Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Tactical Uncertainty Principle

Advanced Squad Leader did an excellent job with morale. Previous editions of this particular game manfully attempted to address communications and control, albeit in a clumsy manner that was not very gameplay-friendly. But few, if any, games, have successfully addressed the issue of information in war on the tactical level. What passes for “fog of war” is largely limited to something like the ASL concealment mechanism, in which line-of-sight immediately results in full and correct disclosure of the enemy forces. And while this makes sense in light of the obvious limitations of tabletop gaming, it is somewhat strange that computer wargames have not substantially addressed this issue to the best of my knowledge.

So, my thought is this: what if line-of-sight provided unreliable information in the manner Clausewitz describes? What if one benefit of unit experience was the ability to correctly identify enemy units as well as their quantity? There is ample historical precedent after all. One need only read a history of any post-Normandy WWII battle to realize that American troops were prone to misidentifying almost any German tank as a Tiger.

To most American troops, any big tank trying to kill you was a Tiger. Admittedly, the sloping frontal armour of a King resembled that of a Panther Tiger, but a soldier in trouble doesn’t stop to count the road wheels or turn to his recognition handbook. Similarlly, many Allied memoirs talk of being under fire from ‘eighty-eights’, whereas msot German field and anti-tank guns were of 75mm calibre.
Snow and Steel: Battle of the Bulge 1944-45 by Peter Caddick-Adams

The mechanism is relatively simple to implement. For each unit, there is a short catalog of mistaken quantities and types based on probability. One is much more likely to mistake a 75mm field gun for an 88mm than for a 37mm, after all. It is obvious that troops tend to overestimate their enemies rather than underestimate them, both in terms of quality and quantity, so the tendency should be to err upwards. Both the visual and statistical information reported to the player will be inaccurate, then updated as other units make contact or sustained contact causes the initial units to correct their initial error.

It seems to me that this could be as important an advance in wargaming as the ASL morale model was. So, what do you see as the likely costs and benefits of implementing an Unreliable Information model, or if you prefer, Tactical Uncertainty principle?Just because a number of gamers and game designers have expressed interest in it, I’m going to run through my thinking on the subject in public. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I conclude that this could be the most useful new wargame design mechanic since John Hill introduced the morale model in Squad Leader. Also, I’m not going to concern myself with how to implement the principle in a board-and-counter or tabletop game yet, since my primary interest is developing a model that will work for Striker (3rd edition) in the 3DV engine, which is to say, on the computer in a 3D tabletop. While the principle remains the same in either case, the precise model of optimal application will necessarily differ.

The basic Tactical Uncertainty Principle, which is based on the Clausewitzian concept of friction in the form of information, can be summarized thus:

  •  Information reported by LOS is unreliable.
  • The reliability of the information reported depends upon the quality of the unit or leader reporting it.
  • Units reporting inaccurate information tend to inflate both the quantity and the quality of the enemy units reported.

Today, I will focus on the second aspect of the Principle, which states that the reliability of the information reported about the enemy units spotted depends upon the quality of the unit or leader reporting it. For now, I will utilize the five-level unit-quality system of ASL. Here is how I envision the application in terms of pre-modification statistics, with the number representing the percentage chance that the unit will accurately identify the unit(s) sighted.

Elite 85
Veteran 70
Regular 55
Green 40
Conscript 25

A unit with a leader of differing quality will identify an enemy unit on the basis of the leader’s quality rating rather than its own. A unit with the same quality leader will receive an addition 5 percent identification bonus. So, a Veteran unit with an Elite leader will identify enemy units with an 85 percent success rate, but an Elite unit with an Elite leader will do so at a 90 percent success rate.


Will multiple units with a LOS on the same enemy unit make independant roles and report potentially contradictory information (and is there a clean UI for showing this)?

Yes. Yes.

How often will units reroll for possible updates?

Once per enemy movement turn.

Can there be multiple units stacked in a given location and if so, can a unit go entirely unnoticed?

Yes, in the case of a board game and no in the case of a miniatures game. And yes.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

GameBrain: the time penalty

In designing the two-tier answer system for GameBrain, it was obvious that correct fill-in-the-blank answers had to be worth more than correct multiple-choice answers because they are much harder. However, when we decided to incentivize faster multiple-choice answers by reducing the value of a correct answer by as much as fifty percent if the maximum amount of time (10 seconds) was utilized, this raised the question of whether we should apply the same point-reduction to the fill-in-the-blank answers as well.

However, we ultimately decided against that, because it would give an advantage to players who read faster and type faster. Reading faster isn't much of an advantage in multiple choice because the question has already been read and the timer starts anew when one moves from FIB to MC. But typing faster is a big advantage, particularly when there could be a 12-point difference in six seconds. So, we decided to keep a flat point reward for fill-in-the-blank no matter what portion of the 12 seconds is used, and start the penalty gradient for multiple choice at the 3-second mark.

