Friday, April 19, 2013

The Impact of the Turn Sequence of Solo Wargaming

Let me start off by saying this article is not about what is and is not true, but rather trying to figure out the answer by walking through my thought process and seeing where others fall in their thinking.

Let me start by saying that I think the turn sequence of a game has a large impact on how that game "feels" to the players. It changes the way they think and how they approach tactics, or in this case, how to win the game. I also think that some game mechanics get "magnified" when the game is played solo, rather than player versus player. A simple example is where a game has an auction component, or uses hidden information. These mechanics suddenly present a much greater problem for the solo player and thus trying to work around them often significantly alters the feel of the game. Imagine trying to resolve how you would deal with a bidding mechanic in your solo games. Most of you probably already deal with hidden information mechanics, such as maintaining a hand of cards. If you game solo by "playing the best of your ability for both sides", these games tend to fall flat because this important aspect of the game – bidding hard for an advantage or springing a surprise card play – fades away now that the player has perfect knowledge of not just his own side, but the "other" side too.

But, I am not talking about this game mechanics, I am talking about the lowly, ever-present1 mechanic of the turn sequence, and how it impacts not only gaming, but in particular, how I think it impacts solo gaming.

The standard turn sequence is:
  1. I go
  2. You go
Both Chess and Checkers are that way, as are a number of card games. Each person takes an action in turn before moving on to the next player. In miniatures gaming, it typically translates as:
  1. Player A Moves
  2. Player A Fires
  3. Player A and B Melees
  4. Player B Moves
  5. Player B Fires
  6. Player B and A Melees
Over time variations are added – breaking out the charge, adding defensive fire, adding morale checks after firing and melees, adding army morale checks, adding victory condition checks, and so on – but they still break down to I Go then You Go (or IGOUGO for short). If you have read enough of my blogs you know that I do not particularly favor this turn sequence (despite playing a lot of games that use exactly that sequence).

Rather than go through Wally Simon's thought process on how to tweak the IGOUGO sequence into something better (you can buy the books and read it yourself) I want to examine how this turn sequence affects your thought process when solo gaming.

If you were to use a turn sequence that identifies at random which side acts next, and that activation allows you to perform one action with a single unit, your mind thinks about what your options are differently than if you are alternating which side gets to do everything. With the former, you have to focus on which unit and action will provide the greatest return, as any action you do could affect the amount of damaged received when your opponent acts next. For example, you might shoot and eliminate a unit, thus denying your opponent the opportunity to shoot back when he next randomly receives the chance to take an action. Or you might run away with that unit, or heal it, making it less likely that it will be eliminated in the next attack against it.

Although the player must still keep his overall plan in sight2, he still needs to make value judgements on which action is the best, second best, and so on. More importantly, training ground precision and coordination between units cannot be counted on, as you have no control over the order of actions. And this is key, because IGOUGO typically produces thinking like:
"Okay, it is my turn, so Unit A will move around the building and fire on the flank of this enemy unit, while Unit B will charge in and assault them. Now moving fire from the 10 ten in Unit A should inflict three casualties …"
The point, however, is that it is exceptionally worse with solo gaming. I don't care who you are, if you are "playing to the best of your ability for each side" bias will creep in. Whether it is because you like the paint job of this side better, think that the other side should win because they did historically, or even just because the narrative seems to be heading in a particularly cool direction, bias for one side or another creeps in. And it usually does it in the form of you thinking that if you could do X on turn 1 and Y on turn 2, then really cool event Z will happen. It is that planning ahead that bites you in the rear. The very thing I have been saying a solo gamer needs – a battle plan, preferably written ahead of time – is what causes bias to creep in. And the longer the turn – more to the point, the more one side can do before the other can materially react – the more that bias will affect your game.

I think that increasing interaction between the two side helps break the mind from favoring one side over the other. Rather, the solo gamer gets caught up in the action, the unfolding story as it were, rather than what one side could do to the other during its turn. By breaking up the turn sequence you add more interactivity between the sides. Your focus becomes the micro, rather than the macro. Each fight between two units becomes a battle within a battle.

I am not saying that the solo gamers should not have a larger plan, for both sides, nor that altering a rule's turn sequence to make it more interactive will make your gaming easier, it won't. All I am saying is that, as solo gamers, we need to be aware that "playing the best of our ability for both sides" is not always good enough. You may enjoy the game, but if you game solo to practice for a tournament, for example, don't think for a second that you are able to play objectively.

