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Subject: Wishlist rss

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Pelle Nilsson
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Speaking of possible Ambush problems in this thread made me think of what I would personally find ideal if someone was to make a new Ambush!-like game (similar scale, similar gameplay, coop-friendly, rpg-like, campaign of scripted scenarios ...):

- Faster gameplay. I almost never have time to play Ambush! or other big solitaire games. The absolute maximum would probably be something like 2 hours per mission, maybe an average playing time of more like 1 hour. The event marker mechanic used in Open Fire and Shell Shock! might be a step in the right direction, to avoid almost all of the paragraph lookups.

- Less complexity. Sort of relates to faster gameplay, but also to bring in new players (and new potential scenario designers). Makes it easier to pick up after a long time away from the game. Makes it more likely to find someone to play it coop with. Too simple might scare away most of the old Ambush! fans (but most of them/us might be too conservative to migrate to a new system anyway?).

- Slightly more generic. Don't tie it to ww2. Make equipment lists etc part of campaigns rather than the rules.

- Computer support. An editor of course, but being able to play created missions on a computer (or iphone or whatever) would be great and not at all technically impossible if it is considered from the beginning.

- Compatible with the old Ambush missions. OK, that is not going to happen really, but just adding it to the list since that would really, really make it the ideal replacement system.

One can dream, right? Comments? Additions?
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Martin Gallo
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A few years ago there were turn based computer games that let you lead a squad of soldiers on some missions or into battles. I have not paid attention to computer games much for the past 15 years and do not remember many of the names of the games, but a couple of them were kind of fun.

I do recall UFO and some SSI game called something like Close Combat (we are talking about the early 80's here). I think this genre died when first (and third) person shooters like Doom (and its brethren) and the real time strategy genre took over.

Maybe something like those old games is what you are looking for?
 
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Pelle Nilsson
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The closest computer game I know of is Hidden & Dangerous. It's a realtime 3D game, but you can pause the game and plot orders for the squad members during a mission. The missions and feel of the game is very much like Ambush!. The first game used to be available as a free download as part of marketing the second game. Also the first game could be played coop (and I believe some expansion to the second can as well).

But still, not quite a replacement for cardboard and paper maps.
 
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Conor Sipe
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Troy
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I think a well designed and thought out player aid would do wonders in clearing up some of the game's complexity issues. I was really surprised when there wasn't one available on BGG when I played my first game the other night. Maybe a group of us could get something like this together?
 
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R.S. Barker
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It seems that a distinction between ASL and Ambush! has been made within board gaming, BUT it hasn't reached that point in regards to PC games. The problem is that all Squad based games are lumped into the same category - "Strategy" no matter their makeup or focus when in fact there should be a definitive categorical change.

If a game has counters that represent more than 1 soldier/person i.e., a squad of 8 or more commonly called a Multi-Man Counter (MMC) then it should be termed a Squad-Based game.

Squad by definition is;

a small military unit led by a non-commissioned officer (NCO) that is subordinate to an infantry platoon. In most armies a squad consists of eight to fourteen soldiers, and may be further subdivided into fireteams.

If a game has counters that represent multiple squads, with names like Group, Battalion, Company etc., that include fifty or more soldiers, then it should be termed a Strategy-Campaign game.

Strategy by definition, is;

a long term plan of action designed to achieve a particular goal, most often "winning." Strategy is differentiated from tactics or immediate actions with resources at hand by its nature of being extensively premeditated, and often practically rehearsed. Strategies are used to make the problem easier to understand and solve.

Lastly, if a game has counters that represent 1 soldier/person, in this case a Single Man Counter (SMC) then it should be termed a Tactical-Level game.

Tactical by definition is;

a conceptual action. In military usage, a military tactic is used by a military unit to implement a specific mission and achieve a specific objective.

Yes, all 3 types of War games are closely related, but there should be a clear and concise difference that characterizes them. When I'm searching for Man-to-man combat PC (and some board) games online, I inadvertently get linked to large strategic/campaign level games that don't interest me.

*****

The point of this briefing is to present what I consider the best current PC game on WWII Man-to-Man Tactical-Level combat. It was produced in 1998 by Empire Interactive and Shrapnel Games (http://www.shrapnelgames.com/index.html) and is:

101st Airborne: The Airborne Invasion of Normandy

The thing that makes this game stand out is the same feeling I get when I play Ambush!. Just today, I had a corporal find an equipment bag that had a spare map in it, kill a sniper and die in the process of saving a fellow soldier. When the mission was over, I reflected back on him, wondering what his family would say when they got the dreaded letter.

In other larger scale WWII games, I never care, wipe them off the board and start over. But here my decisions effect the outcome on a personal level, and that feeling carries throughout the game. You can say it's just a game, and I know that, but...

Anyways, 101 is not available online at the moment, but copies can be found on Ebay.

