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Computer Assisted Kriegsspiel/CAKS (Warnnig : Long post)

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Computer Assisted Kriegsspiel/CAKS (Warnnig : Long post)

Post  djpwilk on Tue Dec 30, 2008 8:10 pm

I think the term 'computer assisted' captures the process somewhat better than 'computer moderated'. The Schaumhoffen game was human moderated - by me, assisted by the computer and it was still alot of work! However having said that I think there is alot of milage in this type of gaming, even for those that get to play face to face from time to time. Accordingly, here are some further thoughts, in the hope of getting others inspired to try it out.

The 'computer assistance' came in two forms:

1) cyberboard, a free software utility for creating and distributing player maps, and for the umpire's master map.
2) 'ACTS', an online dice server that provides a digital randomiser along with a message logger such that arbitrary numbers of dice with any number of sides can be rolled and a message attached. The results go into a log that can be accessed at a later date.

From my experience the main issues for this type of CAKS are:

1) Umpire workload
2) Keeping the thing alive over a long period of time with potentially many days between actions, and dealing with players dropping out and joining part way through.
3) Developing a useable means of communication (eg for maps, orders etc).

For (1), the most important thing is to keep the scenario simple. Especially in terms of the number of individual units involved. When I ran a game it seemed that most of my time was spent arranging the many units on the individual player maps as opposed to actually resolving battle outcomes.

(2) I addressed by making the weekly (we managed weekly turns more or less) reports quite descriptive, trying to convey a sense of being there, with an element of roleplay, rather than depicting the game as a training exercise. Assigning names to officers including ADCs and real world names to regiments I think helped here, however I did over egg it a bit, which created more work for me.

For (3) I think cyberboard works great, however it is impossible to get around the need to create a separate map for each player. This can involve quite a bit of work and is also somewhat error prone, hence my suggestion to keep the number of individual units (and probably players) down. Also it is necessary to construct a new CB gamebox whenever a new map or new unit counters are required. Finally, the ACTS service is great, since it keeps a log of all dice rolled and all umpire messages attached, which players only get to see after the game. I felt that using ACTS ensured that my players knew I was being honest and fair, and that they would have a chance to review my umpiring decisions after the game, which is a feature I know I would appreciate if I were a player.

Finally, I would suggest that a larger throughput of shorter scenarios works best for CAKS. In fact I think a very nice way of doing a longer running CAKS open to more players would be to create a simple, stylised campaign linking actual battles, which allows for players to involve themselves in a larger and longer running narrative but also provides convenient points for players to drop out or join in. This could be quite a nice way for members of the group to try their hands initially at playing a few CAKS battles and hopefully generate some discussion afterwards. It would be great to have an online KS community that runs and plays CAKS games as well as swapping tips and rules for face to face games.



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