Chess & Wargaming: Musings & Angles

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Chess & Wargaming: Musings & Angles

Post by HexCode » 2020-01-15 17:14, Wednesday

Elsewhere in this forum, I posted:
I'm "returning" to PGF's technical territory save, perhaps, for launching a new topic about chess and wargaming. :dunno
So, first things first...
Preamble

A 19th century, Continental European professor gave one more fiery lecture in an empty university auditorium. Some said he mistook the silence of the non-existent audience to have been an unmistakable sign of a lecturer's triumph which had left the students speechless. Others speculated that the professor was, indeed, extremely happy orating in deserted auditoria...

Important Clarification

My intent here isn't to discuss chess per se. Rather, I will attempt to place the game squarely within the long-standing traditions of strategy wargaming. However, from time to time, I may be carried away and focus on chess per se. I'm only... human, you know ! ;)

Some Introductory Comments

The following excerpt is from a book entitled "The Complete Wargames Handbook", 2nd Edition -- Ch. 5: "History of Wargames". The author is Mr. James Dunnigan.

Chess is one of the oldest surviving ancient wargames. Games similar to chess go back thousands of years. Chess is also one of the more accurate wargames for the period it covers (the pre-gunpowder period). Chess is a highly stylized game. It is always set up the same way, the playing pieces and the playing board are always the same. The board is quite simple. Each of the pieces has clearly defined capabilities and starting positions, much like soldiers in ancient warfare. Given that ancient armies were so unwieldy and communication so poor, it is easy to see why each player in chess is allowed to move only one piece per turn. Because the armies were so hard to control, the battles were generally fought on relatively flat, featureless ground. Then, as now, the organization of the army represented the contemporary social classes. Thus the similarity between chess pieces and the composition of ancient armies.


Frankly, I'm not particularly interested in the types of "historical wargaming" that one may (?) want to pursue with real or virtual chess board and pieces.

THAT SAID:

I'm intrigued by the many "strategy wargaming" angles that chess ultimately points to.

Clearly, chess is an "I-Go-You-Go" game. So are many tabletop and computer wargames. What about hexes though ? Well, I recently found out that some early tabletop wargames were square-based ! However, let's not forget that the tabletop game of Checkers utilizes a chessboard where all movement is diagonal. Given the apparent simplicity of Checkers, it's not really that hard to "read" the board (very stylized map, if you like) and play the game. A hexagon's geometry facilitates "map-reading" in instances where the map is less stylized than in Chess / Checkers. Therefore, the early transition from square-based grids to hex-based (honeycomb) grids in wargames should not be surprising. The transition was part and parcel of the emergent multi-terrain differentiation in wargaming.

Ok, then, let the... games begin ! :evil
Last edited by HexCode on 2020-01-19 17:09, Sunday, edited 1 time in total.

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Some Consequential Quotes

Post by HexCode » 2020-01-16 02:33, Thursday

From the Internet ==>

Chessic Wargaming takes the classic game of chess as its point of intellectual and aesthetic reference. Any departure from chess tradition present in wargaming is fair game for critique.

. . .

At first sight, Chessic Wargaming may come across as extremely conservative, even blatantly reactionary... In my opinion, such isn't the case. I consider it quite worthwhile to put various "departures" under a critical microscope so as to ascertain what exactly is gained and what might be lost every time one adopts some "departure"...


And from that "other" Web venue...

I have the perfect example of "hobby conservatism" here. Some of you may know that, in recent years, a chess movement called Chess360 has been gaining steam and acceptance. What Chess360 does is to shuffle the first row pieces according to the laws of probability while maintaining the symmetry between the white and black starting position. In essence, all "received" opening theory goes out the window... The overwhelming majority of grandmasters and masters have gone up in arms. You see, a depreciation of their "investment" in "standard opening theory" is simply non-negotiable. Without it, these "mainstreamers" feel kind of... naked. As for a certain small minority of... adventurous souls, well, they did embrace the... revolution.


AND

... to me the meaning of victory in these games is a complex answer. It's not just capture the flag or hex. It's the collection and management of resources. Did you upgrade correctly three scenarios ago when new units became available ? Did you buy ships when you needed tanks ? If you had tanks did you upgrade those tanks to be competitive with the enemy tanks ? Or did you choose the air superiority route ? What if you updated and bought new fighters only to find them useless in 3 straight naval scenarios ? If you want instant gratification this is the wrong game.

If you want to know victory in a PG 5 star game, it's not capturing the final hex for victory. Victory is what happens after you capture that final hex and how you prepare to take on the next scenario 20 times over. And in a good campaign you can have 3 countries fighting with 120 units each max on the board. Unlike Chess where you need to make one good move suddenly you need to make 90 good moves. That's about the best way I can explain why I think these games have stood the test of time.


AND

... PG was obviously abstract (WWII chess plus RPG).


There's a lot of red... meat here ! And yeah, chess is a wargame ideally suited for strategy wargaming under conditions of perfect information. This isn't the end of the story, of course; not by many, many miles... :evil
Last edited by HexCode on 2020-01-17 23:42, Friday, edited 3 times in total.

