Sunday, September 15, 2013

New games, and successes (mostly)

Hey everyone, I played two games recently against my girlfriend Sarah. Sarah is actually really not a wargammer, but was curious about this game that I have been working on for so long (and is ridiculously sweet overall, and the type of person who would do something like that). Both of us played with the pre-made parties, and Sarah selected the wizard group. Basically, everyone in this group, except for one character, can cast spells. I was a little nervous about this, because one of the major benefits of spellcasters is that they are super flexible, and can use a ridiculous amount of magic. I was worried that she would get overwhelmed with all of the options. However, she actually managed really well, especially by game 2. I selected a group of characters that summoned creatures. Game 1 I got beat, terribly, and it was basically my own fault. I wasn't able to summon creatures to the board very rapidly, and I didn't do a good job of keeping my guys hidden. The end result was that I got mowed down by magic arrows before I could really do anything. She won in a landslide. Game 2 was a rematch. I knew I made some bone-head mistakes during game 1, but I was also worried that the wizards might be a little over-powered. So, we decided to try it again. Sarah actually looked forward to the idea. Basically, now that she knew how wizards worked, she was looking forward to trying a new game. In this new game, I kept my characters mostly hidden for the first couple of turns, to allow them to start summoning creatures. Then, I burst out and attacked. I ended up getting beat, but it was really close for most of the game. I think I lost because of a combination of bad dice rolls, risks (some of which I would take again) that didn't pay off, and small tactical failures that blew up. For example, Sarah had a character that ran around with 1 health for basically the entire game, and due to a combination of bad rolls, not throwing enough resources at her, and really good moves to defend her character, that character never died. I learned a few things during this game. First, it is not a good idea to have an entire team of characters with summoning powers. Basically, summoning creatures costs energy points (a very limited resource), and so if you have lots of them, you will never use all of them. Second, right now I have these things called "life towers" that allow you to bring some of your characters back from the dead. They don't seem super useful, and it might be better if it was a combination of bringing characters back from the dead, and healing non-dead characters. Third, right now I have it that wizards can cast spells while in melee, but then can't attack during the turn. The net result of this was that many of her characters got to attack before I was able to, and occasionally she would kill one of my guys and free herself from melee. I think I am okay with this as a rule, though I will see what happens in the next few games. Finally, I need to figure out a better way to do the end-game conditions. Right now, every turn you add up your "morale", compare morale scores, and then roll dice to see if the game ends. It takes too much time, and is kind of finicky, and doesn't make a whole lot of sense. As soon as you start winning a tiny bit (including before blood is drawn), you have to start testing, but then you need to be ahead by a ton for the testing to mean much. I might change it to each party getting three secret (or not secret) missions, and if they complete all three, they win. The one really good thing I would say about this game: It felt the way that I wanted it to. There were a lot of points in the game where I didn't know what to do, and had to really think for a while about where to commit my troops, and how to use them. This is the strategic wargame feeling that I wanted this game to make. Not to dis on Warhammer 40K, but as much as I have always liked that game, it often felt like after you build your army and place in on the board, 95% of all decisions are obvious. This didn't feel that way. After this, I don't think that there will be another direct rematch. However, I would like to play Sarah again with a different party. She has decided that she really likes her wizards.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

A further simplification- Heroes & Soldiers

Happy 2013 everyone, I did a recent playtest, having implemented a new idea. One of the problems that I had always had with the game is that it is so darn complicated. This stems in part from the fact that each character has two dopplegangers, and each doppleganger has 2 powers, and each power bends the rules in a very special way (and often in a big way, like different monsters in Magic, except without the information always conveniently written on the card). I think I realized the full extent of this problem until a recent playtest with an old roommate. It felt like we spent a quarter of the game just figuring out all of the powers that each character had. This is not so much an issue in other wargames, because often, most character is just a slightly altered version of a generic archtype. In Necromunda, all of the characters are basically the same, except for their weapon (at least at first, and by the time they get specialized, you have played with them enough games to remember this). In HeroScape, each creature has a health, attack, and defense. A few have special powers, however, most of all that you need to remember is how many attack and defense dice that you roll (and even the super characters rarely have more than 2 powers). In Warmachines, it is fairly similar (I think), that except for your general and big mechs, most characters are their stats and their weapon, and maybe an ability. So, it hit me a way that I could solve this: Games like Warhammer got around this problem by having lots ordinary creatures with few abilities, and a couple characters with massive special powers. I decided that I would try the same thing. I split the characters into two groups: heroes and soldiers. Heroes were basically what all of my former characters were (they had lots of abilities to choose from). Soldiers, on the other hand, got 1 power each, and those powers were selected from a rather short list (like, I tried to have 1 archery ability, 1 summoning ability, etc). This way, if you had an army of archers, they all had the same bow (rather than this one having a pistol, that one spitting acid, etc). I even made it so that soldiers only existed in 1 world, thus avoiding the complications of multi-world characters. Having tried this, it actually worked really well. I playtested this recently with a close friend who had never played a wargame before (I was actually a little surprised that she liked it as much as she did). Despite me being a little rusty on the game, and despite her having never played a game like this, she actually had a fairly easy time keeping track of what each character could do. The only major problem I had in that game was again, there was not enough of a connection between the worlds. I think my way of fixing that will be to change it back, so that soldiers exist in both worlds. I have a couple other ideas, but I think I will leave them for a future post. Simon