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"What is the "Variable Length Bound"?" Topic


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le Grande Quartier General Supporting Member of TMP25 Aug 2012 7:56 a.m. PST

Can any give a good definition of this concept as it pertains to Napoleonic Wargaming?
R

AONeill25 Aug 2012 8:00 a.m. PST

It's a bound which will end at a given and unpredictable event.
Say you have a mechanic which involves drawing cards for orders.
In the pack will be a "bound ends" card.

miniMo Supporting Member of TMP25 Aug 2012 8:02 a.m. PST

It can also be a telescoping amount of real time per game turn depending upon the type of action taking place.

Personal logo vtsaogames Supporting Member of TMP25 Aug 2012 8:02 a.m. PST

My take: units move and combat is resolved in varying lengths of time. The turn (bound) is stopped only when some event event occurs that would come to the attention of the commanding officer(s) occurs, a time when a decision must be made.

In my limited experience, this requires players on both sides to be very cooperative or you soon have 'pistols at 10 paces' (between the players over what is a decision point and what is not).

A great idea, hard to implement. I'm sure someone will be along shortly to disagree and tell you I'm full of poop.

AONeil, I don't consider card activated games (like TFL) variable-length bounds, mainly because they are easy to play and work well.

ratisbon25 Aug 2012 8:39 a.m. PST

The VLB was the brainchild of the late George Jeffrey, God rest his soul, circa 1980. He attempted to govern time with events.

George was never capable of putting his concepts in writing. I was involved in the Potomac Wargamers' play test based on his rambling notes and hours of audio tapes.

It never worked because it is impossible to measure a constant (time) with multiple variables (events) 30 years later, there are still a few who believe in them and continue to attempt to make them work.

Try Ned Zuparko for a more optimistic view of the concept.

Good luck.

Bob Coggins

Nathaniel25 Aug 2012 8:55 a.m. PST

From what I understand, the basic idea is that you track time from event to event and make changes in your game based on events rather than a turn structure.

It involves having movement rates, spotting, moments to react, etc., that bring up decision points for the players. Then you continue to simulate and update model positions until another event dings and you make a new decision.

In a way, you could argue that the only successful implementation of it is the reaction system by Two Hour Wargames, and even then, that system is within a larger traditional turn structure.

Allan Mountford Inactive Member25 Aug 2012 9:00 a.m. PST

This was my first exposure to VLB in 1982. It is taken from an article published in the UK magazine Miniature Wargames.

*********************

Variable-length Bound Wargaming by George Jeffrey

Paddy Griffith, having very kindly mentioned my name in the very first edition of Miniature Wargames and having suggested that my work with new rules concepts is interesting, I thought that readers of the magazine might like to know what those ideas, and the rules they led to, are all about.
The first thing I ought to do is state that, like Paddy, I think that wargaming is not just about moving metal soldiers about on the kitchen table. There are many facets to the hobby, however I think that they all contain certain basic assumptions, which do not change with the medium used to 'model' the events of war. Certainly the most common and perhaps the easiest medium to work with is the 'counter' system. Whether that counter is metal (as in lead soldiers) or card (as in boardgames) is irrelevant. Both serve the same purpose, in that they show the 'situation' at given points during the course of the game.
There are, of course, other ways of wargaming. Paddy mentioned the Committee Game, in which several players (from what I saw of it at a Wargames Developments Conference) attempt to stab one another in the back or, at best, pass the buck for bad results, to everyone but themselves. (All in good fun of course). In this sort of game, the medium used is mental picturing. The players are fed information from an umpire, and have to make decisions based on assumptions rather than visible positions of troops. Needless to say, neither the information they receive nor the assumptions they make are ever as clear-cut as when there are figures or counters before their eyes to show the situation in its true light.

Common Basics – The Command Situation
What I consider to be the common basis of all types of wargaming is that they revolve around the Command Situation. Indeed, the purpose of the game is to produce command situations for the players to react and respond to. In this way the player is put in the 'hot seat', and his decisions are programmed into the game, change its course, and cause new command situations to occur
The first question we must ask ourselves as I see it is 'what is a command situation?' In my view, a command situation is a situation in war (on or off the battlefield) that changes the military situation of a commander (or more than one commander). In essence, therefore, our games should move along, not from time point by pre-game arbitrary decision, but from one change of situation to the next to occur. At each such change of situation, the player whose commander is involved should be faced with the need to make a decision, (even if that decision is to do nothing).
The important thing about command situations occurring because things have changed is that, until they change, the commander's response to the previous situation has no need to change. For example, if an infantry commander suddenly finds hostile cavalry appearing round a wood some distance to his flank, and decides to form square (and makes it) so that the cavalry halt some 200 yards from his force, there is no need for that commander to make any new decision until that situation changes. This may occur if the hostile cavalry start moving towards him again, when he may wish to open fire or, if the enemy cavalry start to move away, then he might judge it safe to re-form line. However, what is important to us is that – so long as the cavalry stayed where they were – the infantry commander would not change his decision to be in square, even if the hostile cavalry remained in position for an hour.
Where I think the miniatures game, and its derivative the boardgame, has gone wrong is in the way in which it has allowed lime to dictate activity. What I mean by this is that it doesn't matter if what the troops are doing changes the command situation or not, the game is stopped regularly for updating (i.e. re-positioning of models at a new game time point). What happens under this system is that the players spend their time doing the boring mechanics of war (100 yard movements, short-duration casualty assessments) rather than making command decisions. Because the time periods allowed for turns is short in the miniatures game, the rules cannot hope to allow for large-scale battles to be fought – because that would (realistically) require hours of game time. (Waterloo, for example, would take 240 2-minute turns – and who amongst us has that sort of time?). Alternatively, using boardgame hourly turns (or half-hourly turns) we simply have to come to terms with the unreality of not being able to react to events until long after they have occurred just because they happened during the turn. Thus, the 20-minute attack by the Imperial Guard at Waterloo would be over within the middle of a turn – except that we prevent the British from firing, or the French from continuing their advance, until the end of the turn (be it 30 minutes or an hour).
Battles are not fought like that. Indeed, unlike the wargamer, who can tell the observer exactly how many minutes he and his troops have been in action, commanders at all levels at Waterloo could not agree on the time at which what we consider significant events occured. This is because commanders at all levels on the battlefield are concerned with what is happening – and how they will react to it – and not with how long it takes or when on the clock it occurs. The infantry commander faced with the appearing hostile cavalry doesn't look at his watch to find out what time it is. He couldn't care less! He assesses the situation, makes a decision, and issues orders as fast as he can.
If our games are to truly represent battles then our playing procedure must reproduce the way that battles work. That is, they must be able to carry the action from one change of situation to the next – regardless of the time period between them – quickly and accurately, so that the only time we have to stop the game and update the position of the forces is when one of the players has to make a decision for one or more of his commanders In this way we will be able to deal properly with time, using it to calculate how long each period between changes of situation is, but not allowing it to slow down the progress of the action, rather than interrupting the flow of the acfion every few minutes. But how to achieve this?
In fact, it is quite easy. It requires a new approach to the way we play the game. However, the actual change is more psychological than mechanical, and is quickly picked up by even the newest gamer (indeed they usually have an easier time since they have nothing to unlearn). What we do is simply tell one another what our forces are doing, and, by comparing their conflicting actions, determine when the next change of situation will occur. Having done that, we calculate how long (in game time terms) it would take to reach that point from the time of occurrence of the previous change of situation, and that time becomes the length of that turn. Knowing the turn's length, we then re-position the forces and calculate fire effects up to that game time point. This verbal exchange of information about the activities of the opposing forces I call the dialogue.