This playtests well, and the only potential issue that remains is if there should be any penalty for waiting most of the 12 seconds one has to do FIB before hitting the spacebar and moving to multiple choice.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Submission time

We've decided to go ahead and submit Elveteka. We've also put a short gameplay video up on YouTube.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Battle Report: July 29th

Another week, another war in Minaria. This game was just a quick two-player one between Werepuppy(as Shucassam and later Rombune) and myself(as Immer). Early on, Immer managed to get Muetar and Hothior as allies. Shucassam gained Rombune and summoned barbarians to aid their campaigns. From here, we begin. 

The most pivotal early battle in this session happens just outside Beolon on the Downs. A roughly even fight between the massed forces of Immer and the Shucassami alliance, ends poorly for Shucassam. With the monarch of the desert kingdom perishing in the battle. Shucassam falls into confusion, its attempt at hegemony failed. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Battle Report: July 22nd

Again we come to Minaria. This week is actually a continuation from the July 1st game, between lastRedoubt, Jared, and yours truly. Who are playing as, the Trolls, Pon and, the Black Hand respectively. 

Last time, Pon was far and ahead in the lead in both power and victory points. They count both Shucassam and Muetar as their allies. The Trolls were second in power but, had allied themselves with Zorn and Hothior. The Black Hand is last, having lost allies left and right, including Shucassam and Immer. From here, we begin. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Battle Report: July 16th

Alright after a brief hiatus last week, we have another battle report this week. Where Aerospyke, Jared, Werepuppy and, yours truly vie for the dominance of Minaria through our avatars. Who are the monarchs of the Dwarven kingdom, Zorn, Mivior and, the Elvish kingdom. From here, we begin.

In the far northern reaches of the great forest of Neuth, the Elves move against the Dwarves at their outpost of Aws Noir.

Monday, July 10, 2017


Spudbox wanted to know about my inspiration. The dictionary definition isn't that different from "motivation": the process of being mentally stimulated to do or feel something. What is it really?

It also means "where do your ideas come from?" Let me see if I can answer that more interesting question now that I've completed the title screen music.

First I looked at the title screen art. This image has been featured on this blog before. (Hat tip HereAndNow.)

What stands out here? The light shining down from the heavens through the tower to the statues staring down onto the monarch, and monarch looking up at the statues. I get a sense of the monarch being aware of this exact moment in history, and comparing himself to the great men of the past. Also, the light, the tower, and the army signify the marriage of martial and magical forces.
The image evokes physical sensations as well. Between the stone and the light, a sense of brightness and heaviness, all at once.

Do I think about this consciously? No. I'm observing my emotional reactions and how my eyes follow the various elements on the screen.

Then I studied the game's lore. An ancient empire. The Scarlet Witch King. The Cataclysm. The Fall of the Lloroi. Barbarian tribes becoming kingdoms. The war for Minaria. In all this, the fall of the Lloroi stood out. It sets up everything that follows - perfect for the title screen. Now I was working with light, stone, magic, war, and the fall of an ancient, powerful race.

Keeping these elements in mind, I wrote this piece.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Battle Report: July 1st

Another week of war in the world of Minaria. This week is a three way struggle between the kingdoms of the Trolls, Pon and the Black Hand. Who are played by special guest lastRedoubt, Jared and, yours truly respectively. 

The opening of the game was fairly slow. The Black Hand as able to acquire Immer as an ally.The Trolls were able to gain Zorn. Pon ultimately gains Muetar as an ally to use to its ends. From here we begin.

Zorn and Immer ended up at each other's throats in the mountainous regions between the two kingdoms. Here the Gap Castle holds the line against the Goblin hordes while under siege.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Battle Report: June 25th

New game of DIVINE RIGHT this week. The nations of Zorn, Immer and Dwarves are struggling for hegemony. Their players are yours truly, Werepuppy and, team coder OutofNod. This is just a basic game but, quite a few interesting things happened. Immer and Zorn ended up fighting right away, being neighbors. From here, we begin.

The Gap castle ended up a major flash point between Immer and Zorn, begin host to the majority of combat in Minaria so far.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Battle Report: June 17th

Another week, another game of DIVINE RIGHT. The game this week is a continuation of last week's between, Jared, Werepuppy and yours truly. With the kingdoms being, the Dwarves, Pon and Immer respectively. 

Last time, Immer utterly dominated Northern Minaria, effecting great victories against Pon with it's alliance. Near the end, Pon was focused on nursing its wounds and the Dwarves had stepped up their attacks. From here we start. 

Monday, June 12, 2017

Battle Report: June 10th

Just a new quick game of DIVINE RIGHT this week. Just three players this week. Jared, Werepuppy and yours truly play as the Dwarves, Pon and, Immer respectively.

From here, we begin.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

What Is Mixing?

A short post for devs who are not musicians.

Mixing is making a song or sound effect sound good at any volume on any playback device. There's a bunch of technique involved, but what matters is this: just because a song sounds OK to you on your headphones doesn't mean it will sound good on someone else's cell phone or home entertainment system. What do I mean by "sound good?" Simply put, the audio image is blurry and not as impactful as it could be.

Imagine if the colors on your computer screen changed, drastically, depending on the shape of your room and the dirty clothes on your floor. That's acoustics. The playback device and the room are a system, meaning they cannot be meaningfully isolated from each other.

