Saturday, March 20, 2021

A Glitch in the Matrix

 


 As my friends are aware, I have perhaps the worst luck of any living person. 

The day after I finished writing the rules for the bot, on my classroom computer at work (I wrote during my spare moments between classes, during lunch, and before school) the entire thing vanished. It was (and remains) simply not on the harddrive.

The only thing that remains is the introduction, which I had finished the day before and sent to myself via email. Had it not been for a long-winded meeting after work, I would have remembered to send the rules to myself, also.

As a result, I've been fairly well gutted since about the 11th. 

The way I approach writing is that I compose the entirety of the piece in my head and then when finished, I write it down in one go. I use notes to refer to for specifics and particulars, but the verbiage is all in my head.

This worked for me very well in college. I'd sit down the morning a paper was due and type the thing out, only to receive top marks when graded. A buddy of mine, who would write-rewrite-rewrite (up to nine times or more on a four-page paper) couldn't believe it, especially as he was usually nearby when I was typing.

However, when I type something out, it is completely out of my head, not to be recalled. And thus, I now find myself trying to re-type the rules from the very beginning. It is much slower going as I'd been doing the mental composing for about two months previous to my typing them out.

And so, my radio silence over the past couple of weeks is mainly due to that...

But not completely, unfortunately.

Fortuna has excreted on my month, to this point, with one disaster after another. Anyone fancy going days without water because the water main in front of your house sprung a leak...a 40 foot tall leak? No worries, I got that little gem in your stead.

How about needing to get your vehicle worked on, nearly 100 miles from home, only to find that the appointment you made was not actually "made" and  then had to wait five hours extra to get the work done?  Yep, I took that one upon myself, too.

There are a number of others, but life has contrived to humble me a bit...not that I was in a particular need of humility, it seems that the Eternal Judge has deemed otherwise.

So, I am re-working the rules, and typing them out as I mentally compose each section. Sadly, now that we've students in the classroom again, my mental free-time is much less than what it was. Alas, now actual work must be done as it was pre-Covid. No, I am not really sad about that, but I had gotten used to the extra time for things I wanted to think about.

I am hoping to have most of the rules re-written at some point this week. 


On a much brighter note, as the weather has been a continuing block for my priming of figures, I purchased an airbrush, just so that I can prime figures indoors. I got one of the less expensive kits (meaning something cheap on Amazon) so that I can learn the how-tos on something that is not terribly expensive to ruin and replace.

I am expecting it, and the cleaning kit for it,  to arrive on Monday. I also did a bit more retail therapy, but the books I purchased were so poorly packed by the Amazon folks that I had to send them back and get replacements sent to me. I am not a fan of hardcover books having their covers separated from the pages. 

Games Workshop's Warcry, Necromunda, 40K, and Age of Sigmar all called to my wallet, which responded far too freely, and some of those models and boxed sets have started to arrive. While I may not play them as others do, lacking a face-to-face opponent (even without COVID), I love painting GW models and I am working on solitaire versions of those rules (borrowing heavily from TwoHourWargame's solo rules) so that I can play against myself...unless friends come for a visit and some games.

 

So, while I have been very unlucky in a number of areas, I am blessed to have a good job that allows me to make some purchases that would otherwise be difficult to rationalize to myself. 

 

Now, if I had a local opponent against whom my armies could frequently face, life would be...perfect.

 






Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Invader Bot Final Draft Version 1 - A Campaign Design Process Update

 

Above is a screensnip of the "final" draft of my invader bot. Invader Bot Final Draft v1 is available as a downloadable file.

I am still working on the rules that explain how to use the bot, but I do believe the bot itself is done, design-wise. I have left room for some modifiers, just in case, but for the main, I think this is the finished version.

Keen-eyed observers will note that I've two different tables that allow for an Enemy Concentration to act/react to the Player's Field Forces. This is intentional as the first, under Resolve Enemy Concentration is how the enemy reacts immediately upon contact with a Field Force. Consider it a meeting engagement situation. Table 4b Concentration Reaction is for when the Enemy Concentration is already present on the map either it moves adjacent to a Field Force or vice versa.

My continual use of 3d6 for most of the bot's behaviors and the player's actions regarding the bot is also intentional. The percentages worked out a lot better, even better than using a d20, and this also allowed me to have values for modifiers which would have trashed the 2d6 probability curve.