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Re: Chess & Wargaming: Musings & Angles

Post by Radoye » 2020-01-16 15:30, Thursday

Would be interesting to try a PG-style game but with chess-like play (only one piece moves OR attacks per side per turn). Would almost make it feel like a real time strategy game rather than a turn based one.

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Impulses...

Post by HexCode » 2020-01-16 17:20, Thursday

Radoye wrote:
2020-01-16 15:30, Thursday
Would be interesting to try a PG-style game but with chess-like play (only one piece moves OR attacks per side per turn). Would almost make it feel like a real time strategy game rather than a turn based one.
Something along similar lines... :)

Article:
The Contradiction of Computer Board[war]games
Games Domain Review, 1998; Author: Mr. Bruce Geryk

Excerpt ==>

An excellent example of good board wargame design is the “impulse-based” wargame system that Courtney Allen pioneered at Avalon Hill with "Storm Over Arnhem" and "Thunder at Cassino", and which Don Greenwood continued and refined in "Turning Point: Stalingrad" and "Breakout: Normandy". The basis of the wargame was an area-movement system in which players alternated “impulses” that consisted of moving and attacking with some or all of the units in a given Area. Among other things, this was an attempt at achieving “faux simultaneity", as previously mentioned. The mechanics were very simple, but the wargames were generally great (although "Storm Over Arnhem" suffered from a static historical situation). What made this so? This system follows some rules which makes it extremely enjoyable. It is highly interactive, in that every action by a player requires his opponent’s input, if only to roll dice. Each impulse is short enough that players don’t get bored waiting for their opponents to finish their moves. (As opposed to, “OK, let’s get together on Saturday. I should be able to finish moving Army Group South in one day".) However, the wargames are anything but trivial. "Turning Point: Stalingrad" (and its successor game in the system, "Breakout: Normandy") boast a tremendous depth of gameplay because of the player being in a constant state of needing to do more than he can. Wargames are incredibly tense affairs because each move has implications for the overall situation on the board. An impulse can only be spent to activate one Area, but a player will literally have dozens of moves he will want to make, so he will have to choose carefully and decide exactly what he wants to accomplish. Executing a sound strategy involves the use of many impulses, so he will have to evaluate not only his possible moves, but the moves his opponent could make which could make life difficult. Both players will be parrying and thrusting with each move. One word describes the gameplay: superb.

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Re: Chess & Wargaming: Musings & Angles

Post by Ale » 2020-01-16 18:46, Thursday

Radoye wrote:Would be interesting to try a PG-style game but with chess-like play (only one piece moves OR attacks per side per turn)
of all i've tried through the years (not PG style nor WW themed) I can't remember any good nor recomendable title... which doesn't mean there isn't, if someone liked something of the type. besides most of those i tried are not quality to remeber as games generally and thematics not for everyone's taste (fantasy or futuristic etc). again, some might be good i've just forgot about... same goes for simultaneous turns, "we-go" and similar

good luck with that, i have what i need for some time - dosbox games... wow, Asterix there! :p

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De Facto Play Balance

Post by HexCode » 2020-01-17 17:00, Friday

From that "other" Web venue...
... it might be very interesting to face a stronger opponent under the same material conditions. It's like in Chess. You can give up your Queen and play against a weak opponent, but most people will prefer to find a better opponent instead.

Here's a historical snippet, courtesy of David Shenk {The Immortal Game}:

Kieseritzky {of same name chess Gambit fame}, a former math teacher from Estonia ... dominated the chess scene at the Café de la Régence in Paris, giving lessons and playing games for five francs an hour. His specialty was defeating lesser players even after removing one or more of his pieces at the game's start. This is known as "giving odds"; playing without one of the Knights, for example, is "giving Knight odds".

What does all this have to do with 5 Star General "House Rules" (HR) ? Plenty, I contend ! I'm certainly not suggesting that pecuniary concerns are relevant, God forbid... As far as "lesser" players are concerned, the traditional experience / prestige adjustment levers have often been called upon to restore some general sense of balance in instances where there have been glaring opponent mismatches...

In my opinion, it's the underlying analogy that's kind of relevant as well as... refreshing. Namely, what if a player were to refrain from moving a particular unit for one or more turns ? More generally, what if one side were to forego taking any action or moving units during some turn ? What if the turn in question were to be randomly determined ? Clearly, the possibilities are endless here...

As for the "poor" AI module, well, a human player may as well adopt some self-policed HR to his liking provided he doesn't expect his electronic opponent to... return the favor; not due to... programmed malice, of course !! :lol

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Psych Me Up...

