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So what's wrong with TOAW from a CM'ers standpoint?


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i don't think we'll get any response from the main protagonists here

since now that we actually expressed a diffrent view, we were informed that this thread is...

Originally posted by JasonC:

[...]dead as a doornail [...]

maybe it's better that way

don't feel like waging flamewar right now

i'm off

cheers

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I still stand by the AA engine as being a fine wargame and from what I've read it has really improved with COTA. The only regret I have with them is I have little to no interest in their last theatre selection. However, with that said, I do plan on buying their next one when it is available. Then I sure hope they delve into the Ost Front.

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Arjuna,

Even though the slice of the wargaming market is and will probably always be very small for games made using the Airborne Assault game engine, I believe that releasing a demo is a must nowadays.

My advice to you is to release a demo containing a couple of tutorial scenarios along with the appropriate documentation. One alternative to a demo would be to create and release a whole series of downloadable videos. Some videos would teach a person how the game mechanics work while other videos would sell the sizzle (i.e. try to show me why I should be interested in taking the time to learn how to play this game).

Several months ago, I checked out the COTA forum at Matrix Games and the impression I came away with is that COTA is similar to TacOps (but for WWII) and a player fights a series of unconnected tactical battles at the division level of command and below. While I believe I understand the essence of what COTA is all about I haven't been convinced by Matrix Games or Panther Games that COTA is worth my precious time to learn how to play.

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Tactical Command,

Thanks for the feedback. I've asked Paul Scobell to check out the options and feasibility of putting out a demo of COTA with the tutorials and documentation. If it can be done without too much additional development then we'll do so. I'll make an announcement about it on the COTA forum once we've decided - probably in a few weeks.

Would you be interested in being a "blind" tester of the demo if we decide to go ahead? Ie check it out before we release it publicly and provide us with some feedback on your experience with it?

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Arjuna,

I have to chime in in urging you to put out a demo.

I have recommended your games to quite a few people, and interest is difficult to spark. The 3D people don't like it because it's "flat", but the more interesting point is that wargamers just don't trust you to get the "TacAI" that does the micromovements right. They just don't believe it, and many have been burned too often. They will not spend the money without proof, and worse, it looks to some as if you have something to hide.

I have followed some of your earlier writings about the demo, where you indicate that you believe that a demo will not be extensive enough to get the true value of the game over. That the timespan for a demo is too short and that people sit down, fiddle with the demo on the side, get into a predictable mess with the AI and dislike the game as a result.

I don't want to dismiss that point, it will be true for some. But from what I have seen in the last years, the demo is a requirement for a far larger group of people.

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An interesting debate. Lots of bright people in here. And lots of good food for thought.

I am a 39 year old, "life time" gamer and have played OR owned probably close to two hundred board games. My first real wargame ever was Squad Leader (wow...what a rush that was).

As many, I have been beset with real world problems and demands on my time...even relationships, which make gaming more "difficult". As an old hex based, igougo gamer, I have thoroughly enjoyed MOST aspects of the Airborne Assault series (Highway to the Reich, Conquest of the Aegean). For me, it represented the end of turn based and hex based gaming.

I LOVE not having control over EVERYTHING, thought once in a while, it is still a little frustrating. But this frustration is one reason I play the game and refuse to go back to turn based, hex based WWII "simulations."

I HATE calculating "odds" as every hex based game allows you (forces) you to do. I hate "stacking" limitations imposed by hexagonal wargaming. I hate the contrived ways in which turn based games try to make you "feel" like everything is actually happening at the same time--even though some stacks get half way across the board before my enemy gets a chance to move. I hate maneuvering three units around my enemy's flank, knowing he can't move during my turn, so that I get an attack coming in at him from every 120 degrees so I get a column shift. I am done with it.

Interestingly, I tried for years to get my father, who was a General's Aide and tank company commander in 1960s Germany, to play board games with me. He was never interested.

After 20 years, things changed the night he walked in and saw me playing "Highway to the Reich." It was the first time he ever sat down and played with me, spewing orders in an effort to hold the bridge at Arnhem.

It took HTTR and COTA to get my father to think computer wargames were worthwhile simulations of what actually happens on the battlefield.

And while I think there is still a lot that should be done, and that the game system will hit its stride in another two iterations, it is an amazing game and lightyears ahead of what I used to play in any board game if you want a feel for what it is like to command in actual combat.

At least that's my opinion. And the opinion of my father.

