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"Computer Assisted Wargaming" Topic


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Action Log

31 May 2017 4:39 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

  • Removed from Modern Product Reviews board
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  • Crossposted to Computer Moderated Rules board


1,121 hits since 31 May 2017
©1994-2017 Bill Armintrout
Comments or corrections?

Modern Armor Inactive Member31 May 2017 3:36 p.m. PST

Hello all!

I'm a student of computer science and have been involved in war-gaming since I was a kid. Recently I've been fed up with several drawbacks of traditional dice and paper wargaming:
-Battles take too long
-Battles can get confusing, especially in large-scale
-The simulation is limited for the sake of simplicity

So what I intend to do is a create a Java program which will work on PC, Mac, and eventually Android and IOS. This application will keep track of a massive amount of variables for the players and allow a much more realistic simulation of certain situations. It would rely mostly on real world specifications for weapons and armor rather than arbitrary figures set by game creators.

I would of course tailor the game rules to be in-line with common traditional wargames, but the addition of a computer to simulate parts of the game would make it more realistic and much less stressful- no more forgetting who shot what, or how much ammunition a certain base has. The computer will keep track of every single variable for you, even if you have thousands of pieces on the board- you just need to move the figures, indicate who you are shooting, and tell the computer. It will compute the outcome.

I will also include a mechanism to save the game if you wish to come back to it later, and to document all actions and outcomes that go on in the course of the game. Basically, it will generate a raw AAR for you. You can later read through it if you wish to compile a story-like AAR. You won't have to strain to remember the course of the battle because it will all be written down automatically.

I am orienting the game to be played on the 1/285 scale of Micro Armour, although I can easily include a preferences menu through which you can pick an alternative scale, all the way up to 1/72.

I've already programmed parts of it and while I am far from done, it is already looking quite nice. Here are some advanced features you will not find in traditional wargames: I am adding extremely advanced simulations, like Active Protection Systems such as Trophy and Afghanit, and they each work as they would in real life- dozens of fine calculations in place of an oversimplified dice roll. Tanks with soft-kill systems can sometimes misguide ATGMs, but unless they have smoke, they will not be able to jam wire-guided missiles. Tanks and artillery can choose from a variety of rounds and shells, and have the same ammunition limits as their real life counterparts. Vehicles have a system of acceleration- it takes a couple of turns for them to get up to their maximum velocity. So on and so forth!

So, please tell me if this sounds interesting to you. When I am done with the alpha version of the game (a few months), I will need some Beta testers. The game will be free and super-easy to install. Once the game is officially released, the core game and modern Russia, USA, and ISIS factions and units will remain free, and I will create dozens of additional downloadable content you can buy for small fees- "Cold War DLC", "WW2 DLC", "War in Syria DLC", "Near-Future Russia and USA" and so on.

I'm not really looking to make a profit from this venture- it's mostly for myself and for my resume. But I would like to make a product that people enjoy using. So, if you think you could enjoy Computer Assisted Wargaming, let me know, and tell me what features you would most like to see!

gamershs31 May 2017 5:57 p.m. PST

Been there and done that on a smaller scale. The problem is that you are tracking the game on the board and in the computer. So the players are spending there time not moving and planning but entering data into the computer and getting the results back out. I was using one computer so it was one entry point but even with a networked system the game flow will be interrupted as the players stop to enter data into the system and find out the results.

World of tanks is all in the computer so that is how they get away with it. But from what I have seen infantry is not part of the game.

JMcCarroll31 May 2017 6:02 p.m. PST

Play Steel Panthers!

Dynaman878931 May 2017 6:06 p.m. PST

Good luck but I have found that computer moderated rules just don't work. Either go whole hog and make it a PC wargame or don't bother.

TGerritsen Supporting Member of TMP31 May 2017 9:48 p.m. PST

Agreed with the above sentiments. I have tried several computer assisted sets and they were just not fun. It felt like playing a data entry game that let the computer have all the fun.

warwell Supporting Member of TMP01 Jun 2017 2:34 a.m. PST

I just play simple games like Command & Colors, the Portable Wargame, etc.

