Homefront Wargame Center

…supporting our hobby!

The AREA Rating System

Posted by Denny Koch on May 5, 2010

Introduction:

AREA – The HFC rating system of choice!

One of the most important aspects why we started to search for a ranking system in 2001 was that we wanted our played games being rated.

Up to that day we had met regularly and played competitively against each other, but we hadn’t recorded our results anywhere, besides on a sheet of paper. This wasn’t very satisfying, so we decided that we wanted to archive our game results somewhere or to establish an internal rating and ranking system. First we experimented with specific rating systems we developed separately for each game we played – this soon became very impractical with the growing number of games we played and our self-developed systems got somewhat out of hand.

We felt the need for a simplified and homogenous system and discovered the well-tried AREA Rating system which existed for many years and which could be used for almost any game (or, at least, in which almost any game could be included). We then decided that from this day on all games we played (Face-to-Face or online by VASL / Cyberboard or by e-mail) should be AREA rated. By using this system we not only had an internal ranking system, but we also had the chance to compare our level to other players from all over the world. The fact that AREA is standard in many wargaming clubs and also used by single players, offered the chance to play “rated” games against players from all over the world without the need to include these games into self-developed ranking systems. By using AREA we saved time and got a far more functional rating system than we could ever develop ourselves!

Any game can be added to AREA, here: Up Front (Avalon Hill)

Even after the Homefront Wargaming Club became the Homefront Wargame Center in 2006, we still believed it to be an important mission to promote the AREA system in Germany and to support it – because using it had been a very positive experience over the past few years. In addition, we became convinced of the AREA idea and philosophy over the course of time. We don’t play games within a fixed club structure anymore and all games played are now a strictly private matter between the HFC Staff members and their friends, but we encourage all players to send in their game results, anyway!

We think that AREA is an important part of the wargaming hobby and we want to support and promote this traditional system. It’s very easy to report games to AREA: When starting a new game, all players should agree on whether this game will be AREA rated or not. We automatically regard a game as AREA rated if no player has any objections against this. In this we agree with Glenn E. Petroski (more about him below) who once said in The General regarding this point:

“In the spirit of helping one another, I ask that all games are to be AREA-rated. I cannot actually impose this upon you, and I will not abandon you if you choose to run your competition otherwise, but it is the one thing I ask of those soliciting my assistance and support. AREA can be a common link across our hobby, an information pool, a tool, for all our use. It will never happen without your support. Every game played should be AREA-rated. Failing that give preference to rated players. Recently, I have been accused of being discriminatory about this. My reply is “You BETCHA!” In the end those ratings will benefit us all.”
(Petroski in The General, Vol. 30, No. 6, p. 55)

Of course we make an exception when playing tutorial games versus newbies or when learning or trying new games ourselves – no newbie has to be afraid of getting a rated defeat just because he is new to a game.

Overview: What is this all about?


Comparing skills is part of the fun

“AREA” is the abbreviation of “Avalon Hill Reliability, Experience, and Ability Scoring System“. This rating system was developed in 1974 by the Avalon Hill Game Company (TAHGC) in order to allow players to find solid, reliable opponents and to compare gaming skills. This was long before the internet was invented and due to a lack of opponents, most games were played PbM (by mail) then. If you consider how long an average consim takes, even when played Face-to-Face (FTF) or per Email (PbEM), you can imagine how long games took those days when exchanging turns by mail. So it was a serious problem if one of the opponents suddenly quit the game and perhaps even disappeared without telling his opponent.

To stop this behaviour, which was quite common among PbM players, the AREA rating system was developed. By offering the opportunity to record finished games and to receive a rating, this helped to avoid frustration and introduced a philosophy of sportsmanship and competition among players. The consim community happily accepted this new system.

Over the years the AREA system was revised a few times and is available on the internet today, while in the good old times the ranking lists were published in the Avalon Hill magazine “The General“.

In order to rate a game in the AREA system you need an AREA ID. You will keep this ID for the rest of your life and for all different games you play. You first get this ID when entering your first game result and adding your real name, email and postal address to this game report. You don’t have to be afraid because of this; these personal data will not be given to anyone and is not visible on any website if you don’t allow this. Players from all over the world are welcome.

At the end of this article you will find a short description of how the AREA results are calculated; in order to start with the system you just have to know that each player starts with 5000 points and – in case of victory – “steals” a certain amount of points from his opponent, depending on his ranking and experience. The AREA statistics also include data about how many games you played FTF (Face-to-Face) or versus a remote (per Mail or online) opponent, against how many different opponents you played so far and if the game was part of a tournament.