The setting is a few hours before the Allied invasion of Normandy; the 101st Airborne Division (the Screaming Eagles) is to be parachuted in groups all over Normandy in order to create enough havoc and mayhem to disrupt and distract the German Army from rushing reinforcements to the Normandy beachheads before they can be properly secured by the invading forces. You take control over one such group, a "stick" or planeload of 18 paratroopers. After picking one of nine campaigns (basically initial mission objectives), you are then assigned the task of picking, outfitting, and equipping each of the 18 paratroopers to accompany the mission. Forty-eight troops are available, each with varying skills and abilities - it's your job to sort out which is best for the mission. This can be done either individually or by an auto feature for each area, which speeds up things tremendously, though players with a bit more time on their hands will probably want to fine-tune things a bit.

After the troops are ready and the drop arrangement is set, it's time to take off and drop into enemy territory. One of the great things about 101 is that it does a very good job of simulating the chaos and uncertainty of airborne combat operations. Any number of things can happen to the men when they drop out of the plane: They can land safely, injure themselves on landing, get lost or become completely attached from the rest of the stick, or worse, have a parachute fail. The equipment bags carrying much of the heavy ordnance and supplies can get lost. The men can wind up scattered throughout the entire game region. Better yet, some men can land right in the middle of a patrolling German squad. Those minutes and even hours spent equipping the troops will seem like a tremendous waste of time if most of the equipment is lost.

101 uses an overhead tactical view to display the action. The graphics are nice and functional - nothing great, but they serve their purpose. Each of the soldiers is meticulously animated, and the terrain shows everything you'd expect in Normandy: roads, trails, hedgerows, copses of trees, shrubs, buildings, and so on. 101 uses a turn-based point-driven engine, where each soldier is assigned a number of action points (APs) each one-minute turn, and every individual move (of which there are 24) uses up a certain number of APs. The order in which they get to activate is determined by each soldier's initiative - that's including the German troops. The sound effects are passable, though a few are a bit bland.

Combat obviously is the most important part of a game like this. There is a number of available weapons and explosives in the game, and 101 boasts one of the most accurate damage models yet put into a commercially available game. 101 also uses an extensive sighting system, which not only shows what the soldier is capable of seeing and how well he is covered, but how well visible enemies can see you, utilizing visual icons surrounding the soldier in question. This innovative system can be a bit confusing and at times can appear to be wrong when it may not be (which is not to say that it isn't working properly, but that there are so many variables it may be hard to tell the difference). However, combat in 101 seems to work very well and certainly conveys a realistic feel.

Ultimately the player will need to reunite the stick as much as possible and accomplish the initial objective. Once this is accomplished, the game can go on as other missions or secondary objectives may become apparent. The game ends either way by the end of the third day. Some may find this a bit too short, but any one of the nine campaigns can last quite awhile, keeping track of the troops, trying to reunite them, getting them some rest, moving towards an objective, and running into unexpected obstacles. Unfortunately there is one prolonging factor that's a bit irritating: the hellishly slow soldier animation. A map may be completely devoid of anything interesting, and the time it takes a dozen soldiers to traverse it can seemingly last for hours. Equipping the men may seem like a waste of time, but the good news is that you can save the equipment and crew loadouts individually so you can reload them when you want to run a new campaign.

Success in 101 requires luck, good squad organization, team tactics, and proper utilization of terrain. 101 simulates the chaos of an airborne drop very well, and the level of detail is tremendous. The manual explains everything, but learning the game can be done through experience only (a training ground is available). Everything is explained: how many APs each action requires, the statistics behind the weapons, and how much each individual item - right down to the entrenching tools and K-rations - will encumber the soldier. Throw in multiplayer games (the only way you can play the Germans) and this is quite a game. There's also no way to make new campaigns, but the results can be so random during a campaign that this won't be too much of a hindrance. While the scope is limited and the level of detail can intimidate some, 101: The Airborne Invasion of Normandy is a winner."

http://www.gamespot.com/pc/strategy/...on/review.html

*****

Will we get a sequel?

Well there is definite hope as Shrapnel has for the last 7 years been working on a direct sequel. They have encountered some problems - many call it Vapor Ware, but I'm hopeful it will be released. A short intro follows:

All American: The 82nd Airborne in Normandy is the sequel to the best selling, award winning 101: The Airborne Invasion of Normandy. Like its predecessor 101, All American is a tactical level turn-based wargame set during the end of World War II. Focusing on the airborne assaults of the 82nd Airborne around Normandy during the invasion of Fortress Europe, All American is a detailed, highly realistic, yet eminently playable wargame.

http://www.shrapnelgames.com/Shrapne...A/AA_page.html

Your comments and suggestions are always welcome,
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Barry Ingram
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Excellent post.

I concur totally with your comments on the 101st game. It consumed many of my gaming hours a few years back before I discovered the wonderous world of vassal.

The new game in development with Compass Games appears to have the same look and feel... Unpublished Prototype
 
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