Help support TMP


"Variable length bound & George Jeffrey" Topic


283 Posts

All members in good standing are free to post here. Opinions expressed here are solely those of the posters, and have not been cleared with nor are they endorsed by The Miniatures Page.

For more information, see the TMP FAQ.


Back to the Game Design Message Board

Back to the Napoleonic Discussion Message Board


8,362 hits since 14 Jan 2009
©1994-2014 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 

Personal logo Khazarmac Supporting Member of TMP14 Jan 2009 5:21 p.m. PST

George Jeffrey and his variable length bound concept was discussed at our club last night. I'd previously never heard of him and was wondering if anyone can direct me to an online resource for his rules, or a bit of info about his ideas. I did a search on Google and have found some general descriptions of his concept, but didn't find anything actually by him.

Malc

Personal logo rampantlion Supporting Member of TMP14 Jan 2009 5:32 p.m. PST

He has a set of napoleonics rules called something like "Rules for large scale games with small scale figures" they are OOP nowadays, but I have 2 or 3 copies that I picked up over the years.

doug redshirt Supporting Member of TMP14 Jan 2009 5:43 p.m. PST

Please just let it die. It was a system that could never work.

Dye4minis Supporting Member of TMP14 Jan 2009 6:00 p.m. PST

There is an active Yahoo news group called "Variable Length Bound (VLB) that got started shortly before George died. Many of his ideas and concepts are discussed there.

Amongst the members is Ned Zuparko. You might remember the interesting discussions they had in the old Courier magazine in the 70's and 80's.

Best
Tom Dye
GFI

HRGWORLDS Sponsoring Member of TMP Inactive Member14 Jan 2009 6:01 p.m. PST

Khazarmac
Corps Command 3.0 Napoleonic system uses a variable turn system since it was developed in 1988. Each battle day is divided into 2 hour blocks of time called Day Segments. Each Segment is this variable as to how many turns there can be(0 turns to 4 turns maximum). The number of turns in a Day Segment is determined comparing opposing leaders, weather, terrain, and troop quality.

You can visit TMP's Napoleonis rules section and look up
Corps Command. Also, check out CORPSCOMMAND on yahoogroups and download the free charts and play aides to see how the system works. This is all free.

Best

HR GAMES

Dye4minis Supporting Member of TMP14 Jan 2009 6:02 p.m. PST

"Rules for a Large Scale Wargame using Small Scale Figures" was by Knight and Dennis. It was based upon George's ideas. Their version was the most workable of all the lot of VLB rules sets.

There were two by them: One for Naps and the other ACW.

Best
Tom Dye
GFI

tabletopreview dot com Inactive Member14 Jan 2009 6:14 p.m. PST

Sounds a bit like the variable system used in Grand Armee…

David
tabletopreview.com

Camcleod14 Jan 2009 6:22 p.m. PST

As I recall it was first published in one of the old wargaming mags. – maybe Wargamers Digest????

An explanation?? here:
link

Or a Yahoo site:
link

It sounded interesting, but I could never figure out how
to make it work.

50 Dylan CDs and an Icepick Inactive Member14 Jan 2009 6:24 p.m. PST

Nobody ever made it work. That's because it was a bad idea.

More people bashed their brains out trying to make it work, though… It's probably the Holy Grail of wargame design. There are still a few Knights-Errant questing after it to this day….

Personal logo Cyrus the Great Supporting Member of TMP14 Jan 2009 6:26 p.m. PST

As I recall it was first published in one of the old wargaming mags. maybe Wargamers Digest????

I believe it was in Wargames Developements' magazine "The Nugget"

Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP14 Jan 2009 8:18 p.m. PST

I don't know if Jeffrey's rules were ever formally
published or not.

I do have a copy given me by The Courier for playtest
purposes, with an agreement not to do anything beyond
the bounds of the agreement.

That followed an interesting conversation I had with
George, Dick Bryant, and another person at a convention
back in the early 80's, if memory serves.

But agreed, VLB as depicted in those rules was very
difficult to implement, if possible at all.

Personal logo gamertom Supporting Member of TMP14 Jan 2009 9:19 p.m. PST

There were at least two articles in The Courier. My copies aren't accessible at the moment or I would check to see which issues the articles were in. It would have been in 1981 or 1982. The Yahoo VLB Rules Group is probably the best place to learn more than you ever wanted to know about VLB.

I met George in 1982 and he had a big impact on me at the time. He had a game system that could resolve corps sized actions within an hour or so (albeit only when he was around to explain things and keep the game running). He insisted on players using actual formations and "tactics" from the period. He convinced me there was value in studying drill manuals (so one could figure out how long it would take to go from formation A to formation B and, most importantly, the limitations imposed in accomplishing that change). And he truly believed that the only true way of wargaming was the VLB way.

He dropped out of view shortly thereafter (many years later I learned his wife had died unexpectedly and he was left to raise their family) and it wasn't until 2001 that he reappeared via the Internet (IIRC I learned of this via TMP). It was weird in a way because he was still at the stage of thinking he had been in 1982 while thinking in the hobby had moved on, especially in being able to produce workable rules for corps sized actions (Napoleon's Battles and Volley & Bayonets being examples). I was enthused at that time about possibly being able to get an actual set of viable VLB rules from George when he died unexpectedly in late 2001. I was one of those folks who tried to work his last rules version into an actual rules set, but I made several mistakes in doing so (including trying to incorporate too many of the ideas that had been tossed around on the Yahoo group). The set I produced was totally nonviable as I discovered when I actually tried to play them. A lot of the fire then left my belly and I moved on, especially when the group became more heavily oriented towards the intricacies of Napoleonic drills. I haven't been to that site for some time and have no idea what's going on with it.

