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Subject: Randomness rss

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Mike Szarka
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Dice rolling has many simulation functions in wargames. It simulates fog of war (you as El Supremo may know that at the divisional level you have 3:1 odds, but the picture may be far less clear to your battalion and company commanders). Dice rolling simulates Clausewitz's "friction," all the unpredictable events and incorrect execution of plans that real commanders must deal with.

It also has game functions, in that it can give a less experienced player an occasional glimpse of victory. It forces a player to plan for the unexpected, and to feel the agony of risk, even when a strategy has been planned in superb detail. It also greatly enhances replayability.

I started thinking about this because I had an inkling of interest in Strike of the Eagle which was severely diminished by reading about the diceless combat system. Now I don't want to get the Napoleon's Triumph fanboys (of which there are apparently many) into a lather, but a diceless (or lacking alternative randomizers) combat system strikes me as something other than a wargame.

I would rather lose a game due to bad dice rolls than win a game which didn't have the sense of reality conferred by randomness. In fact, some of the wargames I like best have the highest degrees of randomness (e.g. Combat Commander: Europe, buckets 'o dice games). I think one reason I like them is that they actually discourage excessive planning. I like the "big picture" of wargaming, not the details. Without the random element, one has to agonize over every unit placement. With random elements, some of it will come out in the wash.

Am I merely a randomness junkie? Are there other critical benefits of randomness that I have missed? Is the die roll really too much of a design "crutch" when there are more sophisticated ways of modelling friction and fog of war? Or is dice rolling an essential part of our collective heritage from Charles S. Roberts through James Dunnigan, John Hill, Richard Berg, Mark Herman, John Butterfield and so many others?
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mcszarka wrote:
I started thinking about this because I had an inkling of interest in Strike of the Eagle which was severely diminished by reading about the diceless combat system. Now I don't want to get the Napoleon's Triumph fanboys (of which there are apparently many) into a lather, but a diceless (or lacking alternative randomizers) combat system strikes me as something other than a wargame.

(Strike of the Eagle does have a randomizer in combat; you flip a card from the top of the deck if you don't play one from your hand.)

mcszarka wrote:
Now I don't want to get the Napoleon's Triumph fanboys (of which there are apparently many) into a lather

TOO LATE
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mcszarka wrote:
I started thinking about this because I had an inkling of interest in Strike of the Eagle


Notwithstanding anything else, I didn't feel a lot of tension in the game, and I can't pin my finger on it too well. To some extent it's because the system has been simplified almost to the point of being generic. Partly it's that the combat system feels bland. In any event, I never had that little electric tingle along my spine that something really exciting was about to happen.

I'd like to try this again, ideally with the campaign scenario, or at least a much longer one, and I think it would be fun to try it with 4 players.

Quote:
Now I don't want to get the Napoleon's Triumph fanboys (of which there are apparently many) into a lather


Chance and Wargames

Quote:
Am I merely a randomness junkie? Are there other critical benefits of randomness that I have missed? Is the die roll really too much of a design "crutch" when there are more sophisticated ways of modelling friction and fog of war? Or is dice rolling an essential part of our collective heritage from Charles S. Roberts through James Dunnigan, John Hill, Richard Berg, Mark Herman, John Butterfield and so many others?


I generally prefer combat systems with dice too.
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For a long time I have viewed dice in games as an exercise in "Risk Management". I really like looking at the combat results table and figuring out if maybe given the chance of an exchange at higher odds, might make a lower odds attack a better deal etc. This is one part of gaming I really miss when playing computer games. most of wi9ch don't let you "see" the Combat Results table in a concise and meaningful way.
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Rusty McFisticuffs
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I think the important thing in combat resolution is not randomness, but uncertainty. In many/most games, you have unrealistically perfect information about the strengths of the combatants, and so you need the randomness of the die roll to provide the necessary uncertainty. But in that game whose fanboys you failed to not enrage, the uncertainty comes from the unknown strength of the enemy.
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War is
Carl von Clausewitz wrote:
"a fascinating trinity—composed of primordial violence, hatred, and enmity, which are to be regarded as a blind natural force; the play of chance and probability, within which the creative spirit is free to roam; and its element of subordination, as an instrument of policy, which makes it subject to pure reason."


