General Staff Game of Military Tactics & Wargaming System

by Ezra Sidran, PhD

Ezra Sidran, PhD wants some feedback on this project. What do you like? What could be better? Anything missing?

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    1. Chamoxil
      Superbacker
      7 days ago

      It's still unclear that this is a PC game and not a tabletop wargame, until you reach the system requirements paragraph. Your first line or two should clearly stare something like this, "Create your own armies, maps and battles. Play historical simulations and 'what if' scenarios on PC and mac."

    2. Andrea Sbragia on December 4

      1. The trailer is too long. Avoid the background part anout the designer, backers on KS want to know "what is about the project", what it does, not who is doing this. And more, on mobile devices it is better to catch the audience for 45 seconds, 1 minute ... not more.
      2. First pledge should be 1$, some people like to pledge 1 to stay on the fence
      3. 25$ Pledge i can't understand if this is a full system version to download.
      4. Again on 25$ about coffee mugs, i want write down "only certain countries available", which are those countries? When a backer is making an impulsive purchase on KS (for it is impulsive) he might believe he will have those mugs, if he will find out his country won't be involved he will back off.
      5. Description of the game is far too long, maybe it is better to stay clear and update the KS page with some infos during the campaign so the backers email will be popped up with updates, 1 per week would be interesting.
      6. I love the mugs.... but i would, eventually, transform them as stretch goals

    3. Missing avatar

      Miquel Ramirez on December 3

      Some observations, in no particular order, aimed at complementing what others have posted already:

      * Leave out the equations out of the description of the AI and try to give a qualitative description of what it can do *for* the player and *to* the player.
      * I would come out very strongly "benchmarking" what your system is capable of with the capabilities of other existing systems out there. You don't need to name them, but you really need to highlight what makes your project different and "valuable".
      * No multiplayer capabilities? Not even PBEM?

    4. Missing avatar

      Glenn Frank Drover on December 3

      I would lead with an image of the game. It's always better to 'show' rather than 'tell'. Use your sexiest image of a game/ battle in progress.

      It is usual for there to be a cheap backer option at $1 or $5 for backers who want to support the KS, but who either don't want the product, or who want to follow the progress of the campaign before deciding to jump in.

      The coffee mugs seem to be playing a big role in this KS. They appear early, cost $25, and are included with every level above digital download. My experience is that gamers don't necessarily care about something like that. They want the game, all the bells and whistles, and perhaps some cool upgrades. Coffee mugs and T-Shirts are fine, but can be offered as an 'add-on' at the bottom. (Get a coffee mug for $10).

      I would restructure the pledge levels as follows:
      Scout: $1
      Major: $30 General Staff Wargame with 10 scenarios
      Colonel: $50 General Staff Wargame with 30 scenarios
      General: $60 Wargame + 30 scenarios + Editors (map & scenario)
      Field Marshal: $75 Everything + 10 exclusive 'Field Marshal' scenarios and coffee mug
      L'Emperor: $500 As you have it.

      Most wargamers are going to want the disc AND the download.

      There is a typo in the L'Emperor level. s/b 'one-on-one'

    5. Missing avatar

      James Sterrett on December 3

      Discuss the Simulation and Kriegsspiel modes up front - before the Army Designer, before the Map Design, and certainly before the mugs.

      Suggested order:

      Introduction

      Sim/KSpiel modes

      AI

      Scenarios

      Design Modules

      Mugs

      Second thing: It is confusing to have the mugs be the first listed item and the first described item - it's as if the main product is the mugs. Other than a $1 pledge as support, the first item should be the game.

    6. Marc Hameleers on December 3

      you might want to edit 'Stimulation mode' people might get the wrong idea �

    7. Thomas Granvold on December 2

      Is this for windows only, or will it be for MacOS also? This should be mention as part of system requirements.

    8. Chamoxil
      Superbacker
      on December 2

      It’s unclear in the title and first descriptive paragraph that this is a PC program. Until partway through, I thought this was a physical game system. Also unclear is whether this can simulate pre-gunpowder conflicts? Can we create an Alexander campaign? Or recreat the Battle of Agincourt?

    9. Chamoxil
      Superbacker
      on December 2

      It’s unclear in the title and first descriptive paragraph that this is a PC program. Until partway through, I thought this was a physical game system. Also unclear is whether this can simulate pre-gunpowder conflicts? Can we create an Alexander campaign? Or recreat the Battle of Agincourt?