I used to play TOAW religiously. But now I wonder why. I prefer Conquest of the Aegean in every respect. Except for the flexibility in terms of time periods and fronts offered (and while COTA has a great scenario editor, it isn't as widely supported by the gaming community as the TOAW editor was).

[ March 20, 2007, 01:27 PM: Message edited by: barbarossa2 ]

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Originally posted by barbarossa2:

It took HTTR and COTA to get my father to think computer wargames were worthwhile simulations of what actually happens on the battlefield.

This reminds me of the "Armored Task Force Engine", which is based on the JANUS engine used as a training tool by the US Army. There are many similarities between CotA and ATF, in the way they do manage the simulation of a conflict in real time with order delays, "battle drills" for managing subordinate units etc.
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I had looked at the demos from Prosim of BCT, ATF, and AATF, but they didn't grab me. However, I have to admit that I did not give them much time. That's the problem with demos in general. You are much more inclined to devote serious time to learning something when you pay for it. A free download often only gets a cursory look.

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Yeah me too, I had a go at the various ATF demos but none grabbed me neither,plus they had a horrible user interface.I recently downloaded the AATF demo and it's funny how it has a very AA-like interface now, imitation being the best form of flattery perhaps?

[ March 21, 2007, 04:06 PM: Message edited by: Pinetree ]

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Yes IIRC Pat Proctor originally designed the interface using the Action-Subject-Object approach, whereas we used the Subject-Action-Object approach. The former is often used in military appreciations ( and hence by the AI )- ie you work out what you want to do to what and then you work out who should do it. However, when it comes to actually giving orders, I reckon the Subject-Action-Object method is more intuitive.

You have to take your hat off to the ProSim boys for recognising that there was a better methodology and adopting it rather than digging their heals in. Right action should be supported.

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Yes, but unfortunately Pat dumbed down the interface so much that I lost my initial enthusiasm for the project.

In fact I was on the BETA team for AATF and dropped out due to my disappointment in the new direction... too bad too as I haven't even had the heart to play ATF(TSATC) since.

:(

Bil

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My TOAW (I and II) experience;

I haven't played it since maybe 2 years ago. I was driven away by the dreaded 'Tigers vs Jeeps' debacle. For those of you who aren't familiar with the issue, someone didn't like some of the combat results and the affects that certain weapons systems had. So, they designed a playtest that involved a unit made up exclusively of Tiger tanks, and fought against a unit made up entirely of Jeeps. Well, though the Tiger unit usually won the fight, they ALWAYS took heavy losses, to a unit that possessed literally nothing but jeeps, and hence, possessed nothing that would even scratch a Tiger. This jived with my own experience, say, when one of my tank battalions with infantry support attacked a non dug-in North Korean infantry battalion in open terrain. The NK infantry unit possessed a hand-full of 85mm or 76.2 mm ATGs. and despite using arty or air support on them, I almost always got my ass handed to me. Essentially 3-1 odds with air or arty support, combined arms attack in open terrain, and nothing.

This issue stemmed from semi-arbitrary strengths (Armor Attack, Defense, Infantry Attack, Defense 'points') being given to each piece of equipment. So, w/o getting my manual out, a jeep gets an anti-armor strength of '1', a Tiger, say, '27'. Here is the flaw at the very core of the game. 27 times more firepower or strength sounds good, but the reality is a jeep couldn't hurt a Tiger if it rammed it. But you have to give each piece of equipment some attack or defense factor. Then you take all of these pieces of equipment and build a battalion or a regiment or a division. X number of BARs, Y number of Infantry Squads, Z number of Jeeps, etc. Then when you bump into some other unit the game engine works some black magic that is completely opaque to the player and spits out some combat results. And you have Jeeps killing large numbers of Tigers.

Stuff happens and you have no clue as to how it happened. Supply is another huge problem, as Jason mentioned. 'Hey, that unit hasn't done anything, isn't near the enemy, hasn't moved in days, is sitting right next to an HQ, but it has no supplies and it is fatigued. Why?' Don't look in the manual, it isn't in there. There all these neat charts that show that a Yugoslavian 82mm mortar has 11 firepower (I am making that up), but not a clue as to how the game engine figures out combat results or supply, or reinforcements, etc.