A while back I posted a bit about messing with a game's rules. I was not much of an advocate of that, but I think I am coming around. It depends upon what you mess with, I suppose. Take Warhammer 40K (WH40K) for example. Although I do not play (one non-solo game in probably ten years) I do enjoy some of the podcasts that discuss tactics in the game. (In particular, I find The Second Founding and The 11th Company podcasts particularly interesting.) They often have interviews with gamers that won this or that tournament with a particular army and the interviewer goes through their list and pelts the interviewees with questions about how they would handle this or that 'Badness of the Month'. It is interesting how many times their tactics refer to the Alpha Strike, which is essentially the ability to blow away the enemy in a single turn (usually once it gets to a certain range), and what they do in order to pull that off.

As I have ranted many a time on my blogs, the Alpha Strike is a function of the game's turn sequence, alternating turns of Move-Fire-Assault phases between the sides. Imagine a simple change from that traditional turn sequence to the one used by Bolt Action3 (BA) on the mind-set of the solo gamer. In the WH40K sequence the gamer focuses on co-ordinating his actions and generally has no concerns about the opposing player taking an action during his turn that might upset his plans4. In the BA sequence, the player still will want to perform covering fire with Unit A and assault with Unit B, but now the sequence within the turn is not determined by strictly ordered Phases – Move then Fire then Assault – but by the order that the player activates units.

Take that simple example: Unit A will provide covering fire against an enemy while Unit B moves in and assaults. The pictures below show the order in which things are done.

WH40K SequenceBA Sequence
In the WH40K sequence all moves must occur first5. To ensure that the assaulting unit does not obscure the target unit, it may have to swing around the flank a bit to ensure it does not the friendly unit's line of fire. After the initial movement, the supporting unit provides covering fire. Finally, the assault movement is carried out and the melee resolved.

One 'problem' with this sequence is that the assaulting player must commit to the movement prior to knowing whether the covering fire is effective. That may be good or bad, depending upon whether you think  the player having perfect information is a good thing or bad. Also, because of the turn sequence, it forces the player to swing wide, thus requiring more distance be covered. (If the assault scene in Saving Private Ryan has any validity, that may not be a bad thing.)

In a random order, single unit, single action (ROSUSA) sequence, the first die drawn for the blue side will go to the unit providing the covering fire. If sufficient effect is provided, then when the next blue die is drawn, the second unit will go in straight. Of course, if an enemy die is drawn first, they may take some action that will pre-empt the assault.

That is all fine, but again, this is not a general discussion about the impact of different turn sequences, but about the specific impact on solo gaming. The first impact is that it create many more decision points for the solo gamer. In a traditional IGOUGO, the decision of which unit to move first on a side is irrelevant; they all move at the same time, and it has no effect. Switching to a ROSUSA turn sequence forces you to prioritize actions between units into a sequence that makes sense. By focusing the solo gamer's attention down to the micro, and away from the macro, I think you break (or at least significantly reduce) the chance of bias for one side's plan over the other. You may still get caught up in the narrative, but then again, isn't that why we game?

So the conclusion I am drawing is that some game mechanics are more conducive to 'better' solo gaming, and the traditional IGOUGO is not one of them. We have looked at another mechanism, the THW Reaction System, and its impact on solo gaming. Maybe it is time to start looking at ROSUSA? Maybe I will enjoy my solo wargaming if I forego my cardinal rule of "thou shalt not fundamentally change the rules" and instead start applying ROSUSA to WH40K, FoW, Warmachine, and some of those other games that I decided to drop because their IGOUGO turned me off from the game.

I've rattled on enough here (it has taken me three nights to write this), and I am curious what you think. Can changing something as core as a turn sequence make a fundamental difference in how the game plays for a solo gamer? Especially a solo gamer that plays each side to the best of his ability? Does it change his mind-set enough, push away the inherent bias that develops? I would like to hear your thoughts?


1 At first I was going to say "always present mechanic", as I could not think of a game that did not have a turn sequence, until I remembered the card game Spit. Some might say it has "turns", and thus does have a turn sequence, but that is for a discussion another time … if anyone actually cares.