The initial reaction of most wargamers to the suggestion that they should tell their opponents what actions their troops are performing is usually one of concern that this will permit their opponent to thwart every move they make. This is not, however, what does happen. The dialogue is not a starting point for the game system, it is a product of it. It is because the game system is constructed as it is that it becomes possible to tell the other side what you are up to.
Going back to the principle that commanders only issue orders, and so change what the forces on the battlefield are doing, when their command situation changes, the first thing that we need to do is define what causes a change of situation. To do that we must understand the difference between command and control – and how they operate on the battlefield
Command and control are separate functions. An officer commands the force assigned to him by executing the tasks he has been ordered to execute with it. What the commander's force is used for on the battlefield is controlled by his immediate superior – who is the officer who gives the commander his orders. Every soldier in the army is under the command of the army commander. He cannot, himself, however, give individual orders to every single one of his many thousands of soldiers. What he does, therefore, is divide his army up amongst his immediate subordinates who, having the same problem, divide their parts of the army commander's army up amongst other officers subordinate to them, and so on down the line. This rather simplified explanation of military organisation shows us a very important fact. That is that a commander's force is not his, in effect, but part of his superior's force that he (the commander) has been given charge of as a 'stand in' for his superior, who cannot be everywhere at one time.
From this we can see that, in order to change what a force is doing, we must issue the necessary orders not from its commander – which is what is done under traditional systems – but from its controller, the immediate superior of the force's commander. Life, of course, is never that easy, and producing an authentic set of rules isn't just a matter of moving the decision level one step up the chain of command. We have to consider also the question of whether or not the officer concerned has the 'authority' to issue orders.
Basically, once an officer has received his 'operational orders' (i.e. those that tell him his task) from his superior and has issued his own orders to his subordinates in response, the only reason that he has for issuing any other orders is when his command situation changes. This can occur in only three different ways:
1. when he receives different orders from his immediate superior;
2. when his force (and therefore his ability to use it to achieve his assigned purpose) is directly threatened by hostile action;
3. when his force is indirectly threatened by hostile action.
There is no need for us to consider the case of new orders being received any further, other than to note that the issuing officer could only issue new orders if he was affected by a change of situation himself (i.e. nobody issues orders except as a result of a change of situation).
The question of whether or not a commander is directly or indirectly threatened requires us to define the threat involved. This, although it is (in this context) directed against the commander's ability to command or control his force or its parts, is the threat of physical assault on his troops This is because a commander can only exercise command and control (and therefore be in any position to execute his superior's orders) if he has a force to do it with.
There is a simple maxim of war in respect to a force's ability to threaten the enemy. That is that a force can only threaten what it is pointing at. Commanders deploy their forces to face in a given direction, and it is in that direction that they will threaten the enemy, because that is the direction in which they can act, either by moving against the enemy or by firing at him. Equally, a force cannot act on a front wider than its own – since it has no troops beyond its flanks to act with. Thus, we can define the 'Direct Threat Zone' of a body of troops as being the area lying to its front, bounded by lines extending from its flanks. (In effect, something like a canister template with a base the length of the force's front and parallel sides).
From this definition of a force's direct threat zone we can readily see that, in order to directly threaten a hostile force – and so place that force's commander in a direct threat change of situation – another force would have to contain at least part of the hostile force within its direct threat zone. Not just that. It would also have to perform an action that could be construed as initiating or increasing the threat. In my own rules (which are for Napoleonics, but the basics are universal), a force causes a direct threat on another, and therefore a change of situation for the other force's commander, when:
a) It first becomes visible – if it contains part of the other force within its direct threat zone at that point.
b) It is visible and:
1. Changes front so that it contalns part of the other force within its direct threat zone or
2. Changes formation so that it contains part of the other force within its direct threat zone, or
c) It is visible and contains part of the other force within its direct threat zone and it
1. Changes front or formation so that it contains more of the other force within its direct threat zone, or
2. Starts firing, or
3. Increases its rate of movement.
Commanders perceive enemy actions as posing one of two types of threat. The most serious is the direct threat posed by hostile actions almed specifically at their force. The other is the indirect threat posed by hostile actions that are not directed against their own force, but which could be. For example, an infantry commander faced with the sudden appearance of cavalry moving straight towards his force would perceive that as a direct threat. Faced with the sudden appearance of hostile cavalry moving on a line that would take them past his force, he would perceive an indirect threat since there would exist the possibility that the hostile force could change direction so that it did
cause a direct threat.
Just because his force is directly or indirectly threatened does not give a commander carte blanche to start dishing out any old orders. Far from it. He still remains under the control of his immediate superior, but because he is threatened can act in 'self-defence', in order to preserve his force Equally, since the degree of threat is less when he is indirectly threatened than it is when he is directly threatened, the range of options open to a commander is less – and strictly negative in the sense that he cannot use a 'possible' threat as excuse for rushing at the enemy. The way I have dealt with this in my own rules (again, for Napoleonics, but the principles are the same for any period) is to allow commanders (ie, players issuing orders from those commanders) to respond to the different changes of situation by issuing orders for:
a. Indirect Threats
1. Change front with up to 50% of force.
2. Change formation with up to whole force
3. Any combination of above (but only one change of front and change of formation may be combined).
b. Direct Threats
Operational Group Commanders
1. Change front with up to 50% of force.
2. Change formation with up to whole force.
3. Open fire
4. Move part or all of force towards directly threatening hostile force if within 200 yards.
5. Any combination of above (but only one change of front and change of formation may be combined)
Control Level or Above
1. Change front with up to whole force.
2. Change formation with up to whole force
3. Open fire.
4. Move part or all of force towards directly threatening hostile force regardless of distance.
5. Any combination of above (but only one change of front and change of formation may be combined).
Notes:
1. All commanders and controllers are restricted in their reaction to indirect threats to changing front with no more than half the force to depict the fact that neither would completely abandon the current purpose of the force (ie,to face in a particular direction).
2. Commanders are similarly restricted when responding to direct threats because they would not have the 'authority' to completely change the role allocated to their force (which involves it facing a particular direction) and which would occur if more than half the force was pointing in a different direction.
3. Control levels are permitted to change the direction of a whole subordinate force – because all they are doing is changing their own orders to the subordinate (which they have the right to do)
4. Commanders are restricted to 200 yards distance when taking positive action against even direct threats because they would not go too far from the ground that they were under orders to occupy. Control levels (since they gave the orders that commured the force to occupying its current ground) have the right to change those orders and send the force more than 200 yards from its present position.