George's VLB rules only worked when George was there to make them work. I think a VLB type rules system is possible, but it will not be what George would have called VLB.

VLB has been discussed several times on TMP during the years. Try doing a TMP search on VLB and see what may pop up.

Hastati Inactive Member14 Jan 2009 11:51 p.m. PST

I have a copy or two of his draft rules from the 80s. They were revolutionary at the time, especially in comparison to Empire (which I was playing). The problem was that the rules were merely a skeleton and needed all players to understand what the system was trying to achieve (which was not necessarily the idea of having a fun game, although that charge can be levelled at Empire as well) to work. As a result, they were unworkable.

Also, as Gamertom says, game design began to move forward in terms of "big-battle" rules. Rules like Napoleon's Battles and Volley and Bayonet appeared which allowed large battles to be be fought out, but using familiar concepts. I think this was the final nail in the coffin for the VLB concept (besides George being able to actually finish them of course).

I have not looked at my copies in a while, but I usually drag them out once a year or so and have a read for nostalgic reasons.

Defiant Inactive Member14 Jan 2009 11:54 p.m. PST

Amazing timing, (pardon the pun)

I am currently working on a variable length system of my own for my own set of rules. I have had it working for many years now but only just recently I decided to update it properly.

I call it my, "Hourly Intensity Tables" it works on Commander ability, National aggression, the weather, orders given and situational factors including a very important one, Fatigue. Basically, both sides roll a D10 at the beginning of each Hour adding the C-in-C CV rating to the roll. The side with the higher modified D10 gains the ability to alter the Intensity for that hour. This basically means they gain control of trying to manipulate the number of combat turns that are carried out for that hour.

The basic game gives 4 turns per hour equal to approx 15 minutes. Using the hourly intensity table the turns can be intensified up to 6 turns or as low as only 2 turns. We found this was great for giving the ability of players to create lulls in a battle which sped up time or intensify the ferocity of a battle by increasing the amount of turns in the hour thus increasing the death and destruction rought.

There are many times and situations where players enjoy trying to alter the time factor in the game including trying to drop the number of turns in a battle in order to speed up time so as to hurry along the advance of reinforcements for example while the other side are trying to do the exact opposite and intensify a battle before those reinforcements arrive.

What we also found was that using the Hourly Intensity tables also altered the level of Fatigue build up or recovery. This, I will admit was not on my mind when I developed the rules but showed itself (like these things do) while play testing. A Lull in the battle speeds up time thus Fatigue recovery faster and moving to the next hour etc. Intensifying a battle increasing the number of turns and activity during the hour brought about huge Fatigue gains at times which really began to show when the need arose to bring in reserves once the forward troops became exhausted.

I really like the concept and we found it worked but it is one of those rules which is better left Optional because it is one of those rules which many times becomes forgotten about if not used and pushed, a little like weather rules, smoke, fatigue and so on.

p.s. If anyone wants a copy of it send me an email – sdev2749@bigpond.net.au

Regards,
Shane

Personal logo Khazarmac Supporting Member of TMP15 Jan 2009 12:51 a.m. PST

Thanks to all for the info. I had never heard of this idea. Whilst starting gaming in the early 70s, I had drifted out of it in the 80s so all of this passed me by.

Cheers

Derek H15 Jan 2009 2:11 a.m. PST

George's VLB rules only worked when George was there to make them work.

The VLB concept can work just fine without George. You just need a referee or two friendly and cooperative players.

Personal logo Martin Rapier Supporting Member of TMP15 Jan 2009 2:16 a.m. PST

VLB works fine, but it works much better in umpire moderated games like Science vs Pluck, It is harder to pull off in traditional head-head games but Phil Barkers 'Damn Battleships Again' makes a brave attempt.

Any situation where you have lengthy decision-action cycles interspersed with periods of intense activity are suitable for this method.

Grizwald Inactive Member15 Jan 2009 2:21 a.m. PST

Various versions of the rules (including GWJ's "Blue Book") can be found in the Files section of the Yahoo group:

link

"I believe it was in Wargames Developments' magazine "The Nugget""

No, the rules were never published in "The Nugget". Though there were a number of articles discussing the variable length bound concept way back in some early issues.

The only really workable implementation of the VLB that I ever found (and actually played successfully – without GWJ!) is the two sets of rules (Napoleonic, ACW) by Knight and Dennis (now OOP).

WKeyser15 Jan 2009 3:32 a.m. PST

Like most Napoleonic gamers I have heard and been fascinated by the concept. I think it could be made to work but it seems to me that the scale of the game must be really small.

I also find it amusing that so many games profess to be variable length bounds without really understanding what Georges concept was. Shane's description is one, the idea of variable phases in a turn just does not seem to be what the concept was about. Go to the Yahoo group and browse around in the files section, there is a gold mine of information there.

The idea is really intriguing and unlike Sam I think it would work, but not in the group design that is the yahoo group. Something like this needs one person with a specific perspective.

