The Problem of Time and Turn Limits in CG Scenario Design

CTKnudsen

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I am currently involved in preliminary attempt to mesh an operational layer computer game with ASL in an effort to create a sort of a campaign battle generator to have an ongoing campaign.

Here's the website and forum for the op layer game, Theater of Operations: World at War, and here's the link to my first AAR where I try to do too much, and discuss how it turned out.

Anyways, to make a long story shorter, I find there are several issues that arise from making a semi-random scenario based off input from a operational layer system. Force Selection and TOE, map selection, and determination of victory in each tactical (ASL) battle seem reasonably easy to implement, although I will admit that in the AAR above I go about a lot of that the absolute wrong way, and thus learned some!

The biggest problem to me seems to be one of time/turn length. For each ASL scenario generated, the amount of operational time for the battle will be dictated by the op layer; a battle will take place in a set time frame, say from 1244 to 1400 hours.

Now ASL is meant to represent a two-minute turn. Standalone scenarios determine number of turns almost purely as a function of victory conditions; how many turns will it take side X to do VC Y, then trim to force a bit of time constraint on the attacker, then test. In CGs, scenarios are usually meant to represent action over a given block of time, usually a day, half-day, or period of a few hours' action. The standard here seems to be a variable 5-8 turn limit per scenario.

But in the developing system above, there will be several factors that are all (semi)random, that will be operating together, and which makes it problematic to say that 4, or six, or 5-8 turns will be ideal.

First, force selection will be generated by the operational layer, not a playtesting process, and sides may very well be poorly matched.

Second, maps will almost certainly be randomly generated, although a control as to the number of maps used will be in place based on the rough size of the battle area within the op layer, which is dependent to a degree on the size of the units involved.

Third, scenario (battle) victory conditions will be virtually non-existent; the only real metrics put back into the operational layer will be losses from each side, and amount of territory gained/lost.

So it seems as though there are several options. One is to just say that every battle involving one map will be five turns, two maps get seven, and three maps get eight, or something similar, maybe with a variable length. Or I could just assign a set variable length to every scenario regardless of other parameters. Or I could say that you get one ASL turn for every 10/15/20 Op layer minutes.

Now not helping things is the fact that I am really an ASL newb who's getting in over his head, so I don't have a dependable yardstick to say what is more or less likely to work.

So I throw it out to you, collected ASL grogs! What do you think? If you were to use Theater of Operations as a CG battle generator, what would you like to see in the ruleset for translating the Op layer into ASL terms?
 

Carln0130

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I am currently involved in preliminary attempt to mesh an operational layer computer game with ASL in an effort to create a sort of a campaign battle generator to have an ongoing campaign.

Here's the website and forum for the op layer game, Theater of Operations: World at War, and here's the link to my first AAR where I try to do too much, and discuss how it turned out.

Anyways, to make a long story shorter, I find there are several issues that arise from making a semi-random scenario based off input from a operational layer system. Force Selection and TOE, map selection, and determination of victory in each tactical (ASL) battle seem reasonably easy to implement, although I will admit that in the AAR above I go about a lot of that the absolute wrong way, and thus learned some!

The biggest problem to me seems to be one of time/turn length. For each ASL scenario generated, the amount of operational time for the battle will be dictated by the op layer; a battle will take place in a set time frame, say from 1244 to 1400 hours.

Now ASL is meant to represent a two-minute turn. Standalone scenarios determine number of turns almost purely as a function of victory conditions; how many turns will it take side X to do VC Y, then trim to force a bit of time constraint on the attacker, then test. In CGs, scenarios are usually meant to represent action over a given block of time, usually a day, half-day, or period of a few hours' action. The standard here seems to be a variable 5-8 turn limit per scenario.

But in the developing system above, there will be several factors that are all (semi)random, that will be operating together, and which makes it problematic to say that 4, or six, or 5-8 turns will be ideal.

First, force selection will be generated by the operational layer, not a playtesting process, and sides may very well be poorly matched.

Second, maps will almost certainly be randomly generated, although a control as to the number of maps used will be in place based on the rough size of the battle area within the op layer, which is dependent to a degree on the size of the units involved.

Third, scenario (battle) victory conditions will be virtually non-existent; the only real metrics put back into the operational layer will be losses from each side, and amount of territory gained/lost.

So it seems as though there are several options. One is to just say that every battle involving one map will be five turns, two maps get seven, and three maps get eight, or something similar, maybe with a variable length. Or I could just assign a set variable length to every scenario regardless of other parameters. Or I could say that you get one ASL turn for every 10/15/20 Op layer minutes.

Now not helping things is the fact that I am really an ASL newb who's getting in over his head, so I don't have a dependable yardstick to say what is more or less likely to work.

So I throw it out to you, collected ASL grogs! What do you think? If you were to use Theater of Operations as a CG battle generator, what would you like to see in the ruleset for translating the Op layer into ASL terms?
Hi. Let me start with the ASL time scale. Now it is true the "by the book" time scale is 2 minutes per turn. However, and I don't know how many scenarios you have under your belt of ASL or how many you own, the average turn in ASL seldom represents two minutes. It often represents anywhere from 10-20 to an hour or more, depending on the scenario. Check the scenarios in your possession and weigh what you see in the description of the action against the turns allotted. Often times the description will revolve around a multi-hour or even multi-day battle.

ASL is design for effect and an interesting blend of abstraction and deep detail. More than anything else though, the game creates a narrative for the action you, as a designer want to reproduce. Things such as game length and such, usually factor into game balance and playability more than into trying to mimic a real life time frame.

Examine what you are trying to do and decide what you think a good time limit for a competitive game would be.

Second, CG's and scenario's both are designed with a historical battle in mind. During this battle, during the time period X and X, these forces fought with an objective of Y for one side and Z for the other. So now the design challange is how to represent that in a fun/balanced way that people will want to try.

In your case, there is a much different situation. You are modeling a campaign that may have happened, but with battles that take place soley based on the actions of the players, as opposed to the more scripted manner in which CG scenarios take place now. So because you don't know what forces from what they have available the opposing players are going to bring into any battle, balance on the tactical scale of ASL is almost impossible. It will only exist on the operational scale of the larger campaign you are fighting. Set a time limit you feel is fair and go with that.