Operational Group Commanders
The term 'Operational Group Commander' has a specific and important meaning. Battles are fought on two levels. There is the grand tactial engagement between the senior (divisional commanders and above in my own Napoleonic period) commanders on either side, and there is the tactical combat that results from grand tactical operations, and is fought out between the lower ranking generals (brigade commanders) and their subordinates.
The easiest way to understand the way the two levels of operation 'fit together' on the battlefield is to compare them to boardgames and miniatures games respectively. The grand tactical engagement is akin to the boardgame. Commanders at divisional level and above issue orders that commit whole brigades to action. These are general orders, and are normally written down (even in modern warfare, where the commander's radio operator 'keeps the log' of his messages to subordinates). To move their brigades like 'counters' in a boardgame, brigade commanders (in the Napoleonic period) employ grand tactical orders. These cause the units of their brigades to respond as if they were one large unit to the orders given by the brigade commander
The result of grand tactical operations is to bring opposing 'counters' adjacent to one another in a fight for possession of the 'hex' occupied by the defender. In battlefield terms, what this means is that grand tactical operations cause tactical engagements, fought for control of a limited area, to occur between contending brigades. These tactical engagements are not resolved by simply comparing strengths and allowing for chance (as in boardgames). They are resolved by the actions of the opposing commanders – as each reacts to attempts by the other to frustrate his achievement of his objective.
Tactical commanders (in the Napoleonic period this was brigade commanders) controlled their brigades in tactical engagements by using tactical orders, issued individually to their immediate subordin-ates and through them to their unit commanders, giving their subordinates different tasks within the small area of interest of the brigade. It is important to understand that tactical orders are a response mechanism', used to counteract stumbling blocks to the brigade's progress. If there are no stumbling blocks, and the brigade is not prevented from continuing under its current grand tactical orders (which allow its commander to keep better control of the brigade) then there is no need whatever for individual orders to be issued to units.
There are in fact four types of orders on the battlefield. We have dealt with three of them – general orders, grand tactical orders and tactical orders. The fourth type of order is the executive order, and this is the only type of order that actually gets the troops to do anything Executive orders are very brief, of the Right Turn', 'Quick March', etc, variety – but they have the vital function of getting the soldiers to act, without which the battle could not be fought. Thus, it is all very well for the unit commander to shout Form Square', but that order will not set his troops in motion. It is the executive orders that his company commanders, each knowing what to do, issue to 'Face Bight, Quick March, Right wheel, Halt, Face Right, etc, that actually cause the square to be formed. Normally, in wargaming, we may ignore the need to issue executive orders, taking the time they require for issue (and the execution of the phases of a movement that they deal with) as part of the overall time taken to complete a movement or manoeuvre However, we should allow for the need by the player to issue executive orders if he want his troops to fire, or charge, etc.
Let us, at this point, summarise the conclusions we have reached. These are:
1. Commanders do not see their battles as being run by the clock. They see them as a series of changes to their command situation to which they respond (even if their response is to do nothing)
2. Between a commander's responses to changes in his command situation he will not issue orders because there is nothing new to respond to. Thus, during the time period between changes of situation (or the duration of an unchanging command siatuation -it's the same thing) the action being performed by the troops (on both sides) will remain unchanged.
3. Command and control are separate functions, control acting to limit both the ability of commanders to respond to events, and the options available to them when they can respond.
So, if our game playing procedure is to reflect the way in which battles 'work' it should:
1. Allow the game action to flow uninterrupted from one change of situation to the next, no matter the amount of time between them or whether this is different from the time between any other successive changes of situation
2. Allow players only to issue orders in the game for commanders who are affected by a change of situation – and only when that change of situation occurs in the game
3. Allow players only to issue orders in response to changes of situation within the limited range of options applicable to real-life commanders.

This is the way in which my own playing procedure operates. Having listed the situations in which a change of situation occurs – and therefore the situations in which players are allowed to issue orders -we can simply use the dialogue to inform one another of what actions are taking place in order to locate the next change of situation point very quickly We can do this in the knowledge that our opponents cannot make ~improper use of the information we give them because they can only use commanders affected by our troops' actions to give orders. Thus, regardless of whether there is one minute or one hour between changes of situation, we are able to bring the game action foiward verbally by that amount of time in only a few seconds. Of course. this means that the turns (or bounds) in our games have differing lengths. But this is not a great problem at all.
One thing we do know is that, no matter its individual length, each turn in the game consists of a number of individual minutes. 'What we
have done with the 'rate' rules – ie, move rates, casualty infliction rates, obstacle crossing rates, close-quarter battle casualty infliaton rates, etc – is reduce them to 'rates per minute' (eg, if infantry can move 100 yards in 2 minutes in a traditional game system, they move at 40 yards per minute in Code Napoleon (draft title for my rules)
Our rates per minute are used in two ways. Initially, having discovered from the dialogue the point in the action being described at which a change of situation will occur, we can use our rates per minute to calculate how long the turn between this change of situation and the last is. For example, if a change of situation is caused by the arrival of one force at reaction distance of another, all we need to do is measure the distance that force has covered to get to reaction distance (from its 'starting point' at the end of the previous turn, when the previous change of situation occurred) and divide it by the relevant rate per minute. Thus, if the force had covered 850 yards, at a rate of 40 yards per minute, the length of the turn would be 850 40, or 211/4 minutes
Once we have discovered the length of an individual turn we simply use our rates per minute to bring all other actions up to date at the point at which the change of situation occurs by multiplying the rates at which other troops are moving or causing casualties by the number of minutes in the turn. Thus, if the turn is 21 minutes long as per the previous example, and the troops are inflicting 10 casualties per minute, the hostile force would lose 212 men during that turn. Or, if a part of our force is crossinig a bridge (say) at a rate of 20 men per minute. then 425 men would be over the bridge at the end of the turn Or, if our grand battery were inflicting casualties of 5 men per minute from extreme range on an enemy force, that force would have suffered 106 casualties during the turn (Of course, we don't like wasting' time, so we have constructed ready-reckoner tables to simplify the finding of the information we need)

I have noticed in more than one issue of Miniature Wargames the statement that players who want to fight large-scale actions need to develop different rules from those produced for the normal divisional level game. This is true enough if one refers only to the traditional method of constructing rules on the basis of 'standard-length turns'. (Obviously, since the player time' required to do calculations for a 60 minute turn and a 2 minute turn is about the same, trying to fight Waterloo or Austerlitz in 2 minute turns would take weeks). However, the statement is not true if we use systems based on the ideas I have outlined so far. This is because the system I have outlined here is based on how battles work – and they do not work any differently at different levels, or when different numbers of troops are involved
I am not suggesting that the VLB system does not cause larger battles to take longer to play than smaller ones They do, because there are more commanders around, and more commanders means more changes of situation for the players to deal with. However, the point in question is that different levels of command require different rules to reproduce them on the table – and this is not the case with the VLB. Currently, for example, there are groups in both the UK and USA playtesting my rules, and using them (exactly the same rules) for campaigns, major battles, small battles (division size) and skirmishes.
When however, I say that larger battles take longer to play using my system, I do not mean that they take the many hours that they do under traditional standard-length bound systems (at least when those systems are used properly and not twisted to suit their inabilities). Corps actions, for instance (about 30-40 battalions a side) lasting three or four hours, can be authentically concluded in some two hours of player time. Divisional battles – the 'norm' of wargaming in miniatures – take about an hour to play (if that), which is about all the command content that one can squeeze out of something that even Napoleon reckoned could only last an hour in action unsupported. The larger battles – with up to five corps d'armee per side (some 200 battalions, a cavalry corps and all the attendant artillery) and lasting six to 10 hours can take a bit longer to play – about four to six hours of player time. So how is it done?
The first thing that must be made clear is that no divergence from 'time-reality' is used. That is, there are no rules requiring the player to believe that every 2 minutes of action on the battlefield represents an hour or so 'for real'. If a piece of action would have taken 35 minutes on the battlefield, it takes 35 'game minutes' in the game. Equally, there is no one command level' rule, requiring that all decisions that could affect the game be taken at one level of command "and we'll just assume that everyone down the line would do what we wanted." In the Code Napoleon game the player makes all the decisions. (This is possible of course because when making a decision for a commander he is properly restricted in his options to the options available to that commander because of the control orders under which he is acting).
When they read that last statement, the normal reaction of newcomers to the system is to think that the game must be stopped every two seconds while players make decisions for low-level commanders. This is not the case for four reasons:
1. Changes of situation (the only time players are able to issue orders) do not occur every few seconds.
2. Changes of situation do not affect all commanders.
3. Even when a change of situation occurs it does not necessarily follow that a player will need (or want) to issue orders.
4. Changes of situation do not take any great time for players to determine the outcome.
In the main, because command and control have been separated in the rules, the impetus for forward motion from above (divisional generals and higher in the grand tactical engagement) and low-level commanders (ie, brigade commanders and below) only start issuing orders in reaction to hostile threats at close range.

