Tuesday, August 20, 2013

How About We Just Have Standard Phases?

Spoogy Headache, Jorge Riverol
Ok, I've got a question for everyone. Would anyone cry if we just had standard movement/shooting phases instead of the combined Action Phase? The current system plays fine (up to a point), but it's twisting my brain into knots trying to figure out how to present the info coherently. Plus I'm seeing some potential gameplay issues with the current system that I've not come up with a good solution for.

First up, 75% of the problems I'm running into with writing the rules is because I can't figure out the best order to present the various action/movement/shooting rules in. Do I talk about the turns/phases before defining the mechanics of those? Do I present the mechanics first, before describing how they fit into the turns/phases? It gives me headaches, and sends me writing in circles. I'm constantly writing, but not getting anywhere.

The Player Commitment Problem

There's also a potential gameplay issue that I see with having each unit move/shoot all at once. Which is one of player commitment.  What do I mean by this?

Well, let's say that you want to storm a position with one unit while attempting to suppress the defenders with another unit. If you're moving AND shooting each unit before moving/shooting the next one, then a smart player will attempt to suppress before he moves up the unit doing the storming. So that if he fails to suppress, he doesn't have to expose his assault unit to their defensive fire.

But, if the assault unit has to move up during the Movement Phase, before the other unit tries to suppress, that player is committed. Whether the suppressive fire succeeds or not, that assault unit has moved up into position. It's exposed no matter what.

The first (combined move/shoot) way over-rewards caution. The second forces you to commit to a course of action. Raising the stakes and that player's emotional investment (anticipation & relief/stress) in the outcome.

Which is why, I think, I didn't really get into playing Dust. Because the level of risk is lowered when  the next activated unit can act based on the success/failure of the previously activated unit.

Now, we could have a 'give out orders' step in the Starting Phase to deal with this problem. But unless you get seriously anal in the order detail (with counters), the player would still shoot first before deciding where the assault unit chooses to run. Or, if the 'order' is to assault, which potential target gets assaulted.


So on the pro side, I see separate movement/shooting phases as:

  1. Easier To Write/Read/Comprehend
  2. Increasing the emotional investment in a set of player actions.
  3. More familiar/comforting to 40K/Flames players.

On the con side is a big one. It's going to increase play time when you have to cycle through every unit twice per player turn.

To an extent, it will also lower the game's distinctiveness in terms of mechanics from 40K/Flames. But I think that we probably have more than we need of that now. I have some fear of being 'too different' from what folks are used to, and enjoy, right now.

What do you guys think?

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