Lastly, and I apologize for not getting down to the bottom of your thread before begining my reply, knowing how to design for ASL really does come from having an understanding of the game of ASL. Otherwise, you ould design something into a scenario or CG that has major reprucussions and unintended consequences on the very aspects of the scenario you are trying to model. Am I saying don't try to design until you are a grognard? No! However, make sure you always run your stuff by guys who are, so they can point out the rules complications that may apply to your choices.

Hope that helps.
Carl
 

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Thanks for the input Carl, you raise some very helpful points!

Your reference to the design for effect philosophy is illuminating. I knew this as an abstract concept, but you made me realize that what matters is not whether 6 or 8 turns better reflects a 40 or 120 or 300 minute time frame, but what effect I want to have at the end of the day. And that is to have a generated battle that allows players to resolve parts of a campaign narrative in a fun way. One of the good things about the Theater of Operations design is that it includes an in-game battle resolver, so that one does not have to play out battles that are going to be super-short, or that are obvious overruns, etc - the battles with less fun potential, that is. You can therefore concentrate on the battles that have more potential for a fun, even contest.

I think you are right that I need to just go with something, and the variable turn limit appeals to me precisely because it provides a fudge factor that I like. Your point about the range of time periods covered by a "turn" is correct, and perfectly justifiable by the near perfect control that ASL gives. Heck, on my platoon warrants' course we were given something like 45 minutes to do a single dismounted platoon attack over a relatively short distance, and a lot of that was taken up with doing a commander's recce, setting up fire support, and giving orders, to say nothing of maneuvering to the objective and assaulting it - something that in total might take two or three turns in ASL. Six minutes into my first platoon attack as platoon leader I think I was still talking to the company commander and telling him what was going on, much less starting to give orders!

I have very little experience with ASL, and that a long time ago, but even then I much preferred the make-your-own narrative that a CG offered over the one-off competition of a scenario. That is why I am excited about the more flexible (at the cost much of the historical fidelity that a HASL provides, to be sure) campaign possibilities of the Theater of Operations game. Of course, that game is being designed to resolve battles with potentially any tactical level game, so long as one is willing to put some thought into porting battles from the operational to tactical levels. ASL is only one of many potential options.

One advantage that I do have is that Theater of Operations is a long way off, so there is plenty of time to refine and test. By then I should be better at ASL, too! But should we get that far, I definitely plan to put out a more developed call for playtest, and hopefully get the experienced feedback that you are talking about.
 

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As Carl said, an ASL turn is as stretchable as your great grandma's knicker waistband. The best way to look at it is like a TV film with the advertising breaks (the ops group, recon, medic treatments from the previous clash, supply refreshes, etc) removed, you just get the film scenes.

Excuse me for going back to basics, stuff you have almost certainly considered, but it helps me gather my thoughts. The most important thing is the overall picture, IE what is the distance and time scale of your higher level (HLG) operational game. If you are thinking of a HLG scale of a day or above then ASL as a low level (LLG) resolution might not be the best choice, maybe AP's Panzer Grenadier would be more suitable. If you are talking in terms of a HLG scale of 4-6 turns per day (3 day, 1 night to 5 day, 1 night for summer, more night/twilight proportion for winter obviously), then ASL would be suitable at LLG. The HLG and LLG scales must be compatible and complimentary.

As you noted from your own training experience, even with the most trivial training scenario there will be non-trivial initial 'dead time' where nothing much happens, combat wise. The attacker, depending upon the situation may have to await the gathering of forces strung out along the line of advice. Once the attack order is given the attacker will have to manoeuvre, flanking moves have the risk of getting lost. You then have the real battle, but after that there will be consolidation on the objective and the various post battle housekeeping tasks (medical evacuation, gathering scattered elements, mopping up, etc). Even the traditional German immediate counter attack will take from half to a full hour to develop, for similar reasons. In all but the most intense battle, in a 6 hour period you might see only 2-3 hours on and off fighting. Even within those 2-3 hours you will see a lot of dead time where sub-elements have to recce, plan, organise, take and reorganise after hitting a MG position, for example.

Though an ASL turn is 2.5 minutes in theory, with a 6 turn scenario taking 15 minutes, few humans could manage that pace. I would suggest rather that an ASL turn represents anything from 5 minutes to 20, closer to 20 in a very good chunk if indeed not a majority of cases. So we are talking in the order of 3-4 ASL turns per hour in a more historical setting.

Next to consider is the changing pace of ASL play since ASL came out. In the early days 8-10 turn scenarios were common, now 6 or even less seems to quite common. This is due to a combination of greater player rules and micro-tactics knowledge gained from playing the game and limited time. This is very much a player driven thing, nothing to do with history. With a history driven HLG, some reversal of that trend will have to be done. In a current ASL scenario once the victory conditions (VC) are achieved it's game over. With a LLG embedded within a HLG, that's not the case. The attacker will have to spend time consolidating on his objective, preparing for a possible or likely counter attack. Things like establishing outposts, AT ambushes, etc or simply passing follow on forces/echelons through for the next objective. The nett effect is that you will need extra turns compared to the current ASL scenario. Those turns spent setting up the successful attackers now hasty defence are in addition to medical, supply, higher command notification, etc which would be covered by a HASL refit phase, simply because there might not be time for the post battle housekeeping before a counter attack comes crashing in.

So you might consider a HLG 4-6 turn/day (3 day + 1 night in Winter, 5 day + 1 night in Summer, 4+1 Spring & Autumn). Within each HLG turn an ASL scenario (LLG) may be triggered. I would suggest that after the resolution of such then if the defender has a suitable force in an adjacent HLG hex(s) he may declare a counter attack with those forces triggering another LLG ASL scenario on the same ASL boards (and using the left overs of the original attacker's forces) that enter from off board on the appropriate board edge(s). If no such counter attack is declared by the defender then the HLG turn ends. If such a counter attack is declared any follow on forces belonging to the original attacker's side that are in an adjacent HLG hex may also enter (possibly with a suitable LLG turn delay). After the counter attack LLG scenario is done then the HLG turn ends. So 1 HLG can have an initial LLG attack or an initial LLG attack and LLG counter attack, but no more. Alternatively just have an attack with the counter attack being the next HLG turn. I suggest only allowing 1 night HLG turn per day because they were too easy to bog down, get lost or simply had little clue of what was where and in what numbers, never mind the communication and coordination problems. AND troops need rest.

