Date: 1993-12-03
From: John
Subject: Piece Details

My Dear Mr. Duk:

By the time you read this you should have received the tape (unless the postal miscreants have made off with it again). As usual I ran out of tape long before I ran out of Alexander babble. Here's a few extra bones to chew on:

  • Land and Air in the same space. My current thinking is still that when land and air pieces occupy the same space they should remain separate. That is, up to nine land pieces can huddle together with up to nine air pieces flying overhead, and in such a situation no land piece would cover an air piece or visa versa. Attacking air pieces would have to deal with air pieces before reaching land pieces, and attacking land pieces would have to deal with land pieces befoer reaching air pieces.

    Somehow, of course, this situation has to be displayed in a straightforward way on the battle map. I agree that blinking is obnoxious (but perhaps should not be ruled out since this is a *somewhat* unusual situation). I also agree that using some sort of mixed icon would require dozens (hundreds?) of different designs, all of them cluttered and confusing: ICK. Perhaps a single abstract icon, like a fraction in which the numerator is the number of air pieces and the denomintator the number of land (or sea!) pieces. Or maybe the display would switch depending on whether or not an air piece is currently selected. I am most definitely open to ANY suggestions you may have.

  • Air refueling. Which of these three approaches most appeals to you? 1) a separate air tanker piece, 2) a gas tank that could be loaded onto an ordinary bomber (just like a bomb) that would convert a bomber to an air tanker, or 3) simply let bombers share their fuel with neighboring fighters?
  • Armies vs. Infantry vs. Rangers. I never got a chance to discuss the proposed characteristics of these three pieces. So here goes.

    Armies, and only armies, can capture cities. One way to think about this is that the army piece represents a corps of officers of sufficent rank and resources to take command of a city and run it. For this reason I propose we replace the tank symbol with a flag (and maybe use the tank symbol to represent artillery). In all other respects armies should function as they do now, that is move 2 units/day over ordinary terrain, 4 units/day over roads and fight with strength 1. However, an army CANNOT be transported by helicopter OR bomber and so must travel to new continents via naval troop transport.

    Infantry move at the same rate of speed as an army and attack with the same strength. They CANNOT capture cities. They CAN travel by helicopter (and by naval troop transport) but CANNOT parachute from bombers. The infantry is the ONLY piece that can cover (and thus protect) an army. Thus a common ploy would be to attach an army to an infantry unit(s) when moving against an enemy city; the infantry could fight off enemy pieces leaving the army free to attack the city. Also infantry could be used in combination with helicopters as a rapid deployment force or as a means of quickly jumping across narrow straights separating two continents and establishing a beachhead.

    Rangers also move at the same speed as armies and infantry and also attack with strength one. They can travel via naval transport and helicopter and, unlike infantry , can also parachute from bombers. The primary difference between a ranger and other land pieces is that rangers are camouflaged in much the same way as a submarine. That is, the enemy cannot sea a ranger until the ranger attacks or until an enemy land piece tries to occupy the same square as a ranger. Rangers can attach to (and be covered by) other land pieces; the only piece that can attach to and be protected by a ranger is a spy. If a spy is attached to a ranger it shares the ranger's camoflauge.

    (If an infantry, army, ranger, and spy share the same square the enemy will see a single infantry marker. If the enemy destroys the infantry, he will see that underlying army. If he then destroys the army he will see nothing: both the ranger and the underlying spy are camouflaged.)

    Parachuting works like this. The player first moves a ranger into the same city as a (grounded) bomber and attaches the ranger to the bomber. He then flies the bomber to its destination and detaches the ranger. The ranger appears on the land below the bomber or in one of eight neighboring cells. If the neighboring cell is water the ranger immediately perishes; otherwise the ranger remains frozen at that position for the rest of the move (the bomber is free to fly off, fuel permitting). During the enemy's subsequent turn, the ranger will be visible to any piece that moves adjacent to it; if attacked at this point the ranger will defend with half strength. During the players next turn the ranger is free to move like any other piece and from that point on it is invisible to adjacent enemy pieces (until it attacks) and defends at full strength.

    I propose that all three of these pieces should have the same minimal cost. Each has advantages and disadvantages that, I believe, are more or less in balance. Rangers are stealthy, but cannot protect armies or capture cities. Infantry can't jump out of bombers but they can hop via helicopter and protect other pieces. Because of their unique ability to capture cities, armies will always be in demand. I would tend to use ranger/spy combos for reconaisance and infantry/army combos for land battles on occupied continents.

  • Helicopters. I agree that helicopters should be able to transport 1 or maybe 2 infantry/engineer/ranger/spy (not army or artillery) and travel with range of 10/day and fuel capacity of 10. I also agree that when a helicopter runs out of fuel it should not crash but should instead become a sitting duck. By sitting duck, I mean that a grounded helicopter should cover all land pieces occupying the same square (even infantry) but should defend with strength 0. That is, if a helicopter is caught on land, the enemy will see it regardless of any other pieces occupying the same square and can always destroy it with a single shot.
  • Fuel Dumps. Although we could create yet another piece to service a downed chopper, a "fuel truck", I agree that the best course is to let engineers create a fuel dump. I suppose, then, that refueling would work like this. The engineer would move to the same square as the downed chopper (and would thus be covered by it). After, say, two days of sitting still the engineer would hatch a fuel dump containing ten units of fuel. The fuel would instantly be transferred to the helicopter which could then fly away during that same turn. Incidentally, an engineer could also leave a fuel dump on any land piece not already holding another inanimate structure (such as a road or radar installation). Once such a dump was established it would be possible for a helicopter to land on it, fill up, and fly on, all in the same turn (just as if it was touching down in a city).

