Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Terrain Movement Calibration in Shiloh

One of the decisions a game designer must make when developing a new game is what value to assign each terrain type for cost to enter (movement cost). Usually woods terrain gets assigned a movement cost of three but in Shiloh I made woods two movment points to enter. At the same time, I gave infantry a total of 6 movement points to spend each turn and made each turn represent about a half hour.

The battle (and the game) started at 5 AM when Powell's patrol discovers massed Confederate units, which starts off the Rebel attack. At 6 AM the Confederates reach the first Union camps. From 5 AM to 6 AM is three turns, including the 6 AM turn.

When I test played the game, the Confederate units hit the Union camps exactly on the third turn (6 AM).

What this exercise did was confirm that my selection of two as the Movement Cost for woods was correct (most of Shiloh terrain is woods). Otherwise, a higher value would put the first Confederate lines reaching the Union camps later than the historical event. Or rather it confirms the relationship between the three variables: terrain cost to enter, turn game time (half hour), and unit movement allowance. Change any of those variables and the results would not be as historically accurate for gameing purposes.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Shiloh Woods

Most battlefields have more open space than woods. Some have their share of woods. But Shiloh (American Civil War 1862) was fought over an area chiefly of woods and swamp with a few fields or clearings sprinkled about. While game map creation is always a time-consuming task, the Shiloh map is even more problematic as the important clearings in every case do not perfectly transform to a hex-based map at the scale being used ( 1 hex = about 250 yards).

As gamers understand, a heavily wooded battlefield slows troop movement and makes unit cohesion more difficult. Woods also offer defenders (in this case primarily the Union side) the advantage of cover. Shiloh offers plenty of opportunity for these game issues to be represented.

The game map for Shiloh is based on the 1993 Shiloh Battlefield map by the McElfresh Map Company, which used two primary sources: the Atwell Thompson map completed in 1900 and the Edwin C. Bearss historical base map prepared in 1972 for the National Park Service.