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 Post subject: Map Tool
PostPosted: Wed Nov 19, 2008 11:57 pm 
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Location: Poland
<b>edit: The tool has been released, check it's page: http://derwinski.pl/wiki/index.php/MapTool</b>

Hello all!

Some of you may remember me from a long time ago (2000-2002) when I was active in the club and created a GUI OOB Editor for the games. Although I was busy with other things in the last years, I have remained in touch with the club (browsing the forum, responding to muster calls) and tried to play at least one game yearly with some of my friends that are not in the club (so nothing to register in the club).

A recent purchase of Campaign Waterloo and a game with a friend (full campaign) resulted in a desire to have a nice reward after playing for a long time (it will propably end next year), namely to have a nice display of how the forces moved during the entire battle presented on a single image (or rather a series of images, two per turn) that could be watched as a slide show. Thus the Map Tool was born.

I have tried to make it universal (so it would propably run with some ACW or Eearly American games too) as it is configurable via text files. And while I was adding more and more options to it, the program has grown to become useful in a few ways, the option to render all forces in the game on the map is not it's only function now.

In general, you may decide to render a map showing all forces or forces of only one side in full while of the other force only spotted units will be displayed. When an army if fully visible you can see the exact strength of it's corps while when only spotted units are visible you get only a rough estimate in thousands. Of course you may wish not to draw an army at all. What's more the labels on the map show the exact location of those monitored corps in form of a proper symbol shown in the center of the corps (center is calculated from the strengths and locations of all units belonging to that corps, so it's a very precise "center of the mass").

In order to show an army in an encrypted PBEM game, you have to know the password for that side, so while the game is in progress your forces are safe and you can use the tool to just render your army and spotted units of enemy army. After the game completes you can exchange passwords and render complete images.

But there's more than that! For fun I have created a function that could be useful in some kind of an RPG game when one person is the Game Master and the other players are assuming command positions of various corps. Their orders for units are sent to GM and he is the one who executes them, and also he passess reports and messages between players (perhaps twisting them in the process or dropping some messages at all). This can result in a great game full of wasted opportunities which were so common in the era (one corps failing to respond, one corps pursuing not important enemy etc.), while in a normal game, when you see every one of your units, even of allied armies, and can decide every little maneuver of every single battalion it's impossible. I think some of you may have attempted such games in the past, but now they could be a little easier to run using this tool and a normal HPS game.

How does it work? For each commander a separate "batch" (that's how I call a single setting that says what to draw) is defined that enumerates units that he commands (the alternative is to define that only the given leader is "in command", this reduces the visibility to the point where the leader is in the game) and the image that will be rendered for him will contain: all of his units that belong to his command (so for example when you have Ie Corps in command, you see every unit from that corps) plus all friendly units within visibility range from any unit in his command plus all spotted enemy units within visibility range from any unit in his command. Also he can only see the exact strength of his units in command (but in greater detail, in case of Ie Corps you will see it's divisions) while for all other visible forces you only get an estimate. What's about this visibility range? It's a simplification of normal Field of View from game which should be used but it would be to cumbersome to implement it, while on the other hand it's only a problem for friendly units for which spotted status is not stored in the file. So de facto you will get enemy spotted units in field of view and friendly units in visibility range (but you can assume that being so close to friends you get to know something from them through couriers etc.).

Maybe enough of this talk, below I will present some images generated from the Waterloo_Wavreh scenario. So:

All units from all sides shown (this is only for the GM or (in a normal game) you make this after the game ends):
Image

All French units shown and only spotted Allied units shown (in a normal game you can make it while you play):
Image

The same from the Allied perspective:
Image

Command feature, Napoleon in command (little difference from main french view as he is with the army, but he can't see Grouchy's wing):
Image

Command feature, Grouchy in command (he's out of the map so he can't see a thing):
Image

Command feature, Wellington in command:
Image

Command feature, D'Erlon in command:
Image

Command feature, French Ie Corps in command:
Image

Command feature, French Ie Corps with 6th Division of IIe Corps in command:
Image

Command feature, French IIe Corps Cav. in command:
Image

Of course you can make one player commanding more than one corps. Or it can be a division and a corps etc. so in-game reassignment of divisions between corps (Napoleon did this many times) are possible to accomodate, the GM just has to adjust the settings in the batch file.

