Saturday, December 3, 2011

Solo Gaming with Hand Management Systems (2)

Continuing on with the previous entry, we have looked at two "systems": Play Your Best (for both sides), and Flush the Hand (presumably for only one side). Let's take a look at some others.

Programmed Opponent

Charles Stewart Grant wrote an excellent book for solo gamers called Programmed War Games Scenarios, published by Wargames Research Group in 1982. In the book's introduction the author relates how Phil Barker convinced him that a scenario book "concerning a programmable enemy" had merit. "It could include personalities for the solo commander's opposition, pre-prepared orders and some degree of 'in battle' response."

An interesting book and idea, but much of it rested upon the 'old school' concept of written orders, which much (but not all) of the wargaming community has long given up on. The process was for the player to choose a side, generally 'Red', read the scenario setup, layout the terrain and deploy his forces, write his initial orders, and then turn the page to see what the opponent was programmed to do. There were a bit of random factors involved to change the board and opponent responses, but once you had played the scenario it became more predictable.

The problem here is one of old school versus new. Those games that use the battle card driven and a hand management game mechanics, as found in the Command and Colors family of games, lends itself very well to little planning and a near complete reactive form of command and control. Planning generally consists of looking at the hand one is dealt and at best determining possible courses of actions for the next number of turns equal to the number of cards in your hand. Typically, however, you can only plan for two to three turns if your hand draw has turned out well.

Thus one wonders whether the whole concept of planning – or that of programming an opponent – is even appropriate for games using the hand management mechanism. Plans for how to conduct the battle as a whole is dependent upon the cards drawn. If you intend to attack on the left flank, this is only possible for as long as you draw cards where you can order units on the left flank. Either that, or the program must include responses for what to do when your primary avenue of attack dries up.

Next entry I will explore this concept of "planning in a reactive game" and see if I cannot come up with something interesting.

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