    10. Brett Bayley on December 2

      Also include a $1 level for people that just want to offer a nod of support and maybe a $5 level where names will be included as a supporter on a website or in the credits in game

    11. Missing avatar

      Michael Taylor on December 2

      Like Marvin and Bill said, you might want to aim for a higher amount. Never know what unforeseen things might happen. You have 250 followers so it's only $20 a head to reach $5,000, $40 if only half of them contribute. I know I'll be coming in at the Field Marshall level - so I can get the gold baton with the eagle on top. :-)

    12. Missing avatar

      Kev on December 2

      I understand you have 30 battle available for d.load. I would place all of those in packs of 3-4 or 5 and make them stretch goals. i.e. reach 10k, we include for free 5 battles...reach 15k we release 10 battles.
      Then take one or two of the most popular battles and make them singular stretch goals raise 10k you get Gettysburg.
      Remove availability from the web of the battles anywhere else.
      At the end of the ks offer them as add ons in packs or discretely for X dollars each or Xx5 dollars for packs of 5.
      Make the base game come with 5 good scenarios across 3-4 periods. Ancients/Nappy/ACW/WWI and WWII .

      As it stands you expect to obtain 100 backers for 5k. Your profit on the mugs is close to zero. So find something else to make field Marshal/General etc valuable.

    13. Bill Speer on December 2

      I agree with Marvin, you need some higher goals for the big bucks. Think big...a staff ride with you to a certain battlefield or copies of the games you have authored?

    14. Missing avatar

      Doug Miller on December 2

      What's the difference between the General and Field Marshal pledge levels? Why is one November 2017 and the other June 2018?

    15. Donald Byron Johnson on December 2

      I assume the AI can be set to play against itself.

      It would be good to show examples of play of the game, in both the simulation and game mode. Even if it is just draft and will be improved, this is what many will care about.

    16. Marvin A Crews
      Superbacker
      on December 2

      You definitely need some higher pledge levels to bring in the real money

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About

D. Ezra Sidran, PhD is a computer scientist and an award-winning and bestselling wargame designer. His research in tactical artificial intelligence (AI) has been supported in part by DARPA (the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). General Staff is the first commercial implementation of this research.

The General Staff Wargame is a computer wargame designed to simulate any land battle from the 17th, 18th or 19th century using the TIGER/MATE AI system (papers describing the underlying principles and algorithms of this AI can be downloaded here and here). Later versions of General Staff will cover the 'Ancients' and 'Modern' periods.

The General Staff Wargaming System is an easy to use wargame construction set. It consists of a suite of modules for creating armies, maps and scenarios. The 30 most popular (as voted by our fans) battles are included free for Kickstarter backers.

The Kickstarter backer package (Aide de Camp, General, Field Marshal and l'Empereur pledge levels) includes:

  • The General Staff Wargame 
  • The General Staff Army Editor
  • The General Staff Map Editor
  • The General Staff Scenario Editor
  • 30 Famous Battles

System Requirements

The General Staff Wargame and Wargaming System run on Windows 7, 8 and 10 operating systems with a minimum of 1 GB of memory. Minimum screen resolution is 1440 x 900.

Beta Testing

All backers of this Kickstarter campaign will have the opportunity to participate as beta testers for the General Staff Wargame and General Staff Wargaming System.

Gameplay

General Staff utilizes a IGOWEGO system. You give your orders in secret, the AI gives its orders in secret and then units are moved simultaneously, combat is resolved and units appear and dissappear from direct line of sight. The length of each turn is set in the Scenario Editor (see below).

General Staff has two gameplay modes: Simulation  and Kriegsspiel.

Simulation Mode  

 Simulation mode is what you would expect from the designer of the UMS: Universal Military Simulator series: it is a detailed military simulation that is historically accurate and utilizes individual unit strength, leadership, morale, experience and unit formation.

In Simulation Mode we track a unit's strength, leadership, unit quality and morale.
In Simulation Mode we track a unit's strength, leadership, unit quality and morale.