2 I think this is one of the reasons some players do so poorly with random order, single unit, single action turn sequences; as they feel the game is so "chaotic" and "random", of which they have no control over, their plan becomes "just go with the flow". Their plan, is determined, and changed at each instant in which they are given a chance to act. In essence, their plan becomes "to react" rather than to act. That is why I think newer players should not start with a set of rules, such as Bolt Action, where they  have a random order, single unit, single action turn sequence; the player never really sees an incentive in developing a cohesive plan and sticking to it (until it no longer works). Instead they see the randomness and think that it is the physical equivalent of a reaction-oriented first-person shooter video game. At least that is my theory.

2 For those not familiar with Bolt Action's turn sequence it is:
  1. Put one die in a bag for each unit each player has. Player A uses one color of dice and Player B uses a different color.
  2. Shake the bag.
  3. Draw a die from the bag. The color of the die determines who is the Active Player.
  4. The Active Player designates a unit to be activated. That unit must not have already been activated this turn. (This is usually indicated by placing the colored die by the unit being activated.)
  5. The Activated Unit performs an action, which may consist of movement, firing, and/or assault.
  6. Resolve all combats and morale resulting from the action.
  7. Repeat steps 2 through 6 until all the dice have been drawn from the bag.
  8. Perform any End of Turn functions (army morale checks, victory condition checks, and so on).
  9. Start back at step 1. Note that casualties caused will reduce the number of dice put back into the bag, reflecting your deteriorating command and control.
4 WH40K has changed a bit from Third to the current Sixth Edition. They have re-introduced overwatch, so the enemy can fire at charging units before they get into assault. But that is about it when it comes to the enemy reacting during his opponent's turn.

5 Yes, I know that WH40K, and other games like it (such as Flames of War), have a movement portion in the Assault Phase. The assumption here is that the enemy unit is far enough away to require movement in the Movement and Assault Phases.

14 comments:

  1. Very interesting Dale. Bob Cordery had an interesting solution with using his card tiles for setting unit priority. I did not know about Bolt Actions mechanic but it does sound more interesting. What is interesting about the card mechanic is it also takes unit priority out of your hands, as that is determined by the card suit. Paper Tigers also prioritizes combat vs. movement based on card color. But in answer to your question I think yes, altering the turn sequence can change the way the game plays solo.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yeah, Bob has basically pulled out the mechanics that they have used in COW's magazines for years. I personally do not like too much loss of control. Although it becomes a challenge, I find more enjoyment in creating and executing a plan. The more random the turn sequence, the harder it is to execute and thus more frustrating the game. I don't game to get frustrated.

    No one can convince me that all random mechanics model the friction in warfare. I could say "Roll a die to randomly determine which unit – on either side – acts next. That randomness models the chaos and friction of battle." But such a mechanic would preclude the ability to execute a plan properly, unless you had very lucky die rolls, and empirical evidence suggests otherwise. Some of these mechanics "to model friction" are just lazy game design. The game designer says that there are too many variables to account for so they throw in some random element that takes away control and say "there, that does it!". But if you crank up the "Chaos Factor" knob too high, you end up with a boring, frustrating game.

    Just remember: ROSUSA. You heard it here first! :^D

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi Dale,
    Thanks for an interesting and well-considered post. You have provided a good comparison of the two extremes of activate-all or activate-singly, but there are intermediate solutions that may have merit, involving activating small groups of units per player phase. Of course, this comes at the cost of requiring more in the way of reaction rules for the non-phasing player, but in pre-20thC games this could be as simple as an opportunity for first fire when being charged.
    Here are some of the ways it could be implemented.

    1. Memoir 44-esque. The biggest failing of this system is the tendency to activate exclusively the units involved in firefights and assaults (when you can get the cards) until they or their opponents are eliminated or driven off. If you spend activations bringing up reinforcements instead, your front line units will likely be receiving casualties without causing any, and may be defeated before help arrives. There is also no penalty for units being beyond command radius. However, if you simply change the card effect from sectors to "within command range of the same command element or within X (probably smaller) distance of each other", it alleviates that problem; and if you indicate which units have already been activated and don't allow a second activation until all units of that side have been activated, it resolves the former. These two modifications can also be applied to all of the following systems as well.

    2. The initiative roll, with the number indicating the number of units that can be activated, and the high roller activating first. National/quality/scenario-based modifiers can be added, and a penalty for out-of command units such as double activation cost or having to roll for potential activation with failure still costing a point.