William

Maxshadow Supporting Member of TMP15 Jan 2009 4:46 a.m. PST

I'm wondering if turning the rules into a compupter program would help things move along more swiftly?

Personal logo Martin Rapier Supporting Member of TMP15 Jan 2009 4:48 a.m. PST

"it seems to me that the scale of the game must be really small. "

VLB works much better at an operational level where there is less fiddling around with tactical details. It is much more about directing large units to do stuff, which then they go off and do, until something happens. I've sometimes resolved 24+ hours of real time in a few minutes.

It doesn't work without a directive C3 system (orders or operations planning or something).

50 Dylan CDs and an Icepick Inactive Member15 Jan 2009 5:05 a.m. PST

What "works" is always subjective, when talking about game-play. For instance, I don't think Empire "works" as a game. Others do. But I generally don't hear anybody talking about a full game-length experience of Jeffries' VLB system that "worked."

[I'm wondering if turning the rules into a compupter program would help things move along more swiftly?]

Probably not, since the problems had more to do with the people, than with the mechanics:

1. As soon as the two armies get well engaged at multiple places along the front, there are so many Changes-of-Situation (COSs) being generated, that it becomes virtually impossible to sort them all out. The game's "bounds" get shorter and shorter, as we have to respond to a zillion different COSs. It becomes simply a game with a zillion minute-long turns.

2. Confusion mounts as the simultaneous movement crashes against the variable length of the bounds, and the result is seven or eight little games, each happening in various sectors of the board, each on its own clock. And since battles are messy by nature, some of those little battles will crash into others (like a cavalry charge breaking through somewhere), causing yet more consternation.

3. With so many COSs being generated, and the VLB system requiring real-time transmission of reports of them (and then, orders in response to them), a million little slips of paper are flying around, each with the futile purpose of "telling" me something I can plainly see for myself, but which I can't react to, until I get this little slip of paper telling me about it. As a result, one loses track of what he does and doesn't "know" in the game-world. Most gamers simply improvise and do what they want to do, each turn, anyway, rationalizing it as they go.


Of these three problems, I think #1 is the most fundamental. VLB never got rid of the concept of the Game Turn. It was never revolutionary in the first place. It just tried to skip over certain game turns in certain parts of the table. But the mechanisms it used for that skipping-over were flawed and based upon false premises of a tidy game and an omniscient perspective.

Defiant Inactive Member15 Jan 2009 5:19 a.m. PST

Ohh Really William ?

Let me see if I get this right…

George Jeffery's "Variable Bound Method" is defined as a concept where there are no time constraints, no scale nor not distance related hindrances as in your typical rules systems, much like your own. Players simply Order their troops to commit to a set of Orders then time is telescoped or expanded or contracted to arrive at each action point as it occurs. The action is then carried through via the rules system used until it's conclusion with all other movement, orders and actions suspended until the exact time is appropriately deemed to arrive for reaction, new orders and counter orders to be legally carried out.

Commanders (players) become committed to carrying out actions, reactions and combat during the appropriate allotted time scale and all formations not involved cannot change orders or react until a certain amount of time is deemed to have passed based on the allotted time factor given to the current action.

Players need to be mindful of this concept in that as time is used to proceed from one circumstance to another, no reactions may be carried out until it is deemed that reactions, changes in orders can be carried out and the allotted amount of time passed by both sides. If it takes say 30 minutes to react to a situation or changing situation then all outside troops must continue to carry out their former orders until this 30 minutes have elapsed.

Taking objectives means a great deal because players must measure the distance to their objectives and in relation to each other calculate the time it takes for a new circumstance to begin and be able to be reacted to. When this reaction point is reached the combats etc are carried out and players can calculate the time factor it takes to react, initiate new or changed orders but during this time must continue to carry out previous orders and adhere to them until this overlapping time has passed.

Do I get it now ???


My reason for my previous post is because I use the very same process but in a different way, you would not know this because you do not understand my own rules nor have you ever seen them. My concept of Hourly Intensity is that players commit to orders carried out over time which locks them into carrying out those orders until the situation changes. The Hourly Intensity table works towards this by allowing players the ability to commit heavily to a set of orders within the hour focusing on the objectives so much that other opportunities or changing situations might slip on by. On the other hand a player who wishes to bring about a lull in the battle can also attempt to do so by slowing the battle down by cutting down the amount of turns in the hour, speeding up time in order to progress to a new hour and change orders as quickly as possible. He may then in the next hour try to intensify the hour himself on changing his plans and committing to a new situation etc.

Also, my rules are set out in Simultaneous Movement where both sides are committed to carrying out the turns together in a set programme and order. We, Telescope time where possible and quicken the pace up where possible and both sides are in agreement. This speeds up time also and the amount of time telescoped to come to action where it is seen that an action will take place. No other changes of orders are allowed during this time and players must commit to the action at the end of the telescoped time period and cannot make changes until the agreed point in time is reached.

Also, my Command and Control rules are second to none that I have ever seen and take into account elapsed time, reaction to enemy units, changing situations and abilities of commanders to adapt, change and react to changing situations once the amount of time has elapsed that it might take in order to change or adapt to a new situation. Troops are committed to previous orders and carry them out until the correct time has elapsed in order for them to react and carry out a change in plan. I have provision for commanders to react personally to a changing situation that they might see and react accordingly, they have set parameters they can act on depending on ability, level of command and capability based on time and delayed reaction times.

