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"Random Pseudo random or programed events." Topic

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UshCha13 Aug 2020 12:47 p.m. PST

In reading the book Company Commander I was struck by an episode where the Germans got very close to the American defenses, a few feet in fact, where they lucky for the defenders, they were spotted and an ambush averted.

This poses a philosophic problem in scenario design. There are 3 possible solutions for setting a scenario:-

1) Decide on how many elements are sneaking up and die roll a suitable number for there exposure and roll each element each turn and wait to see what happens.

2) Restrict the die rolling to the last few meters but increase the probability significantly so that there are a range of outcomes possible.

3) Program the scenario completely so it has a plausible, believable but taxing outcome.

Now my take on these options is:-

1) is a waste of time, too much die rolling and could result in games that are well out of the set of interesting games. They would need a large force to be effective if triggered early and if triggered late with the same force there would be overwhelming numbers and no interesting challenges would present. I suspect their are games that use this mechanism but it is more gambling than anything else it would often result in tactically uninteresting games.

2) This can work but it probably needs some form of again pseudo random movement so the position of the attackers is not too synchronized. Seems better but is tricky to set up.

3) Program it so the game starts under a defined set of conditions. This would require both the defense and the attack dispositions to be per-defined rather like a chess problem for the players to start from. This requires the designer to be competent in deploying a defense that is plausible and an attackers disposition that is by no means perfect but "interesting". Certainly it would be easy for the attackers to have hidden units not detected in the original assault if they felt that would be to their advantage.

Of the options 3 looks a bit artificial but would probably be the best game in terms of challenging the players skills.

Are there other options, if so what are their strengths and weaknesses. Otherwise how would you rate the current 3 options?

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP13 Aug 2020 5:54 p.m. PST

There are tons of other approaches: dozens of third party adjudication methods, giving the ambusher multiple canards that cost tactical position of the defender to reveal, have the defender pre-program moves to be progressively revealed until the ambush/detection and charge the ambusher different "detection costs" depending on how aggressive their moves are, etc.

What method is "best" depends on what dynamic you want to represent in the game.

My favourite (not necessarily the best for a given scenario):

All the moves of both sides lead to an eventual kinetic engagement. At the highest level, the state is one of two things: (1) the ambush happened or (2) the ambushers were detected. Within the two main states, are nested a number of different geometries. While the geometries are a function of the specific terrain, there are a set of common characteristics:

position of defender along planned route
distance of ambusher when detected or launching ambush
formation (spread) of ambusher forces
aspect of ambushers from defenders

I arrange a set of potential conditions for the action, usually five or six per main condition and rank them by advantage for the ambusher.

Each side picks an "aggression level", a number between -2 to +2. The levels are added to a die roll with the result looked up on a chart. Positions are arranged on the chart so more aggression by the defender leads to greater likelihood of detection, but worse tactical position for the defender.

Strengths, all the grind work is outside the game, so it doesn't really affect play. Before the kinetic engagement, the players are making realistic decisions about posture, but not god's eye view poisoned tactical maneuver decisions.

Weaknesses, laying out the table is a bit complex and takes some math. It's easy to lose the sense of magnitude and direction of the die roll if you don't pay close attention.

UshCha14 Aug 2020 5:11 a.m. PST

Interesting its effectively my (3) fully programmed except you have essentially several scenarios of which you select 1 randomly.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP14 Aug 2020 11:00 a.m. PST

It's similar to #3, but it's bounded random. Decisions of the players shape the character of the random space.

Am more complex version lets the stochastic bit drive the values of the geometry parameters. Usually, you need to roll a couple dice to do that.

Generally, the additional complexity only creates the illusion of added granularity. For example, you get a full range of integer distances between, say 3" and 15" between the centers of mass of the forces. But really 6", 7", and 8" aren't really that much different. Plus or minus 5 degrees of aspect angle probably doesn't make much difference, either. And so on.

There are situations where small differences in startup geometry are tactically and operationally significant. You can handle that with non-linear scales.

In general, ten or so situations distributed among 30 or so slots allows a decent spread where the randomness is felt, but the decisions still shape the outcome.

emckinney14 Aug 2020 11:12 a.m. PST

Are there significant decisions for the defenders to make, or does the game come down to resolving firepower? For that matter, does the attacker have choices beyond the initial infiltration plan?

