Recommend
8 
 Thumb up
 Hide
24 Posts

Wargames» Forums » General

Subject: The unknown in squad-based games rss

Your Tags: Add tags
Popular Tags: [View All]
David DeThorne
United States
Kalamazoo
Michigan
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
I started a post looking for a modern, tactical (squad- or team-based) block game.(Tactical (squad-based) block games) Seems to me there a number of games at that unit level and various levels of detail, but none really put the player in the position of really not knowing what's on the other side of the wall, or in the next treeline.

One of the games mentioned on that thread was War Stories: Red Storm which conceals the orders for a unit on the hidden side, as well as the specifics of the unit. The opposing player doesn't know if the unit is on overwatch, or prepping to move, etc. It is a game I am looking forward to, but it got me thinking that the state of morale/ proficiency/ cohesion would be a good candidate for keeping from the other player. "Did I just shoot at a squad or a team? Did I hurt the enemy? Do I close in now or will I be charging a position nowhere near breaking?" Aren't those the big questions tactical leaders agonize over the most?

But then I realized when the dice rolled, I'd know if I rolled well- or not.

But what if the target unit rolled and implemented the result? So I still don't know, even after firing?

I've never played Cityfight: Modern Combat in the Urban Environment, but according to it's only review,http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/57116/cityfight-ahead-of-its..., something similar was tried as the mechanic for determining whether you found the enemy in a given area.

What do you think? Have the target unit roll for the result and leave the other player still uncertain (except in catastrophic cases)? I always trust my opponents to play by the rules; am I naive? Could it work?
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
James Pinnion
United Kingdom
Peterborough
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
Perhaps it would be easier to only resolve attacks on squads when they try to do something? Of course it leads to quirky story telling ("the officer ordered his troops forward, at which point they all died") but would add a bit more of the confusion that you seem to be looking for.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Rusty McFisticuffs
United States
Arcata
California
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
DDeT wrote:
the state of morale/ proficiency/ cohesion would be a good candidate for keeping from the other player. "Did I just shoot at a squad or a team? Did I hurt the enemy? Do I close in now or will I be charging a position nowhere near breaking?" Aren't those the big questions tactical leaders agonize over the most?

But then I realized when the dice rolled, I'd know if I rolled well- or not.

The way damage is handled in the Conflict of Heroes games sounds pretty close to what you're looking for. If you get a hit, the other guy draws a damage chit, looks at it, and puts it face-down on his unit. (There are separate chits for infantry and AFVs.) He doesn't reveal its effects until he does something with that unit which is affected by that chit. Some of the chits have no effect, while others knock out a tank's main gun or treads; some can be removed if the unit rallies, while others can't. So when you hit an enemy tank, you know you hit it, but you don't know whether it can still fire back.
5 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Confusion Under Fire
United Kingdom
Warrington
Cheshire
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Fog of War is probably one of the hardest attributes to model without getting bogged down in paperwork, trust or some other long winded method. It also happens to be my favourite subject in wargames. The hidden damage chit in CoH is a great idea but think of other situations where FoW fails. A squad who are running down a city road round a corner and bump into a large enemy force. In gaming terms the large enemy force will be already on the map so the squad would not even run towards them. Friendly fire is almost impossible. A battery (4 guns) of Anti Tank guns open fire on a squadron (4 tanks) of tanks 40m away. But 2 of the guns hit the same target in a wargame all 4 guns choose different targets. Moving through a forest units know exactly which direction to move in even without roads or trails to follow. Units enter an empty building and hear footsteps on the floor above them are they friendly or enemy?

Have a look at Ambush which is the best game I know to portray FoW.

I also run an email man to man game which overcomes the problems stated above. You only see what your man sees so getting lost in a wood is possible, not knowing if they are enemy soldiers or friendly up ahead in that barn is also possible and bumping into the enemy has happened before too. Check out the system here;
http://cryhavocgames.net/CourageUnderFire.html

3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Michael Tan
United States
Los Angeles
California
flag msg tools
designer
badge
That's me and my other pastime. I perform as John Lennon in several Beatles tribute acts.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
DDeT,

I'm the designer of War Stories: Red Storm. I actually considered the system you proposed at one time but ultimately decided against it. I concluded that an even more accurate model is for both the firer and target to have uncertainty in the combat result. How would a WWII platoon or company commander (presumably that is the player's perspective) have any better idea what happened to one of his squads than the enemy unit that fired upon it? I'd argue that more often than not, the firer had better intel.

