Saturday, October 16, 2010

DBAS - Scoring the Side Effects of Moves

Continuing on with the catalog of combat moves, still looking only at a single element moving. Next let's look at the single element flanking, or attacking from the rear, an enemy group.


When we looked at a single element flanking a single enemy element, there was no obvious advantage to the contact as combat to contacting the front edge; without another element in place, the enemy element simply faces to make front edge contact. Without other factors to consider, that produces no advantage or disadvantage.

Let's look at four basic flanking moves.

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Move to Flank Contact Move to Flank Contact of Group Move to Flank Contact of Deep Group Move to Flank Contact of Supported Group

The first, Move to Flank Contact, we have seen before. Again, with no other context this move produces no greater value than the Move to Front Contact. The Move to Flank Contact of a Group, creates an advantage for the attacker in that it fragments the enemy's command (i.e. it will now require two PIPs to move the two elements where previously it only required one) in addition to creating a threat of destroying an element should it recoil twice.

The Move to Flank Contact of a Deep Group - which would apply not just to elements with base depths greater than 1/2 the base width, but also to elements in two ranks - creates an even greater threat; if the flanked element recoils once, it is destroyed.

The Move to Flank Contact of a Support Group adds an additional advantage over the Move to Flank Contact of a Group: the flanked and turning element no longer receives rear support. Whether this is advantage should be scored separately is questionable; it will be factored in with the Combat Value differential.

The more I ponder the moves the more I realize that the moves themselves are not the keys, but the list of advantages and disadvantages the move brings. If you consider named advantages and disadvantages, such as:
  • Fragments enemy command
  • One recoil will destroy*
  • Two recoils will destroy
  • Breaks rear support**
  • Combat Value differential
  • Can Quick Kill enemy element
  • Etc.
* This is effectively the same thing as a Quick Kill on the Combat Outcome Table, so should be scored the same.
** This will be a factor in changing the Combat Value differential, but is there additional reason to score this?

So, can the actual moves be ignored - thus saving me from cataloging their variations, ad infinitum - and you simply score the side effects the move will produce?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

DBAS - One Attacking Many

Last time I looked at a single element attacking a single element and didn't really find any reason to differentiate between the moves, so now I will try the same thought experiment with a single element attacking a group of elements and see what changes.

Move to Overlapped Front ContactMove to Double Overlapped Front ContactMove to Supported Front Edge Contact

The first move is the Move to Overlapped Front Contact. Essentially this put the attacker at a -1 disadvantage. Compare this to Move to Double Overlapped Front Contact. Although this move results in a -2 disadvantage, does it warrant being treated separately? The last is the Move to Supported Front Edge Contact, resulting in a +1 advantage to the defender.

Consider the following:

MoveCombat FactorDifference
Move to Front Edge Contact+3+3+0
Move to Overlapped Front Edge Contact+4+3+0
Move to Double Overlapped Front Edge Contact+5+3+0
Move to Supported Front Edge Contact+4+4+0

Given that the difference in each combat is the same, should the moves still be ranked separately or do they have equivalent weight, as they all result in a single element coming into front contact with a group of elements and resulting in a combat at +0? Put another way, which is more important: the move itself, or the resulting combat?

One factor in weighing the Move to Supported Front Edge Contact more heavily is that, unless the supporting element is a Pike, there is the potential for destroying two elements in this single combat. That alone warrants weighting, and thus differentiating this move from the others.


In my mind I have only found one case where the movement of a single element into combat is materially significant; all others seem to indicate that the resulting combat factors are the differentiator. I would like to hear your thoughts on this, either here or preferably on the Solo DBA Yahoo forum.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

DBAS - Contemplating the Simplest Moves

To start let's consider the moves of a single element against a single element. There are basically three moves to contact:

Move to Front Contact Move to Flank Contact Move to Rear Contact
Move to Front Contact Move to Flank Contact Move to Rear Contact
Moving into flank contact from the left and right are technically two different moves, but functionally they are the same given our "universe" with no other factors.

This leads me to wonder: if there are no other factors - this is simply one element on one element and no other element comes into play now, or in the near future (i.e. within the Zone of Control of an enemy element or within one move of contact) - is there really any difference between the three moves? Does it necessitate cataloging all three variations and ranking them separately?