Also, the balance between sounds in the frequency spectrum change unevenly as volume increases. Broadly speaking, sounds towards the top and bottom change in volume faster than sounds in the middle. At loud volumes they are louder than the mids. At soft volumes they are softer. If a particular component of the audio image - an instrument or part of a sound effect - has more extremes than mids, it moves into the foreground of the audio image as volume increases. This distorts the composer/sound designer's intention.

The mixer works in the closest he can get to an acoustically neutral space and tests the mix on a wide variety of devices at all volumes to ensure the accurate transmission of the composer/sound designer's conception. Done well, the mix is effective in the widest circumstances. 

And now you know what your audio guy is doing when he's mixing.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Battle Report: June 6th

Minaria Awaits, in a another game of DIVINE RIGHT. There were two games last weekend but, I am going to focus on just one. This game is a continuation of the ADVANCED one from last week. Elfland, Hothior, Pon and the Eaters of Wisdom, are played by lastRedoubt, Werepuppy, Jared and yours truly, respectively. 

In the last game, lastRedoubt was on a major tear as Rombune, forming a grand alliance with Shucassam and Muetar. Unfortunately, Rombune's monarch died after being chased down by Hamahara the Air Dragon, while fleeing from an unsuccessful campaign in Hothior. Losing his first kingdom lastRedoubt rejoined as Elfland. Hothior, weakened following their conflict with Rombune, now faces an invasion from the Eaters of Wisdom. Who have begun to siege their northern fortress of Tadafat. To the east, Pon is slowly coming together, their plans are still indeterminate however. From here we continue. 

Monday, May 29, 2017

Battle Report: May 27th

Another week, another trip to the world of DIVINE RIGHT. There's a new ADVANCED four player game this week. Pon, Hothior, Rombune and the Eaters of Wisdom vie for Minarian Hegemony. Played by Jared, Werepuppy, lastRedoubt and yours truly, respectively. 

At the start, the majority of the player kingdoms are clustered in the west, Pon alone being relatively isolated in the east. Besides this, Hothior and Rombune are both naval powers albeit Rombune has a slight edge in naval power. Notably, I managed to get one of the Magiciains in this game, they start with lots of magic but, almost no army.

Star Citizen: the unsolved multiplayer problem

The problem is that literally all the various engines are incredibly restricted with regards to their multiplayer capabilities. They are all match-based at their foundation. What Star Citizen is pretending to try to accomplish, does not exist and never will exist, due to the restrictions everyone has to live by. Elite doesn't do it either, it's just REALLY clever at hiding its match-based nature by doing the matchmaking during hyperspace.

So, it appears that Star Citizen hopes to release a demo with at least a reasonably respectable number of simultaneous players, like a few dozen or so, because that is what Amazon's engine supports almost out of the box. They hope to buy some time with that, so that unless people are very knowledgeable, they will not start wondering about what Chris Roberts and company plan to do about the presently unsolvable problem.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Battle Report: May 21st

Minaria is in flames this week, with not one but, two different games. The first, is a BASIC game between Jared, DR team producer Spudbox and, myself. With the player kingdoms being Zorn, Rombune and, Mivior respectively. The second is the epic conclusion to the ADVANCED game last fought on the 6th of May, between Jared's Shucassam, Werepuppy's Pon and, my own Mivior.

Game One

In this Minaria, Zorn, Rombune and, Mivior struggle for supremacy. Things start as they usually do with armies being consolidated and allies recruited. In the early phases, Mivior managed to ally the Kingdom of Shucassam. Whereas Rombune took several turns before they were able to ally Hothior giving them a rough naval parity with Mivior. Zorn is eventually able to make allies with their southern neighbors the Muetarians.

Early military moves had the Miviorines gather their forces for an attack on the capital of Rombune, Golkus. Landing both their regular expeditionary units and those of their ally, Shucassam.

The Divine Right board and digging into the hexes

This is my first blog post here, and in this and a couple more following I'm going to focus on the hexes of the game Divine Right.   If you haven't played Divine Right yet, it is a great game.

For a game like this, the hexes are very important.  One of the things we'll need to understand in the coding is which hexes surround a particular hex.  I refer to these as Hex Neighbors.  We need to know this for calculating movement.

If you examine the board, you find that there are 31 rows and 34 columns. In the coding we will start at 0, instead of 1, so we will have boundaries setup like this:

( (ROW >= 0) && (ROW<=30) )
( (COL >= 0) && (COL<=33) )

We've come up with a hex identity which is 2 digits row and 2 digits column. I placed several hex ids on hexes on the map above to help in following this post. So for instance, Khuzdul is at row 7, column 18. This translates to 0718.

The shape of these hexes, with a point at the north and south, make the hex sides NW, NE, W, E, SW, and SE.

What if I am at Khuzdul (0718) and I want to know the hex ids of the 6 surrounding hexes?

We could do this by brute force and eyeball every hex, and put all of their ids into a 6 element structure. One element for the NW, NE, W, E, SW, SE.

It would be easier to do this in coding.

We can use these calculations below to identify the surrounding hexes. Great! That wasn't so bad.