The AREA system is managed today by a handful of dedicated volunteers.

A typical ranking list for a game

How to report a game

Reporting a game is quite simple nowadays. You can find a list of all games on the AREA main page (Game Index by Title).The website design is quite simplistic and old-fashioned with text and nothing else, but it serves its purpose perfectly.

Each game has a specific email address to which you send your game result. You should agree with your fellow players on who sends in the game report and he then sends an email with the following contents to the respective address:

  • Name of game:
  • Date of game end:
  • Player 1 (name, AREA ID, e-mail address)
  • Player 2 (name, AREA ID, e-mail-address)
  • Game-type (FTF, PbEM etc.)
  • Result: (winner’s name)

The opponent will be included in the CC-Line of this email and should then send a copy of this mail with the note “Game confirmed” to the AREA admin and a copy to his/her opponent. Only games which are confirmed by the opponent will be added to your AREA rating.

This confirmation is vital to minimize danger of cheating and of sending in “faked” games. Fortunately, 30 years of AREA history proved that the consim community is transparent enough to be able to regulate itself. Because of the widely accepted Honor System, cheating in the AREA system isn’t a serious problem.

In a tournament, the game master (or a player who volunteers for the job) collects all game results and reports them simultaneously. To be rated as a tournament result, at least 10 players must have participated in the event and it must have been played for at least 3 rounds.

Games which are not yet listed in the AREA can be added by writing an email to the AREA admin, reporting at least 1 game result of the new game. Giving some information about this game (era, type, number of players) helps and speeds up the process of integrating this game into the AREA listing.

AREA-results

An AREA-listing of a player looks like this:

Rank     AREA ID     Name     Rating     Frequency     Opponents     Remote Play     Tournaments     Activity Date     Last updated

  • Rank describes the current rank within all active players of a given game. Number 1 is the current top gamer and the one to beat!
  • AREA ID: this is the individual identification number of each player. It is possible to find players by searching the AREA database for this ID, e.g. if you want to find out which games a player plays and which rankings he has in these games. The AREA database is very up-to-date and you can also search for a player’s name. Here the AREA ID is important if some players have similar names.
  • Name: The real name (first and surname) the player entered in his first application email.
  • Rating: This is the current point amount of a player. The more points, the better. Since all players start with a base point amount of 5000, this number is “average” and doesn’t tell much about a player with only few games yet. 7000 is quite good, 3000 quite bad. Not only the points are a clue to the individual game experience and skill level; you should also take a look at how many different opponents the player had so far. If a player has many points, but played against only one person so far, it only shows that this player may be better than this person. Whether he can match other players with the same point level who earned their points by playing against 30 players or not is another question, of course. Experienced players analyze all aspects of a player’s profile and don’t focus on the rating alone.
  • Frequency: This value indicates the absolute number of games finished by the player. Note that a player with a rating of 5100 and only 1 finished game is as reliable as a player with 4900 points and one game – this means that both played once and won / lost this game. Veteran players analyze these AREA numbers and know that a player with 6385 points who played 10 games so far won approximately 80% of his games.
  • Opponents: The absolute number of opponents a player played with. A player with an opponents-number of “1” constantly plays against the same opponent – which doesn’t give a good impression about his gaming skills and experience. You should seek to play against as many opponents as possible.
  • Remote Play: Number of games not played Face-to-face but per mail, email or any other medium such as VASL. A “0” means that the player exclusively played FTF so far. Is the remote number equal to his frequency number, this player never shared a real game table with an opponent.
  • Tournaments: This value indicates in how many Face-to-Face-tournaments this player participated so far. These results are reported by the game master and must fulfill the special tournament conditions mentioned above.
  • Activity Date: This date shows when the last game result was reported. If the player remains idle for about 2 years, he is kicked off the ranking list and gets “inactive status”. He keeps his points and other “qualifiers”, though. Once he reports a new game result, he is immediately returned to the active list again. If he doesn’t show any activity for about 10 years, his file is permanently removed from the database.
  • Last updated shows when his dates / game reports were added to the AREA database. It is recommended to take a note in your calendar when you report a game, so you always know if a new game report was included in the database next time you visit the website.

That’s all you have to know about the AREA system.

You can find the AREA IDs and current rankings of our Staff members linked to their profiles. The AREA main page offers an index of all listed games, a list of all AREA members sorted by AREA-ID or by name (with search options). The page contains additional general information about the AREA rating system. The information provided there (and additional sources) were used to write this article.

