Fog of war and possible enemy presence

One of the big changes in Shadow Empire compared to all my previous titles is that I dropped the system where players actually own the hexes on the map. In Shadow Empire players only own their locations and units.

This might seem like a bit of a trivial change, but the reverse is true. With hex control the player is always aware of any enemy maneuvers entering his territory. He might not know what enemy units are involved, but he is aware of the movements. Without hex control he only sees what his units and locations see.

A wealth of tactical possibilities is opened up with this increased fog of war. For example it is now possible to wage true guerrilla warfare, infiltrate enemy lines and disrupt the enemy supply system. This is basically your chance to be like the Desert Fox and outwit the enemy, take his rear supply bases and win almost bloodless victories. This possibility is a real reason to keep some reserves behind the lines and actually keep your lines tight to avoid such infiltration.

I like to add game rules that give at least in theory a smart player with less forces the possibility to outwit and defeat a much larger enemy.

Furthermore on a more strategic note it makes it possible to escape out of a dire situation and for example find a wild unclaimed part of the map and rebuild without the enemy knowing where you are. (might have seen The Empire Strikes Back one time to often)

What is important to realize is what the player sees as his supply system is always just a prognosis. Since it is possible that enemy units might be unseen and make the ideal logistical plan impossible at execution time (at start of the next turn).

fow1

Here we see a typical supply network with two supply units and a number of regular units. The dark shade indicates the fog of war. The arrows the flow of supply. In this example the supply will flow as normal.

But if an enemy unit would have infiltrated the lines it could block this supply network and cause all the units in the south to become cut of from supplies:

fow2

In play it turned out to be sometimes confusing to see units out of supply that should have been in supply and for this reason I created what I call Possible-Enemy-Presence (PEP) markers. In the screenshot above the PEP-markers are shown as the red blocked area. As you see the enemy unit blocking the supply chain between the 2 supply units is thus partly exposed. But note that the 2nd infiltrator a bit to the right of the exposed unit is not.

These PEP markers help a lot in the gameplay experience since they tell you more or less where there must be some enemy presence causing your supply network to dysfunction. They are basically just a tool and remove the burdensome task from the player of deducing where the enemy must be. The idea behind them is that they should betray (more-or-less) no more information than some sturdy think work by the player could have deduced. The PEP markers are most of the time not exact and with a complete break of the supply chain whole regions might be indicated.

These PEP markers are only shown when the optimal supply system is actually disrupted or broken. So if an enemy infiltrator would for example keep to the forests and not occupy (of all things!) a crossroad then no detection would take place.

Other rules related to fog of war are shroud of darkness rules and ambush rules. But my time is up and I’ll have to talk about those in a future post. Hope you enjoyed the read and feel free to comment.

Kind regards,
Vic

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21 Responses to Fog of war and possible enemy presence

  1. CSO_Talorgan says:

    It is clear that the basic mechanisms of the new game are well thought out and thought through. This is encouraging.

    Presumably darkness and foul weather will enhance the fog of war?

    Will it be possible to switch off the PEP markers to increase challenge?

    Do you want suggestions for terrain-types; or will the system be so plastic as to make these unnecessary?

  2. Jafele says:

    I find so interesting PEP markers cos it´s really intuitive. In my opinion supply systems tend to be confusing and unclear in many wargames. Even though it should be an essential feature.

    I love the use of colors in Advanced Tactics supply system. You can see clearly at first sight if you have a serious problem. Like it or not you cannot win a war without supply and ammnution.

  3. vic says:

    @Jafele,
    Yes actually there will be distinguishment between food, ammo and oil in Shadow Empire.

    @Talorgan,
    The game is in this sense a bit similar to Advanced Tactics and a mix between tactical and strategical gameplay. So there is no day-night cycle. Weather is tempting but probably will push this to a second game with the engine.

    Terrain types have effect on visibility. Forests for example are good places to set up an ambush because the enemy will probably not see you until fired upon.

    And yes I think an option to play without PEP markers will defenitely be included. Its easy to add disabling of features :)

    Best,
    Vic

  4. Mrswargamer says:

    Count me in as supporting this Vic.

  5. bwheatley says:

    Very exciting changes Vic. You always continue to innovate in the genre and that is appreciated.