NE=row++, col++
NW=row++, col
E =row,   col++
W =row,   col--
SE=row--, col++
SW=row--, col

Row = 07; Col = 18;

E : Row = 07, Col= 18+1  = 07,19
W : Row = 07, Col= 18-1  = 07,17
NE: Row = 07+1, Col=18+1 = 08,19
NW: Row = 07+1, Col=18   = 08,18
SE: Row = 07-1, Col=18+1 = 06,19
NW: Row = 07-1, Col=18   = 06,18

Yes, this works fine.

Lets try it on Zefnar by the Sea.(08,10)

Row = 08, Col = 10

E : Row = 08, Col=10+1     = 08,11
W : Row = 08, Col=10-1     = 08,09
NE: Row = 08+1, Col = 10+1 = 09,11
NW: Row = 08+1, Col = 10   = 09,10
SE: Row = 08-1, Col = 10+1 = 07,11
SW: Row = 08-1, Col = 10   = 07,10

Uh oh, the NE, NW, SE, and SW are not correct. It turns out that we need a seperate set of calculations for Odd and Even rows. We include the 0 row as even for these purposes.

Even (and 0) columns
NE=Row++, col
NW=row++, col--
E = row, col++
W = row, col--
SE = row--, col
SW = row--, col--

Row = 08, Col = 10

E : Row = 08, Col=10+1     = 08,11
W : Row = 08, Col=10-1     = 08,09
NE: Row = 08+1, Col = 10   = 09,10
NW: Row = 08+1, Col = 10-1 = 09,09
SE: Row = 08-1, Col = 10   = 07,10
SW: Row = 08-1, Col = 10-1 = 07,09

Here we have all the elements needed to determine a hexes neighbors.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Battle Report: May 13th

Minaria is at war again this week. There were a few scheduling conflicts this session, so Jared was unable to play. So we started a new game for this session. Yours Truly is the desert kingdom of Shucassam. Werepuppy plays as maritime power of Rombune. With special guest of fine literary taste, lastredoubt, playing as the premier Minarian thalassocracy of Mivior. All three kingdoms are some kind of naval power bordering on the Sea of Drowning Men. Which should make for an interesting scenario.

There were some early battles in the Sea of Drowning Men where the forces of Rombune and Mivior clashed. Although little is said of those battles(and I forgot to take screenshots), the results were mixed. Mivior ended up taking the heavier losses, however. 

Diplomacy however, did not favor Rombune. Their ambassador was burnt at the stake the first time they attempted recruit from the barbarian tribes. Although no alliances were formed at the early stages of the campaigning season, things were just getting started. 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Battle Report: May 6th

The monarchs of Minaria again strive for what is their DIVINE RIGHT. We actually had two games this weekend but, the first just needs a few more turns to make an interesting write-up. It had an interesting start though, so it's just a matter of time. Otherwise, there is the continuation of the game from the past few weeks. Between Were-puppy's Pon, Jared's Shucassam and, my Mivior the war continues. 

Last game, Pon was able to achieve several key sieges in both the Dwarven kingdom of Ghem and Shucassam. All the while, Mivior and Shucassam fought fruitlessly to a stalemate in the western half of the continent. Things are coming down to the wire and Pon is far in the lead in victory points but, things aren't over yet. There can still be an upset.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Q&A Forge

Trivia Crack has a feature called Question Factory that permits people to submit and rate trivia questions, a feature that we had independently determined would be desirable. However, because our questions combine fill-in-the-blank and multiple choice, and because we have a much more sophisticated gameplay structure, GameBrain's question submission architecture has to account for some complications that the Question Factory does not.

For example, once the first question for a game is entered successfully, we no longer need the information about the release year, genre, platform, and so forth, and it would be irritating to have to enter it every time, which means that it is necessary to a) skip ahead to the question difficulty, and b) provide a means of checking the game database to see if that information is already there when a user is entering the name of the game for the first time in a session.

Here is the design question of the day. Many games have multiple platforms and some games have multiple genres: Combat Mission is both a wargame and a strategy game. So, would you:
  1. Require the user to enter one platform and one genre manually?
  2. Require the user to select one platform and one genre from preset pull-down menus?
  3. Require the user to enter one platform and one genre, but permit manual additions?
  4. Permit the user to enter as many platforms and genres as he sees fit from preset pull-down menus?
This is not a feature that will concern 99 percent of all GameBrain players. But it requires some design consideration nevertheless. We've already made our decision and the system is already running, but I thought it might prove to be an interesting discussion. For those who are curious to see it in action, or who might like to submit a question or two, I will post a link to the GameBrain Q&A Forge sometime in the next week.

With regards to the 3-Strike Challenge, a few notes on the excellent comments:
  • The solution is to remove points altogether and fully design the game around the '3-strike-loss' idea.
  • The problem here is that you have two scoring systems that are at odds with one another: points and strikes. The points act as a reward and the strikes act as a punishment, but only strikes are able to end a round and only points are able to determine the winner. 
This would be a very bad solution and would simplify the game in an undesirable manner. Nor is there a problem. Contra some commenters' opinions, combining strikes and points is the basis for many very successful games, beginning, for example, with baseball. This may not be obvious since baseball calls its strikes "outs".