Good luck with your venture.

Vigilant01 Jun 2017 2:54 a.m. PST

Probably good for solo play, but like the others I've tried these and they tend to be too rigid and spend too much time inputting data.

davbenbak Supporting Member of TMP01 Jun 2017 6:10 a.m. PST

I happen to really like playing Carnage & Glory II but the other posters make a very valid point. Keep it simple so the game isn't dominated by data entry. A lot easier for earlier periods where a IGUG turn system works well instead of modern games where opportunity fire is a major tactic/component.

p.s. I still play steel panthers on an old PC!

UshCha Supporting Member of TMP02 Jun 2017 1:28 a.m. PST

To be honest what you want is a good interface. If you could use image and voce recognition so you could identify a tank with a laser pointer and call out the data needed and identify the target ther same way it has possibilities. However I have seen key board entry games and they do seem to ve very slow at data entry. Best of luck.

VVV reply02 Jun 2017 8:04 a.m. PST

I wrote a set computer based rules back in the 1970's and found that players missed the die rolling, so I had to add in a die rolling display, that they could feel that they were getting involved.
As other people have said the problem is combining table gaming with the computer rules. I think this idea will have to wait until we have holofield battles.

Blutarski02 Jun 2017 5:20 p.m. PST

I agree with the several posters above who point to data entry as a big stumbling block.

Another problem I have experienced, particularly with PC games, is the "black box" nature of computerized games. The source code is typically locked and it is very difficult to understand what assumptions regarding things like weapon effects and accuracy, vehicle performance, terrain effects, troop morale and skills, etc, have been built into the code.

B

Modern Armor Inactive Member02 Jun 2017 9:08 p.m. PST

Thanks for the feedback, guys.

I have indeed given a bit of thought to the way that players would interact with the interface.

I can definitely see how data entry would be a nuisance to players and how it could interfere with the rhythm of the game. I haven't designed the graphics user interface yet, but I have thought about it. The solution I have been considering is to export as many variables into the code as possible, to be tracked automatically. For the users the process would be as simple as possible.

The interface would consist of two columns. The left would display all available units for the player whose turn it is. The right column would indicate targets during the shooting phase. To the far right would be a panel with a few clickable options and some information about the unit selected.

Movement phase- Click a unit. Select the terrain it is moving through. The options panel will show the maximum movement for this turn. Enter the distance moved.

Shooting phase- Click a unit. Select an enemy unit. The options panel will show all weapons that will fire at the enemy, and status of the enemy unit. Enter the distance to the enemy, and tick the appropriate cover box. Click FIRE!

Is that still considered too much data entry, or is that a manageable amount?

Davbenbak, I was thinking of using the following turn model: During the beginning of a turn, the game randomly determines which player has priority for that turn. Certain factors can influence who goes first. Then the movement phase begins, with the player who has priority moving first, then the other player. Then the shooting phase begins, during which the player with priority shoots first, followed by the other player. So it's similar to IGUG, but gives the unprioritized player a little more room to react without sacrificing simplicity. It's basically the same system as the one used by GW's LoTR minis.

UshCha, I actually like your suggestion to add voice entry to the game. I could do that.


Blutarski, I would release a PDF rulebook with all statistics listed at the end, and keep it updated for each version of the game. I would also have a tab in the preferences menu in which the players could select the level of detailed information they want to see. So if players want to see the chances of hitting an enemy, they can choose to receive that information, or to keep it hidden so the outcome is less expected.

I'm still trying to figure out how to make the player feel more in control, ie, that dice-rolling feeling. Any thoughts?

If you are curious, here's a scenario that shows how simple the data entry would be and how complex the simulation would be.

So, let's say I am directing a T-72B to light up a squad of enemy marines behind a cinderblock wall at 300 m. All I have to do is select the T-72B, select the target unit, click on the cinderblock cover icon in the options panel, and enter the distance. Then, FIRE!

