Camouflage Patterns

One of the things I’ve been looking at lately, and which seems to be an interest that comes back every so often, has been different types of camouflage patterns, from the earliest interwar designs to the pixelated present.

As for some of my favorite designs, I’d have to say the Swedish M90 is my choice. However, and this is vital-one of the things that makes patterns stand out for me is how obscure they are. Hence, a privately-made pattern only worn by limited units, or one made by a small country, seems to have more of a novelty factor to than a huge standard-issue one. And that novelty factor seems to make it look better.

So, if something like the M90 was used as American standard issue, I’d still think it decent, but would probably have a lower opinion of it. If the classic M81 Woodland was just some obscure pattern, it still probably wouldn’t be my favorite, but I’d think more highly of it. This may seem weird. But I like novelties, and that like is certainly not limited to camouflage patterns.  (This is also why I like 1950s fighter jets with strange shapes, for instance).

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Balancing Assymetric Opponents

As a followup to the last post, how would I balance a scenario between one very strong and one very weak opponent?

This can be tough. The very realism of Command means that it can handily create results similar to historical examples. If those results mean a crushing defeat for one side, so be-it?

There are ways around this. Here’s several, in a sort of order from my “least preferred” to most.

-Use the scoring system to take away extra points for the player when they lose a unit. This makes some sense in some circumstances, but doesn’t in others. I’m often hesitant because it can make some missions more luck-based (That missile rolled a one and hit your fighter, condemning you to only a minor victory)

-Give the player many objectives despite the resistance. This can work, but is a large effort for the scenario designer, and can turn into a slog.

-Make the opponent ahistorically strong. Rollback had a plot that couldn’t resolve this, but in other contexts it could work. A small handwave is often all that’s necessary to generate a much better challenge.

-Make the player side less strong. There are many ways to do this, but the easiest is to insist it’s an immediate crisis and those are the only forces in the area. Command is very good at showing that one squadron of F-15s are quite different from two squadrons backed by AWACS and jamming.

-Finally, make the player the weaker side. I love this concept, and should really have used it more often. While very tricky not to just turn into the Fighter Shot-Down Simulator, if it works, it works well.

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All these can be used together to make a scenario more “balanced”.

 

The exact moment I saw the problem

I’ve talked about about how my “Rollback” plan ended up semi-stalling, but there was one exact “ok-looks like this isn’t working” thought that hit me. So I’ll explain it.

The exact moment when I realized my “Rollback” scenario project was when I was planning Super Tomcats, naval F-117s, and maybe even NATFs launching as part of a large carrier mission-and then realizing that I’d be putting them against the same force that was hopelessly bulldozed by units vastly inferior to that.

I’m sure other scenario authors have had a problem like that.

Red Storm Rising

I got Red Storm Rising. How could I not get it? I’ve played Command, so why not get the book that inspired so many wargames? Why not read the traditional genre classic that simulated the battles in the Harpoon boardgame?

So I got the book and read it. And it was-mediocre. Not bad, in the sense of the horribly bad books I’ve read far too many times. But it just didn’t have the sense of “wow, this is a giant classic”. I think there are two main reasons for this.

The first is that the prose just wasn’t the best. The hopping-around viewpoints to show every front of World War III took away from a sense of continued immediacy, and even without that, the writing wasn’t the most powerful. Although a far different period, HMS Ulysses captured northern-latitude naval combat in a much more intense and well-written way. In addition to that, the book stumbled as well by giving an inevitably contrived explanation for starting the war (and a horribly composed Politburo scene), rather than just saying “The war started, now let’s fight it”, and going past it to the real draw.

The second was not the fault of the book itself. Rather, I think it has to deal with the context I read it in. A lot of things in it that were novel at the time, like Tomahawks and (inaccurately speculated) stealth fighters hitting key targets just don’t seem very awe-inspiring to a post-Gulf War reader who sees them as standard procedure.

Then there’s that I’ve seen so many imitators that the original doesn’t seem so original. To someone who’s seen many Backfire regiment vs. carrier group scenarios, I especially don’t have an interested reaction to watching one in a book. Also unsurprising is the Soviet invasion of Iceland-a pipe dream out of place for a defensive fleet, which only works in the book itself as a jury-rigged surprise attack. Yet after that book, Iceland landings are ubiquitous in WWIII fiction, as if standard Northern Fleet procedure was to attack it that way.
While not a totally bad book, through some things that are its fault and some things that aren’t, I just didn’t find Red Storm Rising the most engaging.

A Gaming Contradiction

The games I can get the most into are the ones I play the least.

This may seem contradictory, so I’ll explain. I’m tired after a long day, and the choice is this. I can play a game with difficult mechanics and/or a huge quantity of text to read. Or I can play one that has very simple and/or memorized mechanics and doesn’t have much of a “failure” option.

