Archive For The “Columns” Category

2018 – Looking Back and Looking Ahead, part 1

2018 – Looking Back and Looking Ahead, part 1

Brant Guillory, 31 December 2018

In a tradition carried on from past lives, we’ve reached out to some friends in the gaming world, and asked a pair of questions about the year in gaming.  Part 1 today, to close out 2018, and part 2 tomorrow.

What do you think was the biggest news story in the hobby gaming world over the past year, and why?

Byron Salahor – Dragoon!

Since I am reluctant to quote a single, definitive article, my vote for the biggest news story in the gaming world continues to be the ever-increasing popularity of Dungeons & Dragons.  Over the last couple of years, this hallmark role-playing game has increasingly showed up in the oddest of places – like popular mainstream media.  TV personalities (hullo Stephen!) discuss the game on late-night talk shows; respectable newspapers feature articles on how this odd, niche fantasy game is (surprise!) bringing people together, creating community, or is being used in the classroom.  Local libraries are running D&D game nights; my local FLGS reports having sold “dozens” of starter kits in the run-up to Christmas, and an FLGS in a neighboring province stated on their social media feed that they just sold their 2000th copy of the 5th edition Player’s Handbook.  While D&D will probably never become as popular as Risk, or Catan, or Monopoly, it is – in this gamer’s opinion – very heartening to see how a game that encourages imagination, cooperation, and story-telling  has meaning and value in an age of electronic amusements.

 

Jeff Tidball – Game designer and GAMA board member

I think that it’s a bit unsung at the moment, and we’re only looking at the beginning of it, but I think that Tabletop Wire’s founding, and their ramp-up of legit daily journalism about the business side of the tabletop gaming hobby, has been really exciting this year. There’s simply no other place that’s doing that kind of work, and it’s been a real need for the business (in my opinion) for a long time.

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Battle Lab: Integrating Tactical Intelligence into Board Wargaming

Battle Lab: Integrating Tactical Intelligence into Board Wargaming

Brant Guillory, 10 December 2018

How does intel work in board wargaming?  How could it work?  Here are a few thoughts.

What is Intelligence? What is Tactical Intelligence?

Intel is critical information needed to make decisions; that information is currently unknown, or known but likely to change. Tactical intelligence is specific to the battlespace in which a commander operates, and is needed to make decisions of a direct military nature, involving the employment of battlefield operating systems to accomplish his mission.

For example, a commander may not know the strength of the enemy’s force at all – a situation common in naval combat. In this case, he is dealing with a “pure” unknown. In another case, he may be familiar with the enemy’s initial strength, but following attrition for maintenance and expected harassment and interdiction (H&I) fires, it can be expected that the enemy will hit the commander’s main defensive belt at something less than full strength, but the exact strength is uncertain.

Another common occurrence in reality, but rare in games (especially historical ones because of the way that scenarios are designed), a commander might have a fairly complete enemy order of battle – and his reconnaissance may even have eyes on the enemy – but he has no idea what the enemy objective is.

In any case, there is information about the enemy that the commander needs. That information is intelligence. It’s often developed through inference, and it’s rarely an exact science. Based on what can be seen, what does that tell us about the enemy’s strength, intentions, and capabilities? Based on what is known, what can be extrapolated?

These are the challenges that commanders face in a real-world intelligence development environment.

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Battle Lab: Civilians on Hexagonal Battlefields

Battle Lab: Civilians on Hexagonal Battlefields

Brant Guillory, 6 November 2018

The following is the set of slides from Brant’s ’06 Origins War College talk about integrating civilians into wargaming.  Note that these are only the slides and not a full accounting of the entire robust discussion around the topic. Also, the talk focused on the game design effects, and not on the larger real-world implications of civilians on the battlefield.

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Battle Lab: Headquarters in Wargames

Battle Lab: Headquarters in Wargames

How are headquarters units implemented in wargames, and what functions do they serve? As wargamers, most of us have enough appreciation of history to understand the value of a headquarters in combat and its ability dramatically affect a battle as it unfolds. There are a variety of ways in which headquarters units can be portrayed on the tabletop.

Originally published in Battles! Magazine, here’s a look at HQ units on your tabletop

But first, let’s look at what they do in real life (as always, “the disclaimer”: the doctrine being discussed is American; it’s what I know). (more…)

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Battle Lab: Fog of War(gaming)

Battle Lab: Fog of War(gaming)

Brant Guillory, 8 July 2018

Note that this is a reprint of this article.
Click images to enlarge.

What is the Fog of War?

If ask 10 different people, you’ll get 10 different answers. In fact, I did just that, and here are some excerpts:

“Fog of War is the state of affairs on the battlefield (or pertaining to it) that is beyond a commander’s knowledge. For example, a commander may have a unit which has achieved a specific objective, but the commander is unaware of it due to the fact not having been relayed back to him. A second example may be that a specific objective may house an enemy commander’s HQ but that knowledge is withheld for whatever reason; in terms of conditions on the battlefield may appear to be an irrelevant objective or one that seems a dangerous, undefined, or irrelevant mission.”

“the enemy’s course of action is unknown and/or unconfirmed.”

“Fog of War refers to the confusion and lack of certainty a commander faces while making decisions on how to conduct a battle or war. Since modern war occurs over an area too large for a single commander to view, they rely on information from various sources to develop a mental model of what is occurring. They make their judgment and issue orders based on what they believe is occurring. Lack of information, wrong information, late information, all contribute to create an imperfect perception of what is occurring. This disconnect between what the commander thinks is occurring and what actually is occurring is referred to as the Fog of War.”

“The Fog of War is the lack of certainty in regard to the intent and composition of the enemy.”

“It is summed up as uncertainty based on lack of knowledge.”

“The Fog of War is that period of uncertainty from when the Enemy’s intentions are surmised and the enemy’s actions are known.”

“All the things everyone doesn’t know for sure during an armed conflict.”

So, generally, the “fog of war” is the lack of perfect situational awareness that comes about naturally as a result of actions on the battlefield. Of course it can be present in varying degrees – it is never either “on” or “off”. Curiously enough, the US Army and Marine Corps have no official definitions in their field manuals defining operational terms and graphics.

When examining the issues around “fog of war” however, how can we apply the problems, and their potential solutions, to boardgaming. This is one area in which our computer-gaming brethren have our butts kicked. Computer models can integrate a variety of fog of war effects, in large part because the computer can hide or reveal as much or as little as the programmers desire. It’s much harder to hid information when it’s all printed on a counter in front of you.

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Battle Lab: Why Logistics Sucks

Battle Lab: Why Logistics Sucks

Why logistics so rarely shows up in wargames ~

Brant Guillory, 1 June 2018

Here’s a logic puzzle for you.

You have 4 snakes that have to get through a maze. They each have a destination, but there are only 3 start points and only 3 endpoints. Oh, and the routes through the maze cross in several places, which means you have to sequence your snakes through the maze. And by the way, there is a certain sequence the snakes need to depart and arrive.

Does your head hurt yet? What if we started putting some obstacles in the maze? How about if the snakes stop off for a bite to eat? What if we start including snakes going the other direction, too? Some passageways are too small for some snakes, do you route them through those pathways to free up space for other snakes even if the smaller ones now take longer to get where they’re going? (more…)

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