Where I use "Recruitment Rolls" is intended to work with the modified army generators that I borrowed heavily from Rally Round the King, but just as easily can equal battalions, regiments, brigades, or squadrons or batteries, depending upon the tactical system a player uses. 

I did allow that the 3d6 roll for the bot's behavior under Table 3 could determine the reaction and the adjustment to the size of the Enemy Concentration at the same time, or two different rolls could be used to determine these, individually. So, a much larger formation could retreat, for example, instead of just the weaker concentrations. This decision is left to the player to make.

As I may have mentioned before, this bot intentionally works to punish the player who is too cautious or indecisive, being that their nation can quickly be overwhelmed with enemy sightings, which all too soon, come to be revealed as large-ish bodies of enemy troops.

That the bot allows for flank attacks, even multiple flanking maneuvers, at the tactical level is something I wanted for my own use, but may be something that other players also turn out to like. The fog of war element of a campaign can be tough to pull off, so I did try to make as much provision for the player to deal with the unknown as possible. 

I purposely did not add a table for the strength of flanking forces as those belong to the tactical system and not the strategic bot, in my view. 

However, the rules will really go far to explain the nuances of how this is all intended to work, how the Enemy Concentrations "move" on the map, how a player's population centers can fall to the enemy, and a number of other situations and descriptions that will prove helpful to not only utilizing the bot, but also show, I hope, that the outcomes have both a rational as well as historical basis. Pure randomness is just that and it would have been a lot easier to create a table that relied solely upon random outcomes.

Yet, I'd like to think that there's a reason as to why certain things are more likely to occur and others are far less likely, due to factors that are visible and can be manipulated to some degree, but also allow for improbable extremes.

Should anyone wish to use the both, even without the full explanation, they are free to do so. If otherwise republished or posted elsewhere, I only ask that a link back to my blog is provided as the source and myself as the creator. This will also hold true once I have finished writing and re-writing the rules  as well as for the tables and rules for the upcoming Defender Bot.

This is not to say that I have any expectations that hundreds of players will use this, but I do want to make it clear, up front, for folks to know that I want for them to feel free to make use of the bot and not have to ask my permission first. Strange days...

Monday, March 1, 2021

Campaign Bot, Scout Reaction Table...A Campaign Design Process Update

 

Just a quick update. I decided to split the Scout reaction and Concentration reaction into two tables, instead of a single, combined, one; doing so made much more sense.

The Scout Reaction table, above, is when the scouting force is adjacent to an Enemy Concentration at the end of the player's move. What does the Player want the Scout to do? The choices are to Delay, to try to prevent the Enemy Concentration from moving; to Harry, to try to cause enough trouble amidst the enemy camp that they withdraw slightly, to better ground or to shore up their line of supply against marauding scouts; to Evade, to avoid extended combat and break contact with the Enemy Concentration.

I realize the better results on this table are with the higher numbers, contrary to the rest of my tables. I'll probably switch it, but for the life of me, I know I had a reason when I first went over this. I just cannot remember what that reason is.

The loss of SP is self-explanatory, but a Success result indicates that the Scout has achieved whatever mission the Player set for it. However, even with a success, the Scout will suffer some adverse effect, either a slight loss or to become Exhausted

Note, an exhausted scout quickly becomes a casualty.

The modifiers should also be self-explanatory and I have left room to add a few that I may decide (or be convinced) should be included.

I need to shoehorn the Field Force Reaction Table onto the sheet, somehow fitting it into a single printed page, but without adding confusion as to when it happens in the sequence of the activities and actions of a turn.


Ah, which reminds me.



This is the sequence of actions and activities that occur during a campaign season turn.

Place Reports - The Sighting Reports (I'd forgotten to change the name when I took this snippet) are placed into all legally eligible locations.

Check Depots - The check to see if a Bot depot moves to a new location within the Player nation.

Check Siege - To see if a city or fortress is considered as under siege, due to the mass of Sightings at that location.

Clear Reports - Scouts attempt to clear Sightings.

Move Scouts - The Scouts may move into locations that are not occupied by an Enemy Concentration or Sighting.

Move Field Force - Field Forces may move into locations that are not occupied by an Enemy Concentration. Uncleared Sightings "bounce" to an adjacent location chosen at random.

