The Range of Results in Scenarios

While making a post on the Steam forums (probably against my better judgment) defending the plausibility of Command, I pointed out that in two my scenarios I frequently achieved similar results to comparable historical battles. The two were Regaining Honor and They Came From The Museum.

 They Came From The Museum

Average loss when playtesting: Two aircraft, one day. Sometimes more due to the “endgame-factor”

Compared to: Russo-Georgian War, Russia loses six aircraft, maximum of four in a day.

Commentary: The “museum men”, using Soviet-surplus aircraft against an air defense system of a similar level, albeit an ill-maintained one with sloppy crews, suffer an average of two to three losses in the day of battle. Russian aircraft of a similar vintage in the war with Georgia suffered a maximum of four in one day, but the biggest source of losses (friendly fire from jittered ground troops) is not an issue, due to the nature of the scenario.


Regaining Honor

Average loss when playtesting: ca. 20 Yemeni aircraft, 0-4 American aircraft

Compared to: Desert Storm: 1 confirmed coalition air/air loss, 20-30 Iraqi air/air losses, several close calls.

Commentary: This is interesting, for even though the opponents are similar, the American circumstances are quite different. On the plus side, they have AMRAAMs, and later models of said AMRAAM than the early 1990s versions that barely missed the real Gulf War. (These, of course, are still failure-prone: I’ve had an old jammer on a Yemeni Su-22 successfully decoy a futuristic AIM-120D in a playthrough).

On the minus side, there are a lot fewer American fighters and – more importantly – they’re armed with fewer missiles in their loadouts, with a “the most air resistance we’ll meet is a few fighters that’ll probably just get the hint and turn back” mindset vs. “multiple squadrons”.

Losing all your fighters with no kills is quite possible-one point I’ve found is that nearly all my four-kill (I’ve never managed any more) scenarios occurred in an awkward spot where the Americans had run out of ammo, but before the next wave of patrolling fighters could quite get there (once they do, the YAF is toast). This is of course the scenario any aviation commander dreads, regardless of their total overall strength, and one of the reasons why Horner and Schwarzkopf put so much effort into creating their “Big Blue Blanket”.

So, we’ve gotten similar results. But I’d want to examine range in a little more detail. One of the inspirations besides the Steam argument was the post by a developer about such ranges, and the dangers of trying to “fit” an exact historical situation at the expense of flexibility. (Ironically, a Bekaa scenario draft was posted, and AAR logs show the Israelis losing a few more fighters than they did historically).

Results are one thing, but analysis of the true range can go beyond them.

-If an endgame calc happens at all, that’s a sign of vulnerability. Yes, an 80% final chance of hitting is different than a 4% one, but it still indicates a threat is there, that isn’t in a less advanced scenario where the enemy never gets a chance to attack. So you dodged the missiles, but that they had a chance to hit means you were a few dice rolls away from disaster.

-Range concerning historical accuracy is one thing, but so is range concerning scenario difficulty. Everyone will find some scenarios to be more or less difficult than others, so it’s important that the designer go for a range rather than a specific exact difficulty.

-A lot of the range depends on the scenario designer’s intentions. Often when making a scenario, I go “do I want this to be hard or easy”. If I go with “easy” it doesn’t mean I make it a no-loss stomp, but if I notice that say, one component is relatively ineffective, I don’t try to change it to make it deadlier. If I go with hard, it means that if I lose a lot of equipment while testing it, I don’t necessarily change it. (if I do change anything in either , it’s frequently altering the scoring criteria rather than anything in-game).

-For gauging the range, it helps a lot to know what the range historically was. I’m especially thinking of air-to-air missiles. A lot of pop-culture media gives the impression of said missiles being incredibly accurate (especially if it’s anything American fired at anything non-American). In truth, the AIM-7 never had more than a 33% success rate against even the easiest targets, while the AMRAAM has had a circa 50% hit rate against similarly weak opposition (and some notable misses like one incident over Serbia where a MiG-29 dodged them repeatedly). With that in mind, missile rates don’t look so surprising.

-The game comes full circle when you go into completely hypothetical scenarios. Instead of speculating if Command matches the engagement, there’s speculation if the engagement would match Command.