While you most likely have considered such things already, hopefully I might have uncovered a few novel wrinkles or at least a new angle to explore.
 

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Thanks for the input Carl, you raise some very helpful points!

Your reference to the design for effect philosophy is illuminating. I knew this as an abstract concept, but you made me realize that what matters is not whether 6 or 8 turns better reflects a 40 or 120 or 300 minute time frame, but what effect I want to have at the end of the day. And that is to have a generated battle that allows players to resolve parts of a campaign narrative in a fun way. One of the good things about the Theater of Operations design is that it includes an in-game battle resolver, so that one does not have to play out battles that are going to be super-short, or that are obvious overruns, etc - the battles with less fun potential, that is. You can therefore concentrate on the battles that have more potential for a fun, even contest.

I think you are right that I need to just go with something, and the variable turn limit appeals to me precisely because it provides a fudge factor that I like. Your point about the range of time periods covered by a "turn" is correct, and perfectly justifiable by the near perfect control that ASL gives. Heck, on my platoon warrants' course we were given something like 45 minutes to do a single dismounted platoon attack over a relatively short distance, and a lot of that was taken up with doing a commander's recce, setting up fire support, and giving orders, to say nothing of maneuvering to the objective and assaulting it - something that in total might take two or three turns in ASL. Six minutes into my first platoon attack as platoon leader I think I was still talking to the company commander and telling him what was going on, much less starting to give orders!

I have very little experience with ASL, and that a long time ago, but even then I much preferred the make-your-own narrative that a CG offered over the one-off competition of a scenario. That is why I am excited about the more flexible (at the cost much of the historical fidelity that a HASL provides, to be sure) campaign possibilities of the Theater of Operations game. Of course, that game is being designed to resolve battles with potentially any tactical level game, so long as one is willing to put some thought into porting battles from the operational to tactical levels. ASL is only one of many potential options.

One advantage that I do have is that Theater of Operations is a long way off, so there is plenty of time to refine and test. By then I should be better at ASL, too! But should we get that far, I definitely plan to put out a more developed call for playtest, and hopefully get the experienced feedback that you are talking about.
Another quick consideration. Another gentleman, Paul Chicone, who does frequent Gamesquad, has an idea very much like this far along in design. I will let him know about this thread and maybe the two of you can combine forces, so to speak.
 

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Great post Paul, much food for thought. I see two broad points that come from your discussion.

First, how will the HLG (thanks Paul, I was getting tired of "Op Layer") treat time? In this case, Theater of Operations uses a we-go orders system based off of two hour phases, ie every 2 hours you get to give orders to your HLG units, and then sit back and watch the action unfold, resolving battles as units bump into each other. To my knowledge there is nothing preventing a battle taking longer than 2 hours, although I suspect that the system may treat such an ongoing battle, or for instance a battle that kicked off at 3 minutes to orders, as two separate battles. This both complicates and simplifies the issue of "turns" length. Complicating in that how do players decide what is rational for a battle that starts with only 20 minutes to go before the next order phase, and simple because you should be able to just decide to continue the battle to the 5-8 turns (or whatever we end up with), and say it spans a certain time in the HLG. This should be fairly easy to manage, one way is to just declare that all battles resolved outside the HLG last two hours of HLG time, point blank. An issue arises when all of a sudden one side receives reinforcements, but it should be reasonably easy to figure out that those will arrive with a given fraction of the battle complete, and then adjust to the scenario length.

The second point you raise is essentially one of friction, what ToO terms disruption. In the HLG, each unit carries a fluctuating disruption level, which is then factored into the HLG battle resolution algorithm. Units who do not take pauses to reorganize are penalized in the HLG. This helps our problem above, in that we can just declare that a unit is more or less disrupted based on, among other things, how many ASL turns were played, ie if you go a full 8 turns, for example, you will have more time to attack in the battle, but less time to recover within that 2 hour window. It creates another problem though, in that now we need to make ASL reflect a given disruption level. Do we start units Pin/CX/TI/ammo shortaged for a number of turns? Do we apply negative modifiers to force generation, so that a disrupted unit is more likely to yield lower quality troops than the campaign baseline? A combination? Something else entirely?

Looming over this question of time is the question of giving a side the ability to concede a battle. For an attacker, this is easy, you just say after three or four turns that you aren't going to attack anymore, and, so long as the defender doesn't pursue, that's it, figure out how much HLG time you think it took, and enter the battle result. But for the defender, especially in longer scenarios, there comes a point in ASL where things start to snowball for the attacker. I can think of several CG days in which I gave up way too much of the Barrikady because my opponent was just able to defeat the hell out of me and go on a run down the map in a given area. So how do we deal with a situation where the defender just wants to withdraw to avoid being wiped out? We can quite easily allow the defender to exit forces from the map, but then how do we model the pursuit if there is one? I think that this will end up getting kicked back to the HLG, and may end up in another quick battle, albeit but one where a highly disrupted defender is running like mad from an increasingly disrupted attacker, and hoping that they get to the second line, etc., before they're caught. Or the HLG may want to handle pursuit actions, or just say that the attacker is too disrupted to actually carry out any meaningful pursuit. With all of these options there are a host of fun things that might potentially happen, like a counterattack to relieve an encircled strongpoint. Hard to say without the under the hood perspective of the HLG, though, a perspective I don't have.

One thing we have to remember is that this whole thing is designed for HtH or team play. So if a situation comes up that you and your opponent(s) think might be cool, like allowing a battle to end with a withdrawn force which by common (or umpire) consensus is deemed surrounded for the next battle because you want to play a relief scenario, then you can do it - adaptability and fun are two of the major effects for which we are designing, after all.

Carl, I look forward to hearing from Mr. Chicone!
 

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Glad you found food for though in my ramblings.

