High interactivity and unpredictability

When I designed Tonkin I primarily wanted to have these two effects. I solved it by limiting each player to only be able to do 1-3 actions before the opponent did his actions. An action can be to move a stack or to remove a disorganized marker or a few other things. You never know beforehand if you will be able to do 1, 2 or 3 actions. Therefore it is difficult to plan which introduces an unpredictability.

Which aspect have you searched for when designing?

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In a recent article (ATO #21) Mark Herman states that a good game places the player in a clearly-defined role, be it the state leadership, the corps commander or the squad leader, etc. In that role the player has to overcome the inertia of his own assets (forces) in conjunction with dominant theater Awareness (e.g. "where is the enemy?") and dominant theater Knowledge ("what is the enemy's intent). According to our prophet, Charles Roberts, a player could deal with this by moving "all, some or none" of his forces - free from their inherent inertia. A far better model - of reality - is the design that takes command strictures into account . . . where there is no certainty that a unit will do what you want it to do, or to the extent that you want it to. I know that many designs, most notably ACW designs with leaders, have dealt with this dimension. Alas, there are still too many designs that neglect this aspect.

I think that a designer should do more than map and OoB research. He should define the players' roles, and build a command layer that reflects the historical reality. I guess that meshes with the desire for unpredictability.
In a design one has to decide the following: Where is command (what level) and how is the enemy's reaction. In indochina important descisions where made at regimental level (groupe mobile) and Viet Minh were able to quickly react to French actions. Vice versa was true also. So, a system where the players are taking turns in moving/attacking independently with a few units simulates the campaign quite well.

It's easy, when depicting command structure in a game, that it becomes too cumbersome. Another important issue regarding whether the unit will do or can do something is supply. I kind of like the supply dump kit. That you have these supply counters with which you pay for your actions.
I don't agree with Mark on this. I know that the "clearly designed role" has been an oft-kicked dead horse, but the planet is rife with AWESOME games in which the player has no clear-cut role, and furthermore if they DID have a clearly defined role, the game would be boring. What is a player's role in Memoir '44, Advanced Squad Leader or World at War: Eisenbach Gap? There isn't one that I can see, yet all three are interesting (well, my jury is still out on Memoir '44) games. You ARE NOT a battalion or company commander in ASL Neither of those positions designates where and when each of his squads will fire, when to pick up an MG34, or the employment of individual heroes. By the same token, an Eisenbach Gap gamer will direct the fire of each platoon of tanks...regimental commanders don't do that in real life.

Just my thoughts.
The Gamers' TCS-system has a nice way of showing command through pre-planned orders. But the only problem for me has been these maps that I have to draw. Not that it is difficult but I dislike all kinds of paper administration and I also find it a bit cumbersome.

Now, if one were to design an alternative but similar command system, then it could consist of placing command markers on the map. One side of the marker could be "trying to implement the order" and the other side would then be "Executing the order". Nothing happens until you succeed in flipping the marker to its executing side. An "Attack order", for example, could be described as "being forced to reach the object marker". The object marker is placed in the hex you wish to reach and occupy. If you wish to change the order, you simply stop and try to implement a new one.
It depends of what you want or what you play. For a tactial game like LnL or ASL (under the TCS scale), I think you don't need a command system. The orders are given at the beginning of the senario, with the objectives, and the setup you choose You have established the plan at the beginning of the game (by induction). And as it depicts mostly short firefights (10min to 30 min), the fact that some squad leaders use personnal initiative to accomplish the primal objectives is acceptable. To me, some games, like squad level games, must be fast and furious, realistic in the results, and must allow heroic or extraordinary individual actions (a thing that we can read in a lot of report of battle). A command sytem for this sort of games, will slow the games and not add fun nor realism IMHO.

A problem I have with using command markers on the map means that your opponent know the orders your guys have. It's okay to me in battles where the opponent on the battlefield can "read" in the formations/lines of your guys, but that's about all.

BTW, there is a print&play wargame, No One is Innocent , about Bull Run, wich has this type of command system (but not with markers). I played once and it's good
I agree that there is no need for a command system in LnL or ASL, other than leader activation. But in TCS there is a longer time frame and a larger amount of units which means that orders may come and go. When it comes to not showing your intent to your opponent, that is a mere question of design. I'm sure I would find a simple solution for that.

But you are correct in that a command system shouldn't be allowed to slow the game down. That's why I'm playing with the ideas of a simple but workable system.
Many of the folks want to control everything and have total obedience from his troops. that, to me, is not a good sim.