So I stopped playing. I tried playing it about 2 years ago again when I went on a business trip, and despite the latest patches it was still completely broken and completely imcomprehensible. I still have my disks around somewhere. I experienced much of what Jason talked about and keep in mind my experience was after several patches. I surmised, much as Jason does, that something was seriously broken under the hood, and w/o any transparancy there were no evident work arounds.

civdiv

[ March 25, 2007, 12:50 PM: Message edited by: civdiv ]

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Originally posted by markshot:

JasonC,

On the other hand, I tend to regard these products as games and ultimately whether I am having fun is my most important criteria. Although I do like games that strive to accurately model real world systems, primarily because if it is well done then I believe the end result should be more logical, less likely to contain loopholes and exploits, provide a better intellectual exercise, and deliver a superior educational vehicle.

I do find that people are constantly screaming for realism, but few will chose dry realism over fun and good game play. I think when designing a historic game, it is more important to convey the spirit of the major concepts than to strive for total accuracy in all things modeled.

Well, it's been interesting. Thanks.

Company of Heroes is a good example. Very unrealistic but a cracking good game.

Did I just say 'cracking'? Too many limeys on this board.

civdiv

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barbarossa2,

You have made the most convincing argument for trying out COTA (or any other game) that I think I have ever read. I may just give it a shot, at least after I hear the feedback from the upcoming patch. Thanks for signing up to this board just to put your $.02 in!

civdiv

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Originally posted by civdiv:

Then you take all of these pieces of equipment and build a battalion or a regiment or a division. X number of BARs, Y number of Infantry Squads, Z number of Jeeps, etc. Then when you bump into some other unit the game engine works some black magic that is completely opaque to the player and spits out some combat results. And you have Jeeps killing large numbers of Tigers.

The "semi-tactical" engine introduced in 1999 largely removed the problems associated with this, where each tiny AT factor of a large jeep unit was rolled into one big AT factor, causing too large casualties on a Tiger unit. Nowdays each jeep fires a certain number of shots (depending on stance, terrain, etc) that is compared to the Tigers armour value. I have not really seen any Jeep/Tiger type problems since this engine was introduced (before Y2K!).

Also note that not all caualties in TOAW are direct kills. Half of the losses are moved into the replacement pool as "mission kills" and soon redestributed to the frontlines.

Hence a "kill" in TOAW can just as well be a thrown track, as blowing the turret clean off. At the operational scale this works just fine in my experience.

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Originally posted by Heartland:

</font><blockquote>quote:</font><hr />Originally posted by civdiv:

Then you take all of these pieces of equipment and build a battalion or a regiment or a division. X number of BARs, Y number of Infantry Squads, Z number of Jeeps, etc. Then when you bump into some other unit the game engine works some black magic that is completely opaque to the player and spits out some combat results. And you have Jeeps killing large numbers of Tigers.

The "semi-tactical" engine introduced in 1999 largely removed the problems associated with this, where each tiny AT factor of a large jeep unit was rolled into one big AT factor, causing too large casualties on a Tiger unit. Nowdays each jeep fires a certain number of shots (depending on stance, terrain, etc) that is compared to the Tigers armour value. I have not really seen any Jeep/Tiger type problems since this engine was introduced (before Y2K!).

Also note that not all caualties in TOAW are direct kills. Half of the losses are moved into the replacement pool as "mission kills" and soon redestributed to the frontlines.

Hence a "kill" in TOAW can just as well be a thrown track, as blowing the turret clean off. At the operational scale this works just fine in my experience. </font>

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My experience with TOAW: ACOW (and TOAW 3) was contrary to what some people complain. Jeeps don't kill Tigers; in fact, infantry seldom kills any tanks without real anti-tank weapons. I'd expect that a tank platoon under attack by an infantry battalion WILL get overrun and destroyed with satchels, even if the infantry doesn't carry AT guns with them. But my experience was that the tanks will hold out until their unit is completely out of supplies, at which point they will retreat, not be destroyed. :mad:

Otherwise it's a great game series. I just wish they'd kept the armour system like it was in TOAW 2, which was perfect.

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The jeep/tiger thing happened in TOAW 1. They had one chance to grab me and they failed;

Unfortunately, novelty has its price and TOAW paid it. This essentially was the source of much condemnation and criticism for TOAW1 (the "100 jeeps taking out 100 Tigers" example has probably gotten the most press).
http://www.sgo.cc/reviews/the_operational_art_of_war_vol_2/index.shtml
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Originally posted by Sergei:

My experience with TOAW: ACOW (and TOAW 3) was contrary to what some people complain. Jeeps don't kill Tigers; in fact, infantry seldom kills any tanks without real anti-tank weapons. I'd expect that a tank platoon under attack by an infantry battalion WILL get overrun and destroyed with satchels, even if the infantry doesn't carry AT guns with them. But my experience was that the tanks will hold out until their unit is completely out of supplies, at which point they will retreat, not be destroyed. :mad:

Well, it is still a motorized unit attacked by a non-motorized unit. I can live with defaulting to a successful retreat and an assumption that they keep enough fuel as last resort reserve to move one hex. I'd like to see Wittman say "one hex" smile.gif Anyway...