In war, nothing is certain. Nor should it be. Likewise in wargames - though using dice is clearly not the only way to introduce an element of chance.
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I actually posted up a thread on this subject a while back: Variance in Combat Resolution.

The point I made at the time, and that I think is relevant to this discussion, is that variance is not, in and of itself, a design evil. Sometimes a high-variance approach is the appropriate technique for modelling the situation at hand. Other times (such as in the game whose fans you failed to enrage), not so much.

(Incidentally, Rusty makes an excellent point above about *uncertainty*, which is what dice in wargames are really modelling. Hidden information can serve much the same purpose as a die roll.)
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What Rusty said.

Summed it up perectly.
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robbbbbb wrote:
I actually posted up a thread on this subject a while back: Variance in Combat Resolution.

The point I made at the time, and that I think is relevant to this discussion, is that variance is not, in and of itself, a design evil. Sometimes a high-variance approach is the appropriate technique for modelling the situation at hand. Other times (such as in the game whose fans you failed to enrage), not so much.

(Incidentally, Rusty makes an excellent point above about *uncertainty*, which is what dice in wargames are really modelling. Hidden information can serve much the same purpose as a die roll.)


I'm going to argue that the 'uncertainty' captured by the hidden units in Nappy that Rusty references is not the same thing as the 'variance' of possible combat outcomes that is modeled via dice. Uncertainty about the composition (and possibly, quality) of the opposing force is certainly a 'randomizer' of a sort, and does capture an important element of war - the fog of war. However, once each sides' units are revealed in the game where 'randomizers' (e.g. dice, cards) are not used, and battle results are deterministic, there's no tension - the outcome is assured (and, in terms of simulating real war, unrealistic).

The variance factor accounted for in dice, on the other hand, represents the fortunes of war, such as a stray cannon ball hitting an ammunition wagon, setting off a huge explosion and disordering the enemy army, which otherwise might have won the battle. I mention such an incident because this very thing happened during the Battle of Marengo, the subject of an earlier game by the creator of Napoleon's Triumph. For those not familiar, here is a relevant passage regarding this battle:

Around the time of Melas' departure, Desaix arrived on the field ahead of his men. Covered in mud in his simple blue coat and seeing the French retreating, he rode straight for First Consul Bonaparte. "What do you think?" Napoleon asked him as he arrived. Desaix pulled out his pocket watch and looked at the time. "This battle is lost," he told Napoleon, "But there is still time to win another." Heartened by Desaix's attitude, Napoleon reformed the French line around San Giuliano. Boudet's division under Desaix's command began to arrive around 4 PM, fresh and eager for combat. Desaix asked for artillery support of an attack led by his men, and Marmont promised him a battery of 18 guns would support the attack.

Marmont's battery opened fire on the leading Austrian units, the first concentrated artillery barrage the Austrians had received all day. After softening the Austrians up for twenty minutes, Desaix led Boudet's men forward with an attack. The attack broke the front ranks of the Austrians but stalled when the Austrian grenadiers counter-attacked and pushed Boudet's men back. In response, Marmont brought four guns forward enough to fire into the grenadiers at point blank range. Re-energized, Boudet's men charged again, and at this moment an Austrian ammunition wagon in the rear exploded, sending a deafening roar over the battlefield and stunning the Austrians momentarily. Kellerman, who had rallied as many cavalry as he could, charged into the Austrians, absolutely destroying their formations in the chaos. With the forward Austrian units having dissolved Austrian soldiers either fled for their lives or surrendered, and General Zach and several thousand Austrians found themselves surrounded and captured.


You can't simulate such a chance occurrence without some device such as dice or cards, and yet, as illustrated above, such events do happen in real battles and can have decisive influence on the outcomes of said battles. That's the beauty of randomizing elements.

In my opinion, some of the best wargames combine both elements - unknown enemy force composition, and battle determination impacted by chance. The Columbia Games offerings, with blocks and dice (and sometimes, cards) are prime examples of games that integrate all of these elements. An even better (IMO) approach is that used in the Panzergruppe Guderian system, with the concept of "untried units". These are represented by double-sided counters, with the front side of the counter showing a "?" for the combat factor. In this system, neither the opponent, NOR the owning player knows the strength of the unit until it engages in combat. A great way to model units which have not yet seen combat and whose value is therefore unknown to both sides until the moment of truth.
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kuhrusty wrote:
I think the important thing in combat resolution is not randomness, but uncertainty. In many/most games, you have unrealistically perfect information about the strengths of the combatants, and so you need the randomness of the die roll to provide the necessary uncertainty. But in that game whose fanboys you failed to not enrage, the uncertainty comes from the unknown strength of the enemy.


