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Category: Wargame Design

Lua and air defense logistics in CMANO

Lua and air defense logistics in CMANO

Holy moley it’s been months since I’ve done a blog post. Anyways had a great discussion on modeling air defense in CMANO on Kushan’s Discord and wanted to add it here so I remember the lua code in the future. Hope it helps you too.

The conversation started with structure and how you could play with sides to model an integrated air defense. Bottom line is you can have a side that is friendly to two other sides who are not friendly with each other. This makes that central side (node) important as it is the link between the tow. Destroy it and you break the link. So it is possible to model a network hierarchy of sorts with central control centers and substation.  It is pretty straightforward but I think there is a hard stop at 2 or 3 layers. If you look at Operation Lighting Strikes scenario in the included scenarios you can find this setup with the Pakistani air defense sides.

The conversation then veered to the logistics part of it and how to reload SAMs. Most SAM units have attached magazines so they’ll first shoot what’s on their mounts and then pull from their magazines. Problem is you tend to shoot through these relatively quickly and most nations store a significant number in a nearby site. The good news is that CMANO allows you to group an ammo unit to an existing unit and it will reload from it. So it is possible to add hardened bunkers, ammo trucks, ammo revetments filled with reloads to a group of air defense units and they’ll draw reloads from them. CMANO Lua does have a way for you to refill mags and mounts by code as well but I like to group the units together because it gives the player another opportunity to impact the system by hitting the central ammo dump.

Now we come to a couple of twists to this.

Let say you want model ammo trucks or helicopters delivering ordinance.  You can’t start out grouped because the ammo is loaded instantly regardless of range. So this is how you would do it.

Event: Reload unit once ammo carrier comes in range.

Trigger: Unit Enters area or maybe even unit remains in area.

Action: Lua Code (Example)

ScenEdit_SetUnit({Side=’Nicaragua’,unitname=’Chinandega Ammo’,group=’Chinandega Army Base’})
ScenEdit_SetUnit({Side=’Nicaragua’,unitname=’Huete Munitions Bunker’,group=’Huete SAM Site’})

So in this CMANO event once the ammo carrying unit enters the area trigger it fires the lua code which is a set unit using the side, unitname and group name.

Now let’s look at this a little differently.

Let’s say you want to model a slight reaction delay to surprise attack or an encounter where the defender is not at a wartime posture or might be disorganized or something like that.

Here is how I model it:

  1. Empty the mounts of mags of all units that will incur a delay. This is probably true of most MANPADS, gun positions or AAA in vehicle parks but may include exposed SAM sites.
  2.  Add ammo carrying unit. Don’t group with units (yet).
  3. Create an event which has a damage or destroy trigger to catch the first bomb hitting. Then use then use the Lua code above.

So the intent is to model the crews getting the message of an attack and then manning their systems. It is not 100 perfect but it works for me.

Hope this helps!



Busting Block

Busting Block

Creative blocks are something all creatives face at least once. I’ve suffered from it in the past with many pursuits and spent significant time exploring it with reflection and tons of reading. Here are some thoughts and suggestions that have helped me and I hope they will help you.

Your creative energy is a limited resource which must be grown, managed and guarded.  You grow energy by being receptive to your ideas and faithful in executing them. Similar to a physical exercise program doing a fun thing consistently builds strength, stamina, and confidence to do more and grow. You manage your energy by knowing it is a limited resource, everything you do has a cost and considering risk versus return. There are literally thousands of ways you could choose to spend your time so you need to focus like a laser on the things that give you something back. Good things cost too. Try cutting back on reading or TV and see what happens. Finally, you need to guard your energy as there are tons of negative things out there that do siphon it away. The biggest offender is our constant connection to social and news media which by design is meant to keep you constantly looking at and processing mostly negative stuff.  You likely only really need a few minutes a day to focus on the good aspects (information and friends) so limit your exposure and save all that processing for the good stuff.   The other big offender is not maintaining your health. Your body is the engine that drives everything so do your best to take care of it and get a good night’s rest. It absolutely matters.

Your ideas are absolutely nerdy and stupid. So were the ideas of Tolkien, Spielberg, Roddenberry, and Lucas. Really think visions of magic-fingered aliens, glass-jawed weapons of planetary destruction, fuzzy-footed munchkins and pointy-eared bastards made sense or scored dates when first brought up?  Of course not!  What mattered was they were authentic to themselves and creative visions and that resonated with audiences.  They didn’t even try to live up to anybody else’s idea of what is cool and creative to be successful and neither, should you.  Their reward was being happy, cool, rich, loved dorks who got to do it again and again. Think about that, Poindexter.

There are literally thousands of recipes for borsch but the best I ever had was my grandmother’s. She knew how she liked it and through experience and feel knew how to get it there. We all loved it and a dank bowl was never served.  Your work should be the same. Don’t get too hung up on exact formulas and historical or data accuracies.  Go with what you like, test it and get it to meet your goal. History wasn’t certain and nobody cares how many cooks are in the mess tent as long as the 101st Airborne is there. Consider that and others will be ok with the result.

Finally, your environment matters so mind it. Build yourself a space filled with things that make you happy and nostalgic. My bunker has a shelf full of games and books, and a computer desk covered with pictures, open books, some dice, a drawing pad and lots of little-scribbled notes. I always have music playing and sometimes even an old movie on TV. This chaos keeps me focused and if I drift it’s to something great. Likewise, I only invite fun like-minded people who want to have a good time in. The good ones want to be part of a tribe that is building something worthwhile. Value and support them and they’ll return the favor.

Nuff Said. Go do.


