01 July, 2018

Bring Your Own Miniatures (Part 2)

I always thought it would be cool to run a miniatures game where a team of grunt space marines faces off against an entrenched squad of traditional fantasy dwarves, or a platoon of roman legionnaires. Or maybe even a single master assassin from the pages of history confronts a rag-tag gang of post apocalyptic survivors.

Yes, you can just substitute miniatures into other games...yes, you can probably ad-hoc some rules to make it work... yes, there are probably a few decent sets of rules that handle this (the Warhammer Historical Battle books come to mind, but they tend to deal with big armies rather than small missions or skirmish level stuff. You could also play out a game of Rifts using miniatures if you're a massive masochist, but that's also not quite what I'm after. So this idea has sat in the back of my head, and scattered across various notebooks, for decades.

The aim is to have relatively balanced forces competing in exploration and scenario based missions, rather than simply pounding the crud out of one another. A single moderately detailed leader, and a bunch of companions who might help to fight, scout, repair/heal, or assist in specific types of objectives. In the vein of Mordheim and Necromunda, the hero would advance regularly while the companions would either remain static, or might increase at a slower rate.

The whole game concept needs to be something quick to learn, but with enough depth and strategic options that different lead characters and team types actually feel different to play.

Here's a few more images I've been working on.


To keep things simple during character generation, all the elements are intended to be fairly evenly balanced. But I noticed two immediate problems. 

The Problem with Water

First the water element grants skills (where fire is passion and violence; water is rational thought, logic and focus), but the skills were fairly potent in the rules. This made the water element far more powerful than most of the others. 

Since the water element grants a pools of points to allow the purchase of skills, my first option was to halve the water element and say that this was the number of starting skills a character possessed, while the full element score became the maximum number of skills they could gain. This meant half the number of skills, which was also good because less skills mean less things for new players to keep track of during play. But then we ran into the problem of an odd numbered elemental value. It becomes less valuable to increase the element from 6 to 7, than it is to increase from 7 to 8. Other values associated with water might gain a boost on the odd numbers, but on the even numbers extra skills are gained in addition to those other boosts. This also didn't account for bonus skills and abilities that could be used to differentiate between different types of character. 

My next option was to have two tiers of skills, with basic skills costing one point, and more powerful skills costing two. This sort of worked, but still didn't feel quite right because I'd been trying to balance the skills against one another, and had already started developing a system of skill prerequisites.

My current remedy to the problem is to have specific skills associated with different cultures and races, and then a bunch of general skills. Racial mandatory skills tend to be things granted by biological means, such as huge size, nightvision, armoured hide, natural regeneration, etc. A race will have no more than two of these mandatory skills (most will only have one, and many races will not have any). Cultural mandatory skills tend to be things that everyone is a specific cultural group possesses, where examples might include a relgious faith that grants a minor boost in resistance to magic, or a teamwork advantage due to rigorous military boot-camp training. A culture will have a single mandatory skill. The reason for the caps on mandatory skills is due to the minimum Water element level of 3...there's an inherent contradiction when you have more mandatory skills than can be feasibly purchased. Each race and culture will be given two or three common skills associated with them, these reflect the typical stereotypes associated with the groups, and cost a single point each. Then there are the general skills and other skills, these costs two points each so that players will have a tendency to pick skills that follow the stereotype more.

Skills are intended to be balanced in such a way that if they are commonly useful (such as an armour benefit that could be used every turn, or even multiple times in a turn), they provide a benefit roughly equal to that of an increased attribute point. If they have a more narrow versatility, then they have a more powerful benefit to offset that (a bonus to use a specific category of ranged weapons might have two or three times the benefit, because ranged weapons are a specific subtype within overall attacks, and a specific class of ranged weaponry is an even narrower selection of options). More powerful abilities might use a weaker ability as a prerequisite because the lesser ability becomes superseded by the new ability, and the cost offset by the loss of that lesser ability becomes bundled into the more powerful version.  Of course, all of this will probably need to be playtested out to refine the balance.  

The Problem with Air

The other element that has been causing me problems has been Air. This has been for similar reasons to Water. If Earth is all about strength, stamina, internal focus, and remaining still, Air is all about movement and ephemeral things. The fundamental mechanism of play driven by Air is a character's movement. Note that I'm looking at something like Heroquest, or Warhammer Quest as an inspiration for the game.

The basic rules state that a character moves a number of squares equal to their Air value, which could feasibly be as low as 3 squares or as high as 9 squares. Having one set of characters able to move triple the distance of others feels like it could be problematic, especially when I'm planning to use my 7x7 square-tiled dungeon geomorphs to go with this game. 

My first solution here was to say characters could walk a minimum of 1 square plus an extra square for every 4 points of Air, and they could run 1 square plus an extra square for every 2 points of Air (all rounded down).

This gave us...

Air 3 = 1 square walk, 2 squares run. 
Air 4 = 2 squares walk, 3 squares run.
Air 5 = 2 squares walk, 3 squares run.
Air 6 = 2 squares walk, 4 squares run.
Air 7 = 2 squares walk, 4 squares run.
Air 8 = 3 squares walk, 5 squares run.
Air 9 = 3 squares walk, 5 squares run.

So the levels at 4 and 8 become really valuable upgrades, level 6 is also an upgrade, but all those odd numbered levels don't do anything. It also makes for fiddly, annoying mathematics during character generation which isn't reflected in the other elemental scores.

My second solution was to have characters roll a die to determine their movement at the start of each round. A player would roll a number of dice equal to their number of active figures on the board, then distribute the die results between the figures. Each figure would gain a number of movement points equal to either their allocated die, or their Air score (whichever was lower). This some odd side effect as elemental scores got higher.

Hypothetical characters with Air scores of 3, 5, 7, and 9.
Die rolls of 2, 4, 6, 8, and 10.
Air 3: Roll of 2 = 2 movement, Roll of 4 (or anything higher) = reduced to 3 movement
Air 5: Roll of 2 = 2 movement, Roll of 4 = 4 movement, Roll of 6 (or anything higher) = reduced to 5 movement
Air 7: Roll of 2 = 2 movement, Roll of 4 = 4 movement, Roll of 6 = 6 movement, Roll of 8 (or anything higher) = reduced to 7 movement
Air 9: Roll of 2 = 2 movement, Roll of 4 = 4 movement, Roll of 6 = 6 Movement, Roll of 8 = 8 Movement, Roll of 10 = reduced to 9 movement

The low elemental score has a higher chance of hobbling the movement of the character, but the high elemental scores only come into their own if the player has good die rolls.

It's interesting, and possibly thematically appropriate if we're talking about a game where there are obstacles and covering fire, and we don't know from turn to turn how the situation will be changing, but I'm not entirely certain it's good for this game.

A third solution was to simply allow characters to move as far as their air score, but moving a single square would count as a cautious movement (with no penalties to most actions, unless the action specifically mentioned no movement was allowed), moving a distance less than half of the Air element counted as a walk (with extra actions permitted after the walk had completed), while moving more than half (but up to the full Air element) counted as a run (with no extra actions permitted). Under this iteration, I'd suggest that there would be open squares that effectively use up one movement unit to enter, unstable and difficult squares that might cost two points to enter, and maybe even treacherous squares that cost three points to enter. If you don't have the points, you can make the move but your movement stops there. I'd also consider adding in an increase in movement cost when moving up staircases or climbing over things.

Maybe keeping the full range of movement points due to the Air element score is a good thing, it gives scope to play with other parts of the system.

(Note that I'll be including a "sprint" skill which allows characters to add half of their Fire element score to move even further)    

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