I confess I did not look at your site, a little due to laziness, but mainly because you presented an interesting conundrum about which I had given little thought to and I wished to think it through from scratch, without constraint of preconceived ideas. Sometimes reinventing the wheel can throw up unexpected but useful ideas, though more often not:(. If you don't mind I will look at bits and pieces over several posts. I find that I think of a few ideas at once but developing one often upsets another.

OK, 2 hour HLG turns or at least between higher level orders. On the surface that seems reasonable. The only quibble I might have about that is that different armies had different 'cycle' times. By 'cycle' time I mean the entire stretch from a HQ getting relevant information (right, wrong or fuzzy), outlining a plan, transmitting same and the receiving unit getting itself into shape to carry out that order, then executing the order and transmitting back the results and anything else they found out during the battle. That is what the Germans were very good at for the most part. By late '43 the western allies were still behind, coming close but had the advantage of numbers of radios and phones. They generally had a more resilient and faster communications network. In the HLG you might, maybe on a dr/DR, allow an interrupting extra order that allows reinforcements into or orders for a defender to retreat from, etc a LLG. The modern term is "getting inside the enemy's decision cycle". Of course those musings may be incompatible with your HLG rules, just a thought. WW2 is not ACW where information and orders usually take hours, though that did happen. While I gather ToO apparently is designed to reduce the godlike overview, sometimes it's hard to ignore the screams over the radio :). So a little divinity is in order for the '30s onward.

Another is the question of lower level initiative. I mentioned the German predilection for immediate counter attack. That was something that was drilled into all levels of the German armed forces, down to the lowest private and did not usually require higher level orders (IE HLG). Most armies adopted similar defaults as the war went on. Ditto the initiation of pursuit of a retreating enemy was usually initiated at low level and often when not desirable then specific orders not to pursue (IE off board from a LLG) would have been issued. Maybe a dr/DR (different levels for nations/time periods?) to determine whether auto counter attack or pursuit occurs except when forbidden by a specific HLG order or situation (eg a defender will usually not pursue).

OK, now to try my hand at details and mechanisms. Given the HLG 2 hour turn, then I would treat a LLG (ASL) turn as 10 minutes which will give you 12 ASL turns. Split that into 2 chunks of 6 turns. The 1st chunk will be the normal ASL scenario length. Maybe treat the 2nd chunk of 6 turns as being the time for a normal CG refit phase. The 1st can take turns from the 2nd at the expense of some of the activities that occur in the refit phase. Before conducting a refit phase activity for a single unit/SW/gun/AFV, roll a die and add 1 for each turn the 1st chunk takes from the 2nd chunk. On a 1-6 the activity can occur as normal, >6 the activity is forbidden, though if you have the full 6 refit turns or more then no dr needed. Apart from the usual refit stuff you might want to add things like recovering some of your eliminated units (Lazarus roll) as not all individuals will be dead, just ineffective. What average percentage you should design for is up to you but I would suggest aiming for something like 25%-50% (I would favour 1/3 or 33%, a simple fraction). Of course the refit phase is where you attempt repairs, ammo replenishment, etc.

There is nothing stopping you going from 2 x 6 turn chunks (10 min each) to 2 x 8 chunks (7.5 min) as the whole ASL turn length is very vague and indeed the actions in one ASL turn could be 1 minute but the next turn takes 15 minutes to do in real life within the same scenario. Indeed extra turns, beyond 6, in a refit chunk might earn advantageous DRMs for things like repairs, rallying or the above mentioned Lazarus DRs.

While all the above are just ideas that popped into my head, the idea is to allow one or both sides to attempt to lengthen or truncate the actual combat time but at a cost or potential benefit that carries on into the next HLG turn. Naturally the enemy player may not wish to fight further and retreat or have his/her blood lust up and wants to smash you and won't let go. One or both sides could extend the LLG to the full 12 turns which means that there will be no refit phase. In such a case any Lazarus dr/DR should either not apply to units eliminated this LLG or be done with some heavy penalty DRM at the next LLG refit phase.

I don't really have a solid answer on how to translate a LLG result into a HLG disruption/depletion/whatever status. Some of that is covered by the LLG in that the forces left at the end of a LLG is what is now available in the HLG. You haven't 2 steps left out of a 4 step unit, you have X squads and Y tanks left over. The only other thing that comes to mind is that you could use the number of refit turns (2nd chunk) as a measure of how well a unit has rested, being fed, prepped, reassured and reorganised, IE the soft factors that are not in the simple squad, gun or AFV bean counting. Of course as well, the more refit turns you have the better the chance of regaining some lost strength raw numbers. So some combination/average or multiplication product of the soft and hard (% of initial force) factors could give you a measure of disruption.

One thing to consider is who 'owns' the battlefield at the end of a LLG. The side that does has the capability to recover wrecks and discarded equipment. I'm not talking about the immediate post battle pick-ups ("I've always wanted a Tommy Gun"). I'm talking about recovering equipment (mainly AFV and Guns) for later repair by rear area workshops (or scrapping) and the demolition of enemy kit to prevent them from recovering those. Any such recoveries would go into a general pool of possible replacements. At the end of each HLG day do a dr/DR for each item that repairs, scraps or continues repairing a recovered item (like the ASL repair dr). A repaired item joins your replacement pool, a scrapped item is gone forever.

While much of the above might be incompatible with ToO or not, those are just some of the things that occurred to me as part of the generalised problem of a HLG and LLG integration. Sometimes the best advice is not actual advice but appropriate questions or angles to ponder.
 

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You brought up the question of a battle that last longer than 2 hours. Hmmm ... I think your suggestion that such a long LLG battle be treated as whatever number necessary of HLG turns as the best. Unless you are in particularly desperate straits then an hour or two of physically and emotionally intense action is about the limit for normal humans. While there will be times you have no choice, most will 'ease off' to gather strength and resolve. As well, higher HQs will not be able to resist the urge to meddle for too long. In addition an intensive firefight will consume a good chunk of on hand ammo. Whatever about the multiple hour barrages, for individuals, most battles are hours of boredom with a few minutes of sheet terror tossed in.
 