When I click FIRE!, the game will…
-Calculate the likelihood of a burst or shot from this weapon to hit a crouching man at the given distance, based on the effective and maximum ranges of the weapon, compared to the distance entered.

-Calculate the likelihood of each individual to actually be behind cover. This is based on the individual's skill. A Navy Seal will be better at utilizing cover than a Jihadi.

-If the individual took cover… calculate if this weapon will penetrate the cover. This is based on the actual penetration power of the weapon- ie, .50 cal will penetrate cinderblocks while a 9mm submachinegun will not.

-If the individual did not take cover or the cover failed to stop the round, then the game will calculate based on human frontal surface area, which part of the body the round will hit. If it is the arm or leg, there is a small chance to die (severed artery), but most likely the soldier will be wounded instead. If a hit is scored on the face or unarmored torso, the soldier is most likely dead. If the hit is on body armor or a helmet…

-…Then the game will decide if the round hit a trauma plate or hit a gap only covered by kevlar. This value will then be added to the cover value for a final protection value representing the amount that the incoming round must penetrate to wound or kill the soldier. Different levels of body armor are simulated.

-After all of that, if the soldier is killed or wounded, the game determines if it was just an ordinary grunt with an assault rifle or someone with a special weapon. If it was someone with a special weapon, their chances of being killed are proportional to the unit size.

-If a small proportion of the men are wounded, the unit slows down. If a large percentage are wounded, its movement slows to a crawl until the casualties are evacuated.

-The unit will check for suppression effects and take a morale check.

All of that is done for every burst or round fired by the T-72B. In the given scenario, the tank fires 20 burst of MG fire (10 per MG) and a single main gun blast, if the proper ammunition is loaded. The player sees the final result- X killed, X wounded. I will enable the player to select how much detail they want to see, so you can tailor it to your desires.

Ottoathome03 Jun 2017 6:12 a.m. PST

Don't bother. Listen to Dynaman and Gamershs. My experience mirrors theirs. I did exactly what you wanted to do and it was perfect. The gamers hated it. It broke up the flow of the game. First it took a LOT longer to program than I thought (years not weeks by the time I was done) and it in fact never really GOT done. The more holes I plugged the more they opened up. The Interface was easy, but always inadequate. The more decisions to make the more the process of data entry got fouled up. At this time I was also running four Play-by Mail Games, all of which were computer input nd all of them on a much higher and simpler level and the programming was a constant bear. Go ahead, try it, but I doubt you'll have much success. The reason is that you are attempting to do two contradictory things. The first is get the computer to do all the dirty work, and the second to enjoy the visuals and tactile sensations of a table top battle. They are incompatable. The solution I found was to write simple rules and computer be damned.

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP03 Jun 2017 9:30 a.m. PST

I'm another that has programmed board/miniature games to a computer. It worked very well. However, the gamer loses out on all of the background mechanics of how and why the results are generated. I was disappointed too. VASSAL does a good job and I use it.

I think that augmented reality apps have great potential for just in time rules and examples to help new players come up to speed and that's what I'm working on.

With some work it can be used for recon and FOW too.

Miniatures players are very visual. Anything that can enhance that visual experience may be beneficial. Good luck

Wolfhag

RTJEBADIA03 Jun 2017 9:37 a.m. PST

In principle I think computer assisted gaming can only really work in two ways:

1) In the (not so distant?) future once could concieve of fairly powerful image recognition mixed with pre-game user input (ie an army builder wherein you choose your units and assign miniatures to them, which are scanned for the image recognition) so that you can use a mobile device to identify targets and angles and so on and then just hit "fire." If this ever happens-- and especially if this comes with easier user-interface google glass equivalents-- you could actually see computers take over all but the moving of models around. It'd be like playing those simulation games (Combat Mission) but with the tactile/personalized element of miniatures gaming as you are still making true boards and miniatures (and such a system would intrinsically allow players to do things outside of the rules proper). I don't think the technology for this is here yet and it isn't impossible that it never will be.