Clarification: A baseball game ends when the losing team reaches 27 outs. This should not be confused with a batter being called out after three strikes. If the home team, which bats second, is ahead when the visiting team completes its 9th inning by reaching its 27th out, the game ends at that point. If the home team is behind, the game ends when it reaches its 27th out.
  • Could you split this out into separate modes?
Yes, actually, we intend to permit Pro players to decide if their matches will be time-based or point-based. Pro players will be given considerably more ability to bias the match either towards their own strengths or away from their opponent's strengths. For regular players, we'll allow them to simply name their favorite game, so the first five questions they face will concern either that game or the game selected by their opponent. This has the additional benefit of making what is a pretty difficult game a little more accessible for even the casual gamer.
  • The main problem is that the system is a competitive PvE disguised as a PvP. A player doesn't choose questions for an enemy, it's more like a multiplayer tetris with two bins side by side. I don't think it's viable.
First, this is not a problem, second, while the player can't choose a precise question for his opponent in GameBrain, he can choose the game, the genre, the platform, and the decade by playing cards. As for the idea that it's not viable, this simply shows a complete ignorance of the history of the games industry. From Trivial Pursuit to The Most Difficult Quiz in the World, competitive quiz games have been not only successful, but extraordinarily popular.

What a lot of the commenters don't appear to have given sufficient consideration is to the fact that the primary object of GameBrain is not to determine the winner as quickly as possible, but rather, to make the competition fun for both players as long as possible during the process of determining the more knowledgeable and more tactically skilled player. We are only discussing the multiplayer game here, after all; single-player Mastery mode will probably be the most common way the game is played. And since the player can collect and keep cards in multiplayer, cards that he can use in Mastery mode, the stronger player has a material incentive to keep playing as long as possible, not only to maximize his score and obtain a higher rating, but to give himself the chance to collect more cards.

One of the key things to keep in mind when discussing game design issues: successful precedent trumps theory every single time. One of the things I find most frustrating in the development process is when producers or programmers want to dispute the idea that a feature or a concept will work when it has already been proven to be viable by a successful game with which they happen to be unfamiliar. That is why a deep knowledge of game history is so important for any game designer.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Battle Report: April 29th

Minaria again convulses in the throes of war. The session this week was a continuation of the ADVANCED GAME from last week. The warring parties are Jared at the head of Shucassam, Were-puppy as the leader of Pon, yours truly as the Thalassocrat of Mivior. 

Last time Shucassam's hegemony was severely damaged by the loss of their Immerian and Zornite allies. In terms of number of allies, they are about even with Mivior in strength, albiet having much larger armies than the Miviorines, and their largely seaborne forces. Pon is far weaker than both of these massive powers and, yet prior to this session has the highest victory points due to the siege of Alzak. 

Here Adeese, hastily reinforced with local mercenaries, had been holding against Pon since the previous session. Unfortunately another attack is coming....

3-strike challenge

The multiplayer competition in GameBrain presently takes the form of a 3-strike system. The object is to wrack up as many points as you can before you, or your opponent gets three strikes by answering three questions incorrectly. There is, however, a design problem with this. First, if you happen to get a big enough lead on your opponent, you have an incentive for intentionally answering the next 1-3 questions incorrectly, thereby ending the game and sealing your victory.

While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with this de facto mercy option, and it does present the player who is ahead with the choice between a) taking the win at a lower point score and b) playing on and taking the risk of falling behind, it feels wrong to create a gameplay structure where the winning player is encouraged to end most games by intentionally providing wrong answers.

So, there are at least four alternatives.

  1. Require a player to win with either a pass or a correct answer. The downside of this is that it give the player a free strike so long as the opponent gets the answer wrong.
  2. Award the player points for his opponent's strikes; this will not eliminate the problem entirely, but will require a bigger lead before a player contemplates intentionally accepting strikes. The downside of this is that it will give the leading player a bigger lead by virtue of getting points for his opponent's strikes earlier in the game, so it's largely a wash unless the strikes are progressively awarded more points so the third strike is worth more than the first one.
  3. Let the winning player continue playing and adding to his score until he hits three strikes. The downside to this is that the losing player is not going to want to sit around and do nothing while he waits to see how badly he lost.
  4. Throw out strikes altogether and simply play to specified time or point totals.

Discuss amongst yourselves. In a future post, I'll discuss your solutions and reveal how I decided to handle the 3-strike challenge.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Battle Report: April 22th

The nations of Minaria again march to war in this session of DIVINE RIGHT. We continue the game between the nations of Mivior, Shucassam and, Pon. Who are played by, Myself, Jared and, Were-Puppy respectively. 

Last time, Jared's Shucassam managed to gain the strongest alliance with the grand organization of Immer, Muetar and, Elfland to its ends. Mivior was a distant second in power but, with naval supremacy with it's ally Hothior. Pon alone continues to hang on in the east, maneuvering to it's own ends.  What follows are the highlights. 

A few weeks in, Muetarian reinforcements arrive at the Miviorine port of Addat, granting a major advantage to the Shucassami-aligned besiegers. The attack is made upon the beleagured fortress....