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP14 Aug 2020 2:55 p.m. PST

Are there significant decisions for the defenders to make,

If you have good victory conditions, they do.

The VP for the defenders should be based on survival and getting off the board (running away), not attrition of ambushers. While killing ambushers does not give you VP, the more you kill, the better your odds to do the other things.

There should be a tipping point with VP conditions where retreating (going back) requires the defender to protect almost all their units, and escaping forward requires fewer survivors to win.

In most systems, running without attacking is faster and attacking without significant maneuver is more deadly. That plays directly into the asymmetry of a scenario with attrition/escape objectives.

Of course, if you have hidden (or partially hidden) VP conditions, you could give different progress/retreat values. And you could give the defenders a HVU (or a few) that is worth more points if it survives. You could even have a hidden defender objective to kill all the ambushers … the convoy was bait!

The defenders VP should value killing defenders and preserving resources (including ambusher lives). Again, (partially) hidden objectives help expand the relevant tactical space. How much the ambusher values killing defenders compared to protecting their own forces' lives is a big driver.

The ambushers could also have a HVU target(s). These may be the same as the defenders or not. Maybe one has and the other doesn't. A nice dirty trick is if the convoy is a fake, the defender doesn't get HVU bonuses, 'coz there is not HVU muahahahahaha!

Beyond hidden objectives, each side could have a hidden reserve force that comes in at turn X. If X is variable, that is better. F'r'ex we turn over a clock card every round (total points equal delay and could affect defender VP); reserves come in after the clock total is X. This method provides a min, mean, and max turn number with a decent degree of variability.

Another variant is reinforcements arrive at a clock range. So if the total skips that range, you don't get them.

While the above takes a bit of work for the scenario designer to balance out well, in play it resolves to some simple dynamics that drive a wide range of tactical options.

Maybe I get 1 point per solider and two points per jeep that retreat, triple that for ones that progress (exit the board where they were going in the first place). Double points (either scheme) for the jeeps with medical supplies in them. I get big reinforcements from my preferred exit at 200 points of clock.

Hunker down? Feint one way to draw the ambush, then rush the other way? Are there units I will sacrifice to save the others? Change strategies when one isn't working? Maybe I let two jeeps break off and run and hope the ambusher will think they are the med supply jeeps. If the game is going on, might I hunker down later because reinforcements are imminent. What if I split and send some people each way? Feint one way to get the ambushers out of position, then assault them?

I could write another whole page as a brief overview of the attacker dynamics, too.

emckinney14 Aug 2020 8:00 p.m. PST

Reread the OP and don't be thrown by the use of "ambush."

Wolfhag14 Aug 2020 8:19 p.m. PST

I'm sure we have some people that have had real-life experiences in training or while deployed. Anyone care to relate to them?


Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP15 Aug 2020 3:57 a.m. PST

I reread the scenario in its entirety …

the Germans got very close to the American defenses, a few feet in fact, where they lucky for the defenders, they were spotted and an ambush averted.

… what did I miss?

Wolfhag15 Aug 2020 7:19 p.m. PST

Just Jack, you're up. We're waiting. It's OK Marine, you owe it to us. I'll follow up.


UshCha16 Aug 2020 2:15 a.m. PST

etotheipi the point is the anbushers may not have got lucky and then you are in one of the scenarios you defined.

The guys I play with are not bothered by the random bit as its phycological only and any one of th3e scenarios should be "balanced" i.e tacticaly challengeing and I would not waste any of them so in the end, all would be played so the order would be immaterial.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP16 Aug 2020 4:27 a.m. PST

The range of scenarios I described allows for varying degrees of random advantage for either side.

Based on formal military analysis of ambushes conducted by and suffered by multiple modern militaries, there are a wide range of initial conditions for the start of the kinetic engagement.

You can usually identify the one (or few) critical decision(s) by one side or the other in a given ambush scenario. They are almost always the result of decisions designed to create advantage (both ways), but almost never as specific as the advantage they create.