Uncertainty is probably a more accurate description than randomness.

Conflict simulations attempt to create the conditions and a range of possible outcomes related to a historical event. In addressing Clausewitz's friction of war, we must understand that there are countless possible sub-events from the tactical through the strategic scale that can impact outcomes, many of which we may not even be cognicant of because while they might have happened, they didn't.

Because this is too difficult to simulate, the use of a die and a list of possible outcomes (e.g. CRT) is a reasonable attempt to reduce this complex calculus to a manageable process offering the uncertainty inherent in conflict while givng the players some degree of control of the range.

The higher the scale (i.e. strategic over tactical), the more realistic it is to make this reduction, because it assumes that thousands of minor sub-events will often cancel each others effects while others combine to be effective.

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Again, according to Clausewitz, War is much more similar to a card game then a game of Chess.

The expert General is like an expert Card Player who can assess the odds and make the correct move at the decisive moment.
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Eldard wrote:
kuhrusty wrote:
I think the important thing in combat resolution is not randomness, but uncertainty. In many/most games, you have unrealistically perfect information about the strengths of the combatants, and so you need the randomness of the die roll to provide the necessary uncertainty. But in that game whose fanboys you failed to not enrage, the uncertainty comes from the unknown strength of the enemy.


Uncertainty is probably a more accurate adjective than randomness.

Conflict simulations attempt to create the conditions and a range of possible outcomes related to a historical event. In addressing Clausewitz's friction of war, we must understand that there are countless possible sub-events from the tactical through the strategic scale that can impact outcomes, many of which we may not even be cognicant of because while they might have happened, they didn't. These sub-events are not random, but the synergistic effect they have in each other is uncertain.

Because this is too difficult to simulate, the use of a die and a list of possible outcomes (e.g. CRT) is a reasonable attempt to reduce this complex calculus to a manageable process offering the uncertainty inherent in conflict while givng the players some degree of control of the range.

The higher the scale (i.e. strategic over tactical), the more realistic it is to make this reduction, because it assumes that thousands of minor sub-events will often cancel each others effects while others combine to be effectice.

What wargames do re
 
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Mike Szarka
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Eldard wrote:

The higher the scale (i.e. strategic over tactical), the more realistic it is to make this reduction, because it assumes that thousands of minor sub-events will often cancel each others effects while others combine to be effective.



Not a believer in the chaos butterfly?
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mcszarka wrote:
Eldard wrote:

The higher the scale (i.e. strategic over tactical), the more realistic it is to make this reduction, because it assumes that thousands of minor sub-events will often cancel each others effects while others combine to be effective.



Not a believer in the chaos butterfly?


The chaos butterflies. We can pick one butterfly in a conflict, but there are countless butterflies, making it impossible to track the likelihood and impacts of each one, so simulations have to assume that many of them will nullify each other, or that the potential of a particular butterfly having a measureable effect at the stretegic level is insignificantly low.

So, for example, a squad is patroling when one of its soldiers steps on a snake. The snake strikes and bites him on the leg, and he let's out a startled yell. The yell alerts an enemy patrol, which now cautiosuly encircles the squad while it tends to the snake-bitten soldier, and wipes out the squad.

Alternatively, the regular leader of the enemy patrol is incapacitated by a bad burrito and stays in camp, and the substitute leader lacks tactical proficiency and confidence, so he orders the patrol to retreat, and no contact is achieved.

These obviously have impact at the tactical level, and may set off a chain of events that impacts the operational level, but less likely at the strategic level. Therefore, at the strategic level, we can look a series of historical outcomes and base the range on those (A looking-back approach) rather than building up from the potential butterflies (A bottom-up approach) to calcuate a range of outcomes.
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It's also interesting to look at the balance of randomness in order to simulate uncertainty, and how it effects the game. Regardless of anything else, these are games we're playing, and they should be able to be fun. And, we hope, there's an element of skill involved as well. Too variable a randomness mechanism, and you start to reduce the impact of the skill of the players on the game.

