Sunday, 3 April 2016

Going Analogue

There comes a point in most long games when I realise I have been doing something completely wrong. In the League of Augsburg refight of Waterloo last October, this inevitable epiphany came half way through the Saturday when it was pointed out that I had not only been calculating the number of skirmish fire groups erroneously but also inadvertently halving the movement of them in wooded areas. Fortunately my opponent round Hugoumont way has such vast experience of my bumbling ineptitude that he kindly calculated his own skirmishers' fire and movement in the same manner for the remainder of the game. As usual I was left thinking to myself there has to be a better way to keep track of these things than bundles of paper and naturally my thoughts turned to computers.

What was the close combat bonus for Piedmontese Jaeger units comprised entirely of Pomeranian circus folk? Book is Waterloo - Warhammer Historical
Readers of this blog (all five of you kind gentle folk) will be aware of the occasional confessional tone that can pervade; not only am I cursed/blessed with wargaming as my primary personal interest, after Jo and the kids obviously (you never know who might be reading this) but imbedded geekery extends to my working life too. I'm in computers, as they say, I wish they wouldn't it sounds way too contagious.

So, given the problem and given the profession when hit by my inability to follow basic rules and the embarrassing sound of my voice pestering the one umpire who foolishly held my gaze as it swept the room pleading for help with the same question I asked last round, I immediately think - write a program.

When learning to map out decision trees I used to take old sets of war games rules, Warmaster for example, and translate them to flow diagrams and then into applications. The algorithms in most wagames are reasonably straight forward with each calculation having a limited number of outcomes (usually between 6 and 12) and modifiers (usually between 6 and 20). Surprisingly the area that takes up time is entering units into the program whether this be via a database or an xml file. The order of battle for Waterloo for a game of Republic to Empire would involve the creation of hundreds of such entries and then there has to be a way to quickly search and edit these even after they have been inputted.

Some judges avoid the authors pleas for help by sitting at the opposite end of the room and fiddling with their cameras (Barry, Gerry and Bob from the League of Augsburg)

But I rarely got that far in a conversion. The first item is to write something that simulates one or more die rolling and the result is, to me, rather soulless. You put in the firing unit, the target unit, the range and pop get an answer - quick, accurate but lacking drama unless you're running on some retro hardware from the 90s. I like the act of calculating the number of dice required, running my finger down the tables and testing my (often in-) ability to count to ten. I love the anticipation of the little cubes rattling around and occasionally off the table, the bursts of laughter from onlookers (particularly when I roll for officer casualties); the counting and recounting of hits and so on. Despite the likelihood of inexcatitude brought about by three or four players wrangling a couple of dozen tables it feels much more fun that way.

So, I would like to apologise in advance to all the umpires, particularly those from the League of Augsburg, who will have to continue to patiently listen to my weedy requests for clarifications, judgements and reassurance. Feel free to roll those eyes whilst I get on with rolling those dice! 

(If you've read this far, congratulations you managed to get through a post that mentioned, programming, flow diagrams and had a Colin confessional. Truly you have exceeded your recommended caffeine intake for the day!)


  1. Concider the eyes rolled! Don't know how many times I've miss-read rules.....far too many to mention!

  2. Concider the eyes rolled! Don't know how many times I've miss-read rules.....far too many to mention!