    3. Put the activation dice in a bag as Bolt Action, but based on command points available per turn instead of number of units, and each die is rolled when pulled to indicate how many actions are allowed to that player. The tension of knowing that some of your units may not get to activate every turn emphasizes prioritization of mission, but the number should be large enough to allow for movement of reinforcements. To make this easier, you cold allow activation of a march column of X units with one activation point.

    4. Alternating activation phases, where each player starts his activation by rolling for activation points, with modifiers. This is the least chaotic, but you don't know how many activations your opponent is going to have next. There could still be large swings of initiative when one side's die is on fire for a while and the other side's is chilly. Again this can be partially mitigated through modifiers.

    More player influence (and some luck balance) can be added with Initiative Points (chips or stones or whatever) that can be spent as activation points; or exactly one can be spent before a die roll to add one to the result: rally, fire, morale check, close combat, etc. These can be allocated based on command/troop quality. One idea that occurs to me when rolling for initiative/number of activations, is to have three quality levels: Superior (3), Average (2), and Inferior (1). This modifier is added to the I/A roll. If the unmodified I/A roll is less than or equal to the quality level, the player receives that many Initiative Points to be saved or spent as desired.

    An interesting variant for all of the above small-number-of-activation systems is to make the number of activations correspond to actual time elapsed (a multiple of the die roll, scaled appropriately), and have time-based elements such as arrival of reinforcements, turn length, even game length. "If you don't control that state farm by 17:00, it's the gulag for you, comrade."

    Of course, none of these ideas are entirely mine, and they can be tweaked and interchanged in a variety of ways.
    Thanks for getting my juices flowing today, Dale.

    Regards,
    John


    ReplyDelete
  4. John,

    Thanks for your extensive comments.

    1. Memoir's failings are many, which is why it is no longer my go-to WW II game. Its primary failing, which you point out, is the inability to battle back for free, as with the other rules in the Command and Colors series. The new science fiction rules I am working on, C4ISR, which are based heavily on Memoir '44 rectifies this. I love BattleLore specifically because of battle back and the need for formations.

    As for Command Radius, I find that a concept best left for Age of Rifle and earlier. With modern communications this should be less of a factor. (I do realize that the WW II Russians, which your blog indicates you play a lot of, are less modern troops and more Age of Rifle during WW II. So it that light, your comment makes sense. I, on the other hand, almost always play Late War on the Western Front.) Nonetheless, Battles of Westeros uses a great Command Radius system. You can download the rules from the Fantasy Flight Games web site and the rules are clear enough about how the mechanic works. Might be worth your time to take a look at it, if you have not already.

    2. Considering that a players command might typically be a dozen units, this means that up to 1/2 (and more like 1/4, on average) are activated. This sounds pretty good. Nonetheless, I do not see what you gain by doing this - from a solo gamer's view point. There are infinite points on the dial between "full control" and "complete lack of control", so the question is: at what point on the dial is it better for the solo gamer? Arbitrary groupings of units acting at once is just that: arbitrary. Not saying it is wrong, but what do you gain?

    Your point about reflecting superior command and control in the die roll is an excellent one, and is where most random command and control systems fail. ROSUSA fails that, but it is easy to rectify: add more dice to the bag for one side so they get all of their units activated quicker. Once all units are activated, any additional dice either have no effect, or represent additional (minor) actions a unit can take due to higher morale and initiative.

    3. Actually, Bolt Action does have an activation mechanism. When units receive fire they accumulate "Pin" markers. A unit normally executes an order 100% of the time, but Pin markers create a chance that they will do nothing. Also, a Bolt Action order is actually several actions, depending upon which order you take. You can just move, just fire, move and fire, etc. So if you think about them as actions it becomes "Move+Move", "Fire+Fire", and "Move+Fire". It is not exactly that way, but something like it. You don't move twice, but rather move farther than a "Move+Fire". Same with firing; it is not firing twice, but rather firing once more accurately. The system you describe is very similar to Ganesha Games' activation system, and to a lesser extent, FUBAR.

    All good ideas and I hope that the post, and your excellent comments, get the juices flowing for others as well.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I agree with the importance of sequence of play for games and that not all adopt well for solo play.

    One of my favorite sequence is simultaneous play to written turn orders. When combined with generous movement rates it allows for some real surprises to be pulled on the enemy, but not when you are writing both sides. The closest I have come to a solution is to write for one side and then for the other side using a die roll to choose options if there is any doubt. For instance a unit defending a redoubt will stand and fire unless there is a unit which might try and flank in in which case I might dice: 1,2 retreat to avoid being flanked, 3,4,5,6 stand because the player didn't see it coming or thinks it won;t work etc. Not perfect but its better than always knowing what the other side will do.