Post by HexCode » 2020-01-18 05:54, Saturday

From that "other" Web venue...
You may know that the World Chess Championship 12-round match is currently ongoing. Carlsen is a young Norwegian. Anand is an older Indian. Now, let's imagine the following situation. What if it were allowed for some megaphone to be blaring the Norwegian national anthem ? To boot, what if some projector were to simultaneously be showing clips of Norwegian resistance heroism in WWII on some wall visible to Carlsen ? Under such hypothetical circumstances, would Carlsen be playing differently ?
AND
... when they were playing PG while at the same time listening to their choices of martial music, they fearlessly attacked enemy static defenses with very little concern for any rather punishing rugged defense consequences.
Here's what all this tells me. Human, ostensibly purposive action is propelled and circumscribed by a mixture of strictly rational, conscious and unconscious elements. Some of us know our math. Basically, the programmer has already coded a pseudo-random factor into the likelihood of a rugged defense mishap taking place. The martial music and the reputed psychological exuberance that it fosters act like a probabilistic modifier resulting in a subjective expectation or likelihood assessment of such mishap actually happening. Conceptually, one may even think of some... magical intervention whereby the underlying, coded formula is instantaneously changed to accommodate the player's psyched up condition only to revert back to its original mathematical form, once the attack is resolved one way or the other...

Ok, now I know what to do every time I get the... itch to play chess, romantic, 19th century style. Fearless piece sacrifices, here I come. :)

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Many, Many...

Post by HexCode » 2020-01-19 17:25, Sunday

From that "other" Web venue...
And in a good campaign you can have 3 countries fighting with 120 each max on the board. Unlike Chess where you need to make one good move suddenly you need to make 90 good moves. That's about the best way I can explain why I think these games have stood the test of time.

What's inescapable here is that the very notion of multi-scenario campaigning together with programmatically imposed unit presence maxima point to an all too common wargaming desire ==>

... back in the late 1970s, quite a few SPI-style "grognards" were putting pressure on the company to publish wargame titles sporting thousands of unit counters. SPI obliged and, well, published some virtually unplayable... monstrosities. Having said that, and this is critical, "grognards" put such games to good use that just didn't include actual play. Namely, they studied "things" the same way one studies detailed military history monographs with maps and tables.

The preceding allows one, perhaps, to draw a sharp distinction. Although chess can certainly be the subject of intense study, the nature of its study bears no resemblance to that popularized by Mr. James Dunnigan of SPI fame ("analytic history - grognard tradition"). Mercifully, this leaves us with two, not necessarily mutually exclusive, thrusts:

1) Wargame campaigning coupled with many, many units is exactly that !

2) By the way, the aforesaid situation allows a wargamer to play and play and play !

The second observation invites future commentary. :evil So, let's focus on the first one ==>

Wait, wait ! It just occurred to me ! What if I were to fire up my chess program and set up an endgame (?) position pitting, say, 20 Tiger II tanks (errr, I mean Queens) against each other ? In any case, that would be "AI Warfighting", right ?

AND

Programmers have steadfastly maintained that the obvious AI weakness necessitates that crude quantitative remedies be employed to "balance things out". I believe that this is not the main issue here. In my opinion, the critical issue has nothing to do with either strategy or "grognard" wargaming preoccupations. Rather, it's SSI's "discovery" of the Video Wargamer. In a statistical sense, a Video Wargamer derives his ultimate satisfaction from decimating hordes of ill-led enemy units. Yeah, it's that simple...

AND

Back in the late 1990s, a custom scenario became quite popular in PBEM Club circles. It consisted of an... empty map. Each side was given something like 30,000 prestige points at the start of the game. Then the new unit "purchase-fest" would begin. For awhile, each eliminated unit would be "replaced" by a new unit purchase... Clearly, the... killing orgy is not something that can be excluded from H2H play... Hey, I don't have a... date tonight; I may as well go to SSI's virtual arcade...

Ok, the preceding was intended to highlight the irreconcilable differences between playing chess and certain wargaming play tendencies.

NOW:

What can these differences be attributed to ? Aesthetics ? Play logic approaches ? Deeper (darker, as well ?) psychological desires and dispositions ? :)

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Time, Timing & Pace Factors

Post by HexCode » 2020-01-20 16:25, Monday

From that "other" Web venue...
... the aforesaid situation allows a wargamer to PLAY and PLAY and PLAY !

Over the last couple of decades, 5-15 minutes long "sudden death" chess matches have been increasing in popularity, especially when such play is facilitated by the Internet. Quite a few chess players cannot stand the slow pace of playing chess under the "classical" time controls (e.g., first 40 moves in 2 hours and so on).

Waaait a minute ! What about all those PG World "AI Warriors" who spend hours playing in campaign mode ? Why is it that they don't object ? Well, the answer is rather obvious, isn't it ? It's not the absolute length of time but rather the pace of playing that's at issue here...

Going back to chess, chances are that end game play will be significantly flawed in quick games. Yet, there are analysts who find it challenging to examine end game positions by spending inordinate amounts of time on them. Is this fun ? Well, for them, it is...

1970s and 1980s tabletop wargame "grognards" invariably spent a lot of time scrutinizing "things" for historical accuracy and so on. More often than not, they read military history books, memoirs and articles. Was this fun ? Well, for them, it was... Never mind that all this wasn't even playing anything... It was more like studying ! :)

Closer to home, all-human play may be Online or via PBEM. The pace factor is critical here. Online play is akin to playing "rapid" chess. PBEM is more like playing chess under "classical" controls. Therefore, certain hobbyists will be attracted to Online play and avoid PBEM just on the basis of what play pace they consider "fun". Naturally, the obverse will be true for some other hobbyists.

