Monday 27 February 2023

MAC Attack Playthrough

This week I've done a little run-through of MAC Attack. An ideal place to jump in if you're curious about Mech fighting games. 

And now I'm off on holiday for a week! Next week we'll get back to normal. 

Wednesday 22 February 2023

Why are you still here?

I've spoken about this before, but I like to periodically look through a game and ask each individual rule "why are you still here?"

But don't get complacent. Even if a rule has justified its place before, things have probably changed. 

BUT also don't get bloodthirsty. I know I've boasted of my love of ludocide, but I've been guilty of going too far. Sometimes the situation has changed, but the rule still has a place.

Bastiard newspapers with a bias toward rigorous rulesetting often depict me as an executioner, butcher, or assassin.

 Less theory, more practice. Here are a couple of recent examples from the workshop. 

Mythic Bastionland - Burden Exposure

Burdens are one of Mythic Bastionland's big rules changes from EB and ITO. You'll sometimes gain a Burden because things went badly, or as the cost to perform a heroic feat. Each has a specific way to remove it, so Fatigue is removed when you get a hot meal and proper rest. If you have the maximum 3 Burdens then you're Exposed, acting as if you had 0 Guard (equivalent to HP in this game). 

The idea is that Burdens are bad, but they're going to happen, so the Knights should have one eye on ways to remove those that they take on, and consider when it's worth exerting themselves. 

So what's changed since I wrote the Burden rules?

There's now greater focus on Feats, things that Knights can do to give themselves an advantage in combat, or protect themselves from death, at the cost of a Burden. They can only do these if they aren't already at full Burden capacity. 

It's created a bit of a double jeopardy situation, where the idea of "you're vulnerable when fully Burdened" is applied in two different ways:

Firstly through being Exposed when you have 3 Burdens.

Secondly through being unable to use the Endure Feat when you have 3 Burdens, a common way of cheating death. 

I haven't drawn a verdict on this one yet, as these double jeopardy situations aren't  innately a bad thing, it's just worth sticking a flag in it. 

MAC Attack - Preferred  Weapon Ranges

Weapons in MAC Attack typically looked like this: Cannon (K): S2 L1

This shows the Attack Value of the weapon at each of its effective ranges. Here it has AV2 at Short Range and AV1 at Long Range. These range categories are universal for all weapons. The K notes that it's a Kinetic weapon, which grants a special rule for that weapon type.

This was written at a time when all weapons generated 1 Heat when fired. Bigger MACs could carry more weapons and the heatsinks that allowed them to keep firing, so tended to have a bigger output. 

So what's changed since then?

I added bigger versions of each weapon, typically boosting their AV at the cost of generating more Heat. I also cut down on the number of range categories in the game, so now there was just Short, Long, and Arc for indirect fire. 

Crucially, MACs were also standardised with 6 module slots. Bigger models got their advantages through better heat management and resilience. To give some options for these big MACs I added further tiers of "big gun" that could be equipped, giving greater damage for a higher heat cost. 

So you might  have that Cannon (K): S2 L1 from before alongside an XL-Cannon (K): S3 L2 and even an Ultra-Cannon (K): S4 L3. 

Here it's not so much a case of any one of those rules clashing with the existing system, but with an increasing number of options to differentiate weapons, did they really need to list how effective they were at two different range bands? 

The range bands were tweaked to be a little less restrictive, and now weapons simply listed the single range at which they can attack, the type of damage it causes, and its Calibre which dictates both AV and Heat usage. 

So that Cannon becomes Cannon: LK2. Long range, Kinetic Weapon, Calibre 2. 

Side benefit, this reads like a Battletech style model-number, so can be written as LK2 Heavy Cannon or ST3 Macro-Burner instead. You can give it whatever name you like as long as the code is there. 

One rule lives for now, another is reborn in a new form. Who says I'm not fair to these poor blighters.

Wednesday 15 February 2023

The Battle of Bastionland

I've been jumping around between various wargames lately, so it's perhaps a good time to take stock of where we're at:

The Doomed

Pre-orders are cropping up for this now, so I'm doing various articles and podcasts in anticipation for the launch. Expect to be sick of seeing and hearing me very soon. 

1x1 Horse & Musket

Last week I recorded this playthrough of the rules, though I should note the specifics have changed slightly since then. 

Great clickbait title, right?

In practical terms I've sort of got what I wanted out of this. Everything needed for a big battle fits in a tiny box and I'm looking forward to dropping it on unsuspecting opponents.

Not to say I won't keep messing with it. I've got Medieval and Modern versions on my workbench but they don't quite work just yet. 

MAC Attack

This one had a big change recently, essentially overhauling the weapon system. I'm really happy with how this one's going, and looking forward to running some more playtests. 

Project 10

Arrgh... my pile of shame!

