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Łukasz
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In its concept this post is supposed to be a mild whine about how Vassal turned me into a slug.

I know how popular Vassal is among wargamers so let me start by saying that Vassal is best thing since sliced bread. It brought a completely new world of wargaming to me -- isn't it cliché to say that it introduced me to a wargames I would never have a change to play, if it wasn't for the merits of pbeming (is there such a word?). It is but then again it is so much true. Vassal is the best and nothing is going to change that.

On the other hand with the Vassal comes what I see as threats to the purity of wargaming. Or maybe I should say that it changes the way I perceive the war gaming. See why.

1 Laziness. I do enjoy games with high counter density. While I wouldn't call myself a fan of monster wargames, I definitely lean toward it -- there is Baltic Gap awaiting to be played, I am seriously considering purchasing It never snows and too often I find myself bending over maps of the games, playing time of which doesn't exactly fit into a span of one evening. Or even two. But then again, it happens only on Vassal. Few weeks ago we were to play Red Winter, one the favourites from the past months, in the local gaming club. I was to set it up which I finally did but it was a long process, full of sighs, when small counters slipped down to the ground; small counters and small hexes do not pair well with ham fisted individuals (me!). I was thinking of how quickly it all goes on Vassal -- you just select a scenario et voila, it is ready to be played.

2 Strategic impairment. In the Vassal environment you may -- and, in fact, you are encouraged to -- try different approaches the same turn. You would move the pieces all over the board, looking for the perfect configuration (preferably the one yielding 3:1 odds during the combat ). Should you make the mistake, you may either undo all the movements or start it from the scratch, if you're impatient. It encourages you, as I said, to test different approaches in a search of the best one. When playing F2F, I find myself lacking the ability to come up with a viable approach. I physically need to move the counters to see with my very eyes the strategic situation -- but with the pieces moved from their original locations, how am I supposed to move them back, if it turns out the plan sucked utterly? In the aforementioned game of RW I would make suboptimal attacks (I was playing Russians who are on the offensive in this game) which, even though I realized shortly after I rolled for the results, it was way too late to apply any fixes.

3 Lack of the holistic approach. Vassal makes me perceive the board divided into sections; the section, in context of this post, is a part of the game board that easily fits my screen in a resolution that is gentle to my eyes and which makes it possible to see the unit attack, defence and movement factors. When I zoom out to see the board, I too often lose the focus and misjudge the situation: I would overextend my lines in parts of the front, focusing too much on other locations, I would miss the opportunities by simply not noticing them. In this case, the parts, they do not sum up to the whole.

4 It is only a puzzle. The possibility of moving the pieces over the board without consequences, being able to start from the scratch each time I am not happy with the approach, makes me over-think the situation. Some people call it analysis paralysis. In the PBEM is not that of issue unless you realize it all paralyses yourself -- how much time you spend over the board, moving the bits? An hour? Hey, would my opponent allow me to spend an hour in a game of Red Winter? Well, I don't think so. There is another side of that -- I tend to read the games as the puzzles. Standard Combat Series is a perfect example of that -- the dreaded 3:1 ratio, the Holy Grail of the wargamers -- by a countless attempts I try to organize my units so that I maximize the chances of attacks. This way, a war game turns into a puzzle, a puzzle involving adding, subtracting and dividing -- while it should be perceived as something conveying a titanic struggle between two armies. Well, too often it's not.

Fine, so here we are -- I let it all out. Maybe it boils down to that face-to-face and PBEM gaming are just two different animals, comparison of which is not feasible. And then again, with all Vassal shortcomings, I find my getting back to real face-to-face wargaming hardly plausible. Too much time, too fiddly, too much downtime.
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grouchysmurf wrote:


:bd6-3: Lack of the holistic approach. Vassal makes me perceive the board divided into sections; the section, in context of this post, is a part of the game board that easily fits my screen in a resolution that is gentle to my eyes and which makes it possible to see the unit attack, defence and movement factors. When I zoom out to see the board, I too often lose the focus and misjudge the situation: I would overextend my lines in parts of the front, focusing too much on other locations, I would miss the opportunities by simply not noticing them. In this case, the parts, they do not sum up to the whole.


