Friday, 22 May 2020

GRIMLITE

Following on from this week's confessional.

I mentioned some of the things that I enjoyed about miniature gaming in my youth, along with those that detracted from the experience.

This is all very similar to RPGs. I loved the potential of RPGs, but never found the system that quite matched up with what I wanted the game to be. So I had to make my own.

I actually tried out Kill Team a while ago with some friends, using their minis. I had fun, but that was probably in spite of the system. I loved the small focus but there were lots of fiddly rules interacting with each other, tokens all over the board, and things all felt a bit like taking turns to roll to miss.

I mentioned that the One Page Rules seemed really interesting to me, and if you're looking for a straight-up simplified version of the GW stuff they're fantastic.

But I wanted something a bit different. There were some things that I knew I wanted right away:

  • Focus on the minis and the board, not your army list, cards, or tokens.
  • Play on a small board with dense, multi-level terrain. 
  • Less focus on a tight tournament balance, more high-impact narrative stuff to create dramatic moments in game. Embrace some wacky randomness if it creates fun moments. Play to see what happens as much as to find out who wins.
  • Despite the above, keep the mechanics super simple. Banish the twin evils of Stacking and Tracking.
  • Individual minis or maybe tiny squads of two or three. Kitbashing assumed and no giant grunt squads to test my painting stamina. 
It really all links back to this manifesto, it's actually proving useful here! Could I make a miniature wargame that followed these principles? Can I make good on the promise to "Break the barriers between your imagination and your game" in a slightly different medium?

Behold the link below in all its raw glory.

GRIMLITE
Barely Tested Edition

Note the above document is a very living thing, filled with unfinished sections, and you'll probably see me making changes to it on a regular basis.

But I can talk through some of the ideas behind the design. Remember that these ideas are very much unproven at the moment, but I want to at least talk them through.

Units
As mentioned, I want to minimise how often you needed to look down at your paperwork during the game, so each model gets a single Quality Score that they use for rolls and at most two Modifiers that let them reroll a specific type of roll. Your Sniper is 4+ and Precise, easy to remember. You roll 4+ to try and do basically anything, and you can reroll when you're Firing.

Weapons
I want weapons that could be summarised in a sort of code. Oh a Shotgun, that's 2x1. A Longrifle is 1x4. I originally had an equivalent of Armour Penetration but dropped it and didn't look back. A concession here is that your Drukhari Splinter Rifle might be mechanically identical to my Hot-shot Lasgun, but this isn't a game about forcing each weapon variant to be 5% different to the rest of its class. This is about what actually happens at the table.
Ranges are either Melee, 6" for most guns and 12" for Rifles and big guns. This feels short, but you should have a small board, lots of terrain, and some interesting movement options to make it work.

Damage
You're either Down (lie the model face down) or Dead. No tracking wounds, no special cases for characters, no ongoing modifiers for having a damaged leg. Instead, there's some drama to be found in the Shock and Trauma tables that you roll on when you get Downed or Recover respectively. Maybe you gun down your attacker as you fall to the ground, maybe you crawl to cover, maybe you die outright to a headshot! This is the stuff that I remember from a good game.

Turn Structure
Movement is all random. Heresy! You get three chances to move each turn, which rounds out the randomness a bit, but you can replace your second move with Firing and your third move with Fighting. This means you can pop out of cover with a move, Fire, and then duck back into cover as long as you roll well enough. Maybe you'll get stuck out in the open. Maybe you'll make that miraculous charge to cut down the enemy gunner. It also means you can duck out of melee, shoot your attacker, and then flee around the corner, so the alternating activation system drives some really interesting decisions about the right time to engage an enemy and when to bide your time.

Tactics
So I've said that I'm not aiming to have minor unit differentiation just so that I can say every unit is mechanically unique, but I do want your Warband to feel special. I'd rather do this through big, bold effects rather than a +1 here and -1 there. Tactics let your Warband do something unique and rule-breaking once per Round. Shift your models around through the shadows, infect all nearby enemies with contagion, temporarily turn your grunt with a blade into a melee monster. These are miles from balanced right now, and while total balance isn't a goal I don't want there to be one clearly superior option. I'd rather they were incomparables, things that do something weird and not easy to compare to other incomparables. I'm still torn on this idea, as technically it's something you need to track buuut...

