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Subject: Solo playability rss

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Tobias
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The BGG listing states GP can be played either solitaire or with two players. Will there be actual historical single-player scenarios in the game (not counting training scenarios)? And if, how are the solitaire rules going to be implemented (defender stays stationary, pre-programmed moves, cards, dice, etc.)?
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Jim Krohn
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Tobias,

I did not make the BGG entry, but Ghost Panzer does not have any special system for solitaire play. I do include suggestions for how to play solitaire, but there are no solitaire scenario like I did in Space Empires (I haven't come up with a system yet).

I just submitted a correction to BGG.

One day hopefully. I am actually VERY happy with the solitaire system I did for Space Empires. It plays very much like against a live opponent, you get to use everything in the system, and it can be very challenging. I just haven't successfully cracked that nut with the Band of Brothers system.
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Tobias
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Thanks for clarifying that, Jim! I can imagine creating a wargame solo system is probably not that straightforward, with all that decision-making and line-of-sight rules. It's what makes this kind of games so exciting.

Seems like I have to take another look at Space Empires and extend my Christmas budget wishlist. What can be better than to add some more stars to the tree?
 
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Jim Krohn wrote:
I just haven't successfully cracked that nut with the Band of Brothers system.


When Jim does, that's going to just make this game even more amazing. How much higher can I rank this game?
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Kelvan Yep
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Jim, do you plan to make a solitaire variant (solo expansion) for this game (in 2015)?
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Jim Krohn
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Quote:
When Jim does, that's going to just make this game even more amazing. How much higher can I rank this game?


11. Your speakers should go to 11.

Quote:
Jim, do you plan to make a solitaire variant (solo expansion) for this game (in 2015)?


Eh....probably not....I want to, but I am still in need of a break through. If I get the break through I need, it will jump to my number one priority, I promise. Honestly, solitaire specific would be easier to design. I must confess that, since I have been waiting for graphics for TA, I have been putting my design time into the Space Empires expansion and Talon (by and large).
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Norman Smith
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Much of the game is already solitaire friendly, it is the 'decoy' units that cause the main headache. Might an easier solution be to design scenarios without them, but to have a mechanic that allows a player to trade in up to two units to replace them with decoys. So say the first unit traded would give 2 decoys and the second unit traded might give 5.

I realise that those who have no need to play solitaire might prefer the game to have decoys purposely designed into the scenarios as they presently are.

Failing that, the reverse could be done, with each scenario listing a solitaire alternative, which strips the decoys out and put other things in instead, whether that be units, entrenchments, a special scenario rule, command point etc.

I am reluctant to say that the game 'needs' such changes, as I love the game, I am just adding an observation to the solitaire debate and the question of whether another product is actually needed.
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Russ Williams
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The game as it stands can be soloed (playing both sides, making decisions for both sides, watching the story unfold), but it would be quite pleasing (for some people at least) if there was a true solitaire system (i.e. the player is trying to win, playing competitively against a manual AI system, instead of just playing both sides to watch the story unfold). I sometimes solo 2-player wargames, and sometimes play solitaire wargames (e.g. The Barbarossa Campaign), and they really are two quite different experiences which serve different purposes and scratch different itches.

Also very high on my wishlist (#1 in fact, since it's much more feasible than a good solitaire system, which I totally grant is a hard problem) is a good random scenario generation system. E.g. something like Combat Commander's or what I recall of original Squad Leader's seems surely do-able.
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Jim Krohn
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Honestly, solitaire specific would be easier to design.


What I mean by this is that it is easier to design a specific solitaire scenario with a pre-programmed approach. It is much harder to design a solitaire system that will work for all of the existing scenarios.

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Cole Dano
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I'd love to see it though. It just feels like it would suit this game for some reason.

Not making any comparisons here, but for informational purposes only, Conflict of Heroes has something in the works.

http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgameexpansion/142585/conflict-...
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Kelvan Yep
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HorizonMan wrote:
I'd love to see it though. It just feels like it would suit this game for some reason.

Not making any comparisons here, but for informational purposes only, Conflict of Heroes has something in the works.

http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgameexpansion/142585/conflict-...


I think the mechanic of the BoB is better. There is so much potential in this excellent game. For example if there would be a real solitaire system (at least for the defensive player) you could play a whole campaign.
 
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I haven't played CoH, but I have limited funds so always do a lot of research before spending. BoB's mechanic was just what I was looking for in this sort of game, so went with it, even knowing the CoH solo expansion is in the works.

In other words; agreed!