    I use that sort of diced for decision quite heavily regardless of which rules or if its igougo or card driven.

    I like the Battlecry & derivative card system when playing an opponent but it just loses too much for me to enjoy it solo.

    Card sequencing as in TS&TF or my original MacDuff rules do change things a bit as you point out but I like it better for confused situations and skirmishes as oppsoed to battles where a General is in control.

    There is an old variant on IGOUGO that Don Featherstone introduced me too. Players dice each turn for choice of who goes first. To avoid bias and keep some of the uncertainty when playing solo I rule that the high die roll MUST go first rather than choosing. The key is that the 2nd player always has a chance of a double move so when you are going first you have to keep in mind that the enemy might get to make 2 sets of decisions before you do. When combined with weighted dicing to choose options when there is more than one reasonable choice I find this and sometimes give me unpleasant surprises when playing one side straight up against a semi-programmed enemy.

    I should perhaps add that I modify the igougo nature of turns to some degree by allowing reactions in some circumstances for instance returning fire or charging out of sequence if fired at or reacting to a charge or to support a friend who is being charged etc.

    -Ross
    http://gameofmonth.blogspot.ca/

    ReplyDelete
  6. Ross,

    Thanks for the comments.

    I worry about using dice to make decisions. Or rather, I worry about the decisions I am randomizing. There is risk in embedding "morale" into the choices. Your "retreating to avoid being flanked" is an excellent example. Using the Battle Cry rules, assume that two cavalry units have charged an enemy infantry unit and are now attacking it. The first cavalry attacks and rolls a Flag. Let's assume that the infantry has a means of ignoring one flag (for the fieldworks). The decision to ignore or take the retreat has a tactical effect; taking the flag means that the second cavalry unit cannot attack it. On the other hand, the cavalry unit can take the ground, denying you the position. In my mind, there should be a rule about whether the unit should retreat.

    Actually, with Battle Cry the situation is pretty easy: the chance of the second cavalry unit eliminating the infantry unit becomes a factor in the chance to retreat. So, if the infantry unit has one strength left, the cavalry unit has a 75% chance of eliminating it (three dice minus one for the fieldworks, hitting on three faces), thus the chance it should retreat should be strongly based on that number. Of course, loss of the fieldworks guarantees that the unit won't retreat and if the loss of the unit causes defeat for its side the chance of retreat is 100%.

    I guess I do this because the games I play are more math-oriented, so if you can calculate the odds of some success or failure against a unit, you can use that as the basis for your roll. In the end, this sort of probability-based decision making allows a LOT of bias to creep in, unless you have some very strict rules on how to determine those probabilities.

    Interesting point about turn sequencing based on the size of the battle. Maybe I will explore that subject more. Thanks for sharing your insight.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Dale, what is you say is true enough and I see that on a unit basis and if used too often, it can seem more like morale than a type of crude AI but it might have been a bad choice of example on my part.

    I do sometimes use this on a single unit basis but often, in that situation, there is a clear and immediate best choice so I don't need a decision roll. I only use it where I would have trouble choosing which option if I was playing both sides which means it usually involves a group of units and the consequences will last several turns. Also it is not totally random as I only include options that I think are good ones. I do weight the roll if I think one of option is slightly better then the others or if one involves more risk as well as reward.


    Picture Lee on the 3rd day at Gettysburg but on a smaller scale. Should he attack up the center, dig in and hope that Meade will attack or try to move around the flank? If you are playing Lee, you have to choose. If you are playing Meade you can figure out what Lee's choices are but you won't have fore knowledge of what he will do.

    The benefit that I find is that I can get the same sort of surprise out of this as I sometime do against a live opponent. Obviously not the sort of rare surprise when an opponent pulls some maneuver that I never thought of but it does reflect the more usual ones. Especially since some of my long time opponents and I have been known to debate the merits of various moves which is the same process but I don't know what they've chosen till they do it and then we see which of us was right.

