Friday, 16 October 2020

GRIMLITE Composite Scenarios

Scenarios can tell you about the world around your wargame. 

Yesterday I played GRIMLITE against Zach in the first live test of the new Scenario system I've put in place. It works like this:

A Scenario is essentially made up of two halves: the Mission and the Scene.

The Mission sets the main goal of the battle for at least one of the sides. Maybe your leaders are facing off in a duel, one side is trying to break through to the other side of the board, or both sides are just trying to withstand waves of Horrors until they can be extracted. 

The Scene sets the environment. There's often a special rule at play, random events that trigger at the end of each round, and a secondary objective for one or more side to compete for. Maybe an immortal guardian watches over a powerful relic, precarious towers offer vital intel, or exterminators are purging swarms of horrors (and you if you get in the way). It even gives you some special rewards you can earn at the end of the battle instead of drawing from your Faction's normal list.

Both of these halves also have Twists available if you want to make things really messy. Maybe the Relic is guarded by three immortal guardians instead of one, but they're dormant and you might be able to bypass them altogether, or maybe your Breakthrough mission involves giant turrets that can be controlled by either side. 

Grab a Mission and a Scene and smash them together for an interesting two-layered Scenario. 

Both of these halves have notes for how to alter them for solo or coop play.

This all fits with my goal for GRIMLITE to be more of an RPG-syle toolbox than a dense swiss-watch ruleset. Short, simple rules followed by a big pile of stuff that you can use them for.

This sort of composite-scenario system is certainly nothing new, but with some expansion I think it could inform the player about the world in a direct way, a method I've obviously enjoyed in the past. Bounty Hunts and Relics and Warzones aren't anything ground-breaking, but they each imply something about the world. This is something I want to push further as work on the game continues. 

Unfinished Horrors waiting to prey on your Warband

So about that playtest against Zach.

I got trounced pretty thoroughly, but through a fortunate finish I was able to grab two Glory against his three. Getting beaten but still having a good time, and never quite losing hope, is a reassuring result.

But the real measure of this game is whether a narrative emerged from the battle, and I'm pretty confident it did. I should clarify that neither of us really spoke about the narrative of our warbands or the battle beforehand other than "right, this is the mission, this is the scene, we're using these Horrors, and let's look at each other's warbands". 

Yet after the battle I looked back on it and really felt like there was a story unfolding, and that story was telling us something about the world.

  • Our Scenario was Breakthrough (I had to get to the other side of the board) and Warzone (There were survivors we could rescue for Glory and some very nasty random events at the end of each Round). From my point of view this made the situation feel very hostile. 
  • My warband was mostly melee, while Zach's was more shooty. In particular his Leader was essentially acting as a sniper for most of the game, and I just couldn't dislodge them. It really felt like I was running into hostile ground knowing that most of my units wouldn't make it to the other side. But if I could just get one or two back there it would all be worth it.
  • The sheer danger of the Warzone, which saw us taking fire from off the board at the end of most rounds, set upon by Horrors, all while trying to coax chaotic Survivors to safety. This is clearly a world where our Warbands aren't great powers, but are caught in bigger crossfires, and often outmatched by the lurking horrors.
  • On the penultimate round one of the usually-pacifist survivors ran decisively across the battlefield towards my leader. I thought this was a stroke of luck, now my leader can guide them to safety on the next Round. Yet the end of round event saw that same Survivor charge into my already downed leader and stab them with a hidden knife. Luckily the Leader survived, but nobody in this world should be trusted as truly safe.
  • In this particular mission there wasn't any Glory to be earned directly for killing Horrors, so we both started the game focusing on killing each other. A few rounds later we both realised we'd underestimated the threat of the Horrors, and where they weren't tying up our units they were outright killing them. Remember, no matter how much you might want to take the fight to your enemy, the world around you is just as eager to kill you. 

I was concerned that the combination of Mission and Scene would make things feel too complicated, but with the rules themselves being so simple it's all very manageable, especially once both players are familiar with the game.

It feels like if we played the same Mission with a different Scene, or vice versa, it would have felt significantly different.

Maybe next time a Breakthrough in Darkness? Would have certainly helped me avoid all that sniper fire.

Or back into the Warzone for a Duel between our leaders? Feels like there's a score to be settled there.

Next in line is the Campaign system. In the mean time let me know if you manage to get GRIMLITE to the table as solo, coop, or competitive. 

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