Is that it, then ? I don't think so ! You see, there's another important factor here that shouldn't be ignored; purposive play continuity...

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Purposive Play Continuity

Post by HexCode » 2020-01-21 17:17, Tuesday

From that "other" Web venue...
Does chess exhibit interesting, purposive continuity other than the one inherent in single game play ? Let's take a look at multi-game matches between two players.

1) A results sequence such us "1-0", "1 1/2 - 1/2", "1 1/2 - 1 1/2" and so on certainly exhibits some continuity. However, this continuity is akin to a post facto narrative. It's not very purposive other than, perhaps, to "suggest" particular play styles (e.g., risky all-out attack, defense aiming at a draw) for the remainder of the match.

2) The late world chess champion Bobby Fischer once said that chess matches are all about progressively undermining the opponent's will to resist and ultimately humiliating him... Ok, there's some psychological continuity here as well, for sure. It's purposive in the sense that one fights the man, not just the chessboard...

Now, consider this:

It's not just capture of the flag or hex. It's the collection and management of resources. Victory is what happens after you capture that final hex and how you prepare to take on the next scenario 20 times.

Clearly, the poster isn't particularly impressed by standalone scenario play ! Instead, he practically equates SSI PG-style play with campaign play (presumably against the AI module). So be it. I fully intend to explore the somewhat more natural relationship between a game of chess and standalone scenario play down the line. However, the poster's unmistakable focus on campaigns is an analytical godsent here.

There's "official" chess and, then, "unofficial" chess-like variants. If one is gifted with sufficient creativity / imagination, there's nothing to stop him from experimenting with special, "inter-game" rules. This is the beauty of the world of tabletop games. One doesn't depend on the good will of some programmer who, most likely, will be preoccupied with coding the AI module's behavior as opposed to studiously reflecting on the rules...

There's a certain minimalist quality to "official" chess which appeals to both logic and aesthetics. Those brave souls attempting to come up with "unofficial" chess-like variants may want to keep it in mind. In other words, piling on layers upon layers of rules and special cases with abandon increases a game's complexity for sure. At the same time, it invariably creates a mess, not a playable game. Since the early 1960s, many, many wargaming... messes claiming to be, well, wargames have seen the light of day. :)

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Orderly Progression...

Post by HexCode » 2020-01-22 18:18, Wednesday

From that "other" Web venue...
What about playing without Fog of War ?

The "playing without Fog of War ?" part is infused with some analytical utility. Consider "official" chess. Clearly, the game does not entail "Fog of War" (FoW). This implies that "I-Go-You-Go" wargame systems not possessing / activating FoW are "chessic" extensions conceptually residing closer to chess. In other words, FoW in wargaming is not a "first generation" deviation from chess.

In my opinion, the transition from square grids to hexagonal ones was a "first generation" deviation from "official" chess. An equally important transition was from deterministic to probabilistic (i.e., stochastic) combat resolution. That said, there's nothing that stops adventurous / creative souls from coming up with "unofficial" chess-like variants employing probabilistic move and / or capture rules. For example:

a) Allowing "Castling" moves or "en passant" captures on the basis of die roll outcomes.

b) "Queening" could also be made subject to die roll outcomes, generally forcing "Sub-Promotion".

Clearly, there are plenty of possibilities here.

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Strategy Wargaming: Just One "Chessic", Conceptual Extension

Post by HexCode » 2020-01-23 16:38, Thursday

From that "other" Web venue...
Time out. Let's bring out the big guns. Here's an important snippet, courtesy of David Shenk {The Immortal Game} ==>

How could one game symbolize so many different entities, structures, relationships, notions? It largely came down to the fact that chess had been designed as a symbol to begin with. Out of the box, it came furnished with a wide variety of generic attributes that lent themselves to an even wider variety of metaphorical applications: chess was a battle between two groups, each stratified by social ranking, contesting for dominance over a finite piece of geography, interacting in a dynamic so complex it seemed to take on a life of its own, each army manipulated by a player, battling each other with wits rather than brawn, employing both tactics (short-term planning) and strategy (long-term planning), in a game that could never truly be mastered.

It was a long list of attributes, any combination of which could help fuel particular metaphors. Anyone in need of a dynamic symbol to explore and convey elements of war, competition, hierarchy, political power, battle for resources, control by a higher power, meritocracy, the nature of thought, futility, abstract movement, complexity, or infinity had a choice vehicle standing by for metaphoric flight.


Clearly, strategy wargaming foots the bill here !

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Chess: Proto-Wargaming Notions (Part I)

Post by HexCode » 2020-01-24 04:53, Friday

From that "other" Web venue...
Here's a partial list of chess features that easily translate into proto-wargaming notions:

PLAY AREA

The chessboard is a flat, square area. A "first generation" deviation from chess could be a flat area of irregular shape. Another one could be a "stack" of flat areas (e.g., 3-dimensional chess). The concept of a (usually) flat map isn't far behind...

