Struggling with the Ev(il) Ed – Part 3: MASAF

The Allied PO’s handling of MASAF (Mediterranean Allied Strategic Air Force) provided a new challenge. The background: MASAF should be activated when the German player occupies one or more hexes within a certain radius from Anzio (by a ‘Force 2 occupies’ event). I assume this to happen in the context of a general counteroffensive against the beachhead as was the case historically. However some more conditions must be met for the actual activation of MASAF:

  1. MASAF should be activated when the German player occupies one or more hexes within a certain area centered around Anzio – Nettuno.
  2. MASAF should not be activated on a storm turn, but on the next non-storm turn after condition no. 1 has been met. (re storm turns and the weather engine please read the previous post)
  3. MASAF should not be activated prematurely due to a local attack early in the game.

This means we will have to trigger an event by more than one trigger. Colin Wright, who encountered a similar challenge (see his post at TDG), inspired me to use a combination of ‘Set Ownership’ events and a ‘Blocking Unit’.

This is what i came up with – again i added the weather engine’s triggering events (#74 – #79):

Actually the event sequence for the activation of MASAF is splitted in two parts. The first part is from event #622 to event #627, the following, second part follows the usual activation patterns as for MATBF.

Let’s begin with the first part. It is essentially a loop that sets an ‘off map’ hex (hex 45/62 – see the picture below) to ‘Ownership 2’ on the pre-dawn turn and back to ‘Ownership 1’  on the morning turn.

For this the loop is tied to the weather engine’s perpetual loop which also fulfills condition no. 3 as the weather engine starts not until turn 25. The hex is occupied by a Force 1 unit, so that the ‘Ownership 2’ event (#622) can not trigger until the unit is withdrawn. When the German player fulfills condition no. 1 (event #626) that blocking unit is withdrawn. On the next pre-dawn turn the ‘Ownership 2’ event (#622) can fire –  note that it can only fire on a pre-dawn turn (event #74, which it is tied to, is activated each pre-dawn turn) and that it is repetitive. Also note that it fires on each pre-dawn turn due to the repetitive ‘Ownership 1’ event (#623). This is to enable a synced activation of MASAF. We don’t want the PO to use MASAF on PM turns due to the severe PM air shock. By the way, the Force 1 supply point in the off-map hex that prevents the blocking unit from starving and eventual evaporation doesn’t influence the ‘Ownership’ events.

Now for the second part. There is not much to say that hasn’t already been said in part 2 of this series as it follows the same pattern as MATBF (3)’s activation. When the ‘off-map’ hex (45/62) changes ownership to Force 2 it triggers a ‘Force 2 occupies’ event (#630) which triggers the PO activation of MASAF. This event can, as outlined above, only be triggered on pre-dawn turns and due to events #628 and #629 only on non-storm turns (fulfilling condition no. 2).

Struggling with the Ev(il) Ed – Part 2

The saga continues. I thought i’d continue from the last article and maybe make a series of Event Editor articles as i progess with my work and encounter interesting and somehow challenging things – particularly as i think other TOAW scenario designers may find this helpfull and rookie designers may get an insight into the Event Editor’s capabilities – and pitfalls.

In the last post i described how i got the PO to activate a certain event on a certain turn that is depending on a random event, but before I continue I think i first need to explain the background a bit more detailed. In ‘Anzio 1944’ the Allied player has a series of theater options for additional air support. There are three different formations available to him, US XII ASC (U.S. XII Air Support Corps), MATBF (Mediterranean Allied Tactical Bomber Force) and MASAF (Mediterranean Allied Strategical Air Force), each one will be available for two turns. Let’s take MATBF: the Allied player has five activations of MATBF, each one brings in a new formation from the TOAW OOB after the ‘previous’ formation has withdrawn. The formation that is activated by the first theater option already starts on the map, but in garrison mode. This is the according event sequence (left column is the event number, right column is for explanation and comments):

However, the Allied player must take care of weather and daytime. The scenario has 6 hour turns; each day is represented by four turns, two AM turns (morning and afternoon) and two PM turns (night and pre-dawn). There is an air shock of 5% on PM turns. Additionally, each day (beginning on turn 26) there is a 40% chance for stormy weather which will prevent effective use of aircraft by a severe air shock on the two AM turns. This is handled by a repetitive loop that produces a storm warning each pre-dawn turn in the ‘recent news’. We can leave the effects of the event chain aside (air shock, theater recon etc) and just look at the loop itself:

So, what we need is to prevent the PO from selecting an Air Support Option on such a storm turn. This has been handled by the previous article.

But that article described only how the PO should handle one Air Support Option – or better: the first option that is subject to the ‘storm turn problem’. As it turned out this was a bit more complicated for following options of the same formation. Again we take a look at MATBF, this time the third activation. Needless to say, the third activation should occur on the next non-storm day after MATBF’s second activation (note that MATBF’s first activation occurs before turn 25 when the weather loop starts).

The relevant events start at #609. I included MATBF (2) and again the ‘weather loop’ as MATBF (3)’s events refer to these. Note that we need almost twice as many events as for the previous activation events for MATBF (2).