The second common reaction of players new to the system is that there must be hundreds of things that could cause a change of situation for a commander. In fact, there are surprisingly few. A commander's situation can only be considered to have changed if:
1. He receives new control orders (which of course changes the basis of his perception of threats because they change his objectives)
2. His force is directly threatened by hostile action (and the limited events causing this we have already covered earlier in the article).
3. Part of his force becomes unavailable to him because it becomes shaken, broken or over-confident, in neither of which cases will it respond to his orders, and therefore automatically weakens his ability to achieve his objective.
4. His force is indirectly threatened by hostile actions (because of the potential for the indirect threat to become direct at a later stage) If we put the above into wargame terms, what we are saying is that
players can only issue orders for a commander if that commander
a. Is given new orders from his superior, or
b. Has part of his force contained within the direct threat zone of a hostile force and that force takes any of the actions previously listed, or
c. Doesn't have part of his force within the direct threat zone of a hostile force that performs any of the actions we previously listed and is, consequently, indirectly threatened by the hostile force, or
d. Part of his own force becomes shaken, broken or over-confident.
As to when the player may issue orders for a commander in any of the above situations – only at the game time point at which they first occur. Players may delay their responses – but must state that they are doing so, and indicate when during the action they will respond, at the game time point at which the change of situation occurs. (eg, a player can say "Well, OK your cavalry appear But I will not order squares to be formed from this brigade commander unless your cavalry keep moving past the wood." He cannot say, after failing to respond when the change of situation caused by the appearance of the cavalry occured "Oh, if I'd realised that they were going to keep coming I would have ordered squares to be formed when you first appeared.")
It is important that players do their responding to changes of situation at the game time points at which those changes of situation occur. It is all too easy for us, as wargamers, to 'backtrack' our decision points if the enemy do something we didn't expect It is impossible for real commanders, who must work always on the assumption that the enemy will keep doing what they are doing (e.g. advancing) and base their decisions on that fact. Thus, real commanders (and commanders in the VLB game) have to constantly think ahead of events and be prepared for the worst.
Once players get used to the fact that commanders (especially those on the other side) cannot react to everything that happens – and to nothing that they cannot 'see' of course, and that this means that their opponents are powerless to change what their forces are doing in the game just because they, as players, can see that it needs changing, they generally find the dialogue quite easy.

The Dialogue
The dialogue doesn't need to be a complete description of every little detail in the game action. For instance, since each time a change of situation occurs the position of the 'lead' is updated, the formations and facing direction of the various operational groups are obvious. Any change to either would cause a change of situation for someone, so there is no need to describe the formation or facing direction of an operational group except when it would change. Thus, if we are doing Waterloo, all that the player acting for d'Erlon's corns and its commanders has to do when his attack starts is tell the other player that he would see "these four infantry divisions, with those cavalry divisions on either flank, move forward at 1pm". The other player can see the formations of the infantry and cavalry divisions – he knows where they are heading because they are pointed in the direction they will move in – so his change of situation is, in effect "That lot that were standing still a minute ago are now on the move – obviously towards Picton's divisions, so what am I going to do about it?"

At this point we must step aside for a minute. Because the VLB procedure doesn't allow players to jump in with orders whenever they feel like it, we find that there is a great deal more pre-planning goes into the game, the dispositions and the orders before the battle starts. Faced with the prospect of not being able to react at all, or of being able to react but not quickly enough (it takes more than half a minute to get a division on the move in a VLB game) players have to do what real commanders have to do and plan ahead by assessing what the other guy will probably try to do and deploying their own forces to be in the right position to prevent the other side from getting away with it. This is not as difficult as it may sound. A battle occurs because one side (the attacker) want to go somewhere and the other (the defender) has blocked his path. So, both sides know generally what the other has to do to achieve his objective. It is from that that battle plans are drawn up (sometimes even before the first soldier takes up his position on the battlefield).
Anyway, returning to Waterloo, the player acting for the Netherlands army would not (assuming he had average common-sense) have to start issuing orders just because d'Erlon had started to advance. He would have known that the French weren't there just for the fun of it, that d'Erlon's dispositions didn't suggest an attack on Hougoumont (at least not by d'Erlon's troops) and would have deployed Picton's divisions to meet d'Erlon's attacks. So, when his opponent informed him that the French were on the move, the player acting for Wellington's side would in all likelihood not have bothered reacting. What is most likely is that – like Wellington – he would have wanted to wait and see how things developed once the troops came into contact before committing any other part of his force. (After all, he would look pretty foolish if he sent other divisions to help Picton only to find that Picton clobbered the French on his own and sent them packing).
Assuming that the Wellington player didn't respond by issuing orders, the next stage of the process is to find the point at which the first change of situation does occur. If we take it that the players followed the same procedures as the real commanders – the French divisions marching more or less straight at Picton's divisions, the next change of situation would more than likely occur when the French reach reaction test distance, took their reaction test, and became shaken. This they would do after traversing about 1,000 yards across the intervening terrain
Having dealt with all of this action in a few seconds of dialogue,the players would then go through the 'update' procedure by determining how long it took in game terms for d'Erlon's troops to reach reaction test distance and then moving or calculating the fire effect ot all other forces with movement or firing orders respectively for that period of time.
If a player misses something out of his part of the dialogue that would, or could, have caused a change of situation this can easily be dealt with. The first thing to be understood is that a player cannot be held to orders and responses given in reaction to changes of situation in which his information from his opponent was deficient. Thus, there is no "Now that you have decided to stay in line I'll tell you that you would have seen my cavalry sneaking round the side of the wood two minutes ago" stuff. If a player misses something out of his dialogue he re-starts that dialogue from the point at which the event would have occured, and then continues on from there.

Conclusion
This article has been an attempt to briefly explain a new system of playing wargames As is normal in such an article, where the writer is faced with finding the balance between passing on information and writing the whole set of rules, there may be several avenues that the reader wishes the writer had pursued, or pursued in greater detaii. If that is the case, and the editor is sufficiently convinced of it by reader response to request further information, I shall be happy to provide it. Even if this article has only made the reader stop and think about how he plays his games, and whether he gets out of them what he really wants out of them, then it will have served a purpose, since that is how developments are made in wargaming.

Personal logo Flashman14 Supporting Member of TMP25 Aug 2012 9:21 a.m. PST

Interesting … wordy but interesting …

Maxshadow Supporting Member of TMP25 Aug 2012 9:56 a.m. PST

Thanks Allan!

Steve6425 Aug 2012 9:56 a.m. PST

Its Much Much Much Much easier to actually do it, rather than try to explain it.

Or rather – its easy to define WHAT needs to be done, harder to explain HOW to do it.

This is not helped a great deal, by GJ's propensity in his writings to waffle on about things and head off in tangents. The man obviously loved to chat ;)

The underlying mechanisms of VLB are much simpler than the verbiage suggests.

Yes, there are writings, and rulesets published using this principal, and they do work. (Join the VLB yahoo group – there are tonnes of docs on there). They are just not recognisable as 'rules' in the traditional sense.

Where VLB really shines is in the way it allows command and control and information flow to be handled. This makes the VLB concept well worth pursuing.

99% of miniature wargame rules use familiar turn-based mechanics to resolve actions. If you read the VLB rulesets looking for analogies to familiar mechanics, you wont find them. This does not mean they are not 'rules' though.

The other issue with 'doing it' is the mathematical complexity this involves. Some people make the mistake of confusing maths with 'impossible', and then go on to declare that VLB 'cannot possibly work', as a game.

This is incorrect.

Original Kriegspiel is very close to VLB as is. Crossfire is another example of taking time out of the equation. Kriegspiel and VLB are somewhat ahead of their time as far as game designs go, at the expense of needing a heavy staffing overhead to properly run the game.

Replace staff with computer, and it is much closer to falling into place.

A lot of computer based Real Time Strategy games are greatly simplified VLB systems as well, so we know that the principal is do-able. Unfortunately, most of them assume a model of instant communication to and from the commander, which is a bit misleading in modelling the reality of command.

The proof of the pudding is to go into any military organisation, and have a play with their command simulator wargaming tools to see a practical application of VLB in action. Of course it works, and it has been all been done before.

All that is needed to do full on VLB in regular wargaming is for someone to come along on put a nice, slick, intuitive User Interface over the whole thing, and hide all the maths involved.

