Command and Control in the Fleet Power System

Gamers don’t like Command and Control and usually have to be dragged kicking and screaming to employ “relistic” C2 rules. Nobody wants to come up with the “cunning plan” (thank you Baldrick) only to lose becasue of C2 SNAFUs beyond his (her) control. It’s much more FUN to act as the queen of the Borg hive mind and bestow your god’s eye view and coordination capability to your counters. With rare exceptions, C2 rules just get in the way of the.

Interestingly, having been an “observer/recorder” (now “ethnographer…”) up to analysis director for major experiments/CPX’s, real life commanders like the C2 issues they have to deal with even less – to the point of seeing flah officers throw there hands up and lament “how do I command units you guys don’t talk to, and control operations when the status briefings I get are 8-12 hours old…”

In the immortal words of ADM “Fox” Fallon..”welcome to the War, Gentlemen”.

Well, even for professional purposes of analysis and education, having a game with “max reality” may be sobering, but is typically not very useful. So in Fleet power I represent the range of C2 operations, from “fun gaming” (asynchronous unit activation) to “hard core sobering” you have to start your planning effort 3 days in advance of the orders being executed.This latter case is best “simulated” by simply including the layers of command into the player structure, but when playing with a single small group can become problematic. I take an “effects-based” view of things in that case.

I will focus on the “middle ground” in this post, with some ideas on the extremes saved for the end. This framework will work for playing at game scales where there are 4-8 operations phases per day. It divides the problem into Naval and Air phases with similar, but distinct methods, as alluded to in the overview post.

The basic assumptions are that the following things are represented:

  • There is a need for a “plan” and there is an adverse effect to “flying by the seat of your pants” without one.
  • The “plan” consits of a mission, a location, and guidence on what to do once you get there.
  • The “plan” needs to provide enough information to the Umpire that he can assess what will happen during the turn without a continual stream of questions to the players.
  • The game design inhibits if not prevents the Task Force Commander “driving ships around”. An operational commander worth his salt is like a CEO – “living in the future” trying to anticipate what the adversary might do next, and enable the greatest flexibility in responding to it. Unfortunately most Operational commanders are “living in the past” becasue of the inherent delays in generating briefing material in the “powerpoint age”.
  • If a unit is out of communications, its planned mission can’t be changed until it is back in communications, so planned comms outages (EMCON) need to be scheduled and the potential for loss of comms due ot enemy action considered.

Planning Naval Operations

The operations of a Naval Task Group, Air Wing, or other game units, require coordination with each other as well as a variety of national and theater-level logistics, communications, intelligence, security, diplomatic, and other types of support. This requires the Commander decide where and on what mission he wants his task groups ahead of time. In real life this process begins at least 48 hours (more usually 72) before the plan will take effect. In the game this is done on the Daily Intentions log for each Task Group during the New Day phase prior to the start of the turn they apply to. In advanced play, the scenario (or umpire’s direction) may impose additional time delays to reflect relative command and control capabilities of the various sides.

In the discussion below row shifts (benefits to the searcher/attacker) are indicated by X D(down, never up), while column shifts (penalies to the attacker/searcher) are indicated by X R (right, never left). These apply to the various encounter tables.

Planning Decisions: The choices the player has in the Naval Planning Phase when filling out the Daily Intentions Log (or during the Operations Phases filling out the Current Ops log) include the mission to perform, the destination hex (or if desired the exact path of hexes the unit will move through) and the commander’s guidance specifying what to do upon the occurrence of various emergent situations. Each of the columns in the log example shown are explained below:

Daily Intentions Log

Day (#): The first column designates the day the log applies to with each 3 to 8 hour turn below it. The 0600 turn is orange indicating “dawn” and the 1800 turn is purple indicating  “dusk”. Scenarios may have special rules for limitations on some units (particularly lower capability level air units) during the movement increments of “dawn” and “dusk” as well as geographic and seasonal variation in when dawn, dusk and daylight/night turns occur. For example, at the 8 operations phase per day scale the 0600, 0900, 1200, 1nd 1500 turns are “daylight” and the other 4 are “night”. Certain detection activities are more difficult at night.

Mission: The mission choices for naval units and the benefits and penalties arising from them are below:

Transit (T): The TG moves alone the designated path of hexes until it reaches its destination. The player may simply count the hexes to the destination and indicate the transit speed (hexes per turn) with an “X” in the corresponding box to indicate to the Umpire to use “best judgment” in getting it there.  Search probabilities are based on the searcher performing a “random search” in the hex, thus transiting units straight line path causes them to suffer a 3R penalty to its encounter rolls. For similar reasons, enemy encounter attempts suffer a 2R penalty as well. When engaging, transiting units recieve a 2R penalty to “fire effectively first” while enemies receive a 2D enhancement to their theirs (non-manuevering target). Note that transiting units can benefit from the “evasive” countermeasure guidance, at a cost of being treated as moving at a speed 1 higher than the number of hexes it moves, if that is greater than 1. In the advanced game units with a Transit mission accrue 1 Friction point per hour.