I've been pretty well disciplined in not buying loads of miniatures until I've painted my current lot, but the 10mm units I bought for Project 10 are the clear exception. Years later I have 5 units completed out of... 14 that I need to actually run a game. 

I have a good handful of little 10mm medieval guys just waiting to join the fray, but for now they're going to have to sit tight. 

Still, the system works, and I enjoyed playtesting it with cards last year, but for now this one holds a degree of shame. 

Battle of Bastionland

Okay, so this one is new, and it's what you clicked onto this post for, so what's the deal?

Looking over the wargames I had in various stages of completion I had:
  • The Doomed for warband level skirmishes and monster fighting
  • Project 10 for classic fantasy regiments wheeling around the field
  • 1x1 for grand scale battles on a tiny board
  • MAC Attack for 6mm sci-fi with mechs, tanks, and infantry squads
There's an obvious gap there for something involving a handful of squads, but still basing each soldier individually. Perhaps something with a bit more Morale and Command & Control than my other efforts. I think those in the know would call it large skirmish

I mean I could just play a pre-existing game but where's the fun in that?

But let me wear my influences on my sleeve:
  • NUTS! really grabbed me in its back-and-forth combat flow and feel of having a toolbox full of toys, but it's also a little obtuse for me to fully grok. I fear it's doomed to be one of those games that I love the idea of rather than the reality. 
  • Turnip28 wallows in the grime of gunpowder era war and has a nice simple core. 
  • Xenos Rampant has been great fun the few times I've played. I like the modular units and the way morale is handled, but there's a lingering dissatisfaction in how some of the specific units perform. Careful choice of armies and scenarios can remedy this, but it feels like a missed opportunity.
  • I'm on a real binge for just about anything from Nordic Weasel right now. 
And of course I wanted to try and fit all of the actual rules of play on a single page which... I kinda did? Okay give me two pages then so we can keep the line breaks. 

So some of the specifics of Battle for Bastionland?
  • It's all about Smoke, Mud, and Blood. Your squads will amass all three as the war wears away at their humanity, if they started with any. 
  • You pick 3 squads from the list, each having 6 or 12 individual members depending on how big a battle you want to do. This means your full Company is either 18 or 36 miniatures in total.
  • Oh, but that's their full strength and not all of them will actually show up for battle. Latecomers might appear later, but don't bank on it. 
  • Squad type gives you a fancy ability, and each squad leader is a Corporal who chooses their own individual advantage.
  • EXCEPT one squad leader is actually your overall Captain, and they choose an ability that's actually a disadvantage. Who put this donkey in command?
  • Kitbash Attitude is in full effect, with all of Bastion's variety on show. You'll probably want a gun that looks like it's from WW2 or earlier, but other than that go wild. Bring muskets, helmets, and the tallest hats you can muster. 
  • Order Dice are rolled at the start of your turn, meaning you won't always be able to achieve exactly what you want. You get some Reaction Dice on your opponent's turn too, so pay attention to their movements. 

Wednesday 8 February 2023

Making 2mm Scale Even Smaller

EDIT: If you read this on Patreon last week, be aware there are some changes as I've worked on the game a bit.

There's a meme somewhere about how miniature wargamers move to increasingly smaller scales as their eyesight worsens with age.

Well I've written about my history with 28mm miniatures.

Then I started messing around with 10mm scale.

Recently I made a dip into the long-admired 6mm via Battletech and Epic.

For scale these unit bases are 25mm (1") square

So of course I've gone and bought myself some 2mm scale Napoleonic nonsense to try out. 

(I always feel like I should apologise to all the RPG people when I end up writing a post about wargames, but today's the day I stop beating myself up)

I originally picked up a pair of 2mm armies and set of terrain thinking I could quickly paint up some units to use with One Hour Wargames, creating an ultra-portable wargame in a box, or maybe use something like Rebels and Patriots since I've been enjoying the Rampant family of games recently. 

Then I stumbled onto 2x2 Napoleonics by Rod Humble and I felt the click. This quick reference sheet is particularly nice.  

Something about this system grabbed me. It feels very purposeful, focused in on a few specific elements of the era at hand (here the Glue of War and the Evolving Battlefield. Units mostly behave in the same manner with a few major exceptions where appropriate. There's a bit of "+1/-1 overload" (for me) in the combat resolution, but overall things are decisive and simple. 

I'm keen to try this system out as written, but of course I wanted to see if I could strip it back even further.

Here's what I'm calling the 1x1 Wargame, in honour of cramming hundreds of soldiers onto a 1x1" base.  

I'm not sure if this game can be understood on its own yet, so you might need to read through 2x2 Napoleonics if something doesn't make sense, though remember I've cut a lot of that system away too.   

I've replaced all of the +1/-1 modifiers with a clause where the player gains Edge on their roll (rolling two dice and keeping the highest) if they meet a certain requirement. There's just one of these clauses for each of the four types of roll in the game.

Everything else is just a straight d6 roll, no +1s or -1s to be found. Threshold for success is also 4+ across the board. 

Working within these self-imposed restrictions forces some lateral thinking in modelling expected combat effects. Here's how some of the modifiers from 2x2 Napoleonics have been modelled into this system in other ways:

  • In assaults ties normally go to the defender, but charging cavalry always win ties. Their speed also means they're able to run down retreating enemies, giving them a further boost in assaults.
  • Hills let you fire over other units, so you'll still want to put your cannons up there even if there's not a numerical benefit.
  • Walls break ties for the defender on Firing attacks, and cavalry just can't enter. 
  • Elite troops get an Edge on Rally rolls.
  • Everybody gets an Edge when assaulting Disrupted/Light/HQ units.
  • Everybody gets an Edge firing at Cavalry, so you'll want yours to charge infantry in a way that prevents them shooting you first, typically by disrupting them or charging the flank.
  • Artillery are automatically Broken when Assaulted, so don't let this happen. 
  • Assaulting a target with multiple units is less about maximising your roll and more about gaining some much needed protection from the somewhat unpredictable assault roll. Having that second unit engaged prevents the enemy from chasing you down if your first unit retreats. If you can get around the back then you can cut off their retreat too. Assaults are less about piling in from all angles and more about disrupting the enemy with fire before moving in with the bayonets or sabres.  

So while this sounds like a lot when I go into it, it's all there on a single page of A4. 

Why am I doing this? Is this really better just having a list of +1s and -1s? It feels better for me, and I've always said that games should be selfishly designed, rather than trying to make something somebody else would like. Maybe I'll see if this same structure can work for something more Medieval just by changing around the units, edges, and combat tables. 

So let me know if this selfish design has the side effect of being fun for anybody else!

Wednesday 1 February 2023

ONLY Roll Initiative

What if initiative was the only roll in a combat system?

Less a question of "can I murder this horrible horse?" and more "can I murder it before it murders me?"

Let's imagine we start with Into the Odd. Replace the damage of each weapon by its average, rounding up. If it's something fancy like "roll a d4 and a d8 and keep the highest" then take the average of the high die and add 1 for each additional die being rolled. Yeah this isn't the same as the average but it's much easier to do on the fly.

So you might have:

Axe d6 = 4 damage
Musket d8 = 5 damage
Cool Sword 2d6 keep highest = 5 damage

If you want to use the Electric/Mythic Bastionland style ganging up rule then the first attack to resolve against a target does normal damage and additional attacks just do 1. 

Pretty straightforward. 

Now we're not rolling STR Saves to avoid Critical Damage. Instead, you take Critical Damage when you lose half or more of your STR in one attack. 

So your STR 18 monster goes down if they lose 9 STR, kind of unlikely, but if you chip them down to STR 12 first then you only need to hit them for 6 to deal Critical Damage. Do you have a weapon big enough?

But what's the point in all this? Let's get onto Initiative.

First the GM declares what the enemy are doing this turn in narrative terms. "The otyugh is going to spray toxic filth in the area around it and the goblins are aiming their bows at your pack mule." I probably wouldn't describe the exact mechanical impact but I'd at least want the players to get a sense of what to expect. If you're ambushing the enemy then they won't be doing anything this turn. 

Then have the players discuss and declare what they're each doing specifically.

Then we all roll initiative. 

A d6 for each combatant. We work down from highest roll to lowest, with ties resolving simultaneously. You're locked into your action, so you can't change your mind based on what's already been resolved. 

Now you can add in some trickery where players can manipulate the initiative roll in certain ways, or their gear impacts their roll, but that's the core of it right there. In the ambush example maybe you just manage to get your guard up when your turn resolves, so you won't be fighting but there's a chance you won't be completely exposed. 

If you've got enough armour and weapons that you can just stomp the enemy even if they get their hits in first then congrats, at least this will be done quickly.

If it's more of an even fight then sure you can just hope you get your hits in first, or bank on being able to take a bit of recovery time afterwards, but is this fight really worth it? Wouldn't you rather slip away and ambush them later?

If the enemy outclasses you then you really have to decide if it's worth it. Maybe you know that any given attack from this purple worm will kill one of your characters, and you don't have enough power to take it out in a single round. Somebody's going to die if you fight this thing, how can it not be one of your characters?

Sure there's a bit of bookkeeping involved with big combats, perhaps requiring you to jot down what each combatant is doing so that things don't get muddled, but I think this could be a fun experiment to play out. 

By the time your sword bounces off its iron hide it's already too late.


Art by Midjourney

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