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Boardgame mechanic to mimic wildfire

 
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TheFlatline
Prince


Joined: 30 Apr 2010
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2017 1:52 am    Post subject: Boardgame mechanic to mimic wildfire Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

So I'm playing with an idea for a boardgame (sort of a single player strategy game) about wildfire management, and I'm trying to work out a way to mimic the spread of wildfire across a map in a reasonably realistic way that does not feel time consuming. I'm looking for feedback on this or alternate ideas.

Additional goals are to minimize or eliminate the need to roll dice yet retain a measure of unpredictability.

My original idea was to play the game on a board that is roughly 13x13 hexes, using 53mm hexes. I want some room to build interesting terrain but I need to keep the number of hexes managable.

I'm looking for feedback on this or alternate ideas.


The idea that I have is this:

Each space/hex has a few characteristics:

Fuel Type
Terrain (is it going up, down, or level ground?)
Volatility of the fuel

There are environmental factors that represent the variables and unpredictability of wildfire from most to least variable:

Wind
Temperature
Humidity

Hexes/spaces have two values. First is a target number that must be surpassed in order to catch on fire that we'll call the volitility value. This is a number based on the volitility of the fuel (ie: grass, shrub, sparse timber, dense timber, etc...) modified by wind, temp, humidity, terrain, etc... The second number which we can call the combustion value, is how many turns the hex can burn before it burns out and it's current burn timer represents the base number to compare to adjacent hexes volitility score numbers.

When you check for fire spread, you add environmental modifiers (wind strength, temperature, humidity) to a hex's combustion value, to the next hex in the direction of the wind. If the total surpasses that hex's volatility value, it catches on fire.

Example: We have 1 hex of grass (combustion value 2) catch fire in a prairie, so we won't worry about elevation change. Grass has a volatility value of 3. In the absence of any wind on a flat ground it probably won't spread very far (at least in the scale the game will be dealing with). The scenario sets the starting conditions. It gets a gentle 1 point breeze as a modifier, but the day is hot, another 1 point modifier, and it's the middle of summer so it's pretty dry giving another 1 points, for a total of 3 points of environmental modifier. So on the first turn, the fire has a total of 5 points in the direction of the wind to overcome the volatility rating of 3 (the next hex is grass), which it easily does. The first hex loses one point of combustion, down to 1, while the hex that caught on fire starts at 2.

For the next turn, let's say the breeze veers off to the left one facing, blowing the original fire into chaparral. Chaparral has a volatility of 6 points, and a combustion value of 4. It burns a decent amount of time, gets hot, but is harder to ignite.

On the fire check round, the original hex has a combustion value of 1, and the environmental modifiers of 3 points. We'll give flanking contributing fire maybe a bonus of 1, something like that I haven't worked out the math yet, but the long shot is that only has a total value of 5, which does not surpass the volatility rating of chaparral. The grass fire was mostly burned out and the wind shift didn't catch the chaparral. There's still the 2nd grass hex and whatever the hell it's burning. It's hot enough on it's first turn to catch chaparral or grass.

Wind conditions change every turn, which represents a large-ish chunk of time. Temperature and humidity changes occur more slowly, with humidity changing generally every dawn and dusk. Temperature would generally change 4 times a day (Dawn, noon, dusk, midnight for simplicity).

There's other rules I'm playing with, like blowups to represent when conditions get *just* right and the fire goes from a steady pace to basically an explosion, but I want to have the basic mechanics down.

The general idea I have is that you calculate the environmental variable and then quickly run down the fire line and add terrain (uphill, downhill, or even terrain, nothing super fancy), flanking bonuses, and compare to the next hex in the wind's direction to see if it lit or not. Then you go through and reduce the combustion rating of every hex that's on fire. Then you move on. Each hex shouldn't take more than a moment to calculate.

The strategy game would then be to adjust the combustion ratings of fires already burning and the volatility of fuel sources in anticipation of where you think the fire will generally go. Wind may kick up or shift and blow through your fire defenses, you know that daytime temperatures will make the fire accelerate, but you don't know precisely how the fire is going to react.