At this point, I am willing to say yes catalog them, just to be complete. But at this point I have no means of saying one move is more or less valuable than another, so they will all be scored the same. As I catalog other moves, I think either the proper scoring will come to light, or the need to differentiate these moves will disappear.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

DBAS - Contemplating Moves

As part of my involvement with the Solo DBA development effort, I have a tendency to get on an idea of something to try, and then try to catalog all of the variations of that idea. The latest idea to get this treatment is available moves.


A fundamental problem for the solo gamer is to determine what move - from all of the possible moves - should be taken for the non-player, or programmed side. In a game like DBA, where you have a command and control mechanism that does not necessarily allow a player to move all of their units every turn, you end up with an additional twist, which is to evaluate the chosen "best" move for one unit against that of another unit and determine which should be taken in those cases where you are restricted and cannot move every unit.

So, to restate, the problem is two-fold:

  1. Determine, from the set of moves that an element or group could make, which is the best move to make, and
  2. Determine, from the set of best moves found in #1 above, which ones to make if not enough PIPs are available to do them all.

Solution (or Attempts at Solutions)

In previous versions of De Bellis Antiquitatis Solus (hereafter referred to as DBAS), my version of rules for the wargamer to use DBA for solo games, my approach has been as follows:

  1. Determine the "best" move for any given element or group of elements. (The "best" move is the one determined as having the highest score - see below.)
  2. Score that move, based on:
    • The Non-Player General's (NPG) current mood (called the Strategic Stance).
    • The category of the move (Combat, Defensive, or Approach).
    • Conditions resulting from the move, such as whether the following combat gives you a tactical advantage, retreats you out of a losing combat, moves you towards and objective, etc.
  3. Play out each move, from highest score to lowest, until the NPG runs out of PIPs for the turn.
This process worked well, and despite the sound of it, did not take a lot of time to calculate the scores of the various moves. (After awhile, you pretty much got the feel for which move was better than another.)

Where I did not like the system was that I tried to bite off too much; I was trying to provide a different scoring system for each Strategic Stance of the NPG (there were five). My last effort was to reduce the Strategic Stance Values to three - Cautious, Moderate, and Bold - and then provide a preference to the type of move (Combat, Defensive, or Approach) based on the Strategic Stance. A simply table shows how it works.

If the Strategic Stance is......the First Preference is......the Second Preference is......and the Third Preference is...

As you can see from the above, the NPG's mood determines the type of move favored. As I used a scoring system I simply add +4 to the score for the moves in the First Preference, +2 to the score for the Second Preference, and +0 for those in the Third Preference.

This is a good start, but it still requires you score out all possible moves for an element or group before you can figure out what gets the first PIP.

What About...?

So, one of the ideas is to rank the actual moves and consider them in order. Essentially this means cataloging the possible moves and giving them point values. If each move has a value, it probably needs a modifier based upon how good it is compared to other like moves.

For example, consider the basic Move to Contact, where one element moves into contact with another element. If Move A results in a combat of +5 versus +3 and Move B results in a combat of +3 versus +3, should Move A be valued higher than Move B because A has a better chance of winning the subsequent combat (all other things being equal)? In the past my answer was yes (and probably still is).

Now consider a Group Move to Contact (two elements, moving as a single group, move into front-edge contact resulting in no overlaps but rather initially two one-on-one combats). If the Group Move to Combat results in two +4 versus +3 combats does that move rank higher than a Move to Combat resulting in a single +5 versus +3 combat? As you might imagine, the resulting scoring system that takes all of this into account could probably get out-of-hand pretty quickly.

So, if you go down this path of cataloging moves and assigning scores to those moves, your next basic decision is, do you:

  1. Rank the moves in order.
  2. Compare each element/group that can make that move to determine which ones get PIPs first.
Or do you:

  1. Rank the moves in order in order to assign a basic score to that move.
  2. Modify the scores based upon additional factors.
  3. Execute the moves in score order.
The latter sounds right, on face value, but is much more difficult to pull off, I think. Next, I'll look at some simple moves and pose questions on how to go about tackling these issues.