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Subject: Delayed combat effects rss

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Pelle Nilsson
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I got this idea for a mechanic it would be interesting to hear if it has been used in any games, and in general what everyone thinks of it. I only thought of it late last night, and then gave it 10 minutes of thinking just now, so it's a very big risk it's a completely stupid idea (that might explain why I have not seen it in any other games I guess)...

What if instead of resolving combat immediately, you just place a "possible loss" marker below the target unit counter. Some attacks may cause a unit to get maybe two or three possible losses instead of just one, but attacks should (at least most of the time) not require any dice (or cards etc) to resolve, since it is really not resolved at that point in time anyway.

Sometime later, at some point that has to be defined depending on the era and scale of the game I guess, you resolve combat effects, but the goal is to do this as few times as possible, and to give both players a reason to often want to not do this.

Example: ww1 tactical game, each unit is a battalion or so. At start, most defending units will be given a few "possible loss" markers, because of preparatory bombardment. Then when attacking units start to cross no man's land they will also, depending on route taken and distance to defending strong-points accumulate some possible losses. Only at some later time, when either or both players find it important enough, will you resolve the losses for particular units. Maybe this happens in case of a close combat if both players do not agree to just allow the attacked unit to back off. Maybe it happens when an owning player stops a unit for a full turn to allow it to reorganize. Maybe players can "call" on enemy units to have their losses decided, but at some risk or cost.

Combat resolution itself could be done in a number of different ways, maybe resulting in some step losses, elimination, disruption, supression, etc depending on theme and complexity level, like any other wargame... When resolving you remove any possible loss markers and count them to decide what column or number of dice or number of cards etc to use to resolve the losses. If the unit is still alive it can then begin accumulating new possible losses.

Maybe this will bring some interesting double-sided fog of war (few games simulate the difficulties at many times of keeping track of ones own units) and probably speed up play a great deal as well.
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Pelle Nilsson
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Another thought: f three Possible Losses guarantees at least a supression effect, and five possible hits guarantees at least disruption (for instance) when actually resolving the results, then the rules could say that a unit is treated as supressed or disrupted when it has accumulated that number of possible losses, without having to resolve anything. It may still be in even worse shape of course, but yuo won't know that until the effects are resolved.
 
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You can do this with the Victory in the West series of games, and it is recommended for Sicily: The Race for Messina.


Basically, for those not familiar:

Each unit has a 'Morale' class and a 'Strength' class.




See those chits with Numbers - and letters?

The big number is the Strength class, the Letters are the 'Morale' or proficiency class.

You get into combat, you get a chit.

You take a strength loss, the chit inverts.

What you are recommended to do in the Sicily game, it to replace the strength chit every time you go into combat.

So, an inverted one gets replaced, you sort of get the 'delayed' combat effects you are looking for.

Your idea is fascinating - the record keeping for it could get out of hand.

But I obviously think that using the VITW Chit Strength pull system with chit replacement makes the effects of step loss less predictable.

----------------------

Another idea would be to apply a step loss marker to a unit that has NO value when it takes a hit the first time.

When it gets into combat the next time, you draw a chit to determine what actually happened to its ability.



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Pelle Nilsson
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Interesting. I didn't think much about operational level games. I thought as far that it would probably not work for strategic games or very low-level tactical games. My brain is mostly stuck thinking about ww1 higher-level tactical games. Any thoughts on applications to other themes or scales is also interesting.

Regarding book-keeping I think a requirement is pretty much to have very little or no stacking. It will probably be a huge amount of possible loss counters to place, but it should be fairly mechanic. In a tactical game you will be able to trade that for not having to bother with opportunity/defensive fire for instance, and overall all fire combat could be simplified/abstracted.
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One could argue that the 'randomizer' of a CRT or any combat system where the dice modifies the 'Expected Average Result' functions as the 'what does the strength of the units mean?