Even if you encircle them, it would be difficult to hold multiple tanks that try to escape without some kind of medium range AT weapon.

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Originally posted by civdiv:

The jeep/tiger thing happened in TOAW 1. They had one chance to grab me and they failed;

Yeah well, I'm not here to convert anybody. But as an aside I was not very impressed with CM:BO, for whatever reason. Nowdays (and for the last years) I'm pretty glad I decided to check the series out again! smile.gif

Anyway, just pointing out that this particular TOAW problem has not been around for the last eight years or so. Someone might get the impression that the problem is still present, which would be a shame. It is a great, very flexible, game system.

[ March 27, 2007, 12:19 AM: Message edited by: Heartland ]

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Some random musings on various battle engines:

IMO, the AA (airborne assault) engine and MMG's Take Command are the way of the future. They really are an evolution of the Close Combat series and SMG's Gettysburg (and add-ons Antietam, WNLB, ANGV) and are the sweet spot between turn based/hex/counters and RTS (like Sudden Strike).

Games such as Combat Mission series are really just a turn based/hex/counter game in 3D...with the added improvement of simultaneous WEGO turn resolution that isn't really possible in table top games. That being said, I do enjoy what the Combat Mission series offers, but absent the 3D graphics, it really is just a "half-step" in the evolution of wargames. Given that wargaming is steeped in a lot of tradition (i.e. all those hex and turn guys), I view CM as a necessary stepping stone to the innovative future of wargaming in games like COTA or Take Command.

RTS clickfests certainly have some semblance of strategy (none to my liking, but that is a matter of taste) and with their major contribution to the genre being the incorporation of eye-popping graphics. This is an important feature in that it demonstrates that games can be both well balanced, strategically challenging and still look-good (think the hot chick who has a brain!!!).

I think it is simply a matter of time before graphics and pc power approach a position where the AA engine can be used to plan a battle and the player can zoom in to see things played out in a 3D environment. This is what MMG is doing right now, albeit on a smaller battle scale, and what AA COULD do (graphics and size/scope being the limiting factor now) in the future. That is why both of these game series are INNOVATIVE giant steps for the wargaming genre. The fact that they may not be recognized as such now isn't as important (unless you are the developers and need $$$ from sales ) as the fact that 10 years down the road, game designers will be pointing to those 2 games much the way we look at Close Combat or SMG's Gettysburg today.

The basic fact of the matter is that a lot of these hex/counter/turn games have simply been ported to PC to allow for solitaire or PBEM play. That isn't really innovative as much as it allows the gaming community to expand beyond the traditional boundaries of the table top in the basement. Now that the "basement' is bigger and the PC calculates the odds/die roles, nothing has fundamentally changed in the way the game is played except that you don't have to worry about the dog knocking over the table! Unfortunately that is what the majority of the wargaming world has failed to perceive in their hesitance to embrace games such as COTA/HTTR/TC2M. Sure Close Combat and SMG were big commercial hits, but has really anyone come out with anything comparable in the past decade? The strange part about all this is NO ONE has capitalized on that "pausible continuous time" strategy movement despite the commerical success of those 2 series.

If I had to go out on a limb and commit wargaming heresy, I would bet that this is because the great majority purchasers of the CC and SMG phenomona WEREN'T your traditional hex/counter/turn wargamer. Those games appealed to Joe Q. Public and as much as the traditional wargamers lament the apparant demise of their chosen hobby every year, deep down inside the last thing they want to see is the common man encroach upon the boundaries of their sacred "elitist" hobby.

Why???

