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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

40k Formations and Codex Supplement: Angels of Death


Image result for codex supplement angels of death cover








The latest Space Marine supplement, Angels of Death, is really, really cool.  It collects some previously-released Formations and adds a few more.  Notably, it has big Formation of Formations for each several 1st Founding Codex chapters.  Combined with the Formations in the base Codex, I now feel like a Space Marine army can be organized around different playstyles, and do so in a way that is fluffy and characterful. 

Ravenguard get lots of scouts, sneaky deployments and sudden assaults. White Scars get fast bikes.  Iron Hands can field a tank-heavy force. Salamanders get some more flame stuff (yawn).  My own Chapter's lineage, the Imperial Fists, receive a Formation that allows multiple devastator, centurion, and vindicator squads.

This is the book that is making me love Formations. My first reaction to Formations was pretty negative, but that was back when the core of army building was the CAD. 

It now seems to me that GW is using Formations as a way to reflect the character of the armies.  The new Formations of Formations are, in effect, new, customized (and customize-able) Force Organization charts. Not since the old 3.5 Chaos Dex, have I felt this much freedom to build a force the way I want and to have it reflected in the rules.

Can Formations be abused?  Are they unevenly designed?  Sure.  But so is 40k as a whole. More than ever, it is imperative for players to meet and agree on the type of game they wish to play.

Here's hoping GW creates formations in this much depth for every army, not just Space Marines...

Well, That Sucked!

You may have noticed I haven't posted in a while.  I was out due to medical issues, but I'm back now.  Look for more posts.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Waystone: Layers of Secrets (Part One)

First Secrets 

I have been running a game of Amber Diceless RPG/Lords of Gossamer and Shadow for our local group, using an alternate setting. Instead of Shadow and Pattern, or the Gossamer Stair, this universe is connected by a mysterious forest called the Marches. This series of columns will describe the Marches as a new player character would experience them, as a nested series of secrets, which the GM would reveal in play.  Along the way, I'll provide some design notes, anecdotes, and generally explain the setting as a whole.

 You're a (Demi)God 

Player characters may start they game completely ignorant of the world of the Marches.  They may have been lost or abandoned in a realm, and be completely unaware that others exists.  Like Corwin at the start of the Amber Chronicles, they have to discover the nature of the universe as they go.  This is a great way to introduce new players to the setting, through experimentation and discovery.

Their first discovery then, will be about themselves.  The PCs start out as Pargon-ranked in all their attributes (unless they sell them down).  That means that they are already psychic, super-strong, super-tough, and insanely athletic and deadly. If they've been alive for very long, they also know that they are effectively immortal.  If they've spent any points on powers, then they know that magic exists, too.

As in Amber, or in LoGaS, player characters may or may not know their parents.  One of these parents (at least) was probably a Marcher Lord.  If their Marcher Lord Daddy (or Mommy or Both) is present as they grow up, the parent probably vanishes from time to time.  They are almost certainly caught doing (or being) more than human or having more than one power.  Alternatively, the Marcher Lord parent may be long gone, a figure of mystery.  Either way, the child probably has questions.

 Other Worlds Exist

Either in play, or before play begins, the player character will learn that other worlds exist. The equivalent of an Amber Shadow or a Gossamer Domain is a Realm. A Realm is a self-contained universe.  It may appear infinite from inside (as ours does) or it may be as small as kingdom or even a broom-closet.  Some Realms have weird geometry; if you walk far enough you may end up back at the same point or maybe you can see distant lands hanging in the sky. The player character will likely rule their Realm, by virtue of their superhuman powers, or be raised by its ruler.

All Realms contain at least one Waystone.  Waystones appear rounded, slightly pock-marked bone-colored stone, usually ranging in size from a pebble to a car tire.  The bigger the realm, the larger the stone will likely appear.  Some Waystones are marked with mysterious runes (usually just one) or show signs of breakage or even scorch marks.  They may change slowly in size, appearance, or location over time.  Waystones have a number of different nicknames -- such as Wichstones, Milestones, Geomantic points.  The most common nickname, however, is "the bones of Ymr."

Player characters with Sorcery  can sense that these are magical objects, filled with energy.  Player characters with Aspect can tell that the stones are nexus points of essence, that they are somehow more "real" than the surrounding Realm.  Player characters with Wayfinding, of course, can sense the presence of the Marches beyond the stone, and have an innate sense of how to open a Way.

Some Realms are inhabited by creatures with Minor Wayfinding.  In these Realms traffic to and from the Marches may be common. In other Realms, they player characters will need to discover how the stones work for themselves, experimenting until they manage to open a Way.  (At which point, they must buy the power with points.)