I see Herman's point - I prefer a command system that limits what a player can do.

Tactical games like Conflict of Heroes has a command system that limits how well an whole formation can do, and in that case upper command logistics is abstracted and the on board commander (the player) controls how those APs are spent AND he leads each Squad.

ASL has no command system, but you do control a battalion/company, but that command seems to have no lack of motivation for any of its units. You can can move all your units, if you wish.

A fine model, for me, of how to do this 'mixed role' business are the command rules in Richard Berg games like 'Battles of Waterloo'.

I have corps/division commanders that I want to do something, but often don't (Ney anyone?). So, I wind up with a less than optimal force that I control at the regiment/battalion level that is poorly managed.

Antietam is a perfect example (done so well by RHB in Glory III) - if we give the player a role that ignores Union Command difficulties (Mac), then we get a battle that Lee would never have fought.

When you get down to it, at the Operational/Grand Tactical level, I fully expect a limited command role while still controlling troops at the unit level, but troops forced into risk vs resource situations; as I like it.

With scenario based tactical games (ASL, LnL:BoH, etc.) not too much of a need - these tend to be short firefights after all command is said and done.

Now, I have never looked at ASL Historical modules - are they devoid of command rules so that you are in command of just huge forces of blindly obedient troops?

ASL, for example, covering all of Stalingrad, has left the strictly tactical realm and entered the Operational/Grand Tactical realm, where I feel the need to model resource management.

Troops need food, bullets, orders, trained, motivated and intelligent commanders.

If I command all those troops myself with a god's eye view, every troop will be commmanded by the best :).

In Real Life, we would call that 'micro-management' and that is inefficient, which is not true in wargames.

In Real Life, when we manage others, we run into a diverse mess of people with different abilities and needs, ambitions and resourcefulness. Easily modeled in a wargame if we have several people on a side, but damned near impossible to do.

So, I want my cardboard warriors to be managed by both gifted and stupid mid level managers, while I cures those MLMs for not doing my bidding!

I agree with you Mr. Walker that you CANNOT have a 'clearly designed role' - the counters are not going to push themselves. I have to be there to do it.

However, I want to be Napoleon in the Waterloo Campaign, and I want to deal with my idiot Generals.
There's one factor that can't be designed. The player or players are who they are. This is true whether you're playing a board game, a miniature's game, or a paper and pencil RPG. Saying that someone IS Napoleon doesn't mean that they will be any better at gaming, even if there are built in advantages. I remember one D+D game where the Wizard in the party was not a very bright bulb to be kind. He had a lot of powers and spells, but it doesn't do much good when you don't use them when they're needed.
I've also seen commanders in miniatures games blissfully overlook situations that spelled doom, or fail to use the advantages they had, such as a preponderance of artillery. I have actually steered an occasional player to command a side, say the Union, because they neede a commander the caliber of Burnsides. That particular player was overqualified! Sometimes game designers try too hard to limit the commander's abilities when they're fully able to do that themselves!
Fortunately, all my opposition scares the hell out of me on by paper and cardboard battlefields.
Being the God's eye over a battlefield and being able to command in detail when and where a unit will move and attack is neither fun nor realistic. A certain chaos and unpredictability should be there, but not so much that the game becomes unplayable. There should be four things that make life more difficult for a player in a tactical game.

1) The lack of command or the reluctance of the unit to advance and attack. A simple leadership dieroll, when the leader is activated, could take care of this.
2) Becoming out of ammunition. A certain dieroll result, when rolling your fire effect, could be the answer.
3) Being in distress and trying to recover. Well, fire results and leadership can handle this.
4) Fate and luck. Why not give the opponent cards and chits to regulate this.

The first one will make it difficult to coordinate your attack. The second one might spoil your attack. The third one will make it hard to withstand the opponent's counterattack and the fourth one will just spoil your day just when you thought everything went smoothly.

Great fun
In LnL (again) there are the spotting rules. These rules are very simple and actually denies (not totally, but enough to me) the god's eye syndrom. It works like even if you (the player) can see the ennemy troops (there are no "?" counters in LnL), your men (the counters) can not see them. And you have to send recon or scouts to drive out them (or to wait that they discover themselve by movin, firing etc). It's a good and fun compromise.
Yes, that is a good rule. Perhaps one can combine a spotting rule (in order to actually see the enemy) with a test of moral dieroll before assaulting the enemy (convincing the boys to assault across that field). There is no need to test moral when firing or defending, but there should be one when assaulting a spotted enemy.

Then again, I still like the order idea, in case there enough counters to create higher echelons. Have to think about this.


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