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The only quibble I might have about that is that different armies had different 'cycle' times. By 'cycle' time I mean the entire stretch from a HQ getting relevant information (right, wrong or fuzzy), outlining a plan, transmitting same and the receiving unit getting itself into shape to carry out that order, then executing the order and transmitting back the results and anything else they found out during the battle.
I'm pretty sure that ToO is going to have a command delay much like Command Ops, so you can give the orders every two hours, but it might take an hour or more for the unit in question to start executing the order. This will mean that often you may not want to give orders to a given unit every orders phase, lest you reset their battle procedure process.

Another is the question of lower level initiative. I mentioned the German predilection for immediate counter attack. That was something that was drilled into all levels of the German armed forces, down to the lowest private and did not usually require higher level orders (IE HLG). Most armies adopted similar defaults as the war went on. Ditto the initiation of pursuit of a retreating enemy was usually initiated at low level and often when not desirable then specific orders not to pursue (IE off board from a LLG) would have been issued. Maybe a dr/DR (different levels for nations/time periods?) to determine whether auto counter attack or pursuit occurs except when forbidden by a specific HLG order or situation (eg a defender will usually not pursue).
I agree with you, counterattacks were definitely central to German doctrine, although that doctrine was reliant on having way more depth to a position than the Germans usually had, operationally. I think this will be something that will have to be handled at both levels, and will to a certain extent hinge on whether another unit committed to a counterattack role is close enough to take part in/generate a given battle. Some potential for interesting to and fro here, as we could see a set-piece assault followed by a counterattack against a disrupted attacker (which was the whole point of these quick counterattacks, after all, to leverage enemy disruption).

Given the HLG 2 hour turn, then I would treat a LLG (ASL) turn as 10 minutes which will give you 12 ASL turns. Split that into 2 chunks of 6 turns. The 1st chunk will be the normal ASL scenario length. Maybe treat the 2nd chunk of 6 turns as being the time for a normal CG refit phase. The 1st can take turns from the 2nd at the expense of some of the activities that occur in the refit phase. Before conducting a refit phase activity for a single unit/SW/gun/AFV, roll a die and add 1 for each turn the 1st chunk takes from the 2nd chunk. On a 1-6 the activity can occur as normal, >6 the activity is forbidden, though if you have the full 6 refit turns or more then no dr needed. Apart from the usual refit stuff you might want to add things like recovering some of your eliminated units (Lazarus roll) as not all individuals will be dead, just ineffective. What average percentage you should design for is up to you but I would suggest aiming for something like 25%-50% (I would favour 1/3 or 33%, a simple fraction). Of course the refit phase is where you attempt repairs, ammo replenishment, etc.
There is nothing stopping you going from 2 x 6 turn chunks (10 min each) to 2 x 8 chunks (7.5 min) as the whole ASL turn length is very vague and indeed the actions in one ASL turn could be 1 minute but the next turn takes 15 minutes to do in real life within the same scenario. Indeed extra turns, beyond 6, in a refit chunk might earn advantageous DRMs for things like repairs, rallying or the above mentioned Lazarus DRs.
I like this as a good way to give the players some sort of control of and tradeoff with regards to disruption, although I still really like the idea of a variable turn limit, which I think really represents friction well. Perhaps a system in which we allow players to spend some sort of "disruption point" to attempt a modifier to the turn end dr, so the attacker/defender could risk increasing his disruption in order to get a better chance at shortening/lengthening the battle.

I don't really have a solid answer on how to translate a LLG result into a HLG disruption/depletion/whatever status. Some of that is covered by the LLG in that the forces left at the end of a LLG is what is now available in the HLG. You haven't 2 steps left out of a 4 step unit, you have X squads and Y tanks left over. The only other thing that comes to mind is that you could use the number of refit turns (2nd chunk) as a measure of how well a unit has rested, being fed, prepped, reassured and reorganised, IE the soft factors that are not in the simple squad, gun or AFV bean counting. Of course as well, the more refit turns you have the better the chance of regaining some lost strength raw numbers. So some combination/average or multiplication product of the soft and hard (% of initial force) factors could give you a measure of disruption.
It is becoming increasingly clear to me that we will have to have some sort if an ASL refit phase after each battle in order to make the transition to the HLG, Casualties alone have the potential to be a major headache - ToO tracks individual WIA/KIA, as it's primarily designed for use with Combat Mission, and we may very well find that ASL is far more deadly than the HLG mechanism, so that we need to adjust loss levels so as not to skew the HLG progress. OTOH a lot of what you describe (and I realize that you are generalizing here) may or may not be handled by the HLG - I imagine vehicle repair will be one of these, but SW repair will not, for example.

While all the above are just ideas that popped into my head, the idea is to allow one or both sides to attempt to lengthen or truncate the actual combat time but at a cost or potential benefit that carries on into the next HLG turn. Naturally the enemy player may not wish to fight further and retreat or have his/her blood lust up and wants to smash you and won't let go. One or both sides could extend the LLG to the full 12 turns which means that there will be no refit phase. In such a case any Lazarus dr/DR should either not apply to units eliminated this LLG or be done with some heavy penalty DRM at the next LLG refit phase.
I think this is a good mechanism, but it will require two things - both players have to agree to call a halt, and the consequences in terms of loss/gain of disruption have to be really clear. I think this would be a good added option to my "disruption point" mechanism above - we're really talking about the same idea here, I'm just trying to find a way to work variable turn limits into it.

One thing to consider is who 'owns' the battlefield at the end of a LLG. The side that does has the capability to recover wrecks and discarded equipment. I'm not talking about the immediate post battle pick-ups ("I've always wanted a Tommy Gun"). I'm talking about recovering equipment (mainly AFV and Guns) for later repair by rear area workshops (or scrapping) and the demolition of enemy kit to prevent them from recovering those. Any such recoveries would go into a general pool of possible replacements. At the end of each HLG day do a dr/DR for each item that repairs, scraps or continues repairing a recovered item (like the ASL repair dr). A repaired item joins your replacement pool, a scrapped item is gone forever.
I wish I had a much better idea of how ToO will handle this. As I said above, some sort of pre-HLG refit phase will definitely be required to answer these points. One of the things with this HLG is that I think it would be wise to let the HLG handle all the recordkeeping, as a baseline. This will lose some fidelity, in that a given unit may start one battle with an elite platoon and a 9-2 (because of rolls on force generation tables), and then the next battle 2 phases later with only a First line platoon and a 8-1, just because the scenario generation rolls give you that this time. I definitely think that disruption levels will have an influence on those rolls, though. but there are those that will want to have a continuity between HLG battles; that want to follow the progress of the 10-2 they generated at the beginning or whatever. And that's fine, so long as they are willing to do the work of keeping records. It will require some more work in setting up pre-battle disruption effects, but that's workable.