If you want to see how the config files look like they are here:
http://derwinski.pl/morvael/nwc/global.txt - common settings
http://derwinski.pl/morvael/nwc/local.txt - local settings (the paths to games on your computer)
http://derwinski.pl/morvael/nwc/batch.txt - list of operations to perform

The only thing to do after you will prepare a batch file is to run the tool supplying it with the name of the batch file. Some details in the files may change as I don't consider the tool finished yet (I thought about some additional features).

Ok, now I have presented my case and would like to know what all of you think of it?

Regards,
Dominik

Col. Dominik Derwinski (LoH, OCR, OE, CV, EM, MM)
Commandant de la Division
5th Polish Corps Cavalry
V Polish Corps
L' Armee du Rhin


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 20, 2008 4:25 am 
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Location: Massachusetts, USA
The most important point you covered and that was NOT being able to view ALL troops in a PBEM game. <font color="red"><font size="4"><font face="Impact"><b>HOWEVER, the POSSIBILITY of using the tool in a CAMPAIGN GAME, seems problematic. However, anyone can actually view a campaign game, now, as the is no encryption. </b></font id="Impact"></font id="size4"></font id="red">

As for the usefulness in PBEM games, I can see a use to develop After Action Reports and just show how the game progressed. For that purpose it seems very well suited.

<b><font color="gold">Ernie Sands
General, 1ère Brigade, 19ème Division, VI Corps, L'Armee du Rhin
President, Colonial Campaign Club
</b></font id="gold">


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 20, 2008 2:31 pm 
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Nice work Dominik! I love the concept of being able to see at a glance the strengths of the units under your command. And the totals as best as can be determined of your opponents.

Colonel Bill Peters
Armee du Rhin - V Corps, Cavalerie du V Corps, 20ème légère Brigade de Cavalerie, 13ème Hussar Regiment
HPS Napoleonic Scenario Designer (Eckmuhl, Wagram, Jena-Auerstaedt and ... more to come)


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 20, 2008 6:28 pm 
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Ernie: Anyone can view Campaign game in this tool but the same goes for opening it in the HPS game engine. Without encryption it's only a matter of whether one wants it (and is a cheater) or not. So the logical option was not to try to include some protection if there's none in the HPS game engine (and it would be problematic how to do it anyway). I can't help this. I hope HPS will fix this in the future (and I don't know why they didn't, both the campaign and the battle file could be encrypted with the same passwords and it would be ok).
Yes, AAR's are one possible use of the program.

Bill: Thanks! The strengths of spotted units are even calculated in a similar way to the game, that is units with strength < 10 are counted as strength 8 (usually the size of an artillery battery); with strength < 20 as 12 (larger battery); with other strengths it's 5, 50 or 500 in place of X, XX or XXX shown in the game (so a battalion shown as 4XX would be counted here as 450).

Hmm, no one seems to be interested in an RPG-like game when you only see your forces on the map :) I know, it's hard to organize such game but with this tool I believe the turn generation rate should be as high as 1 per 2 days. 1 day for orders (those who fail to send them are counted as having "failed their command check" and do some actions chosen by GM) and 1 day for turn processing for the GM. I think I could even enchance this tool to generate a bte file for every commander so he could actually load it in the game and see his units as shown on the generated map (other would be not included so he could not cheat etc) in greater detail (but it shouldn't be necessary) - of course all order should still go to the GM and he would move the units.

Regards,
Dominik




Col. Dominik Derwinski (LoH, OCR, OE, CV, EM, MM)
Commandant de la Division
5th Polish Corps Cavalry
V Polish Corps
L' Armee du Rhin


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 20, 2008 6:34 pm 
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John Tiller cannot encrypt the campaign game files as the Campaign Front End cannot translate an encrypted file.

Just one of those things we cant have.

And I am for the umpire game option you talked about. Played in an umpire game a few years back and though it was slow it was fun.

Your tool would be helpful in that area.

Colonel Bill Peters
Armee du Rhin - V Corps, Cavalerie du V Corps, 20ème légère Brigade de Cavalerie, 13ème Hussar Regiment
HPS Napoleonic Scenario Designer (Eckmuhl, Wagram, Jena-Auerstaedt and ... more to come)


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 20, 2008 6:43 pm 
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Maybe we should organize such a game with umpire :) Only NWC has enough dedicated members to make such enterprize worth :) Of course the exact way of communication between the players and the GM and what orders they can send etc. should be decided upon first. On the other hand maybe such rules already exist somewhere in the web.

Isn't there an option to enchance the front end with encryption? Surely they must have the source code for that? Adding it shouldn't be that hard! I remember I even wrote a front end myself (but that was for old Battleground games) a long time ago.

Col. Dominik Derwinski (LoH, OCR, OE, CV, EM, MM)
Commandant de la Division
5th Polish Corps Cavalry
V Polish Corps
L' Armee du Rhin


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 20, 2008 7:09 pm 
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We have had that type of game for some time now. The GM receives all orders from commanders as if they were sent from higher command tolower commands, with appropriate delays, chances of lost or misunderstood orders, etc. The GM makes all the moves, combat, etc and then returns the file to the commanders.

This system was organized by Jean Tessier and has also been used in the ACW club for similar games.

I think the map tool would be of some use in this system, but subordinate commanders would see all of their side units, from the game file. If the game file in never distributed and retained by the GM, then the tool does add another element to the mix and is an interesting idea.

<b><font color="gold">Ernie Sands
General, 1ère Brigade, 19ème Division, VI Corps, L'Armee du Rhin
President, Colonial Campaign Club
</b></font id="gold">


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 20, 2008 8:05 pm 
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So, Ernie as I wrote earlier I could make the tool so it would create a separate savegame for each player, there will be only his units on the map so he could examine them in detail. But should a corps commander see what is the state of each single battalion under his command?

Col. Dominik Derwinski (LoH, OCR, OE, CV, EM, MM)
Commandant de la Division
5th Polish Corps Cavalry
V Polish Corps
L' Armee du Rhin


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 20, 2008 10:19 pm 
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Dominik,

I heard of two such a games during the club history and was commander of Aliied troops in one of them. It was large Echmuhl battle with forces deployed according to the players plan. There were a lot of players - one for each corps and CiC on each side. The game was a real fun and gave a lot in understanding the role of CiC. But it had several drawbacks. Despite best efforts done by the umpires (Rich White on allied side and one of his off-club friends I never got aquainted with)it took more than 6 month to come to conclusion of the first day. During this time a whole team except myself and one more player has changed. With such a number of participants there was a huge amount of correspondence between each other and it became really time consuming - the reason I left the game. Also there were some technical obstacles. The worst of them was lack of normally organised maps. The ones we had (and still have) in CE are either too small to give any idea about the terrain, roads, rivers, etc. or too large to allow any strategic analysis. It came to that I found an old (XVIII) map of the area on internet, senpt some time drawing the roads on it as they are done on the map in game and was planning on this paper. With a lot of troubles when you can't find this very village on the map etc. From what I saw in your screenshots this problem won't be solved. For example how can I, as a French commander (Napoleon) give and order to Groucy "to march along the path Corbaix-Mousti-North-East end of Bois de Sart des Dames-Couture, cover the right flank on the front Bois de la Hussier- hex (161,68) and attack with main force in direction Couture-Lasne-Ohain"? The only way is to open the game with this scenario and start planning. BTW one more problem is lack of named locations on the map. If you have, as we had in the game, restriction to name locations by hex numbers it may turn out a big trouble explaining which side of which forest you meant in your order.