    When playing solo, the fact that I don't know for sure that the enemy's plan will stay what I think it is or whether he will take a risk or not increases my involvement and pleasure. In my last solo game, there was a point mid-game where the enemy's first attack had been largely held or repulsed but his reserves were up. I would have probably have regrouped, rallied units and kept working around the flanks but there was a chance that a renewed assault up the center could work if he got lucky. So I made a decision roll weighted against the attack that I wouldn't have made, that choice came up, the enemy got an initiative flip and thus a double move before I could react properly and then his combat dice were hot and mine were cold. In 3 turns the game flipped and I lost because the "enemy" selected the gutsy move which I would probably have not chosen.

    Makes a solo game feel more like a game to me and less like an exercise. I'm not sure what the equivalent would be if I played Battlecry solo, possibly discarding 3 cards for the "enemy" each turn and not drawing replacements until the "enemy" started their turn so I wouldn't know what was in "his" hand without completely taking away the ability to hang on to some key cards and after all one can often guess that the other guy is holding this or that card by the way he maneuvers.

    Good gaming
    -Ross

    ReplyDelete
  8. Ross,

    "I'm not sure what the equivalent would be if I played Battlecry solo…"

    The problem is that in Battle Cry you cannot replicate the "surprise" that you cite because the turn sequence does not allow it. The key in the example seems to have been "…the enemy got an initiative flip and thus a double move before I could react properly…". The best Battle Cry could do is attack in a sector before you get cards for it. There are no "play your turn twice" cards. I think that is why the "initiative flip" is a good mechanic, if you are going to go with IGOUGO, for solo gaming. Yes, sometime the player will get to take advantage of it, but just as often the Non-Player General will get to pull a surprise on you.

    Maybe that is also an idea to explore: simple additions to game mechanics in order to increase friction without completely throwing command and control out of the window.

    Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi Dale,
    Sorry, I forgot to mention in my ramble that the benefit of activating small groups of units as opposed to individually is to return some of the ability to make plans and actually carry them out. Using ROSUSA if my target moves away after receiving prep fire, I lose the target of my planned assault; but if I can activate a handful of units, I can have a couple of units prep fire and then a third unit assault, perhaps with one on overwatch in case of enemy reactions. As you pointed out, with any of these multiple-unit-activation (MUA) systems you must have some kind of reaction ability to balance the sequential activations of your opponent. Opportunity fire/reaction move rules are usually more complicated than it seems they need to be, unfortunately.

    Basically, one must pick their preferred setting on the sliding scale of chaos-vs-control. I consider the MUA systems to fall between the ROSUSA and the activate-everyone system. My gut feeling is that except in cases where a battle has split into several independent actions, or command control has been totally lost, the ROSUSA system is more chaotic than is warranted by battle accounts with which I am familiar. It would definitely be the most exciting system and alleviate the need for reaction rules, with the noted corresponding reduction in planning ability compared to the others. In the end, simplification of rules might trump the other considerations anyway, at least for me.

    Interesting stuff to think about.
    Thanks and regards.
    John

    ReplyDelete
  10. "Basically, one must pick their preferred setting on the sliding scale of chaos-vs-control."

    John,

    I absolutely agree. What this article is intended to point out is: 1) that there is a sliding scale; 2) the mechanisms specifically embedded within the turn sequence that push the slider one way or another; and most importantly, 3) what effect that has on the thinking of the solo gamer, especially in terms of bias creeping in.

    Speaking of reaction/overwatch mechanisms, I recently downloaded the free, quick-start rules for Infinity from their web site. The have a mechanism called Automatic Reaction Order (or ARO) which you might want to take a look at. Basically their mechanics are IGOUGO with a healthy dose of enemy reaction to thwart the Alpha Strike. Since the rules are free, they are certainly worth a look. In fact, it was reading those rules that started my whole thought process on this subject and led to this article. I have yet to play the rules, however, as I am just swimming in too many projects.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hi Dale,
    The ARO rules seem pretty straight-forward and easily adaptable.
    Along a similar line, have you examined the Attack State Red rules?
    They are available here: http://atkinswargames.yolasite.com/resources/ASR1.pdf .
    They incorporate some interesting reaction tests.
    Catch ya later.
    John

    ReplyDelete
  12. It has been a while since you posted this, but I have had a busy 2 weeks at work and still feel compelled to add my little bit.

    To answer your question on changing a turn sequence for a game to remove some of the inherent bias that may develop from playing the best of one's ability for each side. I would answer yes.

    I will give you an example from personal experience with possibly some observations. And note I don't have much experience with changing turn sequences anyway.