Concentrating on a Waystone, and pouring a little energy into it, causes a Way to open.  A character with Minor Wayfinding or better need only stand near the stone and concentrate for a few minutes.  Opening a Way is slower than Sorcery,using an Icon. A disc-shaped hole appears in the air, revealing the Marches behind.  A character with Wayfinding proper soon finds that they need not make an opening at the stone itself, although its presence makes the process faster and easier.  They will also eventually find that they can make the Way larger or smaller or differently-shaped or colored or opaque, noisy or silent, glowing or subdued.


At this point, the player character will probably step through, into the Marches.  (And specifically, into the Middle Marches where most viable Realms are located.)  They will see a forest.  Depending on conditions, it may be a sparse forest, with scrubby undergrowth, or a lush forest with a canopy that blocks out the skies, or a pine taiga covered in drifting snows.  There may be clearings or burned areas, or boulders or whatever.  In some really odd places, the Marches may appear as desert or ocean or even empty space.  But for the most part the Marches are forest.

The player character will probably notice a Waystone, more or less matching the one on the others side, near the Way they just vacated.  Unless they concentrate on holding it open, or on snapping it shut, the Way will close about a minute after they exit.  Their home waystone is probably on a path, one that stretches off into the distance.  If they came from a large Realm, there may be a clearing or even some broken ruins.

The first-time traveler will feel cold, regardless of whether the sun is shining or the temperature of the air.  The attuned will realize that this is not true cold -- it is a lack of magical energy, of the essence of reality.  In their home Realm it was thick; here it is thin.  It is stronger on the path than off it.

The Marches slowly change. The same tree may not be in the same place if you look away. The type of vegetation may shift.  The sun and moon may move back and forth in the sky, or vanish suddenly.  The Marches are perilous.  Even if character do not travel far, the exposure to low Essence will begin to take a toll on them.  First they will shiver, then they will weaken, eventually they may begin to experience numbness in the extremities.  They can counteract this to some degree by staying on the paths or near Waystones.  If they leave the path, reality becomes unstable.  There may be areas of non-Euclidean geometry, where distances fold back in on themselves, or where a single stand of trees recedes forever.  The traveler may encounter strange beasts out of legend, or (perhaps more dangerous) other wanderers.

However, if the character follows the path they will eventually come upon another Waystone.  Should they concentrate, a Way will open, leading them to a new Realm.  The new Realm is a new universe, perhaps quite different than the one the player left.  Most Realms are wilderness, or inhabited by low-magic fantasy or Renaissance humans, but there are high-tech Realms or high-fantasy Realms too. 


Playtest

In my current game, players had the option of beginning clueless or clued-in.  Clueless characters had no Wayfinding, and knew only their Realm.  Some of them were Sorcerers and shapeshifters, quite powerful, but confined to the Realm of their birth. A few of the characters already had Wayfinding, and knew enough to wander around the Marches.  None of the characters (except one) had ever met their father, but some of them had magical mothers.  As the game opened, all the characters began to feel a call that drew them towards the nearest Waystone, and thus into the Marches.  This compulsion, whatever it was, also enabled the characters to open a Way, provided they experimented enough...

Next up: Aspects and Marcher Lords

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Simplied Pointing?

I've been considering the way most games handle point costs. In most games, like 40k or FoW, the scale of a game is around 1500 points and up. A typical unit costs between 100 and 300 points, with 5 point increments, and every upgrade has a point cost.  But does the difference between, say a 155 point tank and a 175 point tank truly effect list design that much, particularly if the number of choices are already constrained by a force organization chart or other limiting mechanism? How would a greatly simplified point system affect play?  Would reducing the granularity of pointing increase or decrease min-maxing shenanigans? 

For example, consider the following simplified point scheme for a game like 40k or FoW:

Infantry
Pricing is for the first 5-10 models. Additional models would cost more points.

Crappy Infantry: 2 points.  A unit with truly awful morale, toughness, or weapon options. A unit more valuable for having wounds than for anything else.  Examples: FoW Reluctant Conscripts, 40k grots.  That sort of thing.  Upgrading the squad by 5-10 models would cost 1 point.

Normal Infantry:3 points. A unit with average morale and toughness. The price includes standard weapon options.  Examples:  FoW CT infantry with an LMG, mortar, and bazooka-equivalent, a 40k IG squad with a heavy and a special weapon, an Eldar Guardian squad with a heavy weapons platform, etc.  Upgrading the squad by 5-10 models would cost 1 point.