The first two events, #609 and #610, prevent the actual activation event (#615) from triggering immediately after event #604 (MATBF’s 2nd activation) has been activated. Events #611 and #612 kill this perpetual loop upon activation of MATBF (2) by event 604. Note that i had to insert these four events before the actual activation sequence. If i hadn’t put them on top of the sequence, but at the end, event #615 would have fired one turn after event #604. This is because the Editor goes through the events in numerical order. Event #613, being dependent on event #78, which would have triggered event #604 by a failed probability check, would have enabled #615 before the perpetual loop could have cancelled it.

Yet, that’s not all. Event #609 is again fired one last time one turn after event #604 (and thus #611 and #612) is triggered. This again prevents immediate triggering of event #615.

Next follows the activation sequence in almost the same pattern as described in the previous article, except for two variencies. According to the event pattern of MATBF (2) i would have needed a delay of 1 for event #613, but inexplicably this didn’t work and MATBF (3) entered the map already on the pre-dawn turn. I then set event #615 to trigger an additional event (#620) that triggers yet an other event (#621) which has a delay of 1. Then it did work as intended.

I hope that was not too confusing. Rookie designers calm down, the above is quite pushing the Event Editor to its limits. Most scenarios have not that demanding and special set-ups. Also note that a lot of work with the Event Editor, especially in such a demanding case, is try and error. As it was in this case. It took numerous runs with a test scenario until i found a working event pattern. Feel free to comment or criticize.

News from the front – struggling with the Ev(il) Ed

A short update.. i am currently working on updating ‘Anzio 1944’ to TOAW 3.5 which eats up most of my time, so i really haven’t had time for other design projects, especially Exporter.  For 3.5 – with the increased event slots – i will merge the PO version with the PBEM version into one scenario which means i’ll have to re-write the entire event sequence from scratch. The original scenario’s event sequence has become quite a mess due to numerous edits and bug fixes. To retain clarity and for overview purposes i now use an excel sheet. It might not be the best tool, especially as portation to the editor has to be done manually, but it works. I can group event sequences with filters, use colour codes and other kinds of visualizations to mark important events that trigger others, add comments etc.:

Having a clearly structured sheet/overview for the entire event structure will make future edits, additions and debugging a lot more comfortable. Not only that – it might also help players who may want to modify the scenario to their gusto and other designers to see ‘how the others do’. The sheet will certainly ship with the scenario.

As always when it comes to the Event Editor i’ve ran into the usual problems. It took an entire evening and numerous runs with test scenarios to figure out how to prevent the PO from using one of the Air Support Options during a storm turn. I know, i have done this before for the 2km version and for the 1km PO version, but that was not as sophisticated. I wanted the Allied PO to select an air option on a certain turn, but it should only trigger on the next non-storm day. Had i known – or remembered(?) – that events with the ‘Event Cancelled’ trigger do not ‘recycle’ themselves like the ‘Event Activated’ trigger does, i could have saved quite some time and headache.. For anyone who wants to dig into this, see the following chart.

 

One might think that the simple sequence:

#595 EvCancelled 78, Enable 597
#596 EvAct 78, Cancel 597
#597 Turn 28, PO 1 activate

would suffice. But, as written further above, this isn’t. With this configuration event 596 would only fire if there is no second storm day following a first one.

Event 78 triggers the stormy weather and related effects (air shock among others) with a 40% probability every fourth turn. Should the event fire, the ‘PO 1 Activate’ event will be cancelled. Events 595 and 596 will have to be re-enabled every fourth turn. This is done by event 75 (via events 598 and 599) which also is ‘responsible’ for the weather loop. Finally, when the PO has activated the theater option, the mini-loop will be ‘killed’ by events 600 and 601 to prevent further triggering of the TO on later non-storm days.

Note the delay of 1 with event 595. This has been necessary to ensure that event 481 is triggered on the correct turn if its activation is delayed by one or more storm turns. Without the delay it would trigger one turn too early.

Anzio @2km News

Over the past few days i’ve been updating the scenario to TOAW 3.5. Initially i didn’t want to spend a lot of time on it, but in the end i got “carried away”.. the result is a vastly improved version, though i must admit that the German PO is still weak. As 3.5 allows a scenario to be saved as a 3.4 file i think i will make the new version available for download here – as a Beta and certainly without the 3.5 related improvements. Here’s a list of the major changes – note that i left out improvements that are directly related to new features in 3.5 (the NDA..):

  • Various changes in Allied objective tracks.
  • Map revision: Added more rivers, lateral road south of the Moletta creek as in the 1km version, lateral road Cisterna – Osteriaccia as in the 1km version. Added more placenames.
  • 36th Combat Eng Regt is now a foot movement unit. This unit is used – as historically – by the Allied PO at the Moletta and along the coastal road. Giving them foot movement should help the PO with the difficult terrain.
  • The Allied PO is now more aggressive during the initial storm period.
  • Deleted the German divisional supply units. These were too many. Now the Germans have 3 supply units (one for 14. Armee and one for each Korps).
  • The PO, either side, will have static supply units now.
  • All units have now veteran status. Variations in final proficiencies after ‘seeing the elephant’ were too wild.
  • Deleted unit withdrawal messages in the news report (too much intel).
  • Changed various unit proficiencies.
  • New scenario specific graphics (tiles_marsh used for irrgations and a new MapOptional .bmp file).
  • Corrected a buggy event controlling the Allied PO’s objective tracks.

More to come soon. Next on the list is the German PO. I will try to make it a more challenging opponent, but given the difficult task i can’t promise much.

Finally.. the teaser: Turn 11 – VI Corps’ left flank: