Saturday, July 26, 2008

group orders

Holy smoke, Term 2 has just flown by. Okay, so here’s that new post I promised oh so long ago.

A thing that always bothered me about Warhammer 40K when I first played it was the need to put people in units. It was really the first big-scale wargame I’d played before, and I just didn’t understand why you would want 10 men to stand within arms length of each other in a world of explosives and machine guns. It has come to make sense, however I always kind of thought that there should be the option of scattering your troops.

So, I decided when I started designing Escape from Illeria that if characters were going to work in a unit, it needed to be a tactical choice, done purposefully by the player for a perceived benefit. And thus arose group actions. Basically, in this game you only had a limited number of orders your general could give. If a group of characters were arranged closely together, and you wanted them all to do the same thing, you could consolidate your orders (i.e. “You three, go kill that ogre!”). This had the advantage that no one was permanently grouped together, but just acted together when it was convenient.

I think the rule has given me trouble from the beginning, although it has always seemed worth it. During my first playtest, well, I realized that if everyone in a group could use Teleport, they could rush a single character, and she’d be a goner, then do it again and again. So, I had to make modifications, and only allow certain abilities to be used as group actions. The list kept getting smaller. I don’t know, I think it was the last game I played where I realized that having shoot as a possible group action seemed too powerful. I think if I took that one out, it would leave move, retreat, and the rare special ability. I started to wonder if maybe the best solution was just to get rid of them altogether. I don’t know, I’ll see. It will certainly change the dynamics of the game (amongst other things, it seemed like that was a good reason to try to specialize, although it became less and less as it could be applied to fewer and fewer things). I’ll see if I like it better that way.

The one thing that does worry me about this change is that it will make rushing an optimal strategy. The nice thing about group actions in the past is that, if you played it right, you could make all of your characters act. Now, you won’t be able to (or, hypothetically I could give you so many more orders that you could, but that would take a lot of the strategy out of it). So, because of this, I’ll need to be careful to stop rushing from being the optimal strategy. I think my solution is just to limit the number of actions you can make per world each turn.

*sigh* I wish there were more gamers out here. Oh well, take care!


(and in honor of the somewhat recently deceased...)

“I am an outsider by choice, but not truly. It’s the unpleasantness of the system that keeps me out. I’d rather be in in a good system. That’s where my discontent comes from, from being forced to choose to stay outside.” – George Carlin

“If no one knows when they are going to die, how can we say that anyone died before their time?” – George Carlin

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