Resolve Reports (Sightings) - Field Forces attempt to resolve adjacent Sightings into Enemy Concentrations.

Scout Reaction - Player tasks all Scouts which are adjacent to an Enemy Concentration to either Delay, Evade, or Harry and then rolls the dice to determine the outcome.

Field Force Reaction, the player elects to either Attack, Hold, or Evade the Enemy Concentration, which will then react according to the table. 

Concentration Reaction - the reaction is that of the Bot towards the Field Force, depending upon the latter's own action or inaction.

Combats - Any battles resulting from a collision between Field Forces and Enemy Concentrations now occur.

Exploitations - Post-battle activity including retreats, routs, and pursuits. 


I hope to have the Concentration Reaction table posted tomorrow, but as we are now back on the school site, my days are a bit more exhausting. In fact, I can barely stay awake to make this post.

Well, again, I am fairly content with the bot as it currently exists, but playing around with it, and testing its functioning, will be a better determiner of its utility and whether or not it suits my needs.



Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Campaign Bot Terminology - A Campaign Design Process update

 

 

I do try to use images that fit the topic or theme of my posts.

 

As I am currently working on the "rules" for the Invader-Bot for the campaign (there will be a Defender-Bot in the near future), I figured I would share my explication of the various terms utilized within. If something is unclear, please let me know in the comments, so that I can look at how to better explicate it.

 The list below is probably incomplete, but it is a good start, at least. We changed up work, this week, to where I have students everyday, instead of alternating days, and so I have less time to think and type as I am mentally exhausted after trying to herd a hundred cats, I mean students. 

The goal remains to have these rules finished by the end of the week, but as it has warmed up considerably here, going from sub-zero teens to the low 40s, I may be going into town with my son, this weekend. As this is pretty much a day trip, a slight delay might be the result.


Terms

Enemy Concentration – A body of enemy of some strength, the exactness of which are fluid due to fog of war. As a rule of thumb, the greater the number of Sightings in a location and its immediate surroundings, the greater potential strength of the enemy force that might be located there. In a campaign, there may be several Enemy Concentrations discovered, whether one is a “main body” or the force has been divided, perhaps unwisely, the Player is not in a position to know with any surety.

Field Force – So named as to help Players avoid confusion over terms and bodies of troops, a Field Force is a Player-owned entity, usually comprising at least a brigade in strength, but this can vary. The initial placement of a Field Force is determined during the Winter Quarters Phase, immediately preceding the start of a Campaign Season. A Field Force can clear adjacent Sightings, or resolve them,  and may Hold and therefore defend a location against possible attack, attack an Enemy Concentration or attempt to Evade the same. Another function a Field Force is to add Scouts to the map, in addition to any established during Winter Quarters. These come from its own strength and may well be unavailable to the parent Field Force for any battles during the Campaign Season.

Location – Simply put, a Location is a single point on the map. It may be either relatively empty or may contain a Population Center or a significant terrain or structural feature of some sort, such being clearly marked on the map. Examples of the latter include railroads and ports.

Population Center – A hub of human activity and living quarters of a size greater than a hamlet or village; in most cases being a town, city, capital city, or fortress. Usually, a Population Center will have a local garrison or constabulary, and generally exert some small amount of influence over its own and adjacent locations. As a result, they will attempt to clear any adjacent Sightings, although far less efficiently than Scouts. For a brief time, they will contain the spread of Sightings, with the more populous or fortified locations holding them off a little longer than the others. However, being hubs of human activity, by their very nature rumor and truth spread like wildfire amongst the people, meaning that Population Centers will eventually succumb to enemy activity, if not kept in hand by the Player.

Resolve – Also Resolving, is the term which signifies that one or more Sightings has been confirmed as being an accurate report of enemy activity, wherein an Enemy Concentration has been located and the appropriate marker placed on the campaign map.

Scout – Usually a cavalry picket or screening force of some kind, also a dedicated squadron of cavalry sent on an intelligence gathering mission. Scouts should be thought of as a scouting force, ones which the Player utilizes as the primary means to either confirm or reject Sightings reports. Scouts will often suffer casualties while carrying out their mission, so strategic consumption could become a concern. When they contact an Enemy Concentration, they can either try to hinder the enemy’s movement by harrying them or try to evade them.