On Tracking and Stacking
I mentioned these twin evils previously. To clarify, I feel like they're responsible for a lot of the times I've felt wrenched out of the fiction of a game and plunged into the jagged rules-pile. I find that a much less fun place to be, so that's why I've got the "No Stacking, No Tracking" rule.
You get Rerolls to various things based on Unit Mods, but never more than one Reroll per roll.
Actual +1s and -1s are deliberately limited. There is exactly one case where you get +1 to a roll and one where you get -1, and they both affect different rolls.

  • Firing is -1 vs cover.
  • Fighting is +1 vs an enemy without a melee weapon.

There's nothing to track on each unit besides:

  • Are the Up or Down? (literally stood up or laid down)
  • Have they activated this turn? (I wish I could think of a smart way to track this, but for now I just put a little token next to their mini. This pains me, but it's useful to be able to see at a glance whether an enemy has acted yet)
Then for your entire Warband you need to know whether or not you've used your Tactic. I'd put a little token next to it when you've used it, just like when you've used up a unit's Turn.


Scenarios
I want to create some interesting scenarios here. "Grab the Objective" is all well and good, but if I'm embracing the drama then I feel like I could get a bit wacky with these.

Advancement
I always liked the little events that would happen between battles in Necromunda campaigns, or between dungeon crawls in Warhammer Quest. I have a little nod to this in the Casualty and Survivor tables that all models roll on at the end of the game. Maybe you learned from your near-death experience, maybe you got captured by your enemies, or maybe you stumbled on a deal on a powerful new weapon.

Warbands
All four sample warbands are now represented in my collection primed and ready for a clumsy paintjob.


RUSTED ORDER



Argastes - Rust Priest (3+)
Blaster (M/6" 1x4), Blade (2x1)
Assistant: Reroll one die on your turn. Sacrifice them to ignore one Wound.

Brass Knight (4+)
Talon (1x4)
Shield: Reroll a single Resist die once per Turn.

Techno Hunter (Precise 4+)
Longrifle (12" 1x4)

2 Cyber-Guard (5+)
Stormgun (6" 3x1)



SPLICE COVEN



Dyrak - Splice Prophet (3+)
Pistol (6" 1x2), Scythe (2x4)

Reaper Schloster (4+)
Machinegun (12" 5x1)

Engineer Weirs (4+)
Disruptor (6' 3x2)

3 Spliced Brethren (5+)
Shotgun (6' 2x1)



HELL'S HOUNDS



Solias - Man-Poacher (Precise, Evasive 3+)
Rifle (12" 1x2)
Tracer: When you hit a target with Fire you can have an Ally within 3” Free Fire on them too.

Carnage Demon (4+)
Cannon (12" 2x4)

Hanz Skorpion (Nimble 4+)
Stormgun  (6" 3x1)

2 Relic Hunters (5+)
Rifle (12" 1x2), Blade (2x1)



LEASH BREAKERS



Flavia Helstrom - Liberator (Nimble 3+)
Piercer (6" 1x3), Blade (2x1)
Wingpack: You can Move through air as long as you land on a solid surface.

Beaky Prowler (Nimble 4+)
Breacher (6" 1x5)

Augmented Gladiator (4+)
Stormgun (6" 3x1) Blade (2x1)

2 Verminhead Zealots (5+)
Talon (1x5)

Knowing my painting skills I fear this is the best they're ever going to look!

Next time I'll talk about the results of initial playtesting and see if I feel brave enough for a painting update.

7 comments:

  1. As someone who has never played nor owned any figurines, I gotta say, I'm *really* tempted to crack out the lego right now and give this a shot!

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  2. I’m with Spwack. Went from no to high interest in tactical miniatures reading this, Chris.

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  3. Have you considered getting rid of measurements & ranges altogether? Guns shoot line-of-sight, and movement is in a straight line between 2 points, with the option to change facing at the beginning (or end). There are some games that work like this, and it does a great job in getting everyone focused on the actual table by making your opponents actions less predictable. In Warhammer it's pretty easy to figure out how far everyone can move & shoot (often ridiculously short) so after a couple of turns it's usually crystal clear what will happen as there aren't that many possibilities left. If you scrap measurements, reading your opponent and thinking through their tactical options becomes more important than your knowledge of their stats.

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    Replies
    1. I looked at that idea actually after I saw a couple of games using it! Might try it out as a variant and see how it feels.

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  4. What do the weapon codes mean? Like a 3x1 as opposed to a 1x4

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    Replies
    1. As far as I can tell, that is 3 attacks dealing 1 damage, and 1 attack dealing 4 damage

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  5. Is it possible to replace all your move actions by firing/fighting/something else? Are there "something else" actions, besides the three you mention and the once a turn special tactics feat?

    ReplyDelete