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Author Topic: Limited intelligence in games  (Read 539 times)

Offline Arrigo

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Limited intelligence in games
« on: September 03, 2019, 03:54:30 PM »
I am reading an academic  book on Intelligence wargames for a journal review... while the majority of the 'games' included in it are basically BOGSAT exercises and aren't simulations by any definition... I was thinking about intelligence collection and reconnaissance in real wargames.  Limited informatin and intelligence seems a staple of computer wargames, less so in manual ones. I ma not saying that is unheard of, but there are few examples (TFL blinds anyone?)

There are people who say the only possible way of doing this is double blind play.  I have my doubts on it, often double blind game somit vital reconnaisance and intelligence gathering assets. My worst experience was facilitating Phil Sabin's 1914 kriegspiel, something that beside being abstract to the point of being fantasy, is based on a complete double blind without any reconnaissance force... (and its 1914, so e we had also the first air reconnaissance units) other systems are more granular or detailed, Harpoon is a typical example crossing over map and miniatures, but also the classical carrier game Flattop. There the collection of intelligence is paramount. Other games have approached this using solitaire system where the player side is actively probing and gathering information. I think on the of the best example of the latter is Carrier, where the Japanese contacts evolves, need to be constantly tracked and mis-identification is often common...  Chain of Command also tries, on a more abstract level, to reflect the probing before an attack with its patrol phase.

My experience with map and counter games is one of different approaches, and often a real willingness to try to explore different ideas, sadly couple with egregious failures, and at times just random use of double blind systems (with all their practical issues). On the other hand miniature rules tend or to completely ignore it, or to go for extreme approaches.

Any thought?
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Offline Jemima Fawr

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Re: Limited intelligence in games
« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2019, 04:37:41 PM »
From the title I thought you were talking about me and my wargames club...  ;)

Some of the best games I've ever played have been 'double-blind':

One was a recce/advance to contact game covering the Operation BLUECOAT breakthrough in Normandy, as British armoured cars, with armoured brigades following behind, attempted to feel their way between German formations while the Germans tried frantically to close the gaps in their line and identify the breakthrough spearheads.

Another was a Pacific naval/air campaign around Guadalcanal where air reconnaissance and the massing of air assets was absolutely critical.

Another was a WW2 naval campaign which revolved around identifying what was underneath the smoke-columns you were seeing on the horizon.

Another (possibly the most memorable) was a series of back-to-back 'Sniper: Bug-Hunt' games.  'Sniper: Bug-Hunt' (a fantastic game) came with two sets of two maps (a multi-deck starship and a planetary colony complex), so you could play back-to-back, with an umpire placing contacts (either line-of-sight contacts or 'blips' from motion-sensor contacts) on each map as they were revealed to each player (some of the blips would be false echoes).  It made for an incredibly tense game and more than one poor colonist was brassed up by marines as the 'blip' appeared on the other side of a thin door...  lol

Not easy to do this without an umpire though...
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Offline Elbows

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Re: Limited intelligence in games
« Reply #2 on: September 03, 2019, 04:50:07 PM »
I think it's simply one of the facets of gaming that has been sacrificed on the altar of the casual tabletop wargame.  Why?  Because its work.

It's more rules, and may even require a third party referee or GM (a  big no no when you're trying to sell a bajillion copies of something).  Easy to do in board games or chit/hex wargames with tokens/counters, but harder to do on a normal 6x4 or 8x4 table with miniatures.  Not impossible, but it's definitely a mechanic which requires more time/work and sometimes resources.

Big market games aimed at huge audiences will definitely stray away from anything that's time consuming, or abstract.



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Offline tin shed gamer

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Re: Limited intelligence in games
« Reply #3 on: September 03, 2019, 05:14:23 PM »
I'm in the middle of writing an article on how we use dummy positions and reconn . With limited reconn achived by dipping your hand blindly into the bag.
Intel can only be confirmed by boots on the ground so base to base contact is the only. Definitive answer.
It's very useful in mixing up the straight slog of most games .Even when your intel shows a position is fake there's still a chance your intel is wrong.and so on. That way there's alway the vagaries of combat in the decisions you make.
(It's also a how to on creating dummies and dumy tanks and guns.)

Offline jon_1066

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Re: Limited intelligence in games
« Reply #4 on: September 03, 2019, 05:26:33 PM »
PQ-17 has intelligence gathering as a mechanic in it.  It seems to be much more suited to naval wargming for some reason.  Limited units and large areas of possible locations works better than many different units I guess.

For miniature games I guess most of them cover the time when recon ends and shooting starts in earnest.  For pre 20th century most cover a scale where a commander could survey the bulk of both positions from atop a windmill or church tower so recon is less of an issue. 

