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Scenario vs quick battle play

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I would like a debate and discussion as to which form of play is better. I am finding out there is really the two camps of players. I would really like to hear what makes the form you prefer so important to you. I have been playing both and am leaning one way but would really like to hear other player views.

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There's nothing to debate. The answer is whatever floats your boat. It really isn't a question of one being better than the other. Different people prefer different styles of play, and it's probably not a good idea to make someone who likes one style to interract with the other.

Apart from their benefits to modding and learning specific weapons tactics in solo play, Quick Battles are good if you want a bunch of war toys shooting at another bunch of war toys. People who are into gadgets love QB's because they can pick their weapons. The drawbacks are that computer-generated maps aren't terribly realistic (though the program has gotten pretty good and sometimes produces credible terrain) and the most critical component of the scenario design process is missing: the designer. A scenario without a designer can quickly degenerate into a stand-up shoot-'em up a la High Noon (some people love that). The action is occuring for no rhyme or reason, and though the program is getting better at steering you into force match-ups that might actually have occured on the battlefield, the flow of the action is not organic and the force allocation is dependant on what toys the two players feel like playing with. This last drawback also happens to be a major source of the QB's popularity.

Another problem is that the AI is not as good as it appears to be the first time you encounter it. A lot of its behavior can be influenced by a canny designer, and random computer flag generation simply won't do that. Left to its own devices, the AI will probably not give you as good a game on a randomly generated map -- it needs to be massaged and tweaked and tricked, and that can only come from playtesting. QB's are never playtested.

Designed scenarios are entirely dependant on the quality of the desinger. There is nothing worse than a sloppily designed scenario. It's almost as embarassing as getting beaten by the AI: the computer can generate a mediocre to middling scenario on its own, so to produce a worse looking map and a force mix that is unbalanced in two-player and incapable of responding coherently under one-player control is inexcusable (and often a symptom of poor research and testing). Self-expression is all very well and good in finger-painting class, but please don't inflict it on the rest of us.

So why play a scenario? A good fictional scenario designed by someone who understands that the word 'fictional' does not mean that he can emote in his sandbox because we are all equally talented can be a real gem. Fictional scenarios are meant to be illustrative, the condensed essence of what happens in a certain type of situation. The situation didn't have to actually occur, but what is being shown is so typical that for research purposes a well-designed fictional scenaro can almost be described as hyper-historical. Unfortunately fictional scenarios don't come with psychological warning labels so I rarely play them. There are, however, a few designers who produce really good ones, so I always take a look at their work. Using the term 'fictional' before the word scenario does not excuse the slovenly from doing research -- very much the opposite.

I had an epiphany a while back when I was helping to playtest an historical operation. In the course of doing some extra research I struck up a correspondance with the host of a website dedicated to a particular unit that was disbanded shortly after the battle. It suddenly dawned on me that if I hadn't been playing that scenario I would have known nothing about the steepness and muddiness of the banks of that river, that a battle had taken place there, that real people had fought and died there, or even what their names were. We may not realize it, but an historical scenario is a cyber-memorial to those that fought and died on both sides: that place, those events, their deaths (or narrow escapes) can often only be rescued from oblivion by a well-designed and carefully researched historical scenario. That's a huge responsability, and is one of the reasons I don't design scenarios. But the designer should never forget that what he owes the dead, and the least he can do is to represent the moment of their deaths as accurately as possible.

The problem, of course, is that very few historically correct battles are playable. They are almost never balanced, because any commander who attacks with a 1:1 force balance should be shot, relieved of command, and relegated to latrine-cleaning duty for the duration of the war. In an operational game where you don't always know the exact forces involved you might tinker with the OOB's until you get a range of scenario outcomes occuring within the range of likelihood of what actually happened. One of the luxuries of working on a larger scale (divisions, corps, armies) is that if you figure out what you're really modeling, a lot of nit-picky details don't have to be dealt with as long as the end result works out right. You can't do that so easily in a tactical game: it's either balanced or it isn't and, more importantly, the situation is either interesting or it isn't. One of the quibbles I have with the victory system in CM is that it makes it very difficult (probably in the Japanese sense) to represent interesting situations that have a major force imbalance. So probes and recon operations are shaky at best, and forget about fighting withdrawals (my personal favorite).

The best scenarios as a class are probably the semi-historical ones. Leaving aside the designers who will use the 'semi-' label as an excuse for sloppy research ("I'm too lazy to find a real map on the web ... think I'll just use my favorite paintball field"), a semi-historical scenario allows the designer to produce something playable, on the battlefield where it actually took place, with the units that actually fought there. It's not historical because it will get adjusted for play balance and, more importantly, play dynamic. Ironically, (as any good simulation modeler could tell you), an adjusted 'semi-' scenario will often produce a range of playtesting results that are more true to life than that of an historical scenario, simply because the designer may have designed around reproducing the outcome rather than around mimicking the chrome. A good semi-historical scenario will probably produce a better game, but will be just as immersive (and respectful of the dead) as an historical scenario because it will try to use the real terrain and extrapolated OOB's. Having accurate OOB's for both sides and accessible accounts of the battle from both sides is something that isn't going to occur that often with battles of this scale, and I suspect that it will be something that almost never happens on the Eastern Front. And very few of us read both Russian and German (I have enough trouble with German).