One would hope that designing the combat resolution system of any game starts with a fixed result, with the dice providing a bell curved wrapper to simulate flexible variables, including the 'probable' combat factors of the unit, the 'true' position of the unit vs the relative one of the hex, and the unexpected resolve of some core group in a unit that has no 'counter' on the board.
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Kai Bettzieche
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The basic of this mechanic is used in "Red November":

You create some kind of delay thus creating a propability for you to fix a certain problem.
Afterwards you catch up with the delay (mostly causing more problems on this way)
 
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Darrell Hanning
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Many games since the seventies have used hidden step-loss markers (which sounds to be pretty much what you're describing). Two that immediately come to mind are WEG's Chickamauga and Air & Armor, but there are many, many more - too many to list.

As to not applying losses as they are actually incurred - an intriguing but bizarre notion, and not exactly the kind of "gamey" element most want to see in a wargame, I think. There are several problems with it, including the issue of units still "existing" long after they were actually destroyed (or routed from the field), requiring them to be targets for fire after it's necessary. It seems this would greatly benefit the larger force, each and every time, as units can usually only fire at so many targets per turn, anyway.
 
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Oh my God They Banned Kenny
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Not intending to be too 'negative', but is this a 'game mechanic' in search of a 'problem' to address? In other words, what exactly is this particular mechanic trying to 'simulate'? Is it simply a matter of minimizing the 'die rolls' for combat resolution? If so, based on the popularity of 'buckets of dice', and the number of thumbs up supporters usually get you might be going in the 'wrong' direction here. In any case, depending on exactly how it would be implemented, it might lead to some 'strange', 'counterintuitive' results. E.g. my 'battalion' advances across no-man's-land, accumulating 'potential losses' along the way, captures an enemy position and 'digs in' for the inevitable enemy counterattack, only to find that actually the unit was completely wiped out half way to its current position!
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Michael Tan
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deadkenny wrote:
Not intending to be too 'negative', but is this a 'game mechanic' in search of a 'problem' to address? In other words, what exactly is this particular mechanic trying to 'simulate'? Is it simply a matter of minimizing the 'die rolls' for combat resolution? If so, based on the popularity of 'buckets of dice', and the number of thumbs up supporters usually get you might be going in the 'wrong' direction here. In any case, depending on exactly how it would be implemented, it might lead to some 'strange', 'counterintuitive' results. E.g. my 'battalion' advances across no-man's-land, accumulating 'potential losses' along the way, captures an enemy position and 'digs in' for the inevitable enemy counterattack, only to find that actually the unit was completely wiped out half way to its current position!

I think this might work well for squad level games like CoH or ASL. I'm sure some would gripe about the "gaminess" (we have a giant thread which is rapidly devolving into a pissing contest about that) but I like the idea. Say for instance you have a scenario about one side attempting to seige a building held by the other side. Each time the attacker sends in units and contact with the enemy occurs, place a possible loss marker. You don't actually resolve the combat until the next attempt to move the unit. Or even simpler, you resolve combat immediately but place a "possible loss" marker which has the actual combat result on the other side and is not flipped until you activate the unit again.
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Mark Luta
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Where this idea might have some merit is for air and artillery strikes. Often this is done at a separate point in the turn, usually before ground combat, and the results are known. But really, they should not be in many cases, until the unit goes into combat...Many of the troops affected might be dazed or only slightly injured, or a lucky hit could do severe damage. Yet a unit so affected to either extreme might be counted on to hold a position. In an extreme example, during the breakout from Normandy in 1944 the carpet bombing had destroyed or disabled essentially all the Panzer Lehr division's combat vehicles, yet the German command was still counting on the unit to hold a ten mile front in the line. It was simply the amount of rubble and downed trees created by the carpet bombing operations which prevented the Allied forces from moving forward quickly enough to find and exploit this gap.
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Pelle Nilsson
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Thanks for all the positive and negative comments about the idea. It is nice to hear some thought from those that find this kind of abstraction bizarre. Maybe that can stop me from going too wild with it.