While much of the above might be incompatible with ToO or not, those are just some of the things that occurred to me as part of the generalised problem of a HLG and LLG integration. Sometimes the best advice is not actual advice but appropriate questions or angles to ponder.
I must confess that I find this sort of mental gymnastics and problem solving to be highly enjoyable. I should be sorting counters right now, or spending time with my kids, or something.
 

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One thing I might not have expressed well is the question of the 2nd "refit" chunk. Whether you wish to have 2 x 6 or 2 x 8 turn chunks only affects the details. Let us say you go with 6 turn chunks. Here are some ideas.

For every turn that the LLG goes beyond 6 turns you get a +1 to your 'disruption' dr/DR. For very turn less than 6 you get a -1 to your disruption dr/DR. While I am uncertain about the appropriate details for losses, something like a +1 for each 1/6 (FRD) loss, measured by BPV, of your original force, after any rally, repair or Lazarus rolls. Maybe a -1 for each 1/3 (FRD) of the enemy force (eliminated or captured). Note that enemy losses matter less than friendly losses, victory joy compensates less than the loss of mates. Roll a dr and on a 1-6 you are not disrupted, >6 you are disrupted. Not being familiar with ToO, maybe it has levels of disruption, so if it has, then >6 increases its disruption level and <1 decreases it ("Yee Ha, That was a piece of cake, who's next").

As for deciding the end of a LLG: A LLG always ends after 12 turns, regardless. If combat is still occurring at the end of 12 LLG turns it carries into the next HLG turn. Stopping before that requires either agreement of both players or the retreat of at least one side from the LLG battlefield. A retreating side can be attacked by the other until it's off board. Pursuit of a retreating force once it's off board is forbidden but can set the stage for pursuit into the next HLG hex in the next HLG turn.

The type of agreed end I would expect is the attacker decides his/her attack is going nowhere, backs off and asks the defender if he/she wishes to pursue. If the answer is no then the LLG ends. You might wish to add some conditions like non-adjacency and no KNOWN (GO or not) enemy within normal range to that. Of course the defender may wish to really mess with your plans and continue to fight but that usually will increase his/her losses and also likely disruption (level?). In that case it's up to the defender to decide that it's worth it within the bigger HLG picture. The attacker might decide that pressing on for the full 12 LLG turns is worth it (within the bigger picture) despite the damage caused to his/her forces (both losses and disruption), for example in an encirclement breakout situation.
 

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Hi, I'm Matt and I'm the designer behind Theater of Operations (TO). You guys bring up some interesting thoughts and points, and I am enjoying this discussion. I will attempt to answer a few of your questions regarding how TO is currently conceived. Engagements (i.e. battles) can last more than 2 hours, and engagements are not limited in length by the game turn. The game turn is simply a complete pause in the action that will allow players to examine and evaluate, and then issue or revise unit orders. The end of the turn is literally a pause in the action. In fact the current scenario we are doing shows this. You may notice that there are 3 engagements still under way at the end of this last turn.

By the way, I am using the term "engagement' when referring to a tactical battle. In my mind this creates a clearer picture that I am specifically talking about a tactical battle at the operational level. Anyway TO will break everything down in to various engagements. You can see from our current scenario that there were 6 different engagements starting at various times last turn and 3 of them were over before the end of the turn. 3 others are still going on. That means that players can pick and choose which engagements they want to play, if any. TO will give them battlefield info and an OOB of the battle they choose. Furthermore, once players have their OOB, they are free to break down engagements in to even smaller engagements and play those out further if they want.

Players will ALWAYS be able to issue orders to a unit during a game pause. Circumstances may slow down the following of those orders, but nothing prevents you from giving them. For instance, units that are currently engaged in battle may be given future movement orders. They are just unable to follow those orders until they are no longer engaged in battle, and had time to organize for movement. As the commander you can plan/anticipate a course of events and issue orders well in advance to support your plan. Those same orders may be revised if time and circumstances allow. In other words you can issue orders to units several turns in advance before you actually want them to carry them out.

On a related topic, command delays were mentioned. In short, before a set of movement orders are followed there is standard delay of 45 minutes applied. There are many variables and circumstances that can cause this to vary greatly. Some of these are unit quality, leadership, cohesion, if they are engaged, under artillery attack, or under air attack. Furthermore there are national characteristics. I am primarily thinking of the Soviets where their command and control structure was generally slower to respond to quickly developing events. All that really means is that the Soviets need to plan a bit further in advance.

There is a lot to digest on this conversation, so I will stop here for now and wait for questions or comments.
 

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If you think of an ASL scenario as a "critical moment" in a particular engagement rather than the start and duration of the entire engagement, I think you'll find the ASL 2min turns maintain their internal consistency as well as working with a larger framework.

You might also want to check out the Close Combat series for inspiration on how to integrate HLG and LLG game experience.
 

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Wow, great! I'll start at the bottom of the page and work upwards.

zgrose, I am unfamiliar with CC, having not played it in years and years. Can you elaborate a bit on what that system does to integrate LLG and HLG? I vaguely remember moving task forces composed of squads, vehicles, etc, about that were tracked and gained experience as the HLG went on, but my recollection is hazy at best. Your point on "critical moments" cuts to the heart of the problem we are trying to solve, in terms of predictably grafting ASL and the engagement system mentioned by Matt into a workable system. We need some fidelity in terms of feeding battle length back into the HLG, without necessarily predetermining that in a way that limits the players.

