The Author's Views
The Author's Views
Currently I am taking part in a campaign set in the Second World War on an imaginary island in the Adriatic in early 1944. My role is as overall German commander and as adviser on design. The actual battles will be fought on table by a number of people but mainly solo by my friend and campaign builder John. Yesterday we did some work to set up a few spreadsheets to keep the campaign records and discussed the first day of actual battles. John as the British commander has decided to attempt to cross the river separating the two sides by building a bridge. The conversion about how to do it in a game tended to go in circles. With John worrying over how long it would take and whether the Germans would discover the bridge etc. and me saying it didn’t matter.
This set me thinking about how I go about making design decisions. When I worked for a living I did some risk assessments and it became very easy to imaging a whole sting of if buts and maybes each of which needed a response. I realised that this was madness and a saner method was to imaging the outcomes rather than the causes. I realise I use this method in my game design.
In wargames we often roll a dice to arrive at a decision. to that die roll we might add or subtract modifiers to nuance that result for different circumstances. It is important we cannot identify all the factors which influence a particular outcome at a particular time. That is why we roll the dice.
To take John's bridge as an example. The critical out come is did the British build the bridge before the Germans realize and react? As there are two options and lacking any other information that becomes a 50-50 chance. Now John would (and did) say but the engineers might build the bridge faster than expected. True but also they might be slower so we are back to a 50-50 chance. You can go through each factor you can imagine on what might effect the successes of the bridging operation and if you can identify a counter factor you simple ignore it. I thought of just one factor which might impact on the success of the mission.
Experience. The British Army at that time was well trained but in the larger sense lacked combat experience. So the question is are the men of the bridging unit 8th army veterans who have been building bridges all winter along the Rapido at Monte Cassino or a unit just arrived from the uk. I would suggest that building their first bridge with Germans all round would take longer than a team who had been doing it for 6 months under fire. A veteran unit might make the mission perhaps 60-40 while the newbies would perhaps be 40-60. Obviously saying the impact of experience is 10% is arbitrary and if you have a different opinion by all means use it instead but ask yourself do you actually know what the factor should be?
I did think slower construction due to night time would also play a part but then concluded that that would be countered by Germans being more likely to see the bridge in daylight. Lacking any real information on the two I simply assumed they were the same and cancelled each other out. a second possible factor might be terrain but the campaign map is quite high-level so in this case we can assume the engineers could find a suitable bridging site.
So we end up assuming that with a sensible plan that a veteran bridging unit laying a bridge would have a 60% chance of building it before the Germans could react and an untried unit having a 40% chance.
When faced with the multitude of possible options in any decision we tend to freeze and the temptation to resolve each is almost overwhelming. The world is an uncertain place and we cannot identify and resolve each factor, so don’t. Start from a 50-50 chance and if you identify there is genuinely a factor which will impact on the outcome which is certain by all means included it but don’t over complicate the process. If you start the factor by said ‘they might’ or ‘there could’ then leave it to chance a the 50-50. If you roll success then they did and if you don’t roll success then they didn’t.