The Problem with the Two Cities and Mine Island

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The Problem with the Two Cities and Mine Island

Postby Sihoiba » Sun Jul 10, 2011 6:36 am

So my experience running the Two Cities game, is that I don't think the type of scenario being run in either Two Cities or Mine Island is actually winnable for either team.

The fundamental scenario I'm describing is one that fits the following rules:
1) Two player teams competing directly against each other using an initial pop points allocation and getting a regular equal pop point income.
2) Teams able to spawn units from well defined strong defensive positions, which are more than 1 turns move apart.
3) Victory condition is either capture enemy spawn point or annihilate enemy forces.

The reason these are effectively unwinnable scenarios is that in both cases the closer one team gets towards it's goal, the weaker it's position gets in comparison to it's opponent.

Two Cities is better than Mine Island is this regard as it allows a team to win by capturing the other teams spawn point while that teams units are away from base. However it's not difficult for either team to make any assaults on their base camp a losing position for either side.

Unfortunately for Mine Island the multiple spawn points only compounds this problem. Unlike Two Cities where victory requires one team to wilfully over commit their forces away from base camp knowing that doing so puts them in danger of being defeated, the only viable approach that would allow you to win Mine Island, would be to reduce the enemy teams strength in one sided lossless engagements, until one side has an overwhelming unit advantage. The presence of critter stacks, traps and the sheer size of the map, versus the constraints imposed by scouting makes this a very difficult or at the least a very very long term position.

Obviously this isn't an issue for player versus GM scenarios, as the GM can craft the scenario to best make it work (either by ensuring the players have a long term pop point advantage or by giving them smaller more achievable goals).

So seeing as player versus player scenarios are fun, I think if we want to keep running them we need to find some new approaches to these games. I think the options worth exploring are this:

1)Fixed initial unit compositions and either zero or a capped amount of reinforcements points. Effectively this becomes a battle of attrition. This has two disadvantages: a) limited ability for exciting come backs (chances are the game will be effectively won once one side achieves a significant superiority of forces), b) makes game more defensive.

2)Make reinforcements points dependant on player action, e.g. RTS game tiberium style resource areas. So say players only gain pop points they earn from gems then find in the field*. In reality this is effectively a cap on the total number of points available to each team, but each team is competing for a share of that cap. The disadvantage of this is that the game quality is heavily dependant on the GM's ability to craft a balanced and fair scenario that forces teams into competition.

*Another approach would be to use the BfGB style of controlled hexes and design a new mechanic to define territory control.

3) Alternative win conditions that don't come down to defeating the other side directly, i.e. first team to hold a particular hex half way between the two sides spawn points for X number of turns wins (king of the hill style scenarios) or one team has to get a particular item from point A to point B, the other team have to capture the item and prevent the first team from reaching their goal.

So opinions?
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Re: The Problem with the Two Cities and Mine Island

Postby BLANDCorporatio » Sun Jul 10, 2011 8:43 am

The problem is well spotted and I wanted to discuss it at some point.

While it is, in principle, applicable to Mine Island, I know something you don't that suggests that scenario will get a resolution, assuming optimal play from both sides from here on. And before you ask, it has nothing to do with skipping certain orders.

But the point is taken. Were it not for some fortuitous events, Mine Island would become a stalemate just as TBf2C is becoming.

However, your solutions are imo wrong. For one, I don't really like the harvesting system of "A New Home". Too cluttered, and too micro in ways that I'm not a fan of.

There's a simpler solution, which most TBSes adopt. Have a small number of points on the map bestow resources each turn. The resource points, for extra simplicity, can coincide with spawn points.
The whole point of this is lost if you keep it a secret.
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Re: The Problem with the Two Cities and Mine Island

Postby Sihoiba » Sun Jul 10, 2011 10:38 am

BLANDCorporatio wrote:However, your solutions are imo wrong. For one, I don't really like the harvesting system of "A New Home". Too cluttered, and too micro in ways that I'm not a fan of.

There's a simpler solution, which most TBSes adopt. Have a small number of points on the map bestow resources each turn. The resource points, for extra simplicity, can coincide with spawn points.


While I agree that a small number of points that provide resources is better than the New Home set up, I think having them coincide with spawn points is a bad idea. It's better for them to be in more neutral territory, otherwise the side that claims them first has too big an advantage to those that claim them. Though a subset of forward locations in which spawn points can be moved to under certain circumstances works if it provides the in the lead team a way to press home and advantage (i.e as you get in the point capture games of TF2)
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Re: The Problem with the Two Cities and Mine Island

Postby BLANDCorporatio » Sun Jul 10, 2011 1:37 pm

Sihoiba wrote:While I agree that a small number of points that provide resources is better than the New Home set up, I think having them coincide with spawn points is a bad idea. It's better for them to be in more neutral territory, otherwise the side that claims them first has too big an advantage to those that claim them.


