TOAW IV In-depth Analysis - BATTLEFIELD TIMESTAMPS

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Daniele
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TOAW IV In-depth Analysis - BATTLEFIELD TIMESTAMPS

Post by Daniele »

[center]BATTLEFIELD TIMESTAMPS
by Bob Cross[/center]


Let’s take a trip back in time to about 2002. TOAW exists, but as “ACOW”. You’re a newbie just starting out with the game. If you perused the manual you might have seen these few items:

Individual battles are resolved in a series of tactical rounds. Each player turn is divided into ten tactical rounds, and individual battles begin on the round that most closely corresponds to the proportion of the attacking units’ movement allowance expended before the combat. …

Battles continue until all units of one side have broken off, but not beyond tactical round 10. …

After combat, all of your units will have their remaining movement allowances adjusted to reflect the highest tactical round needed to resolve all attacks. …

Your turn will end if either of the following conditions apply:
• You have launched no attacks.
• The mean remaining movement allowance of your entire force is too small to allow for successful exploitation of your attacks.
• Your force fails a proficiency check.

But, in a huge manual, those scattered tidbits can be missed, or their importance overlooked. You want to get started.

You fire up the CFNA scenario and start setting up Axis attacks. One attack involves a foot unit that has moved quite a distance:

Image

Note that the unit has expended 23 of its 28 MPs. The 5 remaining MPs amount to only 18% of its original movement allowance. So this unit has a Time Stamp of 9 out of 10. This attack is going to cause your turn to end. But, as a newbie, you’re unaware of this. Perhaps you go on to setup several more attacks. Then you execute your attacks. After they are all resolved, you get this screen:

Image

You stare at it in disbelief. There were a potential ten combat phases, and you only got one. And note that there isn’t even a reason given for the early turn ending or even which combat was the issue. You are left to gape in wonder.

This is where newbies often got off the TOAW bandwagon. But, even if they didn’t, and hung around long enough to figure out the deal with using late units in attacks, there was another way to get the early turn ending that stymied even veteran players: Attack Complexity.

As the manual said, battles continued till one entire side broke off. So, really complex combats with lots of determined units on both sides could last several rounds – even the entire player turn. And the bigger the scenario, the more such attacks each combat phase tended to have. Huge scenarios were thus often harried by such combats, far more so than smaller, simpler scenarios – just because they had more combats. Obviously, this didn’t make any realistic sense, and tended to sour even veterans on the game. “Why should a battle in North Africa screw up action in the Ukraine” was the complaint. And they were right. Something had to be done.

Move forward to about 2007 and TOAW III. Two features were added: The “Circle of Stars” and MRPB.

The “Circle of Stars” reflected both the current round, and the max start round that had been setup in planned combats. So, if properly monitored, this feature could alert players to the presence of late units in attacks. But it did require that monitoring. Fail to notice and you could have the same result as in the first example.

MRPB (Max Rounds per Battle) could put a limit on individual battles lasting very many rounds. But, it required designer action before it could have any effect. And a value below three induced some strange combat effects (not to mention removing most of the skill required to play the game). Since most existing scenarios won’t ever see designer action again, and a limit of three still can waste two rounds, this was still not ideal.

Finally move forward to 2017 and TOAW IV. New feature: Battlefield Timestamps.

Under the Battlefield Timestamp system, after all combats are resolved, the player-turn will advance to the combat round of the MEDIAN length combat. In other words, if there were seven combats that lasted 1, 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, & 6 rounds respectively then the player turn would advance only two rounds, instead of the six rounds of before. Note that this means that three combats lasted longer than the round of the new combat phase. This will be accounted for by placing a TIME STAMP in those three hexes that will equal their actual ending round.

TIME STAMP definition: The fraction of the player-turn, in tenths, that has been expended. This applies to the Player-Turn itself, to Units (the fraction of their MPs that they have expended), and now to battlefield hexes.

Movement effects of Battlefield Time Stamps: Any unit that enters a hex with a Battlefield Time Stamp will have its movement points reduced until its unit time stamp is at least equal to that of the hex.