Providing Value in Game Encounters

Providing Value in Game Encounters

Every encounter in your game should be meaningful to your players. Meaning is gained by rewarding or penalizing players psychologically or their side or characters mechanically. This doesn’t mean the impact has to be earth-shattering “I have the power” or ” lost my mojo” kind of thing but it should give something back for their efforts.

Mechanical awards and penalties are easy to come up with as most game systems offer them as part of the game design. These include points toward or against level advancement, addition or attrition of the enemy or gain or loss off loot. It is critical to scale these appropriately to the situation and overall tale. Its okay to give them a Star Destroyer early on if the story is short and sweet or it will have some critical immediate use. It’s not so fun if it’s the start of a long campaign and they’re cruising around using it to pockmark every low-level planet in the Universe.

Psychological awards are a deep subject that many people have dedicated careers, books and millions of dollars exploring. I don’t think you need to be Frasier Crain to succeed in game design though. People like to be in charge of their lives and exciting stories. Nobody likes to be bored even if they are rich, famous or powerful. These two statements should guide you in developing your own awards and the focus should always be on what you are providing not expecting. I used the word, their, in this article for good reason!

Your job as a game designer, scenario editor, writer or game master is to give players the pieces to form group narratives. Game and role-playing enjoyment are directly linked to the draw of collaborative storytelling in that players find it much more enjoyable if feel they are a critical team member crafting an authentic story or plot. This mirrors the same intrinsic values (authenticity, competency in work, connectivity to others) we as humans hold dear and it is carried over into our fantasy lives as Conan, Dead Pool, Patton, H.R. McMaster or Master Chief. Likewise, when we value extrinsic values such as meaningless wealth, fame and power we become bored and unfulfilled.  The Picture of Conan on his throne looking bored to tears tells a tale!

Providing and encouraging unique action in an encounter is critically important. I figured this out quickly in the 90’s when I figured out the back and forth control rhythm needed in Sega NHL hockey to score on my roommates at will. The first couple times it felt great and I tortured a Peachbelt star pitcher with it but the resulting rage quits and dorm room battle royal wrestling matches quickly filled the action void the challenge less routine left. It is utterly worthless (sometimes painful!) to give players a repetitive combat or challenge less role play that yields exactly the same as the combat before it. You must come up with unique experiences that allow players to be creative and yield interesting results.  You must also encourage it from them by adding unique challenges or twists to each so they don’t hang their hats on routine.  They will actually thank you for it!

These are my current conclusions on this but definitely open to a dialog on it. I like people and learning from them.

Pushing Through Cold War Scenario Creation Blocks

Pushing Through Cold War Scenario Creation Blocks

Oddly the most historically constraining time period for me to build wargame scenarios in is the Cold War. This is mostly due to the fact that the main protagonists, the US and USSR, were tied down in various proxy wars all over the place leaving little room for hypothetical conflicts to occur without deviating from the course of history too much.  There is also the ever looming spectre of WWIII in Europe followed by an apocalyptic nuclear war as well.  Finally, most of the key battles in this thematic trope have been done repetitively throughout modern wargaming history particular naval gaming.

This rigidity is definitely a product of my wargaming past but I don’t think I’m alone on this one so I’ve decided to walk through how to break most of the hangups.

First, consider that Cold War history had no scripted AI. It was largely reactive.  East and West definitely had larger strategies (rollback, containment, détente, insurgency etc.) but Truman and Stalin never pitched Afghanistan and Vietnam. It was the little things that happened along the way that led Khrushchev and Kennedy/Johnson there.  Your scenario themes and narratives should probably work the same way. Don’t think about the endgame think in the chunk of time you’re building in. It will open up options to you.

Next, consider that European colonialism came to an end during this time period replacing many governments which the Cold War protagonists were keen on recruiting as friendly powers. Could you imagine what the to-do lists of the KGB and CIA were like in 1960 when half of Africa suddenly had new governments? You could do a complete Twilight Struggle game on that alone! Not to mention all the old historical antagonisms that bubbled back up. The chances for deviations are significant; exploit that to build great scenarios and narratives.

There is a book called The Global Cold War by Odd Arne Westad that really wraps together Cold War history and strategy into the end of colonialism and birth of nationalism well.  You’ll need to stay caffeinated while reading but its brilliance is its focus on what was going on in the rest of the world during the Cold War rather than Europe.  You’ll learn a lot and your game will benefit from it.

Next, consider that considerable power projection each side had. The United States had the advantage early on thanks mostly to the logistics needs of WWII, however, the Soviet’s quickly gained in capabilities. The US was able to supply or deploy in strength to Korea, Lebanon, and then Vietnam. The Soviets conducted large airlifts to Angola and then Ethiopia in the 70’s.  These lifts could have happened anywhere and both sides had the resources and armaments to spare.  Do not let distance be a hang-up as it clearly wasn’t in history.

Now let’s address the elephant in the room, nuclear war. Despite all the conflicts that had gone on during the war the US and USSR never had one.  The closest they came was the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Yom Kippur War and a false alarm during the 80’s. It is safe to assume that if these events didn’t lead to an exchange of nukes it likely real life it wouldn’t in your scenarios. Although on second thought what if it did?  Does it really matter?

This brings us to our final point.

These are games and they are supposed to be fun. Fun is achieved by making sure the scenario has action, there are problems to solve and there is some narrative for a player to get sucked into or create. These elements should come before everything else including model, order of battle, historical and political accuracy.  On the entertainment side of things, it’s an art that is supported by the science.  The best scenarios you’ve ever played have these elements.  Walk through it and do it. It’ll make it more fun for you and your players.

Anyways this is what I got on this one. I hope it helps!