Recon (R): The TG moves alone the designated path of hexes trying to maximize its encounter chances vs other naval units, and minimize their attempts against it. The TG receives a 1D shift to its encounter roll and enemy encounter rolls receive a 1R shift against it. Similarly engagement attempts a unit with Recon orders make have a 1D enhancement, while enemies receive a 1R. If the ship is moving greater than 1 hex per turn, it is considered to be moving at a speed 1 greater than the number of hexes it moves for scouting attempts that are affected by speed (normally USW) due to its erratic maneuvering. In the advanced game units with a Recon mission accrue 3 Friction point per hour

Escort (E): Rather than having a path of hexes designated, the ID of the friendly unit that is being escorted is designated together with an indication whether the escorting unit is conducting the mission in the same, or an adjacent hex. If in an adjacent hex, the direction relative to the escorted unit is provided. The escorting unit will move with the escorted unit in the same relative position (same or adjacent hex). It need not be given the same guidance as the escorted unit. Multiple units may be assigned escort to a single escorted unit. The escorting units that are in the same hex as the escorted unit are able to defend against attacks targeting any units in the hex as though it were part of the escorted unit. This is particularly useful in defending units with no organic defense capability, like amphibious ships or logistics ships, while maintaining flexibility to shift to escort other units when one is out of a threat’s area. Escorting units in adjacent hexes can provide defensive fire against incoming missiles that enter their hex in route to the escorted unit. Submarines that move through the escorting unit to get to the hex with the escorted unit are subject to an additional encounter roll as they leave the hex with the escorting units and enter the hex with the escorted unit. In the advanced game units with an Escort mission accrue 2 Friction point per hour In the advanced game units with an Escort mission accrue 2 Friction point per hour.

Patrol (P): Units on patrol are not specifically located in a hex, but are placed next to the OpArea marker they are assigned to. They contribute to increasing the Situational Awareness level in the OpArea and may make encounter rolls against enemy units that enter it (not just adjacent). The advantages and disadvantages of patrolling an OpArea, vs “independent steaming” are described in the OpArea rules.  In the advanced game units with a Patrol mission accrue 2 Friction point per hour.

Strike (S):  Striking units operate in a similar fashion to Recon mission units, but are not as focused on avoiding contact, but on preparing to “fire effectively first” when in contact. They are most effective when given an enemy unit or shore installation to attack allowing them to more quickly make a coordinated attack together with other striking units, or units with “coordinated attack” guidance. The unit receives a 1 D encounter shift when searching as with Recon, but enemies do not receive a 1R when searching for it. Depending on the SA level in the OpArea the target unit is in, striking units can get an engagement modifier between 2 and 4D. Enemies attacking it do not receive the 1R engagement modifier that Recon units get. In the advanced game units with a Strike mission accrue 3 Friction point per hour.

Underway Replenishment (U): The UNREP mission is only used in the basic game as part of a scenario’s victory condition. UNREP’ing units may not be given “evasive” countermeasure guidance. In the advanced game: Units conducting UNREP are limited to a max speed of 2 hexes per turn and are considered transiting (T) in all other respects. Each turn, 2 ships in one or more TGs that start in the same hex with a replenishment capable unit, and spend the entire turn with it, are refueled, reloaded with 12 ammo points of gun ammunition or torpedoes, and all terminal defense system ammo. Missiles may not be reloaded underway. In the advanced game units with an UNREP mission accrue 1 Friction point per hour.

In Port (I): The In Port mission is only used in the basic game as part of a scenario’s victory condition. In the advanced game, Units enter port one turn, spend at least one turn in port, and may leave the subsequent turn. In that period of time Units are assumed to refuel, and reload 24 ammo points of gun ammunition, torpedoes or missiles. Each additional turn spent in port will allow the reload of 16 additional ammunition points. Thus the complete re-arming of a destroyer with 96 VLS cells, a magazine with 24 torpedoes (all 1 ammo point ea.) ; together with 30 “shots” of 5” ammo, 4 “shots” of Hellfire missiles (4 rounds each) and 16 decoy “shots” (all 0.5 ammo points ea.) would take 9 turns to complete (8.3 FRU). In the advanced game units with a transit mission REMOVE ¾ of their accumulated friction points each full day they stay in port.

