Advanced Tactics explores new ground

Last week a new public beta for Advanced Tactics Gold has been released. It brings a big new feature to the game. The ‘New Dawn’ random games and custom scenarios can now use so called Tables of Organisation (TOE). A concept well known the more Grognardian of players. This allows the players to design the ideal contents of a unit. After assigning a unit to a TOE model the game will automaticly use logistical resources (trains,trucks,cargoships) to send the appropriate troops to it. This new feature can be used by scenario designers to create historical TOEs, but in random games the imagination is the only limit to the kind of TOEs the player wants to add.

The feature comes with a lot of detail and when designing TOE models you can also choose the NATO counter graphics, the way the units are named and much more. So far as I know it is unique for a wargame to have the option to create your own TOEs while actually playing a game.

This has been, after the officers and the custom tank models, another new addition to the the ‘New Dawn’ random games in ATG, which functions as a running laboratory for features for an eventual new Advanced Tactics 2 game. Feedback so far has been positive and the new feature has the ability to seriously change the feel and mouse-click load of the game.

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Best wishes,
Vic

Posted in Advanced Tactics (gold) | Leave a comment

Does complexity define wargames? And are there any voids in wargame design?

The first part of the title of this post is the topic of a discussion question for my publishers Home of the Wargamers 2015 event.

And in fact it is a very good question and one that should in my opinion be reflected upon by any wargame designer before starting any new project.

My instinctive first reply to the question is to say that there is no such thing as “the” wargame genre or “the” wargamer.

The ideal amount of complexity depends certainly on the personal tastes of the player. Some players are more casual or beer and pretzel lovers, some players are more hardcore wargamers or even grognards.

Reflecting on the complexity of wargames I can distinguish (at least) two important factors that determine the perceived complexity.

The amount of game pieces you have to move each turn is the first important factor. On one side of the spectrum here we find for example chess, while on the other side of the spectrum you would find monster hex-and-counter games like some HPS games or War in the East.

And the detail for the game pieces you control, affect you or that you affect is the second important factor. Does each unit have 2 or 3 variables like in Empire Deluxe, maybe 10-20 variables like in Panzer Corps, or maybe 100s of variables like in War in the East?

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Disclaimer: I really put these titles rather quickly on these 2 axis; please allow for an error of a few centimeters ;)

The amount of game pieces you have at your disposal should in general create more strategic and/or tactical options for the player. More permutations of game states. High permutation games are complex because they make it impossible to really calculate what is going to be the outcome of your moves, especially when trying to think a few turns into the future, you have to develop a “feel” or “intuition” to become a good player.

The detail of the stuff you have at your disposal can make each iteration of a piece of the game unique (12th Infantry division versus 45th Infantry division for example). These detailed games add a lot of complexity to the game and time-investment for the player, since everything should ideally be inspected before being utilized to achieve best results. On the other hand they add a lot of immersion, special strategies, management challenges and feel of “realism”.

My analysis here is that the [ level of simulation/detail * the ammount of stuff you control ] in a game results in that games complexity score. On the illustration I put for example Panzer Corps in the more casual wargame quadrant and Grigsby in the grognard quadrant. Panzer Corps has relatively low unit count and low detail, while Grigsby has defenitely high unit count and high detail.

So answering the question “does complexity define wargames?” I would really say yes, but the bar where a game becomes a “real” wargame differs from player to player depending on their preferred level of complexity.

In a way the term “casual” and “grognard” is actually not objective and betrays a bit my own sympathies. The term “casual” or “beer and pretzel” is definitely a term coined by players who prefer games to the high complexity side of the spectrum. My apologies if I offended any-one and feel free to replace “casual” with “strategy” and “grognard” with “I like looking at spreadsheets”. It really depends on your personal tastes and who you compare yourself too.

I think the interesting thing about putting turn based wargames on the two dimensions I chose is that I realized there are two design voids. There are no wargames I know of with very low detail per game piece but very large counts of them, nor are there any (non-tactical) wargames with very low game piece counts, but with immense details to each piece.

I know of other genres who have exploited these voids though… RPG’s for example excel in low unit count but with immense detail per unit (characters are of course the name for units there). And for example some RTS and Total War games field thousands of little soldiers on the battlefields but they often resemble a clone of their neighbor.

Personally I think these relative voids might hold the key to create some cross-genre and entry level games.