Just brought CoH into the discussion as an example of a 'similar' game that has managed to go Solo.
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Ron A
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HorizonMan wrote:
I haven't played CoH, but I have limited funds so always do a lot of research before spending. BoB's mechanic was just what I was looking for in this sort of game, so went with it, even knowing the CoH solo expansion is in the works.

In other words; agreed!

Just brought CoH into the discussion as an example of a 'similar' game that has managed to go Solo.


OK, so we all or mostly all agree that we prefer BoB to CoH system. That doesn't mean that CoH has nothing to offer. There is a thread in the CoH solo discussion that suggests you may be able to adapt the solo rules to other systems. Now, I do not know how accurate that is, or if solo CoH could be adapted to BoB, but it might be worth looking into, once the solo module is released.
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SBGrad wrote:
HorizonMan wrote:
I haven't played CoH, but I have limited funds so always do a lot of research before spending. BoB's mechanic was just what I was looking for in this sort of game, so went with it, even knowing the CoH solo expansion is in the works.

In other words; agreed!

Just brought CoH into the discussion as an example of a 'similar' game that has managed to go Solo.


OK, so we all or mostly all agree that we prefer BoB to CoH system. That doesn't mean that CoH has nothing to offer. There is a thread in the CoH solo discussion that suggests you may be able to adapt the solo rules to other systems. Now, I do not know how accurate that is, or if solo CoH could be adapted to BoB, but it might be worth looking into, once the solo module is released.

I confess I've been curious about that solitaire COH module for a long time now, and wondering if it has potential for hacking it to work with other systems...
 
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Cole Dano
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Once it comes out I'll bet it one of the first things people test based on the discussions. Should be interesting.

Maybe getting too off topic here, but the CAP system is one thing about COH that didn't appeal to me, well it's not part of solo.
 
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Ron A
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OK, since the Vikings are not in the SuperBowl, I am ignoring the TV and doing some online research.

Found this video about how the CoH solo module works:



Seems like it would need a lot of reworking for BoB. Still, some food for though there.

Not to mention, when would this get done? Fist comes TA, then Old Breed, Commonwealth, plus Jim has other things to do, so seems like a solo module would be years away.
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Jim Krohn
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Interesting. Thanks for posting that.

This actually highlights the problem that I ran into. I also have fiddled with cards, but could not get them to work well with existing scenarios. I keep getting pushed (by my lack of a design breakthrough) towards something like this, which is solo specific. What I really want is to come up with something that allows for AI solo play of any scenario. My current thought is 6 different decks - Elite, Regular, and Low Quality on both attack and defense.

That last sentence makes it sound more developed than it is. I don't have a working prototype because I can't solve the decision making on the cards to make the decision making any good. Even in the video shown - I want to be careful here - but one of the few examples it gave was that when a unit moves toward you, if you flip an offensive card, your unit, instead of firing, would counter move toward. To me, that is never going to happen in a game of BoB, and should never happen. You should shoot at that unit moving in the open...or hold fire until it got closer.

So how do you make the cards represent real strategy, when so much depends on the map situation? So I fiddle with thoughts about percentage of enemy units that have been used, numbers of suppression, etc. Then I end up thinking in terms of a script that is scenario specific, but then I might as well just go solitaire specific...

So, I am stuck.

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Ron A
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Jim Krohn wrote:
Interesting. Thanks for posting that.

This actually highlights the problem that I ran into. I also have fiddled with cards, but could not get them to work well with existing scenarios. I keep getting pushed (by my lack of a design breakthrough) towards something like this, which is solo specific. What I really want is to come up with something that allows for AI solo play of any scenario. My current thought is 6 different decks - Elite, Regular, and Low Quality on both attack and defense.

That last sentence makes it sound more developed than it is. I don't have a working prototype because I can't solve the decision making on the cards to make the decision making any good. Even in the video shown - I want to be careful here - but one of the few examples it gave was that when a unit moves toward you, if you flip an offensive card, your unit, instead of firing, would counter move toward. To me, that is never going to happen in a game of BoB, and should never happen. You should shoot at that unit moving in the open...or hold fire until it got closer.

So how do you make the cards represent real strategy, when so much depends on the map situation? So I fiddle with thoughts about percentage of enemy units that have been used, numbers of suppression, etc. Then I end up thinking in terms of a script that is scenario specific, but then I might as well just go solitaire specific...

So, I am stuck.



Glad to hear you liked it, I was sort of afraid I was going OT and I wasn't sure how cool it would be to post a CoH vid in a BoB thread...

I agree, you would never attack if you were on defense, because FPF is so much stronger than moving towards an attacker.

I know almost nothing about software agents, and only a little bit about decision trees, but that is the way to go. You need somebody who is less a gamer, and more an operations analysis expert to help you figure this out.