Elite Infantry: 4 points.  A unit with good morale and toughness.  The price includes standard weapon options.  Alternatively, a unit with average morale and toughness but good weapon options.  Examples: FoW CT infantry with multiple LMGs or AT options.  FoW CV or FT infantry with a single LMG and single AT weapon, etc. A 40k Tactical Marine Squad with a heavy and a special weapon. Upgrading the squad by 5-10 models would cost 1 point.

Super-Elite Infantry: 5 points. A unit with excellent morale, toughness, and weapon options.  Examples include FoW FV paratroopers, Sternguard, etc.  Upgrading the squad by 5-10 models would cost 1 point.

Tanks
Pricing is per tank or tank squadron (depending on game scale).

Armored Box: 1 point. The "tank" is lightly armored and has only a minimal weapon.  Examples: a 40k rhino.

Light Vehicle: 2 points. This vehicle is lightly armored by has a decent weapon system.  Examples: a FoW light tank with an HMG or small cannon, or a 40k Razorback or Landspeeder.

Average Vehicle: 3 points. A vehicle with decent armor and a good weapon system or two.  Examples: A FoW medium tank with AT10, a 40k Predator or Chimera.

Better Vehicle: 4 points. A vehicle with one outstanding feature, and the rest decent.  Examples, a FoW T-35/85. A 40k Leman Russ.

Superior Vehicle: 5 points. A vehicle superior in several respects and decent in only a few.  Examples: A FoW Tiger or Panther.

All the Trimmings
What about the little things on a unit, that make a small difference in game play, but might not be worth a whole point. I suggest that any or all such upgrades cost 1/2 a point.  Spend a point, getsome extras (from a choice) on any two units. So buying AtT for a Space Marine Tactical Squad would get you shooting or melee options on your sergeant.  Buying AtT for a Rhino would let you take a dozer blade, storm bolter, or hunter-killer missile.  Buying AtT for a rifle squad might get you an extra bazooka or MG.  The idea is to make the extras expensive enough that the player would hesitate, but without making the pricing super complicated.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Ancients: Leader Abilities

As part of my ongoing Ancients wargame project, I will now turn to generals and leaders.  I'd like my game to be mostly about commanding, bolstering and manipulating a battle-line of infantry units. I envision each leader in the players' army as having a set of abilities which can be activated with a successful roll. Different forces will have different abilities, representing national focus or training or style.

Each force will have a commanding leader, known as the Warlord.  Secondary leaders will be known as Commanders.  These are game mechanical terms, distinct from any historical titles or ranks. A leader model may move independently or it may join a unit. When joined to a unit, the leader is vulnerable to destruction if the unit takes hits or breaks, but often has a bigger effect of that unit through certain Abilities.

The following are draft lists of Abilities.  An army will typically chose two lists, buying abilities from each. They are in rough order of utility. The higher level abilities will often be reserved for the Warlord. Each will typically have two chosen Abilities. Additionally, all leaders will have access to a set of universal Abilities.

Only one Ability may be attempted by each leader each turn. 

Universal Abilities

Bolster Morale: Does not require a roll to activate.  Use when a Unit fails its Break Test.  If the leader is currently independent, and the Unit is within 6"of the leader, then that Unit may roll its Break Test using the Leader's Leadership score if it is higher. If the Leader has joined the Unit, you may reroll the Break Test using the Leader's Leadership score if it is higher, with a +1 bonus. If the Leader is your Warlord, use a +2 bonus instead.

Deployment Abilities
Deployment Abilities are activated at the end of the Deployment phase, and require a Leadership roll to activate. If both players have Leaders with Deployment abilities, roll off to see who activates an ability first.  (High roll may choose.) Then alternate until both players have finished activating all the Deployment abilities they wish.

Lateral Deployment Move: Select a friendly unit within 6" of the Leader.  That Unit may be placed in any valid location within the player's deployment zone within a Standard Move of its original location, with any ending facing.

Scouting Deployment Move:  Select a friendly unit within 6" of the Leader.  That Unit may immediately make a Standard Move inside or out of the Deployment Zone

Rear Deployment Swap: Select two adjacent friendly units within 12" of the Leader, one of which is in the rear arc of the other.  Swap the locations of these two units, retaining the same facing.

Lateral Deployment Swap: Select two adjacent friendly units within 12" of the Leader and in each other's side arcs.  Swap the locations of these two units, retaining the same facing.

Deployment Trickery: Select two friendly units anywhere within 24"of the Leader.  Swap the locations of these two units, with any facing.