Thats it for my brainstorm on the subject for today. Correct me if I am wrong please.

Best wishes,
Vic

Posted in Game Design | 6 Comments

I Swore It Worked When I Last Looked At It

I have been remiss with my Blog posts of late but Beta Testing started in Late February and it’s been flat out ever since.

We have an excellent team of testers who have taken the game to the cleaners, held it down and forcibly sloshed water into dark places.

Which is a good thing as the game is slowly starting to shape up and may even pass morning muster.

Whole armies of bugs have met their doom, unwieldy game mechanics have been streamlined and balancing continues apace.

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Beta 4 has just been released and there have been many changes. Here’s a quick rundown.

The game is now more flexible and able to cater for a much wider range of personal tastes.

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The on map information display have been improved. Logistical pipelines now let you know which Truck Columns are serving which Panzergruppe, for example. Airfields are shown on the map as are Baltic Convoy routes. There’s better indication of any Action Point penalties that might exist in a hex.

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Relationship levels with key characters have been integrated into more game mechanics. If you have poor relations with F.M von Rundstedt, for example, Theatre Commander of AGS, then all related Action Cards will cost more. Don’t upset Reichsmarschall Göring if you’re in desperate need of Luftwaffe resupply.

To emphasise the importance of your various relationships there is now a special tab that can be left open at all times, if desired.

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Dynamic tool tips will give you a summary of all current game effects that result from your current relationship level with that character.

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You’ll notice in the picture above that there is a new yellow button with a blue ‘R’. This will enable you to quickly obtain a Status Report on any Division in the game.

The amount of information tracked for each Division has slowly crept up as is now close to thirty separate data points (excluding straight stat’s). When a Division reports back it’ll only show you the ones that are relevant.

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You’ll notice from the above that postures have had a makeover. The Soviets are still Offensive, Neutral and Defensive but the Germans have changed to Blitzkrieg, Sustained Offensive and Defence with a different set of modifiers.

Needless to say that leaving Armies or Panzergruppes on an all out Blitzkrieg posture for any length of time will lead to problems.

HQ’s now report their status just like Divisions.

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General Busch, he of the 16th Army, has just had his early morning coffee and is ready to lead his men forward at the start of the campaign. General Busch is in excellent spirits and has promised his children that he’ll be home for Christmas with a piece of the Kremlin.

Colonel General Hoth, no nonsense, hard living, leader of the 3rd Panzergruppe, on the other hand, isn’t thnking about Christmas presents as he has enough to worry about already.

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Tool tips abound to let you know exactly why Colonel General Hoth is reaching for the Schnaps and not the coffee.

Or you could check the new Panzergruppe tab.

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Dynamic tool tips, once again, keep you up to date with all things Panzer.

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The default settings have proven to give a tough game for both sides. Balancing has gone through a number of iterations and this will continue. Still not quite where it should be but closing in.

There are special ‘Helper’ buttons to give you a hand up if you’re stuck. These, as you’d expect, come at a cost and there is an option to turn them off if you’d prefer to play the game standing on your own two feet.

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Another big change is the way the game handles Difficulty, Scores and Victory Conditions. There is a fairly detailed system in there now that attempts to give both sides a fighting chance of achieving a win, regardless of any advantages one side may have.

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The German player has a range of possible strategies he can select from at the start of the game. Each of these come with their own set of pros and cons. The Soviet player also gets to choose an objective that must be defended at all costs.

How these two opposing goals interact, along with a difficulty adjusted score, determines who takes home the Oscar and what colour it will be.

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You’ll notice that, in the example above, the Player has chosen the ‘Support Hitler’ strategy (it’s the very start of the game) which comes with much assistance from the Führer himself. The downside is that the Führer is a man of whims and you may find your objective changing as a result of a Directive.

beta4_directive_popup

Enough of the Germans.

Let’s talk about the Soviets.

Next blog.

Cheers,
Cameron

Posted in DC3:Engine, Game Design, Upcomming releases | 2 Comments

Case Blue is now for sale at Steam and Matrix!!

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And that with a whopping 50% discount! To get it surf over to Matrix or to Steam. If you already own Case Blue and want to add it to your Steam library remember that Matrix gives free Steam keys to existing owners. Happy panzerdrive towards the Caucasus oilfields and/or inspired patriotic defense of the Motherland!

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