1a) Monolithic gaming companies could do a lower tech version of this by requiring use of their models (which would come with some sort of code in the base or something) so that a phone could detect units, not unlike with QRS codes. That way you'd just wave a phone at your unit and then at an enemy's (or perhaps the enemy marks his unit and you mark yours on your own phones) and you get a single button to initiate the fight. Doesn't feel worth it to me, but it would get rid of the data entry problem minus terrain effects. Maybe there's coded terrain as well, or maybe its one more tap with only a couple options to keep things easy on the user end (a clickable menu with 50 detailed terrain options adds a little verisimilitude but makes data entry much worse than "tap upper left half for light, upper right half for hard, bottom for none.")

2) Accept that what you're doing is a unique thing that isn't going to catch on for gamers in general, and lean in on the parts of computer assisting thst make it a new fun experience. You're still going to want people to use phones, as anything else is logistically bad. You're standing at a table, you don't want a laptop precariously positioned on the edge and taking up room that should have terrain. Yes, you can get more detailed fire effects (though the trade off for more complicated data entry should be noted-- do we really need so many terrain types? Can it just be abstracted into the random parts of the model?) but if it's just a replacement for a die roll, why bother? Instead, use the system to also provide hidden information. Some info only the game knows until later. Some info one side gets when fired on (exact morale effects, casualties). Only you know how much ammunition you really have left. Etc. You might want to make this part interactive. I select which of my units I am using, select a target. My opponent gets a prompt to pick a response to fire-- this can perhaps then lead to an element of data entry (terrain) that is somwhat hidden by the fact that the player is making a tactical decision while doing it. (It also automatically splits the labor between two players and is conducive to more reaction-y game mechanics). Results are calculated and displayed, with only some info given to each player. Have an edit button in the corner in case players want to change the gamestate/unitstate beyond moving and shooting at each other, but require that both players to accept changes (so that you can have gentleman's redos). I think you could incorporate much of what you described, but doing so with this more "interactive" multi-user interface should help alleviate the problems. Granted for solo play you'd just play as both sides, but having step by step screens for each option, each only taking a simple input, should still help compared to multiple columns with dropdown menus.

Don't listen to too much naysaying-- different people like different game mechanisms. And it shouldn't take *that* long to code something that works. I once coded THW's Nuts! into a skirmish computer game (no miniatures, instead little 2D guys and bushes on the screen) and it took a couple days' spare time at most to have something presentable that played just like miniatures but on a grid.

Blutarski04 Jun 2017 7:04 a.m. PST

Modern Armor – "Carnage and Glory" is the only computer moderated tabletop miniatures game I know of that actually has a real following in the hobby. Playing it a few times with 3 or 4 other gamers may provide some insights as to how the "human-machine interface" works on a practical wargaming level, i.e. – where the computer assist helps, where it hurts, etc.

FWIW.

B

Gamesman606 Jun 2017 7:40 a.m. PST

It seems that it could be or soon should be able to start tracking units on the table in some direct electronic forma…

Though personally I'd like to see a good pc game that did the thingS a table top game can't.. raylther than just being an electronic table top game..
Imo if a ta me top game is too slow… theres and issue with the rules…

Rick Don Burnette06 Jun 2017 11:05 a.m. PST

Been there.
The problems are the gridless playing area, the non utilitarian terrain, the players making mistakes of figure movement and placement and the figures and bases.
Try solving a collision of figures or a traffic jam of figures. Bases trying to deploy without enough room or trying to pass through other stands or attempt to record figures placed on "artistic" terrain, the figures wobboling on the building rooftops, or the irregularity of the base sizes and the simple fact that the pplayers actions in move distances, angles of movement, and base facing all error ridden because what the player records on the database is not the same as what is presented on the table And any attempt to correct or reconcile the data on the computer with the bases osition and facing or formation will not be for the computer, especially if the gamer has achieved a position of advantage, despite whatever the comouter reports

UshCha Supporting Member of TMP06 Jun 2017 1:54 p.m. PST

You description of a game does not do much if any more than a paper game. You game needs to add. For instance wether the tank is buttoned up, the probability it can spot any target, rounds used (would stop unrealistic usage of ammo). However for the occasional gamer this may not be fun. It is the reason full flight simulators are not that popular as they take work to understand.