Combat Commander: Europe is an interesting example. It isn't true randomness, as there aren't actually dice. There are dice rolls on cards, and those cards represent the "perfect" distribution of what those dice could do. But rarely if ever will dice actually perfectly follow its distribution.

This causes a few things. For one, there IS uncertainty, if not true randomness. You don't know when those numbers are going to hit, and in what order. However, it balances the "fun" aspect into the game nicely. It simply impossible for you to roll 2's all night (or whatever a bad roll in CC is, it's been a while). There's only 1 in the deck (IIRC). Now, once you've seen a certain number of a certain roll, there's less uncertainty, as you know that number can't happen again. It's an interesting balance.

This has also got me thinking about randomness in terms of simulation. For example. I've been reading A Bridge Too Far, while learning and playing The Devil's Cauldron. Reading that book, you can see how many things happened completely by chance. I assume this is true of just about every battle in history. Would the overall outcome been different had some of those random events not occurred? Hard to know.

But when you sit down to come up with a game, there's an interesting choice. If you're trying for a simulation, to recreate a battle that already happened, well those events are no longer random. They happened. Do you write them into the game as events that must happen, or do you find those things that happened by chance, pull them out, and put them on a table for the players to roll on? And once you start dissecting a game like that, and finding other things that could have happened by chance, but didn't because these OTHER things happened by chance, when does it stop being a simulation?

I'll be curious when I get into the longer scenarios of TDC how many things that happened in the real battle (such as the British communication problems on day one) are built into the game, and how many are things I can change through a roll of the dice.

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desertfox2004 wrote:


I'm going to argue that the 'uncertainty' captured by the hidden units in Nappy that Rusty references is not the same thing as the 'variance' of possible combat outcomes that is modeled via dice. Uncertainty about the composition (and possibly, quality) of the opposing force is certainly a 'randomizer' of a sort, and does capture an important element of war - the fog of war. However, once each sides' units are revealed in the game where 'randomizers' (e.g. dice, cards) are not used, and battle results are deterministic, there's no tension - the outcome is assured (and, in terms of simulating real war, unrealistic).


As an enraged fanboy let me respectfully disagree.

Battle results in NT are not deterministic and tension is not lost because that uncertainty not lost.

I can imagine a very simple game where that uncertainty is lost at some point, but in NT the number of units you have in play and they way they can group into large corps means that the tension is very much there all the way.

So ultimately it's a question of scale. Is the likely hood of an artillery train exploding so common and so central to the battle dynamics that it needs to be modeled as an explicit system? I don't think so. I'd argue that the unexpected effects of that kind of surprise are effectively folded into the uncertainty of what your opponent reveals when combat occurs.

The concept of "untried" formations is cool but I'm not sure it's relevant at NT's scale.
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adorablerocket wrote:
desertfox2004 wrote:


I'm going to argue that the 'uncertainty' captured by the hidden units in Nappy that Rusty references is not the same thing as the 'variance' of possible combat outcomes that is modeled via dice. Uncertainty about the composition (and possibly, quality) of the opposing force is certainly a 'randomizer' of a sort, and does capture an important element of war - the fog of war. However, once each sides' units are revealed in the game where 'randomizers' (e.g. dice, cards) are not used, and battle results are deterministic, there's no tension - the outcome is assured (and, in terms of simulating real war, unrealistic).


As an enraged fanboy let me respectfully disagree.

Battle results in NT are not deterministic and tension is not lost because that uncertainty not lost.

I can imagine a very simple game where that uncertainty is lost at some point, but in NT the number of units you have in play and they way they can group into large corps means that the tension is very much there all the way.

So ultimately it's a question of scale. Is the likely hood of an artillery train exploding so common and so central to the battle dynamics that it needs to be modeled as an explicit system? I don't think so. I'd argue that the unexpected effects of that kind of surprise are effectively folded into the uncertainty of what your opponent reveals when combat occurs.

The concept of "untried" formations is cool but I'm not sure it's relevant at NT's scale.