Reaction is a major part of my system and is what causes the most confusion, many players cannot grasp the concept of action and reaction because it involves calculating time, distance and movement allowances. I find I have to be present and oversea every action and umpire many decisions when it comes to determining when a formation can react or change its orders to a changing situation. But when the players can see the outcome and how it evolves I get the typical, "ahhhhh, now I understand, I like that", response.

Yes, my rules have turns, from 2 to 6 but they are not exactly bound to a set amount of time. The Hourly Intensity table itself determines the amount of time that is playable within that hour. If only two turns are to be gamed them not much happens in that turn but at the other end of the scale if 6 turns are decided then a great deal happens in that hour. Yes my explanation is not what George means but that is only part of the picture, the players determine how much time is spent on coming to a point where a combat is determined and where they think the telescoping of time should end. They calculate the time elapsed upon arriving at a situation and then commit to the action, all other time progression is halted at this point and the tactical situation carried out until such a point where it is deemed that commanders may react to the changing situation. My system is bound to hours, yes I know but a commander who sees a changing situation with his command may commit his forces to the changing situation when that point has arrived. This does NOT have to be at the beginning of an Hourly turn, it is after the time factor is calculated to have elapsed then he can act as desired through the chain of command and not before.

I feel this is pretty much what George is talking about and it is something my group has been using for the last two decades now. Inncedentilly, who do you think has been cutting and pasting George's work up here on TMP over the past year or two? check out a few other threads mate, it was me…I am very versed in his ideas and concepts. I admire his work and his understanding of all things Napoleonic. I deeply regret that he has passed from this world and I never got to know him or at least speak with him.

so William, please keep your amusement to yourself, not everyone here is as naive as you might think…

Shane

Defiant Inactive Member15 Jan 2009 5:21 a.m. PST

I think it could be made to work but it seems to me that the scale of the game must be really small.

wrong, it can be used in multi corps battles easily when you understand how to do it.

WKeyser15 Jan 2009 6:13 a.m. PST

Shane for some one who has so much to say you really get upset when some one does not agree with you.

William

WKeyser15 Jan 2009 6:22 a.m. PST

Shane the idea of variable length bound as I understand it is just as Sam discribes, that is the concept of the Change of Situation event. I agree with Sam that it stumbles and falls apart if there are too many units on the table, but I see the idea working on a table with a brigade against brigade.

And just to make you feel good yes I am sure your command and control rules are second to none!!!!!!!

William

von Winterfeldt15 Jan 2009 6:32 a.m. PST

George Jeffrey's concepts were quite revolutionary in his time and I think he was one of the very few rule writers who had more than an average idea about Napoleonic Warfare in contrast of so many others.

Grizwald Inactive Member15 Jan 2009 7:00 a.m. PST

"1. As soon as the two armies get well engaged at multiple places along the front, there are so many Changes-of-Situation (COSs) being generated, that it becomes virtually impossible to sort them all out. The game's "bounds" get shorter and shorter, as we have to respond to a zillion different COSs. It becomes simply a game with a zillion minute-long turns."

This was always the problem that GWJ had when trying to explain VLB to his American contacts. They seemed unable to get their heads around the idea that by ordering LARGE formations to things (i.e. divisions or whole corps rather than every single battalion) you reduce the number of COSs to a manageable level. Any VLB game with more than half a dozen active COSs is missing the point. The principle was always resolve a COS at the highest possible level. Sadly, GWJ never managed to get this concept across to Ned and others and "Code Napoleon" languished and effectively died. I have played CN and seen it work (and without GWJ in the room!). I have also played the Knight and Dennis rules which as I said above are the only really workable set of VLB rules ever published. These were in fact a very cut down and streamlined version of the monster that was CN.

50 Dylan CDs and an Icepick Inactive Member15 Jan 2009 7:11 a.m. PST

[They seemed unable to get their heads around the idea that by ordering LARGE formations to things (i.e. divisions or whole corps rather than every single battalion) you reduce the number of COSs to a manageable level.]

But the only way to do that is to get rid of smaller formations altogether. Just move one huge block of figures several feet across and call it "a corps."

Because according to VLB, if a UNIT encounters a COS, it reports to its next-higher-level commander, who then can change its orders. If he changes its orders, he then creates a COS for his next-highest-level commander, and so on.

So not only was it inevitable that anything one unit did, created a half-dozen COSs… But also gamers have to move the individual units on the table not whole corps. It's the UNITS that move, shoot, and get into trouble, and thus generate all the COSs. So individual units are still central to the game system, and thus make the confusion inevitable.

I was in a group that tried for more than a year to make VLB work. We played (sort of) the Knight & Dennis rules. We tried all sorts of home-brewed variations on the original Jeffries design, and just could never get anything to work well or quickly. After a year of bashing our heads against that wall we realized that "traditional" games with fixed turns were, in fact, a much better concept, and we were all grateful to get back to them.

It's been a quarter century. If VLB worked, then somebody would have figured it out by now.

Personal logo Martin Rapier Supporting Member of TMP15 Jan 2009 7:16 a.m. PST

Yes, you need to keep the number of 'things' to a manageable number, usual span of control stuff 3-7 things. It is irrelevant whether these are battalions or corps, but if you try and resolve an army size engagement using battalions as your 'thing', you are doomed to frustration.