Monday, April 17, 2017

Battle Report: April 15th

Welcome to another DIVINE RIGHT battle report! There were actually two games this past Saturday but, I'm going to focus on the second because the first didn't get too far. The first game will get written up once we get a few more turns on it. 

Thus, the nations of Minaria again march to war, this time in the ADVANCED GAME. This game features Jared as Shucassam, Were-puppy as Pon and, yours truly as Mivior. The first couple turns are uneventful. With the various powers grabbing allies and, maneuvering forces for sieges. Mivior managed to grab Rombune and, Shucassam managed to ally with Muetar. Pon is unlucky in diplomacy but, manages to get a special mercenary, Ogsbogg the Ogre. What follows are the highlights. 

The combined Miviorine-Rombuni fleets make their way for the vulnerable Shucassami port of Zefnar. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Battle Report: April 8th

Minaria is at twilight, little time remains before winter falls on the continent ending the campaign season. Here is the final session of the game that started on the 25th of March. The players are, Were-puppy as Hothior, Jared as the Dwarves and, myself as Zorn. 

Last game there were several climactic battles around Castle Lapspell, which put the primary Goblin ally of Muetar to flight. The Dwarves where able to overcome fortune's disdain and began to make gains against their enemies. Hothior continued to be bogged down in the coasts of Mivior but, with they managed to prevent the aforementioned siege of Lapspell. The Goblins were driven to retreat from central Minaria by the same event. From here, we continue. 

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Don't feed the SJWs

Bioware discovers that they will never, ever, be satiated:
At BioWare, we strive to make games that are representative of our players and the broader world around us. We do this by actively consulting within our diverse workforce, as well as speaking with different communities.

In Mass Effect: Andromeda, one of our non-playable characters, Hainly Abrams, was not included in a caring or thoughtful way. We apologize to anyone who interacted with or was hurt by this conversation. This was never our intent, and was an unfortunate byproduct of the iterative process of game design and a change in the structure of the character's dialogue.

We have had several discussions with members of the transgender community, both internally at BioWare and in the broader community, and we are working to remedy this issue. Once the changes are implemented, Hainly will only reveal certain information to Ryder after they have developed trust, and only if the player chooses to support her.

As always, we appreciate the help, feedback, and support from the Mass Effect community.
Once you started feeding the SJW, he always ends up devouring you.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Battle Report: April 1st

The war-drums beat, soldiers march, knights ride and, war again comes to Minaria. This week is just a continuation of last week's game, coincidentally taking place on April Fool's Day. Unfortunately, I couldn't think of any good jokes for this post, so it will have to go uncelebrated here (alas).

This game consists of Were-puppy as Human Monarchy of Hothior, Jared as the Dwarven Kingdom of Ghem and, Myself as the Goblin Sirdarate of Zorn. At the end of the last game, Hothior had Pon and Rombune as allies. Zorn had Elfland, Mivior, Muetar and, Shucassam to call upon. The Dwarves had only Immer to aid them. What follows are the highlights. 

The Dwarves commit to their attack on the recently victorious besiegers of Aws Alzak...

...and utterly annihilated them. This leaves only the Goblin royal army as the only significant military force against the Dwarves east of Pon.

Far out west, the Hothior-allied Rombuni and Mercenary fleets continue their stalemate at the ancestral capital of Mivior, Boliske. 

Meanwhile in Hothior, the Sirdar instructs his allies to continue their campaign against the human kingdom. The addition of the Shucassami fleet allows them to target Hothior's ports. Castle Lapspell in Hothior is put under siege.

Unfortunately, prudent Hothiorian diplomacy was able to frustrate a major pillar of the Goblin's campaign in Hothior convincing Shucassam to drop from the Goblin alliance. This is coupled with fortuitious news weeks later. Where freak events cause Shucassam to join with Hothior despite Pon violating the sovereign territory of the desert kingdom. This allows Hothior to send the Ponese Royal army to Lapspell. As well as send Hothior's small fleet to harry the recently arrived sea-borne besiegers. 

The Zorn mercenary fleet retreats from the Hothiorians but, the Goblins suffer a major loss west of Lapspell. Their Muetarian allies from the city of Pennol were defeated with heavy losses. 

The battle goes poorly west of Lapspell as well, with an attack by the Ponese Royal Army causing intense causualties to the Muetar regulars of Beolon. 

The following weeks, the mercenary fleet fought the Hothiorian Navy outside of Lapspell and.... lies at the bottom of the mouth of the "Deep" river. 

The victorious fleet moves in the port, having broken it of it's siege right after the remnants of the Eastern besiegers fall to the Hothiorian Royal Army. 

The situation in Hothior now untenable, the Goblins have their allies retreat. 

Despite their victories to the east, Boliske continues to bog-down the Rombuni Fleets limiting their application to the Hothiorian cause. 

In the North, the Goblin Royal army was able to escape from the Dwarven army that took out their allies around Alzak and, now returns to their home territory. 

The Dwarves decided against their pursuit of the Goblins and instead gathered their forces to the east of the Archduchy of Pon. The allied armies fall upon the castle of Crow's Nest. 

