aware of a fire table or bucket of dice system in which that kind of result is possible. (I haven't seen a CRT with something like that either, but that can be easily fixed by adding more rows.)
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Thomas Vasquez
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Fred, attached is the CRT I've been fiddling with, and I've applied a lot of things we've discussed (such as losses increasing past 2-1). There are no column shifts, the ratios are a comparison of force sizes, and DRMs include quality and equipment differences. So like you were saying with A7D1R, how do I include a sensible disruption/broken/retreat piece to each result?
 
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Fred Thomas
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I would try to get the results to mirror the data in this database. (I got it into a spreadsheet by saving as text and importing as comma-delimited. I wouldn't be surprised if there's a more elegant way that I'm unaware of.) Figuring out retreat lengths and disruptions is a difficult task. If you get the loss ratios and victory probability right, you could just go by feel for them.
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Keith Rose
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The Legend Begins is WW2 but depicts armour in (IMO) a realistic manner. There is an optional rule which I thought worked well called selective attacks - in a nutshell, where the armour counter is placed in the stack (either under or above the infantry unit)determines if it is supporting or being supported by the infantry unit - a simple yet effective mechanism - this then dictates how effectively you could attack the armour unit. Worth a look at this game if you're looking at clever yet light use of rules to reflect armoured combat & armour/anti-armour effectiveness. There's some other clever & well implemented ideas as well - damaged tank recovery for example - the amount being dependent on who controls the battlefield after the combat. Its good stuff!

Regards
Keith
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Fred Thomas
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The Legend Begins is still available new from Pac Rim after all these years.

If the motorized units are supporting the non-motorized units, their ZOC turns into a zone of delay ("limited ZOC"). They keep their full ZOC if not in support, but then the two forces can be attacked piecemeal.

If the defender is just tank units out in the open, attacking infantry is halved.

If the attacker is just tank units with no infantry, all defending non-tank units have their armor rating increased by 1.

Non-tank units can use their armor rating on the attack, but it's one lower and can only be used against tanks.
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Thomas Vasquez
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Fred, looks like a great wealth of information, I'll really have to dig into it. Would you bychance be able to send me that spreadsheet you made?

Keith, I've honestly never heard of that game before but that sounds like a really neat system. Unusual to see that sort of armor/infantry support relationship in a WWII sim. Know where I could find a pdf of the rules and charts? So far my searches have come up empty.
 
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Fred Thomas
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Geekmail me your email and I'll send it.
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Keith Rose
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Thanks for providing the more detailed (& accurate!) explanation Fred - I didn't have the rules to hand so was going from memory - there's a lot about this game that strikes me as really clever & well thought out.

Regards
Keith
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Fred Thomas
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At least you remembered something. I completely forgot those rules since I haven't played it in over 10 years. (It was a pretty dull game: too much of the German army was sunk in transit to make it a fair fight.)
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You may not need to add complexity and detail if the game represents the aspect you are trying to portray as it should during play, thanks to how you build the decision-making process for the players.

For example, you could use a rule that the weakest unit in a stack takes the hit first. Then players will always try to bunch up armor with recon or infantry.
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Fred Thomas
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fredthomas wrote:
bfg9001 wrote:
- I am not familiar with Gulf Strike but that sounds like an interesting concept. Is that "realistic" though? I'm not sure. Do you know of any resources or studies out there that detail a unit's effectiveness as manpower and equipment degrades?
The artillery isn't attriting away, and that causes most losses. I recall reading in the Phaseline Smash designer's notes that in Desert Storm most of the 24th Mech's engagements were handled by artillery. Putting artillery aside, armor and infantry weapons are so powerful that it doesn't take many of them to gun down every exposed target.
Upon further thought, combat strength should decline with losses. Damage inflicted on the enemy is mostly going to be a function of the DRMs for quality, armor, and artillery. All combat strength does is increase your own losses and increase the odds of victory to a point. A depleted unit should take less damage than a full strength unit (assuming Lanchester logarithmic) and also have lower odds of victory, so it should have a lower combat strength.

So using the graphs from Spring and Miller on casualties causing suppression and rounding to nicer-looking numbers, I get:

For 2-step units, back step = 25% losses, Ax50% Dx100%. So elimination is at 50% losses.

For 3-step units, second step = 15% losses Ax90% Dx100%, third step = 30% losses with Ax0% Dx75% defense strength.

For 4-step units, second step = 12.5% losses Ax90% Dx100%, third step = 25% losses, Ax50% Dx100%, fourth step = 37.5% losses Ax0% Dx50%.

If you want to have 9 hits to elimination as per Gulf Strike you get: 0-1 hits = 100%; 2-3 hits = Ax90% Dx100%; 4 hits = Ax67% Dx100%; 5 hits = Ax33% Dx75%; 6 hits = Ax0 Dx67%; 7 hits = Ax0 Dx50%; 8 hits = Ax0 Dx25%. (I would print those on the hit markers to save a lot of chart look-ups.)

If you want to have artillery fire separately instead of providing a DRM, I would make sure that damage is proportional to both artillery strength and target steps. So the columns would be artillery strength. There are two options for handling the effect of target steps:

Option 1: roll one die per target step, total the hits and distribute evenly, first hit = step disruption, further hits = step loss.

Option 2: just one die roll and have the results be fraction of steps disrupted/fraction of steps lost. To improve playability you could have disruption be all or nothing like in the SCS. But you'd still need fractional losses, not enumerated losses, so that dense formations are penalized.
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Thomas Vasquez
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So I scrapped my previous (and messy) CRT and rebuilt it from the ground up, with a lot of inspiration from Ardennes '44.

