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Mark Herman's Wargaming Blog
Thursday, 7 February 2013
Glad To Hear It
Topic: Washington's War
Glad to hear it...

"I don't actually see the American's weakness in CUs as much of a problem, except for Washington's force. It is devilishly frustrationg as the British to encounter a force of nats that keep returning and showing up to foil your plans , block access, retreat before battle, intercept, break control, cut LOC and force you to attack them in a non -winter space." 


This is exactly the situation that I wanted to occur and is part and parcel to what I felt where WtP fell short as a simulation. The whole point of the solid front with rear area security is how the British can deal with this feature of the design. The guerrilla forces are usually 1 CU in strength, so easy to defeat, but it takes an activation. 

My point about the British reinforcement card advantage is the Americans need for creating a guerrilla force (a general + 1 CU) is an inefficient use of cards by design. The point is the Americans will require two cards to maintain their forces most turns usually 2 and 3 value cards vice one card for the British usually a 1 value card. This numerical tension is offset by the British need to preserve 3 OP cards for movement while the Americans can use 1 and 2 OP cards. 

Adding to the dynamic is Washington's two sided nature. His excellency is both a great offensive force (Continental Army) and the 'soul' of the revolution and while his loss no longer ensures defeat, his loss sways things strongly in the British favor. Just to review, besides Washington, the Americans have 3 other 1 strategy rated leaders and one of them (Arnold) is an uncertain asset. So, only Washington is a consistent offensive force and if the British can bring him to battle on a regular basis, the Americans will have to maintain the Continental army with a reinforcement card that does not increase the number of American forces on the map. This is also an important tool. 

Again, my point is to open the aperture on the British strategy discussion as a means to offset the current state of play. If more sophisticated British strategies are unable to move the needle then I will consider what modifications are necessary. I would say that while the tournament variant rules are well thought out, I would consider more subtle yet significant alterations. So for example I would consider extending the overrun rule to any force, so guerrilla armies that cannot get out of the way of British armies could be eliminated enabling the British army to get back to a winter quarter. 

Based on what I am seeing I would offer an Occams razor view of the proposed tournament rules. 

1. The Continental Congress proposed rule allowing the British to determine who goes first when it is in flight; I like this one as it fits within the spirit of the design. 

2. This is a tournament idea, the last card play of the game, so the condition is the game ends card situation would establish that the game is about to end no Army activation is allowed. The notion is the Americans cannot make some aggressive move to alter the games outcome without a British response, although events or a discard to change remove one PC marker etc. are allowed. It also allows the play of another game ends card continuing the game. 

Thoughts? 

Mark


Posted by markherman at 10:55 AM EST
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Now Playing: More on Game Balance
Topic: Washington's War

 This post was in response to my earlier point that if the best players can win with either side whether a game could be unblanced.

Balance is very dependent on player skill. If a game has a true bias players who can consistently beat anyone with either side would be difficult as luck over a period of time is not a factor. Just because many people play it one way and lose, but the superior player does it another way and wins is indicative that the winning player has discovered a technique that balances the game. Players love to regale me with how luck bit them and they lost. Fact of the matter is over a short period of time this can always happen. 

My point is with as many moving parts that a medium complexity game has even tournament results are not necessarily an indication that a game is unbalanced but a reflection of the current state of play. I am not arguing that the statistics are wrong, but they are a course measure without more detail. I think that it is curious that if the game were truly biased that the British side won the final three times in a row. That could be due to luck, but I have to assume that the American opponent was a strong player also and if there were truly a 70-30 bias in favor of the Americans how does that happen? Luck would seem an insufficient answer, so I am asking a deeper question, what happened in those games? There may be a tactic or technique that if more broadly discussed would in it of itself alter the perception of balance. 

I can only use FTP as my model as it has had a longer time in tournament play. James was beaten by the way, but not due to poor luck, but s superior strategy delivered by Rikku. At that time everyone bemoaned the loss of balance, but even before the final that James lost I had sat and watched what Rikku was doing and I already knew the counter to his plan. However, the difference between internet play and ftf is surprises have to be solved in real time with only a short time for thought, so it was very effective. 