Again – easier to do than to try and explain it all. A good system will hide all the hard stuff, and you wont even know that you are playing VLB.

We are not far off now. Have some stuff working, just not ready for release yet. There is a guy working at CERN in Switzerland who has a lot of it working as well. There is good collaboration on this, and we are almost there.

It will certainly be all finished and polished up (and in public use) at Leipzig 2013.

Nathaniel25 Aug 2012 10:20 a.m. PST

Computer moderated rules are probably the way to best implement VLB, but if you keep the number of maneuver elements to a minimum, it can be done without a computer.

You also need to really, really define what events can can a change in orders or a new decision to be made. These need to be few and very stringent.

Steve6425 Aug 2012 11:18 a.m. PST

You also need to really, really define what events can can a change in orders or a new decision to be made

Bingo !

That, in a nutshell, is the whole heart of the question.

That – and the _elapsed time_ it takes for that information to be able to be affected.

The correct answer to that simple question is non-trivial in the extreme, since the commanders position in the line, and therefore their perspective on events … is infinitely variable.

Moving closer to the front, and attaching a commander to a sub-unit has a lot more influence on the battle than a simple +1 to their attack roll.

However – moving a commander means that any information currently in transit to the old position of the commander will be significantly delayed, if not lost altogether

Welding those 2 little problems into an easy-to-use solution is 90% of the job.

Welcome to my nightmare :)

For this to work well, the computer needs to be aware where every little element is on the tabletop. Keeping this data in sync with tabletop reality is a real issue that affects ease of use and accuracy. Working on that.

You cannot stop the player at the table from being able to see the obvious, but if all the allowable interactions of a commander with their troops have to go through a computer screen, then its easy to restrict options in real time. (ie – Just dont put the button on the screen if they have no reason yet to be able to perform that action.)

Everything else is just number crunching (very very quickly) what each element on the table experiences from one minute to the next. That includes movement, sighting, and taking losses from fire. That part is actually very simple.

Spreewaldgurken Inactive Member25 Aug 2012 12:17 p.m. PST
le Grande Quartier General Supporting Member of TMP25 Aug 2012 12:33 p.m. PST

Thanks all- Particular thanks to Allan (& George J)
Steve, keep at it man!
btw you know you are on the right track when you are creating the need for realistic behaviors by 'commanders'. Moving a commander (or a commander wanting to move) means keeping him (staying) visible as much as possible on the table (on the actual battlefield) or suffer the potential loss of availability to new info, does it not?

To my mind, this is why the continued development of computer guided Napoleonic rule systems will be so good, for in the end I feel that as much as can be possible a rule set should require one to think, issue orders, and 'physically' act like an actual Napoleonic commander, while units interact at the battalion level. It's just too complex a requirement without a computer…

Scott1507 Inactive Member25 Aug 2012 2:13 p.m. PST

In response to George's article above

While I think the explanation is perfectly valid for how the system works, I don't think the explanation gets the point of the VLB system across to people familiar with rules usually termed Fixed Length Bound (FLB) rules such as To the Sound of the Guns, Bruce Quarrie etc. I think the problem with VLB is not the system, but the mechanism of the explanation.

Please note that as there are no wargames jargon police, then you may need to interpret various points of view who may define the terms VLB and FLB slightly differently. I have seen some articles where the definition is exactly the opposite (i.e. rules like To the Sound of the Guns would be defined as a VLB rule set). In many ways the terms VLB and FLB may be misnomers.

Let me try an alternative method to explain the VLB concept which I think gets the fundamentals across. FYI I am using VLB with much the same intent as George above.

Please keep in the back of your mind that tens of thousands of military officers and wargamers have managed to understand the VLB concept over a period of more than two centuries. The fundamentals are not difficult. I think the problem lies in relating FLB to VLB that is the problem. VLB is after all the exact same principles which underlie the Prussian army's Kriegspiel rules. Which is then the same systems that were applied in the British, French and American armies "kriegspiel" rules.

Generally FLB rules require players to follow a strict sequence of phases in each bound in a specific order. However not every phase is applicable in every bound. For example "change orders" on turn one, or phases for shooting when everyone is still out of range, or testing flank march arrivals earlier than the first turn that they could arrive. Novice players often waste considerable time taking conscious effort in acknowledging each phase and that nothing needs to be done. However experienced players are able to recognise when these phases don't apply. They then simply ignore these phases and move to the next relevant phase.

What VLB achieves is to structure this recognition as the norm, not the exception, and fast tracks the game to the next relevant event. In some ways it cuts out the boring periods where nothing important happens. Like Napoleon waiting for the field of Waterloo to dry out.

In many FLB rules you cannot issue new orders in the "orders phase" until to can justify such change of orders. Usually by being able to demonstrate the casting representing a general can "see" the event. This is fundamentally the same ideas as the VLB "Change of Situation". In VLB instead of slowly and incrementally moving troops (over several turns) until a general can "see" there is a change in the situation to react to, the players reveal (i.e. by telling ach other) enough of their movement to determine when this event occurs. Having determined this point in the game (usually expressed in time) they then complete as many "FLB style" movement turns to get the game to that point. Note they effectively eliminate all the unnecessary FLB phases which don't apply. This period of time may be very short (e.g. 1 minute) such when cavalry counter-charge or squares are formed, or could be several hours (e.g. waiting for the reinforcements, or during the grad battery's bombardment).

To try express VLB and FLB in each others' terms, assuming that in the FLB rules the troops make moves which are representative of two minutes in real life in each turn, all other things being identical.
a) The VLB game the players determine that in 8 minutes will pass before that anything of relevance will happen. Ie they determine that (given their planned movements) in 8 minutes their troops will "see" something of relevance that they may (or may not) need to react to. Then both players move all units across the entire table the equivalent of 8 minutes of movement in accordance with their orders.
b) The FLB game Even if it is blatantly obvious that nothing of significance will happen for four turns (i.e. the exact same time interval of 8 minutes in the VLB game), each player, in turn, goes through the process of completing four (i.e. the two minute equivalent) turns until they arrive at exactly the same situation as the VLB game.

The net effect is identical; other than it took about four times longer to do the same things in the FLB game. In fact many experienced FLB players will implement VLB thinking in games by making a double or triple first move for the game to get the game going. Possibly even at one or more points during the game where neither can immediately affect the other.

So you may ask then does this really make any difference over the full game.

The answer is yes – The main benefit of VLB is allows a better means to simulate the passage of time in a game. In almost all FLB rule the duration of activity of each unit is not constant. So while the FLB bound is supposedly "fixed" in length, the actions each unit is capable of is not fixed to a uniform period of time. A typical spread would be that
- Cavalry charges are about 30 seconds long, given the actual distance covered
- Infantry moves are about the equivalent of two minutes of movement
- One turn of artillery fire would require about 15-30 minutes to achieve that effect.
- Troops in buildings can complete about one hour of work in preparing them for defence.
- Engineers can get 2-4 hours of bridging work done.
- The turn is defined as a passage of time for the game that does not correlate to any of these, say 30 minutes.

In VLB however, each unit has the identical period of time to every other unit.

For example
- In an VLB rule set Red force attacks Blue force in a village about 10 minutes movement away. So Red arrives when Blue have only completed about 10 minutes of preparation. Which may give Blue some benefit, but not as much if they had loop holed the stone walls. Assuming after an 10 minutes of engagement the Blue force are ousted and Red break through to block Blues' engineers from completing the bridge, across the river behind the village. Blues engineers needed their infantry to hold the village for three hours to complete the bridge and allow reinforcements across.
- In an FLB rule set Red force attacks Blue force in a village about 5 moves away. Red arrives when Blue have completed the fortification (which only requires two turns). Red breaks defeats Blue after two turns of melee only to be surrounded by Blue reinforcements which streamed across the bridge in turn 5 as the bridge only took four turns.