This alone is why I cannot play on a computer.
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I understand the part about pbem allowing for much longer time spent looking for the optimal move. I played a lot of EastFront FtF, then got involved in pbem. pbem was great in that it let me play with many other people, but I found myself sweating over every little detail of every move, trying and retrying different combinations. No doubt that made me a better player,but it also took a lot of the fun out of it. I think I prefer a less than optimal slam bang move to milking every little possible advantage.
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grouchysmurf wrote:
I tend to read the games as the puzzles. Standard Combat Series is a perfect example of that -- the dreaded 3:1 ratio, the Holy Grail of the wargamers -- by a countless attempts I try to organize my units so that I maximize the chances of attacks. This way, a war game turns into a puzzle, a puzzle involving adding, subtracting and dividing -- while it should be perceived as something conveying a titanic struggle between two armies. Well, too often it's not.


Very interesting post. Your statement here seems to explain the reason why I have found myself gravitating towards the more abstract as time goes on.

For example, CDGs have somewhat replaced this factor counting such as you describe with an abstraction based on a card play, allowing you to focus on strategic issues rather than math-ing out attacks (except Empire of the Sun of course, which I usually play by pbem). While I realize that they are not for everyone, I certainly find them more enjoyable in FtF play and this seems to nicely sum up why.
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blockhead wrote:
I understand the part about pbem allowing for much longer time spent looking for the optimal move. I played a lot of EastFront FtF, then got involved in pbem. pbem was great in that it let me play with many other people, but I found myself sweating over every little detail of every move, trying and retrying different combinations. No doubt that made me a better player,but it also took a lot of the fun out of it. I think I prefer a less than optimal slam bang move to milking every little possible advantage.


I don't sweat. I just let 'er rip and learn my lessons. Ah well, everyone gets a ribbon in wargaming.
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grouchysmurf wrote:
... You would move the pieces all over the board, looking for the perfect configuration (preferably the one yielding 3:1 odds during the combat ). Should you make the mistake, you may either undo all the movements or start it from the scratch, if you're impatient. It encourages you, as I said, to test different approaches in a search of the best one. When playing F2F, I find myself lacking the ability to come up with a viable approach. I physically need to move the counters to see with my very eyes the strategic situation -- but with the pieces moved from their original locations, how am I supposed to move them back, if it turns out the plan sucked utterly? ...


No do overs, even in VASSAL. Start a log. Commit to it.

grouchysmurf wrote:
... me over-think the situation. Some people call it analysis paralysis. In the PBEM is not that of issue unless you realize it all paralyses yourself -- how much time you spend over the board, moving the bits? An hour? Hey, would my opponent allow me to spend an hour in a game of Red Winter? Well, I don't think so.


PBEM VASSAL has probably made me a slower player FtF. The tendency to analysis paralysis when playing by email is a big reason for my no do overs rule (which is only a rule I apply to my own play - I don't demand it of opponents).

But PBEM and FtF scratch different itches: I am more likely to play OCS by email (less interaction; longer turns with more decisions in them) than ASL (lots of immediate decisions throughout each player turn for both players).

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If your doing multiple logfiles in a PBEM game and send out the best one. You are cheating, plain and simple. You do it once and thats it. If I found out (I did once) someone I was playing was doing that we would be done permanently.
I play the same way ftf, live vassal, or PBEM vassal. I do not suffer from AP.
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billyboy wrote:
If your doing multiple logfiles in a PBEM game and send out the best one. You are cheating, plain and simple. You do it once and thats it. If I found out (I did once) someone I was playing was doing that we would be done permanently.
I play the same way ftf, live vassal, or PBEM vassal. I do not suffer from AP. :p


Cheating would be if I rerolled or drew another hand of cards, should I dislike the one I got. Trying out different configurations of the units -- who moves where, who reinforces, missing the opportunity to attack and who retreats -- by no means can be called cheating.

