Archive For The “Articles” Category
Michael Eckenfels, 20 May 2019
It strikes me as funny that we’re only about a third of the way through the Planeteers era, at least insofar as my card deck is concerned. We’ve barely scratched the surface of the Competitor’s cards, and aren’t anywhere near in danger of claiming six Contracts, so I hope you’re enjoying this era because it might take a bit to get through! With that in mind, I’m going to try to write longer chapters moving forward so that it doesn’t take ten years to get all of this posted!
Well, they’re extending their reach. Again.
They’re going to land a team on Charon, Pluto’s moon. (more…)
Brant Guillory, 16 May 2019
On #TBT, we bring you the occasional classic article – an older review or analysis piece we wanted to rescue
Looking for a grognard-quality game in a light, on-the-go package? Walk, don’t run, to your Android phone and grab this little gem.
Small General is a light wargame for the Android OS that has a generic-but-roughly-WWII-era theme that offers some interesting tactical challenges in a package that plays quickly, but still offers a robust grog-friendly experience. The “beta” is available as a free download, and includes about 5 scenarios of varying size/challenge. The paid version unlocks significantly more content. Moreover, the AI in the paid version seems to cheat less, but maybe it’s just me!
Small General is played on a hex grid with basic terrain: woods, cities, hills, marshes, etc. Units are presented as counters with attack/defend values, which are updated based on current damage status. Counters may be stacked, and the stacks examined. Additionally, attackers can pick and choose their targets from within an enemy stack. Movement is also rather simple, with a basic touch-screen drag-and-drop interface to move units around. The same motions are used to specify an attack.
Avery Abernethy, 15 May 2019
Aggressors Ancient Rome is a 4x (explore, expand, exploit, and exterminate) strategy game from Kubat Software distributed by Slitherine/Matrix games.
Many 4x games have been released over the years across multiple genres including the development of man from ancient times to the space age (Civilization), development of space faring civilizations (Master of Orion, Space Empires) and Fantasy settings (Warlock; Age of Wonders; Fallen Enchantress). Aggressors enters a crowded 4x field containing both old school favorites and recent releases.
My review is based on more than a hundred and ten hours of play and a cover-to-cover reading of the 225 page manual. Aggressors has two complete games under the hood, an “everyone starts at the beginning” scramble game and a game starting in the Mediterranean in 282 BC with twenty unequal opponents ranging from highly advanced civilizations (Carthage, Ptolemaic Empire, Rome, Athens) to barbarian tribes. Both the scramble start game and the 20 opponent 282 BC game were played to completion. The game is stable and I experienced only one crash playing on a on a one year old Falcon Northwest Talon. I was given a review copy of the game.
Brant Guillory, 14 May 2019
originally published at GrogNews.com
Note that this is a companion piece to the original column on recon & intel in tabletop wargaming.
In the tactical world, we have several different tools we use to ensure that we get the right data at the right time.
One of the key methods involves the use of map graphics. We use transparent overlays on standard-size military maps (1:50k) and use graphics to indicate enemy actions: locations of units, routes for movement, places we expect them to attack or defend, etc.
For every operation we draw at least two sets of these graphics. The first is the most likely course of action (COA), based on our knowledge of how the enemy fights. That knowledge may come from doctrine, observed behavior, or (best of all) an inside source. The second course of action is usually what we call the “most dangerous” and is based on what we think the enemy would do if they had perfect knowledge of us and our plans.
For these examples, we’re using a hex-grid version of the central corridor at Fort Irwin, the US Army’s National Training Center.
Enemy COA 1
Enemy COA 2
as always, click to enlarge the images
Once we have two sets of graphics drawn out, we take the two overlays and lay them one on top of the other. This lets us visualize where the differences/similarities are between the courses of action. Where the COAs diverge are areas that we need to target with some form of observation, to try and identify which course of action the enemy is pursuing.
In a time-constrained environment, these graphics will often become the basis of our own plan, where the divergent points become the focus of recon efforts, and the similarities become target reference points or engagement areas, since we expect the enemy to appear there regardless of COA.