Offline Antonio J Carrasco

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Re: Limited intelligence in games
« Reply #5 on: September 03, 2019, 06:00:07 PM »
ASL has a measure of limited intelligence through the use of concealment markers and HIP squads. I have used them -and have them used against me- several times and they work relatively well, if used convincingly. For example, I know a guy that doesn't know what to do with the concealment markers -beyond the obvious- and usually forgets about his dummy stacks; you can spot which stack has actual units and which is just dummies. On the other hand, other guys are real poker players; it is nerve racking advancing against their concealed units; you never know when they are bluffing their asses out and when they have ready a nasty surprise. Some of my favourite games have been against them.

Offline Arrigo

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Re: Limited intelligence in games
« Reply #6 on: September 03, 2019, 07:33:00 PM »
I think we have good ideas here...

One of the big issues is indeed the third party. Sometime we are just lucky to have a single opponent, let's avoid talking of umpires. Some authors (the chap behind Two Hours Wargames for example) tried to solve the issue with cooperative games. I have Nuts and FNG (including the new edition), and I think he has a good point. I have reached the conclusion that developing contacts works better in solo games.

Chris Janiec PQ-17 (and I am waiting for his Mediterranean and Pacific sisters...) it is also quite good. Certainly naval wargames requires some form of limited intelligence, or at least contact mechanics. In a prototype I developed for a DSTL team effort years ago (and possible will come the light in a  modified form), on contemporary naval operations I had the assumption general location of forces is always known due to ESM and satellite intelligence, so it has sense to place them on the map. You can even fire with Bearing Only Launch, but it is a random proposition, and if the area as civilian shipping you can get a mistaken target... (boo hiss from the media!).  What you need are details and you need your recon assets (air, sub, and sometime suicidal surface) to fix. I think it solves the umpire problem, but you can apply it only to specific situation.

Years ago me and my cousin experimented with a scenario rule for late WW2 NWE games. The German player tanks were always tiger models (and used tiger stats!), until they were visually identified, and at that time you roll on a table... it was quite hilarious. We discussed it should have also been used on the eastern front 41-43, with soviet tanks always been T-34 or KV-1.

Have seen dummy and secret deployment in several games, and was not impressed (okay once, at a big megagame on Market Garden my fellow 101st Player was drafted to the German side on my table (sudden loss of a german player, his car broke down and he was too far away from the venue...), but he (the new German player) knew all the hidden deployments... probably the use of hidden reserves or 'ambushes' could be a much better option. They do not require umpires but still allow a measure of limited intelligence and force the use of patrols.

What I clearly do not like is the abuse of double blind as a panacea and the assumption it is the only way to represent Fog of War. I will give you an example from an old student game from King's. The subject was the north sea campaign 14-18. He had completely hidden movement (until the british broke the code and then it was straight German sortie, British counter-sortie).  My issue (I think it was my first or second year assisting Phil, so I was extremely cautious on my comments), was that it skipped reconnaissance altogether. Sub, pickets, radio intercepts, and airships were there, and while it was not assured to intercept a sortie, it was not a double blind approach. I think Avalanche Press Jutland approach, where the task forces counters are on the map, but you need to identify and contact them, plus often one side heavy forces cannot sortie until positive contact is made, made more sense.  On the other hand, while it makes perfect sense in an operational game with 6 hours turn, in a strategic game with seasonal turn, could looks to luck based, while the secret movement appears skill based.

And this brings another issue, players and some designers too, often do not like anything that ruin the supposed fairness of an equal point straight up fight!




Offline Dan55

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Re: Limited intelligence in games
« Reply #7 on: September 04, 2019, 04:05:34 PM »
Years ago, when our gaming club was still going strong, we used to play limited info games via the use of an umpire and by separating the "generals" from their subordinates.  The players would gather around the table, but could not move their units without written orders from their general who was in another room with a map.  He would sent them written movement and combat orders via the umpire and once per turn they would be allowed to send messages back.  These would also go via the umpire, who would check them to see if the message contained anything they could not be reporting on from their point of view.  If there was such information, the message failed to get through.  You could also stop or capture these messages if you could get troops across your opponent's line of communication.  It was amazing fun.

Here's another way of creating the effect, but not the details, of lack of information -

http://hardpointgames.netfirms.com/simplerules/fbg.html#move

This generates a movement based system, where your opponent can surprise you if you don't have eyes on his forces.

