Okay, playtested another game recently. I'm trying to be better about selling the idea to others, even getting them interested, so I did this game at a local gaming store. Someone did ask about it, although I didn't go into much detail (mostly just answered what he asked). Next time I be more of a salesman, maybe even ask if they'd be interested in trying a playtest. Live and learn...
The game went pretty much like always. My friend got an army that was built for hiding and melee in the spirit world, and archery in the real world. I had the opposite (an army for melee in the real world and archery in the spirit world). The game was somewhat of a stalemate, with both melee groups hiding, hoping that the other would shoot. I guess same old same old at this point.
The game basically went like this: In the real world, I mostly hid, and he mostly did nothing. In the spirit world, I moved my archery up until I could get a clear shot at his characters, and he took advantage of this to counter-charge me. This ended in him killing my guys.
I guess that is one of the basic problems with this game, that if you are playing against an archery army, you can just hide. I think the problem is that I haven't had a good chance to really test out if a melee army could overtake an archery army.
Here is one philosophical test: let's say I have an archer with a bow (no other abilities), and you have a foot soldier (no relevant abilities), and they start 23" apart. This means that on average, the foot soldier will take 8.5 points of damage before he can reach the archer, assuming the soldier has no dodge bonus, no armor, and no cover (and assuming the archer shoots before the soldier moves). The average soldier has 15 hit points, so this would drain her of slightly over half her life. In an average round of melee, the archer will deal 3 points of damage, and the soldier will deal 4.2. This means that the archer is probably going to win. However, this in some ways isn't too surprising, since she has more abilities than the archer.
Okay, a few changes: let's say that the soldier can now get one ability, and spend it on the following things:
-> An extra attack: she receives the same amount of damage from archery, but now deals 8.4 damage per turn. This means they usually both kill each other after 2 rounds of combat.
-> +6 Hit Points and +1 Armor: in this case, she only takes 5.8 damage from archery, and then only 2.2 from melee, plus can absorb an additional 6 hit points worth of damage. In other words, her extra hit points will be absorbed by the archery attacks, and when melee begins, she will have the same number of hit points, but be on much better footing.
-> +5 Hit Points and +2 Dodge: In this case, she only takes 2.8 damage from archery, and then only 1.4 each turn from melee, plus has extra hit points to absorb damage. This is like the previous ability, only more so.
-> Aura of Mist (all characters within 4" gain +2 Dodge against archery): She and her companions each take 2.8 damage from archery before reaching combat. In combat, the archers deal 3 points of damage per turn, the soldiers deals 4.2. This means that after 4 rounds of melee, both will have dealt around 15 points worth of damage, and dropped dead. (maybe I should up this ability)
Ok, so on paper this looks fine. However, for some reason the game never works out that cleanly. First of all, this is one-on-one (which the game never is). It also ignores the effect of other characters (who might be standing by ready to charge), and assumes that the first character will just charge straight in. It ignores terrain and blocked vision (something my friend said could be a big factor). It also ignores luck points. Also, I'm not sure why, but the numbers here suggest that two competing soldiers would on average fight for 4 rounds of combat, then both drop dead. In practice, that never seems to happen.
I'm also never sure where when expected damage is an most appropriate measure. Here is my thought: the average soldier will take 8.5 damage before reaching the archer, but that only tells you what to expect over the course of 1000 games. What is the median damage? What percent of the time will she take less than 4 damage? What percent of the time will she be killed? Does granting +1 Attack actually make them evenly matched, or will the archer still win more than half the time? *sigh* There was a program I used to use on my computer to write code for simulations of this kind of thing, and it's not working right now. Stupid computer...
I don't know, I'd need to play this again, but maybe it is, as my friend suggested, mostly a psychological thing. You see an archer in the distance, you get scared, and don't want to run straight at it unless you have to. (I'm reminded of a movie of the French Revolution, where the peasants would charge, get shot, run away, charge again, get shot again, run away again. I couldn't help but think, if they continued to charge while the French soldiers were reloading their guns, they would win easily. It's just the panic that keeps the hordes at bay) I wonder what would have happened in my game if I really just had everyone charge? Oh well, maybe I should try that next time.