Realism, Omniscience and Quantum Mechanics in Wargaming.
Quantum physics has revealed that the electron
does not function like a real particle, because it does such things as
going from one point to another without travelling through the intervening
space. Rather than visualising it as a very tiny sphere, it is more accurate
to think of an electron as the chance of an event of the electron-collision
type occurring in a given area of space and time. In the same way, instead
of trying to simulate each action and movement on the battlefield, thinking
about events in a more symbolic way may allow you to create a system
which concentrates on the most important aspects.
Sequence not time
A battle can be considered as a sequence of
events. The time interval between each one is relatively unimportant,
only the order in which they occur is critical. If A and B are having
a shootout then all you need to know is who gets hit or runs out of
ammo first. Traditionally wargames tend to use turns of an equal nominal
time length and within each of these there is a chance for an event
to occur. This approach results in large numbers of dice rolls where
the result is that nothing happens. Instead dice rolls could be used
to go straight from one significant event to the next, rather than using
them to decide whether each distinct possible occurrence did or did
not happen within an arbitrary time slot.
Rather than individual dice rolls being a virtual
shot, they can be used for more abstract and fundamental probabilities
such as who shoots who and which of several events happens first. Probabilities
do not necessarily need to be resolved in the chronological order in
which they would occur. If a batch of dice rolls are required to resolve
a situation, then later dice rolls may modify the previous ones.
Any events which are subject to the same probability
modifiers can also be lumped together. For example the chance of hitting
a target is basically proportional to the number of shots taken, which
is directly related to running out of ammo, so a test can be made for
the combined probability. If there is a 'success' then a second supplementary
test can be applied to find out which of the two has occurred. Although
this introduces a two stage dice roll, the second roll will not always
take place, so it may be quicker than making two separate rolls.
One approach to realism is to load the game
with details, but these may not necessarily make your simulation of
reality more accurate as they may be irrelevant. Worse still they may
actually make the game less realistic. In a game players are making
tactical decisions which in reality are made by the troops from a limited
amount of information. If the players have more information than this
then they can use this to influence decisions in an unrealistic way.
This implies that in order to achieve a high level of realism it is
necessary to use role-playing aspects to limit the players in an appropriate
In a skirmish game, for example, the players
are broadly speaking in the role of a squad leader, although they are
also likely to make decisions for individual troops. If their principal
role is that of a squad leader then keeping meticulous records of individual's
ammo levels may reduce rather than increase realism because it allows
the players to make use of information that the person making the decision
in reality would not have. 'Wargamer's omniscience' is a difficult problem
to get round, as the players can see the whole table, and have all kinds
of information which they shouldn't have. Hidden movement rules for
example are often slow and laborious to implement, but this problem
is exacerbated if players can use unknown information and 'telepathy'
to make all their troops function as one well-oiled machine.
The Undecided Cat
Another feature of quantum physics is the probability
waveform. Particles can exist in an undefined state, described by a
probability waveform. When this state is tested, this collapses and
the particle snaps into a particular state. It is not that the experimenter
doesn't have the information about the particle, but that the information
is only decided when the test occurs. Schrodinger devised a famous thought
experiment based on this principle. A cat would be placed in a sealed
box and a particle detector would release cyanide into the box on a
50/50 chance based on the particle state. If the particle decayed then
the cat died, if not it lived. The twist was that if the particle state
was undetermined then this implied the cat would also be both simultaneously
dead and alive, which common sense says is impossible. In reality when
the consequences of a particle's state are magnified to a macro scale,
for example by killing a cat, then the waveform collapses and the state
Applying this system to wargaming, if the player
should not have access to information, for example about ammo or casualty
status, then it may be best to leave it in an indeterminate state until
either the situation is investigated or has an effect on another event.
This prevents players from using that information and also reduces record
I am currently working on a skirmish system
based on the above principles. It has been played in prototype form,
but still requires the rough edges taking off and some detailing. When
it is a bit more developed, I will post it on the site.