I think that you may be slightly missing my point. I acknowledge that due to the large number of pieces and the ability of players to move their units and recombine them from turn to turn, the NT design does inject uncertainty into the launching of every battle. However, as regards NT (which I own as well), my point is that for any one given battle, once each side's units are revealed, there is no further random effect on the outcome of that one given battle - there's only one result once all is revealed. My point is that such a system takes the game one more step away from an attempt to simulate an actual battle, and one step closer to providing a stylized abstraction of battle. I'm not sure scale enters into the equation. We are simply talking about two separate aspects of war, "fog", and "fortune", and in a system like NT, you get "fog", but you don't get "fortune".

From the standpoint of playing a game, this situation is not necessarily a problem, because admittedly NT is a very good 'game'. My comments primarily involve NT's value as a 'simulation' or 'model' of war. Aside from having served in the military, which demonstrated the truth of "Murphy's Law" to me on a number of occasions, I have read too many accounts of war at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels, to think that any wargame that does not use a randomizer such as dice or cards really models combat with a great degree of fidelity. Put bluntly, crazy-ass things happen once battle is joined that can swing the fortunes of that particular battle, and I'm dubious of any game purporting to be a wargame that doesn't reflect that.
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desertfox2004 wrote:
adorablerocket wrote:
desertfox2004 wrote:


I'm going to argue that the 'uncertainty' captured by the hidden units in Nappy that Rusty references is not the same thing as the 'variance' of possible combat outcomes that is modeled via dice. Uncertainty about the composition (and possibly, quality) of the opposing force is certainly a 'randomizer' of a sort, and does capture an important element of war - the fog of war. However, once each sides' units are revealed in the game where 'randomizers' (e.g. dice, cards) are not used, and battle results are deterministic, there's no tension - the outcome is assured (and, in terms of simulating real war, unrealistic).


As an enraged fanboy let me respectfully disagree.

Battle results in NT are not deterministic and tension is not lost because that uncertainty not lost.

I can imagine a very simple game where that uncertainty is lost at some point, but in NT the number of units you have in play and they way they can group into large corps means that the tension is very much there all the way.

So ultimately it's a question of scale. Is the likely hood of an artillery train exploding so common and so central to the battle dynamics that it needs to be modeled as an explicit system? I don't think so. I'd argue that the unexpected effects of that kind of surprise are effectively folded into the uncertainty of what your opponent reveals when combat occurs.

The concept of "untried" formations is cool but I'm not sure it's relevant at NT's scale.


I think that you may be slightly missing my point. I acknowledge that due to the large number of pieces and the ability of players to move their units and recombine them from turn to turn, the NT design does inject uncertainty into the launching of every battle. However, as regards NT (which I own as well), my point is that for any one given battle, once each side's units are revealed, there is no further random effect on the outcome of that one given battle - there's only one result once all is revealed. My point is that such a system takes the game one more step away from an attempt to simulate an actual battle, and one step closer to providing a stylized abstraction of battle. I'm not sure scale enters into the equation. We are simply talking about two separate aspects of war, "fog", and "fortune", and in a system like NT, you get "fog", but you don't get "fortune".

From the standpoint of playing a game, this situation is not necessarily a problem, because admittedly NT is a very good 'game'. My comments primarily involve NT's value as a 'simulation' or 'model' of war. Aside from having served in the military, which demonstrated the truth of "Murphy's Law" to me on a number of occasions, I have read too many accounts of war at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels, to think that any wargame that does not use a randomizer such as dice or cards really models combat with a great degree of fidelity. Put bluntly, crazy-ass things happen once battle is joined that can swing the fortunes of that particular battle, and I'm dubious of any game purporting to be a wargame that doesn't reflect that.


I'm curious about your thoughts on a game like A Game of Thrones (first edition). Here there is uncertainty, but no randomness. But you also can't ever figure everything out (except for the very last card they play before getting them all back).

There's fog, because you don't know what card your opponent can play. But do you think having a distribution of possible values, thus forcing you to use what are effectively "bad dice rolls" when you may not want to could represent fortune, as you understand it?
 
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pusherman42 wrote:
desertfox2004 wrote:
adorablerocket wrote:
desertfox2004 wrote:


I'm going to argue that the 'uncertainty' captured by the hidden units in Nappy that Rusty references is not the same thing as the 'variance' of possible combat outcomes that is modeled via dice. Uncertainty about the composition (and possibly, quality) of the opposing force is certainly a 'randomizer' of a sort, and does capture an important element of war - the fog of war. However, once each sides' units are revealed in the game where 'randomizers' (e.g. dice, cards) are not used, and battle results are deterministic, there's no tension - the outcome is assured (and, in terms of simulating real war, unrealistic).