A bit of information about the units: each ground combat unit represents a regiment to division sized formation. All units have a quality rating (1 to 5) which affects combat DRMs. Additionally, all units have three factors: an armor factor, an infantry factor, and an anti-tank factor. Depending on the composition of the unit, either armor or infantry may be zero. Factors represent numbers ONLY, not equipment ratings or training. Steps are determined by a unit's total size, so a regiment or BCT may have 1 step whereas a division will have 2 or 3.

A unit has two sides: Fresh and Spent. When a unit takes its first hit, it is flipped over to its Spent side (with reduced abilities.) Additional hits are taken as Step losses. It is MUCH easier for a unit to rally and flip back over to its Fresh side than it is to recover losses.

A unit may also have three morale modifiers: None (no marker or modifiers), Disrupted (-1 Quality), and Broken (-2 Quality, cannot attack.) A unit reduced to zero or less Quality is destroyed. Morale recovers with rest and time.

When combat occurs, units may have their factors doubled depending on the terrain. For example, armor factors are doubled if attacking into open terrain, where as infantry factors are doubled if defending in close terrain. Once all factors are modified, the attacker's total modified armor factor is decreased by the defender's total anti-tank factor, and vice-versa. If a side only has an armor factor, no infantry factor, and is reduced to zero because of anti-tank, it is instantly destroyed. Afterwards, remaining armor factors are added to the infantry factors as the total combat factors, which are both compared as a ratio.

///Combat Results Table///

1d6 is rolled, with lead attacking and defending units' quality acting as DRM.

Note: An already Spent unit instructed to be Spent takes a Step loss. A unit with a morale modifier instructed to take the same modifier is not further affected. (Sorry for poor formatting, I'm on my phone.)

1:3 1:2 1:1 2:1 3:1 4:1 5:1 6:1
1 ALd ALd ALd A-d Eng B-d AsT AsT
2 ALd ALd A-d Eng B-d AsT XDd XDd
3 ALd A-d Eng B-d AsT XDd XDd XDr
4 A-d Eng B-d AsT XDd XDd XDr XDb
5 Eng B-d AsT XDd XDd XDr XDb XDs
6 AsT AsT XDd XDd XDr XDb XDs DEl

ALd - All participating attacking units are Spent and Disrupted.

A-d - All participating attacking units are Disrupted.

Eng - All participating units are Engaged. No further combat effects.

B-D - All participating units are Disrupted.

AsT - Attacking player may decide to roll on the Assault Table or take an Engaged result.

XDd - All participating units are Spent. All participating defending units are Disrupted.

XDr - All participating units are Spent. All participating defending units are Disrupted and must Retreat. Units that cannot retreat are destroyed.

XDb - All participating units are Spent. All participating defending units are Broken.

XDs - All participating units are Spent. All participating defending units are Broken and must Retreat. Units that cannot retreat are destroyed.

DEl - All participating defending units are destroyed.

///Assault Table///

1d6 is rolled, with lead attacking and defending units' quality acting as DRM.

Note: An already Spent unit instructed to be Spent takes a Step loss. A unit with a morale modifier instructed to take the same modifier is not further affected.

1 ALd
2 A-d
3 XAd
4 XDd
5 D-d
6 DLd

ALd - All participating attacking units are Spent and Disrupted.

A-d - All participating attacking units are Disrupted.

XAd - All participating units are Spent, all participating attacking units are Disrupted.

XDd - All participating units are Spent, all participating attacking units are Disrupted.

D-d - All participating defending units are Disrupted.

DLd - All participating defending units are Spent and Disrupted.

Edit: Fred, thanks for the numbers. Pretty pleased with how I've got it all set up. I think with artillery, I"m going to have a separate table with an all-or-nothing approach. Not sure yet, though.
 
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Fred Thomas
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The best result for the attacker is in your 6:1 column, whereas I think it should be accessible from any column if you have enough DRMs. Desert Storm's battles were frequently 1:2 to 1:1 wipe-outs.

Those X results are a good way to implement a Lanchester logarithmic CRT. But if the attacker is skilled, I think you'll need a linear CRT, where the loss ratio (A/D) is constant going left and right and decreases going down. Joshua Epstein looked at 132 tank battles (Conventional Force Reductions) and came up with a weighted geometric mean loss ratio of 1.2, so that would be your row 3 or 4. He proposed that NATO got multipliers of 1.2 for support and 1.2 for training vs the Warsaw Pact, so if you apply the DRMs for those you should shift up to a row with a 1.7 loss ratio for a WP attack. (A NATO attack would be shifted down to a row with 0.83.) This cannot be done with a fractional loss CRT, so here I would use enumerated losses with a multiplier for combat magnitude (determined by the number of steps on the smaller side).

Instead of doubling armor/infantry in clear/close terrain, you could use DRMs so that you get both increased victory probability and lower casualties.
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Fred Thomas
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I'm also wondering if it would be a good idea to include force-to-space ratio as a factor in determining territorial gains. It has a smaller effect than quality according to Biddle's analysis, but it's still statistically significant, whereas the force-to-force ratio has no significant effect.
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Thomas Vasquez
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Fred, unfortunately as an idiot, I am.l unfamiliar with a lot of the concepts and terms you used. What does a linear CRT look like as opposed to a logarithmic one? If multiple attacking units are involved, what would be the best way to utilize infantry/armor terrain advantage DRMs? And what exactly do you mean by force-to-space ratio?

You mentioned that the best result for the attacker is on the 6:1 column and I assume you mean the "DEl," but also mentioned that in Desert Storm wipeouts occured with 1:2 and 1:1. How far down should I put the "DEl" result on a column like that?

Lastly, what do you mean by enumerated losses and combat magnitude? Again, I apologize for not understanding, but I really do thank you for providing so much vital feedback.
 
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