The way I've modeled it in War Stories: Red Storm is to allow the attacker to roll dice and obtain perfect information results for misses and kills (except vehicles). If a unit becomes disrupted (suppressed, pinned, or broken), the true loss of cohesion of that unit is unknown to either side until the unit attempts to activate. The owning player rolls dice at that time and sometimes units rally instantly - implying the damage result was either extremely fleeting or never really actually occurred. The only other squad level game I'm aware of that has that exact mechanic is Jim Krohn's Band of Brothers. Most other games tie disruption to real damage (counter reduced) which I think is a mistake.

IMO It's virtually impossible to model true fog of war in a boardgame without a referee. I'd love to take my boardgame designs to the next level and one day foresee this problem being solved by hybrid board / smartphone assisted games.
9 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Rusty McFisticuffs
United States
Arcata
California
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
m3tan wrote:
I'm the designer of War Stories: Red Storm.

As Charles Vasey put it, I'm limbering up my wallet even as you post.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Justus Pendleton
Australia
Sydney
NSW
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
SJBenoist wrote:
Overall, I think this is better handled by PC games, unless you want a game with a referee.


Probably an offtopic threadjack but I've recently started playing the videogame Frozen Synapse. It is basically a turn-based tactical squad combat with simultaneous order plotting (where each turn corresponds to 5-seconds of real time) and then the computer acts as a referee to resolve things.

In this case the plotted orders and 5-second turns are what create the biggest sense of unknown. Have a man cover that door? Hmm, turns out the enemy didn't come through there like I thought he would. Doh.

I'm finding it vastly more satisfying than the more common RTS genre, probably because it is so similar to boardgames.

tl;dr I agree computer games are much better at this kind of thing
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dan The Man
United States
Unspecified
Nevada
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
jpinnion wrote:
Perhaps it would be easier to only resolve attacks on squads when they try to do something? Of course it leads to quirky story telling ("the officer ordered his troops forward, at which point they all died") but would add a bit more of the confusion that you seem to be looking for.


Actually, "...at which point he realized they were not in any condition to follow."
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dan The Man
United States
Unspecified
Nevada
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
A combination of blocks (to record known info) and chits (to indicate something not yet known) could work.

From the shooters perspective, how about being able to fire UP TO the "firepower factor" (however that is resolved) to add a bit more unknown on the target's end, and having the result chit placed on the target indicate that firepower.

And, whoever said blocks needed to be rectangular boxes. Lots of other shapes might be able to contain more info or variations.

I was developing a grand-strategy game with a small tray containing colored dice to record the current values for various combat characteristics (a la Hitler's War, with its variable army composition). No reason this tray needs to be visible by the opponent. Perhaps a placeholder to maintain location (and perhaps orientation), with a tray on top the user could pick up and adjust in secret. Could also be done with numbered markers - I just had lots of cheap dice picked up at Cons!

Lots of possibilities to increase FoW without relying on paper and pencil. Most would require a decrease in unit density from ASL, of course (not a bad thing, really).
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
O B
United States
Mountainview
California
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
m3tan wrote:

The way I've modeled it in War Stories: Red Storm is to allow the attacker to roll dice and obtain perfect information results for misses and kills (except vehicles). If a unit becomes disrupted (suppressed, pinned, or broken), the true loss of cohesion of that unit is unknown to either side until the unit attempts to activate. The owning player rolls dice at that time and sometimes units rally instantly - implying the damage result was either extremely fleeting or never really actually occurred. The only other squad level game I'm aware of that has that exact mechanic is Jim Krohn's Band of Brothers.


Boy, am I looking forward to both of these!
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
brant G
United States
Raleigh
North Carolina
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
You could look into Boots on the Ground, which is a solo that includes some fog of war.