Matt, good to see you here. Now that you are here, time to get sucked back into the vortex of ASL! Your clarification about engagement lengths and how they relate to orders pauses is illuminating, although it raises some issues for what we are trying to do here vis a vis ASL (and keep in mind that many of the broad stroke transition questions we deal with here will apply to many many venues for resolving engagements outside the TO engagement resolver). Can you go into a bit more detail about how disruption and reorganization/consolidation is going to work? Understanding this is critical to how we resolve the turn length issue. BTW, how is this issue going with CM? Are you just saying each battle is two hours in CM and letting it go? If so, you will end up with some pretty lopsided results, unless there is a cease battle/exit option for the defender as well as the attacker.

Paul, As much as I love the idea of variable turn limits, we may just have to go down the road of saying that one ASL turn, for ToO purposes, equals x minutes, for the reasons above. The issue is that now that battle length is no longer tied to orders pauses, there is no reason to say that an engagement can't go on forever, should both sides get stubborn and forces are still on board. Unlikely, of course, but it highlights the need to be able to say that a battle that has gone X turns will equal roughly Y amount of time. I still like your broad idea of allowing forces to cut battles short in order to reduce disruption gain, but we need to see how the disruption mechanism is going to work a bit better before we can start to quantify that. The good news is that disruption will likely not have too many metrics to input, and most of those will be carried by the HLG - so force experience/training level, fatigue, command bonus/penalties, to name a few, should be given to us already as factors into the equation. So the major factors that we will have to input are engagement length (ammo depletion will almost certainly be a direct function of this as well), amount of OBA used (which will allow the HLG to disrupt/tire/deplete stock of supporting artillery units), and casualties incurred. Hopefully Matt will elaborate here.

I still need to think of a way to incorporate variable turn limits into the ASL battle, though. Must - not - fixate...
 

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zgrose, I am unfamiliar with CC, having not played it in years and years. Can you elaborate a bit on what that system does to integrate LLG and HLG? I vaguely remember moving task forces composed of squads, vehicles, etc, about that were tracked and gained experience as the HLG went on, but my recollection is hazy at best.
I'm sure it is a simpler version of what you're using at the moment. But that was mostly the idea.
Campaign Map overview: http://images9.gry-online.pl/galeria/galeria_duze3/277835562.jpg

Each area had a single map for its battle area. If the neither side scored enough VP to "win the map", then they usually had to fight on that map again from their last positions (think LCP style RePh Perimeters instead MMP style clear and sweep Perimeters). So an area could be contested for a whole day, or more, but each human-controlled-battle was on the 30-60 minute timescale. For any given HLG turn you had Air, Art and other assets you could assign to your various battlegroups. Groups not engaged could move, etc etc.

After to Combat Mission, Close Combat was an awesome ASL port to the computer.

Your point on "critical moments" cuts to the heart of the problem we are trying to solve, in terms of predictably grafting ASL and the engagement system mentioned by Matt into a workable system. We need some fidelity in terms of feeding battle length back into the HLG, without necessarily predetermining that in a way that limits the players.
I think you're latched onto the notion that the HLG turn starts at noon, scenario starts at noon, the scenario ends at 2pm and the HLG turn ends at 2pm? I don't think anyone wants/expects that kind of accuracy.

The LLG results are the "die roll" for the HLG actions. In HLG, you move your units, and the ASL scenario determines the result (win/lose/draw) and then you go to the next HLG Turn/Phase.
 

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Yeah, a Battle in a LLG could go on forever, if you think of it in terms of physical location on the LLG map. I see the end of a LLG scenario as being either (1) neither side wants to fight any more or one retreats off board or (2) the higher ups stick their nibs in (IE a new HLG orders/turn/whatever) after an appropriate time period or (3) the 12 (or 16/whatever) LLG turn finishes. I make a distinction between a LLG scenario on a set of boards and a Battle on the same set. A Battle may consist of one or many contiguous scenarios and as you said could go on and on. Another way to look at a Battle is that it continues uninterrupted but at some stage the brass meddle at which point the scenario ends and Battle temporarily pops up unto the HLG, the HLG things occur and it drops back down into the continuing LLG, a new scenario within the same Battle. Its not like a bell rings and everyone stands up and shares coffee and cigarettes for 5 minutes, it's just that higher level things are happening (retreat orders, reinforcements, etc) and you need some mechanism to allow that to interact with the LLG. A bit like an TV advertisement break in the middle of a long film. (The Hero is falling to his doom "Aghhh" ... "And now a word from our sponsors" ... "hhhhhhhhhhh, WTF, I'm saved" as an eagle swoops down and catches our Hero. :))

One thing that also will have to be considered eventually is reinforcements during a scenario. Extra forces ordered to enter a Battle by a HLG order/move are a different matter. A defender might have a quick reaction force or alarm unit just off board or an attacker might have multiple attack echelons or a probe followed shortly by the main force. In such cases neither would require HLG orders to activate, indeed most are likely to be controlled by the LLG command level. How you time those is something you will have to decide, but that will be a later in development decision.

As for variable turn limits, my suggestion is a bit of both. You decide what the correspondence is between a single HLG turn length and the equivalent number of ASL/LLG turns and that becomes a fixed absolute turn limit for the LLG. You then divide that absolute limit into desired combat and refit chunks. So if from your history analysis you judge that for each hour of intense combat you need 2 hours to practically recuperate/reorganize/refuel/re-ammo, then you split that absolute limit into 33.3% combat, 66.6% refit as the ideal. I would personally suggest a 50/50 split as a staring point. While I suggested 10 min/ASL turn as being a more realistic guess than the theoretical ASL 2.5 minutes, giving 12 ASL/LLG turns per 2 hour HLG turn as the absolute limit, you might decide that 6 min is better, giving 20 LLG turns per HLG turn. That's up to you. The LLG commander(s) will have to decide how many combat turns are to be played (up to the absolute limit) with resultant advantage/disadvantage to disruption loss/gain depending on whether you have more or less refit time than your idealised split.

I'm afraid that has exhausted my ideas, at least for the moment, though I might chime in with clarifications or in response to questions or your or others' suggestions.
 

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Thanks CK! Agreed, there are many similar issues that will be encountered with conversion. I guess the easiest way for me to describe it is that cohesion is going to be tied to casualties taken. Higher troop quality will lead to higher resilience (less likely to lose cohesion), and vice versa. Time with CM is fairly simple, in that all scenarios should be set up to allow the greatest amount of time for a scenario. Players simply record how much time has elapsed when they determine their engagement is over.