Combat effects of Battlefield Time Stamps: Combats planned for a hex with a Battlefield Time Stamp will start on a combat round as if the player-turn is the same as the hex’s time stamp. All units that participate in a combat that results in a Battlefield Time Stamp have their time stamps increased to the resulting time stamp of the battlefield.

Combat creation of Battlefield Time Stamps: If a combat lasts longer than one round, it creates a Battlefield Time Stamp equal to the last round that combat expended.

In addition, if a defender was prevented from retreating from a combat by non-participating enemy units then the combat’s Battlefield Time Stamp is the greater of the time stamps of the blocking units and the time stamp of the last round of the combat. So, if the combat ended on round five, but there was a blocking unit that prevented the defenders from retreating and it had a time stamp of seven, then the Battlefield Time Stamp would be set to seven (and all participating units would have their time stamps increased to seven). Note that this ends the time-machine effect of blocking units that the game had endured up to this point (This part of the feature is still under development).

RBC creation of Battlefield Time Stamps: Whenever a defender is forced to retreat-before-combat (RBC, also referred to as Overrun) by a unit with a Time Stamp greater than the Player-Turn’s Time Stamp, there is a Battlefield Time Stamp created in the hex equal to the time stamp of the overrunning unit. Note that this ends the time-machine effect of overrunning units.

Battlefield Time Stamps are shown on the map by a dedicated graphic (see below) and their effect on movement is incorporated into the path feature and shown in the unit panel. Note that there is now an option to display the unit’s time stamp on its counter.


After all combats are resolved and the combat phase has been advanced, all Battlefield Time Stamps on the map that are either less than or equal to the new time stamp of the player-turn are erased. So all Battlefield Time Stamps are erased by the end of the player-turn.

Note that by advancing to the MEDIAN instead of the MINIMUM combat length the game retains a requirement for a level of skill in marshalling the player’s combats. Players still need to try to minimize the number of combats that last multiple rounds to get the best amount of combat exploitation. But now a single slip-up or bad break won’t ruin an entire player-turn.

Now let’s try it out in a game.

Here’s a shot showing several attacks set up in Kaiserschlacht 1918 (note the six gold crossed swords). But note the Unit Panel: Somewhere one of the attacks has been set up with a late unit in the attack. We know this because the Current Round is shown as 1, while the Progress Bar (replacement for the Circle of Stars) shows four rounds set to expire upon execution. Note that the unit in the Unit Panel has moved 5 of its 12 MPs. It is late.

Image

This can also be seen by the new Planned Combats dialog:

Image

As shown, of the seven battles (there’s a seventh battle south of the first screen shot) six have no delay – they have been planned without late units. But one has not.

But, despite the clear warning, let’s go ahead and execute the planned attacks.

This shot shows the results:

Image

Note the Progress Bar has one round consumed, the Current Round is 2. So only one round expired on the map – except in one location. Note the six silver crossed-swords showing where battles took place. But one such location also has a bronze crossed-swords in it. That is the Battlefield Timestamp (BTS) symbol.

Now look at the new Combat Results dialog:

Image

Note that one combat consumed 5 rounds, while the other six only consumed 1 round. Remember that under the previous system, that would have meant that the player turn would have advanced to round 6, not round 2. The BTS system has saved four rounds. Only the one hex that had the delayed combat in it has any adverse effects. This was because the median length combat of the seven combats was one round. (1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 5). In order to get this result, most of the combats need to be conducted correctly. The BTS system will shield the player from a minority of slipups or bad breaks. It will not shield him from a majority of screw-ups. Furthermore, note that if you have the idea that you can trick the BTS system with a bunch of one-round bombardments, know that the median formation only includes bombardments if no non-bombardments are involved.

So, skill is still required. Complete boneheaded play will still waste rounds.

To illustrate this, this shot shows just such a boneheaded play: Only one attack is set up – a bombardment with a very late unit. (Note the Progress Bar in the Unit Panel).

Image

The attack is executed. As one would expect, this consumes the remaining rounds in the player turn. (There were no non-bombardments in this combat phase, and only one bombardment – making that bombardment the median). But, unlike back in ACOW, there is now a message informing the player why his turn ended early:

Image

Had the reason been a Force Proficiency Failure, that would have been in the message instead (note that Force Proficiency Failures are not changed by the BTS system – they are legitimate checks on force plans based upon how organized the force is). So, at least the player doesn’t have to wonder what when wrong. If there is any doubt, the Combat Results dialog should clear them up:

Image

Note that the bombardment consumed all remaining rounds.