There's also a column about it over at GrogNews that you might find interesting

http://grognews.blogspot.com/2011/06/battle-lab-fog-of-warga...
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David DeThorne
United States
Kalamazoo
Michigan
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
m3tan wrote:


The way I've modeled it in War Stories: Red Storm is to allow the attacker to roll dice and obtain perfect information results for misses and kills (except vehicles). If a unit becomes disrupted (suppressed, pinned, or broken), the true loss of cohesion of that unit is unknown to either side until the unit attempts to activate. The owning player rolls dice at that time and sometimes units rally instantly - implying the damage result was either extremely fleeting or never really actually occurred. The only other squad level game I'm aware of that has that exact mechanic is Jim Krohn's Band of Brothers. Most other games tie disruption to real damage (counter reduced) which I think is a mistake.


Michael,
I was thrilled to read about War Stories: Red Storm and am looking forward to it! I am particularly excitedabout the inevitable sequel which goes to the ETO.

So when the moment of truth comes and the dice are rolled, do both players know the effect on the target unit? Or just the owner?
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
New Zealand
Dunedin
flag msg tools
badge
Avatar
Fog of War is, simply, one of the ways in which computer wargames completely outclass their boardgame brethren. Without someone acting as a GM (and that's essentially what the computer does), you can't have true Fog of War.

It's one of the reasons I'm not all that fond of tactical-level wargames. For this, and other, reasons, their simulation value tends to be rather poor.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David DeThorne
United States
Kalamazoo
Michigan
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
DnaDan56 wrote:
A combination of blocks (to record known info) and chits (to indicate something not yet known) could work.

From the shooters perspective, how about being able to fire UP TO the "firepower factor" (however that is resolved) to add a bit more unknown on the target's end, and having the result chit placed on the target indicate that firepower.

...

Lots of possibilities to increase FoW without relying on paper and pencil. Most would require a decrease in unit density from ASL, of course (not a bad thing, really).


The offboard tally sheet/ unit information board is an idea I've been thinking about and am not ready to throw out. Losses/ strength, leaders and special weapons could be marked on the sheet so the presence of the block would tell the opponent little. I had thought of allowing reduced firepower, but I am not comfortable with a squad engaged having the discipline to hold fire while a portion of that element is letting loose.

My thought is that if the player commands a company-sized element and units are teams/ squads, unit density should be low. That would lighten the administrative workload, and makes the use of dummy counters (at least in close terrain) more appealing to me.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David DeThorne
United States
Kalamazoo
Michigan
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
whatambush wrote:
Fog of War is probably one of the hardest attributes to model without getting bogged down in paperwork, trust or some other long winded method. It also happens to be my favourite subject in wargames. The hidden damage chit in CoH is a great idea but think of other situations where FoW fails. A squad who are running down a city road round a corner and bump into a large enemy force. In gaming terms the large enemy force will be already on the map so the squad would not even run towards them. Friendly fire is almost impossible. A battery (4 guns) of Anti Tank guns open fire on a squadron (4 tanks) of tanks 40m away. But 2 of the guns hit the same target in a wargame all 4 guns choose different targets. Moving through a forest units know exactly which direction to move in even without roads or trails to follow. Units enter an empty building and hear footsteps on the floor above them are they friendly or enemy?

Have a look at Ambush which is the best game I know to portray FoW.



All good points. It's that fear of the unknown I am looking to simulate. For now, I am working on the uncertainty about the enemy, in part because simulating friendly inaccurate information adds a whole other layer- information neither player (in a 2-player game) has.

I own Ambush! but am surprised to find I am just not getting into it. It does make me wonder if the best way to simulate the effect I am looking for is in solitaire play (since the preferred refereed game is hard to pull together). Ambush also makes me wonder how long it took the designers to finalize the paragraph book and the entire mechanism that places and controls the Germans.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David DeThorne
United States
Kalamazoo
Michigan
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
bayonetbrant wrote:
You could look into Boots on the Ground, which is a solo that includes some fog of war.

There's also a column about it over at GrogNews that you might find interesting

http://grognews.blogspot.com/2011/06/battle-lab-fog-of-warga...


Thanks, Brant. Great column on fog of war.