Here is one way to start:

If AI is for attacker start with attack deck
set usedeck variable to same deck
cycle thru turns using attack deck
if victory objective reached, set usedeck var to switch, and start defending.
Every time the 'sign' of the victory objective changes, changes decks.

Same thing with defender, start with defend deck and if you lose the victory objective, you'd switch from defend deck to attack deck (defenders would have to counterattack to regain the victory objective).
If/when they regain objective they switch from attack back to defend.

If you're defending, you wouldn't move, as you point out, some cards would be 'shoot at nearest unit,' others would be 'hold fire,' or 'place op fire marker.' You'd also have some orders for unengaged units reinforcing the defensive line, or if you take casualties the defenders would drop back to covered positions (as long as they don't leave the victory objective).

If you're attacking, it would be 'shoot' mostly, with rules to advance if enemy units were suppressed, or else keep firing. You'd also have things like 'Do I have artillery?' 'If yes, shoot that before trying to advance,' things like that. Of course, in the attack decks, you'd have to put in some sort of timing element, as time goes on, ignore the shoot options 'cause you've got to move to objective before time runs out.

Of course, it gets more complicated, because Russian tanks need to charge, while German tanks need to keep moving so the Russian cannot get high percentage shots on them, so I think you almost need different decks, Russian attack, German attack, etc.

You also have to figure out how to incorporate op range and command points in the decks.

I'm guessing you use 'Take a Building' scenario to try these out. Once it works there, you try the decks on more complicated scenarios.
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Russ Williams
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That was an interesting video indeed.

It sounds like their AI system has new scenarios written for it, rather than being usable with an existing scenario...? Aha, searching in its forum, I find this comment giving a bit more info on that:
Felkor wrote:
To the best of my knowledge, from talking to Uwe and from the little bit of playtesting I got to do, the expansion includes a mix of scenarios from the base game and all new scenarios. However, even the base game scenarios are altered, because of the story events mentioned above. Each scenario also has some special tactics that the AI will employ.

You could try playing the other base game scenarios with the solo expansion - some would probably work out well, while others may require a bit of tweaking, like coming up with your own AI scenario-specific tactics and adding a few story elements. But, you could also just play it without those features, and it would probably still produce a really fun game, just one that won't always be very balanced.


It does sound potentially very cool and fun.

===

Jim Krohn wrote:
Even in the video shown - I want to be careful here - but one of the few examples it gave was that when a unit moves toward you, if you flip an offensive card, your unit, instead of firing, would counter move toward. To me, that is never going to happen in a game of BoB, and should never happen. You should shoot at that unit moving in the open...or hold fire until it got closer.

I believe that's not at all a fundamental problem with such a card system; if you feel that (e.g.) a unit would never ever move toward a unit moving toward it in the open, but instead would always fire at it, then I can't see a problem with making the card deck behave that way. The designer of the deck decides what the reasonable behaviors are and how probable each choice is in cases where a player might reasonably choose between several options.

===

PS: At the risk of deviating even further off on a tangent , I've been playing Fire in the Lake lately as well (different war, totally different scale...), which has solitaire rules to run each of the 4 factions as desired. They take a totally different approach, of rather complicated preprogrammed flow-charts, which are sometimes complex & tricky to figure out during play, and make the AI behavior seem at times too predictable/exploitable ("Well, we can see that the Viet Cong will definitely rally on their next run, so I'll do blah blah now..."). Watching the video about the COH card-based solitaire/AI player makes me think that a card-based solitaire system might be better, both for being easier for the player to execute (just draw a card and do what it says) and for providing a bit more realistic uncertainty about what the AI might do.

This is all very interesting food for thought indeed.
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Oh, I just saw this:

https://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/17073763#17073763


It seems Mark Walker is working on a solitaire AI card-based system for his Lock 'n Load tactical WW2 game, apparently inspired by the COH ideas. This could be interesting as a "test case" for how easily/quickly adaptable the ideas are to other systems...
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Academy Games have had a fairly long road trying to get their AI right. They were working closely with John Butterfield, who I think can generally be accepted as being a 'solitaire system Guru'. They were close to publication but a combination of the AI being too tough and a Eureka moment as to a better way to do AI, took them off in another direction, which sounds very promising, but has frustrated many by the subsequent delays of both the AI module and new product.

I am not sure whether the new AI module only works with Awakening the Bear or whether it can cover the other games in the series.

Either way, it strikes me as a rocky path that would require substantial design attention to get right and divert the designer away from other product design.

I feel that if BoB needs one thing at the moment, it is a growing series of modules with an increase in situations, nations and Orders of battle rather than a design distraction seeking an illusive AI solution.