All orders are given by you (as the highest HQ) via courier to your subordinate commanders and from there they are relayed to their subordinate units. For example:

 

A courier carrying an order sent from Marshal Beresford to Major General Steward will travel 2,289 meters and will take 8 minutes to be delivered. Click to enlarge
A courier carrying an order sent from Marshal Beresford to Major General Steward will travel 2,289 meters and will take 8 minutes to be delivered. Click to enlarge

 

After arriving at Major General Stewart's HQ it will take an additional 6 minutes for a courier to travel to the unit specified in the original orders. Further delays may be caused by the leadership value of the  HQ staff. Click to enlarge.
After arriving at Major General Stewart's HQ it will take an additional 6 minutes for a courier to travel to the unit specified in the original orders. Further delays may be caused by the leadership value of the HQ staff. Click to enlarge.

 

        Communications from units in the fight are also sent back up the chain of command via courier. General Staff also employs state of the art 3D Line of Sight algorithms. As the general you can only see what is visible from your own HQ. Other than that, you are dependent on reports arriving by courier:
Screen capture showing 3D Line of Sight. Click to enlarge. Gray areas are not directly observable from your HQ.
Screen capture showing 3D Line of Sight. Click to enlarge. Gray areas are not directly observable from your HQ.

  Units that are no longer directly visible from your HQ slowly fade away indicating their last known position:

An example of how units that are not directly visible to HQ are displayed. The longer that a unit remains unobserved, the fainter it becomes.
An example of how units that are not directly visible to HQ are displayed. The longer that a unit remains unobserved, the fainter it becomes.

A moderately complex General Staff Wargame in simulation mode will take 1-2 hours to play.  

Kriegsspiel Mode  

Kriegsspiel mode is designed to be a fun 'beer and skittles' type force-on-force' wargame. There are no HQ units and, consequently, all orders are given directly to the units.

A screen capture showing units in Kriegsspiel mode. Note that unit strength is represented by the actual number of companies, squadrons and batteries displayed on the map. We do not track unit leadership, quality or morale.
A screen capture showing units in Kriegsspiel mode. Note that unit strength is represented by the actual number of companies, squadrons and batteries displayed on the map. We do not track unit leadership, quality or morale.

Kriegsspiel games can take as little as 30 minutes to play.  

The Artificial Intelligence  

The AI for General Staff is literally state of the art and unparalleled for a commercial computer wargame. Dr. Sidran's doctoral thesis detailed the successful completion of an unsupervised learning AI that is unique in commercial computer wargames.

To view an unclassified DARPA briefing about the AI click on these links:  

Part 1.  

Part 2.  

Part 3.  

Part 4.

Scenarios

The General Staff Wargame loads and runs scenarios created for the General Staff Wargaming System. Kickstarter backers will receive these scenarios free (a $30 value):  
  • Waterloo June 18, 1815  
  • Gettysburg - Little Round Top July 2, 1863  
  • Gettysburg - Culp’s Hill July 2, 1863  
  • Borodino September 7, 1812  
  • Austerlitz December 2, 1805  
  • Saratoga September 19, 1777  
  • Saratoga October 7, 1777  
  • Gravelotte - Saint Privat August 18, 1870  
  • Antietam - Burnside’s Bridge September 17, 1862  
  • Little Bighorn June 25, 1876  
  • Little Bighorn with Gatling Guns June 25, 1876  
  • Isandlwana January 22, 1879  
  • Talavera July 27-28 1809  
  • Blenheim August 13, 1704  
  • Shiloh April 6, 1862  
  • Shiloh April 7, 1862  
  • Eylau February 8, 1807  
  • Leuthen December 5, 1757  
  • Sedan September 2, 1870  
  • Alma September 20, 1854  
  • Wagram July 5, 1809  
  • Wagram July 6, 1809  
  • 2nd Bull Run August 29, 1862  
  • 2nd Bull Run August 30, 1862  
  • Chancellorsville May 1, 1863  
  • Chancellorsville May 2, 1863  
  • Tell El Kebir September 13, 1882  
  • Jena–Auerstedt 14 October 14 1806  
  • Original Kriegsspiel Map! Circa 1892  
  • Centerville Sample Map

The General Staff Wargaming System

The General Staff Army Design Module allows the user to create new armies and edit existing Order of Battle Tables for use with the General Staff Wargaming System. It has an intuitive and easy to use interface.

Screen capture of the General Staff Army Design Module. Here the Allied Anglo-Portuguese Army from the battle of Albuera (16 May 1811) is being edited. Click to enlarge.
Screen capture of the General Staff Army Design Module. Here the Allied Anglo-Portuguese Army from the battle of Albuera (16 May 1811) is being edited. Click to enlarge.