Grizwald Inactive Member15 Jan 2009 7:36 a.m. PST

"But the only way to do that is to get rid of smaller formations altogether. Just move one huge block of figures several feet across and call it "a corps."

Because according to VLB, if a UNIT encounters a COS, it reports to its next-higher-level commander, who then can change its orders."

And that precisely illustrates the problem that our American friends seem to have with VLB. No, it is not a UNIT that encounters a COS, it is a force (of unspecified size) that encounters a threat. I quote from the Knight & Dennis rules:

"A threat is defined as any enemy movement which, if continued, would cause their force to come into contact with, or within range of, your own force, even if this would need further changes of direction, e.g. a flank threat. A threat is also caused by enemy opening fire on your force.

A Commander can take the following actions in reponse to a threat:
- At Brigade, take defensive action, e.g. halt, change formation, open fire etc. NOTE: Brigade commanders are not permitted to withdraw without orders from division. They may only act in self-defence in their present position.
- At Division or above, write new orders.
- Send a message to your immediate superior.
- Move your commander figure.

NOTE: What constitutes a Change of Situation for one force must also cause one for all the superiors up the command chain from that force. It follows, therefore, that ANY COS is one for the Army Commander – when and if he finds out about it.

Normally though, A COS can be responded to satisfactorily by the next command level up. Thus a divisional commander who has a threatened brigade might counter the threat by ordering another brigade to assist the threatened one without there being any need for corps level response. Players should not feel that they have to respond to every COS" (my emphasis).

To take an example my division is advancing against Shane's division. When they get to musket range, Shane's division opens fire on mine. Now you could argue that every battalion in my division has a new threat (they've been fired upon), but think about it for a second. He fired all his troops within range at all the troops in my divison (well the battalions in the first line anyway). So the threat is to my division commander. Yes the junior commanders are all reacting to the threat as well but the net effect is that all the brigade commanders report to the division commander that they have come under fire. (They probably wouldn't need to send a message or anything as the clouds of smoke would tell him.) Now what will the divisional commander do? He'll probably send a message to his boss and push on into the attack (after all he is attacking so expected to be countered at some point) and thus the game moves to a tactical engagement. In the Knight & Dennis rules tactical engagements are resolved at the brigade level. The corps commander will not have a COS until the message from division arrives.

See? ONE COS not one for every battalion in the division …

Defiant Inactive Member15 Jan 2009 7:38 a.m. PST

>>>>>Shane for some one who has so much to say you really get upset when some one does not agree with you.<<<<<

This has got nothing to do with it, my anger was as a result of your veiled snide comment :

>>>>>I also find it amusing that so many games profess to be variable length bounds without really understanding what Georges concept was. Shane's description is one.<<<<<

It was uncalled for and unprovoked. It is a simple case of someone who does not like it when another is vocal and feels strongly about his words, and likes to speak out. It seems to rattle you somewhat for god knows what reason? Some people feel threatened by those who voice out and speak their mind or have alot to say, do you feel threatened?


p.s. judging by the time it took you to respond to my reply you knew your words would provoke a response and a negative one at that. And yes, I admit I returned to check for your response also.

Do yourself a favour and avoid talking to me if you cannot be civil. Lets drop it, I do not wish to derail such an important and interesting thread.

Defiant Inactive Member15 Jan 2009 7:41 a.m. PST

well put Mike,

This is exactly what happens in our games.

50 Dylan CDs and an Icepick Inactive Member15 Jan 2009 8:03 a.m. PST

Mike -

Respectfully… I think you're not seeing the problem. When does a "Force" encounter a threat?

When any of its UNITS encounters a threat.

Otherwise, how else do you determine what a "threat" is?

It always comes down to the behavior of individual units.


>>Shane's division opens fire on mine. Now you could argue that every battalion in my division has a new threat (they've been fired upon), but think about it for a second. He fired all his troops within range at all the troops in my divison (well the battalions in the first line anyway). So the threat is to my division commander.<<

And here again, I think, is the crucial flaw in the whole VLB concept: it assumes a nice, tidy game.

In truth, some units from one of your divisions advanced upon Shane's, along with some units from another division, two of which also contacted three units from my division, plus the corps reserve cavalry.

Shane opens fire: i.e., *some* of his units fire on *some* of your units from *one* of the forces currently in contact with *one* of our forces…

Your division commander now has a COS. Does that COS enable him to change the orders of only those units that Shane fired upon? Or to change the orders of his whole division, some of which is also in contact with two other enemy forces, who haven't fired on him yet?

I could go on, but surely you see the point. Wargames are messy. Within minutes everybody is doing something to everybody else in some complex and unexpected way. Jeffries always assumed a nice, tidy, linear sequence of events that never looked like any wargame I've ever seen.

Grizwald Inactive Member15 Jan 2009 8:06 a.m. PST

"well put Mike,

This is exactly what happens in our games."

Except that I suspect that your rules are a lot longer than the 13 pages of Knight & Dennis rules!!

Defiant Inactive Member15 Jan 2009 8:16 a.m. PST

Gouvion,

I agree with you in the respect that Napoleonic war games are very messy, it is the old, action causes reaction aspect that does this.

Response and counter response causes most people to become confused at times, including me. We got round this by following a rigid guideline with regards to response and counter response by setting out clear rules for it. Each Order type given to a command creates its own set of parameters including Activation ranges and so on, we used the Brigade as the common denominator. Even though our system works with individual Btlns the Brigade becomes the base command formation, if part of a Brigade becomes activated by enemy actions it is triggered to respond using a set range guide.