I even discussed this with several players that evening, one of whom was James but he felt that he had it, although it more or less worked in the finals. Immediately the FTP crowd wanted to make changes to the game to 'fix' the problem and all I did was publish the simple counter strategy and the issue dissolved. 

That situation is not this situation, but I would like to hear a deeper discussion of the issue via strategy vice rules as rules lock in a new set of variables attempting to shift the balance based on the current state of play. I would prefer to not see that happen as it diminishes the art of the possible. 

The two sides are very asymmetric so applying American strategy logic to British strategy is not a simple conversion. My point around American reinforcements was reflecting that asymmetry and a general response of an American weakness to some of the thinking of the British maneuver limitations and not going last. My question is have all strategy concepts been explored? I am not sure that they have...but if people are convinced that all paths have been explored we can always make changes. 

Mark


Posted by markherman at 10:17 AM EST
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Wednesday, 6 February 2013
Washington War Balance Over Time
Topic: Washington's War


 

Balance in a game design is always important if for no other reason than to validate the effort of the players in taking either side. The main issue with balance is while a game may be intrinsically balanced, player ability can easily alter balance, so it takes statistics from numerous tournaments before you can really know.

Based on tournament play Washington's War is now viewed as having an American advantage, so I recently posted the following


 

Balance over time...

I think this is a useful discussion, but for me it operates at two levels. First, is the current metagame strategies without a credible response from within the rules? Second, if yes, then work on the strategies ala Keith's personal experience. If not, assuming a solid design, then there are tweaks. 

My experience with FTP is that over 11 years the balance has swung about every 6 months from CSA to USA advantage based on new strategies with no rules changes. Currently the Union seems to have the edge, but now we are starting to see a new crop of CSA long game strategies vice offensive 62 strategy that I believe is going to shift the balance back toward neutral. 

If Keith and I stand in a minority that think the game is balanced it is because we have had consistent success with the British. I use a solid front strategy that initially concentrates all British armies in New England or the South. I use the 3OC leaders to anchor a line, control all rear spaces, and use the 2OC generals for offensive maneuvers to expand British territory. This usually gets the British to 5 colonies (NE + Canada) or 4 colonies (South + Canada) after about three turns. The strategy assumes that the British will not move more than one 3OC army per turn. From there it all depends, but British naval power is an important element in how I maneuver into the mid to late game. I am not saying this is some unbeatable strategy, but I feel that when I can get myself organized and moving in this manner I have a 50-50 shot at winning. 

I usually hear that WaWar is not a simulation but an area control game. Be that as it may, but at the strategic level, this is what the war would look like from London or the Continental Congress. As most players view any one map game that does not have battalions as a strategic game all I can say is I differ on what a strategic simulation looks like vice many other people. 

The reason that this is important to me is the main balance criticism is usually the British disadvantage in maneuver and the impact of a bad hand. As this is at the core of my design intent all I can say is that is what I wanted as a critical simulation dimension of the game. Basically in a given year the British are not going to move a lot. That said, you should get to move with more than half your hand if Burgoyne and Cornwallis are in play. In fact if the British are moving more than three or four times a turn they are going to crush the Americans given their inherent strength advantage. I find that the critical choice is when to make those maneuvers and in what combination. 

The ability to go last is usually a greater advantage than going first in a CDG, also why I designed GBOH the way I did. For what it is worth I believe that the defense-offense combo has historically been a stronger tactic. Given the American strength disadvantages this was part and parcel to American survival. The issue is not that the Americans go last, but what are the British going to do to offset it. Going back to my strategy if the Americans want to take on a properly resourced space with a +2 Winter Offensive arm that's fine as they will need to use a card next turn to replace their losses, reducing their maneuver ability. 

Of the changes that Keith articulated the most significant is who goes first and I like British getting the choice with a CC (current rules) and if American Congress is in flight (tournament). If this one works out I would like to see it incorporated into the standard rules. The other ones are situational, ala DoI, and are typical tournament fare to knock off the downside for competitive purposes. The additional Kings Men PC is the standard way to alter the numerology. 