Reserve Abilities:
A player declares if he will activate any Reserve Abilities at the start of his Deployment Phase.  When each ability is activated, the player must immediately declares which Unit he will place into which type of Reserve.  If both players have Leaders with Reserve abilities, roll off to see who activates an ability first.  (High roll may choose.) Then alternate until both players have finished activating all the Reserve abilities they wish.

Ambush Reserve: A Unit placed into Ambush Reserve remains in Reserve until the end of the Deployment Phase. The controlling player must place the Unit into a valid location in his Deployment zone. Doing so counts as activating a Deployment Ability.
 
Flank Reserve: A Unit placed into Ambush Reserve remains in Reserve until the controlling player Activates his Flank Reserves at the start of his Movement phase. This requires a Leadership roll from a Leader with the Flank Reserves Ability.  If the roll is successful, the Unit Moves immediately onto the table from any edge.


Lead from the Front Abilities

Genius for Murder:  Activate in any melee phase. Requires a Leadership roll to activate. If the Leader has joined a Unit, that Unit gains Advantage over one enemy Unit.  Lasts until the start of the activating player's next turn.

Retinue: Activate in any melee phase.  Does not require a roll to activate. If the Leader has joined a Unit, that Unit gains 3 extra attacks.  Lasts until the start of the activating player's next turn.

Heroic Resistance:  Activate in any melee phase. Requires a Leadership roll to activate. If the Leader has joined a Unit, that Unit may reroll failed Saves.  Lasts until the start of the activating player's next turn.

Rally:  Activate in any melee phase. Requires a Leadership roll to activate. If the Leader has joined a Unit, that Unit automatically passes all Break Tests until the end of the Turn.

Defensive Abilities

Testudo: Activate in any shooting phase. Requires a Leadership roll to activate. Select one friendly unit within 12" of the Leader.  That Unit may reroll failed Saves.  Lasts until the end of phase.

Change Facing:  Activate in any phase. Requires a Leadership roll to activate. Select one friendly unit within 12" of the Leader.  That Unit may rotate its facing in any direction.  If it is in contact with an enemy Unit, the enemy Unit remains stationary and strikes the new facing.

Flank Protection: Activate in any phase. Requires a Leadership roll to activate. Select one friendly unit within 12" of the Leader.  That Unit may count one of its flank or rear facings as "front" for determining Advantage and number of Attacks .  If it is in contact with an enemy Unit, the enemy Unit remains stationary and strikes the new facing. Lasts until the start of the activating player's next turn.

Immovable Mountain: Activate in any phase. Requires a Leadership roll to activate. Select one friendly unit within 12" of the Leader.  That Unit counts all its flank and rear facings as "front" for determining Advantage and number of Attacks .  It may not move in its subsequent Movement phase. If it is in contact with an enemy Unit, the enemy Unit remains stationary and strikes the new facing. Lasts until the start of the activating player's next turn.

Narrow Frontage: Activate in any Melee phase. Requires a Leadership roll to activate. Select one friendly unit within 12" of the Leader that is engaged with multiple enemies to its front.  One of those enemy Units (opposing player's choice) does not contribute any Attacks in Melee. Lasts until the start of the activating player's next turn.

Offensive Abilities

Push: Activate in any Melee phase. Requires a Leadership roll to activate. Select one unit within 12" of the Leader that is engaged with a single enemy Unit to its front. If successful, push both Units directly backwards by one standard Move.  Use the lowest Move value of the two Units involved.

Berserkergang: Activate in any Melee phase. Requires a Leadership roll to activate. Select one friendly unit within 12" of the Leader.  The selected Unit may reroll failed to-Hit rolls in Combat, but must also reroll successful Saves.Lasts until the start of the activating player's next turn. 

Rain of Arrows: Activate in the controlling player's Shooting phase. Requires a Leadership roll to activate. Select one friendly unit within 12" of the Leader.  The selected unit may reroll failed to-Hit rolls.  Lasts until the end of Phase.


Support Abilities

Bolster the Line:  Activate whenever a friendly Unit is destroyed within 12" of the Leader.  Requires a roll to Activate  Select any other unengaged Unit within 6" of the destroyed Unit and on its flanks.  Replace the destroyed Unit with the selected Unit.
 
Shorten the Line: Activate whenever a friendly Unit is destroyed within 12" of the Leader.  Requires a roll to Activate  Select any other unengaged Unit within 6" of the destroyed Unit and in its rear arc.  Replace the destroyed Unit with the selected Unit.
 
Rest and Refit:  Activate whenever a friendly Unit suffers hits within 12" of the Leader.  Requires a roll to Activate  Select any other unengaged Unit within 6" of the destroyed Unit and in its rear arc.  Swap the two Units.