F'r'ex the choice to leapfrog wide left and right spotters is designed to (and should_ increase your ability to spot an ambush ahead of the ambusher's desired engagement point. Whether that lessens their advantage or creates one for you is usually a function of something like did we start moving the left or the right spotter first – an arbitrary decision.

This type of randomness is an inherent part of warfare in the real world. If you want to make wargames like artificially constructed sports challenges or boardgames, that's fine.

Just Jack Supporting Member of TMP16 Aug 2020 6:37 a.m. PST

My goodness, you flatter me and give me too much credit, Wolfhag. Besides, you were a Marine grunt, and I believe etotheipi was us Army in Afghanistan, so I'm the situation is well in hand.

"…Germans got very close to the American defenses, a few feet in fact, where they lucky for the defenders, they were spotted and an ambush averted."
I must admit to having a heck of a time making sense of this statement. I'm hoping the second half of the sentence is superfluous and all that really matters for our tactical understanding was that a US force was occupying a piece of ground and some Germans walked into them.

We could argue about whether the US troops were occupying defensive positions or ambush positions (or simply were lazy and called a halt and went to sleep without posting security, much less preparing positions, although I guess they could have prepared positions and were simply asleep in them), or we could try to define if what the Germans walked into was the OP/LPs or the actual MLR, but I suppose it shouldn't matter to what we're trying to do.

If the question is 'how do you do this on the tabletop?', I agree with the options previously put forth. Having said that, I'll come from a different angle and say I wouldn't build a tabletop fight out of this engagement, rather, it would be part of a wider (larger) tabletop fight.

Certainly troops in wartime blunder into the enemy on occasions where one or both were unaware of the other's presence, so you simply make that an option on the tabletop, but I wouldn't build the entire fight around that and I wouldn't mandate that it would occur. You start the game with 'blinds' (or some other mechanism for hidden positions/movement) rather than troops on the table, have appropriate rules for spotting, and play your game, and this works anywhere from squad to echelons above corps level gaming (I regularly play reinforced company-level games where each blind is a platoon, so an attacker will have six or seven blinds and the defender will have 3-5 blinds on the table at the beginning of the game).

You follow your game mechanisms which, in this case, see the Americans staying put and the Germans moving up the road and, in this case, both sides are failing their spotting rolls until the German blind literally bumps into the American blind, at which point both sides remove their blinds and replace them with troops (assuming neither of the blinds that came into contact are 'dummy' blinds), and they fight it out in melee/close combat. Pretty simple and effective, gets rid of (mostly) the 1000-foot General syndrome.


Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP16 Aug 2020 7:55 a.m. PST

Certainly troops in wartime blunder into the enemy on occasions

This – link – is a scenario for such a set up. It allows two or three sides and two to six players to be in a contested area where they are aware of others' presence but don't necessarily know who is where. You start with knowing the presence of troops, but not the identity.

UshCha16 Aug 2020 11:45 p.m. PST

I am a bit surprised by some of the responses. The Germans accepted infiltration as a standard in there methodology to launch an attack. The Brits often called it going silent where the aim, not always achieved was to get as close to the enemy as possible before storing defences. The Russians also seemed to have used this technique on ovation. Yet this thread seems to not recognise the technique from their reading.

UshCha17 Aug 2020 6:18 a.m. PST

OK so I looked at etotheipi's ideas and while they were not what I would do they had merit in that a bit of variation is a good idea. so I had a though for tonight's game and came up with this.

This is about finding a way to have a pseudo random infiltration result where both sides has some but not full control of the position at which the shooting was starts. The classic solution is to role for each unit as it moves to see if it is detected. However if a random role reveals the enemy early it results in an uninteresting battle results, revealed too late makes it again uninteresting. This is all to do with statistics of small numbers.
This approach attempts to resolve this by relying in a close to (normal) distribution for the enemy units at plausible ranges.