I own Boots on the Ground and find the fog of war a little unsophisticated. My 10-year-old is playing a tactical wargame with me (because we can coop it), but the AI doesn't have much of a plan. Fun game to play with my son because I am playing with my son.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Confusion Under Fire
United Kingdom
Warrington
Cheshire
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
DDeT wrote:


I own Ambush! but am surprised to find I am just not getting into it. It does make me wonder if the best way to simulate the effect jam looking for is in solitaire play (since the preferred refereed game is hard to pull together). Ambush also makes me wonder how long it took the designers to finalize the paragraph book and the entire mechanism that places and controls the Germans.


I have played Ambush and it's expansions a hell of a lot in the early days, before BGG was around so never logged plays but at a guess close to 100 games and I can not ever remember finding an error in the paragraph booklet, something that I doubt would happen today. The paragraph system is quite complex and that is why scenarios were not freely available elsewhere although someone has made a couple of scenarios now and they also explained exactly how difficult it was. The "paths" for the German soldiers was the hardest part. I doff my hat to John H. Butterfield and his team.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
O B
United States
Mountainview
California
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
whatambush wrote:
Fog of War is probably one of the hardest attributes to model without getting bogged down in paperwork, trust or some other long winded method. It also happens to be my favourite subject in wargames.

Amen!

Quote:
A squad who are running down a city road round a corner and bump into a large enemy force. In gaming terms the large enemy force will be already on the map so the squad would not even run towards them.


Depends on the scale, but I think there are a number of mechanisms that can do this kind of thing in a light-weight fashion (without bookkeeping or referees).

The specific scenario you describe is one example of the broader class of one side (or both) are surprised by the position/capabilities of the other.

Napoleon's Triumph and other block games do a good job of hiding the capabilities but don't hide position.

Expanding that, dummy blocks do, let you hide position but only in the "false positive" sense - you think something is there, but really it's nothing.

Just those two strategies give a great deal of the "fear of the unknown" hesitation to a player, turning an omniscient general into someone who makes decisions much more like his historical counterparts. IMHO that's the biggest value of fog of war.

Having units appear where you thought there were none requires a different approach.

There are systems where you record a hidden unit's position, even ones that simplify it by use of chits like FF:GD, but this is essentially book-keeping. However for a static defender usually this level of book-keeping is quite light compared to value of the fear factor instilled in the attacker.

More flexible systems include things like CoH's hidden movement card (which allows a unit to "teleport" 2 spaces at any time), or Mark Herman's Empire of the Sun.
Mark Herman wrote:
When I designed Empire of the Sun I wanted to simulate the 'fog of war' in a very different manner. I went for what I will call the 'empty' map where you see forces, but their location is intended to be imprecise. I see the piece locations as an abstract electron cloud where the precise location of the electrons is only known when you closely observe them at a particular instance.


This type of system can be expanded to tactical games in a number of ways. I'm personally on-and-off designing a system where all units not in LOS of each other start hidden and their generic position is represented by a "contact" counter (either vehicle or foot) which specifies generic movement capabilities. When "contacts" are spotted (LOS is required but not always sufficient) the actual disposition is revealed, but more importantly the "actual" position is also defined only at that time.

Finally there are systems which allow large degrees of movement flexibility so long as the enemy does not control that area (on the same theory that positions are only potential until fixed by observation or fire). Crossfire is probably the most extreme example of this, allowing a player unlimited movement in a straight line during his initiative, and allowing a player to continue to do so until forced to surrender that initiative. Sounds crazy, but it works. Force on Force (formerly Ambush Alley) has a more contained variant of this that allows units out of LOS of the enemy unlimited movement.

The methods above should do a good job of creating true "ambush fear" even when units are in motion, however it still does not address the originally quoted scenario of two units blindly advancing into unexpected contact.

For this it seems like the best bet is some kind of randomizing element, like a card draw, or (in my system) a contact check that occurs when units are in proximity but not adjacent which might reveal that actually they were adjacent.

Quote:

Friendly fire is almost impossible. A battery (4 guns) of Anti Tank guns open fire on a squadron (4 tanks) of tanks 40m away. But 2 of the guns hit the same target in a wargame all 4 guns choose different targets. Moving through a forest units know exactly which direction to move in even without roads or trails to follow. Units enter an empty building and hear footsteps on the floor above them are they friendly or enemy?


