Sunday, January 25, 2015

Floating Initiative Test

Things got pretty crazy this week on the home front for me this week, but CaulynDarr and I were finally able to get together on Saturday for some more testing of the new turn sequence using the Meeting Engagement mission. This time we were trying out the free-floating initiative concept, along with a few other ideas.

Terrain Issues

In our last test, the terrain had clearly been too-heavy. Since it gave pretty much everyone full concealment + hard cover, and became a real pain to try and move around. This time, I removed all of the minor obstacle pieces and we did the WarStrike-standard obstacle placement (3 per side) to provide some degree of control over available cover.

This worked much better overall. Though we decided that the defender really needed a 12" deployment, and at least one line of sandbags so that they wouldn't have to waste their initiative moving around furiously during the first turn.

Free-Floating Initiative

Force-wise, the game was a mirror-match. I played green (Republic), and CD played red (Fallen).

Since I won the roll to attack, all of CD's units started at Initiative 6, while all of mine started at IN 8. As the game progressed, the initiative of each unit would change according to their movement, and how much fire/damage they took. Causing the order of movement/shooting to constantly change during the battle.

Initiative Modifiers:

  1. Holding Units gained +1 IN.
  2. Advancing Units' Initiative remained unchanged.
  3. Units moving At The Double lost 1 IN.
  4. Units lost 1 IN for every 6 hits they took.
  5. Units lost 1 IN during each attack that they lost a casualty to.

Since lower initiatives move first, and higher initiatives shoot first (attacker wins ties), this encourages the defenders to keep their heads down and conserve their IN until the attackers have blown off some of their steam by running forward.

We used 10-sided dice of a different color to track each unit's initiative during the battle.
This worked pretty well, but CD and I decided that a +2 IN bonus for the attacker was a bit much, since the attacker winning ties essentially gives them a +3. So I lowered the IN of all my units by one point after the 2nd turn.  Even so, I had a pretty good advantage for at least another 2 turns, before my troops started getting IN-exhausted. That's when the tide turned towards the defenders.

The only markers each unit had were the IN-Die, and their hit tracking D6.
At no point did we really miss the nerve markers, or the reaction tokens. We were mentally engaged enough just deciding where to move, who would get to fire first, and whether each unit would hold, advance, or run.

An Interesting Situation

Let's look at one of the interesting situations that came up...

CaulynDarr ran this unit of Fallen infantry towards my position behind the building. Since the weight of my fire had cut them down to IN 2, I felt pretty safe moving my IN 5 unit out of cover to shoot them. Since I'd get to fire on them before they could fire back on me. I also had my Paladin with the Gatling Cannon ready to help suppress that other unit at the edge of the trees, which was at IN 3. I figured my LaansGuard infantry would clean up that unit in the open, no problem.

But... They ended up taking hits and a couple of kills from CD's Autocannon and HIS Gatling-armed Paladin. Pushing them down to IN 1 themselves. Which let the unit in the trees fire first and do even more damage to me. In the end, I lost that unit to a <50% morale check, and my Paladin had to come around the building to clean up the still-alive unit of Fallen infantry.

Speaking of the morale check, having to roll under your IN sucks big time. LD needs to be its own separate stat and test.

My big push on the left with 2 units failed miserably too.
This "who shoots first if I go where..." dynamic was so important that we both decided that units should be able to shoot no matter how far they move. Since the -1 IN for running is such a balancing factor. Though certain weapons would of course be limited as to how far they could move and still shoot.

For this test, I had also 40K-ized each unit's movement, so that everyone was moving 6" or 12".  CaulynDarr HATED that, and wanted his fast-moving Dragoons back. Can't say I blame him at all. With free-floating initiative, being able to move further is even more important than it was before.

Because we were having fun, we played the game longer than we had to for strict testing purposes. We finally ended the game after both our Force Commanders got killed, and my advance ran out of steam. I figure that CaulynDarr had the advantage on my left, while we were pretty much stalemated in the center and right.


Free-Floating Initiative, and the attacker's initiative bonus, are a good change to the basic game. One that doesn't require a full rewrite to implement. Further testing will allow us to tweak the exact numbers/balance better, but the system itself feels pretty damn solid right now. It also now has a clearly unique play style compared to Flames, 40K, or X-Wing, which is tremendously encouraging to me.

Summary of Conclusions:

  1. Variable unit movement is going to be essential in our game.
  2. The defender should be able to place obstacles in their deployment zone and/or have a larger deployment zone than the attacker.
  3. A unit's Leadership and Initiative should NOT be coupled for tests. You should simply have a LD value for each unit to roll under.
  4. Running (ATD) units should be allowed to fire normally.

Other Ideas That Came Up:

  1. Everyone's IN should start higher. Say 7 for the defender, and 8 for the attacker. Since units tended to go down in IN far more than they went up.
  2. Units at IN 1 should not be allowed to move At The Double.
  3. When firing through a friendly unit, your opponent should be able to roll some sort of test in order to have some of the shots hit that unit. There should be a similar test when firing through one enemy unit to try and hit another.
  4. Firing at one enemy unit that's behind another enemy unit should require a LD test to accomplish.
  5. CaulynDarr suggested that instead of simply placing obstacles during deployment, you should be able to remove them too. Other ideas would be turning a woods into a field, putting a hole in a wall, etc.
And that's pretty much it.

My next steps are going to be a proper write-up of the meeting engagement mission, more work on being able to balance units (to allow different forces on each side), and bringing our turn rules up to date with the changes discussed here.


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