Strengthen:  Activate in any Melee phase.  Requires a roll to Activate. Select a friendly unengaged Unit within 12" of the Leader, and in the rear arc and within 6"  of a unit engaged in Melee, it may contribute half its dice to the other Unit's combat. Lasts until the start of the activating player's next turn. 




Monday, July 27, 2015

Thoughts on the Age of Sigmar Background

Having read the new Warhammer: Age of Sigmar book, here are some thoughts on the background for the new world, how it differs from the old Warhammer world, what it means for the game design, and what I think it means for the game's future.

First of all, I'm pleased to say it still feels very Warhammery.  There are plenty of hold-over characters and references.  Several of the old characters become gods:  Sigmar, Teclis, Tyrion, Nagash...

Chaos remains Chaos: Nurgle, Tzeench, and Khorne are all basically the same.  The models and art are evocative of the long-developed Chaos look and feel.  Slaanesh is present too, but the fluff says s/he is now a prisoner.  Fan paranoia thinks GW may be writing Slaanesh out of the background to be more child friendly.  I am not yet sure.  I think there may be a battle for Slaanesh in some future campaign.  (Besides, what sort of S&M god would Slaanesh be, if he didn't like to be tied up from time to time.) The Horned Rat gets promoted to be a minor Chaos God.

Orks look pretty much the same, but don't get many photos.

Ogres look pretty much the same, and feature in lots of photos.  I predict minimal changes to the Ogre model range.

The undead have lots of Nagash stuff from the endtimes, and seem to be using the Vampire Counts skeletons.  I predict a loss of Transylvanian and Egyptian elements, in favor of some new look.

Interestingly, the Lizardmen are all over the place in the photos, with lots of giant dinosaurs.  They are renamed, but I think that far from being written out of the new universe, the Lizardmen will remain with minimal changes to the model range.  There are just too many cool dinosaur models.

The Skaven play a major role in the background.  If anything, the Skaven have gotten even more emphasis than in WFB.

The wood elf tree spirits have an army in the main book, minus all the elf elements.

Dwarves are mentioned as existing, but get one picture -- of a Slayer.

The Elves are just gone.  Wood Elves, High Elves, Dark Elves. Gone.  There are elf gods, but they are all sad that their people have vanished, except for a few survivors that hang out with Sigmar.

The Empire is gone, gone, gone.  Bretonnia is gone, gone, gone. No more Renaissance Germany.  No more King Arthur.  Boo hoo.

The world is more open.  There are now nine realms, seven of which are contested battlefield.  Each corresponds roughly to an old Wind of Magic (except for the Chaos Realm itself).  Each of these mortal realms is made up of (apparently) many sub-dimensions, pocket worlds, and so forth.  So there is no D&D campaign map of the world any more, only of particular battlefields, and you are free to invent your own.  I think this is a major change, and it gives GW space to grow and develop this new world.

The Stormcast Eternals are magic Space Marines (more or less) who descend from the Heavens on drop pods... I mean lightning bolts and smash things.  Actually, I think they are quite interesting.  With the Stormcast Eternals, GW is reversing the usual background.  Instead of Chaos corrupting and destroying a decaying world, we have (essentially) a fantasy version of the Emperor's Great Crusade.  Order is on the offensive, liberating worlds and bringing hope.

Overall, I think the emphasis will be on smaller numbers of bigger, more interesting models.  The existing factions are simplified into 4 big factions: Order, Chaos, Destruction, and Death.  So all the good guys into Order, Chaos remains Chaos plus it's got the Skaven, Orcs and Ogres hang out together, and then there are some undead.

My guess is that we will soon see a repackaging and rerelease of many of the old models.  I strongly suspect that GW will keep the newer kits, the ones that are more atmospheric, and larger or more dynamic.  I think older models, models based on real history, and so forth will be phased out.  The biggest losers, I think will be the good guys (and the dark elves).  The two human factions, Empire and Bretonnia, look to me to be gone for good. There doesn't seem to be any good place for their historical armies.  Most of the elf and dwarf stuff seems too low-fantasy, and just generic.  Maybe some of the bigger or newer kits like Lion Chariots, Dragons, or War Altars will survive.

Heck, maybe none of them will, ultimately.  I'm merely guessing when I suggest some older models will be repackaged with new (IP protected) names and round bases.  And all of this is dependent on Age of Sigmar surviving long enough for GW to put into action whatever long-term plans it has.

Given the horrible new rules, I'm not sure that's a safe bet.

But overall, I do like the new world.