The answer is really simple. IMO, for years the hardcore wargamer had a simple advantage over his many opponents in that they "knew" the odds or all the quirks of the hex/counter/turn games. This knowledge of statistics, arcane rules, etc were the difference between the great wargamer and your journeyman wargamer. Heck, how can a guy be expected to just pick up a copy of Advanced 3rd Reich and sit down and play in one night? Just trying to set up for the first time is enough to bump off all but the most committed player. But sit down and load up Sid Meier's Gettysburg and the tables have turned. Knowledge of "soak off odds" or "river movement rules" are meaningless. Now strategy, intuition, audacity and cunning...the qualities that seperate the real battlefield commander from the boys are paramount. And those "pausible real time" games reward those commanders that understand this. Sure there is still the element of "counter strength" in understanding the relative strengths of your combat units etc, but the difference between victory and defeat is no longer based upon who can add up the damn counter odds fastest. Now victory or defeat is the result of the commander best being able to "visualize" the battle and make the right decisions, committing the right level of forces at the decisive time & location on the battlefield...and all this in REAL TIME!!!

That is why AA or TC is superior to hex/counter/turn. Making decisions when you have hours to review each and every variation and permutation of counters is fine and dandy. With enough time, 1 out of a 1000 chimps will type out Dicken's "Great Expectations" also. But put a time limit on that decision making process...where decisions are made with imperfect information...and you get quite a different result. I kind have the view that hex/counter/turn games are something were everything goes clockwork like the German train and mobilization schedule in WWI. There are really no suprises and everything is mechanical. Of course the reality is quite different - as the saying goes, no plan survives first enemy contact. Unfortunately hex/counter/turn can't recreate that most important aspect of warfare, which is why AA or TC are IMO the gold standard in wargaming today.

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Nobody plays them. Because the game play was and is poor. A fair number of people bought them on the hype and the hope they would be some great advance, but they played them about as long as the last module of Donkey Kong. Real Time Strategy, Isn't. Never was. It has a life in the semi RPG space where game play depth and actual strategy isn't terribly important, compared to immersion fun factors - but gets quite old quite fast.

Once again the designers are trying to get CPU power and engineering to do for them what their actual job description is, and make said job description unnecessary. And once again it does not remotely work.

As for we go on table top, it has been around for 3 decades as plotted movement systems. In naval, air, and tactical games.

And no, rule lawyering by grogs is not a competitive advantage thing. Rule systems that capture the real match ups and decisive bits of a struggle and put them in the player's hands, but do so cleanly and playably, are extremely popular with strategy gamers.

Every would-be next generation wargame designer should be forced to sit down and play some of the modern "German" games, and some GMT card driven games, for several full evening sessions. Also, if your strategy game designer does not know how to play Chess and Go and Bridge, or doesn't like them or finds them boring or doesn't see how they work and why people still play them, find a new designer.

(Anybody think Go works because it empowers rule lawyering?)

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Jason -

You basically have proven my point - that those gamers that fancy themselves as traditionalists dismiss these type of "real time tactical" or "pausible continuous time" games completely out of hand.

On what basis do you claim the "game play was and is poor"??? You provide absolutely no analysis or commentary to support this claim whatsoever and miss my point completely. I am not disparaging turn/hex/counter games at all. There are plenty to like and enjoy. But it is a stretch to think that any innovative game play has come from that system. By your own admission, the system has been around for 3 decades with basically no change or innovation.

Introducing the PC to the mix has done nothing except speeding up calculations and making the game easier to play over long distances.

As for your comments about "rule lawyering," you mis-represented my initial point. To say that a comprehensive understanding of a game system doesn't provide an advantage is illogical. How can it not over a less experienced opponent? I never mentioned anyone trying to game another opponent by "interpreting" rules one way or another. To use your example, Chess - Go and Bridge have pretty well understood rules for those that play and for those that don't, there are ample resources to verify. Consequently I would agree that there is no place for "rule lawyering." Contrast that with whatever version of AH rules for Advanced 3rd Reich to discuss arcane paradrop rules or war entry ratings you are using and that is "rule lawyering."

As for PC & graphics power, if your thought is that they have replaced the role of the player, you once again missed the point. If your idea of fun is spending hours calculating odds and die rolls, great - have at it. If your idea of fun is micromanaging units of the Normandy invasion down to the squad level, great - have at it. Just cause a game has a thousand counters that you move on a thousand hexes doesn't give it "game play depth" anymore than than provides "immersion fun factors." Seriously, last time I read a history of D-Day, I must have forgot the part about Ike moving every squad on the invasion beaches.

That being said, I don't dismiss the contributions of hex/turn/counter games like you of these RTT or PCT games. Whereas you seem to believe that they are the "final stage" of wargaming, I view them as just the previous step in the wargaming evolutionary scale. Combat Mission moved the bar a little bit, but RTT/PCT is the next big innovative step forward.

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