Now you may say this is ridiculous, but FLB rules have no option. Because of the FLB phases the games will only be between 8-12 turns long. So to create the illusion of a Napoleonic battle all events must be subsumed to fit within a 10 turn game. By the same token VLB must rethink the firing systems as there are no longer fixed turns to incrementally calculate the outcomes. It is a case of different not difficult systems to calculate the events of the battle.

One major problem with VLB and this is where it usually collapses – the players have to have a plan. FLB often allows players to make it up as they go along and be able to psychically transmit new plans across the table instantaneously. Which allows a number of pointless changes, which can be simply reversed later on? VLB makes changing orders much more difficult and less predictable. Firstly you don't know when you may be aware and hence allowed to make the changes and then the time to actually communicate these across several hundred metres and to a number of different subordinate commanders will take time. By the time that has been achieved the situation has changed and there is no longer any point in that change.

Regards
Scott Sutherland

ratisbon25 Aug 2012 2:59 p.m. PST

After all the words, there is still no set of rules.

Bob Coggins

NedZed25 Aug 2012 4:22 p.m. PST

Bob,

True, dat! :^)


Discussion on TMP about VLB will always repeat itself (rightfully so IMO as you point out there are no rules). noch ein Pils has already linked to a past TMP thread that pretty much covers it all, where all the counter-VLB examples and arguments are logically and cogently well laid out.

So, as always, I recommend that anyone who, after reading the existing TMP threads, remains for some reason still interested in the subject should come to:
link
and ask questions or read up on it there.That is where the inmates and true believers are housed, confined to that part of the web so as to prevent them from doing harm to themselves or others.


- Ned Zuparko

PS: To demonstrate just how pedantic a VLB Pollyanna can be, I will say that IMO there is only one "true" definition of what VLB is. George Jeffrey coined the term specifically and defined it for his own game; thus I maintain that it is therefore THE definition. Other sets may be said to resemble it, or give the same effect, or use it in a modified way, or even be better than VLB, but unless they use rates and bound ahead according to GWJ's definitional prescription, they should not be called "VLB".
(There, that rant should guarantee no one will ever want to visit the VLB site, now!) ;^)

1815Guy Supporting Member of TMP25 Aug 2012 7:09 p.m. PST

Actually, there is a set of rules. Or there was if you can track a set down.

VLB was indeed a George Jeffrey's development. And he published a very reasonable fast play Napoleonics set based on his VLB ideas – "Code Napoleon".

Have a look here:

link

The group talks about posthumous completion, but GJ did publish the set and they were a pretty good set of rukes. The files & Links sections in the group have some updated developments of the Jeffrey's rules.

nsolomon9925 Aug 2012 8:59 p.m. PST

I have a copy of Geoffrey's Rules kicking around in my library somewhere. Some really innovative thinking but ultimately difficult to actually play. You'd need a pretty enthusiastic group willing to commit some time and energy to move it forward.

Personal logo vtsaogames Supporting Member of TMP25 Aug 2012 9:50 p.m. PST

I have an ACW set of rules based on VLB, never played. Perhaps tomorrow I'll dig it up and post the name.

NedZed25 Aug 2012 10:40 p.m. PST

vtsaogames,

That is likely to be the ACW set by Peter Dennis and Cliff Knight, which, with a Napoleonic set, were the two modified VLB sets Peter produced after it was seen that George himself would not be able to do so.

– Ned

le Grande Quartier General Supporting Member of TMP26 Aug 2012 12:03 a.m. PST

I would like to pursue an understanding of this- I think it has some real value, and I am interested in exploring the application of this concept to computer moderated rules, and possibly as a framework for fast play campaign movement to set up battles in context rather than a vaccum when a full campaign is not practical to get underway…

Ben Waterhouse26 Aug 2012 2:10 a.m. PST

Aaaaaagh! was and is my considered response to this lunacy.

John D Salt26 Aug 2012 4:09 a.m. PST

Le Grand Quartier General wrote:


I would like to pursue an understanding of this- I think it has some real value, and I am interested in exploring the application of this concept to computer moderated rules

If you are looking at it from a computery point of view, life suddenly becomes much easier. Fixed-length bounds correspond to the "continuous" or "fixed time-increment" approach to computer simulation, and VLB corresponds to "discrete-event" simulation. The advantages of the discrete-event approach are that it saves processing cycles on turns where nothing changes, it eliminates disputes about simultaneity, and it allows arbitrary precision in your representation of time.

Although it's not much of a game, there is an exercise in Shepherd, Hartley, Heysman, Thorpe and Bathe's "Applied Operational Research" that includes a manually-operated discrete-event simulation of point defence weapons on a frigate defending itself against SSM attack.

The trick to making VLB workable is to find a neat mechanism to answer the question "what happens next?" In computer simulation, event notices for possible future happenings are kept in a calendar, and picked off and processed in time order (obviously, processing one event may cause other events to be scheduled or cancelled). This is the sort of precise high-speed drudgery to which computers are ideally suited -- doing it by hand becomes cumbersome quite quickly. But, inside computers, VLB has been working perfectly happily for over half a century.

All the best,

John.

Karsta Inactive Member26 Aug 2012 4:15 a.m. PST

A note about similarity of Kriegspiel and VLB: Kriegspiel is intended to be played double blind and umpired. IMO the main idea behind Jeffrey's VLB is to impose as far as possible the same limitations on command and control, but without the need for several tables and umpires.

Trajanus26 Aug 2012 5:26 a.m. PST

I think its important to get the terms of reference right.

In its intent VLB already exists and has done since the 1820's that's what Kriegspiel is.

However, there was never any need to introduce variation into the length of bounds or turns until such restrictive concepts were introduced in the first place!

VLB as George saw it is really retro engineering and moving matters to a table top game from a map one.

Any one who's umpired a Kriegspiel will tell you that the need for classifying key events and sequencing activity is as much part of the game as it is in VLB its just that the players should and generally do, remain unaware of it.

In a table top method its just in plain sight and that much more intrusive. As such it does require a lot more player input and co-operation to counter act the amount of knowledge it imparts as to each sides intentions.

If that is accepted its not really any more of a problem than other table based games with the inherent difficulties of a lack of hidden movement.

Spreewaldgurken Inactive Member26 Aug 2012 5:56 a.m. PST

I'm not even sure if computerizing it would make it work very well. Remember the computer versions of "Harpoon" that came out in the 1990s? Those were true VLB systems.

Every time your radar or sonar picked up something, the game sent an alert, and you had a chance to alter some orders or change some status. You could set the game time to zoom along very quickly, but once an alert happened, it automatically reset to Real Time : 1 second equals 1 second. (Then you'd react with some order, and reset the time to whatever you wanted again.)

At the beginning it was fine, but as soon as large numbers of units got into contact, it totally broke down. Alerts started coming in like a blizzard. There was no way to accelerate the game, because these alert boxes kept popping up, so it immediately bogged down to real time, which was tedious as hell. You've got one mission (say, an airstrike) that is still an hour from its target, but you have to sit there and watch it move along at 1:1 real time, because meanwhile somewhere else your submarine has made a sonar contact, or is firing a torpedo, etc.

It reminded me very much of VLB Napoleonics: allegedly a variable-length bound, but in reality an endless series of one-minute turns.

Spreewaldgurken Inactive Member26 Aug 2012 6:15 a.m. PST

The bottom line, I think, is that we're trying to use one person, or at most a handful of people, to simulate actions and decisions that were made by hundreds or even thousands of people.

The result is information overload. A real battle was chaotic and confusing enough, even for the thousands of people each doing their own jobs. When you try a literal simulation of all those decision processes, but with only a handful of people simultaneously playing all of those roles… it breaks down.

Major Bumsore26 Aug 2012 6:16 a.m. PST

It reminded me very much of VLB Napoleonics: allegedly a variable-length bound, but in reality an endless series of one-minute turns.