NAIs – Where to look for differences
Targeting/Engagement Areas – Where you expect to find the enemy
as always, click to enlarge the images
Once we’ve identified where we need to look, the next step is to identify when we need to look there, since some information is time-specific. When I say “look” I don’t just mean literally “a guy on a hillside with binoculars and a radio.” It can be a variety of sensors: ground surveillance radar, JSTARS, UAVs, counter-battery radars, or other sensors. We determine when we need to have what type of coverage based on (a) what we are looking for, and (b) how easy we can get the appropriate sensors in place. Sometimes the best we get is a satellite overflight from the NRO, but we have to take what we can get.
Those NAIs are important because they give us clues to the enemy’s expected course of action. If we identify the airborne units in the mountain passes on the north side of the battlefield, then we would expect the enemy to commit to something similar to COA1. If we find them closer to town, then we’re looking to confirm the enemy following COA2.
In the end, we have our list of Named Areas of Interest (NAIs) and what indicators we are looking for there. Then we assign at least 2 sets of sensors to each. Some may be duplicative; some may only be backup measures. The commander may also give us some guidance on his priorities, and require that we have three or even four sets of eyes on certain things, if they’re deemed critical. Based on what we find in each of the NAIs, the commander may trigger certain actions among our forces to react to the new info.
Depending on the amount of time available to (a) plan and (b) execute, we may develop more than two COAs, but we virtually always develop at least 2. We may also alter the amount of analysis we do during the mission of before the mission. NAIs are often based on analysis conducted before the mission, where we project certain indicators and the meaning of those indicators. If the indicators are triggered, then that adds to the overall picture we can confirm/deny.
This is pretty specialized, I know. But it’s also pretty important, and we practice/refine/rehearse this a lot.
Here’s some random annoying guy explaining all of this, using graphics that look awfully similar to what’s up above.
Michael Eckenfels, 13 May 2019
When last we met, dear reader, you’d followed along as BanzaiCorp continued its explorations of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. The most recent was Titan, a moon of Saturn, where we found yet another Alien Artifact. One brought us surprise, alarm, concern, fascination, fear, excitement, and curiosity, all balled up into one solid dense ball of purpose and hope. Hope, more than anything; as our scientists try to decipher and age the structures here on Titan, and try to tie the two together, the best they can come up with is, the facilities are similar in scope, though the one on Titan is easily three times larger. But, like its little sibling on Ceres, it is empty; no ‘human’-like facilities are found – no quarters, cafeteria, offices, labs, and the like. Just structures, which we think are antennas or some kind of advanced listening/observation devices. Again, it is so alien, we have really no idea what we’re looking at. Nor do we know how old it truly is, though its similarity to the one on Ceres speaks volumes about it being the same group that created it.
Spying on Earth? Observing us? Isn’t it what WE would do in such a case, were we to come across an alien civilization living on a planet, somewhere? Unlike most science fiction that speaks of alien invasions, conquest, exploitation, and in some cases, harvesting of people for food, they don’t seem hostile. Unless this was a precursor for such a thing…
The questions this raises far outweighs the previous question – “are we alone out here?” – and means endless discussions on social media, the news, over coffee, by the water cooler, and just about everywhere else.
Meanwhile, we have the Competition to look at…
Brant Guillory, 7 May 2019
Brant Guillory: The “Sterrett Games” at the Origins War College seem to keep growing in popularity. Aside from the nomenclature, what can you tell us about the origins of these ‘exercises’?
Dr James Sterrett: I struggled to figure out how to present a paper at the Origins War College that would explain how CGSC uses games for military education. No approach worked well until I realized that the key was to stop talking about how the exercises worked – and instead to run an exercise.
BG: If I’m a new participant to this entire process, what should I expect when I walk in the door for one of these games?
JS: You’ll get a job! Well, at any rate, a job on a staff for the duration of the event. Jobs include roles such as the commander, the operations officer, and the intel officer. We’ll teach you the basics of that job, and then provide an overview of the US Army’s planning process. Then you start to do your job: you and the others on your staff use the planning process to create a plan for the battle. Once the plan is complete, or time runs short for planning, we transition to fighting the battle. At the end, we run a short After Action Review, in which we try to point out things that were done well (or poorly), and to discuss some of the learning points that might have been brought out if this were run at CGSC.