TERRAIN

The chessboard comprises 32 light-colored squares and 32 dark-colored ones arranged in strict, alternating fashion. A light-colored Bishop can never enter a dark-colored square. Similarly, a dark-colored Bishop can never enter a light-colored square. Here one finds the proto-wargaming notions of:

Terrain Differentiation
Terrain Impassability


PIECE MOVEMENT

In chess, the movement of the Queen, Rooks and Bishops is both linear and limited by the edges of the chessboard. Such is not the case with the King, Knight and Pawns.

The movement of the King and Pawns is linear, of course. However, it's subject to specific range constraints. Hello unit movement allowance...

The Knight's movement is also subject to specific range constraints. However, this is not all. Knights move in non-linear fashion. Hello unit composite (i.e., multi-directional) movement capabilities...

One more thing about Knights; these pieces can "jump over" other pieces. Hello unit ranged fire capabilities...
Last edited by HexCode on 2020-01-26 16:12, Sunday, edited 1 time in total.

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Chess: Proto-Wargaming Notions (Part II)

Post by HexCode » 2020-01-24 23:36, Friday

From that "other" Web venue...
Here goes a chess feature that readily generates a few proto-wargaming notions:

PIECE CAPTURE

In chess, piece captures are two-sided affairs; namely, there is the capturing piece and the captured piece.

Capturing piece ==> Hello unit attacking successfully...

Captured piece ==> Hello unit defending unsuccessfully...

Clearly, "chessic" combat is rather simple. There's no room for meaningful defense when it comes to any particular, "attempted" capture. In other words, a capture not violating "the rules of chess" is subject to a deterministic resolution; no mystery here... All that said, a number of proto-wargaming notions stare us in the face:

1) What sort of wargaming ideas are lurking underneath the term "capturing piece" ?

a) Barring board adjacency, there's movement prior to combat. Hello wargaming unit movement phase...

b) Upon combat resolution, the capturing piece ends up occupying the square vacated by the captured piece. Hello wargaming unit advance, immediately following favorable combat resolution...

2) What sort of wargaming ideas are lurking underneath the term "captured piece" ?

A) A captured piece does not have the option to somehow retreat and continue being present on the board. Instead, it's removed from play. Therefore, wargaming unit retreat, immediately following unfavorable combat resolution is a notion triggered by its "chessic" absence ... :idea

B) Wargaming usage of terms such as "kill", "destruction" and "elimination" have... bedeviled the hobby since the 1970s. The advent of video wargaming has caused a major rift between "unit icons visually going up in flames" and the conceptual essence of a unit being "neutralized". Add rousing audio-visual effects and a bit of ideological / ethnic / religious animosity and you get the... picture. :evil In other words, no conceptual room for ineffectual or surrendered military units...

NOW:

We wanted to stress that the units are abstract, like chess pieces on the board, so that the players don't get the impression that a tank actually represents one tank.

... "flat" profiles sent a clear message of chess icons in an abstract game (this is also why I proposed for PG single-soldier icons to match single-tank icons for multi-tank battalions).


Unfortunately, "chessic" parlance such as "a knight", "a bishop" and so on has often led to erroneous interpretations of what unit icons are all about. Namely, here goes "a tank", "a gun", "a cruiser" and so on. Unsurprisingly, such interpretations have been very popular with wargamers focused on tactical play. The obverse side of the coin is that strategic / operational play "traditions" have suffered over time...
Last edited by HexCode on 2020-01-26 16:14, Sunday, edited 1 time in total.

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Chess: Proto-Wargaming Notions (Part III)

Post by HexCode » 2020-01-26 05:37, Sunday

From that "other" Web venue...
Some more chess features readily generating a few proto-wargaming notions:

CASTLING

In chess, castling involves the simultaneous moves of one's King and Rook. Hello wargaming movement phase not necessarily restricted to just one unit.

Also, castling's feasibility is severely constrained by a multitude of situational caveats (e.g., no pieces or opponent threats must be located / exercised in between the King and the Rook). Hello wargaming highly specialized, situational rules.

"EN PASSANT" CAPTURE

In chess, the "en passant" rule involves a Pawn capturing an opposing Pawn in an... unorthodox manner (i.e., treat the opposing Pawn's initial, 2-square advance as a two step event thereby allowing the capturing Pawn to capture the opposing Pawn as if the latter "momentarily" paused its initial advance on the very first square).

"En passant" captures are also severely constrained by a few situational caveats.

In my opinion, the most significant caveat is that the capturing Pawn has only one opportunity to capture the opposing Pawn "en passant"; immediately following the opposing Pawn's initial, 2-square advance. Once again, hello wargaming highly specialized, situational rules and, most importantly,

unit Zone of Control (ZoC).

(SUB)-PROMOTION

In chess, when a Pawn somehow manages to reach the last rank, it must immediately be replaced by a Queen, Rook, Bishop or Knight. In the case of replacement via a Queen, the terms "promotion" and "queening" are widely used. In all other cases, one talks of "sub-promotions". The choice of the replacing piece rests solely on the wishes and judgment of the player "owning" the Pawn. Yet again, hello wargaming highly specialized, situational rules and, most importantly,

unit upgrade.

