Thursday 3 November 2022

Breaking the Rules

I've been trying to drill down to the identity of each of the factions in Intergalactic Bastionmechs (I really need to give this a proper name soon). Most of all I want them to each have a special rule that gives them a unique gameplay twist while implying something about their flavour. 

A good way to do this is to have them break one of the standard rules of the game. This is equally applicable to designing RPG abilities, so don't run away if you're sick of hearing about wargames!

I thought I could use this post as a live-fire exercise, working through some of the key rules of the game and looking at how a faction might be able to break that rule.

The Modules you install on your units should do this to a lesser extent, but I want the Faction abilities to feel more impactful.

These might end up being unsuitable once tested, but it's always good to get these ideas out in the open.

Rules excerpts in italics.

All Terrain falls into one of the following types
[followed by rules for Open, Rough, Cover, Obstructions, Water, Barriers, Buildings]

I'm always wary of including rules linked to a specific type of terrain, as I can't help but imagine situations where somebody brings their Wood Elf army to a desert-themed board and feels like they've invested points into wood-based abilities that are now wasted. Some games mitigate this by allowing those factions to bring pieces of their desired terrain along with them, but that doesn't appeal to me. 

In this game I think it's pretty fair to assume that the board will at the very least include some Rough and Cover alongside a lot of Open terrain, so I'll be looking at them for rules to break.

Open allows for Rushing movement.
Examples: Gentle slopes, light vegetation.

Rough cannot be Rushed through.
Bog, scrub, steep slopes in all directions

Cover can be shot into or out of, but not through. A unit touching an area of Cover is treated as being within that Cover. Firing into Cover is done so at +1TN.
Forests, ruins, smoke

Some obvious things come to mind like "ignore the downsides of Terrain Type X". My mind goes to "Improve the benefits of Terrain Type X" but that's not really breaking a rule, it's just another little benefit which is better tied to a regular piece of equipment.

How about:

Shadowdash: You can Rush through Cover.

So now that unit can vanish into the woods and reappear behind the enemy. 

It doesn't even have to thematically apply to the terrain itself. It could be something like this. 

Guardian Fields: Your units with 3" of an allied unit of a larger Class always count as being in Cover when attacked. 

Let's move onto the next section of rules.  

1 - Move Phase
: Moving
2 - Attack Phase: Attacking
3 - Meltdown Phase: Checking for Reactor failure
4 - Cooldown Phase: Losing Heat

Now I subconsciously skipped over the turn sequence, but perhaps there's something here we can break. Messing with the order could be fun. Perhaps something like:

Paradigm Shift: At the start of a Turn you may swap the position of any two phases.

Could have some interesting applications, and of course relies on only one player having this ability to really work. You could tone it down a bit and have it only apply to one side's actions s but I like that this implementation is simple, potentially very powerful, but also requiring careful planning. 

I mean, it's probably majorly broken, but let's enjoy this moment. Even if we break it in testing we can find a way for its spirit to live on.

Another take could be:

Burnout: Once per game you can use this ability at the start of the Meltdown Phase. to Skip both the Meltdown and Cooldown phases.

Giving you one big Hail Mary turn to pull out of the bag when you've had a few mechs lose their reactors. 

Assign each Mech and Formation a card and shuffle them into a deck. During the Move and Attack Phases shuffle the deck and draw to see which unit activates, repeating until all units have acted.

So in this game it's generally good to go later in the Move phase and earlier in the Attack phase. So we could do something like:

Overwatch: When any of your units activate in the Move phase you may have them perform no action. If they do, keep their initiative card aside. When shuffling the Initiative Deck for the Attack Phase shuffle these cards separately and place them on the top of the deck before drawing.

Again this one's probably completely busted, but it's another fun starting point.

You could alternatively break the rule in this way:

Tactical Fluidity: When you draw one of your cards from the initiative deck you may instead search the remaining deck for any one of your cards and draw that one instead. Return the original card to the deck and shuffle. 

So we've created 6 potentially interesting special abilities and we haven't even hit the Move Phase yet!

Hope this process has been useful to follow along with. If you're working on a game I can absolutely recommend trying it out for your own rules, making sure you don't skip sections like I almost did! 

Every rule has an interesting way to break it. Finding it is the tricky part. 


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