Attack/Defense Factors VS Combined Combat Factors

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Attack/Defense Factors VS Combined Combat Factors

Postby ahikschas » Fri Aug 14, 2009 8:30 pm

I know some in our ranks are full-fledged wargame designers and if this post seems inane to you folks, I hereby apologize up front. But I've always wondered, as I've stared vacuously at the 1000-odd counters in front of me at the start of a new wargame: Why do some games utilize independent attack and defense factors while others make do with a single "combat" factor. I'm guessing a lot of it has to do with the scale of the game in question. Obviously a Strategic level game would be better served with a single combat factor but there are those instances where an Operational level game also just employs single combat factors (AH's "Battle of the Bulge" comes to mind). I suppose play balance might play into the design picture but so many games use split attack/defense factors that I can't honestly rationalize it away like that.

Anyone else ever wondered about that one?
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Postby bstretcher » Sat Aug 15, 2009 7:54 pm

I have often wondered the same thing. There are certain obvious things that go into combat factors, such as numbers of men, tactics, organization, and equipment. One might think that in games where attack and defense factors differ, there must be some difference in how the unit performs whether on the attack or defense. Sometimes the distinction make sense, but sometimes they don't.

Look at the German units in TAHGC old D-Day. It makes sense that German infantry, lacking some organic support, might have better defense factors, especially the poorly trained static units, while the panzers and Allied units are more well-rounded.

But it doesn't always make apparent sense. The units in Anzio are one example. Many German units have much stronger defense factors compared to their attack factors, but not all. Perhaps a representation of the stoutness of the German defense in Italy, but one has to wonder if it was more of a "design for effect" situation rather than a reflection of numbers, hardware, training, and tactics below the level represented in the game.
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Re: Attack/Defense Factors VS Combined Combat Factors

Postby ahikschas » Fri Aug 21, 2009 9:17 pm

AH's D-Day ('61, '65, '77) is a good and interesting example in that only the German units have seperate attack and defense factors. The Allies, for all intent and purposes, have single "combined" combat factors. A "4-4-4" might as well be a "4-4" (and saved AH some ink). Maybe that could relate to the fact that the Germans are the obvious defenders in that game and therefore their attack/defense values should be different. The attack values of the attackers (Allies) should not be any different than their defense values because they are invading foreign soil and, not having the same degree of knowledge of the terrain as the Germans, would be equally as proficient (or deficient) on defense as they would on offense.

But this line of thought brings me back to the idea that individual or combined combat factors is a choice made by the designer based upon whether one side is considered the "attacker" and the other the "defender", or not. And where this idea falls short is in games such as AH's Battle of the Bulge and 1776. Both of these games utilise a single "combined" combat factor yet in all instances of BOTB and in the campaign game of 1776, one side is clearly the attacker and the other side is clearly the defender. Yet neither Lawrence Pinsky (BOTB) nor Randell Reed (1776) felt the need to differentiate their unit's combat factors into attack/defense despite that the Americans should have had the "home field" advantage in both of those games. So that kind of throws that hypothosis out the window.

After reading your response I've done some reading into game mechanics and one thing that cropped up that I hadn't even considered was that a defense factor may actually represent more than an individual unit's ability to defend itself. It could also represent the size of the unit itself. In this way the defense factor becomes a shorthand method to keep unit sizes uniform; ie. a larger unit that would be able to withstand more "damage" would be given a larger defense factor in lieu of changing it's physical size within the game (from division to brigade for example) in order to keep all units on the brigade level.

I suppose that could be justified as it would keep the physical number of counters in the game lower but that seems like a pretty manipulative trade-off to me.

(All of this makes me think that I'm seriously overthinking the whole topic and that, in reality, it is just a matter of production costs: a combined attack/defense factor will save the game manufacturer how many dollars in production costs (in ink) over the course of 10,000 games? hmmmm.... No. Say it isn't so!)
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Re: Attack/Defense Factors VS Combined Combat Factors

Postby COLTDAGUY » Tue Sep 01, 2009 10:51 am

ahikschas wrote:AH's D-Day ('61, '65, '77) is a good and interesting example in that only the German units have seperate attack and defense factors. The Allies, for all intent and purposes, have single "combined" combat factors. A "4-4-4" might as well be a "4-4" (and saved AH some ink). Maybe that could relate to the fact that the Germans are the obvious defenders in that game and therefore their attack/defense values should be different. The attack values of the attackers (Allies) should not be any different than their defense values because they are invading foreign soil and, not having the same degree of knowledge of the terrain as the Germans, would be equally as proficient (or deficient) on defense as they would on offense.