Not sure I get what the argument is, here. Extra resources are supposed to provide an advantage and all. The system as outlined by me also has some precedent, the Heroes series (granted, "spawn points", aka cities, were not the only resource points on the map), and several civsim games work on the same basic principle: cities/planets/whatever are the place where income is gained and units are built. Extra nuance there on whether "spawn points" are freely placeable on the map (you can more or less freely designate where you'll start a city) as opposed to imposed (that solar system has these habitable planets; those are your spawn point options).
The whole point of this is lost if you keep it a secret.
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Re: The Problem with the Two Cities and Mine Island

Postby WaterMonkey314 » Sun Jul 10, 2011 10:06 pm

Without knowing 1) what orders of yours got skipped and 2) what will happen these next few turns, I can't say whether Mine Island will turn into a stalemate.

Remember as well that Two Cities is only on Turn 10 and Mine Island on Turn 6. A good portion of Two Cities has been my team falling back after losing two major stacks, and Mine Island has barely had any inter-team interaction until this last turn. It seems to me a bit early to declare them stalemates.
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Re: The Problem with the Two Cities and Mine Island

Postby LTDave » Mon Jul 11, 2011 3:03 am

I'm inclined to agree that Mine Island could easily become a stalemate, because the rate of replenishment for forces is pretty high. We started with 15k of armies, and recieve 6k each turn.
I think that income shoud relate to area of the map controlled, or to collecting gems or something, but ultimately I think that reinforcements should be very small in relation to the armies. In a PvP game you want to engage the enemy, destroy them, and then have the game end. I don't know if there is great joy in a dragged out slugfest.

Having said that, I'm enjoying Mine Island at the moment. Can't wait for our next turn...
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Re: The Problem with the Two Cities and Mine Island

Postby Sihoiba » Mon Jul 11, 2011 4:52 am

Firstly this is now about the missed orders, let's not get side tracked.

Not sure I get what the argument is, here. Extra resources are supposed to provide an advantage and all. The system as outlined by me also has some precedent, the Heroes series (granted, "spawn points", aka cities, were not the only resource points on the map), and several civsim games work on the same basic principle: cities/planets/whatever are the place where income is gained and units are built. Extra nuance there on whether "spawn points" are freely placeable on the map (you can more or less freely designate where you'll start a city) as opposed to imposed (that solar system has these habitable planets; those are your spawn point options).


It's all about the tipping point and game interest. In order for games not to end in stalemates/draws there needs to be a tipping point where one players advantage becomes insurmountable. If this happens too quickly games tend to be uninteresting. I certainly agree that some resource points should be spawn points to help cement an advantage, but if all resource points are spawn points I'd contend you get to the tipping point too quickly. What you want is a variety of resource points with different worths, some spawn points so that it a) forces players to fight away from their position of strength, b) provides more options about how you approach the scenario tactically.

WaterMonkey314 wrote:Without knowing 1) what orders of yours got skipped and 2) what will happen these next few turns, I can't say whether Mine Island will turn into a stalemate.

Remember as well that Two Cities is only on Turn 10 and Mine Island on Turn 6. A good portion of Two Cities has been my team falling back after losing two major stacks, and Mine Island has barely had any inter-team interaction until this last turn. It seems to me a bit early to declare them stalemates.


Trust me when I say Two Cities tends towards stalemate, and Mine Island appears to (but only because I don't have the knowledge that Bland has whether it be a significant difference in quality of unit design, the affect of some item(s), or some blindside twist built in the setting). The main problem with the games in general is as both sides always get a equal increase in resources, and can resupply from only fixed points, a sides positions becomes weaker the further it advances. Imagine the difference between playing a normal game of chess, and one where you can at the start of your turn return a captured pawn to the board on one of it's starting squares. I'd contend the later version would end up with a lot more stalemates.

The game I think of as most similar to the way we're playing these games in the Advance Wars series on the Gameboy advance (and earlier/later consoles). They are very well designed games, with a variety of unit types balanced with assorted rock-paper-scissor set ups. In those resources come from controlled buildings, and some of those buildings are unit spawn points, however because victory comes from either wiping out the other side, or capturing their HQ (which is typically surrounded with unit spawning buildings) victory requires you to claim the various resource city tiles from the opposing team to gain a resource advantage, and then park units on their spawn points to prevent them from creating more units each turn. Compare that to the games we've been running, where there is no real way to stop an enemy spawning units (unless you wipe them out completely) and there's no way to out resource the opposing team.

