Irrational Number Line Games, LLC

home   forum   stuff-to-buy   idea archive   about-us   contact  

Rednecks and Revenuers Scenario

The scenario being played above is available for free at Wargame Vault. So download it, already. The following little bit discusses why I made one of the design decisions the way I did, even if it isn't "realistic". Blah, blah. I recommend no one reading it for any purpose whatsoever...

The Federal force has arrived at the edge of the farm and is preparing for their raid. The Rednecks are protecting two potential objectives against the Feds: still and corpse.

The Feds are only after one of the two objectives. If they get their main objective, the other objective is a bonus. If they do not get their main objecitve, the other is useless to them. The Feds have an idea of where a couple important things are, but not specifically which thing is where. The Rednecks know which objective is which, but not which one the Feds are looking for. All they need to do is to get still and corpse off the farm before the Feds get to them.

The Federal force is made up of a small number of well trained and well armed troops.

The Redneck force is made up of a large number of civilians with significant hunting and shooting experience.

There is an odd little mechanic that people see as a big departure from "reality" in this scenario. Both players know which objective is which, but neither starts the game knowing which objective the Feds are going for. The Rednecks, then realisiticlly know which objective is which but not which one the Feds are looking for. The Feds, have two artificialities. They know which objective is which, and they don't start out knowing which objective they are after.

The problem is in the artifacts of the scenario (the physical representations of the objectives) and the process (not revealing the important objective to the Feds). But the *operation* of the game, the progression of battlespace awareness and character of decisions to be made by each player matches reality. To understand how two wrongs make a right (in this case), let's look at the game operationally instead of looking at the pieces and parts that implement it.

First, let's look at the progression of knowledge for the Rednecks. At the start of the game, they should know which objective is which. Check. But they should not know which objective the ASSULTS are after. Check. When the Feds identify the first objective, the Rednecks still don't know which objective is more important to the Feds. Check. The Rednecks will have to figure it out from the Feds behaviour. Check.

Now, let's look at the Feds. At the start of the game, they should where the two objective are, but not which one is more important. Check. When they see the first objective, they know which one is more important to go after. Check.

Even though the mechanism of controlling knowledge in the game doesn't mirror reality, the decision process for both sides is consistent. Neither side knows which objective is the priority in the beginning. The Feds can establish the priority by observing one objective. The Rednecks then have to infer that information from the Federal's actions.

Why choose this method at all? It has to do with the purpose of the representations of the objectives. They have two functions, neither of which is to "represent reality." First, they serve to encapsulate data about the state of the important entities in the scenario. Second, they evoke (not replicate) the reality of the scenario through representation.

So what is encapsulating and representing? This guy is in this farm. He is in such-and-such a relationship to the other figures and terrain. He either does or doesn't have a wound. You don't need figures to represent this. You could do (and people have done) this with chits. Or tables. Instead of figures, you could just have coordinates written down on paper.

But having a figure on a table makes those relationships easier to understand and work with. You can see a figure, its target, and intervening terrain; you don't have to calculate geometric intercepts from tables of data.

As well as coding a lot of info, the visual representation gives the players a feel for what is going on. You could go through this write up and with a few search-and-replace actions make it describe a very "different" scenario. Any difference in your thought patterns that having ALTERNATE vice Rednecks would make is part of that feel.

But the feel isn't just some emotional response. Just like coding lots of data in physical representations lets players do high-level thinking about the situation instead of low-level data processing to handle what is going on inside the game, the feel of the game allows players to bring in things from outside the game. Do you think ALTERNATE forces might behave differently than Rednecks? Might they do this instead of that? Whether you say "yes" or "no" to those questions, your answers are grounded in information you bring into the game from outside, not in things written down.

But, yes, that feel can bring in emotional and other non-operational information and responses as well as the warfighting aspects. And that drives fun. For me. In fact, I get a personal response to this scenario from growing up in an area with Rednecks. And, yes, I liked the movie, Kin. Perhaps that's where this should go next ...

As well as the deliberate choice discussed above, perfect knowledge - the ability of players to know things that the figures wouldn't - creates other types of artificiality. In some cases, you have to accept them. In other cases, you may design mechanics to work around them. And sometimes, the problem isn't really as big a problem as it appears.

If we skip the case of, "Well, just deal with it," we get to designing mechanics to mitigate perfect knowledge. The mechanic we just discussed was designed to get around perfect knowledge. All players can see the objectives. They know where and what each one is all the time. That gives a big, unrealistic, advantage to the Federal side. Since we have gone into my soultion in detail, let's look at another option to mitigate the same problem.

Instead of all the machinations with the objectives, we could have let the Feds be assigned one or the other objective in secret from the Rednecks and then hidden the type of objective from the Feds. This can be done by replacing both still and corpse with an identical marker that has a unique identifier on the bottom. For example, take two poker chips, and mark one still and the other corpse on one side.

Now on the board, they look the same from the top, but they can be revealed when it is appropriate for the scenario. This illustrates that the evocation side of this is the reason I chose the option I did. If you go back through the comparitive run down of the option and reality above, you will see that this option would work the same in terms of decisions and knowledge. But it wouldn't be the same as seeing still and corpse on the board.