There is still the issue of BTS’s generated by RBC’s. While RBC’s are not combat, and so will not result in early turn endings, they do force enemy units out of the way of friendly forces. If the unit that forced the RBC had moved a long way to get there to do the RBC, while the nearby units available to exploit the gap forced by the RBC are fresh and unmoved, you can see the time-machine effect the RBC can generate. That’s why such RBC’s now generate BTS’s.

Let’s see this via an example:

Image

A number of armored battalions have moved adjacent to an enemy position. Most came from just across the boundary line, expending only 3 MPs. But one (the top one) came from quite a bit further. As shown, it has expended 11 MPs.

If we now RBC the defender with that unit, this is the result:

Image

Note that there is now a BTS in the RBC’d hex. That BTS is equal to the Timestamp of the overrunning unit. As a result, the exploiting units behind it will have to pay an extra cost to enter the BTS hex – equal enough to raise the exploiting unit’s Timestamp to the same as the BTS.

Let’s look at that cost:

Image

Note that I continued the overrunning unit’s advance, generating another BTS, while evaporating the defender. But now one of the exploiting units is trying to follow its lead. Normally, the cost to enter an empty, unconverted sand hex would be 3 for a motorized unit. But here it is 11. That’s the cost to both enter the hex AND adjust the unit’s Timestamp to the BTS. So, no advantage was attained by using a distant unit to effect the overrun while leaving the nearby exploiting units unmoved. The BTS system has fixed the Time-machine effects of RBC’s.

Only one more thing about RBC induced BTS’s: If you RBC a weak unit all over the map, you’ll now leave BTS’s all over the map as well. That can leave you with a barrier to exploitation. It’s more important than before that such small units are corralled and eliminated, instead of engaging in such silly chases.

Happy Wargaming!
lerugray
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RE: TOAOW IV In-depth Analysis - BATTLEFIELD TIMESTAMPS

Post by lerugray »

Man this is totally brilliant, thank you for sharing this, it looks like a great improvement. Really hope I get on the Beta for this, been playing TOAW3 non stop in anticipation.
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RE: TOAOW IV In-depth Analysis - BATTLEFIELD TIMESTAMPS

Post by Phoenix100 »

I'm intrigued, but I don't understand a word of what you explained, sorry. I guess if I had played TOAW 3 I would know what you meant, but being totally ignorant of the older game and how it works I remain befuddled after reading this account! But I guess there'll be a manual....

When is the likely ETA for this game?

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solops
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RE: TOAOW IV In-depth Analysis - BATTLEFIELD TIMESTAMPS

Post by solops »

The whole time thing in TOAW makes no sense. Why should ANY combat end the whole turn, planet-wide? Each individual combat should go on for however many rounds it can, independent of all others. One round for the combat with the inf unit that used up its movement and 10 rounds for other combats elsewhere that have plenty of movement. Seems obvious. I know it was messed up before. Even after Bob's example I'm not sure what they are doing in IV.
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RE: TOAOW IV In-depth Analysis - BATTLEFIELD TIMESTAMPS

Post by chrisleko »

I always thought the time system in TOAW was unique (I liked it) but could be frustrating from time to time. This seems like a really cool solution and I am really interested in getting this installed and played asap.
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RE: TOAOW IV In-depth Analysis - BATTLEFIELD TIMESTAMPS

Post by Crossroads »

ORIGINAL: chrisleko

I always thought the time system in TOAW was unique (I liked it) but could be frustrating from time to time. This seems like a really cool solution and I am really interested in getting this installed and played asap.

+1
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RE: TOAOW IV In-depth Analysis - BATTLEFIELD TIMESTAMPS

Post by EwaldvonKleist »

I never played TOAW but the system makes sense. In WitE you can fight with your units through a deep defense wall which would require 6 1/2 days of the one week turn and in the remaining 1/2 day the last full movement point panzer division marches 500km. The TOAW solution is not the only one but at least one to this problem
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RE: TOAOW IV In-depth Analysis - BATTLEFIELD TIMESTAMPS

Post by loyalcitizen »

Nice! They are simulating "Waiting," which is far more common in war than "Shooting."
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RE: TOAOW IV In-depth Analysis - BATTLEFIELD TIMESTAMPS

Post by r6kunz »

Bob, that is a brilliant illustration of the improved combat system and Combat Result dialog.

