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Victory Points and History

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Victory Points and History - 9/21/2015 4:13:50 PM   


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I am wondering if there has ever been a reconsideration of how victory is ascertained in WITE and victory points accumulated? From reading various AAR, and playing a campaign so far to mid-1943, it seems that the victory points and victory conditions tend to encouraged stereotypical play. Much of this is due to the way the morale is set up with set dates triggering changes regardless of what is happening on the map. This seems a shame. For example:

Both sides were governed under totalitarian systems made even more so by a variety of wartime decrees. Although Hitler and Stalin were dictators, to some degree they also ran leadership systems that could leave them vulnerable to bad outcomes. For example, Stalin seems to have genuinely feared being purged himself in June/July 1941 when he withdrew to his dacha (although some theorize he was just employing an Ivan the Terrible tactic of playing dead and seeing who made their move). Hitler, of course, was the target of numerous officer conspiracies well before July 1944. What did these dictators fear?

If we judge their actions, both Hitler and Stalin placed tremendous value on the gain or loss of land and populations, beyond the economic or demographic value well into the symbolic. Both gave repeated "not one step back orders" and designated various regions as subject to hold at all costs. Each region on the map had a variety of concerns attached to its seizure or loss. Hitler needed to continue projecting an aura of invincibility to ensure the continued support of often wavering foreign allies. Stalin feared with good cause the uprisings of various nationalities submerged within the Soviet system, e.g. the Ukrainians. Without attempting to model such concerns, the players have little reason to regard the battlefield as anything more than a series of mathematical calculations amid the overall desire to utilize the game rules to their fullest.

Hence, most Soviet players do not bother to attempt anything close to the dogged defense of the Motherland in 1941, much less the constant counterattacks the Soviets launched, knowing that this attitude merely leads to larger pockets and surrenders and is more or less hamstrung by the hard-wired morale system. Similarly, German players, under no compulsion from higher authority, not only will never allow themselves to be caught in a Stalingrad, but will adopt early on tactics that trade space for time all the way to the gates of Berlin. The blizzard mechanic seems to have been of such great debate because German side players adapted to it by using tactics that resulted in the voluntary surrender of huge tracts of conquered land without a fight. The +1 rule seems to be an attempt to encourage the Soviets to attack more into the teeth of a morale system that otherwise would keep them hopelessly on the defensive until late 1942.

In its next iteration of WITE, whether as part of a War in Europe or WITE 2, Matrix really needs to give some thought to how they interplay of tactics, morale and victory points work. Without hamstringing players too much by forcing them to do X, Y or Z, there can be a subtle but powerful series of interlocking incentives which provide potential morale and VP gains if attempted. I think AGEOD and its strategic choices events are a potential model. They allow players to make the choice of whether or not to adopt historical concerns, with pluses and minuses. Matrix might also consider the AGEOD "engagement points" (EP) system as a possibility. Here is an example of how it might work:

German example: Hitler throughout the war gave repeated "stand fast" orders based on a variety of considerations. He also set various objectives for political reasons. In the south of Russia, his interests were affected not just by his dreamed of seizure of grain, industry and oil, but also the political impact on the Romanians, Bulgarians and even the Turks. The stand fast can be simulated by giving the German player, throughout the game, the opportunity to issue such orders for certain regions and cities. The option would be triggered by a game mechanic that reflects whether a certain area is threatened or simply based on off-map developments. Successfully fulfilling such an order would gain EP and the EP, if accumulated in sufficient quantity, could open up new event trees. Certain events would have both upsides and downsides, e.g. if the German player goes against Hitler's historic aversion to inciting the Soviet nationalities independence movements, e.g. Vlasov, the Ukrainians and Cossacks, etc. this can have the downside of shutting down other event trees, e.g. those that would otherwise automatically be counted on. It is reasonable to assume that a policy of encouraging Soviet national independence movements would have undermined other aspects of Hitler's power. On "not one step back" orders, it gets dicier. Hitler had a personal desire to maintain power that often diverged from sane military concerns. I think one way to go would be to model how giving up territory without a fight would impact the minor allies. Or perhaps an added one-time VP bonus for the Soviets every time the Germans gave up ten hexes without a fight.