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Chess: Proto-Wargaming Notions (Part IV)

Post by HexCode » 2020-01-27 18:21, Monday

From that "other" Web venue...
Additional chess features readily generating proto-wargaming notions:

STARTING POSITION

In classic chess, the starting position is characterized by a double symmetry. Piece placement is symmetrical in reference to the chessboard (ranks and files). Moreover, each side possesses identical pieces.

In wargaming, a starting position is often referred to as a scenario. Moreover, the units on the map are sometimes referred to as Order(s) of Battle (OoB).

Earlier under this topic, it was suggested that wargame maps can be viewed as "inviting" extensions of the time-honored chessboard. To this effect, geometrical symmetry is abandoned for good (Chess360... timidly shows the way). Moreover, it almost never happens that the opposing OoBs are identical in composition / capabilities; yet another symmetry abandoned for good...

It's often opined that, compared to wargaming, chess is... impoverished. Why ? There's one and only one starting position. Well, such statements betray a lack of imagination. For starters, Chess360 is there for anyone to see...

In addition:

Contrary to certain "conservative" tendencies in wargaming, a "scenario" can readily be viewed as a scenario generator. While playing, each half-turn generates a new battlefield snapshot. Conceptually, there's nothing standing in the way of regarding each and every one of such generated battlefield snapshots as a "scenario" in its very own right.

Going back to chess, it's only a certain time-honored tradition that ascribes absolute importance to the "classic" starting position. One can readily imagine all kinds of challenges emanating from play actually commencing with chess snapshots of various types (e.g., end-game positions).

Bottom line is this: Scenario setup quality is only limited by a designer's relative lack of imagination / creativity. Always remember, though; unlike Mr. James Dunnigan (of SPI fame), this poster doesn't consider chess to be part of "analytic historical wargaming", ok ? :evil

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Chess: Proto-Wargaming Notions (Part V)

Post by HexCode » 2020-01-28 15:47, Tuesday

From that "other" Web venue...
Additional chess features readily generating more proto-wargaming notions:

TERMINATION CONDITIONS (Part I)

In classic chess, a game may end in a number of different ways. Here are some:

PLAYER BEHAVIOR

1) The game is abandoned (i.e., assumed or actual resignation) by one of the players, thus resulting in a loss for the player who "resigns" and an automatic, corresponding win for his opponent.

2) The game is simultaneously abandoned by both players, the implied consensus thus resulting in a mutually agreed upon draw.

I can't imagine any wargamers not being familiar with these types of player behavior as they squarely apply to wargaming per se as well...

TIME... INTERVENTION

When clocks enter the fray in classic chess, a player may lose just because his "flag fell" (i.e., he ran out of playing time). If so, it matters not an iota whether, just prior to the... cruel event, he had a "practically won position" or whatever...

Post-modernity and technology have increased the popularity of timed games, of course. This is a widely observed cultural phenomenon with far reaching implications. Therefore, it shouldn't come as a surprise that many a wargamer prefer to play under technologically... policed time constraints.

CHECKMATE

In classic chess, checkmate describes a board position in which:

a) A player moves a piece (Including castling) directly and immediately threatening the opponent's King.

AND

b) The opponent can't immediately respond with some move of his which would effectively put his threatened King (momentarily at least) "out of harm's way" (i.e., moving the King to a "safe" square, interposing a friendly piece to protect the King or capturing the piece that threatens the King).

In all such instances, the player who can't "protect" his King loses; correspondingly, his opponent automatically wins. Most importantly, the game stops right then and there !

Apparently, wargaming terms such as "automatic victory" and "instantaneous victory" have been around for decades.

The consensus definition of "automatic victory" describes a rather rare situation in which the winning side somehow manages to "eliminate all enemy units on the map" during play, thereby abruptly ending the contest. Clearly, "automatic victory" cannot ever happen in classic chess; reason being, Kings can never be captured, just threatened...

The consensus definition of "instantaneous victory" describes a plethora of situations where the winning side somehow manages to fulfill any number of agreed upon or programmed "winning conditions" during play, thereby abruptly ending the contest. Clearly, classic chess checkmate is a specific case of "instantaneous victory".

By the way, wargaming "tradition" has it that "automatic victory" is just a special type of "instantaneous victory". Being such a... traditionalist myself :) , how can I object ?

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Chess: Proto-Wargaming Notions (Part VI)

Post by HexCode » 2020-01-29 15:57, Wednesday

From that "other" Web venue...
Additional chess features generating (?) a few proto-wargaming notions:

TERMINATION CONDITIONS (Part II)

In classic chess, a game may abruptly end in a number of different ways, automatically resulting in a draw (tie):

STALEMATE

If his King is not in check but that player cannot make any legal move.

INSUFFICIENT MATERIAL

No side possesses sufficient pieces to ever effect checkmate.

3-FOLD REPETITION

The very same identical board position is reached (i.e., repeated) for the 3rd time during a game.

50-MOVE RULE

If no captures and no Pawn moves whatsoever take place during a continuous, 50-move game segment.