Offline ced1106

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Re: Limited intelligence in games
« Reply #8 on: September 05, 2019, 03:59:16 PM »
Up Front does a good job of FOW, albeit with an abstract card system, including forcing your opponent into bad territory. The Terminator CCG (!) had another abstract board where each player build their own "map" (just a row of cards) where your map intersected your opponent's only at identical cards you both played (eg. Joe's Gun Shop). Dunno how acceptable these ideas would be for traditional wargame crowd, despite the lack of detailed accuracy most maps had at the time (although arguably the RNG of dice abstracts away all sorts of things, including unknown terrain). Intuitively, most people see terrain as something static and pre-existing, rather than random and fluid.


Offline Doug em4

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Re: Limited intelligence in games
« Reply #9 on: September 06, 2019, 04:20:33 PM »
Double-blind? Is this what we called "hidden movement" in the seventies?

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Offline Arrigo

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Re: Limited intelligence in games
« Reply #10 on: September 06, 2019, 06:54:39 PM »
Double-blind? Is this what we called "hidden movement" in the seventies?

Doug

Depend, technically double blind has the players having their own map/table, and then a common map/table where the sighted forces operates. Usually but not always requires an umpire. Flattop did it giving the two player plotting sheets and they moved their task forces there. Being hex based, it was mechanically doable without fuss (but required honesty...). Then you had the real map, and spotted or spotting forces (in the latter case usually flights) moved on the big map. The inverse, but you need an umpire, is all movement take places on the umpire table and it is then reported to the players together with contacts and sighting. The players have no access whatsoever to the umpire table.  Another variation is to just have separate maps and  physical screens (and some of them extremely poorly conceived...) separating the two maps;  enemy contacts are then placed on your maps. Double blind require two separate maps and, possible, a common one.  Without a grid this really requires umpiring. 

Usually hidden movement has less extreme forms and it is only a temporary substitution of open movement.

Another approach is the one I was told by General Andrew Sharp, OBE, (and plenty of other...), based on his own experience at the AT school. They had a big 6mm gaming table and played a apparently normal game... except everytime the overall commander on one side wanted to 'influence the battle' (giving orders to subordinates) he was taken away and separate from the gaming table for one turn.  It represented the ability to monitor the battle, but then losing time to provide orders (including packing the CP to move for a FTF meeting, assembling an O-Group, and so on). If you ask me it was a quite clever idea, and something that could be used for multiplayer games.

Another way  to implement some sort of limited intelligence (and inertia) without any need for umpires has been tried by Italian Designer Fabrizio Vianello in his Less than 60 Miles (Fulda Gap, battalion level). Units are in postures that restrict movement and combat abilities. They need time to change postures. It can be done independently in a limited manner, or by HQ order.  Example  Pact regiment in road posture can move fast but is vulnerable and cannot attack, independently it can only go to Tactical or March Assault. To do something else it need an HQ order. HQ order need command points, but also time. Basically you need, on average,  between 2 to 4 turns to makes change. This means that you are not really responding to what you see on the moment. Even if everything is on the map, you need to react to what you think the enemy will do in the future, simulating quite well limited intelligence.

Offline Doug em4

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Re: Limited intelligence in games
« Reply #11 on: September 07, 2019, 04:10:59 PM »
Arrigo  - thanks for that information and especially thanks for reminding me about Flat Top - my favourite board game ever. Somewhere, I still have my copy although the box disintegrated many years ago.

Doug

Offline Arrigo

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Re: Limited intelligence in games
« Reply #12 on: September 07, 2019, 06:34:21 PM »
You are welcome!

I also like Flattop very much, I even enjoyed playing solo, there are some interesting trade off on what you put on the board for search opposed to what you keep in your sheets...  of course there is Carrier too, and the game does a better solo job (I love the fact you need to keep contacts tracked and the fact that sometime, what you think is a carrier forces... is just some oilers...).

Some people thinks double blind is the ultimate realism. The everything has to be hidden.  I am not that persuaded. It works, it does a good job if well developed (and when reconnaissance is properly represented) but it is very heavy to implement. Works for naval games better because usually you have few task forces, and reconnaissance is quite clearly defined. It was tried also in ground games, but has never been popular.  If not done right... it just become an unrealistic guessing game (me coughing after a couple of sycophants praised Phil double blind... and what about reconnaissance, you know all the cavalry divisions that have been omitted, the planes... and so on).

I think , and have seen, other way to introduce fog of war, limited intelligence, and also inertia.  But often these elements are just associated with double blind/hidden movement...

Offline Leftblank

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Re: Limited intelligence in games
« Reply #13 on: September 11, 2019, 10:03:42 AM »
I Ain't Been Shot Mum plays with 'blinds', unidentified units that have to be identified first before you can target them.
I also have played Spearhead. Players write orders before the battle and during the battle you can try to change the plan, but that can be hard.
Blücher has 'blinds' that can freely move around the table using roads, unidentified until within LoS and range.