Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Dystopian War Activations.

Having played a few games now I am understanding this game better and better. One of the mechanic that is new to me is the concept of activation. What happens is a player take one squadron to activate, which includes movement, shooting, and boarding. Once a squadron has completed its activation, no further offensive action can come from the squadron this turn. In each turn, activation alternates between players. So the question is what to activate first. My rules for activation order are as follow.

I. Massive model first. Models like dreadnoughts class models are most durable to resist return fire. As you move your massive model forward, it will attract attention from your opponent so take advantage of this. Large and massive models will have longer ranged weapon thus will also be better to attack with when the enemy may still be further away and out of reach of most of your forces.  Among options with reach, activate damaged squadron before undamaged model. If your model is damaged, your opponent will want to kill it so use it while you still can.

II. Large model next. Longer ranged weapon battleship before damaged squadron.

III. Medium model squadron next. Longer ranged weapon before damaged squadron.

IV. Small model squadron next. Longer ranged weapon before damaged squadron.

V. Tiny flyer squadron last. Thing is damaged model will also lose AA, so will be easier targets for your tiny models. When you have both fighters and tiny bombers, the fighters should act before the bombers to take out enemy fighters. If enemy fighters are not within reach, then take out enemy bombers. However, if the tiny bombers can strike a desired target, then take the action when you can. If you have no tiny bombers deployed, then the fighters should selectively target enemy bombers, tiny or otherwise.

VI. Carriers last. Carriers are not gunships, just to coordinate and support tiny flyer squadrons.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Gaming Campaigns

After you played enough games to learn and know the rules, developed some preference for how and what you want to play, as well as gather a group of similarly minded fellow gamers, the interest in a gaming campaign will come. A gaming campaign is in essence a way to tie one game to the next, i.e. end a series of one off gaming nights and go steady. Here are my thoughts on campaign game formats.

Map. A map in my opinion is a must because it adds visual image of why your forces are fighting game after game. However, I think a map based campaign is a bad idea for the following reasons. Firstly, you'll end up fighting your neighbors and this will get old. Not only are you playing against the same players regularly, you will likely be playing against the same armies regularly as well. This might get old. Secondly, a map based campaign will get bogged down. What happens when the guy next to you can't play for a week? What happens when you have to play more than a game this week because all three of your neighbors aren't so friendly? What happens when the area you are attacking has no defending army? So my solution is to use a map in the campaign but not base the campaign on a map. Use a map as a visual aid to denote how the players are doing. When a player is doing well, have a game master increase the size of his realm on the map. When a player is not doing well, have a game master decrease the size of his realm. No game master? Do it as a group. Or have the losing player voluntarily contract his realm by losing a province of his choice, and the winner take the available or free province of his choice.
Before I forget, there is another alternative to player based map and that is faction based map. Players may be allowed to play with any of their force from one game to the next, with wins and losses attributed to the particular faction that army belongs to. For example, a player may decide to play an evil army one week and a good the next. The map would change to represent how the good faction is doing as compared to the evil faction.

Time. Time will be the biggest challenge in running a campaign. Firstly determine whether there should be any correlation between the campaign time and real time. While it might seem simple to correlate one real week to be a campaign turn, the realities of herding players may not be so simple. If a player cannot play a certain week will he forfeit that turn? This will become even more cumbersome with a map based campaign with armies moving on the map within a campaign turn. The alternative of one round of campaign game equal one campaign turn would force the campaign to move at the pace of the least available member for that turn. My thought is that anything slowing down the campaign for the majority of players is a bad thing. I would do it similar to a sport season where one week (or such) is a turn and will get each participating player one win, one loss, a tie, or a bye. Keeping in line with a sport season, I would recommend a time limit to the campaign itself. We all work better with deadlines. A time limit would also allows moving on to the next campaign, one hopefully better, having incorporated lessons of what work and what does not work from the current campaign. With all things gaming, there should be flexibility to accommodate for the real lives of the player. If there is a week where most players are not available, then that could be a make up week for players who haven't play as much. A make up week could also be imposed at the end of the regular season to catch everyone up. A playoff week after the regular season could also be an option should there be a tie on who will win the campaign.

Draft. In game systems where named heroes or unique options are played, I believe some consideration should be placed to limit these unique pieces. One option is not to allow unique pieces at all. Another option is to employ a draft where each player takes turn selecting one such unique piece to be available to him and no other players. The order of the draft selection could be determined by a die roll. If more than one round of drafting is desired, then the second round could be in reverse order with the last player selecting in the preceding round go first. There certainly will be some gaming in who to select for the draft; a model could be drafted because the player desire it or because its drafting would deny it to another player. Additional rules could be imposed as to whether trading is allowed (before or during the campaign) and whether a drafted model must be fielded or not.

Experience. Experience gained by a model is another way one game leads to the next. Most rule sets probably won't specify how a model gain experience. The easiest way is to stipulate that certain models that survive the game gains an advantage for the next game. Stipulation on which model eligible to gain experience should be enforced, such as only command models, models with more wounds than the based model, or by limiting the number to one or two models per player and allow the player to designate which model. Stipulation for surviving the game should also be set, such as a model must have at lost one wound and survive the game. Needing to lose one wound means the model must have been engaged in the game rather than just hiding out in the back.
How experience is gained will likely be determined within a rule set. A simple representation may be a re-roll for the next game for that model. A potential problem about a model based experience system is that the player will likely be prejudiced to play the same model for his next game otherwise the gained experience isn't worth much. Some players may not mind playing the same force week in and week out but others might.
The alternative to model based experience is player based "experience." When it comes to player "experience" we should keep in mind the goal of the campaign and foremost it has to be the fun factor available to all players in the campaign. Giving the winning player to much in-game rewards will make the game less balanced and less enjoyable for his opponent. Thus rewards to the players doing well in the campaign should be tempered some. Generic rewards could be a free re-roll each game, the ability to choose the game scenario, or the option to go first. It might be worth considering a threshold only after which would the in game bonuses be won. Similarly something should be offered to the players not doing well in a campaign. There is no fun in loosing and even less fun if you are defeated and eliminated from a campaign. I suggest a threshold where a player, when dropped below, will get a "compensation" for his next game. A generic compensation could be the same as the leading players bonuses as well as options, such as the option to bring and deploy an extra terrain piece, deploy all the terrain pieces, or a few extra points for the army to come as reinforcement / reserves.

Prize. I recommend a prize be available for the winner of the campaign. A prize is best generated when all the participating player contributes a small sum for participating in the campaign. There is bragging rights, there is reputation, there is seeing your empire expand, but the none of these are tangible. Thus I recommend a physical prize be made available to the winner. I would advise against monetary prize because gaming should not be about winning money. I am also not a big fan of a medal or trophy of any sort as these things are not playable. I recommend terrain pieces. Terrain pieces are great because they can be played with in the next campaign or the next game. And in general with miniature games I do not think we play with enough terrain pieces, spending our money on building the army rather than the terrain to fight over. A terrain piece could also be used to link one campaign to the next.