In that game advancing allows you to control more territory to increase your income, in the games we play advancing doesn't increase your resources it just takes you further from your supply base.

This is without even getting to how the way we run scouting only compounds this issue.

So yes while it might be a bit early to suggest they will end in stalemate, the scenarios as presented to the players (no hidden GM knowledge as with Mine Island) tends towards a stalemate.
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Re: The Problem with the Two Cities and Mine Island

Postby LTDave » Mon Jul 11, 2011 5:26 am

I am also curious about the GM's secret knowledge - but aside from Mine Island Specifics, I think Sihoiba makes some very good points about resource allocation and expansion.
This thread is about improving these games - I don't think any of us are yet in a position to say "Mine is the greatest" in reference to the games we run.
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Re: The Problem with the Two Cities and Mine Island

Postby BLANDCorporatio » Mon Jul 11, 2011 7:42 am

Sihoiba wrote:It's all about the tipping point and game interest. In order for games not to end in stalemates/draws there needs to be a tipping point where one players advantage becomes insurmountable. If this happens too quickly games tend to be uninteresting. I certainly agree that some resource points should be spawn points to help cement an advantage, but if all resource points are spawn points I'd contend you get to the tipping point too quickly. What you want is a variety of resource points with different worths, some spawn points so that it a) forces players to fight away from their position of strength, b) provides more options about how you approach the scenario tactically.


So if I understand it correctly, what you'd like is a Heroes-like system: certain points on the map generate resources (amount generated might vary among resource points, but it is known how much a resource point would produce, if claimed), and, possibly, some of those resource points are spawn points.

I'm all for it, the next issue is how to ammend the map to implement this. If I were to designate a hex as a resource point (which I'd do symmetrically), there's no telling that one side won't have an easier time claiming one as opposed to the other side claiming the mirror resource point. Since the points were not there at the beginning, the sides didn't plan for them, and whether one is close is a matter of randomness.

Of course, some points were on the map, they were important before as well ... so side plans would include them; otoh, let's say that the only reasonable plan for a resource point is to claim it. "Important" hexes that are not resource points may present several tactical options though.

TL;DR: I'm for introducing resource points on the map (which means you'll need to earn the 6K reinforcements from now on), but since this is likely to throw a spanner in everyone's plans, input is welcome. How would you, the players, want resource points introduced?
The whole point of this is lost if you keep it a secret.
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Re: The Problem with the Two Cities and Mine Island

Postby Sihoiba » Mon Jul 11, 2011 10:25 am

BLANDCorporatio wrote:TL;DR: I'm for introducing resource points on the map (which means you'll need to earn the 6K reinforcements from now on), but since this is likely to throw a spanner in everyone's plans, input is welcome. How would you, the players, want resource points introduced?


I'm reluctant to change an in progress game, because well there's no clean way to do it.

The impression I had from your earlier posts was there something already in the scenario to prevent it reaching stalemate, is that correct?
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Re: The Problem with the Two Cities and Mine Island

Postby WaterMonkey314 » Mon Jul 11, 2011 10:39 am

BLANDCorporatio wrote:
Sihoiba wrote:It's all about the tipping point and game interest. In order for games not to end in stalemates/draws there needs to be a tipping point where one players advantage becomes insurmountable. If this happens too quickly games tend to be uninteresting. I certainly agree that some resource points should be spawn points to help cement an advantage, but if all resource points are spawn points I'd contend you get to the tipping point too quickly. What you want is a variety of resource points with different worths, some spawn points so that it a) forces players to fight away from their position of strength, b) provides more options about how you approach the scenario tactically.


So if I understand it correctly, what you'd like is a Heroes-like system: certain points on the map generate resources (amount generated might vary among resource points, but it is known how much a resource point would produce, if claimed), and, possibly, some of those resource points are spawn points.

I'm all for it, the next issue is how to ammend the map to implement this. If I were to designate a hex as a resource point (which I'd do symmetrically), there's no telling that one side won't have an easier time claiming one as opposed to the other side claiming the mirror resource point. Since the points were not there at the beginning, the sides didn't plan for them, and whether one is close is a matter of randomness.

Of course, some points were on the map, they were important before as well ... so side plans would include them; otoh, let's say that the only reasonable plan for a resource point is to claim it. "Important" hexes that are not resource points may present several tactical options though.