Well, I can't think of any important proto-wargaming notions inherent in the above. That said, wargaming play systems are replete with special rules and exceptions. Therefore... :evil

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The Value of the Pieces

Post by HexCode » 2020-01-30 16:54, Thursday

From that "other" Web venue...
Complete Chess Strategy (Vol. 1, Ch. 3) by Ludek Pachman ==>

This evaluation is at the moment an abstract idea with no connection to a particular position. It represents the average value of the individual pieces i.e. their mutual relationship in the majority of positions, and in no way to be taken as absolutely valid for concrete situations.

The value of the pieces is in fact relative, depending on the character of the position and on the actual material possessed by both sides.


In my opinion, evaluating units within some given wargaming play system is way, way more challenging. The nature of multi-factor complexity is such that evaluations of this sort tend to be extremely situational. Add some probabilistic elements and, well, you know... In any case, it's AI programmers who must struggle with such... hairy problems in some unavoidably quantitative manner.

Consider the following relevant, conceptual illustration ==>

Asymmetric Battlefield Realities

{PG Variant X} is particularly "fond" of qualitative asymmetry.

If one looks at SSI's PG flagship battlefield paradigm, he will quickly realize that it's essentially quantitative in scope and approach. Simply put, the AI purchases many, many units and sends them to their doom... The "doom" is guaranteed by the human campaigner commanding a core force that rather quickly becomes way more experienced than any other unit on the scenario map...

To be fair, unit experience can either shine or turn out to be hopelessly... banal. Interestingly enough, the quantitative nature of unit experience (i.e., levels / stars) affords content authors a multitude of degrees of freedom in how it should be put to... "challenging" use. The fact that SSI's stock content has been decidedly mediocre in its treatment of unit experience should make some content designers pause before they uncritically emulate Mr. Chuck Kroegel's ways... :ihope

The observation that "mainstream" H2H play culture has almost exclusively revolved around SSI's stock "amputee" scenarios is old hat. Unfortunately, the slavish adherence to SSI's play system in toto has led to well known H2H play... monstrosities such as the "cheap anti-tank unit defense" (POLAND, HUSKY anyone ?). The "monstrosities" in question have been fuelled by the easiness and abandon with which players have been hitting the "new unit purchase" and "unit disband" buttons...

Let's now leave SSI's manifested preference for crude, quantitative displays behind us. Most equipment "spec" files sport an array of unit types differing in their theoretical battlefield capabilities. It's not that difficult to find, say, two tank class unit types where one clearly outclasses the other. By way of analogy, the Queen theoretically outclasses the Rook in chess. Terminologically speaking, the "underdog" unit / piece exhibits theoretical relative weakness while its mightier opponent exhibits theoretical relative strength.

This is where battlefield asymmetry rears its... challenging head. The pinnacle of {PG Variant X} content design is to be found in the judicious use of equalizing factors. The first example that comes to mind is terrain, of course, impacting on such important things as combat initiative and resulting fatalities. Generally, the presence of equalizing factors levels the opposing units' "toe to toe" confrontation field by compensating for an "underdog" unit's theoretical relative weakness via the introduction of a vulnerability to hang over its opposing unit's "head" (turret ?) :) .

The {PG Variant X} miniature scenario entitled "NORDIC SS" (absolutely no ideological glorification intended) is exactly what the doctor ordered as far as a demonstration is concerned. Relative to Soviet armor, the fielded Nordic SS armored units are, well, monsters. However, these "monsters" exhibit a serious vulnerability (certainly not weakness). Namely, the Soviet tactical bomber units in conjunction with inclement weather have a good chance at denying Nordic SS armor the capability of restocking their depleted ammo and fuel stocks... Hence, the equalizing asymmetry !!

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Machine Intelligence ? (Part I)

Post by HexCode » 2020-01-30 23:20, Thursday

Chess playing computer software have been around for awhile...

From the Internet ==>

Back in 1950, Alan Turing put forward the idea of an 'imitation game', in which a human being and a computer would be interrogated under conditions where the interrogator would not know which was which, the communication being entirely by textual messages. Turing argued that if the interrogator could not distinguish them by questioning, then it would be unreasonable not to call the computer intelligent, because we judge other people's intelligence from external observation in just this way.

The Test allows Turing to avoid any discussion of what consciousness is. It seems to provide a scientific, objective, criterion of what is being discussed — but with the rather odd necessity of 'imitation' and deceit coming into it, for the machine is obliged to assert a falsity, whilst the human being is not.

Turing's 'imitation game' is now usually called 'the Turing test' for intelligence.


Here's a couple of relevant snippets, courtesy of David Shenk {The Immortal Game} ==>

In chess, the equivalent question was whether a computer player might someday fool people into thinking it was a human player. Any computer could be programmed to respond to certain moves with other moves, or to value certain pieces above other pieces. But could human-like play involving intuition, creativity, risk taking, and opponent psychology ever be convincingly mimicked by a machine?

. . .

The symbolic message was unmistakable. Without actually mimicking the function of the human brain, well-designed computers could now perform some extraordinarily complex tasks as well as, if not better than, human beings. Whether or not we would ultimately call such machines "intelligent" would be far less relevant than what tasks we would actually allow them to perform.