If this brigade then causes another enemy brigade to become activated then it becomes triggered to react and so on. I did this to depict how actions which start at one part of the field can become "general" over time and cause a bogging down of the battle, it might become intensified and bloody and can spread across the front.

Thus a COS that starts small turns into a monster which cannot be stopped, this is where VLB fails in the end. This is why we kept the "turns" in the end and went for Hourly Intensity as well. We still telescope time and calculate distance and correlate it with a version of VLB but actions do tend to become general for the most part half way through the battle and VLB gets lost in the mire.

So we tend to see our version of VLB as a kind of battle opener instead which sets the scene for the main event, kind of like choreography.

Regards,
Shane

Defiant Inactive Member15 Jan 2009 8:18 a.m. PST

Mike,

I will not deny that, as you know, I went for simulation and complex detail, our version of VLB is just part of it.

Shane

Grizwald Inactive Member15 Jan 2009 8:21 a.m. PST

"Shane opens fire: i.e., *some* of his units fire on *some* of your units from *one* of the forces currently in contact with *one* of our forces…"

Yes, still one COS. I was going to say "some" in my example but thought it might confuse …

"Your division commander now has a COS. Does that COS enable him to change the orders of only those units that Shane fired upon? Or to change the orders of his whole division,"

The division commander can issue orders to any force under his command.

"some of which is also in contact with two other enemy forces, who haven't fired on him yet?"

What do you mean by "in contact"? Do these other forces consitute a threat to his division if they haven't fired yet?

"I could go on, but surely you see the point. "

No, not really.

50 Dylan CDs and an Icepick Inactive Member15 Jan 2009 10:01 a.m. PST

["I could go on, but surely you see the point. "

No, not really.]


If a Force commander has a dozen units, and several of them are closely engaged with the enemy, then he will be generating COSs every single turn, because *something* new is always happening: somebody charges, somebody breaks, somebody changes formation, somebody shoots, somebody brought up reinforcements, somebody turned your flank….

The game is inevitably driven by the actions and reactions of individual units.

And because some sort of change is occurring every turn (whether you call it an "increment" or a "minute," or whatever….) then the game is still turn-driven.

As Shane says, you might be able to use VLB to speed up that initial period of the game and determine where the first opposing contacts are taking place (although I've never seen gamers who delay that, anyway; pretty much everybody jumps off the start-line on turn one, especially in convention games.)

But once the Fit hits the Shan, VLB totally breaks down.

Grizwald Inactive Member15 Jan 2009 10:31 a.m. PST

"If a Force commander has a dozen units, and several of them are closely engaged with the enemy, then he will be generating COSs every single turn, because *something* new is always happening: somebody charges, somebody breaks, somebody changes formation, somebody shoots, somebody brought up reinforcements, somebody turned your flank…."

Depends what you mean by "turn". In a VLB game the end of the turn is indicated by the next "decision point" i.e. the next COS or the end of a tactical engagement. So no they won't be "generating COSs every single turn", since a COS marks the end of a "turn" (hence the phrase, funnily enough, "variable length bound").

As for your implied large number of COSs generated by all sorts of activity "something new is always happening", this is what C&C in a VLB game is all about. Whereas in a "normal" wargame each unit can "do it's own thing", in a VLB game a unit (battalion) can only do what it has been commanded to do and will continue to do so until either forced to stop by enemy action, or by receiving a change of orders. VLB was all about getting away from the "zippy little battalions" style of game. Units did NOT rush about all over the place acting on their own accord, they were acting under orders from senior commanders and were obliged to continue trying to fulfill those orders until prevented or those orders were changed.

See what I mean? I think it's such a leap in the mental processes that it takes people a while to get their head around the concept. Sadly, I am aware of gamers who never did get their head around it …

Grizwald Inactive Member15 Jan 2009 10:33 a.m. PST

"But once the Fit hits the Shan, VLB totally breaks down."

I have successfully played the first day of Gettysburg using the Knight and Dennis rules and no, VLB did not totally break down.

50 Dylan CDs and an Icepick Inactive Member15 Jan 2009 10:53 a.m. PST

[Depends what you mean by "turn". In a VLB game the end of the turn is indicated by the next "decision point" i.e. the next COS or the end of a tactical engagement. So no they won't be "generating COSs every single turn", since a COS marks the end of a "turn" (hence the phrase, funnily enough, "variable length bound").]

It's a lovely idea until you realize that you have to plot simultaneous movement, while a nearby enemy is doing the same thing. Thus there were movement rates (on a per-minute or per-increment basis) which became de-facto "turns." Because every time you revealed your movement to your enemy, and the two of you had to plot out the tricky collisions and near-misses of dozens of opposing units in close contact, it effectively became the slowest turn-based game any of us had ever played.

In fact, it became the *ultimate* "zippy little battalion" game, because the actions of each unit could potentially generate a COS, which then caused a "decision point" on the other side.

(…and we haven't even talked about things like trying to calculate the losses from artillery fire, by multiplying the gun's factor by the amount of time the target was under fire… And then trying to figure out when to adjudicate that, because four different target units were under the fire of this one battery for four different lengths of time, and two of them were under the fire of a different battery briefly, one beforehand, and the other afterwards…. Good God, what a mess.)