As an enraged fanboy let me respectfully disagree.

Battle results in NT are not deterministic and tension is not lost because that uncertainty not lost.

I can imagine a very simple game where that uncertainty is lost at some point, but in NT the number of units you have in play and they way they can group into large corps means that the tension is very much there all the way.

So ultimately it's a question of scale. Is the likely hood of an artillery train exploding so common and so central to the battle dynamics that it needs to be modeled as an explicit system? I don't think so. I'd argue that the unexpected effects of that kind of surprise are effectively folded into the uncertainty of what your opponent reveals when combat occurs.

The concept of "untried" formations is cool but I'm not sure it's relevant at NT's scale.


I think that you may be slightly missing my point. I acknowledge that due to the large number of pieces and the ability of players to move their units and recombine them from turn to turn, the NT design does inject uncertainty into the launching of every battle. However, as regards NT (which I own as well), my point is that for any one given battle, once each side's units are revealed, there is no further random effect on the outcome of that one given battle - there's only one result once all is revealed. My point is that such a system takes the game one more step away from an attempt to simulate an actual battle, and one step closer to providing a stylized abstraction of battle. I'm not sure scale enters into the equation. We are simply talking about two separate aspects of war, "fog", and "fortune", and in a system like NT, you get "fog", but you don't get "fortune".

From the standpoint of playing a game, this situation is not necessarily a problem, because admittedly NT is a very good 'game'. My comments primarily involve NT's value as a 'simulation' or 'model' of war. Aside from having served in the military, which demonstrated the truth of "Murphy's Law" to me on a number of occasions, I have read too many accounts of war at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels, to think that any wargame that does not use a randomizer such as dice or cards really models combat with a great degree of fidelity. Put bluntly, crazy-ass things happen once battle is joined that can swing the fortunes of that particular battle, and I'm dubious of any game purporting to be a wargame that doesn't reflect that.


I'm curious about your thoughts on a game like A Game of Thrones (first edition). Here there is uncertainty, but no randomness. But you also can't ever figure everything out (except for the very last card they play before getting them all back).

There's fog, because you don't know what card your opponent can play. But do you think having a distribution of possible values, thus forcing you to use what are effectively "bad dice rolls" when you may not want to could represent fortune, as you understand it?


I own and enjoy A Game of Thrones. We do play with the optional rule (at least it was optional in the first edition, don't know about the 2nd) where during a battle, the opponent lays out three of their cards, and you pick one of those cards at random, which injects a random factor into the game. So, there's that - not quite as random as dice, especially once the opponent is down to their last few cards in their hand and you know what's already been played. Still, not strictly deterministic, so some degree of fortune is present.

However, more importantly, the key in my case is that I don't approach AGOT as a 'wargame'. I simply see it as an enjoyable multi-player strategy game set in the Westeros universe, one where I get to try to stab my buddies in the back! I don't have any expectations that the game is trying to model anything. So, given how I approach this game, I can very easily accept its abstractions, including its combat resolution system.

My approach to games I consider to be 'real' wargames is different.

In a sense, I have a higher level of expectation regarding combat resolution of any game that purports to be a wargame about a historical subject. In a wargame, I expect a certain level of fidelity to what I believe are core concepts of war. One of those concepts is the uncertainty of battle outcomes once two forces engage in combat. If I am looking at a game as a wargame, as opposed to a generic strategy game, I have to be able to suspend my disbelief and immerse myself in the theme of the game, and battle resolution that is deterministic breaks my suspension of disbelief.

So, bottom line - I'm more forgiving of use of abstract combat resolution systems in games I do not view as 'wargames', in the 'grog' sense of the word 'wargame'. Don't know if that makes sense to anyone else, but it describes how I view the subject!
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Makes total sense, and it's an interesting thought. What about for a game like Combat Commander? Obviously more a wargame in the grog sense than A Game of Thrones. There's randomness, but it is more deterministic in that the entire possible distribution of the dice is represented. In fact, I'd say it's only different from the AGoT system (in terms of randomness) by the fact that you don't get to choose when the numbers fall. But it's not true randomness.