    I really like the Take Cover WW2 rules (similar to Rapid Fire). They have a turn sequence of roll for initiative (some sides get a bonus) and then it is a game turn of both sides move (initiative chooses who goes first) and then both fire (initiative choose who fires first). Choosing who goes first has an inherent bias. I do try an play to the best of my ability and don't take sides BUT I do know I tend to favour the side that is losing so will concentrate on their actions probably a little more than the other, and speed a bit more on the winning side. I will also note at this time that I could remove this bias by not knowing victory conditions, which may be hard solo but I can see possibilities - have some victory conditions for each side but only figure out which is the real one at game end (I have not tried this).

    So, I tried card activation - one card a unit. This would remove some of the inherent bias, make it harder for me to favour a side during a turn. And I like how cards reflect the chaos of battalion level ww2 games. Cards certainly did that but I found it slowed the game down, I lost some interest on how each side was going and was harder to implement (possible but with complications) the better command and control of early Germans. I moved back to a alternative move fire with an initiative roll. So the turn sequence in this instance, for me, was modified and reduced bias but was a less interesting game (too many decision points!). BUT (lots of buts), a morale check is taken at the start of the turn for each unit, and maybe it will do nothing (this is different to the original Take Cover rules). So I have "sort of" implemented unit activation as you may not know if the unit you chose actually does anything!

    I also did toy with the idea of card activation similar to TSATF (which sounds a like a ROSUSA) but I would like to play some games based on TSATF type card draws before implementing such a turn sequence.

    Another alternative to remove some bias I did think about was to keep the IGOUGO sequence but add in a number of random events that would occur. But then I would have to generate random event tables and I would more likely go down a IGOYOU with reactions (like the THW games).

    I think, as you have pointed out, there a balance out there that is really only justified by how much you want to remove the bias, and if it still portrays the type of game in the period you are playing. So for me, THW RRTK type reaction is a winner for me in ancient battles - I cannot get enough of them, and really like how it portrays the ancient battle. For me, it captures the uncertainly felt by a general. I do not that RRTK is a IGOYGO with reactions. And for WW2, I find I am liking a more IGOUGO-type sequence but with limitations on what units will actually do it activated. Of course, this is all subject to change. I am moving away from cards and random activation, only as I find they slow me down as a solo player for little benefit to my personal enjoyment with other turn sequences.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I have tried various turn sequences with my own rules. Looking back, I think I was subconciously trying to eradicate the solo player bias which Dale refers to.

    To keep gameplay 'real' and prevent combat being conducted to suit the player's expectations, I initially imposed a firing order a bit like weapon speed factors. This slowed the game down too much and I couldn't keep track of which element had done what. Instead, I tried subdividing the sequence down, allowing 2 actions per turn per element: fire & move, move and fire or fire & fire or move & move. Put simply, stationary elements fired first & could get an extra shot in and those concentrating on gaining ground could double their speed. At one point I was attracted to Continuous Action (like in Crossfire) because initiative is determined by what had just happened, not by a dice roll or firing order chart but dropped this as I didn't like units standing idle while others (potentially) trekked across the board.

    I think I would struggle to fully accept purely Random Order activation for loss of control reasons, (what is the chance of an overworked FT17 commander reacting before the gunner of a PzIII?). Yes, you could have adjustments but that would involve more dice rolling. Regarding Single Unit Single Activation, I would tweak this to Single GROUP Activation, something like that used in Crossfire, I believe (although I have never used those rules, or any since WRG 1925-1952 in the early 80's).

    All in all, the changes I have tried increased my workload & decreased game speed, so I have everted to IGOUGO 'fire then move' as this prevents elements closing in before firing and automatically allows defenders to be on overwatch without having to make declarations. Not sure if any methods I tried really addressed the tactical playing bias Dale refers to, just more complicated, probably unneccesarily so.

    I can tolerate a 'normal' turn sequence but am always on the lookout for radical suggestions in thought-provoling blogs and comments as seen here.

    ReplyDelete
  14. it's bee a while since you posted this, but one of the simplest ways we used break up the You Go, I go sequnce is to insert a "precedence" after each turn.
    This way a sequence adds randomness without changing the rules too much.
    In an example sequence you might have:

    Red Player
    Blue Player

    Precedence roll: Blue wins

    Blue Player plays
    Red Player plays

    This way you can show vagaries of fog of war that suddenly give Blue an advantage for whichever reasons.
    very simple and easy to do :)

    Just my 2 cents worth.
    Regards

    ReplyDelete