The AREA website design is simplistic and very pragmatic without modern knickknacks

If you are interested in the deeper secrets of the AREA rating system, you should continue to read. The following summarizes the development of the system and explains in more detail how the AREA ratings are calculated.

Genesis of the AREA-system

As we already told in the introduction, the AREA rating system was created in 1974 by The Avalon Hill Game Company in Baltimore, Maryland. In the beginning this system was limited to 2-player-games. With the founding of Victory Games (VG) the system expanded to include other games as well. 1989 the methods of calculation were improved, e.g. by optimizing the multiplayer calculations.

An Avalon Hill classic: The Squad Leader series

In the first years it was the individual player’s choice to give himself an initial rating, based on his subjective gaming skills and experience – the point was to make it easier to find opponents with equal gaming skills. A player could choose between 600, 900, 1200, 1500 or 1600 initial starting points. In the 90s this system was streamlined insofar as every player started with 1500 points. A low-ranking opponent then had the chance to win more points by winning against a high-ranking player.

In the beginning each player had only one rating connected to his AREA ID which included all victories and defeats in all different games. This was also changed in the 90s by introducing specific ratings for each game. A single game result didn’t have impact on a position a player had in another game this way.

1994 was quite an apocalyptic year for the wargaming scene – the AREA computer was stolen, so that the future of the entire system was at stake. Avalon Hill refused to help with the database reconstruction because they suffered from serious personal problems then and reconstruction needed a lot of time and effort. Two people volunteered for taking over the system – in cooperation with Avalon Hill, of course. These guys were Glenn Petroski and Russ Gifford who did the wargaming community an invaluable favor.

In 1995 the new AREA era began. A new method for reporting games was developed – the loser gave a so-called “Victory Chit” to the winner, some kind of coupon or marker which was sent then to the AREA administration by mail. With internet and email this method was simplified – one player reports the game result and the other player confirms this result in another email. New was also the introduction of “provisional status” in ASL – here players receive “provisional” status until they finished their 10th game, because a low number of played games doesn’t offer reliable data about his gaming skills and experience.

Calculation of AREA ratings

When overtaking the system, Glenn Petroski developed new formulas for the distribution of victory points. First he classified the different games into 5 categories: 2-player (TWO), Winner-Take-All (WTA), Team (TEAM), Solitaire (SOL) and Race (RACE). Each category is based on a different calculation method.

In these categories all players should verify their results and send the confirmation to the administrator, not only in a 2-player game (in Solitaire play one has to rely on the player’s honesty).

Standard is the 2-player formula (TWO):

round(((defeated player rating – victor’s rating)x 0,05),0)+100

Minimum of 1 point, Maximum of 200 points.
Winner’s score: Victor’s beginning rating + formula result
Loser’s score: Defeated player’s beginning rating – formula result

In event of ties, this formula is varied to the so-called “Draw Formula”. All other formulas can be found on the AREA website in an extensive article by Glenn Petroski. You don’t have to calculate your ranking yourself; just report your games, the AREA admins will do the calculations for you. If you are interested in advance in how many points you will get for a victory against a specific opponent, you have to calculate these numbers for yourself to see if he is a rewarding victim 😉

The AREA lists indicate which game belongs to a specific game type (“This game is rated as a 2-player-game” etc.).

  • Winner-Take-All (WTA): This is the most common type of multiplayer games. One player wins all, the others share the defeat. Here a somewhat extended formula is used.
  • Team-games (TEAM): One team of players plays against other teams; team members share victory or defeat. The formula takes care of the fact that the victors don’t give points to other team members, because they shared their victory; all their ratings are calculated against the loser’s ratings.
  • Racing games (RACE): In most games, only 1 player wins while all other players share the defeat. Their positions (3rd place, 4th place…) are calculated in a different way. An example for this type of game is “Circus Maximus”.
  • Solitaire games (SOL): These games don’t have to be true solitaire games, but by AREA definition this includes all games in which the game, the board or the system takes an active part in the game and has the potential power to “win” over the player – or at least to prevent other players from winning. An example is “Republic of Rome”.

© 2004 HFC (www.homefrontcenter.de)

Sources: Originally, this article was written in German with the intention of promoting AREA in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
The information used in this article are taken from the AREA main page, an article by Glenn Petroski (“how to calculate the AREA ratings”), the “AREA Primer” by Bill Thomson and several articles from “The General” magazine.

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