    For more information about the General Staff Army Design Module click on these links.

 The General Staff Map Design Module comes with in-game video tutorials. Use the General Staff Map Design Module to easily create new maps or import famous historic battle maps:

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 It is also easy to create quick sketch maps of battles:

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 The General Staff Scenario Design Module allows the user to combine any two armies previously created in the General Staff Army Design Module with a map created in the General Staff Map Design Module, position troops, specify unit speeds, combat tables, game length and victory conditions and save it as a new scenario (battle) that can be loaded into the General Staff Wargame.

Screen capture of the General Staff Scenario Editor Module (Battle of Trenton). Units are dragged from the Order of Battle Table on the left and positioned as desired on the map at right. Click to enlarge.
Screen capture of the General Staff Scenario Editor Module (Battle of Trenton). Units are dragged from the Order of Battle Table on the left and positioned as desired on the map at right. Click to enlarge.

 You have complete control over unit speeds, terrain and formation modifiers, combat tables, game length, turn times, reinforcements and victory conditions. Below is a video describing how to set unit speed and turn time and how they effect each other:

 
A screen capture from the General Staff Scenario Editor showing how you set the victory conditions for a scenario.
A screen capture from the General Staff Scenario Editor showing how you set the victory conditions for a scenario.

 

For every scenario you can adjust unit type versus unit type attack and defense matrices. Do you think French light infantry should have a greater attack value than British Light Infantry? Here's the place to adjust it.
For every scenario you can adjust unit type versus unit type attack and defense matrices. Do you think French light infantry should have a greater attack value than British Light Infantry? Here's the place to adjust it.

 General Staff Mugs 

 We couldn't decide between these two 19th century Kriegsspiel engravings so we will send you both!

 

 

        

 $10,000 - Play by eMail (PBEM)

If we raise $10,000 we will add Play By eMail functionality to General Staff.

$75,000 - Play head to head online

If we raise $75,000 we will add real-time head to head online play.

            

The General Staff Development Blog

For behind the scenes information and more details about the General Staff Wargame and Wargaming System check out the development blog here.

 

Risks and challenges

There are always risks and challenges with the development of any major software project. However, these have been largely mitigated because General Staff has been under development for over two and a half years by D. Ezra Sidran who has successfully authored over 25 commercial computer games.

In all candor, we should mention that Dr. Sidran had some major health issues in 2013-4 but he has recovered and is now considered to be in complete remission.

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    Aide de Camp

    The entire General Staff Wargaming System (everything you need to create your own scenarios) PLUS 30 famous battles and the General Staff Wargame (digital download).

    Includes:
    • The General Staff Army Editor (available now)
    • The General Staff Map Editor (available now)
    • The General Staff Scenario Editor (available now)
    • 30 Famous battles for use with The General Staff Wargame
    • The General Staff Wargame
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    General

    Includes the complete General Staff Wargame and General Staff Wargaming System mailed to you on disc with manual.

    Includes:
    • The General Staff Army Editor (available now)
    • The General Staff Map Editor (available now)
    • The General Staff Scenario Editor (available now)
    • 30 Famous battles for use with The General Staff Wargame
    • The General Staff Wargame
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    Field Marshal

    Includes the complete General Staff Wargaming System mailed to you on disc plus two General Staff Coffee Mugs mailed anywhere in the world.

    Includes:
    • The General Staff Army Editor (available now)
    • The General Staff Map Editor (available now)
    • The General Staff Scenario Editor (available now)
    • 30 Famous battles for use with The General Staff Wargame
    • The General Staff Wargame
    • 2 General Staff Coffee Mugs
    • Your name will be added to the in-game thank you list.
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    L'Empereur

    A one-on-one dialog with Dr. Sidran about his research on computational military reasoning via Skype. Plus all the previous rewards. Plus a dozen coffee mugs! And we'll pay for shipping!

    Includes:
    • Dialogue with Dr. Sidran
    • Dozen coffee mugs
    • The General Staff Army Editor (available now)
    • The General Staff Map Editor (available now)
    • The General Staff Scenario Editor (available now)
    • The General Staff Wargame
    • 30 Famous battles for use with The General Staff Wargame
    • Your name will be added to the in-game thank you list.
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