Uncertainty in trigger locations

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Uncertainty in trigger locations

Postby BossGnome » Fri Jul 02, 2010 8:25 am


Ever since Kharkov came out, I have always been a little bit uneasy with the game. While I am not opposed to the logic of having the capture of specific cities or geographic locations tied to the expanding of unit AOs, I have always felt that the system was open to gamey abuse. A competitive player (and I do count myself in that category) might think of a strategy that resolves around avoiding his opponent's "trigger points" in order to minimize his AO flexibility. I think that is a valid strategy, and to a large extent it works in the Kharkov scenario, as the overwhelming majority of its trigger points are in VP cities; the player can choose to avoid capturing those points, but this will cost him in VPs. He is essentially trading VPs to restrict his opponent's movement. Gamey and a-historical, yes, but an interesting strategy that does balance itself out for both players nonetheless.

Where I see a problem emerging is in ATD2, where a significant portion of trigger locations are set in random minor towns that the germans have no actual need to capture. For example: the Soviet 28th Army's HQ has its northern AO expanded either on turn 8, or when the Germans capture the VP-less towns of Oisintorff, Rudniya, or Ponizovye. Though all of these towns lie on likely german attack paths, none are necessary for the Wehrmarcht to capture. Any german player willing to expend a bit of effort could choose to carefully avoid these towns, skirting them two hexes north and south to ensure that they do not fall into his hands, at least until as late as possible.

Let me be clear; once again, I think this is an absolutely valid strategy. Players in PBEM want to win, and as long as you are playing by the game's rules, I think there is no dishonest way to win. However, in all honesty, the strategy that I have outlined above is extremely gamey, and it is precisely to prevent such a gamey attitude that SSG decided to include random AOs; so it was impossible for players to predict with accuracy (though they could still have a broad idea) of where their opponent's units would be able to go, and when.

The solution I am proposing (though of course, knowing nothing about programming, I do not know its feasability) is a randomization feature of trigger points, much like already exists for AOs. Nothing too spectacular, something like a displacement of the trigger point, say, 0-2 hexes in any direction from the original point. "But," you say, "will this not likely place the VP-less trigger points in even more random locations"? Why, yes, quite possibly VP points would end up in off-road areas, perhaps even forests or swamps. But the idea is that the german player could not know which of a fairly large (in a 0-2 hex randomization world, 19 hexes) area is safe to capture or not, leading to the impossibility of simply striving to avoid a particular 4km point on the map. Hiding german units in a particular forest might be better than capturing the town two hexes south of it, but then again it might just trigger the soviet release of units... It would add a valuable additional element of uncertainty, to what I feel is sometimes (admittedly, rarely) a too "scripted" battle simulator.

Thoughts? Comments? Ideas?
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Postby jjdenver » Fri Jul 02, 2010 5:17 pm

...or the trigger points could be high VP towns to force the attacker to take them.

I haven't tound the trigger points to be a problem in PBEM so far, but I guess in a tournament-type situation it could happen.
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Postby Abwehr » Sat Jul 03, 2010 1:09 am

I'm not sure of randomization of trigger hexes would be possible with the current engine. Placing the trigger hexes in "must have" locations still seems to be the way to go.
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Postby Malak » Sat Jul 03, 2010 4:54 am

Since we would like to reuse the same engine for future scenario, if something could be done it must have a limited impact on what exists.

Thus, I would propose two ideas:
1. Perhaps we could add a parameter to specify that the AO trigger is being released if an enemy unit is less than X number of hexes from its location. The scenario designer will of course specify this X value. This will avoid already lot of cases.

2. Why not allow the players, in the interface, to release the AO for one army? The idea behind is that AO gives the army order from its superior HQ planners. Army commander may or may not accept the order. Paulus in Stalingrad has accepted the OKH order to stay in the city. Hausser in Kharkov has not accepted to stay in the city in February 1943. Of course, if an army commander does not accept an AO order, higher command may not be happy. So, I would propose as a counterpart that if player releases one army AO, he is losing some VPs as defined in the scenario.

Now, release one army AO could be to release current army to its next defined army AO so that we continue to limit unhistorical situations.

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Postby pete AU » Sat Jul 03, 2010 2:07 pm

A simple solution is to allow AO release primarily by capture of locations and also by turn number. This way the AO is released along the historical timeline at least, but by capture of locations at best, rewarding better than historical play and stopping or minimising any 'gamey' play.

however, I think its been pointed out before, if players want to look for an angle that defeats the games mechanics they will find one.
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