Struggling with VLB made me appreciate the good sense of a turn-based game. Creating an artificial and arbitrary "turn" imposes a logic and structure upon game-play. There's no doubt in my mind that this is why turn-based games remain the norm, and VLB has remained an amusing curiosity. The traditional turn-based structure (however one constructs it), is fundamentally much better.

[Sadly, I am aware of gamers who never did get their head around it …]

I am aware of them, too. They number approximately 99% of the gamers who tried !

Boo Hoo Inactive Member15 Jan 2009 11:39 a.m. PST

Creating an artificial and arbitrary "turn" imposes a logic and structure upon game-play.

And since most real battles do not have a logical and predictable structure, a game based on turns has to somehow deal with that so as not to feel artificial and arbitrary. grin There are many turn based games (the majority of wargame rules) that do a good job of this, but also many that do not. frown

There's no doubt in my mind that this is why turn-based games remain the norm

It's a WWII game, but you should find some WWII wargamers and give Crossfire a try. As near as I can tell, it's probably the most widely played game out there that has some elements of the "variable length bound".

I set up the VLB group for Ned and George a number of years ago, actually the year before George passed away (I've since handed it over to Ned). I must say this particular topic does a very good job of describing the concepts of the system, despite some of the disagreements.
--
Tim

Grizwald Inactive Member15 Jan 2009 12:21 p.m. PST

"It's a lovely idea until you realize that you have to plot simultaneous movement, while a nearby enemy is doing the same thing."

Er …no you don't. This is what is known as dialogue. You don't have to plot anything just tell your opponent what your formations are doing. And I don'tr mean every battalion. Battalions don't (often) operate in isolation. They are usually part of a brigade, which is part of a division, which is part of a corps …

So if Napoleon sends an order to d'Erlon to attack the British line, that's what you (as the French player) do. "Here is d'Erlon's CORPS and they attacking along this line." See? One action, not many. Always resolve at the highest level.

"Thus there were movement rates (on a per-minute or per-increment basis) which became de-facto "turns." Because every time you revealed your movement to your enemy, and the two of you had to plot out the tricky collisions and near-misses of dozens of opposing units in close contact, it effectively became the slowest turn-based game any of us had ever played."

That's where you're going wrong "dozens of opposing units". No. If it's a Peninsular War battle you're fighting then you have what, half a dozen divisions on each side? If it's Austerlitz you have a similar number of corps. Resolve the dialogue at the highest level. You don't need to get into the "nitty gritty" until the lower formations come within their reaction distance anyway.

"In fact, it became the *ultimate* "zippy little battalion" game, because the actions of each unit could potentially generate a COS, which then caused a "decision point" on the other side."

Just proving again that you fail to understand the concepts of VLB and "battle management" a la Jeffrey.

Granted, the one thing GWJ was hopeless at was explaining his concept on paper, so I can understand why the Americans struggled with it to some extent (we are talking pre-Internet here).

"…and we haven't even talked about things like trying to calculate the losses from artillery fire, by multiplying the gun's factor by the amount of time the target was under fire… And then trying to figure out when to adjudicate that, because four different target units were under the fire of this one battery for four different lengths of time, and two of them were under the fire of a different battery briefly, one beforehand, and the other afterwards…"

The K&D rules simplify this aspect by regarding the smallest time increment as 10 minutes. It was only CN that worked to the minute. Funnily enough, the VLB firing mechanism you describe is almost exactly similar to that used in von Reisswitz' Kriegsspiel although (IIRC) he used 2 minute increments. Actually, Kriegsspiel and VLB have a LOT in common and there has been quite a resurgence of interest in Kriegsspiel since Too Fat Lardies republished it last year …

GWJ used to say that when people struggled with the game breaking down into the "zippy little battalions" syndrome it was because they were trying to do exactly what Napoleonic generals DIDN'T do, that is micro-manage every battalion. He said that his system worked because when you tried to break the action down too far you were swamped in minutiae because that was what would hapopen if you tried to do it for real.

I also echo Ditto Bird's comments: Crossfire is almost (but not quite) VLB. It's a very popular game system …

50 Dylan CDs and an Icepick Inactive Member15 Jan 2009 12:29 p.m. PST

I've never liked Crossfire very much, although I do recognize the novelty of many of its ideas. For a very limited, small 1-on-1 game, it seems to work. But I've never seen it work well as a multiplayer game.


DittoBird: "And since most real battles do not have a logical and predictable structure, a game based on turns has to somehow deal with that so as not to feel artificial and arbitrary."

Snorbens: "his system worked because when you tried to break the action down too far you were swamped in minutiae because that was what would hapopen if you tried to do it for real."

Thankfully, I've never been a combatant on an actual Napoleonic battlefield. I am, however, interested in playing a fun wargame set during the Napoleonic period. And my preference would be for a system that works cleanly and well. I don't care too much which mechanisms are used… as long as they are clear and keep the game going smoothly. But if they fail on those counts, then it hardly matters how "realistic" their *intent* was.


Snorbens: "when people struggled with the game breaking down into the "zippy little battalions" syndrome it was because they were trying to do exactly what Napoleonic generals DIDN'T do, that is micro-manage every battalion."