Sighting Reports – Referred to as Sightings or Sighting Markers, Sighting Reports represent a combination of rumor and truth which may, or may not, indicate the presence of enemy troops in an area. As the saying goes, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire; Sightings, then, are a general guide to what might be going on in a specific location. However, it is up to the Player to confirm or reject these reports with Scouts. The general rule is that the more Sightings reports in a location, the greater likelihood that the enemy are present there in some numbers.

 

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Campaign Bot nearly finished...A Campaign Design Process update

 

I've made this as large as I can, so people can better read it.

One of my goals was to create this bot so as to fit on a single piece of paper, including all rules and explanations. I think I've gotten the table portion down, with just a little bit more to go as far as the evading and combat options that the player chooses and how the bot deals with both. I also need to place the table for changing depot locations, but that may need to go on the same side as the actual written rules.

Printed out, this needs to be landscape in orientation, but also fit to page, else it does come in a bit larger than desired.

I still have some cleaning up to do on it, as I just noticed that I did not change or did not use the correct version of the table on the far left. The possible enemy markers are now "sightings" and the enemy main body is now "enemy concentration." Player-side markers are now "scouts" and "field force." All of these changes are intended to help reduce the chance of confusing someone, especially myself, and also to more accurately reflect the function of each marker.

The tables only come into play once scouts or a field force moves to a location adjacent to one or more sightings markers. From that point, the player is either active or inactive, in that the player is attempting to clear the markers from the map locations or is waiting for the bot to concentrate forces on the map. The latter result may be less than ideal for the player. 

If scouts fail to clear the sightings, then there is a good chance the enemy has troops in that location. A skirmish fight will then need to take place, if the player again wants to actively deal with the enemy. If successful, the enemy is revealed and its strength determined; the proper marker is placed on the map.

If a field force is clearing the sightings, then it is either successful in doing so or finds that it has run into enemy units. Again, the strength of the enemy concentration needs to be determined.

The base strength of any enemy concentration comes from its national military strength, something determined via the economic layer. This number is then modified, by enemy proximity to depots, the number of adjacent sightings (which may indicate enemy troop presence) and if the resolution was forced at less than six sightings in the location (meaning less than the number of troops the enemy attempted to concentrate prior to contacting the player).

Once the strength is known, the player dices for the type and number of enemy units, including qualities. These are all "good guess" rolls as there may be more or less troops when actual battle is joined. The player elects whether to attempt to evade the enemy concentration, should it be much larger than his own field force, or to go ahead and accept or force a battle.

I do need to write up what happens should the two sides become separated again by one or more locations, which is more explication than tables. I also need to finalize what happens to a player's population centers when enemy sightings are at those locations, likely outcomes are contact is lost to the enemy is besieging a walled city or fortress.

Overall, I'd say about 80% or more of the work is done. I do need to run a series of tests for the numbers, to see if I am still happy with them. At that point, I will be turning this over to several friends to break and help me fix.





Tuesday, February 16, 2021

The Strategic Layer - Botting the campaign...A Campaign Design Process update

 

This is the latest version of the scouting table, the one which governs the clearance or failure to clear a Possible Enemy marker (new name pending). 

The most significant change is the target numbers for clearing the markers, then a couple of modifiers were added/changed.

Additionally, I am including my updated notes on what the player is striving to do at the same time the bot is doing its thing.These are a bit rough and lack some context, which I hope the last few posts serve to provide.

In response to the placement of Possible Enemy markers...

"Scouts will attempt clear the possible enemy marker. If they succeed, the marker(s) are removed. If they fail, they will need to skirmish with the marker or evade it.

If they skirmish, they will fight a skirmish battle (either by die roll or on tabletop)

If they win the fight, their scouting causes the possible enemy marker(s) to resolve into a main body, the strength of which is based on both the level of success of their skirmish as well as the number of possible enemy markers at that location.

If they lose the skirmish, the possible enemy marker remains in place at that location, meaning it will gain another such marker at the start of the next turn, and will also lose one or more SPs and may become fatigued (meaning it is less useful in scouting until it recovers remains in place for two campaign turns).

If friendly main body attempts to remove a possible enemy marker, it has a greater chance of doing so. If it fails, the possible enemy marker gains two new markers and immediately resolves into enemy main body at that new strength.