I'd combine this with limited resources per turn that you can spend on fighting the fire. The further out you assign your resources the cheaper they are, but the less you can bet that they'll actually help, and it costs resources to move existing equipment and personnel into place. Scenarios dictate resources available and your economy pool every turn.

Questions? Comments? A lot of time would have to go into balancing the volatility and combustion values of fuel sources, but I think that's doable, and it should be even mathematical with little effort. Or am I barking up the wrong tree and should go back to concept?
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...You Lost Me
Duke


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2017 6:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

You say not to make this time-consuming, but the tracking system feels very time-consuming. Both from a gameplay standpoint and from the perspective of learning the game. I do not want to run round-by-round timers on individual hexes to determine how long they burn compared to adjacent neighbors. I don't even want to do that for a line of hexes.

I don't know how realistic this is, but I think from a usability standpoint you need fixed groups of hexes to both catch fire & burn out together in the same way every game. Individual tiles, and even groups of tiles, should not need round-by-round upkeep. If you want to determine whether hexes burn out I think you'll need to look at marking/flipping hexes every set number of rounds.

I'm imagining something like: Advance a time track, roll 2 dice for wind direction & strength, place a few markers to indicate future burning, then let the players take their turns. Going further than this starts to risk pushing your players out of the game.
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Last edited by ...You Lost Me on Tue Jan 24, 2017 6:54 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Zaranthan
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 24, 2017 8:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

One way to cut the bookkeeping is to ditch the per-hex-per-round ticking combustion value. Once a hex is on fire, it burns until the players put it out. Once the players douse a hex, that hex can't catch fire again, so contiguous blocks of fire with nowhere to spread can be marked doused. This probably gives the players more hope than actual firefighters would have (a line of timber soaked in retardant can certainly dry out and reignite), but it makes the board much more manageable.
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TheFlatline
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PostPosted: Sat Jan 28, 2017 6:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Understood about the bookkeeping.

The problem is that one and done is that it doesn't represent a large part about what makes fire dangerous.

The other problem with burning until it gets put out is that not only is that not how most fires of any real size are put out, but it deprives the player of the basic strategy of wildfire response, which is to channel the fire into a place where it can do no harm to important structures and then let it burn itself out.

I think there's a medium ground though where the duration of the fire is going to need to be shorter. 1, 2, and possibly/rarely 3 turns tops. That way you can do it with hex flips, or fire meeples, or something fast like that.

That simplifies a number of things though actually in the long run. I'll have to work with the math on the combustion value to be not dependent on how many turns the fire burns but that's not a big deal.
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Zaranthan
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PostPosted: Sun Jan 29, 2017 3:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

The 1-2 turn burn is tempting. You could do that by cutting the board into smaller hexes and have spread rules more like the Game of Life, where every turn you're likely to toggle the burning state of 60-90% of the active hexes. This shifts the burden of the combustibility mechanic to the terrain generation phase, where certain configurations of hexes light up faster or slower.
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Koumei wrote:
...is the dead guy posthumously at fault for his own death and, due to the felony murder law, his own murderer?

hyzmarca wrote:
A palace made out of poop is much more impressive than one made out of gold. Stinkier, but more impressive. One is an ostentatious display of wealth. The other is a miraculous engineering feat.
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TheFlatline
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PostPosted: Mon Jan 30, 2017 6:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

Terrain and wind are the big deciders in how a wildfire behaves. Temperatures and humidity help influence volatility. I'm playing with some ideas on how all this would work together. The original idea was something like Battlelore/Memoir '44/Command & Colors where you use terrain hexes on a master hex board to build a map according to a scenario and then play off of that. It'd make it easy to build new scenarios and it'd allow flexibility.
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Josh_Kablack
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 07, 2017 3:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote Add User to Ignore List

You probably want something vaguely along the lines of Small World:

You start with a map. In the setup phase, parts of the map get added terrain features placed on them (some specified by the map itself, some random) Then during game play, each turn the fire will spread out through N+random additional hexes, but always spreading to the remaining adjacent hexes with the most burn-favorable terrain. The game play is mainly about terrain feature modification and getting your forces out of the way after making such modifications.
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