Soviet example: using the EP type system as our example again, the Soviet's could receive incentives to hold onto as much of the Motherland as possible for as long as possible. You could have later gains in Soviet morale not based on set date triggers, but rather "purchased" by EP gained for holding key areas as long as possible. Some of the "not one step back" mentality is modeled by the need to extract industries from capture/destruction. But it went far beyond that. The Soviet Union by 1941 was only 20 years past the Civil War. Stalin knew that giving up lots of land could lead to political problems. Perhaps one way to go would be to allow German options to raise Hiwis, receive labor support from Soviet nationalities or have the option of raising Cossacks based on whether they have taken certain regions. You could also imagine similar one-time VP bonuses for hexes the Soviets give up without a fight.

I should also mention a random event system would spice things up tremendously.

The idea of all of the above would be to import historical political considerations into the strategic decision process - not inflict hard-wired restrictions. Incentives and penalties would be subject to player choice. There should be potential gains from valuing some of the same things Hitler and Stalin did and likewise losses based on what they feared. Right now, that doesn't appear to be the case. Hence, stereotyped play and the triumph of the spreadsheet/mathematical calculation approach.

AGEOD doesn't always do it perfect, but I think their EP system is onto something. WITE, IMO, desperately needs an injection of "soul" into an otherwise solid skeleton.
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RE: Victory Points and History - 9/21/2015 4:41:43 PM   


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Hiwi/labour squads and units raised from the local populations are all mostly inlcuded in the game.

The are probably some units that were mainly raised for policing/population oppression that arent included but the majority seem to be already in the system.

I do agree a mechanic to benefit good game play would be nice, however the balance of the game is already very difficult to judge based on how a long 1 game takes to play between 2 players.

< Message edited by chaos45 -- 9/21/2015 5:43:11 PM >

(in reply to elxaime)
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RE: Victory Points and History - 9/21/2015 5:34:24 PM   

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I always said that good victory conditions are essential if one wants to limit "optimized" play, that takes hindsight and knowledge of final result into consideration. Without awarding players for playing "in character" rather than "perfect" one can create much more realistic flow of the game. Just look at the victory conditions in many boardgames: Paths of Glory requires to make suicidical attacks on a random front once per turn under the penalty of losing VP. Without that enticement players would build up for years, never bleeding their forces. The outcome would be ahistorical game. Napoleon's Triumph requires Allied side to take into offensive, to walk into the trap. Without that requirement they would just sit back, etrench and Austerlitz would be impossible to replay. Twilight in the East awards players for making attacks, even if they are lost. It also requires forces to follow pre-war plans, which were nearly scripted for each side and it was impossible to alter them in first days of war (each side did what they planned would be the best move), which can be abandoned with the greater VP penalty the longer the distance to target remains. Offensive mindset is replicated, forces are bled white, which enables dramatic reverses in later part of the game. WitE has no incentives to do the same in the campaign, so it's not players fault to play in the most optimized way. It requires great strength of will to make suboptimal moves if there is no reward at all.

That said, WitE 1.08.05 will contain Bitter End scenario which is a campaign game with scenario-like victory conditions, that is points are awarded for taking enemy cities and causing losses. Those citites were selected in such a way so that they would require holding some positions normally abandoned and also giving more weight to the south. It may not be balanced very well in the first iteration (based on historical dates of conquest and loss), but it should be good for competetive play with switched sides (so VP can be compared after two games).

(in reply to chaos45)
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RE: Victory Points and History - 9/21/2015 8:54:22 PM   


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I also like the idea of having historical events, or choices for the players. It would add some spice, and change up how things go. For example, the German player might get an event regarding the luftwaffe field divisions, if he forms them, he gets x number of luftwaffe units, if he decides he doesn't want to do this, they might show up as replacements in 3-5 months (after retraining). The things that could be done with this are endless, and might make each game a little different.

I could even see several starting events, which might lead to variable set up, which is desperately needed for both the Germans and Russians. That would end the chess like perfect openings seen in the games by the Germans.