EDIT: the more I read what you wrote, the more silly I find it. How can you call it cheating... Come on! Imagine, you have a game and there is a certain setup of the units on the board, let's name it setup A0. Now it is your move -- in your move you may change the setup of the game to one of following states A11, A12, ..., A1n. One of those setups maximizes your chances to win the combats. It does not grant it, by no means, it just maximizes it. In order to achieve this setup you do not need to bend the rules -- it is there, you just need to discover it. How much time it takes you to discover it, that's another kettle of fish. For an expert wargamer, who can easily, accurately and quickly analyze the situation it would be minutes, for someone not that gifted (me included) it could take quarters or hours. Irrespectively of it, if it is possible to move back from any of the states A1n to A0, I see no problem in trying different configurations.

So for example in the SCS world I would move the pieces all over the board, looking for a perfect situation -- if I have time. If not, I would move them according to my hasty overview of the situation, possibly losing 50% of the opportunities for the breakthrough and whatnot.

Mind you, Billyboy, rolling a die is a completely different animal. It not only changes the state of the game but also changes the state of the world :-) A rolled 4 is a rolled 4 and no matter how hard you try, this cannot be undone. So if my units are to cross a river and this operation bases on the die roll in order to check whether the commander drowns or not, this I would never redo. But if the game rules allow me to move the pieces over the river without any dice rolling, I would -- provided the time is no issue -- move them on this and the other bank, assessing the strategic and tactical outcomes of my actions. What is wrong -- letting alone turning myself into a AP guy -- with that?
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billyboy wrote:
If your doing multiple logfiles in a PBEM game and send out the best one. You are cheating, plain and simple. You do it once and thats it. If I found out (I did once) someone I was playing was doing that we would be done permanently.
I play the same way ftf, live vassal, or PBEM vassal. I do not suffer from AP.


I don't think that is what he is talking about, perhaps. I think he means that he has to move his units around to see what kind of combat odds he can come up with, as opposed to doing it in your head. If it doesn't pan out, he can try another set of moves before he rolls it all up. Akin to taking back a chess move (before your hand has left the piece?) But yes, I agree that once rolls are made/cards are drawn, etc., the move should not be changed or discarded.

EDIT: oops, OP got to it first. Oh well, at least I took the gist of what he was saying correctly!
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First of all I wasn't calling anyone a cheat or trying to imply that. If you took it that way MR Smurf I apologize.
If you think what I said was silly: doing your move multiple times until you think you've done your best, no dice rolling I suggest you try that in a ftf game and see how it goes. shake

Edit: And I'm outta here!
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billyboy wrote:
If you think what I said was silly: doing your move multiple times until you think you've done your best, no dice rolling I suggest you try that in a ftf game and see how it goes. :shake:


That was the very intention of my original post! :-) Vassal made me -- true, I made myself this way -- try this which in turn makes me over-thinking my turns, spending too much time moving the bits, instead of enjoying the game.
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billyboy wrote:
First of all I wasn't calling anyone a cheat or trying to imply that. If you took it that way MR Smurf I apologize.
If you think what I said was silly: doing your move multiple times until you think you've done your best, no dice rolling I suggest you try that in a ftf game and see how it goes. shake

Edit: And I'm outta here!


It is rude/inconsiderate to keep your opponent waiting in a FtF game. This is not the case in a mail game. Besides, I'm curious as to the difference between planning out several moves in VASSAL (without rolling) and chosing the best one vs. planning out several moves on your table and then carrying out the best one in your vassal email game.

