As my recent post on Three dimensions of game design: Simulation, Playability, Abstraction shows, I’m allergic to multiple steps to resolve a single action during game. I’m allergic because multiple steps slows the game down. ‘O’ Group has three steps to resolve each shooting action by a rifle platoon – spot, hit, save. Of course, the is the traditional link from hit to save as well, but there is also a link between the first step (spot) and the last (save) that you have to remember – and those links add cognitive load and take time. So I wanted to explore simpler rules that achieved a similar effect but with less steps. I can’t match the results exactly but I can get pretty close with a single to hit step, dropping spot and save.
Warning: Do not read this post unless probabilities in game design are your thing.
The ‘O’ Group shooting rule for a Rifle Platoon
In ‘O’ Group a shooting action has three steps, so three dice rolls. Attacker rolls “Spotting dice” (p. 50-51). Attacker then rolls “Firepower dice” to hit in direct fire with small arms (p. 56-58). And finally the defender rolls a “Morale Test” – effectively a saving throw (p. 58, 81). Actually there is a fourth roll (“Infantry Platoon Rout Test”, p. 83), to prevent routing when a rifle platoon is down to a single section, but that only happens in a limited set of situations so I’ll ignore it.
Targets in the open are automatically spotted. If the target is in Cover / Buildings then roll 1d6 for spotting with a 1-3 meaning the target is Obscured and a 4+ meaning spotted. Usually this roll is made at the same time as the to hit roll, but using a different coloured die. Conceptually, however, it is a separate step.
To hit, a rifle platoon has 2d6 firepower per section so 6d6 in total. The platoons scores a hit on each 4+.
Confident and Regular in cover get a morale test with 1d6 for each hit – a standard saving throw mechanism. The score to save depending on the spotting roll. If Obscured they save on 3+ and 4+ if Spotted.
I did some quick maths to combine the spotting dice and morale tests, and found the following probabilities:
Chance of Obscured & successful Morale = 1/2 x 2/3 = 2/6 = 4/12 (33%)
Chance of Obscured & failed Morale = 1/2 x 1/3 = 1/6 = 2/12 (17%)
Chance of Spotted & successful Morale = 1/2 x 1/2 = 1/4 = 3/12 (25%)
Chance of Spotted & failed Morale = 1/2 x 1/2 = 1/4 = 3/12 (25%)
Total chance of successful Morale = 7/12 (58%)
Total chance of failed Morale = 5/12 (42%)
The average number of dice rolled for a rifle platoon is 10d6, i.e. Spotting (1d6) + Firepower (6d6) + Morale (3d6 on average). It can be more or less depending on the hits, but lets go with 10d6.
The average number of hits is 1.2, i.e. 6 x 1/2 x 5/12 = 30/24. That means, on average, a rifle platoon will inflict 1.2 hits on a Confident and Regular target in cover, after doing the spotting roll, the firepower roll and the morale test.
Rifle Platoon: Alternatives with less buckets of dice
Like I said, I don’t like mechanisms with require multiple steps (multiple dice rolls) to resolve a single action. Personally I like to Abstract away the detail. I’m not interested in simulating each step (in this case spotting, hitting, response to being hit), I’m only interested in the result of the action (in ‘O’ Group that is “shock” and section removal). Focussing on the result, not the journey to the result, speeds up game play.
So I explored alternative mechanisms that eliminate both the spotting roll and morale test from the shooting action. My thinking is I only need the hit roll.
2d6 per section so 6d6 but hit on 5+ not 4+. Average number of hits = 2.0, only 6d6 rolled and no dependency between steps.
1d6 per section so 3d6 and hit on 4+. Average number of hits = 1.5, only 3d6 rolled and no dependency between steps.
2d6 per section so 6d6 but hit on 6+ not 4+. Average number of hits = 1.0, only 6d6 rolled an no dependency between steps.
The table below has all the gritty detail behind the standard ‘O’ Group rule and the three alternatives.
|Rule||Sub-rule or calculation||‘O’ group standard||Alternative 1||Alternative 2||Alternative 3|
|Spotting roll||Spotting dice||1d6||–||–||–|
|Spotting result||1-3 Obscured; 4+ Spotted||–||–||–|
|Hit roll||Dice per section||2d6||2d6||1d6||2d6|
|Hit on score||4+||5+||4+||6|
|Morale test||Average number of morale dice (matching average hits)||3d6||–||–||–|
|Passed morale test on score||3+ if Obscured; 4+ if Spotted||–||–||–|
|Summary statistics||Steps to resolve action||3 (Spotting, Hit, Morale)||1 (Hit)||1 (Hit)||1 (Hit)|
|Average number of dice rolled||10d6||6d6||3d6||6d6|
|Average number of hits||1.2||2.0||1.5||1.0|
It happens that in the ‘O’ Group shooting action, there are both more steps and more dice than the alternatives I’m outlining. But, to be clear, my objection is not the number of dice. I’m okay with buckets of dice. My objection is the number of steps and associated cognitive load and slower play.
Alternative 1 is probably too generous for the shooter, with an average of 2 hits rather than the standard 1.2 hits.
Personally, I’d find either alternative 2 or 3 both simpler/faster as a game mechanism and close enough in terms of result. Neither are exact match the current rule in terms of outcome (1.2 hits on average), with Alternative 2 having an average of 1.5 hits and Alternative 3 having an average of 1 hit per shooting action by a rifle platoon. But close enough I reckon.
Machine gun platoon
I did the maths for a machine gun platoon as well.
MMG Platoon has 6d6 firepower dice per section so 12d6 in total. Hit on 4+.
Average number of hits is 2.4, i.e. 12 x 1/2 x 5/12 = 60/24
6d6 per section so 12d6 but hit on 5+ not 4+ with average number of hits = 4.0
3d6 per section so 6d6 and hit on 4+ with average number of hits = 3.0
6d6 per section so 12d6 but hit on 6+ not 4+ with average number of hits = 2.0
Again, alternative 1 is too generous, particularly as machine gun platoons in ‘O’ Group are already quite lethal. But I’d say alternatives 2 or 3 is good enough, and they have the advantage they’ll be simpler/faster.
Would I introduce this as a house rule for my ‘O’ Group games? Probably not. This is one single optimisation amongst a whole bunch of interrelated rules and this tweak probably breaks something else in ‘O’ Group. Perhaps a lot of something elses.
Ultimately this was a thought experiment. Kind of answering the question, if I’d designed the game, would I have done it differently? Would I have made different choices and balance the Simulation, Playability, and Abstraction differently?
Well, yes. As I said in Three Dimensions of Game Design:
- I’m more interested in speed of play than detailed game mechanics (playability versus concrete level of abstraction).
- I’m more interested in accuracy of combat simulation than precision of combat simulation (simulation versus concrete level of abstraction).
[If you’re interested in the distinction between accuracy and precision, then check out Accuracy vs Precision in Estimation. It is from a different domain (software estimation) but the distinction applies in game design equally as well.]