Things are becoming clearer in Minaria at the end of this session. The Goblin hegemony in the last game proved all too fragile in Eastern Hothior, despite their large alliance. Hothior managed some excellent diplomatic and military work. Successfully preventing further incursion into their territory by causing the rout of a major Goblin force. Albeit with no increase in their plunder. The Dwarves managed some minor victories in the East followed by the siege of the significant fortress of Crow's Nest, while Hothior was occupied elsewhere. Zorn accomplished little this session, losing nearly every battle fought. Their forces are all currently moving away from their enemies, perhaps to some objective? Only time will tell. 


Despite the fact that this session was kind of short in terms of actual game time, a lot happened, particularly in Hothior. Jared ended up solidifying his gains in the east and bringing the fight west. 
My Kingdom, Zorn, really fared poorly, I don't think anything good happened at all. Were-puppy on the other hand, ended up completely trashing the respectable army that was tearing through Hothior. Although, when we got to talking one thing stood out to me the most: the acquisition of Victory Points. 

There are only two ways to win a game of DIVINE RIGHT, you can kill all of the enemy player Monarchs or you can be the player with the most Victory Points at the end of 20 turns(assuming you are playing the standard game). The former option is both incredibly risky and rare. Even if players aren't protective of their avatars, it's only about a 33% chance to kill or capture after you've triggered a fate roll. Which already relatively rare to get, unless you have some lucky battles involving enemy monarchs or, manage to have your slow military catch-up with one of the speedsters. Otherwise, there are only two ways to acquire Victory points: sieges and killing or capturing a monarch(not necessarily a player monarch). As it can be tricky to kill or capture any monarch in game, it's really more of a bonus mechanic, this leaves sieges. 

If you'll notice with this and other games' write ups, I often write about climactic sieges and the battles that allow for or deny them. Getting and accomplishing sieges is the primary goal in DR. It is the only goal that is really stable and reachable under all conditions and states of the game. Capturing a monarch is a nice bonus but, can't really be relied upon to deliver those precious VPs. Not to mention monarchs can hide in castles if things aren't going their way, cementing their secondary status. 

It's no secret that we play this every week to better understand the game. While I had understood the importance of sieges before this week, it wasn't until this week that I really understood their primary role in the strategy of DR. This sort of understanding of the strategy of DR will definitely help when it comes time to design and code the game's AI. 

Otherwise, while I expected a certain amount of uncertainty, I didn't expect such a massive cause and effect cascade that whooped my allied forces in Hothior. Both events and turn order favored this reversal combined with Were-puppy's skill in exploiting it. Resulting in the loss of a decent siege, no less.  Although, as is always the case in DR, it's not over yet!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Battle Report: March 25th

Whew, had some technical difficulties with blogger this week. Please pardon the tardiness. 

The warhorns sound again in Minaria. This week there were two games again but, due some technical issues I am just going to go ahead and focus on the latter one. Which is a continuation of last week's game between Jared(as the Dwarven Kingdom), team coder Were-puppy(as Hothior), and yours truly(as Zorn).

At the end of the last game, Zorn was able to ally with both, Pon and Muetar. Whereas Hothior only had Rombune to call upon and the Dwarves only Immer. The war continues, what follows are the highlights.

Hothior continued it's campaign against Mivior. Who was driven into the Dwarven alliance by the Hothorian surprise attack on Colist. 

Meanwhile in the east, the siege of Alzak continues to tie down the majority of the Goblin aligned forces. This time joined by reinforcements from Basimar in Muetar. 

In the north, the move counter-move of the Immerian royal army and Goblin reserve forces reaches a head in a series of clashes in the cursed forest. The first of which ended in a slight loss for Zorn. 

Before the next clash however, hastily recruited mercenaries join the Zorn defense forces. Both sides fight to a standstill with heavy losses. 

In the end, Immerian reinforcements combine to eliminate the last defenders. Unfortunately heavy losses to the Immer royal army in the fighting render them unable to siege the Goblin capital. 

 Back at Alzak, a deft diplomatic strike by the Dwarves convinces Pon to drop from the Zorn alliance. The resultant gap in the besieging forces allows for much needed supplies to refresh the defenders of the castle, breaking the siege.

Over in Hothior, the armies of Muetar have begun their siege of Tadafat on the River. The surprised Hothiorians are quick to recover however, planning a daring raid on the weaker half of the besieging forces. Unfortunately the attack fails but, this allows the relieving forces to make their way into the castle. 

Meanwhile the Dwarves attempt another relief of the beleaguered Alzak castle. Attacking the weaker Muetarian stack which, suffers some losses, despite the defensive advantage of the Barriorr Mountains. These losses however are not enough to break the siege....

...and Alzak falls on the next assault. 

In a major coup for Zorn, Tadafat falls that very same fortnight. It's garrison put to the sword and it's treasures plundered and brought to the Goblin Sirdar's treasury.

The Minarian campaigning season is close to half over and, the current alliances stand as follows.  Zorn is ahead in allies but, has a lot of ground to cover. Hothior has both Pon and Rombune to call upon and is using them to good effect attacking the Goblin alliance at it's undefended allied hinterlands. The Dwarves have had several setbacks this game but, they have proven themselves prudent. Despite the winds of fortune blowing against them, they remain a potent force in Minaria.