  6. Chris says:

    What will be the hex distance and will each turn represent a day?

  7. vic says:

    @Chris,
    This game is more like Advanced Tactics in scale. Its a bit agnostic. Infantry can move 3 hexes, vehicles up to 8 hexes. Production of a new unit takes between 1 and 10 turns. To give an idea.

    Best,
    Vic

  8. Chris says:

    Will this have an editor like your other games that the user can use? I think this engine might morph into an AT2. Any news and DC3?

  9. vic says:

    Hi Chris,

    Not sure yet on editor. I depends a bit on time. I might do the same as Dc1 where I later provide an update providing an editor. Also I might choose to go completely different direction and allow for use of Visual Studio to compile a modded game. Ideally I would do both. allowing for simple scenario design through ingame editor and allowing for full scale modding through opening up part of the code.

    Best,
    Vic

  10. Jafele says:

    Vic, I know it´s a bit offtopic but, is there any possibility in the long future to upgrade ATG and DC to the latest engine (SF engine)? I´m curious cos I love those games and wouldn´t like to see them dated.

    Regards

  11. vic says:

    @Jafele,
    I really have 3 different engine running at the moment Advanced Tactics, Decisive Campaigns and Shadow Empire. And especially the newest is made for such a different kind of game that porting ATG or DC to it are really not an option. However altough hit by time constraints I still want to support and see if we can keep development going of my older engines. This is already happening with the DC engine, where I have teamed up with another designer to create DC3. (news within a few weeks i think). And ATG I am working on a new patch as we speak that will add an exciting new feature of allowing the design of tanks (or other troop types) by the player.

    Best,
    Vic

  12. Jafele says:

    Thanks for the info!

    I asked you because one of my favourite developers is John Tiller. All of his games are set in different periods of time but uses the same engine and have the same cost no matter how old is the game. In this way you can choose your favourite battles or campaigns (modern war, napoleonic, second world war, etc.) knowing they have the same quality (in theory). Think it´s an interesting option for both developers and customers. http://www.johntillersoftware.com

    Cheers

  13. vic says:

    @Jafele,

    Thats true. But the downside of this approach is you keep playing variations on the same rulesets and features. Sometimes you like to have something really new. With Shadow Empire my aim is to do this.

    Best,
    Vic

  14. Roy says:

    I like the “no control” hex mechanic you describe as it opens up the possibility of rear area operations. This would be a nice feature for ATG (or its future successor) so long as you could keep national borders for at start nation games.

  15. nicodede62 says:

    Hello Vic,

    I await with great joy your next games.
    My Space Marine scouts tell you thank you in advance for this new FOG system ;).

  16. Jafele says:

    We all know fog of war is seriously affected by terrain. Is there terrain elevations on the hexes in Shadow Empire? Example: 50 metres/level of elevation. Or is it like ATG? Example: hills, mountains on hexes.

    Thanks

  17. vic says:

    @Jafele,
    Landscape has effect on fog of war indeed. Some landscapes like for example forests give stealth points to any units inside the hex. No elevation levels since the design is really a bit more abstract than that.

    Best,
    Vic

  18. Strategiusz says:

    I hope this game will be cool and deep like Advanced Strategic Command, but without its faults and weakness.
    ASC has really good mechanics: ammounition, fuel, repairs, camouflage, mines, ships, submarines, planes, helicopters, satelites, hovers, wrackages, capturing buildings, wheater (even ice on water), flanking, opportunity fire, building roads, towers, pipelines, seeking for resources etc.
    But the game has defects:
    1 – not many good scenarious that can show all that coolnes and freedom in the game.
    2 – legal “cheating” with Undo option. Yes, it is legal in the community, because nothin can be done to prevent this. The game is full deterministic (no random results), but has complicated fog of war system and this system is almost useless with Undo “cheating”.

  19. Strategiusz says:

    I forgot one thing!
    What about airplanes in Shadow Empires in the context of one unit per hex limit?

  20. vic says:

    Airplanes can be stacked somewhat on airfields (max 3) and carriers (max 2).

    And noteably they can intercept enemy air attacks!

    Best wishes,
    Vic

  21. Strategiusz says:

    Thanks for the answer. I can’t wait for the game. I love the ATG series since People’s Tactics.

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