Hopefully adding to the conversation, 

Mark


Posted by markherman at 3:05 PM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 6 February 2013 3:07 PM EST
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Monday, 19 July 2010
Why one deck?
Topic: Washington's War
've played 5 games now and we've had 2 games decided seemingly entirely by the card draw in the first two turns. Mark, if you're there, I'm curious why you opted for a single shared deck with no real ops or event decisionmaking? I never played We The People so I'm not sure if you just didn't want to stray too far from the original game but I've found the luck factor in the cards in very troubling.

By having one shared deck, you create a situation where if player A draws good cards (high ops), it increases the likelihood that player B will draw bad cards (low ops). Furthermore you've got 7 mandatory events which are just big fat zeros for the player who draws them - especially if the British player draws Declaration of Indepence and Benjamin Franklin.

I've analyzed the deck and of the 110 cards and the ops are distributed as follows: 19 pro American (17 ops), 16 pro British (16 ops), major campaign card (9 ops), 3 minor campaign (18 ops), 5 War End (0 ops), 22 1 op (22 ops), 22 2 op (44 ops), and 22 3 op (66 ops). In otherwords 192 ops distributed over 110 cards. THE BIG PROBLEM IS THAT 137 of those ops are on 48 cards. Granted the campaign cards are useful only for activations and not CP placement but there is clearly potential for huge variance in ops per game for each player. What happens if you have a game where the US player draws 3 3 ops cards and a minor campaign card on turn 1 while the British player draws 3 1 op cards, 1 2 op card, Declaration of Independence, and 2 War End cards? Basically the British player gets completely boxed out and the game is over before it begins. Now we've probably had some outlier results but the fact remains we've had 2 out of 5 games, where the British player had a slew of 1 op cards mixed in with 3 War Ends and Declaration of Independence or Benjamin Franklin on turn 1 and 2...


Thanks for the analysis, but I already knew all of that as that is how I designed the deck. What you see as a problem I see as a major design feature. I think I know what I am doing, so be clear there are no mistakes or unintended consequences going on here. However, your mathematical analysis misses the point. Approximately half the deck has about two thirds of what you call OPs... which is too course a metric. Anyway the point of a CDG is to deal with chaos. Bad hands always happen and I personally dislike CDGs that try and factor out the chaos. My next column in c3i is titled, "Too script or not to script, that is the design question."

Scripting which you would prefer and others that have chimed in have supported a view that separate decks segregated by time (early, mid, late war, etc.) are more advanced and superior. All are entitled to their opinions, but I have the opposite view. Scripting diminishes the historical value of a CDG from my perspective. The reason I created this technique is players have way too much information, especially in a pre-twentieth century wargame. I want their to be uncertainty as to which events will occur so you cannot card count or build a strategy about some future occurrence that the original participants could have no foreknowledge of. In my mind time segregated separate decks is less not more historical, so I do not use them. I did go for separate decks in my Empire of the Sun game but I used probability to control event availability vice time segregation. 

The decision not to use the Hannibal-For The People OP/Event choice is explained in my designer's notes. We the People and Washington's War uses a whole hand vice individual card decision process, which I find that I prefer. Anyway that is why one deck...

Mark

Posted by markherman at 3:35 PM EDT
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Thursday, 8 April 2010
Washington's War Poitical Control
Topic: Washington's War
Andrew,

Joel explained it elsewhere, but let's see if I can paraphrase:

As long as a space is "open", its leanings in the matter are still open for debate. Once a space leans Tory or Rebel, that crystallizes locals. When you have a large cluster or chain of PC markers that cannot chain to an open area, then that cluster or chain is so crystallized that it now draws military and political attention, especially that it is now surrounded by those of an opposite opinion.

The isolation process, then, is the simulation of those crystallized clusters or chains "going underground" for fear of reprisals.

In other words, it was okay to admit to being a Tory ... unless you were absolutely surrounded by Rebels ... and vice versa.