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Yes, Lukasz is talking about plotting out moves, then backing up on some or all, and then plotting out another combination of moves, all within one vlog. Remember that this is all in full view of the other player, and that other player can object if he or she so wishes. But why? It is no different than mentally going through several different movement combinations in a FtF game.
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Well, I could see how someone might consider that distracting. I was assuming the person maintined separate files for each alternative (again as long as there were no rolls involved) so that the recipient only sees the final course of action and is not subjected to all the thinking. I could see how messing this up though could be annoying to the person receiving and viewing the log.
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Re: OP- Vassal isn't the issue. PBEM is the issue. I play LIVE Vassal only and have none of the problems you describe. Maybe you should stop pbem and play more games live on vassal to invigorate your FTF gaming skills.
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gohrns wrote:
Re: OP- Vassal isn't the issue. PBEM is the issue. I play LIVE Vassal only and have none of the problems you describe. Maybe you should stop pbem and play more games live on vassal to invigorate your FTF gaming skills.


Well, don't give up on PBEM too quick, we have an excellent game of Red Winter going

Not that it matters, but on 'cheating' w/ multiple logs: all I have to add on the issue is that, putting aside the obtuse phrasing, one's view on the appropriateness or inappropriateness of redoing logs (when no random events have occurred or hidden information revealed) really just comes down to whether one wants to play a WARgame or a warGAME. Personally, I value vassal because it enables me to be a better opponent, insofar as 'better' means making more optimal moves from turn to turn-- and that it seems to have a similar affect on my opponents. Of course, there's the practical issue of time, and the value in a competition that emphasizes intellectual/emotional endurance-- but, on the whole, I value that vassal/pbem reduces the amount of bonehead moves made on both sides of the board in my games. (Plus, the potential to back things up if something catastrophic occurs.)
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calandale wrote:
grouchysmurf wrote:


3 Lack of the holistic approach. Vassal makes me perceive the board divided into sections; the section, in context of this post, is a part of the game board that easily fits my screen in a resolution that is gentle to my eyes and which makes it possible to see the unit attack, defence and movement factors. When I zoom out to see the board, I too often lose the focus and misjudge the situation: I would overextend my lines in parts of the front, focusing too much on other locations, I would miss the opportunities by simply not noticing them. In this case, the parts, they do not sum up to the whole.


This alone is why I cannot play on a computer.


I agree. I struggle through a game on computer so I can play games I otherwise would not, but definitely prefer a board.


gohrns wrote:
Re: OP- Vassal isn't the issue. PBEM is the issue. I play LIVE Vassal only and have none of the problems you describe. Maybe you should stop pbem and play more games live on vassal to invigorate your FTF gaming skills.


True, it is a pbem issue, but VASSAL is a common tool that makes it possible.

People get different things out of playing games. Some of us like to analyze to death and come up with the best response/play/strategy. I consider this playing the 'game'. Some of us prefer to play it as closely as possible to the experience had by the 'original' combatants, and enjoy the chaos of 'war'. In other words, playing the 'simulation'.
(And, of course, there's a huge grey group in the middle.)

The do-it-over vs do-it-once debate is similar to the one once carried out here about table talk. And as with table talk, I would suggest that maybe one of the preparatory things that needs to be taken care of when starting a new game is an agreement about what style of play the players are looking for--and what they are comfortable with the other doing when preparing their moves. If you really object to your opponent redoing moves more than once, then that should be communicated.

Don't have the time myself to redo moves, though I do spend extra time trying to making a good move. Can I justify (rationalize?) this by suggesting that I'm one person trying to make decisions that would otherwise have been made by many--each with a more limited field of responsibility?

Edit:
Ah, Philip. Great minds...though yours was quicker.
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gohrns wrote:
Maybe you should stop pbem and play more games live on vassal to invigorate your FTF gaming skills.


If only time permitted.
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grouchysmurf wrote:
gohrns wrote:
Maybe you should stop pbem and play more games live on vassal to invigorate your FTF gaming skills.


If only time permitted.