Our own paper rules were accused of requiring the player to have at least a limited understanding of what the real platoon commander did. We took this as a compliment, but you get the idea.

So for a simple game (read popular) you have to offer something extra, and be as fast or faster than a well written set of paper rules. Plus though I do not like them or use or see the need, many folks like conditional morale rules, flanking enemy, out numbered, unfriendly enemy within X of an open flan, add nauseum. This would add significantly to the input time.

Modern Armor Inactive Member07 Jun 2017 7:59 p.m. PST

Well I could theoretically make a product which can track a tabletop battlefield through a camera which uses (for example) infrared detection if the figures are coated in infrared-reflective paint. But that sounds like way too much work for something which is meant to be quite a bit simpler. I would be willing to create a game engine which tracks a game board, responds to voice commands, and tracks laser pointers, but that would require extreme amounts of time and significant monetary investment, and I have high doubts that I would ever earn it back. At that point I think it would actually be easier to make a full-on computer game, anyways.

I've given it some thought, and I am moving ahead with the original idea I had. I already have around 1/3 of the code written, so after a couple of months it will be done. After some beta testing I will revise it based on feedback.

I don't really expect it to take off and become the best thing since dice. Like I said earlier, it is mostly so I push myself to learn new technologies and have another line to put on my resume. If it does prove popular in its final form, I will support it, but I'm not optimistic that this is a likely outcome.

I will update this post once I have some news or once the game is ready for alpha testing.

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP08 Jun 2017 9:51 a.m. PST

Modern Armor,
Good luck, we need people like you pushing the envelope.

Personally, some type of blue tooth enabled figures or terrain to help give a good FoW and concealed setup would be a benefit.

A miniature blue tooth camera at table top level could enable an augmented reality app to recognize specific terrain (image programmed like a QR code) and display what enemy unit is actually deployed there (hidden deployment used). Recon units could really perform visual recon on the table.

Taking the digital readout of a laser tape measure into the app and interface it with the gunnery range/hit chance would eliminate manual input. It could generate the random number too.

Wolfhag

Master Caster Sponsoring Member of TMP01 Jul 2017 6:34 a.m. PST

I applaud your goals and will clap louder if you are successful. I am a long-time proponent of this marriage of tabletop miniature gaming and utilizing certain aspects of a computer assisting program(s).
In the mid-80's I was part of a team that fielded what was the first commercial attempt here in the USA of a computer assist module for miniature gaming, and we had a lot of fun – and work – in development. The disc was called ''Fix Bayonets' and was a tactical Napoleonic period for play with variable scaled miniatures with 15mm our personal choice. These were the days of early home computers, few gaming stores and conventions and both of us – John Izbrand and myself- were both staff Captains at Fort Leavenworth little disposed to touring to demo and promote sales. So we had a lot of challenges going in and eventually sold a grand total of maybe a couple dozen discs.
I would recommend the following based on player input – from comments made here from gamers and my own personal experience:
1. Keep player/game master computer input of data to the absolute minimum. Gamers like their dice so stay away from computer-generated odds results. After designating firer and target let players role their dice and input that into the program. Measuring ranges and entering that data is also doable but don't overdo it. A third piece of data to enter may be a percentage of the target that is hitable (a tank hull down versus a full side view).
2. Results and play on the table must rule and not be overshadowed by the program. Thus you will need a way to backtrack and correct bad input.
3. Keep it geared to tablets – multiple tablets around the table if possible.
4. Have fun creating this game, play testing it and above all keep the fun in the end game.
Toby Barrett