Brien


This is a reasonable rationale, but I would also add that a community of like political minds needs to be supported. If you have a large group of PC markers that is unsupported by any combat or political figure, it is at risk of folding if assailed by the enemy. The empty space does represent, albeit very abstractly, a situation still in flux, but once hard lines are drawn that community needs to be linked into the rest of the rebellion (counter-rebellion) or its morale collapses due to being isolated from its political leadership.

The way I was thinking about it is similar to Joel's well stated view, but I would put an additional spin on this concept. The American Revolution is at its core a war of ideas. The PC markers are an abstract way of taking a Revolutionary War gallop poll. A group of PC markers in a colony represents this war of ideas and a low level conflict that is pitting neighbor against neighbor. The side that is dominant in the colony has sufficient residual energy to generate a militia on occasion. The political energy of a group of PC markers is either expanding, stagnant, or contracting. If it is still expanding, as represented by additional populace open to the political war of ideas (as represented by an empty space), it continues to gain energy. Once it can no longer grow because it has run up against a wall of political opposition, the issues begin to change. The group needs to begin to govern and protect its community, which requires the trappings of government. This is where many local revolts falter and collapse. Once the exciting moments of protesting and public debate have passed the issues change. The new revolutionaries now have to become a governing body, which at its core is ensuring domestic tranquility and providing for the common defense (you might recognize that last phrase from somewhere). Failure to do so drives the situation in the other direction and morale collapses and the situation is once again up for grabs as simulated by the fact that isolated markers are removed, not converted. 

Looking at it from a game risk-reward perspective, a one PC investment that is isolated is probably not worth the investment to save, but a multi-colony sized grouping starts to represent a major constituency that is clamoring for support and represents a sizable investment in political capital. The value of the investment should draw enemy attention and at this point the investment is at risk unless you invest in actual military forces to support it. For example a 10 PC marker now requires a one card investment to garrison. Failure to do so is a calculated gamble on your part.

Given this is the big picture of the hearts and minds war you have two main tactics to protect your community of political allies. As the Continental Congress or the British Parliament you need to show your constituents that you care about them and support them. This means troops, so sending even one CU solves the entire isolation issue or for the British connecting them to a port and the British navy. Failure to support your 'political capital' as represented by the PC markers puts your people or said another way your level of political support at severe risk.

The other important tactic is the discard for the removal of a PC markers. This is meant to show, as cited in my design notes, the low level combat that was the essence of the war. The ability of a surrounded cluster to put the situation in flux again by attacking adjacent spaces puts the group back into a potential expansion mode that generates another wave of revolutionary energy. 

So remember, especially when playing your last card; make sure that the battle or maneuver that you are planning is more valuable than just removing one enemy PC marker and preserving a large concentration of PC markers. Another similar tactic for the Americans is saving the second reinforcement for a late turn play and just stick a 1 CU army in the middle of a key PC concentration.

Enjoy,

Mark
Last edited on 2010-03-17 06:54:10 CST (Total Number of Edits: 13)
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RPardoe wrote:
asfhgwt wrote:
Sorry, I see no real difference between a cluster of 10 connected cities with a hole in the middle and one with no hole.


Or perhaps this isn't the game for you. Within the rules of the game, there is a difference between 10 connected cities connected to a liberty and 10 connected cities that have none, so I play to avoid that situation if possible. There are events (Declaration of Independance) that do have some risk, so borrowing from Go again - nice to try to leave two liberties for a group of PCs (without military support) to counter these threats.


Note that there is a difference between the Americans and the British in this regard. Trying to use the GO tactic of leaving two MEI (or eyes) is very vulnerable in Washington's War. Unlike GO you have maneuver forces, so if a PC concentration had an empty space, or two, in its midsts, an army could just move into those empty spaces which would convert during the political phase. The new PC just placed is not isolated because it is supported by an army and the surrounding enemy PC markers, assuming that they were surrounded by a set of enemy PC markers would collapse due to isolation. 

The GO mechanic that I used is significantly modified so GO strategy does not translate smoothly into WWR. Think of yourself in the game as the Continental Congress or Parliament. The PC markers represent political constituents who are all clamoring for support. As a group reaches critical mass its voice is louder than the others and if you fail to support them they can go silent.

Mark

Posted by markherman at 7:37 PM EDT
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