Regarding destroyed units that keep moving and taking ground, even chasing away enemy units, that is exactly the point. Reading about battles I think it is very common to see that one or both sides have a very vague idea exactly what is going on. Also in all other wargames we know that destroyed units are not really destroyed. That is often said explicitly in rules, but I believe it is the intention in almost every game. Maybe its hq got destroyed and most of its men, but some machineguns are still firing, or there is still a few platoons left in the battalion, just not many enough to justify it moving around as its own counter in most games. A delayed combat effects system would show this well, since you would think the unit is still in good shape until you probe it and find out it was only a few disorganized men with a few machineguns and not at all the healthy battalion you expected it to be. There should always be the choice for the defending unit to stop and try to fight (thus revealing if it is really up against a strong attacker or just some cadre) or to pull back in panic.

Note that I would want to have some rule in place to allow a player to somehow probe enemy units, to force them to have their combat results decided. But there has to be some balance. If it happens too often then much of the benefit of not having to roll dice all the time is lost. But it should be a possible to check if that battalion that is approaching the victory location is really a battalion or just the sad remains of one pushing on because their own commanders don't know yet in what sad state they are.

But, yes, the idea came from trying to minimize die rolls initially, but if using it for that purpose it would still be interesting to try to use it as much as possible to get the increased fog of war effect. I started a thread on "volume of fire" combat resolution a while back, and that has some connection to this. It is something I know I want to use, and I think it may work well in combination with delayed results.

To get much of the speedup, but less fog of war (ie in a situation were communications are good) maybe you could resolve losses at the end of each turn, or at the end of each turn but only for units that are in communication (and then still don't reveal the results to the enemy until they try to probe or attack the unit).

Might not work well with too low level games, and/or counters representing single vehicles or guns, that are more of the "either they exist or not" type. I think it might work only when counters represent quite many men, preferable with multiple steps and avoid too many unit eliminations, and remembering that even an "eliminated" unit still may represent a force large enough to cause the enemy some trouble until they realize how weak it is.
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Pelle Nilsson
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markluta wrote:
Where this idea might have some merit is for air and artillery strikes. Often this is done at a separate point in the turn, usually before ground combat, and the results are known. But really, they should not be in many cases, until the unit goes into combat...

Yes. The concrete case I'm thinking of, a ww1 tactical system, has that same property. I'm considering if the effects of enemy long-range rifle/mg fire, artillery, etc, could be delayed as described above, then resolved before for instance resolving an assault.

Then as I mentioned in my last post, in some cases it may make sense to always resolve losses each turn anyway, maybe in a special phase right before the close combat phase, while in some other cases players need to spend some time/resources to be able to get better information on a unit and have its losses resolved.
 
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Mark Luta
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Also, this would allow units hit by artillery or airstrikes to realistically recover the longer they are able to keep from being heavily engaged. Many of the effects from long range fire can be undone in time, hence it is much more effective to attack them immediately--or conversely, it creates a dilemma if a unit scheduled to attack comes under suppression fire, should it be ordered to attack as planned, or delay the attack and allow the unit to regroup. Perhaps a rolling set of about 5 (just to throw out a number, could be adjusted up or down as needed) distinct counters could be used, with different hit tables being used based on how long ago the unit was struck before being attacked--if it is not attacked at all within the time frame, the marker gets pulled, it can be presumed to be mostly repaired, reinforced, regrouped, or what have you.
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Pelle Nilsson
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Hidden casualty markers reminds me of systems where you place combat modifier markers on units if it has been hit by artillery or close air support. But in those systems I have seen this in, those markers only last until the end of the turn. In many cases, because of recovery as noted above, that makes sense. But at a slightly lower level I think it makes more sense to allow markers to remain, and also to resolve them on a special table rather than including it in the next combat results. Or maybe have a combination of both, some types of damage staying until being resolved and other just being added as a temporary die-roll modifier for the current turn. Some weapons could cause a combination of both. Of course there has to be very few possible combinations or book-keeping will become a problem.
 
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Paul O
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ASL has unconfirmed kills for armor.
 
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Pelle Nilsson
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Oh, interesting. I didn't remember that. I have both ASLRBv1 and ASLRBv2 here, but I mostly stick to infantry-only scenarios the few times I play ASL...
 
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Pelle Nilsson
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I looked up Unconfirmed Kills in the ASLRB. Not quite what I was looking for, but now at least I know what "UK" on the back of the Shock markers mean.
 