I have been playing TOAW since it came out. I could not understand why the AI did better than I. Next I started playing PBEM on The Strategist ladder. A guy named Wilhelm was my mentor. He was the #1 on the ladder. (I suspect he just used me to pad his numbers). He cleaned my clock every time- we played exchange games of Wintergewitter. He even beat me when I was the Soviets!

I then discovered the "Circle of Stars". That made a big difference. But if I had, say, six stars left as I finished my first turn planning, I took forever to go through all of my units to find which one had a "late unit" attack.

Fast forward to TOAW IV: Now using the new system, the Battle Time Stamp and Combat Result dialog make this whole thing much more intuitive. Thanks much for this post.

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RE: TOAOW IV In-depth Analysis - BATTLEFIELD TIMESTAMPS

Post by Phoenix100 »

Thanks Grognerd. I get it now, I think. Good simple explanation. I'm looking forward to looking at the game, though key for me will be map detail - how realistic, accurate and historical the maps are. I hope they will post some pics of nice new maps. And the AI. I hope it will be possible to get a decent solo game out of the AI. Can anyone say anything about the quality of the AI in the new game?
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RE: TOAOW IV In-depth Analysis - BATTLEFIELD TIMESTAMPS

Post by wodin »

Love the upgrade in the visual department..
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RE: TOAOW IV In-depth Analysis - BATTLEFIELD TIMESTAMPS

Post by BletchleyGeek »

Great to see those aggravating "issues" with timing gone for good. Your system looks very elegant and I look forward to play again my favourites.

WitW introduced a similar mechanic - combat delay - to deal with time travelling, so those who wonder can contrast these rules with an example.
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RE: TOAOW IV In-depth Analysis - BATTLEFIELD TIMESTAMPS

Post by JamitovHymem »

Does it mean that it is possible to "borrow time" when you try to engage with multiple units?
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RE: TOAOW IV In-depth Analysis - BATTLEFIELD TIMESTAMPS

Post by Rosseau »

Just assuming the editor will be at least as good as TOAW3.

Now back to the discussion and question above...
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RE: TOAOW IV In-depth Analysis - BATTLEFIELD TIMESTAMPS

Post by solops »

OK, I read the whole thing through twice more, slowly and I understand (mostly) what was done. I think a lack of overall context was making the concept difficult. My first objection was "Why not just treat each combat separately and eliminate ANY need for "management of the mean number of rounds, i.e. Completely eliminate the "gamey"". Am I correct in assuming that the entire "round" system is not only for resolving combat on a location with units arriving at different times, but that it ALSO maintains that combat's relative place in time relative to all other combats in the world during that turn....which could have effects on other movements and combats happening nearby, should they happen later in the same turn?
It has been a long time since I played much. And folks new to the game, and I hope there are many, will have no clue what this is all about.
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RE: TOAOW IV In-depth Analysis - BATTLEFIELD TIMESTAMPS

Post by Lobster »

I have a hard time understanding why people are having a problem understanding time and space. It has always been a huge problem in turn based games. If I have a unit and it attacks someone, clearing a path through a line, that takes time. If a follow up unit moves through the hole created by the first unit it cannot possibly move it's full allowance because time has passed. The follow up unit has not moved BUT it can only move so far in a given amount of time. If part of that time is expended waiting for the hole to develop it has used some of it's movement allowance because it has less time to move.

In other words, if you sit on your butt half the day at your job you can only do half a days work because you spent half the day waiting for your butt to get sore leaving only half a day to do some real work. You can't possibly violate the physical laws of nature. You can only do so much in a given amount of time. Doesn't matter if it's walking or working.

If Bob walks up to a picnic table and eats all the hamburgers and you come up to the picnic table an hour later will the hamburgers still be there for you to eat? Hell no. And he probably drank all the beer too so that isn't there either. [:D]
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