I can only imagine that you were playing a completely different game to me. My experience of VLB Napoleonics was definitely not an endless series of one-minute turns.

Major Bumsore26 Aug 2012 6:19 a.m. PST

When you try a literal simulation of all those decision processes, but with only a handful of people simultaneously playing all of those roles… it breaks down.

Well it would do if you tried to take account of everything at that level of detail, but GWJ's game was never intended to do that. He would throw entire divisions or even corps across the table and only worry about events that were significant at that level of command. Yes, there were rules for low level events but the intention was not to concern yourself with them most of the time.

Nathaniel26 Aug 2012 7:09 a.m. PST

Yes, it's very, very important to only have changes in situation that are important to the level of command you are modelling.

VLB's best usage though, is to have inspire internet discussions. People seem to be willing to have massive back and forths and get really heated about what is basically a turn structure.

I think Crossfire for WW2 gaming is probably a good example of the concept applied to some degree. The more detail, the closer you get to needing a game master to run things though-- or a computer to do the work.

Mobius26 Aug 2012 8:51 a.m. PST

At our game shop students from CalTech used it for games for about a year. In the end they gave up as it was deemed not understandable. The last quote I remember one had about the gist of the system was 'Just compress all your lead soldiers into a ball and roll them at each other. That with the bigger ball wins.'

Spreewaldgurken Inactive Member26 Aug 2012 9:15 a.m. PST

"Crossfire for WW2 gaming is probably a good example of the concept applied to some degree."

Crossfire is still an IGO-UGO game, though. It's just that the length of each side's "go" is variable. Lots of games have variations of that concept.

" GWJ's game was never intended to do that. He would throw entire divisions or even corps across the table and only worry about events that were significant at that level of command. Yes, there were rules for low level events but the intention was not to concern yourself with them most of the time."

That sort of gentlemen's understanding could be reinforced by a referee, with a group of very cooperative and indulgent players. The natural instinct of gamers is to want to control every little unit.

And it's perfectly understandable why: you painted every unit, you're moving every unit by hand. You're rolling for shooting and combat with each unit. Why shouldn't you be thinking in terms of every unit?

I've always thought that it was a bit Pollyana for a game designer to expect his players to resolve all game activities (movement, shooting, combat, rallying, etc.) per-unit… but then to tell them that the command system is supposed to be just "big-picture, high-level… you don't worry about small level details…." That's a contradiction that can only be enforced by a determined referee. It goes against not only the instincts of the players, but also the majority of the game systems.

Mobius26 Aug 2012 9:48 a.m. PST

I traded posts on the yahoo forum with George a few times about the rate of casualties vs. movement distance. My argument was that casualties mount through artillery and musket fire and this was always at the same rate per range.
So you could determine to the exact foot when a moving division under fire would reach its breaking point (Which I think was 40%). So you could calculate before you moved your division if it would make it to where you wanted it. I think this is what the Caltech boys discovered. The game outcome was predetermined, if you did the math, which they probably did.

forwardmarchstudios26 Aug 2012 10:46 a.m. PST

I've been thinking over ideas like this myself for the last year or two. I had no idea that it had been discussed since the 1980s, or even before. I don't see what would be so difficult in getting such a game to work. I mean, it doesn't sound all that different from Black Powder or FPGA, or Piquet with event horizon movement rules. The only real problem I see is that most wargames rules today are hyper-competitive and immature, owing to the GW/warhammer influence, and so having a game where you need to have a discourse is probably beyond the majority of players out there. The other problem I see is that, as stated here, the VLB rules would require quite a lot of insight and knowledge of the period in question.

You could fix the issue of the system breaking down in mass combat very simply- just create a matrix of commander ability, troop numbers, quality, terrain and distance and have that computation give you one number or modifier for a division-level action. Thats what brigade level games already do. It seems like you could do this at that level very easily with rules that are already out there.

Spreewaldgurken Inactive Member26 Aug 2012 10:58 a.m. PST

"You could fix the issue of the system breaking down in mass combat very simply…"

If it were simple, chances are that somebody would have done it by now.


"just create a matrix of commander ability, troop numbers, quality, terrain and distance and have that computation give you one number or modifier for a division-level action."

By all means, give it a whirl. God knows I've banged my head against it for enough years, and have given up.

Let's say your division has twelve units, two of which are partly in the forest, one of which is heavily engaged against elite enemy grenadiers, one of which is engaged against enemy militia, one of which is assaulting a town, two of which are badly disordered and falling back, and the rest are not engaged, but their flanks are threatened by nearby enemy cavalry and they need to form squares… Oh, and they're also intermixed with a couple units from a different division, which have fallen back through this division, and are now out of command, but very much in the midst of the same action…

I'd love to see the matrix that can break all of that down into a single number and give one clear result that applies for the whole shebang.

You will instantly become the Superhero of Wargame Design, and I will hang up my dice and follow you like an apostle in the wasteland.

* * *

And if the answer is: "Well, you shouldn't be concerned with small-level individual unit details like that…" then that sort of begs the question of what factors you were planning on calculating for the matrix. (If small-unit details don't matter, then why consider them for the calculation?)

That answer also requires some new magical way for players to move lots of units all at once, without paying attention to where they pick them up and put them down. Because without that, you're going to have to deal with the fact that players move units individually, into various and different situations, with individual enemy units, according to each unit's movement allowance and the terrain that that unit moves through. That's not "immaturity" or "GW-like super-competitiveness." That's just basic wargame physics.

forwardmarchstudios26 Aug 2012 11:27 a.m. PST

I'm working on it….

Major Bumsore26 Aug 2012 12:06 p.m. PST

Let's say your division has twelve units, two of which are partly in the forest, one of which is heavily engaged against elite enemy grenadiers, one of which is engaged against enemy militia, one of which is assaulting a town, two of which are badly disordered and falling back, and the rest are not engaged, but their flanks are threatened by nearby enemy cavalry and they need to form squares… Oh, and they're also intermixed with a couple units from a different division, which have fallen back through this division, and are now out of command, but very much in the midst of the same action…

That can be dealt with quite simply and without a massive matrix. Just calculate the results for each unit (in the same way that you calculate the results for each element in a game like DBA). The important things you need to know are:

- how long the whole conflict took to resolve (so that you can move the rest of the game forward by that much)
- the effect of the combat on each unit (casualties and status)

ratisbon26 Aug 2012 12:44 p.m. PST

Ned et al,

The Courier paid for George to attend and demo his game at Origins 83. He proved to be one of the best salesmen I ever heard and after 2 demos he had dozens of gamers trailing after and gathering around to hear his revealed truth. Had I not been managing the HMGS participation at Origins I most likely would have been one of them. As I recall Jim Getz was there and spoke with George.

I did however have an opportunity to view one of his demos with a well known desiger from A/H. Unlike designers of miniatures rules he was paid a salary to design games. For argument lets call him a professional. After 10 minutes or so he said there are no rules and it will never work and walked away.

Despite I answered the call to play-test George's rules along with some of the most experience miniatures gamers in the world. After a few hours Wally in his straight forward manner mercifully ended it with, what's going on, every unit is in a different time zone. And everyone agreed no one knew. As a punishment Wally gave me a 4" thick book of copies of the back and forth letters. George's response to questions was inevidably, "You don't understand!" Finally someone, I don't recall who and am too lazy to find the book with his letter, wrote "George you're brilliant but…" And that was that.

Except that wasn't that. For the last 30 years gamers have periodically sought the solution to making the VLB work, like knights errant seeking the Grail. And it's the same old stuff, as Robespierre was "too good for us," so too is the VLB. If were were only better gamers. If we only understood but, alas, we are not worthy.

Nevertheless, have fun. And for all of those who maintian the problems can be dealt with simply; put a set of rules in writing.