These problems are harder, but again are not insurmountable. It just seems like a question of focus of the overall game. If you are willing to trade off some detail elsewhere that you think is less important you could model some of these effects. Reduce the odds of successive hits on one target within event scales that in the game are assumed to be simultaneous. Make movement through obfuscating terrain require a proficiency check. Etc.

I hope more designers embrace these problems instead of throwing up their hands and running for the X-Box! :-)
4 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dan The Man
United States
Unspecified
Nevada
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
DDeT wrote:
DnaDan56 wrote:
A combination of blocks (to record known info) and chits (to indicate something not yet known) could work.

From the shooters perspective, how about being able to fire UP TO the "firepower factor" (however that is resolved) to add a bit more unknown on the target's end, and having the result chit placed on the target indicate that firepower.

...

Lots of possibilities to increase FoW without relying on paper and pencil. Most would require a decrease in unit density from ASL, of course (not a bad thing, really).


The offboard tally sheet/ unit information board is an idea I've been thinking about and am not ready to throw out. Losses/ strength, leaders and special weapons could be marked on the sheet so the presence of the block would tell the opponent little. I had thought of allowing reduced firepower, but I am not comfortable with a squad engaged having the discipline to hold fire while a portion of that element is letting loose.

My thought is that if the player commands a company-sized element and units are teams/ squads, unit density should be low. That would lighten the administrative workload, and makes the use of dummy counters (at least in close terrain) more appealing to me.

Check out Hitler's War (AH) for a good implementation.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Dan The Man
United States
Unspecified
Nevada
flag msg tools
mbmbmbmbmb
DDeT wrote:
...but I am not comfortable with a squad engaged having the discipline to hold fire while a portion of that element is letting loose.

Don't think of it as "squad discipline," think of it in terms of fog of war. It is trivial to incorporate, uses few resources (time, randomality, etc.), and accomplishes a lot ("Is that just a small unit or something much bigger?"). The fact that the shooting commander makes a decision to shoot with less-than-available resources (or not) is merely the way it is implemented, and part of the psychological stress of the encounter. I would prefer to use it with unknown results, tho (see below)... Just an idea.

I like the unknown result idea - the unit is marked with how much firepower is expended, but the result is not known by either side until the unit tries to do something, at which point the random result is determined. Wow! Very powerful! And foggy...
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
David Janik-Jones
Canada
Waterloo
Ontario
flag msg tools
designer
publisher
Up Front fan, Cats were once worshipped as gods and they haven't forgotten this, Combat Commander series fan, The Raven King (game publisher) ... that's me!, Fields of Fire fan
badge
Slywester Janik, awarded the Krzyż Walecznych (Polish Cross of Valour), August 1944
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I'd still like to see a two-player, "area-based" WW2 tactical system that is vaguely akin to some of the mechanics in Fields of Fire and introduces some of the fog of war through simply increasingly more dangerous initiatives/movement.

Here’s an example:

Suppose you had areas (or even squares) on your map that not only represented general terrain types, but allowed the attacker to specify 1-3 areas they wish to control. They place objective chits with VP values down upside down on the map. One is perhaps more valuable than the others.

The defender now lays down chits that are labeled A-D that represent threat/defensive level/fire, and then the attacker puts his forces down on the board and begins moving toward his objective(s).

For each area they enter, a chart (or deck of cards) is consulted and and the adjacent areas threat is checked. A’s might represent minimal threat, while D’s represent the strongest placement of portions of the defending forces. The defenders forces only get placed when called for by the chart (or a deck of corresponding cards) based on the threat level chit in an area and some formula about how many units could appear based on overall defensive force points (or some-such).

Furthermore, the threat chits could also bring unexpected events, terrain changes, snipers, reinforcements, etc to the games.

By making both the placement of the enemy simply based on threat level, both players are left with a fog of war where unexpected close encounters could occur.

It may be too random but something to tinker with, I suppose. Or is this Fields of Fire condensed?
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Martin Gallo
United States
O'Fallon
Missouri
flag msg tools
badge
mbmbmbmbmb
Both Sniper! (second edition) and Soldiers: Man-to-Man Combat in World War II had each player picking an objective that is not revealed to the opponent until the game is done. Worked well as I recall.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.