12 July 2012

Revisiting the C2E2

A long time ago (mid-2010) we introduced the GrogNews C2E2 as the start of an engine for rapidly playing out real-world situations. It sort of withered on the vine for a while as real life got in the way, but a string of recent discussions here has brought it back into play as a concept.
Now, the actual nuts-and-bolts of creating/playing the scenarios will have to wait for a little while until we can get the technology caught up, but it's time to get a lot of jumbled and disjointed thoughts into the blog here and let you guys have at them in dissecting their usefulness and relevance, as well as their playability.

Originally we were looking at:
4 kinetic factors
- Attack: ability to go kill stuff
- Defense: ability to not get killed
- Support: ability to help someone else kill stuff
- Reaction: How quickly can you project over your area of influence? Think of this + Area of Effects = movement + range, but not quite exactly.

Some non-kinetic factors:
Need some sort of multi-faceted system that is more detailed that DIME, though that’s not a bad base to start with. For game purposes, I would like to simplify it to some form of “rock-paper-scissors” mechanic, with a rough cut perhaps being:
local influence/tolerance -> economic/security support -> information ops -> local influence/tolerance

And the support factors, that would apply regardless of mission type:
- Area: How much of a footprint can you influence when you're on the ground. This + reaction determines how quickly you can act, from how far away.
- Deployability: when talking about power projection from some home station or strategic mobility, there will need to be some rating of how quickly someone can move their Area of Effects.
- Logistical Support: at the strategic/operational level, what does it take to keep that unit in the field. One mechanic I do want to experiment with is potentially tying this to current news-tracking polls showing support for varying operations/policies so that as national support for something goes down, the ability to sustain long/large deployments also goes down, and can change scenarios from week to week.

So here's how we're changing this up, and how they might interact with each other.

First off, kinetic factors are dropping to 2:
COMBAT- how well do you fight
REACT(ion)- how quickly do you get to the fight and how quickly do you get inside your opponents' decision cycles. Is this just another way to describe "initiative"? Maybe. But he who reacts best doesn't always act first. It may be that a decisively better C2 system gives you the ability to let the other guy start acting, and then you react to it once you see what he's doing.

We're also adding a non-unit-specific factor: MISSION. Based on what you've tasked the unit to do, they may perform in different ways. While KIN / N-K is an obvious distinction, there are certain types of units that should have certain types of missions, and within certain types of terrain, that might (as a part of the mission profile specs) affect adjustments to their factors.

Support factors aren't changing much
AREA: The space(s) in which you can project your combat power. This plus your reaction allows you to determine the ground you can cover in an operational/tactical sense.
DEPLOY: What does it take to move your unit somewhere else? Think of this as a strategic level movement factor.
LOG: What does it take to keep your unit in the field? This can apply in many ways. It may take a full log cost to redeploy your unit to another location. It may take a full log cost to conduct a full kinetic operation. It may not take any log cost to sit still for a turn within certain boundaries. This one will have to interact with your lines of supply, as well as the "friendliness" of the local environment. Log support is going to be higher for US guys in Uzbekistan than in Kuwait.

Non-kinetic factors:
This one's taken up the most thought, and is still not to the true level of fidelity it should be, but in the interest of playability, we're throwing out a basic rock-paper-scissors model that should cover many of the key concepts, as well as provide some basic meaningful interaction between them.

I/O --> Governance --> Security --> I/O

I/O, the information operations, covers the media, the local mosque preaching to the flock, the home-made flyers handed out, the al-Jazeera broadcasts, and the urban legends of man-eating badgers let loose by the occupying forces. It's the stories told over the pig roast at the cartel wedding and the parent showing the kid the olive grove that once belonged to the great-great-great grandfather.

GOV(ernance)is a continuum, in which units might be rated positive or negatively, as they may contribute to better stability and control of the area, or may contribute to anarchy and lawlessness. Religious militias may seek to stabilize an area, even if their agenda is not in line with the national government. Anti-IMF protesters seeking to loot electronics shops while dodging tear gas and riot police are not contributing to any form of stability.

SEC(urity) is the ways and means of enforcing governance, but fighting corruption, protecting capital investments, and maintaining a safe and hospitable atmosphere for the local population.

Now, I'm not even going to pretend that this is an accurate model of how the real world works. My real question is this: "Are we close enough to start looking at how to model real-world events within a common framework (game rules) without instantly throwing up our hands and screaming about how hopeless this is?"