CK, not sure what you are wanting me to elaborate on at the bottom of you comment, other than you appear to have it roughly correct on how I see it.
 

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Paul, you touch on an important point here, that being that we are working on guidelines here only, and each set/group of players can and will come up with whatever they feel works best for them!

I think you're latched onto the notion that the HLG turn starts at noon, scenario starts at noon, the scenario ends at 2pm and the HLG turn ends at 2pm? I don't think anyone wants/expects that kind of accuracy.
The LLG results are the "die roll" for the HLG actions. In HLG, you move your units, and the ASL scenario determines the result (win/lose/draw) and then you go to the next HLG Turn/Phase.
zgrose, prior to Matt's post I was kinda thinking along those lines, and if we were to look into an HLG that had set turns tied to a time-length then that would be a lot easier to set up! The issue is that now we are dealing with an HLG that gives us a set engagement start time, say 1243hrs, and then expects us to give a set endtime once you make that LLG die roll. So we need some sort of framework that says X turns in ASL means Y timeframe in the HLG.

There are a couple ways that we can do this.

First, we just say that 1 ASL turn equals X HLG minutes, then allow an engagement to go as many ASL turns as the players decide, whether by mutually agreed ceasefire, total wipeout of one side, or by defender retreat off-board. When both sides agree the battle is done, whether after one ASL turn or fifty, we just plug the results into the HLG, and carry on, allowing the HLG to calculate disruption. This has the advantage of allowing us to easily schedule reinforcements, as we can through the HLG say that reinforcements arrive at battle start hour plus 40 mins or whatever, translate that into ASL turns, and then that's when the reinforcements enter.

Another option is what I see Paul advocating - that we limit or break up the engagement length. So each ASL engagement caps at X number of turns that tie into a set HLG time-space, be it an hour or two. The players can choose to play all those turns out, or take actionless breaks within the time-space to recover strength. Then should the players want the action to continue in that same location, a new engagement occurs, just on the same ground and with basically the same forces. The idea here being that an action occurs, dies down as sides reorganize, etc, then flares up again (as another separate engagement). In the HLG that would look as though an engagement took exactly one hour (or two, or whatever), but the units come out of it with a disruption bonus based on how much time off for reorg/consolidation they took. So long as we were careful to finetune the ratio between turns and time, and had a mechanism to reduce disruption awarded by the HLG, this could work quite well.

The third and fourth ways involve variable turn limits, to a given maximum of turns. Third way says you played X turns, that means Y time passed, plug it into the HLG and carry on. This may cause a problem with reinforcements that are scheduled to arrive within the engagement not actually arriving due to the battle ending early - not entirely unrealistic, and you can always start another engagement.

Fourth way says whether you play 3 turns or eight, that takes Y amount of HLG time. If the scenario ends really early, you may award an advantageous disruption modifier, but this would mostly be handled by the HLG. This is slightly 'fudgier' and shares the reinforcements issue above, but I like the way that it accounts for friction on the battlefield.

Matt, sorry for my lack of clarity. I was asking for an in depth overview of the disruption mechanism, including the scale parameters and their rough effects on combat resolution, to include the amount of expected disruption loss for battles of a given length/intensity, and the amount of gain over time, etc. Not too much to ask! :D
 
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Paul M. Weir

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Just to clarify a point or two. I see a Battle (1+ ASL/LLG scenarios) as a continuous thing. If it ends up with multiple scenarios there would be no combat break and no time to recover/refit between scenarios and each scenario, except the last, takes exactly 12 (or number whatever is decided). In the 'break' between scenarios the HLG intrudes, whether orders or new forces. That 'break' between scenarios is purely a game mechanism allowing for HLG & LLG interaction. Such 'breaks' may or may not correspond to minor lulls in a real action. Once one or both sides have had enough or one side is wiped out or forced off board the (last) scenario and the Battle ends. If, say, the attacker gets reinforcements and restarts the attack then I would see that as a new Battle (and new scenario of course).

Of course there is a good chance of me over thinking things, a legacy of my former programmer profession where catching nit picking detail, possible decision branches, exceptions and dead ends at both the design and programming stages meant the difference between a successful program suite and an expensive fiasco. The use of computer style decision flow charts might be a help when figuring out the fine details of the interaction between LLG rules and HLG rules. Having said all that the one general rule for designing such and interface is keep the basic concepts stupid simple (KISS). The detail exceptions and modifiers will add complexity but don't compound your problems by having a complex base.
 

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I agree with you Paul, although now we are getting into an issue that ASL is not really equipped to cover, that of ammunition exhaustion. We are going to have to see how the HLG handles resupply, as the potential exists for one battle (more than one engagement fought over the same ground by largely the same forces) to cover enough time that ammo depletion and resupply becomes an issue, especially if we end up with a battle that lasts hours without resupply, or more problematic, only one side getting resupply. Again, we are going to have to see how this is handled in the HLG.
 

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CK, wow you really jump right in with your info requests! :D Just to make sure we are on the same page, I am assuming that when you ask about the disruption mechanism, you are referring to what I have termed cohesion in TO. First I want to say that this will be altered over the course of play testing, so my explanation is only valid right now. There are 4 cohesion levels: good, degrade, disorganized, and disrupted. Cohesion is lost by failing "Cohesion Checks" when required. Air strike results, artillery strike results, and ground combat results may cause a unit to make a number of CC's. Troop Quality and Leadership are the primary factors that influence the chance of passing/failing a CC. Cohesion is only recovered by sitting idle. A unit with 'degrade' cohesion may make a CC after 2 hours of sitting idle, and if they pass they recover to good. 4 hours for 'disorganized' to make a CC to recover to 'degrade'. 6 hours for 'disrupted' to make a CC to recover to 'disorganized'. Combat power is reduced 10% per level of cohesion loss. So a disrupted unit would lose roughly 30% of its combat power. Further cohesion loss could then lead to morale loss. Lastly, a unit may not conduct offensive action unless it has good or degrade cohesion. Does this help?
 
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