To conclude, I really enjoyed this experience and hope one time to take part in another such a game. But I must warn you that it takes A LOT of mental effort from the participants and even more committment from the umpires. Though I believe this your tool can be very helpful.

It was also mentioned that the tool could be really valuable for after-action reports and for training purposes. Could you drop me a line to anton_kosyanenko[at]yahoo[dot]com so that we could discuss how it really works in detail.

Thanks for your efforts!

<center>Image</center>
<center><b>Eyo Imperatorskogo Velichestva Leib-Kirassirskogo polku
General-Lieutenant Anton Valeryevich Kosyanenko
Commander of the Second Army of the West </b></center>


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 20, 2008 11:02 pm 
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Thanks for such a detailed response. I may have a cure to all problems you have experienced with the maps and orders.

First of all I have updated the files and images attached to the first post so you may check them out. Then I have added one image from the perspective of Bluecher, it's here:
Image

So I have used the tool to generate btl files for each image, except of course it's a French turn so only French side files were generated. You may download them and open in Campaign Waterloo 1.03 without problems. They are here:
http://derwinski.pl/morvael/nwc/frenchDErlon_0002_0_0.btl
http://derwinski.pl/morvael/nwc/frenchGrouchy_0002_0_0.btl
http://derwinski.pl/morvael/nwc/frenchICorps_0002_0_0.btl
http://derwinski.pl/morvael/nwc/frenchICorpsAnd6thDiv_0002_0_0.btl
http://derwinski.pl/morvael/nwc/frenchIICavCorps_0002_0_0.btl
http://derwinski.pl/morvael/nwc/frenchNapoleon_0002_0_0.btl

They contain exactly the same counters as shown on the map, even the strength for allied units is hidden (rounded as I wrote before) so there's no option you can turn fog of war off and see all allied units or their real strength. You only get what you should see. This way you can use normal HPS map for planning your moves, it's only a matter of sending proper files to proper people. Of course the moves should be passed as orders not as moves in the generated btl files as they contain only visible enemy units etc.

Is it what you wanted? :)

Also I have expanded the command feature to have two lists. One is called "inCommand" the other "inControl". The difference is that you get stats on the image of all units "inCommand" but the visibility range is determined only by those units listed as "inControl". This way you can have Grouchy as your only "eye" on the battlefield but see the stats of all units of IIIe and IVe Corps for example.

I hope this tool will really make such RPG game possible, I would love to play it, having one real person for each Corps Commander :)

Regards,
Dominik

Col. Dominik Derwinski (LoH, OCR, OE, CV, EM, MM)
Commandant de la Division
5th Polish Corps Cavalry
V Polish Corps
L' Armee du Rhin


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 21, 2008 1:29 am 
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It solves most of the problems in all the games except CE. The problem with later is the huge area map that is navigated with a tiny jump map (it may be changed in a new patch, I don't know). So if you'd take obligations to organise it I would be glad to take part either as corps or army commander.

<center>Image</center>
<center><b>Eyo Imperatorskogo Velichestva Leib-Kirassirskogo polku
General-Lieutenant Anton Valeryevich Kosyanenko
Commander of the Second Army of the West </b></center>


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 21, 2008 1:38 am 
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As I understand it the jump map problem for CE is not an issue with my tool, just with the game. Of course one can always scroll the map instead of using jump map but I hope it will be fixed in new patch for CE.

I'm afraid I will not be able to run such game as the Game Master (umpire) since I have not enough free time, being a father to a 2-week old boy :) Of course I would be interested to take part in the game as a corps commander. I own Waterloo and Russian Campaign. I think Waterloo would be good for such a game with it's big space to maneuver (that will result in many corps operating independently like Ney's wing or Grouchy's wing). Plus I could help to setup the tool for the game of course.