Enemy main body strength can range from one to six Possible Enemy markers, plus any garrisons from depots in range.

These determine the number of die rolls on the army generator table.

The degree of success or failure, when testing to resolve Possible Enemy markers into an enemy main body, also modifies the enemy flank attack die roll. Which the player rolls at the end of every tactical turn after the first, so at the end of turn 2, rolls to see if enemy flanking force arrives on a table edge. These rolls continue to happen as a second or more flanking force may arrive, but with modifiers that reduce the chances."

I intend to have the final table finished and begin typing everything for this part of the bot into actual rules by this weekend. Hopefully, my friends in California will be able to test it extensively in an ACW campaign.

 

Monday, February 15, 2021

The Strategic Layer - botting the campaign part 3...A Campaign Design Process Update

 

This is a portion of the very beautiful map from the most excellent game, Friedrich, which is my favorite boardgame. It can be very difficult and frustrating to play, but it has all the elements I look for in a multi-player wargame.

This is the type of map I have in mind for my own Imagi-Nations campaign, but obviously mine will look very different. However, the point to point movement along minor or major roads is exactly the look I am wanting to capture.

With this snip from the map, I want to better illustrate by example my current working version of the "bot" for controlling enemy movement and the fog of war that the player has to deal with.

I have reworked a sample of the bot in action. I call it a "bot" as it resolves what I think a general high command would face if their country was invaded, without the player having to make a lot of decisions for the enemy side, ones which would have a built-in bias on the part of the player.

Nearly everything shown in the example below has a table or chart to go along with it. I just need to reword my notes and write actual rules for it all. I also need to clean up some of the tables as a few things have changed since my last couple of posts.

One thing I still need to work out is a matrix of possible outcomes as a result of a scouting/main body clash; the axis are accurate and complete information vs no information obtained and no combat losses vs scouts eliminated. I am factoring in the quality traits of the enemy commander in the given main body, but need to work out the various outcomes along both axis, assigned to d6 rolls. This will take some time to get working as I'd like, but the remainder of this bot example currently exists, if in a slightly muddy form.

The above legend applies to all of the images below. These symbols were created using Google Drawings, which is far more easy to use than GIMP 2.0, for very basic illustrations.

The player city really means town, city, fortress, capital city. I needed to designate them for this example, as they do not already exist in the form I needed on the Friedrich map. My own campaign map versions have had a variation on this from the very beginning of the project, some ten years ago.

Player forces can be as small as a battalion, but will usually be a brigade or more in strength. These are designated, in location and strength, by the player during the Winter Quarters phase. Enemy depot locations are diced for, as to number and location, also.

The player scouting forces are each one cavalry squadron (of any kind, heavy, light, dragoon, hussar, etc.). For this example, I purposely went conservative, using only a portion of the available cavalry, keeping the majority intact for battlefield purposes. More scouts is better, but these are mostly lost to the player for any battles between main forces.

The above is the situation at the end of the Winter Quarters phase of each campaign year. The very next campaign turn is the start of the year's campaign season, which can last from 6 to 28 weeks, depending upon the weather for that year (random die rolls). I've gone through a number of histories of past wars and felt this was a good enough spread that had a basis in reality. 

Below are the various maps, most with annotations that explain everything that I'd otherwise write in text here. The image just below is the end of the first turn, each following image is the end of each subsequent turn, through the end of turn 6. 

I realize these are small to look at here, but clicking on the images should increase the visible size.







 There is a bit more work to do, especially fixing the names and tweaks here and there, but I am fairly happy with how things turned out so far.

I very much would like some feedback on this. Other than a few friends who've texted with me about this or sent an email, I've nothing really at all from folks I do not know and/or have not gamed with. It could be that this seems as promising to others as it is to me, or that it's DOA in the minds of nearly everyone else.

This is something I want to take into account, especially as I do plan on sharing the end product, if people have an interest.

I have just learned that Friedrich, and its companion game Maria, are both getting an expansion. The expansion provides a fifth deck of combat cards as well as little labeled boxes and wooden pieces to provide for hidden army strengths. While I may never play either game again, due to now living a fair distance from any other wargamer, I still had to place my pre-order, just in case life and good fortune provide a way.