1. The defenders lay out there defences as they chose including a limited number of dummy's say 10% max.
2. A "median line" (piece of string) is layed out meeting the following criteria.
3. It may not pass closer to any enemy marker than
a. 60m if in woodland or tall growing crops or the ground is obscured from the enemy if the obscuration is closer than that and is obscured from the 60m point.
b. 120m if on open but ground classing as bad going for all vehicles, swamp, ground strewn with large boulders etc.
c. 300m if on very good going such as a road or well grazed grass field.
4. After the median line has been placed the attacker may move the median line away from him in any way he chooses fit provided it breaches none of the requirements.
5. The Attacker than places his troops either on the median line or behind it.
6. Those on the median line then roll once per element with the results defined in Table 1.
Movement of elements on the Median line Positive twards the defender.
Note Platoon and higher elements may add or subtract 2 from there die score as they chose, before looking up the results.
7. The game starts with the Attacker and as such the defender may not react before the first enemy fire. Note for Attackers detected, if they are within 20m of the enemy they count as having spotted the enemy.

8. Once any element fires all protagonists count as aware when conducting any spotting action.

9. Play then continues as normal.

Random D20

20 Move +50m Detected 18-19 Move +30m Detected
15-17 Remain Move +10m not detected
7-14 Stationary not detected.
4-6 Move -50m not detected
2-3 Move – 100m not detected
1 Move – 250m not detected

comments welcome and I will let you know how it goes hopefully.

Wolfhag17 Aug 2020 2:42 p.m. PST

I use a similar method. A D20 roll that compares each side's Situational Awareness, suppression, troop type differences, and if one is being flanked or surprised. It can result in being spotted right away and can react/Immediate Action Drill or there is a certain number of turns before being noticed. It has on occasion resulted in both units being out of LOS when they would have noticed the other.

If you want to portray it on a 1:1 or team/section level it really comes down to Situational Awareness, tactics and experience. This would come into play in urban areas, at night and jungles/woods. If you are playing modern urban you'd be using tactics like Pie Slicing and tactical ways to hold a hallway and forming a stick to enter a room with unknown contents. Sometimes stealth is better than tossing a frag into a room. My son found that out the hard way.

I think Nuts! has a reaction system that can help recreate these types of events.

I think infiltration falls into three different areas: Stealth, Tactical and Strategic/pre-game.

Strategic would involve a pre-game abstracted activity for the attacker to attempt to infiltrate units into the enemy rear before the attack. It should take into effect how densely the defensive lines were manned, prepared of hasty defenses and troop experience comparisons. It should probably be no more than 1/3 of the defender strength. Many times, they were aided by Partisans who identified the safe lanes and acted as path finders and guides.

Tactical: During a large scale pre-assault barrage the Russians would shift the fire of a few batteries that are firing on a 100m-200m frontage opening a lane for the "infiltrators" to move through. If the Germans were in underground bunkers it might take the 20-30 seconds to recover and emerge and longer to get crew served ant-tank guns setup. A tank moving at 25kph can move 200-230m in about 30 seconds and overrun and defenders. Many of the engagements would be at close range allowing the use of HH infantry tank weapons. This could be a complete scenario of up to Battalion strength.

Stealth: The Russians would infiltrate small group of infantry behind the German lines over a few days to a week. It was not unusual to get anti-tank guns through. Many times, they were aided by Partisans. When the main assault would start they hit the Germans from behind or move further into their defenses. Russian infiltration was so bad that they'd steal all of the German mines, so the Germans laid them behind their lines.

Another scenario would be Russians attacking a German Hedgehog/strong point defense. There are gaps left that would be engaged by firepower. There would be mobile reserves that were supposed to come to their aid. The Hedgehog defender's job was to hold up the attackers so the counterattack could start.

Strong Point example:



UshCha18 Aug 2020 2:16 a.m. PST

interesting, my example was based on the Book Company commander and while less sphisticated did seem to get the sort of battle described in the book.

To be honest we were a bit supprised but it did seem to achieve its objectinves with minimal issues. There was some debate about whether the "spread" of the infiltration was a bit too narrow but any tweaks would need to be small and may prove to been more "cosmetic" than tacticaly significant.

With regard to your comments Wolghag, it is interesting the easing of fire over a 100 to 200 yd front to allow infiltrators I may have to try that one. It would work OK for Cold war I am less confident earlier as it needs precise timing that only radio communication would do at its best.

In your drawing it all looks quite scale but I would have expected to see a "minefield" much deeper in depth. The critical factor is mines per meter so the better spread they are they harder it is to clear them as much of the area is empty but the dammage done in crossing is identical.

Certainly you have given me inspiration for a few more interesting scenarios.

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