Which sounds more appealing?

But just having free time often isn’t there-for the complex games, I often find I have to be in the right mood. I do enjoy them when I’m in such a mood, but without it-it’s not much fun to blearily stumble through a game your mind isn’t in the right state to enjoy.

My most-played games for my “low-thought mode” are:

Command: Modern Air/Naval Operations. Much more if you count the standalone version. Although an extremely complex game, it’s very easy for me (thanks to my mastery) to just make a tiny scenario in the editor, or even look at the database viewer.

Payday 2: Run Four Stores, Jewelry Store, or something similar on a low enough difficulty that it can be engaging without overly challenging.

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Looking at my playtimes, you have:

-Freeform games like Kerbal Space Program and Automation.

-More linear games of all genres. Beat them (if possible) and then be done with it (sometimes). These can be a few hours, or they can be something like XCOM Enemy Unknown, which was much longer.

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Pretty interesting to look at. There’s a huge paradox between a game I’m eager to dig into being played infrequently and one I know well being played often, but that’s how I play.

Wariness About Writing Battle Scenes

Would I look forward to writing a battle scene in a technothriller? Probably not. The one thing I don’t want my battle scenes to resemble is an extremely literal Let’s Play of Command.

I consider using Command to be very useful to get the general feel for how a battle would go, but I wouldn’t use a demonstration scenario as an exact simulator. Having read too many battles in very bad books that did resemble simple after actions reports/let’s plays of various wargames, I fear repeating it.

Plus focusing entirely on numbers takes away from the feel that a good story needs. Losing one aircraft in an attack run but conveying the feeling of terror works far better than losing five aircraft but having it come across as a boring history document written long after the engagement. (I’ve seen both, unfortunately)
If I go for Attack of the Mosaics, which is the most technothriller-esque work of the concepts I posted, or another story of that nature, Command can be used-in a limited way. I do not want the characters to play second-fiddle to the equipment.

One Fighter, Two Adversaries

Here’s an example of the same unit in Command simulating two different opponents. This is a kind of follow-up to a post of mine on Baloogan Campaign dealing with exercise scenarios. An aggressor squadron of F-16s, unnamed but based on the 18th Aggressor Squadron, is deployed.

f-16CMANO

All of the F-16s are the same unit, but have vastly different loadouts. The top six are there to simulate a “light OPFOR”, and are armed solely with short-range missiles. Now, it is worth noting that an ace-proficiency F-16 equipped with high-off boresight missiles is going to be a tougher opponent than say, a scrounged-up MiG-21, but the point of the exercise scenario is to provide a worst-case opponent, while still keeping said opponent in the same general category as the potential foe.

The bottom six are primarily armed with long-range AIM-120 AMRAAMs. Their goal is to simulate a “heavy OPFOR” equipped with more modern, higher-end equipment. They’re still there to provide the greatest possible challenge to the player’s side, and would likely be paired with different aircraft types to simulate even more capable fighters in a truly gigantic scenario.

For an exercise scenario, the same “actor” can play multiple types of “character”.

Command Scenarios I’ve Wanted To Make

Here are some Command scenarios I’ve wanted to make. This whole list would be incredibly long, because of just how excellent the editor is and how much I’ve wanted to make. But a few in my mind right now are (all titles working).

-GIUK-21:

Modern/futuristic GIUK gap engagement.

-Rollback Kickoff

Previously mentioned.

-Three Squared

An attack on a very different and alternate Venezuela. Hugely ambitious, with strict ammo limits, hypothetical platforms galore, a long target list, and an air tempo slowdown. You’d control the USMC Aviation in three days of air strikes on a newly established regime.

-FLAG-21

An exercise scenario featuring carrier and amphibious warfare ship attacks against an OPFOR-state. The scope of it is something I’m debating, and also whether to make two versions-one against a huge “Heavy OPFOR”, and another against a smaller, weaker “Light OPFOR”.

-Sink The Alaska

Vietnam scenario where you use North Vietnam’s aircraft in a sea-attack role to hit American warships bombarding the coast. Was thinking of making a hypothetical Alaska modifiction the biggest target, hence the name.

-Operation Reinforce Padlock

(Had to think of a good name, so I fired up Mgellis’ command Inspiration PadPro generators a few times)

Historically, the Israeli withdrawal from South Lebanon in 2000 led to the quick collapse of their allies. Here, it’s conducted under the umbrella of a high-intensity air campaign against Hezbollah and Syria.

-23:59:59
Cuban Missile Crisis airstrikes. Lua and events to trigger a “delay, then surviving missiles launch” if any one site is destroyed.