Friday, June 24, 2011

Friction or There's the Rub.

Several different threads have come together this week to get me thinking about the whole command control, friction and time and space thing again. (See )
One has been a discussion on the OSW Yahoo group, another comes from several recent games and another from the usual sorts of mind probing that goes on when I'm tinkering with rules and reading as I have been.

Lets take one example from a  game that works quite well, the Portable Wargame.  The scenario was a meeting engagement and I found myself having to choose between fighting and bringing up reinforcements. From a gaming POV it was an interesting decision to make. From a "simulation" (sic) POV, it was not unrealistic that my reinforcements weren't arriving as quickly as I would have liked or that I had to pause and regroup my forces periodically.

However, the thoughts popped into my head at one point, "why does that regiment keep stopping its march when it has orders and  can see and hear that we are engaged" and "why does that other regiment stop shooting?". Now there might be many reasons why but the rules are designed for the over all effect, not to explain why,  They do, however, present these interruptions as the result of the player's choice rather than a random event outside the player's control. (Keeping in mind that it was theoretically possibly to roll enough pips to activate everything at once, even without my late General.). Would I have been happier with an activation system that froze the unit without input from me? No, based on past experience, I am much happier being given some control over how the friction affects me.

It was actually the stop/start nature of the approach march & combat that caught my eye, and yes, I have experienced this sort of thing in peacetime training marches which is one reason I like variable length moves. (harder to implement when a move is a small number of large hexes). The point is that though the exact rate of march varied, we didn't need an order every hour to keep going. Short of "enemy" action, the collapse of a bridge, getting lost or similar, once going, we would keep marching till we reached our destination. Likewise troops might need an order to commit themselves to combat, but once engaged, the fighting will go on until one side gives wa or a new order is received.

So what if we took our activation die, but fewer of them and used them to indicate how many orders a commander could issue in a turn. Each order would include a "posture" if you will, attack, march, defend etc and a destination or locale. Once the order was issued, possibly with a roll for delay or failure, it would apply until either achieved, stopped by enemy action or superseded by a new order. So that attack on the left flank, if you suddenly wanted to stop it, you would need sufficient activation points  to cancel it, otherwise you would have to watch it go in, unable to intervene.

Yes, I did try inserting something similar into Hearts of Tin a year or two again.  I'm now rooting about for details of how I tried to integrate it and why I dropped it. I have a feeling there was over complexity over levels of command and a conflict with other aspects of the game, not to mention questions of determining the reaction to enemy interference..

The related questions about time, space and the speed at which a game progresses will have to wait. Its back to building a safe bunny exercise yard.



  1. Ross,

    If you can recall the game you played at my house, my rules used "inertia" for brigadiers.

    Each brigadier had an inertia rating that had to be overcome in order to change the brigade's current command. Until that was done, they remained under their previous orders.

    So brigades at rest, continued at rest; those in action continued with that action . . . but changing this wasn't always easy.

    If you happen to have a copy of the "Classic Wargamer's Journal -- Pilot Issue", you'll find my command system in there. If you don't (and are interested), email me and I'll send you the info.

    -- Jeff

  2. I do remember Jeff and I do have a copy of that CWJ article. The old WRG 3rd edition that I cut my wargaming teeth on used written orders that lasted until they were changed.

  3. There's an interesting article in the latest Battlegames on the subject - I happen not to agree with the authors thesis, but he makes a reasonable fist of presenting his argument.

  4. I'll keep my eye out for it. If the government ever ends debate and passes the bill forcing the post office to let the workers back in so the mail can move.