Some interactions that need to be addressed:
Combat is a mixture of
CBT + TERRAIN = how well can you fight/defend in that area
REACT + the mission you're given = how likely you are to hit something in that area, and how hard you might hit it to roll back into CBT + TERR math
REACT + AREA = who acts first/last, and when are casualties assesed
LOG + DEPLOY = cost and time to move from place to place

Map will need some hex-based areas to cover the operational actions and REACT and AREA factors, with some key strategic centerpoints that provide the LOG / DEPLOY costs to move between and maintain presence.

Some unit types:
- Heavy / Light combat units, with perhaps some different ratings on the N-K factors based on their sourcing. For instance, most US Nat'l Guard units have a lot of pretty useful N-K skills that aren't going to be accounted for in their official KIN missions.
- Civil Support units: PRTs, construction engineers, police, legal assets, trainers, etc. that can all offer significant N-K pluses, with just enough KIN factors to protect themselves.
- SF/SAS/CDO/Chuck Norris: Very low log costs, but very high REACT/AREA values, and CBT almost never affected by terrain. Other than some I/O value, probably not terribly useful in N-K functions.
- (Need a label for) opposition/protest leadership that are capable of organizing protests, demonstrations, strikes, social media events, traditional media events, and the occasional total out-of-control throwdown bar mitzvah jams. These guys can play total havoc with all sorts of N-K factors, and force KIN units to operate in a realm where they really don't belong.

How will the overall model work together? We need some way of tracking the local civilian 'mood' and support for the different sides, through political organized, governance, levels of I/O, etc. We also need a way to keep track of the body count, and what thresholds of dead units start to trigger counter-actions from the dead units' families. How do you know what true effects you have on the local areas, and how do you assess it, and how do you establish the longevity of the effects?

When military forces deploy to a tsunami zone, what are they bringing with them in terms on N-K factors, and how well does that play in affecting the local perception of them? How does training units in certain aspects change what their performance can be on the ground? If you plus up an infantry brigade with a variety of N-K assets and training, are they really more effective on the ground in N-K roles, or have you just degraded their KIN capabilities instead?

Look, this is a lot to digest, and until I can mock up some maps / counters it's hard to visualize. But I also need to think hard about how to track the influences of these unit actions, and the missions they can be assigned, on the local population, that needs to be measured somehow.

By: Brant


Brian said...

Interesting thoughts.
Are you going to pursue this at Connections Game Lab?

Brant said...

No. I won't have enough time to develop much more before Connections. That said, I'm happy to sit around and doodle over some blank sheets with people if they're interested.

Jack Nastyface said...

There's a lot of interesting challenges to tackle in this...I'd love to offer input. May I humbly suggest that you/we break this down into smaller sections, and use some "BA" (business analysis) techniques to create a model of how this might work?

For example, starting with counters, I'd like to know:
business requirement: what kinds/types of counters do you need? What information do you need to track wrt that counter?

Counter functional requirement: HOW can we make the counter accomplish this? Should you use counters that have qualities characteristics printed on them (ASL style), generic counters (original Axis and Allies); unique
counters with "off board" quality/characteristic charts (ie: an in-game soldier is tracked on an army log-page or individual unit card), or dynamic-counter (where values can change..like a heroclix figure)

Non-functional requirement: "non-functional" refers to all the admin-type stuff...like overall number of counters, etc.

If this sound pedantic...it is. But after doing three software design projects, I now recognize that "G-d is in the details" and tracking out the minutia is how you bring it together.

Jack Nastyface

Jack Nastyface said...

And to continue my rant...

Just finished reading a review of Ici, C'est La France which appears to contain some of the elements you are looking for: political influene; regional civilian mood tracking, even a terrorist hierarchy.

There might be some useful mechanics from this that could be imported into your design.

Interestingly, I think there is still a need to find some way to track different types of civilans. In the 'stan, for example, there are currently citizens who a) openly welcome the Coalition and will cooperate/assist almost no matter waht; b) mostly welcome the coalition, but may become unsupportive based on outcomes (ie: collateral damage, intrusive policing, etc) c) mostly antagonist to coalition presence but would stop fighting if coalition leaved them alone (drug lord, tribal leaders) and d) dedicated antagonists who will stop at nothing to end US/Allied presence (Taliban, Al Queda, etc).

FWIW...the review of Ici is in Battles Magazine #3, now available for free download.

Yours in gaming,

Jack Nastyface

Brian said...

Jack, I've done a lot along these lines the last 15 years or so - starting with a game on the Tuparos in 1995. When we agree that the population and its attitudes is key, then it is worthwhile to try and model that.