This was a pretty awesome game with lots of back and forth between the various kingdoms. One thing that stands out the most is how diplomatic actions by one player affected the later actions/strategy of the other players. I didn't go into detail above but, there were two cases this session where a strategic deactivation of an allied monarch allowed another player to swoop in and reactivate the ally for themselves. Shucassam was allied to the Dwarves for a short time before Hothior deactivated them, Zorn then took advantage adding them to their alliance. Also when Pon was allied to Zorn and was deactivated, Hothior swooped in and gained them as an ally.

Not only is this feature of the game only semi-predictable, it also creates a dynamic but, balanced minigame within the larger wargame. As these diplomatic reversals tend to be more noticeable with more players(in fact I don't think this sort of thing would happen in a two player DR game) but also, they allow weaker alliances to capitalize on their rival's attempts to weaken the current leader in allies/strength.

Besides the above, it is always great to be able to play with the team. You really can't learn too much playing this sort of game solitaire, particularly with regards to strategy. For instance, I tend to have a big picture kind of focus when I play the game. Whereas, Jared tends to be more detail oriented. This has tripped me up several times when his meticulous counting of the pieces ended up giving him a combat advantage that would have been unnoticeable if you had just been looking at the counters on the map. Also Were-puppy actually uses some really counter-intuitive strategies with his attacks on neutral kingdoms. You would think giving an opponent a free ally would be an adverse move to make but, this allows you to get a "Pearl Harbor"-like attack in on vulnerable castles and, helps to control the shape of an opponent's alliance. In the current game despite my two successful sieges to his one, Were-puppy is actually the overall leader in Victory points. This is because, he was able to get the drop on a royal capital without protracted battle.

Knowing the full extent of strategic options available to the players of DIVINE RIGHT will definitely help when it comes time to work on the AI for the game.

Overall, this game is halfway done. Despite being the strongest alliance-wise, Zorn is only second in plunder. Hothior and the Dwarven Kingdom maintain potent forces, who are posed to make gains in the coming months. Ten turns remain and, it's not over yet. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Battle Report: March 18th

Welcome to the aftermath of another weekend VASSAL game of DIVINE RIGHT. We actually had two games this Saturday but, I am only going to be reporting on one. This is because I ended up goofing up and overwriting the save game for the other. Otherwise what follows are the highlights of a game between an anonymous teammate(as Hothior), Jared(as the Dwarves) and, yours truly(as the Zorn Goblins). 

As a side note: I ended up focusing more on strategy(wanna do a little better this week) than on notes this week so my chronology might be a little off. 

The session this week covered a little over two months of in game time or about 6 turns. In that time, anonymous' Hothior managed to gain the Kingdom of Rombune as an ally; Jared's Dwarve's managed to join forces with Immer's domain and; Zorn managed to add both Muetar and Pon to it's alliance. 

The combined Hothior-Rombune alliance decided to attack the capital of the neutral kingdom of Mivior. 

Their sheer numerical advantage made short work of the surprised garrison, plundering the castle. 

Meanwhile in the east, Immer and Zorn play a maneuver game in the Nithmere mountains. Zorn has the advantage due to the difficult terrain of the kingdom but, Immer has the numerical edge on the local Goblin defenders. 

To the south, the Dwarven royal army make a raid on the royal Goblin forces near the siege of Alzak. The goblins end up taking casualties but, the attempt on the life of Zorn's king fails. Fortune favors the Dwaven retreat in the face of counterattack from the allied forces and the Goblin army joins the siege of Alzak. 

Out west in Hothior, Muetarian regular's are slowly making their way to potential targets in the kingdom. As the Goblin's allies lack any form of navy, they are presently unable to beseige either of Hothior's ports meaning Tadafat is their only possible target. 

At the end of the session Minaria stands at the beginning of struggle. The respective Dwarven and Goblin alliances fight across the east and north. Hothior is fresh from it's campaign against Mivior and will likely be able to marshal it's forces against the Muetarian invaders. Things are just starting out, no telling how they will end up. 


Alright another week, another game of Divine Right. This is likely shaping up to be the best game so far, as we're really starting to get the rules down pat. One of the major reasons we play this every week is not just so we can learn how to play the game but also, so we can improve on our understanding of the rules with each game. Making mistakes and fixing them is an effective way to learn. Although even with this game I've certainly noticed a few mistakes on my part. 

These mistakes are instructive though, when we start following a rule we had previously forgotten it changes the strategies necessary for play. In doing so, we gain a better understanding of the design and the assumptions behind it. Rules like the one against stacking allied armies(which had been largely forgotten in previous games, which explains our "doomstacks"), which necessitated careful attention to how the now differentiated armies could move and attack. Not all of the kingdoms have the same or even similar military power. So this rule actually enhances the movement and positioning based mechanics that have been discussed before, and adds more depth to the strategic thought the game requires.

Otherwise though, things here are just getting started. Hopefully we'll be able to continue this one next week. In any case, I can say for sure, it's not over yet.