Sunday, March 10, 2013

Indy Open Notes: Reserves

The Visibility rules were the biggest issue to come up in testing. But reserves were a close second. This came to a head when testing the Bridgehead mission multiple times. But we also encountered problems with Exfiltration yesterday. Which had been working fine until we upped the number of units per side to 9. One of those new units was a dedicated close-combat specialist (the Paladin Captain). While we also had a tank on the table to worry about.

The Current Reserve Mechanic

Up to now, we've been pretty much using a straight-up copy of the Flames of War reserve system.

Some portion of your forces, usually half, are put into reserve according to the rules of the mission. You then roll one die on turn 1, two dice on turn 2, three dice on turn 3, etc. You get a unit in from reserve for every 5+ you roll. If your reserves are delayed, you don't start rolling until turn 3.

The Problems

The Bridgehead Deployment Diagram
The problems are most acute in the Bridgehead (Stargate Defense) mission. Where, over 4 games, Jason and I were unable to come up with a modification of the existing reserve rules that didn't feel incredibly random.

We tried making the units entering through the portal automatic, but that screwed over the defender, who might not get the reserves he needed to threaten an objective. Usually that led to the defender throwing away an officer in CC to suppress a unit that would otherwise win the attacker the game on turns 2 & 3.

Then we tried making the attacker roll for reserves. First, one die per turn, then one die per unit behind the portal (max of one unit/turn). No good. It still felt like the game was being one or lost based on the reserve rolls.

Exfiltration Deployment Diagram
During yesterday's Exfiltration test, DaemonJim was defending. He ran his Paladin Captain up the middle with a squad of LaansGuard in support and stopped my advance cold on turn 2 with very few casualties in return. While I was able to kill off the Paladin with a lucky hit by a Legio in CC, I ended up huddled behind a hill with the hostage while Jim's tank rolled on behind me. My reserve rolls didn't start until turn 3, and it was turn 5 before I actually got any support on. By which time it was too late. Not fun. Not even the Flames auto-on-roll-three rule would have helped matters any.

The Cause Of The Problem

Ok, so why the problem? What makes us so different than 40K or Flames, where randomized reserves don't seem to have such a huge impact on the game? After thinking about it, I think the reason lies in our suppression system.

In 40K, an arriving enemy unit will shoot you up. But all they're doing is killing models. Not crippling your leadership. The ranges at which they can fire are also quite short.

With Flames, the (even more) gimped ranges and RoF reductions keep an arriving unit from doing a whole lot. They'll kill a few models, but unless you're close enough to the edge to be assaulted, it's not as game-changing.

But in WarStrike, a unit can come on from reserve and shoot you up. Suppressing a unit. Even more so if they have Rapid Fire weapons and can pay Nv markers to get extra shots. This means that if you get a unit on, and I don't, you can suppress me to hell without me being able to do a whole lot about it.

Possible Solutions

The most obvious answer, which Jim, Darr, and I discussed yesterday, was simply making reserves less random. You would simply get one reserve unit on per turn, and could try to roll a 5+ (or whatever) for one more. If your reserves are delayed, you start getting them on turn 2 instead of turn 3.

We'll certainly test that. It's a good idea.

But stepping back a bit, we might also need to tweak the shooting rules. An example would be only letting units fire on the move within their Awareness Range. Or making on-table units less visible for a turn to the guys who just arrived at the fight. So visible units would become obscured to that arriving unit. Etc. Then next turn they're no longer confused and can fire normally.


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