Personal logo specforc12 Supporting Member of TMP04 Aug 2017 4:06 a.m. PST

I've toyed with the idea of how I could expedite my simulation wargame (WW2 to Present) that I plan on publishing, with an added smart phone app component, if possible. I agree with several of the posters that too much number-crunching by the computer is already "dead-in-the-water", and, lets the computer have all the fun. Meanwhile the player, especially a novice to modern warfare, doesn't know WHY the results are coming out as they are. For them, especially, the reward is in the journey, so to speak! So, that's not only "not fun", but boring as well. My suggestion and my approach is to, for example, taking the core of my game and expedite the "To-Hit" procedure with its various DRM's (die roll modifiers), as a "checklist". The hit location, vehicle damage, and resultant crew casualties which are all die rolled for against tables, could be calculated with the same odds generator and isn't germane for the player to be engrossed in. But, how one moves into position and decision making is all about the player's wits. For those "To Hit" die roll modifiers, simply check off the box with a light finger touch to the screen to what applies, i.e. movement speed of target, movement speed of firer, amount of concealment target enjoys, range (which you, the player, measure, of course), ammo type loaded", etc. and, any other factors and then hit the "EXECUTE" button and get your hit results: "Miss", "Hit", "Damage", "Casualties"!

Those who say doing data entry are completely right, it's a show-stopper. You don't want to do a single bit of typing just check the box and execute and you're done. It's the same as if you did it long hand only a buttload faster! That's enough to speed even a advanced simulation game like mine to levels better than even Flames of War or similar popular games. I achieved a huge jump in resolving a large scale battle involving aound 60 70 tanks at better than skirmish game level speeds just by using well-crafted, laminated cheat sheets with checkboxes using a grease pencil! (better than dry erase Stabilo makes regular pencil-like grease markers. You can purchase at Blick Art materials stores!) Worked great at my demo games at this year's GaryCon!!! Typing data entry is a total "NO-GO" and like some said never works good enough and is potentially slower, even. That's my 2 cents.

Having said that, I definitely want to get your proto-type software to see how I could apply it and provide you with useful feedback which would benefit us both. You don't want it to become a computer game otherwise as the one poster said, then just play "Steel Panthers" and he would be right. Incorporating the characteristics of today's myriad of complex advanced "smart weapons" would be greatly assisted by a system such as yours. I think the idea has merit and has a place in today's miniature wargaming, but must be crafted in such a way that the player understands why things happen the way they are and is concurrently manipulating those variables that's what makes the gaming interesting, not wresting the control or knowledge away from the player.

please forward your proto-type or discuss this in further detail with me, if you like. I can explain in greater detail what my game is about and how I've used real world data to get realistic battle results and how I'd like to employ a software assist to expedite game play.

Regards, Tibor
specforc12@aol.com

PS Wolfhag has been demonstrative in my game project as my great source of detailed and accurate data points and their application. He's my official technical consultant, and he is developing his own game, "TREADHEADS" a most unique and spectacularly clever game system divergent of normal conventions, but so much more true to actual timing of actions and fluidity. He's taken a direction that, no one in all the game systems I've looked at (over 50), has ever attempted or even thought about, because it sounds absurd, but in actuality is brilliant and easy to learn when actually played! On paper, it sounds complicated and even impractical, but it's not. And, when you play it, you'll be a convert. Complete, rank gaming novices have picked up the game in virtually 2 or 3 turns, running circles around us Grognards, who can't seem to get their heads around something that isn't played in conventional "phases", or "is it my turn yet?" mentality! It almost makes me think why am I bothering to develop my game along traditional lines. But, I will follow through anyway, because I started mine first (LOL), which egged WOLFHAG on go ahead with his project, and I like where my game is going in the "traditional sense", naturally! LOL

Wolfhag Supporting Member of TMP04 Aug 2017 12:07 p.m. PST

Specforc12,
Damn, thanks for the kind words and unsolicited advice. Just to be clear he's a co-developer on my team. We've spent many late night hours with in depth "Tank Talk" sessions.

If you are in the Chicago / Milwaukee area and looking for a great gaming group contact specfor12. They have a dedicated FOW group whose members includes the original designers of Tractics and Jagdpanther. Specforc12 is a 25 year Army vet with two deployments to the mid-east (including special ops detachment), WWII re-enactor, collector of WWII memorabilia and weapons and amateur historian.

My only digital project involved augmented reality apps for cell phones.

Wolfhag

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