I disagree on the things that would force players to do certain things strategically, like the Russians defending forward or the stand and Hitler's die orders. The better way to handle these issues is to again make it a choice for each player. The Russians should have a reason to stand forward, either to hold cities longer for VPs or to protect factories as they are being evacuated. For the Germans, if the VPs were counted as turn running totals, it would give them them an incentive to try and hold them longer in 43-45 to keep the points rolling in, or just to prevent them manpower additions to the Russians etc.

However, until the combat losses and realistic manpower and replacements rates get fixed, none of that would really matter. Its a fine balance, but by using the historical record as a guide, seems it could be managed.

(in reply to morvael)
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RE: Victory Points and History - 9/22/2015 5:02:07 AM   

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This is a great discussion, with some excellent points. I particularly can't wait to play Bitter End in .05, morvael, since I am big into role-playing and solitaire (the latter mainly because of my lack of available opponents in the good old board gaming days).

How to "force" players into not using 20/20 hindsight strategies while, at the same time, not railroading them into playing every game the same way, following an optimal strategy AND keeping the "what if" angle that make historical war games interesting to me at least (while keeping them historical)... Whew! That's a tall order!

WitE does a really good job, better than any I've seen anyways, of being a simulator of the Eastern Front PROVIDED that nobody uses the lessons learned and play ahistorically. And morvael et al have done a great job of lessening the impact of players not doing the latter, every version improving on the last. I still remember the first time I played the Leningrad scenario against the AI and found that not only could I make it across the Dvina in a week, just like von Manstein, and no further, my subsequent over ambitious push got me into the exact same mess he faced east of Pskov. If I followed his war diary to the letter, I got the same result. That's how a simulation should work, in my opinion.

But how to make a game out of that? We can all just read the book, if that's what we want. You want to give players incentives to follow history without predetermining the outcome. You want to encourage the Soviet player to fight like a bastard for every inch in 41 while making it a viable, as opposed to "you're an idiot if you DON'T" option to fall back.

There are many ways of doing that, the VPs per turn held being one that has been used to good effect in many games, as well as many others mentioned already in this thread for other aspects. I think WitE does a good job already, and it keeps getting better. It remains my only choice for games covering this, my favorite subject.

(in reply to SCAR)
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RE: Victory Points and History - 9/25/2015 7:19:54 PM   


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A way to deal with players just giving up land for free, is to give each side a permanent national morale malus if too much ground is lost in a single turn, while the other side gets a boost for gaining so much terrain. The amount required to quick the penalty would vary by side and date just like the Battle Win/Loss Credit for Leaders does.

So a Soviet player can just run away from the Germans, sure, but good luck facing 1942 with below-40 national morale. And a German player can run away to avoid the First Winter, but then the soviets will appreciate to face the summer of 1942 with 1943 morale levels, and reach national morale parity with Germany by the spring of 1943 instead of 1944.

If implemented properly, this mechanic could not only serve as a lash on ahistorical play, but replace the actual national-morale-by-date system (so the relative national morale levels of each side would depend on actual player performance and not be fixed to the historical performance). But that would be a whole different discussion.

< Message edited by IvanShuski -- 9/25/2015 8:35:29 PM >

(in reply to MishaTX)
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RE: Victory Points and History - 9/25/2015 8:20:51 PM   

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I've been thinking for a while that I would have liked to see that cities contribute to the national moral much like VP's do. Maybe losing a city could lower the national moral of a nation by 1/10 of the VPs or similar. Losses etc should also contribute to the loss of national morale. However, I think all of this is for another game, maybe WITE 2?

(in reply to IvanShuski)
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RE: Victory Points and History - 9/26/2015 10:42:31 AM   


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I think certain overall choices being possible and these opening up other choices is a good one. However I think a much simpler change to National Morale would be as good. Just make Nat Morale a function of land/cities held and casualties. For example, a German retreat winter 41 to avoid winter should decimate national morale. Soviet morale could be dominated by land and very weakly a function of casualties, encouraging counter attacks (even at loss). Do better earlier and this hits the opponent, incentivising activity.

the snag with alternate history, like being nice to Ukraine, is Hitler was mad not to and so it becomes the automatic choice if the game gives a sensible benefit...


I have a cunning plan, My Lord

(in reply to robinsa)
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