Saturday, June 25, 2016

The Great Dice Roll Log

Advanced Squad Leader like most every other Wargame, RPG, or many family board games relies on dice to determine the results of actions taken during game play. In the Case of ASL, most rolls involve two six-sided die of different colors. Now the purpose of this particular blog post is not to dwell deeply into the die rolling mechanics of the world's greatest WWII tactical board game. 

In truth, this blog post is to relate a nearly 5 year record keeping experiment conducted by my long-time ASL opponent from St. Louis. This experiment began in 2010 after Scott and I returned to playing ASL after a 13 year hiatus. The cause of the hiatus was my leaving St. Louis for jobs in Illinois, Iowa, Tennessee and Oklahoma. Raising two children also distracted from ASL as well.

But in 2010, Scott and I began playing ASL by the Cardboard via SKYPE method. For the first time in 13 years, distance no longer kept us from playing our favorite game. Now for those who don't know him, Scott is a meticulous player and after one particularly frustrating game where the dice seemed to betray him at every turn, Scott decided to keep a log of every roll for every scenario we played. He was convinced that the dice play a significant role in the outcome of the games we were playing. Well, of course common sense tells us that naturally in any game involving dice, the dice will play a significant role (pun intended). 

With that understanding, I was a bit skeptical that Scott's data mining would extract anything more meaningful than the standard bell curve we have all become accustomed to seeing. 

As a Six Sigma Blackbelt, I believed that Scott's exercise would ultimately confirm what was already understood about rolling two dice. But he was undeterred, and began compiling the data with greater and greater detail throughout our gaming sessions. In fact, our game play began to suffer as he need to document each and every roll slowed our game play to a crawl. It wasn't until 2015, that I was able to convince Scott, that we had enough data for a meaningful data dive. Our game play has not returned to more normal and enjoyable speeds. 

By the time, we called it quits on the experiment, Scott had collected data for 30 scenarios played between 2010 and 2015. That is a rather large data pool to be sure.

Despite having all this collected data, my buddy hesitated to send it to me. After a year of subtle reminders, he finally sent me the Excel Spreadsheets. And I must admit the data is pretty amazing. I could see how Scott's spreadsheets evolved over time and he attempted to tie die rolls to game results. It was at that moment that I realized...wow...ok maybe the data can tell us something more about randomness in ASL...maybe...so into the data I dived.

Now, trust me when I say there is a lot of data...in truth too much that can be shared successfully. When Scott began his deep dive...he went really deep. So I took the results of the data across several relevant roll categories and took a snapshot, which is posted below.




What you see are the average die roll results for 30 scenarios divided by Player 1 and Player 2. The categories from left to right are: Player Side, Average Morale Check dice roll, Average To Hit dice roll, Average # of Factors for IFT shots, Average IFT dice roll result, Average Rally dice roll, Average Special dice roll (wind change, bog, kindling, etc.), Average single die roll (MG repair, smoke, PF check, sniper, etc.) A quick look confirms the bell curve relationship for rolling 2D6.
So yes, my friend's deep dive on the surface doesn't reveal anything different from what we expected to see. And yes, I was a bit disappointed at first. I wanted Scott's data to confirm that the dice could introduce too much randomness into the game. But the numbers as an average were not telling that story. 

So I decided to go deeper...to go where my Scott had gone...to see what else the data could reveal...if anything.

So I looked deeper at each of Scott's spreadsheets and discovered some observations which he noted on one of the Scenarios...ASL S24 Sherman Marches West. Here are two snips of the data he observed.
In this particular scenario, Scott had the Russian side. In the course of the scenario, he rolled the dice 137 times. Suddenly the data did indeed begin to tell a story beyond the simple bell curve math. 26 of his 137 rolls were 10 or greater. 18% of his rolls were "bad" and rolling 7 "12's" at any time in ASL is never good.  Now the predicted % for rolling 10's is roughly 8%...so 9% is higher than the predicted norm. His 11's were within the normal range, but his 12's were double the predicted norm. 
No my rolls for the same scenario were pretty much within or below the predicted norm with my 12's being the exception at 4%, which is higher than the predicted 3% norm. 


But the rolls themselves don't really tell us a story. It's the results of the rolls at at given time in the game that really matters. Rolling a 12 for Pin Task Check is far different than rolling a 12 for a Morale Check. So I decided to look again at Scott's data and see if results could also be gleaned in any meaningful way.

And yes, Scott did indeed compile results and give us a glimpse how the dice rolls factored into the game.







I looked to his spreadsheet for ASL 22 Kurhaus Clash for the a good example. I was keenly interested in seeing the data on this scenario, because I had suffered such a resounding defeat as the Americans. I distinctly remembered missing my morale checks throughout the game and suffering huge losses in the process. 

Scott's rolls for the game show that he put together a lot of high factor IFT shots against my Americans.  He also retained rate of fire on his MG's 5 times consecutively and the results were a 4 and 1 MC for my desperate Americans. What is also interesting is that Scott's IFT rolls were not stellar. In fact, they were right at average with 7.7. His rolls were successful in large part due to the high IFT factor shots he was taking, which provides evidence of the basic premise in ASL that your higher factor shots will produce a favorable result based on an average dice roll.

Ok...maybe this is not quite that interesting or mind-blowing...but still I find the data to be worth looking at. After all, we have all had those moments in ASL where we seem to continually roll 10's when we have 16 factor IFT shots and then roll 3's when we have 2 factor IFT shots. 

 
Ok, above are my rolls for the same scenario. Keeping in mind that my Americans were with a "6"morale, the MC rolls are telling. 13 or my 19 morale check rolls ended badly for me with either a broken squad or worse. 81% of my MC rolls were bad. And my Rally rolls were no better with nothing lower than an "8" rolled.  So not only did I break often, I failed to Rally the boys who did break. And my IFT factors tell a story of single squads and MMG's firing back at the Germans, with no fire groups in evidence at all. And my IFT rolls resulted in two Cowers for my boys 25% of my IFT rolls resulted in a Cower...against Germans in stone buildings. So the single 1MC I got against the Germans in the entire scenario comes as no surprise. The numbers above help confirm that my Americans were dealt a crushing defeat.  
 












So, in summary, my friend's project does indeed yield some useful information. On the one hand it confirms that ASL and the dice work very well together. While we often feel that that we are "diced" in a given situation or scenario...the data suggests that most rolls fall within the predicted norms. There will of course be those games where one player's dice are hotter than another or colder than the other. Certainly, the data for Kurhaus Clash shows that my Americans did indeed suffer from bad MC rolls...but on the other side of the equation....my opponent did an outstanding job of forcing me to make those MC's. So once again, the beauty of ASL and it's relationship to "random" dice rolls continues to show itself.

I will hold on to my friend's labor of love and keep the spreadsheets with my other scenario history files. They tell a story every bit as interesting as any AAR.

As next weekend leads to the 4th of July Holiday, the Grumble Jones blog will take a break and return after the 4th. Here's wishing you all a wonderful 4th of July!

Having lived in St. Louis for nearly 20 years, I can tell you no city does 4th of July better. If you have never watched fireworks from beneath the Arch...I highly recommend it!!!

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