Ok, how "well" (or not) do AI opponents play wargames ? Does it matter ? :evil

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Machine Intelligence ? (Part II)

Post by HexCode » 2020-01-31 17:24, Friday

Machine intelligence in playing chess inevitably leads to similar (?) phenomena in wargaming. There are many interwoven issues, of course. Not unexpectedly, the central question is that of AI's (aka PO -- Programmed Opponent) playing competence adequacy (or lack thereof).

Here goes an interesting angle from that "other" Web venue...
Let me pose a rather... provocative question. What if there were a human whose PG play style exactly matched that of the AI module ? Would it make a difference ? In my opinion, an AI-style human:

1) Would make it quite improbable, if not virtually impossible, to play a typical longish campaign from start to finish because of the obvious real life obstacles; it would take too too long !

2) Wouldn't be an adaptive learner.

3) Thus, his playing style would be quite predictable, including any rudimentary "programmed response" randomization.

4) Would gravitate towards scenarios in which his playing style would shine.

5) Would present a real challenge only to a thin slice of human opponents. In particular, much more skilled human opponents would be royally... bored !

However, let's not get completely carried away by such gratuitously assumed human playing skill superiority... In the final analysis, what is really preferable ? The manifestly antisocial behavior routinely exhibited by online human players under "virtual" anonymity's mighty protection or the admittedly... pedestrian but committed behavior of certain software ?
So, yeah, H2H play sounds great when one just reads about it. More often than not, the actual experience is, well, something else ! Like with everything else in real life, the practical significance of machine playing competence adequacy is relative; actually, very, very relative ! Practical... misanthropy :) is somewhere in there as well. :evil

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Foundational Comparisons

Post by HexCode » 2020-01-31 19:51, Friday

From that "other" Web venue...
Culturally as well as practically speaking, chess has had an advantage over other more recent, technologically enabled hobbies; namely, a wooden board and 32 wooden pieces were all that was needed for one to play against a human opponent. Unlike the computer-enabled games of the last 30 years that have constituted a practical invitation for hobbyists to bask in post-modernist insularity, traditional games such as chess, backgammon, card games and so on have been "Socialization Enhancers" ! Sadly, the emergence of computerized versions of such traditional games has pushed quite a few of their hobbyists down the insularity path...

Chess marvelously combines a simple set of rules, tremendous complexity and universality (i.e., no linguistic localization is necessary). However, chess can certainly be enjoyed in a "beer & pretzels" way too. At the other end of the hobby's spectrum, one comes across such professionals as grandmasters, often seriously targeting... competition prizes. Of course, there are many possible intermediate degrees of involvement here such as playing in clubs, studying opening theory and so on.

. . .

When it comes to the very important issue of the learning curve, I'm afraid that the wargaming hobby has gotten it all wrong. Take relatively recent advances in cognitive psychology suggesting how to teach young children chess. Basically, you start them off by presenting them with simple endgame positions. Much later, you introduce them to complex middle-game positions. Only at the very end you introduce them to the complexities of opening theory... What is one to say regarding the routine plunge into campaign mode accompanied by the hyperbolic congratulatory messages ? Well, it's rather obvious, is it not ? The commercial entities marketing "PG-style" games don't give a "rodent's posterior" about the "learning curve". I suspect that they consider a "beer & pretzels" approach to their game titles to be essentially incompatible with any kind of "learning curve"... :evil

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The Crux of the Matter...

Post by HexCode » 2020-01-31 20:01, Friday

From that "other" Web venue...
... the effect of the limitless AI buildup (coupled with generous Prestige trickle) was drastically different. It was like playing chess against an opponent who had replaced all his Pawns with Bishops. And could replace ones he lost at will.

I believe that the preceding post snippet hits the nail on the head in a very decisive manner. First off, this has absolutely nothing to do with "grognards" and their non-strategy preoccupations (e.g., weaponry looks & effectiveness modeling, historically accurate Orders of Battle and so on). It has everything to do with fundamental playing preferences regarding strategy gaming.

Basically, chess thinking fashions strategy as well as tactics within the context of a minimalist gaming environment. As such, it focuses on qualitative depth. All this is intensive.

Wargaming, on the other hand, tends to emphasize the quantitative dimension. It is extensive.

I'm no statistician. That said, I would speculate that not that many hobbyists are avid chess players and wargamers. Somehow, I find it hard to believe that the requisite signature preferences at play can be easily reconciled on an individual basis... However, exceptions are always kind of fascinating. :)

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Finalmente...

Post by HexCode » 2020-01-31 20:14, Friday

Elsewhere in this forum, I posted:
I'm "returning" to PGF's technical territory save, perhaps, for launching a new topic about chess and wargaming and the occasional, offbeat post. :dunno
Well, I'm now done "here". Since Mr. Spock of Star Trek fame was portrayed as an avid 3-level chess player, it's somehow appropriate to wish everyone:

Live long and prosper.
Last edited by HexCode on 2020-07-28 18:23, Tuesday, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Chess & Wargaming: Musings & Angles

Post by Ale » 2020-01-31 20:57, Friday

must admit no interest of H2H play (anything) except that i was trying some online games in brief period in past. habit since 90s as internet or any local network wasn't really present nor connectable... just relax against machine periodically

thanks for "mike", but i'm mostly done with my ideas :lol

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