While the two options we have now discussed mitigate part of the perfect knowledge problem, they don't mitigate all of it. Both sides sill know the farm of all the figures and their status. And they know all the details of that information as the scenario progresses. A normal person in that situation wouldn't have as much data as the players do. So it follows, that they wouldn't have the same type of information upon which to make decisions ... or would they?

Does perfect knowledge of the board significantly affect the Federal side's decision process? Again, we reach to outside the scenario. A modern team of Federal personnel would likely start the situation with some type of tactical intelligence. They would know where things were and generally where people were. It is possible that they would know exactly where still and corpse are, but that is not the scenario that we want to play. (I think their intel misssing that bit of knowledge makes the sceanrio more interesting. It also makes it more appropriate for teaching how to approach a situation with imperfect knowledge and how to react when you find out the missing piece.)

So the Feds could reasonably start the scenario with the knowledge they have, but could they maintain it? Again, a modern team of Feds would likely have a communication system with them and be trained to distribute important information in a useful way. So, while it may be unrealistic to know that figures X, Y, and Z are exactly at the edge of a piece of hindering terrain, it is realistic for people who can't see it to know that these three guys are are at the edge of the woods. The difference between what you know and would a figure making the decision would reasonably know isn't really the type of information that would change their decision process.

We can further investigate this idea by thinking of a specific situation like X, Y, and Z being at the edge of one piece of hindering terrain while Federal Q comes around the corner of the barn to see them. Now vary the exact positions of X, Y, and Z. There are a lot of different exact situations that would lead to the same decision (like "fall back around the corner and lay down fire"). And differences that would lead to different decisions (say, there are twelve guys instead of three) are easily the type of information that would reasonably be communicated by the Feds.

If you investigate it long enough, you can probably find some flaws in the assumption that the Feds could communicate enough relevant info to make a perfect knowledge player a resonably good representation of a decision maker. But what you will find is that these are a small part of the possibilities, and very, very specific situations. In this case, we rely on the assumption that a few small contradictions we can find are roughly equal in effect to the unexpected things we can't think though. If you can't comfortably make that assumption, it is time to look for a better solution. In this case, however, I am comfortable with how the Feds work out when you think it through.

So, what about the Rednecks? It's possible, but not likely, that they could have the same technological advantage. And, honestly, a tech savvy DEFENDER force is not really the situation I wanted to do. Is there another reasonable way that the Rednecks could have enough relevant information to make the same decisions as a player with perfect knowledge? Or should there be a way to mitigate the effect of the player's perfect knowledge?

While Rednecks aren't likely to be using the same tech as the Feds, there is a military technique that confers the same advantage, at least, it does so reasonably within the bounds of this scenario. That is "the Nelsonian Mind-Meld."

I didn't come up with that name, but the boss I had who did came up with a good one. The Mind-Meld part is from Star Trek and refers to certain races' ability to "share" their minds temporarily so they end up thinking and acting alike for a period of time thereafter. It is a science fiction referece, but it is just a way to quickly describe the way Admiral Lord Nelson was able to effect signficant command and control capabilities in the absence of modern technology.

Lord Nelson, as a foltilla commander, would have frequent meetings with the captians of the ships under his command to discuss strategy, tactics, and the specifics of upcoming missions. He would quiz them on the points he was discussing. He would ask them to predict what others would do in a situation then discuss that. So without scifi magic, he was able to create a cadre of officers under his command who would think alike and act as one.

I wouldn't assert that Rednecks would conduct a military training regimen like Lord Nelson (though it is plausible). However the tightness of their community, the isolation they have from external influences, and the common cause they have in protecting still and corpse can be reasonably expected to have the same effect. Everybody knows what must be done, what their responsibilities are, and what are the responsibilities of others.

This gives us a good basis. But we can reinforce the argument even more by adding in the intimate local knowledge that the Rednecks have about the farm. The Feds will have tactical intelligence before their raid, but the DEFNDERS have lived their all their life. They wouldn't need a comms system to know that that echo they heard means Joe Bob just shot his granddad's shotgun down in the holler about near to that tree that lightning struck four years ago. Or to suss the meaning of the alien sounding HMMV coming over the hill.

Either argument is pretty sound. When you add them both together, it makes a very compelling argument that the Rednecks decisions aren't greatly enhanced by the perfect knowledge of the player.

So, why am I the judge of reasonable? Well, simply, this is my scenario. But you don't have to buy my arguements. If you think this is stretching things too far, then don't play this scenario. Don't take the decisions I made as Gospel, either. Dont' say that those decisions necessarily carry forward. Very slight changes in the situation can make big changes in what is or isn't acceptable. You have to make those decision for yourself.

Hopefully, this little (?) discussion has given you a little help to go forward and make your own decisions when designing your own wargame scenarios. What are the critical decision points? How does this or that choice affect the way decisions are made? What can be done to integrate the material in the scenario with what the players bring in from outside?


To the Archive of Ideas...