Movement Plot: The movement plot indicates where each unit will go during each Naval phase of the day. Unless the play wants to “fine tune” the path the unit takes, only the ultimate destination need to be entered, “x-ing” out the number of movement points the unit will use each turn. Each hex on the map is numbered to facilitate indicating the path of hexes the unit will take.

  • Speed Restrictions: The number of hexes a unit can move is restricted by the maximum speed of the slowest ship in the unit. Some order and guidance combination assume that the ship is maneuvering in such a way that its “speed of advance” is less than the speed the ships are actually making (i.e the ship speed for purposes of detection is treated as 1 greater than the number of hexes it traverses). If the unit is moving one hex per turn its speed is always considered “1”.
  • Fuel usage: in the advanced game moving at high speed incurs a significant increase in the number of fuel boxes a ship uses. Ships may move one hex per turn at no fuel cost. Higher speeds can cost significantly more fuel per move. Units that have no more fuel boxes remaining must end any mission in the next naval phase and their plot changed to move to the nearest logistics ship to UNREP, or port, whichever is closer.

Unit Guidance: The idea behind the guidence choices is to provide a means to indicate how the unit should behave, wwithout the need to write out a discription of what the player wants the unit to do. If desired, such written guidence can be used, but this will typically only be desirable in games using a heirarchical staff of players. Umpires should feel free to add guidence options (or delete them) for specific game objectives.

The guidance choices for naval units and the benefits and penalties arising from them are below:

Upon Detection (Detect): The choices for how you want the unit to behave upon detecting an enemy unit:

  • Avoid (A) – The unit will stop and move no closer to the detected unit and if the detected unit moves closer, the avoiding unit will move so as to increase the distance to the detected unit (provided it has movement available.
  • Shadow (S) – The unit will make its next move in a way to decrease the distance in hexes to the detected unit, but will not move closer than 1 hex away.
  • Fire (F) – The unit will fire upon the detected unit, making an attack as appropriate to the detection level with which the detected unit is held.
  • Isolate (I) – The unit acts as in Shadow above, but will employ EMS capabilities to prevent the target unit from being able to communicate effectively. (Typically requires a special unit capability).

Fire: What fire doctrine does the unit use when it is triggered to fire (i.e the fire case above, or when defending itself). This can be chosen separately for defending/attacking (e.g. C/L for conserve ammo defending but lower risk attacking). Note that when given a strike mission the player may decide at the beginning of the operations phase what fire guidence to use.

  • Conserve ammo (C) – unit will “shoot-look-shoot” at incoming missiles and shoot 2 ASuW missiles (or 1 torpedo if a submarine) per target at no more than 2 targets.
  • Normal (N) – unit will ‘shoot-shoot-look-shoot” at incoming missiles and will shoot 4 ASuW missiles (or 2 torpedoes per target if a submarine) per target at no more than 2 targets.
  • Lower Risk (L) – the unit will “shoot-shoot-look-shoot-shoot” at incoming missiles and will shoot up to 8 ASuW missiles (or maximum available) at the nearest enemy unit, or the perceived VHU if the target unit is held at DL3).

Countermeasures Employment (CM): The choices for how the unit attempts to disrupt enemy attempts to detect and/or attack the unit. More than one option may be chosen, if appropriate (i.e EMCON R and A can’t both be chosen):

  • None (N)
  • Evasive Maneuver (E) – the unit will make periodic evasive maneuvers reducing the enemy chances of a successful submarine or passive – only EMS engagement.
  • Commercial Traffic Screen (C) – the unit attempts to use commercial traffic nearby to lower the effective DL. Unit must be in a coastal (no more than 1 hex from a shore or Sea Lane hex.)
  • Littoral clutter – If the unit is in a coast hex it may attempt to use its proximity to land features to avoid encounters.
  • EMCON (R, S) no radar, no sonar – note commercial radar will be used if deception (C) below is used. Unit stays in coms via LPI SATCOM. Scenario special rules may limit the total number of units that may simultaneously use LPI SATCPM.
  • EMCON (A) no emissions at all (indicate turn comms resumes). The unit relies on passive sensors only.
  • Anti-torpedo countermeasures (T) – the unit is using expendable anti-torpedo or anti-missile countermeasures. These will be expended over time to “false alarms” based on CL level (higher = less false alarms).

Deception (Decep): The choices for how the unit can attempt to deceive the enemy. P and C decpetion opitions require special equipment per scenario rules:

  • None (N)
  • Disguise as Commercial (C) – The unit uses only a commercial radar and deceptive lighting at night to disguise itself as a commercial ship.
  • Portray HVU when none is present (P) – requires special equipment.
  • Conceal HVU when present (C) – requires special equipment.