The problem for me is not much time as time ZONES...but live Vassal with Skype is the way to go as far as I'm concerned
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I never redo logs, I never record multiple logs. It takes me 1-2 minutes to make a decision even in my PBEMs. I become a better player by playing more games, not by sitting there and painfully analyzing everything.

It's all about personal perception. If you treat the PBEM the same way as you would FtF game (and there is no reason not to), then experience will be the same.

As I said in another thread, just because a contestant has INFINITE time in "Who wants to be a millionaire" to give an answer, no one will take that long. Same goes with PBEMs.
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ahmedhadzi wrote:
I never redo logs, I never record multiple logs. It takes me 1-2 minutes to make a decision even in my PBEMs. I become a better player by playing more games, not by sitting there and painfully analyzing everything.

It's all about personal perception. If you treat the PBEM the same way as you would FtF game (and there is no reason not to), then experience will be the same.

As I said in another thread, just because a contestant has INFINITE time in "Who wants to be a millionaire" to give an answer, no one will take that long. Same goes with PBEMs.


Just as a short response here: there are quite obviously reasons to do so-- spending more time thinking about a move in order to integrate it into one's overall strategy, figuring out optimal combat ratios, even taking the time to appreciate the aesthetic of the situation. Some of these are better reasons than others (and I don't think the list is exhaustive), but to say that there's no reason to treat a vassal game differently than a face to face game simply neglects the distinct opportunities an online mode of wargaming affords. (Of course, I think everyone is in agreement that manipulating the system in order to achieve , say, the optimal die rolls would be completely inappropriate and genuinely cheating.)

Now, as a practical note, I suspect that our actual gaming practices aren't all that different-- I usually spend only a couple of minutes on a given log, depending on the size of the game and the importance of the particular decision. But the point is that vassal affords the opportunity for players to reflect on their moves for an extended period of time, and thus generally to make more optimal moves. I've never really understood the idea that poor decision making because of rushed play simply reflects the chaos of war; or, rather, I can see this in some cases on the tactical level-- I let my squad drift into LOS of an MG reflecting the misreading of a map by a lieutenant, perhaps. But this sort of explanation clearly doesn't hold water on the strategic level-- my forgetting to perform an MO in PoG really doesn't seem to clearly represent anything historical. So I suppose it's strange that it seems the WARgamers (simulation emphasis) are the ones who are inclined to advocate swift play/non-redoing of logs, whereas the warGAMERs (competition emphasis) are the ones tending to advocate for circumspect and slow play.
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blockhead wrote:
I understand the part about pbem allowing for much longer time spent looking for the optimal move. I played a lot of EastFront FtF, then got involved in pbem. pbem was great in that it let me play with many other people, but I found myself sweating over every little detail of every move, trying and retrying different combinations. No doubt that made me a better player,but it also took a lot of the fun out of it. I think I prefer a less than optimal slam bang move to milking every little possible advantage.


There are two reasons I rarely play on vassal. The first is the lack of a full map view. Just as the OP, I tend to focus on small screen sized sections rather than the entire picture, which leads to mistakes. This is why I generally vassaled tactical games only. Which leads to my second reason. Unlike most people I know, I play much more carelessly on vassal than I do ftf. Even if pbem and I have days to think about it. I think that when I cant see my opponent and cant physically touch the peices, the whole exercise just seems hmm... less real? Has fewer consequences? I am a fast player anyway, but just way more reckless when I play on vassal. Weird, I know.
 
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Petdoc wrote:


There are two reasons I rarely play on vassal. The first is the lack of a full map view. Just as the OP, I tend to focus on small screen sized sections rather than the entire picture, which leads to mistakes.


This is a problem of computer games generally. And a strength of playing on paper maps. Though the smallish games I like to play can mostly be zoomed to where most of the map fits on the screen. I still occasionally forget units like reinforcements that are not in the main battle area. A solution might be a big monitor. A while back there was a thread about big monitors that can lay flat like a table. I think I would like that. but am sure I could not afford it!
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