Do the rules of how the communication "protocol" and the umpire part look like are posted somewhere on the web? I would be interested to read, for example, such rules as you have used in the game you mentioned. Of course I could try to think about and design such rules but it would be good to see work already done and used in practice.

edit: I have updated the files once more, unlimbered spotted artillery shows real number of guns as is the case in the game, only unlimbered artillery shows "anticipated" strength. I'm also considering the removal of enemy leaders as their identity can be found when turning off the fog of war. Another option would be to created an encrypted pbem-like file (bte) instead of single player (btl) with the enemy password out of knowledge of the player.

Col. Dominik Derwinski (LoH, OCR, OE, CV, EM, MM)
Commandant de la Division
5th Polish Corps Cavalry
V Polish Corps
L' Armee du Rhin


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 21, 2008 10:24 am 
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<blockquote id="quote"><font size="3" face="book antiqua" id="quote">quote:<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"><i>Originally posted by morvael</i>
<br />So, Ernie as I wrote earlier I could make the tool so it would create a separate savegame for each player, there will be only his units on the map so he could examine them in detail. But should a corps commander see what is the state of each single battalion under his command?

Col. Dominik Derwinski (LoH, OCR, OE, CV, EM, MM)
Commandant de la Division
5th Polish Corps Cavalry
V Polish Corps
L' Armee du Rhin
<hr height="1" noshade id="quote"></blockquote id="quote"></font id="quote">

Certainly. This is not modern warfare where the commander is back in a HQ. These men saw most of what was going on except for when the smoke started gathering or terrain blocked LOS.

Men like Napoleon, Wellington, etc made sure that the battlefield was easily managed to the best of their ability.

I would say this: if you wanted to get really accurate just show the player what the COMMANDER can see. And then add in what couriers relay to him.

Colonel Bill Peters
Armee du Rhin - V Corps, Cavalerie du V Corps, 20ème légère Brigade de Cavalerie, 13ème Hussar Regiment
HPS Napoleonic Scenario Designer (Eckmuhl, Wagram, Jena-Auerstaedt and ... more to come)


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 22, 2008 12:10 pm 
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Will this tool be available soon for download?

Colonel Bill Peters
Armee du Rhin - V Corps, Cavalerie du V Corps, 20ème légère Brigade de Cavalerie, 13ème Hussar Regiment
HPS Napoleonic Scenario Designer (Eckmuhl, Wagram, Jena-Auerstaedt and ... more to come)


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PostPosted: Sat Nov 22, 2008 10:34 pm 
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Bill: I think the functions I have included and described earlier (in command, in control) would allow for what you are asking for with the "commander only FOV", except that it will not closely follow FOV from his position, rather a command range, but I think it's justified.
Look how the brigade and division commander's area of command work. Their command range is not limited to what they see only to certain distance. Being over a hill doesn't erase a brigade or division from the commanders knowledge etc. And since FOV would result in a very chaotic view I think it's better to just say that the commander "sees" all friendly units within a certain range from his current position (one can imagine that some he sees directly, that others report to him via aides du camp and that others he just remembers where he sent them to). There's only a matter of decision how far should the view extend from the commander. Currently it's equal to visibility but since this may result in a too long radius during the day and too short during the night I think I'll add parameters to adjust this range in the batch file and we would in practice decide what should be the range of "vision" for a corps or army commander (10? 20?).

The tool will be available for download next week I think. I want to make it as close to finished as possible before release. And I'm considering switching from btl files to bte with encryption so that one could not turn of the fog of war and see enemy commander's names and their unit names.

What do you think about those two new elements?

Col. Dominik Derwinski (LoH, OCR, OE, CV, EM, MM)
Commandant de la Division
5th Polish Corps Cavalry
V Polish Corps
L' Armee du Rhin


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