Emergent Changes: Players may elect to change the plotted movement and/or guidance of any or all units at the start of a naval phase, however that unit receives a column shift penalty (1R) on all rolls for the rest of the day each time this is done. When changing orders, the player may change the plotted movement, mission and guidance for any or all succeeding naval phases, incurring a single penalty. If he subsequently “changes the change” an additional 1R penalty is incurred for each subsequent change. Changes to the Daily Intentions are plotted on the “Current ops” log for the unit. Note that this occurs BEFORE any naval movement occurs.

Friction effects of Changing Mission: In the advanced game, instead of accruing column shifts, the unit gains 2 friction points for each mission element (mission, guidance or movement plot) changed – 5 if all three are changed. 1 additional friction point is accumulated for each naval phase changed. Reverting back to the daily intentions is a flat 2 friction points.

So that is how you command and control units. The use of OpAreas is still something we are experimenting with as a way to address the problem of “signal to noise ratio” near land and to reflect the advantages in undersea warfare of understanding the acoustics of a specific location. The general idea is to assign units to the OpArea Marker and they raise the SA level, making it easier to have succesful encounters and engagements. It also provides a bit of limited intel in face to face games as units assinged to an OpArea are placed on an OpArea card out of sight. This reduces the number of “Dummy counters” on the map and attempts to get players to focus on “major muscle movements” of units moveing to OpAreas, setting up shop there for considerable time (half a day to multiple days) to accomplish scenario objectives. In short basic games the locations of a sides OpAreas may be given in the scenario rules (from higher authority) or may be limited in number. In advanced game play they may be created, but each additional “active” OpArea a given staff element is “running” the higher the friction points the staff accrues.

Friction points accrue at som many per hour, so they stay consitance across scales. In general for each 50 friction points acrrued, you lose 1 proficeincy level. When you reduce the friction point total below a 50 point threshold, you get the proficiency penalty removed. . Each New Day phase each staff rolls for a “force wide reduction” that is usually (2d6+8) (i.e. 10 to 20) that is applied to all units under that staff. Otherwise, if you takea unit “off task” its friction point total is reduced by 3/4.

We still need to playtest the friction point rules more extensively. Another option is to have a dice roll associated with fproficiecny loss due to friction points.

Next I’ll coverhow air C2 works…its the most complicated part of the game…

Comments Welcome!

About Paul Vebber

"If you read about something, you have learned about it. If you can teach something, you have mastered it. Designing a useful game about something however, requires developing a deep understanding of how it relates to other things."
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6 Responses to Command and Control in the Fleet Power System

  1. Paul Vebber says:

    James, did you have a comment? You appear to have only posted an email address.

  2. taijeronv says:

    How are units rated?

    • Paul Vebber says:


      Must be an interesting time to be in Odessa!

      I’m not sure what happened with the original replay I made last week – Google keeps warning me at work to “update to a modern browser for full compatibility” but of course NMCI won’t update us beyond IE 8…

      As to the question, I will go into detail in a later post, but the way “units” work in the game is as “containers” for lower level units. Air Wings contain squadrons of one type of aircraft, Naval units contain individual ships (which can be of different types) and land units are brigades that consist of different types of battalions. You can split out individual squadrons, ships or battalions to operate independently as units, but the more units, the more friction points the HQ commanding them receives

      Now these ‘lower level units’ have one or more capability ratings based on the scale of game you are playing. These range from ‘capability level’ 1 to 9. The game is meant to be ‘generic’ so there is no strict correlation between CL’s and real world capabilities – its a relative scale that governs the relative probabilities of each side rasing or lowerin the situational awareness level in an OpArea, ‘encountering’ each other and then the results of ‘engaging each other’.

      Now these CLs can be uniform for a component unit (i.e. a “CL 6 aircraft”) of can be spilt into different domains (i.e. a ship with a CL7 AAW capability, a CL 4 ASW capability, a CL5 ASuW capability and a CL3 Electro-magnetic spectrum capability). Representing land units is more rudimentary right now with a QJM-like “Combat power” model where component unit combat power ratings are aggregated and a ‘command rating’ used to determine what % of a “container” units component combat power is employed in a given engagement.

      If desired these CL levels can be further divided into sensing and counter-sensing, offense and defense in each domain.

      Playability is obviously greatly affected by the granularity with which capabilities are represented and aggregated, and when we designed the game we did it with the idea of it being a prototype for a computer game in order to use the higher levels of granularity.

      • taijeronv says:

        Sorry I didn’t see this sooner. I was expecting an email whenever you replied but I didn’t check the appropriate boxes in order to get that notification.

        I look forward to your blog in regards to unit ratings.

  3. Pingback: Fleet Battle School | Wargaming Connection

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