But this line of thought brings me back to the idea that individual or combined combat factors is a choice made by the designer based upon whether one side is considered the "attacker" and the other the "defender", or not. And where this idea falls short is in games such as AH's Battle of the Bulge and 1776. Both of these games utilise a single "combined" combat factor yet in all instances of BOTB and in the campaign game of 1776, one side is clearly the attacker and the other side is clearly the defender. Yet neither Lawrence Pinsky (BOTB) nor Randell Reed (1776) felt the need to differentiate their unit's combat factors into attack/defense despite that the Americans should have had the "home field" advantage in both of those games. So that kind of throws that hypothosis out the window.

After reading your response I've done some reading into game mechanics and one thing that cropped up that I hadn't even considered was that a defense factor may actually represent more than an individual unit's ability to defend itself. It could also represent the size of the unit itself. In this way the defense factor becomes a shorthand method to keep unit sizes uniform; ie. a larger unit that would be able to withstand more "damage" would be given a larger defense factor in lieu of changing it's physical size within the game (from division to brigade for example) in order to keep all units on the brigade level.

I suppose that could be justified as it would keep the physical number of counters in the game lower but that seems like a pretty manipulative trade-off to me.

(All of this makes me think that I'm seriously overthinking the whole topic and that, in reality, it is just a matter of production costs: a combined attack/defense factor will save the game manufacturer how many dollars in production costs (in ink) over the course of 10,000 games? hmmmm.... No. Say it isn't so!)


Hi Charles,

Maybe there is another reason for using split attack and defense factors... maybe it has to do with the design of the game and play balance issues... Maybe because of the scenerio picked the defender has less units (remember the 3:1 attack defense ratio used in real battles) so there fore the game designer needs to beef up the defense a little and uses terrain multipliers and bigger defense ratios on some units to even out the odds a little... After all these wargames are exercises in math anyway... right! :-)
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Postby bstretcher » Thu Sep 03, 2009 7:03 pm

There's a certain amount of fudging that goes into any game design. One can use numbers to get a raw strength level, but after that there is a lot of subjectiveness in assigning combat values. Not that there is anything wrong with that; for the most part, an equal number of average WW2 Italian infantry in Africa should not be able to go toe-to-toe with average British infantry. So, unless the game takes into account differences by special rules, Italian combat factors have to be reduced compared to the British to make up for differences in morale, training, equipment, and command structure. And that's where such values may have to be adjusted depending on what works, rather than what at first makes good mathematical sense.
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Re:

Postby COLTDAGUY » Sat Sep 05, 2009 10:57 am

bstretcher wrote:There's a certain amount of fudging that goes into any game design. One can use numbers to get a raw strength level, but after that there is a lot of subjectiveness in assigning combat values. Not that there is anything wrong with that; for the most part, an equal number of average WW2 Italian infantry in Africa should not be able to go toe-to-toe with average British infantry. So, unless the game takes into account differences by special rules, Italian combat factors have to be reduced compared to the British to make up for differences in morale, training, equipment, and command structure. And that's where such values may have to be adjusted depending on what works, rather than what at first makes good mathematical sense.


I agree with you Brian, That was what I was alluding too when I said the defense factors have to be bigger if you have less defenders... I think that in any game you have to have a fairly close balance between the attacker and the defender or you have to create some special rules to make up for any mathamatical imbalance in the assigned strengths... Otherwise the game will always be won by the stronger side with two evenly matched players ...

Some games are designed that way though ... It would be tough to have a "Custer's Last Stand" game where Custer beat the Indians! Even though Custer should always be the loser you can create a game where the "winner" is determined by how badly Custer loses!!! :-)

Just a thought on this...
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Postby vmibert » Sat Sep 19, 2009 3:26 pm

If you are interested, I suggest looking at "Aggregation, Disaggregation, and the 3:1 Rule in Ground Combat" by Paul K. Davis, A RAND Report from 1995. I have a digitized copy in PDF format, if anyone is interested. According to the report, "The basis of the 3:1 law is the notion that the defender has a substantial, factor-of-three, advantage if he has prepared positions and good defensive terrain, which reduce his vulnerability and increase the vulnerability of the attacker." I have to warn you, this report has equations in it!

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Postby COLTDAGUY » Tue Oct 06, 2009 11:47 am

Hi Bert,

I'd be interested in reading the RAND report. How about posting it! :-)

Thanks...
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Re: Attack/Defense Factors VS Combined Combat Factors

Postby vmibert » Mon Oct 12, 2009 11:37 am

I'll have to post the report, when I get back from my trip. I'm at the Phoenix Airport, now. I'll be at Microsoft Headquarters all week.

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Postby vmibert » Mon Oct 12, 2009 7:31 pm

Here's the link to the paper from RAND:

http://www.rand.org/pubs/monograph_reports/MR638/#

You can download the report (PDF format) at this link.

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