Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Vying for Vision

Here's a problem in playing out strategic-level mass warfare that I can never seem to resolve. Let's say you have two opposing D&D armies in the field: one army is orcs, and the other is men (et. al.). The orcs have the advantage of seeing in darkness at night (when the men are effectively blind), and in contradistinction, are disadvantaged in hits and morale in sunlight during the day. So clearly the orc army wants to meet the enemy during the night, but the army of men wants to avoid this and have the battle during the day.

It seems to me that this might be the single most important element of who wins the fight. Perhaps both armies would send out groups of scouts (light horse/ goblin cavalry), trying to locate the enemy for an advantageous battle, but making sure that the enemy is not in striking distance during one's own encampment...

Question: How do you decide if a battle like this takes place during day or night? Which side has the advantage?


10 comments:

  1. If you use a blind strategic campaign map, you could have a day and a night move, with fog of war and rules for use of scouts patrols. So, the choice to attack - or even to move at day or night - could be an informed strategic or tactic choice (would human choose to move at night to met orcs on the battelfield rather to be raid, as an example).

    If not, you could use random determination, or the "best cinematic option" for a better battle.

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    1. Personally, I like this. Presumably, when not marching the armies will make camp. If a move by an army puts it into contact with the opposing force in camp, then the battle takes place during that portion of the day.

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  2. If your armies are large enough that the battles can reasonably take a while (i.e. long enough for the lighting condition to change), then this could actually add some interesting strategic nuance to the engagement. If the battle takes place in the day, then the humans want to win before the sun goes down and the orcs get more powerful, and vice-versa. I'd also introduce a twilight condition in which the two sides are roughly equal.

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  3. I think traditionally in warfare it was hard to bring an enemy to battle if they didn't wish to engage; you had to somehow threaten something they couldn't afford to lose. So there's a trade-off: they get to choose the site they are committed to defend (e.g. prevent you from crossing a river, taking a town, etc.) but you get to choose when to attack. So maybe you can let one side set up first, choosing the terrain and defensive positions, and then the other side gets to declare whether it's night or day.

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    1. That's an interesting and rather elegant take on it.

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    2. Good (and game-able) thinking!

      It also means that a "Rainbow Coalition" of diurnal and nocturnal soldiers might have a decisive advantage over other armies. Or maybe that's just what it takes to keep up with those damn elves.

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    3. While certainly simple, I kind of feel like what's lost here is those tactical coups when, generally through forced marching, an army manages to be in a place where the opposing general didn't think it could be, and thus able, in essence, to choose both the time and the location for battle. I'd definitely want to preserve the ability to do this.

      If you wanted to keep things as abstract and simplified as possible, you could turn all your scout/sentry/intel activity into a single score, Awareness, and have each side roll against their Awareness to see how much they know about what the other side is doing. Roll twice a day, perhaps, and based on its knowledge each side can then choose whether it wants to retreat, fortify and defend, or attack (or, if they think they're safe, forage etc!).

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    4. Yeah, I agree if you play out the strategic element you need to make up a new mechanic to handle it. Something like that would be about as lightweight as possible.

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    5. And you probably want to make the men have higher "awareness" to indicate their better organization and counterbalance how much worse off they are at night than orcs/goblins are during the day.

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  4. I would suggest that if you are playing as a tournament type game that you flip a coin and the team that wins picks the time to start either noon or midnight. The battle progresses into three stages depending on the who chooses: day/night (one side disadvantage), dusk/dawn (no disadvantage), & night/day (other side disadvantage). You could mark the passage of time by the total number (or power) of units lost to shift between time stages.

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