It is useful to understand some of the parameters, algorithms, assumptions, and approaches in wargame design. Occasionally game designers will share these, most often they don't. So called "Design For Effect" school designers are perhaps the most reticent in this regard. But it would be worthwhile to compare and contrast approaches to various kinds of issues that budding military historians, game designers, and more than a few of us curious players are interested in.

COMBAT ADJUDICATION, WEAPON POTENTIALS, AND TERRAIN EFFECTS: The granddaddy of OA application. Nearly everyone has to come up with an OA model for this function. And we're all interested in how this was done and what calculations/assumptions/validations went into it.

TERRAIN, WEATHER, MOVEMENT, AND UNIT AGILITY: Not often considered but often just as important is how movement is thought of and how well units can change direction. There have been a few attempts at modeling this to various levels of fidelity--traffic jam rules in Bulge games are one example, but some may remember units taking up various "road space" in SPI's hoary old LOST BATTLES and Jack Radey's KORSUN POCKET, which complicating things. In HIGHWAY TO THE REICH, you had to watch out in what order you moved units as stacking limits applied during the ENTIRE move--overstack even temporarily (commonly moving a piece over a stack during movement that created an overstack...albeit you piece intended to move on...) and everybody got disrupted (shades of Patton directing traffic). Impacts of terrain are also not a "given" and we've seen games take a number of approaches to it.

STACKING. This rates its own discussion. How much physical space does a unit take up before clogging itself (and others)? How do you determine this?

ZONES OF CONTROL USAGE. Some games have tried to address this (ZOC "links" in CAMPAIGN FOR STALINGRAD, among others). What leads designers to pick "locking" versus "fluid" ZOCs, and why have ZOCs at all?

COMMAND AND CONTROL. We began to see games treat this a little more seriously in the 1980s--what are the analyses that leads to the various systems we now see proliferating in games?

LEADERSHIP AND MORALE. What leads to comparative "ratings" and assessments between cardboard warrior leaders? Between units?

SUPPLY AND LOGISTICS. Where this is covered in some detail, what are the calculations that led to rules to govern unit/capability sustainability? What could be simplified? What couldn't be? We all know how detailed CAMPAIGN FOR NORTH AFRICA was, but in KORSUN POCKET you had to watch your artillery OCS games supply is critical and explicitly managed, even if abstracted. You have to create dumps and forecast consumption well ahead of time when contemplating operations....

Don't know how many game designers/developers will frequent this group discussion, but I'd hope a few. In the meantime, when group members flip through designers notes in games (old and new) that seem to provide insight into these subjects, it would be worthwhile to post them here to "prime the pump" as it were. And if you have game designer/developer/playtester friends who are into this, please send them here....

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LOL. I am just a war gamer at night and IT guy at day.
On the "game that plays itself": "Freedom is understood necessity". Maybe after all, not all past attempted Marxist indoctrination on us in the East Bloc was aberration...
That is, take any potentially-free situation, add an optimization objective and it becomes a constraint, absolute or vague, depending on the "peakiness" of the "fitness landscape".
Most obviously revealed in Backgammon, after modern neural-network software with genetic training became experts in valuating "equity" of positions at 0.001 resolution (don't know about calibration or inter-rater concordance). Casual human play was shown to be so error-prone that much of the mindset was changed to "play like Jellyfish, or Snowie, or GNU", or recognize the essence of a good position accordingly.

In wargames, some are like this by the historical situation.
For instance, Monty's Gamble: Market-Garden (MMP) has quite large-grained decisions, mostly obvious - directed by restrictive terrain, known reinforcement flows and unavoidable large-grained luck (blowing and repairing bridges, a key attack controlling or not a bridge). True decisions come here in giving priorities to actions relative to the "subjective time" given by the "Impulse clock". Overall it becomes a large, but not huge AND-OR decision tree.
A finer-grained simulation on the same subject may not add much more *relevant* decision freedom (say, send 2 or 5 companies, instead of 1 or 2 battalions). Or it may, if re-analyzing the basic plan of the operation allows changing its details (where/how close to objectives to send paratroopers, how many waves...).

Breakout:Normandy (AH) with a similar mechanism has only a little more freedom, given by the competing parallel avenues of advance, to which limited total "attention", supply etc. may be directed. Restrictive terrain and known reinforcements contribute again.

BUT... Turning Point: Stalingrad (AH) again with a similar Impulse mechanism, feels much more "free", mostly because of more homogeneous terrain and reinforcement uncertainty. Decisions must react firstly to the other side's immediate decisions, rather than a well-analyzable "overall situation".
Mircea, you've gotten at the crux of it:

Casual human play was shown to be so error-prone that much of the mindset was changed to "play like Jellyfish, or Snowie, or GNU", or recognize the essence of a good position accordingly.

A wargame is a constrained environment in which I make competitive decisions against a human opponent. The essence of the wargame is to allow me to better understand the constraints faced by my opponent, and thus, better understand my opponent himself.

Where I take exception to many commercial games today is that I'm too often playing against the game system, and not against my opponent; trying too hard to understand the game system, not trying hard enough to understand my opponent.

How many times would one have to play a game like War in the Pacific 2nd ed. before one got familiar enough with the system to actually play a competitive game against a live opponent? Will I ever play that many in my lifetime?
A web site of perhaps interest
I have 43 documents (totaling 94.5 megs) of PDF docs I have downloaded just on game design from the various military sites. This does not include the HERO database or other Dupuy stuff I have.
What is the HERO database? Tried to Google it but there were tons of HERO databases out there.
The HERO database was created by Trevor Dupuy. I have the PDF's it's very had to come by and very expensive to purchase the Dupuy database (something like 100k or 200k I forgot which).

If not mistaken the original HERO was just a database that was created on battles from 1700s to 1900s.

I have the PDFs and forgot where I downloaded them from. They are rather huge.
Well, thankyou! Too bad the database isn't online. I think my wife should be somewhat upset if I spent $100k on my hobby.... not that horses are much cheaper.
I think the online databases were reworked with new OLI's and other refinements.

I have the original HERO databases in PDF format. There are 5 of them from 10 to 14 megs apiece.

The title of each is:


The volumes of each are a bit strange:

HERO Summary and Introductory Materials
Part One: Wars of the 17th, 18th, and 19th Centuries
Volume II: Wars from 1600 through 1800

Part One: Wars of the 17th, 18th, and 19th Centuries
Vol. III: Wars from 1805 through 1900

Part Two: Wars of the 20th Century
Vol. IV: Wars from 1904-1940

Part Two: Wars of the 20th Century
Vol. V: World War II, 1939-1945;
Campaigns in North Africa, Italy, and Western Europe

Part Two: Wars of the 20th Century
Vol. VI: World War II, 1939-1945;
Campaigns in France, 1940, on the Eastern Front, and of the War Against Japan. The 1967, 1968, and 1973 Arab-Israeli Wars.

All Summaries are the same:


In this report prepared by the Historical Evaluation and Research
Organization (HERO) for the US Army Concepts Analysis Agency, HERO has compiled data on 600 major battles of modern history from the beginning of the 17th Century through the first three quarters of the 20th Century, and presented this data in a combination of matrices and narratives. The matrices comprise seven tables which present all of the significant statistical data available on the battles and show how major factors of combat have influenced the outcomes of these battles. There is a concise narrative for each battle, which summarizes the principal sources consulted in the research for that battle. The data, information, and analysis are a presented in Volumes II-VI, as follows:
Volume II: 1600-1800
Volume III: 1805-1900
Volume IV: 1904-1940
Volume V: 1939-1945
Volume VI: 1939-1973

Introduction to Final Report
This study was performed by the Historical Evaluation and Research Organization (HERO) pursuant to Contract MDA903-82-C-0363, for the US Army Concepts Analysis Agency (USACAA).

The purpose of this study was to undertake a comprehensive analysis of the factors that have significantly influenced the outcomes of the major battles or modern history, commencing with the Netherlands' War of Independence and the Thirty Years' War, and continuing through the Fourth Arab-Israeli War of 1973, to develop a matrix of significant factors concerning conflict as they relate to battle situations in past wars.