Bob Coggins

Major Bumsore26 Aug 2012 2:23 p.m. PST

Nevertheless, have fun. And for all of those who maintain the problems can be dealt with simply; put a set of rules in writing.

Cliff Knight and Peter Dennis: American Civil War rules for an army level wargame. Hard Cover Designs 1986
link

Mobius26 Aug 2012 3:37 p.m. PST

After a few hours Wally in his straight forward manner mercifully ended it with, what's going on, every unit is in a different time zone. And everyone agreed no one knew.

I'd deem that a COC.

Turn based computer games with animations these days usually have a speed control. You can go from slow to like 10x speed. So there is a fixed length bound but with variable speed.

le Grande Quartier General Supporting Member of TMP26 Aug 2012 6:46 p.m. PST

"The other problem I see is that, as stated here, the VLB rules would require quite a lot of insight and knowledge of the period in question."

Good

NedZed26 Aug 2012 9:03 p.m. PST

Bob wrote:
"Except that wasn't that. For the last 30 years gamers have periodically sought the solution to making the VLB work, like knights errant seeking the Grail. And it's the same old stuff, as Robespierre was "too good for us," so too is the VLB. If were were only better gamers. If we only understood but, alas, we are not worthy.

Nevertheless, have fun. And for all of those who maintain the problems can be dealt with simply; put a set of rules in writing."

Bob,
This is why I suggest people go the VLB site rather than hash out the topic on TMP. As you have often said to other designers on this forum, to each his own and have fun. When I have read TMP threads where you engage in design debate, I think you have always been honest and consistent about that advice, which I respect and appreciate.
I don't think I ever came on TMP and brought up the subject of VLB; I only jump in when someone else introduced it and I felt I had personal experience and factual knowledge to contribute that will perhaps pass away with me. That is why I am much more comfortable with just providing a link to the VLB site and prefer discussing the topic there. (BTW, I am not suggesting you have ever said otherwise – I am just posting to you here in this manner since others will read it).
As for your experience with Wally (who is in my personal wargaming pantheon for a variety of reasons) and the VLB, I cannot disagree with any of your comments above, whether it was George's Royal Scots arrogance/stubbornness at times or playtesting frustration. I was the one who tried to inform and get playtest groups up and running around the country, so I have plenty of files, complaints and examples about the events you relate.
As an aside, besides the Origins convention, I was part of a different group that brought George out to California for a couple of other conferences. Remember Laker Airlines? I brought GWJ over on Laker and it went bankrupt while he was here, so I had to pay for additional tickets to get our Scottish guests back home.
You are right that the proof is in the pudding, or, in this case, the written word.You and others are also correct that if it were simple it would have been done already.
To me the value of TMP discussing the topic is purely to warn people away or, at least, to let them know they should have no illusions, need to keep their eyes open, and will likely be hearing siren songs on the VLB site- which means it will be their own fault if they take it at face value and crash upon the rocks and drown… which certainly has been the track record up to now.
I should mention that if anyone does visit the VLB site, i suggest they look in the archive at the first month or two of messages in 2001, and look for my seven or eight part series of posts called "Read This First". It gives a pretty realistic appraisal of the early years of the VLB project with Dick Bryant and The Courier (and, necessarily, with me). It was my attempt to give people entering the VLB site fair warning!
After all of these years, if VLB does produce something that "works" so be it; if not, then at least those in their dotage like me can still "have fun" dreaming in our fantasy world without harming anyone else. ;^)

Best regards,

Ned

Mark Plant Supporting Member of TMP26 Aug 2012 9:37 p.m. PST

That can be dealt with quite simply and without a massive matrix. Just calculate the results for each unit (in the same way that you calculate the results for each element in a game like DBA).

There can be no "just" in such a situation. So many possible situations, so many possible results, with each unit oriented up the 360 and with different formations etc. It's beyond a nightmare.

Even if possible, programming all the units' characteristics, and all the terrain into the computer at the start will quickly eat up all the time saved by the system.

Just get a computer game if that's what you want. Applying it to tabletop is madness.

Major Bumsore27 Aug 2012 1:49 a.m. PST

There can be no "just" in such a situation. So many possible situations, so many possible results, with each unit oriented up the 360 and with different formations etc. It's beyond a nightmare.

Well it seems to work fine in DBA.

Major Bumsore27 Aug 2012 1:50 a.m. PST

After all of these years, if VLB does produce something that "works" so be it;

Ned, did you note my previous post about the Knight and Dennis rules?

Spreewaldgurken Inactive Member27 Aug 2012 6:04 a.m. PST

"did you note my previous post about the Knight and Dennis rules?"

That link leads to Mark Severin's review, and he concluded:

"There are major "gray areas" but I guess given the nature of the rules that is to be expected. They are clearly meant to be more of a skeleton. For example, they do not spell out if you remove strips or just track casualties on a roster. They refer to many events but do not spell out how they are to be handled that is left up to the ruling of an umpire or to be worked out between the players."

"It seems to work fine in DBA."

DBA uses "a matrix of commander ability, troop numbers, quality, terrain and distance and have that computation give you one number or modifier for a division-level action." ? That's news to me.

I thought DBA uses a small number of single-base units, each of which calculates its combat results individually.

ratisbon27 Aug 2012 6:55 a.m. PST

Ned,

It's always good to hear from you. Did you ever enter Wally's "Rules on a post card" contest?

I well remember Freddie Laker and his airline. Sorry about your loss. I suppose it would have been too much to ask a Scotsman to pick up part of the airfare. Forgive me, I couldn't resist.

Ironically, George contributed mightily to the demise of the Courier. Dick Bryant invested all the magazine's treasury in George's rules, except of course there were no rules and in the end the Courier never recovered it's morale much less it's money.

There are good rules, bad rules and cookie cutter or mediocre rules which all too many recent sets appear to be. Then there are no rules and the VLB falls in that category and so too does George's one and only stab at written rules, published in the early 70s by Altmark,

I wish luck to those who think there is a solution.

Bob Coggins

Major Bumsore27 Aug 2012 7:56 a.m. PST

That link leads to Mark Severin's review, and he concluded:

"There are major "gray areas" but I guess given the nature of the rules that is to be expected. They are clearly meant to be more of a skeleton. For example, they do not spell out if you remove strips or just track casualties on a roster. They refer to many events but do not spell out how they are to be handled that is left up to the ruling of an umpire or to be worked out between the players."

Well of course, that is only his opinion. However, it actually makes no difference whether you remove strips or track casualties on a roster. I prefer the latter. I do not agree with his "many events but do not spell out how they are to be handled" comment. I have played them and they work fine.

DBA uses "a matrix of commander ability, troop numbers, quality, terrain and distance and have that computation give you one number or modifier for a division-level action." ? That's news to me.

I thought DBA uses a small number of single-base units, each of which calculates its combat results individually.

Sorry, you misunderstand. I meant that it is a lot easier to calculate the effects for each individual single-base unit and then determine the overall result rather than have one big calculation trying to take into account all the factors.

Major Bumsore27 Aug 2012 8:06 a.m. PST

Ironically, George contributed mightily to the demise of the Courier. Dick Bryant invested all the magazine's treasury in George's rules, except of course there were no rules and in the end the Courier never recovered it's morale much less it's money.

I think the big mistake was Dave Bryant's assumption that GWJ knew how to write rules. He didn't. I know, I was one of those involved in trying to rewrite GWJ's rules so as to be understandable to the masses. We failed because GWJ wouldn't listen and wouldn't take on board the changes we wanted to make. And all this in the days when we had to type everything by hand ..

Fortunately Knight and Dennis succeeded by ignoring George and just applying his concepts to their own game design. Of course by then it was too late. The Courier/GWJ saga had tainted the VLB idea with the fatal "it'll never work" tag, so any rules that claimed to be based on the VLB were doomed to failure before they even started.

If you can get hold of the ACW or Napoleonic rules by Knight and Dennis, try them. You may be pleasantly surprised.

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