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Thanks for your comments, I have been playing these games for years and have wondered what is a good definition for scenario design when it comes to listing them as either fictional, semi- historical or historical. I go along with what you have expressed to a large meassure.

As I mentioned I have done some of both and would mention that the Q.B type play improves by placing in designed maps instead of letting the game design them. Where I have a problem with the Q.B. type game is how the force mix comes out.

It seems hard for me to get excited to play a game that has forces that I know would never had

been on the battlefield in the type and quantities that show up in the QB game.

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Cannon fodder, I have played some scenario's that as you mention are somewhat one sided, I like to go in and modify them and try to create a more balanced and playable game for both players.

But in so doing I feel like I Have sinned, because some here feel so strong about the design accuracy or not touching someone elses work. But some of the funniest scenario's I have are modified ones that I have off the disk or that I have downloaded from the internet and have adjusted for play balance.

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slysniper, what is entertaining to you in the way of scoring?


I design a historical battle. Historically side A overran side B. You play vs AI. Final score: You 90 AI 10.

I design a battle. I playtest it myself several times vs AI. I know the enemy. My score 60 AI 40.

You play it blind vs AI. You end up 50 AI 50.

Did I do a good job? Did you enjoy the battles?

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Junk2drive. I might enjoy both, the first would play to my love of history, but I also always want a challenge, so in the first, if you have designed it well you should have a written victory condition saying something like I win a tactical victory at a score 90 or better, a score of 75 or less is a tactical loss because of heavy losses or something like that. I am amazed more designers just don't put in written victory conditions to help bring life to the one sided battles.

The second example also is good, there are plenty of players that want to face the AI and have a blind battle as too what to expect. If on the last turn I am still wondering if its me or the machine that will end with the score advantage, then you have done a fantastic job in designing a game. As I side note, AI balanced games are much harder to achieve as far as I am concerned.

Let me ask you, if you saw one of scenario's being played and noticed that it had been modified from how you had designed it, does that bother you. You know it is going to happen, it is part of the hobby. Or does it make you happy just to see someone getting enjoyment out of a game you helped to create. I hope you feel the second, but as I mentioned earlier, I feel like I am taking someone elses work and am disgracing it when I change a scenario without talking to the designer.

[ February 16, 2005, 07:03 AM: Message edited by: slysniper ]

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GJK, Thanks for the offer. Have thought about joining one of the groups but have held off. There is a part of me that wants to compete with some of these players that are very good. More to see just how bad or good I am. For the moment though I am fine with playing those that I can pick up from this site.

I do like to create and modify scenario's. But do it for personal enjoyment, doing it for others might become to much like a job.

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Sly, playtesting is just doing your best and reporting the results. Then maybe giving the designer suggestions.

I have done some battles with my thoughts of how the battle should be played. Then I have had playtesters go about it totally different than I, with different score results. Ways that I never thought of. I get tunnel vision sometimes.

If you have CMAK, take a look at my battles at TSD. Most have special scoring or a lot of thinking involved.

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Sorry, only have cmbb and cmbo. I might make a good playtester, I seem to have a talent at it, I can normally just look at the map, study the units in play and come close to figuring how it will play out. A gift I guess from playing war games for the last 30 years. But I still am not interested in playtesting.

Decided not to get cmak, just will wait until CMx2 comes. Well, I will correct that statement, I might pick up cmak if I find it at walmart or something. It didn't seem to improve anything much or add to the gaming experence for me. I do like early north africa battles, so it is sad that I will not part with my money to get it.

I will just load panzer elite and add the desert mods, you might want to whip me for that statement, but they were pretty good at giving the feel for the desert battles.

To show you how crazy I am, I like the fact that cmbo and cmbb play different, it is sad that I cannot find pbem players for cmbo now, because of this attitude that many have, they will play only what they deem to be the most realistic game. meaning cmak over cmbo. Oh well, to each his own, for me I like all the forms of play & gamemanship I find in this hobby and just smile at how hard headed and one sided some of you are in what matters to you in this game.

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If I'm playing versus the AI, I prefer a scenario specifically designed for play against the AI. When playing a pbem, I prefer a QB.

I've found scenarios to be very disappointing. I've found two kinds.

1. An overwhelming attacker that plows through the defender, while facing a small number of turns to accomplish this.

2. An overwhelming attacker that plows through the defender, but the defender gets reinforcements to launch a counterattack.


I know this is historically accurate, but it's just not as fun for me to play in a game.

I generally prefer to defend. With most scenarios, the defender does little more than click Go. In QBs, if I'm defending, I must take the time to study the map to determine where I think the attack is coming from. Once the battle is going, I have more things I can do. Do I move certain units? Where do I send my reserves? When do I use my off-map arty? Where should I commit my armor?

For me, QBs are far more fun.

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Thanks for the offer, Sanok. I am doing better at finding games here than in the "opponent finder".