TL;DR: I'm for introducing resource points on the map (which means you'll need to earn the 6K reinforcements from now on), but since this is likely to throw a spanner in everyone's plans, input is welcome. How would you, the players, want resource points introduced?


Meh - I'm opposed to adding in resource points into the ongoing Mine Island game, simply because that'd probably screw both of our sides over in terms of planning.

About resource points - I have the foundations for a system of resource points of varying importance in TAW Ch.1. If you look on the map, Auria and Argenta are both near mines, and there's a huge mass of farms in the center of that core "Vital triangle". At one point, I was thinking about basing reinforcements on the number of resource points remaining, making holding that core area much more important (no retreating to the cities and camping out there).

I think we can expand that basic idea some to get a system for strategically important (and interesting) resource points. I'm thinking about 4 main types of "important" hexes:
  • Forts - just like current forts; provide defensive advantage; nothing else. Really only important in terms of critter behavious.
  • Cities - Provide a defensive advantage (how elaborate may vary - either complex like TAW or simple like MI or 2Cities); function as pop point; produce a large amount of resources per level; very sparse across map.
  • Mines - Provide a moderate amount of resources; a minor inherent defensive advantage (since mines will probably be in Hills / Mountains); moderate distribution across map
  • Farms - Provide a small amount of resources; no defensive advantage; very common

The key issue would then be to balance the distributions of the resource points and how much each type produces. I would think that total farm production should be the greatest, followed by mines and then cities. Exactly how much would depend on the scenario: one that encourages mobility and territory domination would need high-producing farms, whereas one encouraging a siege would need lower-producing farms.

I think I'll draw up a quick imaginary map to illustrate this and see what you guys think.
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Re: The Problem with the Two Cities and Mine Island

Postby WaterMonkey314 » Mon Jul 11, 2011 1:09 pm

Right-o - it took me a bit longer than expected, since my computer ran out of memory somehow (stupid windows update or some other service).

Image

Sides would start at the Red cities in opposite corners of the map. Fliers would obviously be required, or naval units implemented. :P I'm assuming 5 Move is the max here.

Each "half" of the map (both horizontally and vertically; I'm assuming horizontally though) has 3 cities, 9 mines, and 18 farms. The cities are as follows: Red City (starting point) - Lvl 3; SE/NW City ("Far City"; other corners) - Lvl 5; "Center" City (near Red) - lvl 2. Suppose we assume similar starting resources and overall supply as Mine Island - 15000 to start; 6000 per turn.

Cities have to be conquered, but do not need a garrison once taken. Farms need only have a unit pass through to be "claimed"; they do not need a permanent garrison. Mines need a unit to occupy the mine and "work" it.

We can reach that by assigning production as follows:
  • Cities - 150 pop points per level
  • Mines - 200 pop points each
  • Farms - 150 pop points each

Total production levels by category:
  • Farms - 2700 (45%)
  • Mines - 1800 (30%)
  • Cities - 1500 (25%)
  • Red City - 450 (7.5%)
  • Far City - 750 (12.5%)
  • Center City - 300 (5%)

The map seems to offer plenty of room for variation. I would expect the sides to quickly go for the edge mines and maybe the Center City; next would be the central farms, followed by the Far City. An early conflict could occur if both sides went for the same Far City. More realistically, border skirmishes could easily occur over the central mines and farms.

Expanding quickly would be easy by taking farms, but would also run the risk of over-extension, since farms are so easily lost as well. Endgame possibilities are wide, as well: a high-move guerrilla force can target enemy farms and miners, draining units from the main offensive to secure the resource sites. Turtling can still happen, but I doubt it can force a stalemate. A last stand at Red City would quickly end in disaster with only 450 points of reinforcements; Center City provides even less reinforcements with poorly defensible terrain. The best place for a stand, then, would be the corners surrounding Far City: Far City itself, plus the 3 mines in the corner and the 2 farms on the coast. Yet the defender would only receive 1650 points total - out of a total 12000 points possible from the map.
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Re: The Problem with the Two Cities and Mine Island

Postby Sihoiba » Fri Jul 15, 2011 2:55 pm

Certainly be worth trying though perhaps one with less water if we were actually running a game on it.
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Re: The Problem with the Two Cities and Mine Island

Postby WaterMonkey314 » Fri Jul 15, 2011 3:08 pm

Hmm; maybe this can be the sequel to Mine Island? Mine Islands? :P

But yes, there's quite a bit of water - more than we'd consider normal.
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