It might be better to make new product more solo friendly than to dive off on a tangent.

Some may feel that a campaign or points system might have equal validity as a design distraction.
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Cole Dano
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I'm not suggesting Jim drop everything and devote is attention to this.

He's already on record as thinking about it, so we're saying 'hey there are people who would like a solo game when it the time for you to make one' and 'we know it's a hard nut to crack, here's some ideas that are coming around the bend that might help, or might give us another way to play BoH solo in the meantime'
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Jim i am interested in your opinion about my idea (maybe a bad idea)

Could one card contains orders for more (up to 4 or 2 or 3 or etc) infantry unit? orders could be defensive, offensive, mixed. ( i know its too general)

You can change the gamestyle of the AI player by add "milestones" to the game. E.g if the human player owns the d7 hex then add 3 more offensive card to the deck.

 
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Jim Krohn
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I agree, you would never attack if you were on defense, because FPF is so much stronger than moving towards an attacker.


I know - I can't even imagine a situation where that is actually a smart thing to do - counter-charge an on rushing enemy - either in BoB or in real life. Maybe that is a good move in COH, I don't know. It must be because it was touted in the video. My point was that that is the type of inherent problem that occurs with a card driven system. It is essentially random behavior.

Other's comments - yes, the solo module described above is definitely solo specific. The LnL one also. Solo specific is much easier. Designing something that can be used with any scenario is a problem that I have not been able to crack.

Having thought about this - I view the biggest problem as interpreting the overall situation on the game board. In the average scenario, on the defense, to play well, you have to know when to hold fire and retain concealment, know when to mark Op Fire, know when to fall back, know when to reinforce a melee. Sometimes those decisions are based on the actions of one enemy unit - you have a sweet opportunity fire chance. Sometimes those decisions are based on the board situation - a bunch of my units are getting suppressed and I am losing fire superiority so I fall back. If you don't account for both layers of thinking, if you don't account for the board situation for a unit's action with a decision tree, ANY solitaire card system is essentially random.

I am going to say that again because this is the heart of my problem. If you can flip a card and decide to move, shoot a far unit, shoot a close unit, etc. based on that card flip and there is no decision tree that somehow grasps the overall board situation, all you have is randomness. If that plays well in your game system, then it is nothing like real life. I have thought about this a lot.

For those of you who don't know, I designed three different types of solo scenarios for Space Empires (Doomsday Machine, Alien Empire, and Space Amoeba). These capture the game really well IMHO. I would love to do the same with BoB.

Quote:
Could one card contains orders up to 4 (or 2 or 3 etc) infantry unit? orders could be defensive, offensive, mixed. ( i know its too general)

You can change the gamestyle of the AI player by add "milestones" to the game. E.g if the human player owns the d7 hex then add 3 more offensive card to the deck.


Sure

Don't worry. Modules are not being held up by a solitaire system. Artwork is holding up the modules. TA would have been released last summer if we had the artwork. The good news is that there is actually light at the end of the tunnel.
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With the LnL solitaire module (licensed from AG) soon upcoming, I thought this was a good time to unbury this thread.

Obviously, no one knows yet how well that module will perform, but I would point out that tests here on BGG, based on the CoH module, did quite well, despite the lack of solo-specific scenarios. Personally, I can't wait to put my hands on it and try it out. Also, a similar module was developed for ASLSK on the forum, and that too has yielded interesting results, including in the ASLSK extension campaign. So it would seem that while certainly not perfect, these decks of cards do not need specific scenarios to provide a challenge.

For me this makes sense: we are too many wargamers used to playing both sides so we do not really need an AI that takes all the decision for us (disclaimer: being an expatriate living in Africa with a bad internet connection might color my view on this subject, but I certainly notice when people mention soloing a two-players game). What we mostly need is an AI that will at times make us go where we wouldn't have by ourselves, and it is quite alright if we are still left with some decision making. And if a card gives me too dumb a result, heck, I'll draw another one...

I'd also point out that the best AI I know off is the one from Labyrinth, the GMT board game. It's flowchart-based, but because of hidden information, it's not predictable. However, it comes at a hefty cost: it takes me sometimes a few minutes to figure out the correct AI action for a turn, and if I spend more time reading charts than playing my turn, it quickly becomes a drag. Again, I'd rather have a simpler system that gives pointers for my opponent: if I then have to do some thinking to figure out the best move for my opponent, at least I'm still playing the game!

And finally, I completely understand the position of those who already own the game and have available F2F opponents and who'd rather have more extensions, modules and scenarios. But in this day and age, I think a solitaire system does a lot to promote any wargame.
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