    Like all structures produced by engineers the fuel dump could not be moved once it was "laid," but perhaps the engineer could create multiple ten-unit dumps on the same square, thereby producing dumps of 20, 30, or more units of fuel. Any helicopter landing on a dump would automatically fill it's tank; the dump would remain until the fuel was reduced to zero, at which point it would vanish. If any enemy piece attacks or tries to occupy a fuel dump (including an enemy helicopter), the fuel dump is destroyed. What do you think?

  • Engineers. Engineers are like mobile cities. They can move over any terrain and even onto water as long as they enter the water from a land coordinate. (Because of this rule, bridges will ordinarily only cover one unit of water, but can cross two adjacent water coordinates if and only if both water coodinates are adjacent to land; that is, to build a two unit long bridge the engineer(s) must build half of the bridge from one side and the other half from the other side. So bridges can connect two continents, but only if the strait separating them is no more than two units wide and only if engineers are already present on both continents).

    Players use engineers by moving them to the desired location, choosing the product from a list very similar to the city production dialog, and then parking the engineer for the required number of days. If the engineer moves for any reason before a product is completed, the process must start over again from scratch.

    All products produced by engineers are inanimate; that is, they cannot be moved. Only one type of product can be placed on a given coordinate (with the exception of mines; see below). Certain products, like fuel dumps and artillery batteries, can be placed on the same square more than once (this process produces a fuel dump with additional capacity or artillery batteries with additional range). Once the product is created, the engineer is free to move on. The player's pieces are free to occupy a coordinate containing an engineering product. Enemy pieces can make use of roads and bridges, but will destroy all other structures on contact. (Thus, the enemy cannot destroy a structure without first destroying all forces occupying that structure.) Structures can also be destroyed by bombs or explosives. Following is a list of currenly proposed engineering products:

    • Roads - Increase speed of all land pieces.
    • Bridges - Roads over water; allow land pieces to cross swamps or narrow straits. Slightly more expensive than roads.
    • Canals - Engineers can convert any unit of land to water, but the process is VERY expensive (time consuming). An inland lake can be established as a natural obstacle, a canal can be constructed to provide naval shortcuts, and a waterway can turn a landlocked city into a port city.
    • Fuel Dumps - Ten unit drums of fuel for use by helicopters. Multiple dumps can be placed in same square to increase capacity. Dump disappears when empty.
    • Artillery Batteries - Fixed canons which can fire within a 90° arc in a fixed direction for an extended distance. Multiple batteries can be placed in a square to increase range.
    • Radar Installations - Automatically reveals all non-camoflauged enemy pieces within a given range. Expensive.
    • Anti-Aircraft - All enemy aircraft passing over an anti-aircraft emplacement face a fixed chance (30%?) of being destroyed.
    • Land/Sea Mines - Camoflauged explosives which do 1 unit of damage against ANY piece, friend or foe, which attempt to occupy the same square. The player who lays the mine can see it, but cannot ever enter the square without suffering the damage - mines can never be defused or moved. One unit of damage is enough to destroy all land pieces. Because sea mines are laid by engineers, they can only be placed on sea coordinates adjacent to land coordinates; a ship or submarine striking a mine will be reduced in strength by one unit. Only one mine can be placed in a square. Destroyers and spies can see enemy mines from an adjacent square. A mine placed on a bridge renders the bridge unusuable - it will destroy (that part of) the bridge upon detonation.
One final thought. Can ships sail under bridges? Suppose they can. Suppose we have an aircraft carrier with 3 fighters and 4 helicopters on deck (one fighter has a spy, each of the helicopters carries an infantry unit) sailing under a bridge with an attached submarine escort (the sumbarine also has a spy aboard). Suppose a stack of nine land pieces is moving over the bridge at the same instant the naval pieces are moving under it. Suppose further that a helicopter (with two land pieces aboard), three fighters, and a bomber (with two bombs and three rangers aboard) are all flying over the same bridge.

Some questions. First, how do we apply our limit of, say, nine pieces per square. Does this limit refer to all land, sea-surface, underwater, and air pieces combined? Is it nine pieces in each of the three (four?) elements (a total of 27 [36?] pieces allowed in this situation)? Do containers (such as a helicopter with an infantry unit or a submarine with a spy) count as 1 piece or as more than 1? What if some of the pieces belong to the enemy? If the sky is already buzzing with nine enemy fighters does this mean none of my fighters can lift off from my carrier?

And secondly, how in the hell do we portray this situation on the map?

I look forward to your reactions and ideas.

Yours in haste,

Epicurious J.