The 500 battles and engagements which are included are described and analyzed in Volumes II-VI and have been arbitrarily divided chronologically into two parts and five roughly equal groups, as follows:

* 1600-1800 Part One: Wars of the 17th, 18th, and 19th Centuries
Volume II: Wars from 1600 through 1800
* 1805-1900 Part One: Wars of the 17th, 18th, and 19th Centuries
Volume III: Wars from 1805 through 1900
* 1904-1939 Part Two: Wars of the 20th Century
Volume IV: Wars from 1904 through 1939; the Russo-Japanese War, the Balkan Wars, World War I, the Russo-Polish War, the Spanish Civil War, the Mongolian and Manchurian Incidents, and the Russo-Finnish War.
* 1939-1945 Part Two: Wars of the 20th Century
Volume V: World War II, 1939-1945; Campaigns in North Africa, Italy, and Western Europe.
* 1939-1973 Part Two: Wars of the 20th Century
Volume VI: World War I1, 1939-1945; Campaigns in France, 1940, on the Eastern Front, and of the War Against Japan. The 1967, 1968, and 1973 Arab-Israeli Wars.

It will be noted that the majority of the battles and engagements included were fought in the 20th Century, and that about 30 percent of the total number were fought in or since World War II.
part 2...

The authors of this work recognize that there has been no military historical effort of comparable scope, even though the need for such a work has long been recognized. The closest thing to such an effort is the massive Kriezslexicon of Gaston Rodaart (Vienma, 1908) which -- while including more battles, and also a large number of sieges -- made no attempt to provide as much detail on the battles as does this work; its statistical contents are also less than completely reliable. Nevertheless, the authors of this work must acknowledge their substantial debt to Bodart and his Kriegslexicon; it was consulted for most of the battles which we have included through the Russo-Japanese War.

In reviewing what we have done in preparing this report, it is obvious to the authors that the value of the work -- both historically and for purposes of military analysis -- can be substantially enhanced in the future in the following respects:

* There is a need for inclusion of all the important battles that contributed to the outcome of any significant war that we have included (and possibly a few minor wars that we have overlooked). The reason for this is that it is not possible to make an overall assessment of the war itself, or even its campaigns -- as opposed to the individual battles we have considered in detail here -- without being reasonably certain that the whole picture, quantitative and qualitatively, is available to the analyst.

* There is a need to review the contents of this work in terms of types of operation -- including such specialized operations as river crossings, mountain warfare, and operations in desert and arctic regions -- to be sure that the contents reflect a suitable sample of actual historical experience in all kinds of operations. Again,, the analyst will be able to benefit if he has assurance that the coverage of any specialized type of operation is truly representative, and reasonably comprehensive.

* There is need for a substantial sampling of wars and battles before the 17th Century. This is not just for reasons that might be considered pedantically historical. Rather, it is perceived as a service to analysts who are interested in war as a human experience, from -which important insights, and even lessons, can be drawn. Again, such analysts will have more confidence in the results of their work if they be certain of the universality and comprehensiveness of their data base.

* Possibly most important, there is a need for the most thorough, rigorous, and critical review of the contents of this work as herein presented. What we have done here has been based upon a truly massive research effort, but the work has been carried out in a very short period of time, considering the nature of the subject matter. We know there are sources which, when located, will enable us to fill some of the gaps, expand and correct some of the narrative details, and thus some of the analytical assessments, as well as to be more precise in our statistics.

This latter point is an important one. We do not wish either to be overmodest or to claim too much. We know we have -- within strict limitations in time -- produced a work of which we can be proud. We are equally aware that the combination of those time strictures and our own limitations has resulted in a work that is less than perfect. We hope it can be perfected, and thus we welcome all responsible comments, suggestions, and criticisms.
part 3...

The one person most responsible for the strengths of this work is HERO's Executive Director for Research, C. Curtiss Johnson. Next most responsible is HERO's former Vice President, now retired, Grace P. Hayes. Other staff members who have made significant contributions are: Brian Bader, Arnold Dupuy, Michael Eisenstadt, Gay M. Hammerman, Paul Martell, Edward Oppenheimer, Brendan Rehm, Richard G. Sheridan, and Charles R. Smith. All of us are indebted to the secretarial staff that has helped us put this together, including Alane A. Fraser, Robyn Lucas, Virginia Rufner, and Mary Stolzenbach, and to Vicki Stumpf, HERO's Executive Director for Administration. The undersigned admits his own substantial contribution to the details, the concept, and the organization of this work, and assumes full responsibility for it.

T. N. Dupuy
Col., USA, Ret.

man that took 50 minutes to fix / copy / past from PDF to here/notepad...


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