Sure, but that Napoleonic general had aides, subordinates, and a large staff to take care of "moving" all those units and managing all those battalions. We don't have that. We control and move every unit. So I've never been impressed with the argument that a wargame player is supposed to only be doing what his historical counterpart was doing. It's impossible for that to be true, since a wargamer is in fact standing over a game table, seeing everything, and moving everything, himself. There's not much point in trying to tell me I can't see something or don't "know" something, or *shouldn't* be moving something… When I can obviously see, obviously know it, and HAVE to move it!


Snorben: "The K&D rules simplify this aspect by regarding the smallest time increment as 10 minutes. It was only CN that worked to the minute."

I know. But the K&D was intended for fighting entire army-sized battles. So 10-minute increment was as fiddly and tedious as a 1-minute increment was in a battalion game. Whether it broke down to 10-minute turns, or 1-minute turns, the game still broke down to turns.

Grizwald Inactive Member15 Jan 2009 12:36 p.m. PST

"I am, however, interested in playing a fun wargame set during the Napoleonic period. And my preference would be for a system that works cleanly and well. I don't care too much which mechanisms are used… as long as they are clear and keep the game going smoothly. But if they fail on those counts, then it hardly matters how "realistic" their *intent* was."

Couldn't agree more. Which is why I find it odd that you cannot grasp the clean simplicity of the VLB system. Gone are those tedious approach marches and endless shuffling forward of little lead men a few inches every turn, and games that have to finish before the decisive action. With VLB you can be d'Erlon and throw an entire corps at the British line and still have time for a pint in the pub afterwards!

"Sure, but that Napoleonic general had aides, subordinates, and a large staff to take care of "moving" all those units and managing all those battalions. We don't have that. We control and move every unit."

Which is exactly why VLB is designed to let you move your troops from start line to reactions distance in one "go".

"There's not much point in trying to tell me I can't see something or don't "know" something, or *shouldn't* be moving something… When I can obviously see, obviously know it, and HAVE to move it!"

Then how come so many games include rules to STOP you doing exactly that? We all know we can see too much and know too much, so the rules have to prevent us reacting to information the commander on the ground would not have. You do include rules for sending messages between commanders, don't you?

"K&D was intended for fighting entire army-sized battles. So 10-minute increment was as fiddly and tedious as a 1-minute increment was in a battalion game. Whether it broke down to 10-minute turns, or 1-minute turns, the game still broke down to turns."

Like I said before if that was happening when you played it you have failed to understand the concepts and mechanisms behind VLB. If the game breaks down into single increment turns (however long those ibcrements may be) you are doing it wrong. The most common failing is micro-management of each battalion rather than concentrating on commanding the higher level formations.

donlowry15 Jan 2009 12:41 p.m. PST

Fascinating discussion. I have heard vague references to VLB before, but never knew just how it was supposed to work. (I, too, was out of miniatures gaming during the '80s and '90s.)

Now I'm trying to think how I might borrow/bend the idea for a set of WWII rules I'm percolating in my head. What I'd like is a simple mechanism that would allow 1 side to react more quickly to changes of circumstances (COS) than the other. (The essence of "blitzkrieg.")

I now return you to your regularly scheduled arguments.

50 Dylan CDs and an Icepick Inactive Member15 Jan 2009 12:44 p.m. PST

[Which is exactly why VLB is designed to let you move your troops from start line to reactions distance in one "go"]

Right; and like Shane said, I can see it being a useful way to set up the opening introduction of a battle. But as soon as you get into close contact, EVERY move is a "reaction," and the game breaks down into little turns.


[Which is why I find it odd that you cannot grasp the clean simplicity of the VLB system]

I grasped it just fine on paper. I think everybody did.

But putting it into application resulted in the slowest, most confused attempts at games that I've ever seen (while sober), and no, we never finished any battles with it. (In fact, we never dug ourselves out of the Total System Breakdown once more than half a dozen opposing units had come into contact.)

We're just repeating ourselves now. I've said the same thing six times. So I'm going to drop it.

But like I said, it's been a quarter century since the VLB concept was introduced. If it was a good idea, and worked well, I think you'd see it in print, and selling. Instead, it is a footnote in wargaming history. I'm obviously not the only person who failed to grasp its "clean simplicity!"

Grizwald Inactive Member15 Jan 2009 12:54 p.m. PST

"In fact, we never dug ourselves out of the Total System Breakdown once more than half a dozen opposing units had come into contact."

There you are again. "more than half a dozen opposing units". Too many. With VLB you need to think BIG – divisions and corps not every fiddling little battalion …

When it comes down to it, yes, battalions are having COSs. Lots of them probably. But you as commander of the whole army are not interested in such small details. You are wielding the big formations against your opponent. So the only COSs that interest you are the ones that directly affect your ability to fulfill your own orders.

That's another thing. GWJ used to say that many wargamers think that their objective is "winning the battle" rather than "capturing Moscow". The opposing army is not your objective, it's just the other guy trying to prevent you reaching your objective.

Personal logo Cyrus the Great Supporting Member of TMP15 Jan 2009 1:15 p.m. PST

No, the rules were never published in "The Nugget". Though there were a number of articles discussing the variable length bound concept way back in some early issues.


The original post mentioned the VLB concept. "The Nugget" is where I remember first reading about the concept. I did not mean to imply a full set of rules would be found there. I mentioned "The Nugget" because some of their resources are on-line and perhaps, these early musings could be found there.

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6