I consider myself still quite a baby when it comes to wargames, but as a statistician and wannabe game (possibly wargame) designer, this is completely fascinating to me.
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mcszarka wrote:
Now I don't want to get the Napoleon's Triumph fanboys (of which there are apparently many) into a lather, but a diceless (or lacking alternative randomizers) combat system strikes me as something other than a wargame.

End of conversation. Obviously you know more about NT than the fanboys who have actually played the game.

(I assume that's the reaction you wanted. If you wanted an actual conversation, it would be foolish to call others by dismissive names before they even have a chance to speak. If you just wanted to say you're smarter than everybody else, it was perfect.)
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mcszarka wrote:

I started thinking about this because I had an inkling of interest in Strike of the Eagle which was severely diminished by reading about the diceless combat system. Now I don't want to get the Napoleon's Triumph fanboys (of which there are apparently many) into a lather, but a diceless (or lacking alternative randomizers) combat system strikes me as something other than a wargame.


As mentioned, Strike of the Eagle uses revealed cards as a randomizer, BUT (in a very good way), this randomization is very controlled and predictable. The Russians has smaller numbers and hence it is not smart to rely on the size of the revealed number. You can mitigate this randomness by playing a card from your hand which increases the number value by +1 with the caveat that you loose one of your valuable card for a later turn.

Don't let any of this turn you off, its one of the best games I've ever played and you mentioned dice give you fog of war... well this game has one of the best fog of war system in ANY game, so you don't need the dice for fog-of-war!


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any time we discuss randomness in wargames I am likely to vent but I must say I find the OP's original comments to be pretty much on pt.

I would add this to his comments: another thing the dice provide is excitement and/or drama which one cannot underestimate how much this helps a game. It might help with theme, or with testing the players will by fighting adversity or just the drama of a sudden change. But I would add it as another reason.

To the pt. that Rusty made; I would add that rather than simple randomeness (such as by dice) we (as designers or fans) should pay particular attention to how the unknown information is revealed.

In randome situations, of course both players know about the outcome of the dice roll at the very same time. But most real life situations are not like that at all, despite the information being unkknown for a time, one side or the other is likely to learn about this information before the other.

Weather makes an interesting example. WHereas I have no problem with tossing dice for weather in a Napoleonic game, by the time of WW II the allies were actually learning about weather conditions before the Germans and used it to their advantage.

Of course there are many examples, the rate of casaulties, the level of morale, the outcome of a distant siege. All of these bits of information are unknown to both players for a time, but then one of them learns about it before the other and maybe able to capitalize on this.

Cards make an excellent medium for this sort of thing as they allow information to be transmitted in one direction. Until of course the card is played...
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desertfox2004 wrote:
I'm going to argue that the 'uncertainty' captured by the hidden units in Nappy that Rusty references is not the same thing as the 'variance' of possible combat outcomes that is modeled via dice. Uncertainty about the composition (and possibly, quality) of the opposing force is certainly a 'randomizer' of a sort, and does capture an important element of war - the fog of war. However, once each sides' units are revealed in the game where 'randomizers' (e.g. dice, cards) are not used, and battle results are deterministic, there's no tension - the outcome is assured (and, in terms of simulating real war, unrealistic).

OK, but--sticking with NT here as a specific example of the general category of games where the uncertainty is provided by hidden information instead of randomness--by the time all the units in a fight have been revealed, that fight is over. Saying it's unrealistic because the outcome is assured at that point is like saying games with dice are unrealistic because the outcome is assured once the dice have been rolled.

desertfox2004 wrote:
The variance factor accounted for in dice, on the other hand, represents the fortunes of war, such as a stray cannon ball hitting an ammunition wagon, setting off a huge explosion and disordering the enemy army, which otherwise might have won the battle. I mention such an incident because this very thing happened during the Battle of Marengo [...]

You can't simulate such a chance occurrence without some device such as dice or cards, and yet, as illustrated above, such events do happen in real battles and can have decisive influence on the outcomes of said battles. That's the beauty of randomizing elements.

What would you say were the odds of an Austrian ammo wagon exploding at a critical moment in the battle? If you said less than 1 in 6, or 1 in 10, or 1 in 36, then that chance occurrence isn't going to be a possibility in the CRT you design for that game. (I guess my point is that randomizing elements do not necessarily make a game more realistic.)
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