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Timothy Young
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This would be really useful if anyone ever wanted to create a game based on the last days of WW2 from the German side. Hitler was busy ordering units around to defend the city that were down to less than 10% strength, if they even existed.

In fact that could work as a reverse block game, where the allied player can see the fronts of both their own and the German blocks and the German player cannot...
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Matt R
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One thought I'd like to add to this is that using some kind of delayed unit damage method like this could perhaps helps to alleviate "lucky dice rolls" (if dice are used) or to help "even out" combat results over time.

This could allow some interesting effects, such as if you are attacking, you could continue to "attack" an enemy position even though you don't know if your previous attack has already decimated the position.

Conversely, if you are on the receiving end of an attack, perhaps you retain some, most, or all of your combat potential regardless of receiving "damage" in combat. This could help to prevent one side from getting a lot of "hits" in a single combat round or turn and allow the other side to get a few more chances of doing damage themselves before the combat effects are tallied.

So it might give somewhat of a "press your luck" factor, similar (I think) to some real world battle situations.

I could see this in a hypothetical battle where the attacker may decide to fire off an artillery barrage just an extra round or two to help make sure the enemy positions are sufficiently pounded prior to assaulting them with infantry. However, as far as the attacking player is concerned, their very first artillery attack could have done enough damage and they've now wasted time (and resources) continuing to shell the positions. This could allow the defender time to regroup or prepare for a counterattack. But rushing in the infantry too soon could result in them getting mowed down by the defenders who actually weren't as impacted by the brief artillery barrage.

I know I'm somewhat repeating what others have posted already regarding this idea (including the OP) but maybe I've added something to this thread after all.
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Matt R
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One other thought I had is about a hypothetical operational level game using this type of method in a way that units would still operate at full capacity even after building up a few "hits" all in a single combat "turn" or "round".

This could also perhaps replicate the unit fighting at full strength for a short time even while taking casualties due to the unit itself not really "realizing" that it has taken such huge losses? And the unit is able to keep most of its combat ability until it realizes a few "moments" (in real life time) what the true effects of its own casualty rates are.

This would be slightly different than just swapping damage with "simultaneous" systems. What I'm thinking of here is that a small unit of infantry (say, a platoon) are actually taking pretty heavy losses but they don't "realize" it while they are still charging up to an enemy position - all they know is that they are charging ahead. Since in some games (even some operational level games) a unit's "combat effectiveness" does not necessarily mean that every single soldier is currently attacking, perhaps this could simulate the unit still pressing its attack even though it has actually lost quite a lot of men.

It is not until the survivors have completed their assault, or reached the position they were rushing to, or start "noticing" all of their losses do the overall unit damage effects start impacting them. So then they start retreating, or feeling the gunshots they had received while rushing up (but had ignored due to adrenaline, etc).

At that point, the unit has lost is "combat effectiveness" and is then "finished off" by the enemy or have routed, or are too injured, etc.

Then again I may not have a single idea what I am talking about. Please just ignore my ramblings if I'm not making any sense. modest
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Mircea Pauca
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I've read of such a mechanism in the optional rules of Carrier (VG), as told in the great AAR's by Markus Stumptner:
http://grognard.com/reviews/carrier1.txt
http://grognard.com/reviews/carrier2.txt

It represents the 'subjective informational state' of the Task Force commander and the notoriously unreliable first reports of bomber pilots. All hits are reported doubled, but then when someone else arrives to check, the provisional losses are rolled again with a 50% chance each to become effective. It makes a big difference to know (or guess) whether the enemy is undamaged enough to need a second strike.
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Matt R
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I've had my eye on Carrier for a couple of weeks now. I've gotten into solitaire wargames recently due to a lack of opponents and only being able to play an hour here or there.

I really wish that it would be reprinted...
 
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James Pinnion
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I would think this mechanic would best be used for representing suppressing fire. Suppresing fire would mount up over time but only be resolved if:

a) The defenders show themselves and return fire (becoming vulnerable).
b) The attackers stop shooting and make some effort to observe what's going on.

I think suppresing fire only really came to be used as a mainstream tactic during WW1 (although it was used in at least one castle siege to my knowledge).
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