But I have one too many games going at the moment already. But I couldn't pass on at least getting one person to play me cmbo, since all my play since starting on this site has been cmbb. Mrcobbler beat you to the offer. I will be looking again someday in the future, will try to keep you in mind.

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I enjoy playing scenarios but the Quick Battles are my favorite. I think the random map generator is one of the coolest game features I've ever seen. I'm an old Squad Leader player and was thrilled with their maps. The way you could "randomize" them somewhat by reversing the boards was great but Combat Mission blows that away. Its also very cool that you can bring in maps created by others or from scenarios and then pick your own troops. The Rarity Factor is a stroke of genius and keeps down the "Too Many Tigers" syndrome.

The ability to play a human player on a completely random board with the players choosing their own units with Full Fog of War I think is the best test of a players ability. I've been playing for years and haven't gotten board yet!

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tbroker, I agree with you that its a good test of a players ability, but is it showing the ability to direct all sorts of military units and tactics.

That test to me shows the ability of the player to purchase well to the game point system, which can be set up in many interesting ways. In other words, victory between players will be determined many times by their purchasing skills. That is fine for gaming end, but is not proving to the player that he is winning by tactical skills.

I just finished a match with a set up where I was on defense and my armor portion of my force consisted of 3 JSIII's, I stoped his assault that had me outnumbered 3 to 1 ratio, with king tigers, jag tigers and so forth. He lost 6 heavy tanks and one damaged and I only had lost one tank and one immobilized. I have played him many times and this was a exceptional victory. One I will not forget, because I won it by my play of tactics, not by good purchasing and then game play.

When I was in the military, no one ever asked what armor units would you like for this battle, so for me, being a expert at buying the best units isnt all that exciting.

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>> I going to get any more comments on what they prefer.

I’m still learning the game, and mostly play Quick Battles as a fun way to learn stuff and experiment.

I don’t feel I’ve “won” unless it’s a Total or Major Victory, and when I’m attacking, the A.I. still often makes that hard. Until that’s no longer true, I’ll probably be playing a lot of QBs. I’m deliberately not-playing Scenarios often until I know more about the game. Kinda “reserving” them for later.

I can abandon a QB without finishing it, without letting anyone down, or ‘wasting’ a Scenario.

For me, so far, Quick Battles result in an enjoyable game as often as Scenarios do. (Just yesterday I started playing a Scenario (that shall remain nameless) that appeared so uninteresting and constrained (“must get from ‘a’ to ‘b’ in x turns, and that will only be physically possible via one route at full-ish speed) that I gave it up after four turns.

People who are into gadgets love QB's because they can pick their weapons.

I don’t love gadgets, but I do often enjoy picking my force. As far as that goes, I like it both ways. But picking your force allows you to experiment with units that may rarely come up with automatic force allocation. E.g. what can I do with a ‘sharpshooter’? - my experimental (not gadget) unit of the week.

The action (in QBs) is occurring for no rhyme or reason…

I don’t see it that way so much. The reasons for controlling objectives in QBs are identical to those in Scenarios – only not explicitly stated. Gamewise, it doesn’t matter ‘why’ certain objectives must be controlled within a certain time. Scenarios only differ in that a colourful story has been attached to the text-introduction. The ‘stories’ are implicit in QBs.

…the force allocation is dependant on what toys the two players feel like playing with.… as opposed to being dependant on what toys the Scenario designer feels like playing with? Keep in mind that even the designer of “historical” scenarios chooses the battle, and hence the toys.

I don’t share the apparent passion for “historical” accuracy that seems to inform much of this debate. At least not on the level of detail that will prevent some scenario designers being thought of as “slovenly”. I don’t really care if it was A-company or F-company that day. I don’t really care what day it was, either.

As long as it’s entertaining, “realistic” in a generic sense, and to an extent, “atmospheric”. All I need to feel is that the battle could have happened. To my mind, a “slovenly” designer is one who fails to give me the above qualities, not one who doesn’t know that “actually, Lt. Smith was on leave that week, and Sgt. Jones headed-up two-platoon during the battle”. Care-factor – zero.

I don’t care if the OOBs are totally accurate. As long as it’s believable in a general sense.

And related to that is this: I often don’t like battles to be too historically detailed in so far as particular situations, and named historical persons are involved. In contrast to some who think that such Scenarios serve as memorials, I am uncomfortable to think I am “playing” the deaths of real people in such detail. All wargaming is this, yes - just don’t rub it in.

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I much prefer scernarios but would have to stipulate double blind play - not knowing what your force will entail (let alone the nme's force) is exciting!!! I have a few authors who I know and trust; and I try to stick to their creations.

The thrill of being forced to play with units you would normally never consider is also a big draw. Being outside your comfort zone and having to defend/attack with quasi able units, is a challenge, and as such, if you get a good result - extremly rewarding.

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I like the quick battles, not because I get to purchase my own units, but because the two players start at the same level.

In a scenario the map is known(which I don't see a problem with as long as both are equally familiar with it) and so are the participating units.

What I would prefer is a battle where the map is previewed by both players, the objectives are known and unit selection is limited to normally available unit to allow slight variants.

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