This is an outline for CommanderCam (TM), a real-time, on-line game using 2-way text and (optionally) voice messaging and a 1-way video link from the GM to the players. It requires that players have Yahoo! Messenger installed and connected during the game. Players don’t need a microphone and speakers, but it helps.
The first game was an American Civil War game with only 3-5 regiments of infantry on each side, to keep it simple (basically a brigade level game). I was hoping to keep the length of the game down to 2 or 3 hours. Not all of the detailed description below was implemented in the first game.
Before the battle begins, players will be asked to allocate Officer Points (OP) to either Staff or Command functions. These OP represent the emphasis that the commander has placed on training the officers under you in the periods leading up to the battle. The number of OP available to you depend on your overall effectiveness as a commander, and the effective number of OP that are allocated to either Staff or Command functions can be modified based on your specific (and perhaps historical) inclination.
OP allocated to Staff can influence the quality of the battlefield intelligence you receive, the timeliness in how your orders to subordinate commanders are delivered, logistics (e.g. ammo available for the battle), and to some extent troop morale (poorly fed or equipped soldiers don’t fight as well).
OP allocated to Command can have directly influence the combat effectiveness of your units as they are commanded by subordinate commanders, and can affect how well (if?) your subordinates execute your orders during the battle.
Troop quality is based on historical performance, and includes ratings for direct fire, melee, and morale. These attributes may be modified before the battle begins by superior or inferior Command and/or Staff allocations.
As a player, you will NEVER receive direct, quantitative information about your commander’s abilities or the quality of your troops. You may, however, read about it in the newspapers, but you can’t believe everything that you read. Also, deficient or excellent Staff or Command performance may become obvious during the course of the battle, although it will be too late to do anything about it then.
A few minutes or hours before the battle starts, you will be given a map of the battlefield. The disposition of your troops, and the commander who represents you, will be shown on the map and is 100% correct. The terrain and the locations and number of enemy troops described on the map may or may not be accurate depending upon the scenario and/or the quality of your Staff. It is recommended that the players print a copy of the map, or copy it to a drawing program, so that they can sketch additional information and keep track movements as the battle progresses.
As a player you will also be given orders from your superior commander. Whether or not you accomplish the mission your superior commander has directed you will, in part, determine who wins the game. It is possible that you will win by disobeying your direct orders, modifying them based on your assumptions of your superior commander’s intent, or by partially accomplishing your orders, depending on the sanity and difficulty of the mission you have been tasked to do.
After each player has been given a few minutes to study the map and their orders, play commences.
The first player, in contact with the GM through voice or text messaging, requests that the Commander Cam (CC) be directed in a specific direction (e.g. “Direct CC to the NE.”).
The player has 2 minutes to direct the CC and then the camera is shut down. The player now has five (5) minutes to write orders to subcommanders. Generally, orders will be of a prescribed form and from a limited set of 6-8 choices. For example, “Unit A Advance Full and Hold Fire” or “Unit B Charge!” or “Unit A Stand and Fire” etc.
You may also decide to move yourself, and/or attach or detach yourself to a particular unit. The distance you move (if any) may impact the timeliness of your orders being distributed, or reports received, depending upon your Staff quality. If you decide to move this turn, in the next turn your CC views will be from your new position.
The orders are sent via text or voice to the GM, who then games out the action on the actual terrain board with the miniatures, rolls for combat results, etc. Note that not all orders will be received or obeyed, depending on Command and Staff qualities. This might take 5-15 minutes based on the complexity of the action and rules. The player then receives reports from any or all subcommanders regarding the preceding action. Some reports may be missing or inaccurate, depending again on Command and Staff qualities.
Play now passes to the 2nd player, who repeats the process of requesting CC views, issuing orders, and receiving reports.
Game continues in this fashion until victory conditions have been achieved or the time limit has been reached.
This type of game requires faithful visual reproduction of the battlefield and actions thereupon, so provisions will be made for visual clues such as smoke from musket or cannon fire, dust from cavalry or infantry on roads, etc.