Sunday, 16 October 2011

Self-balancing in place of points

It's been a busy weekend, partly spent laying out the game. The writing is mostly done, but a key element still to be finalised is the points system.

For those not sure, points are a rough measure of how valuable an individual is in-game, useful in trying to set up evenly-matched battles. In my case the calculation is complicated by the fact it isn't necessarily a wargame, more a skirmisher and worldbuilder hybrid, with RPG-like ideas.

I saw three posts on points this weekend, two at quirkworthy dealing with the issue in general terms - here and here - and one at Rules Manufactorum re 40K, here. Value also came up in this post at All Things Fett on orc numbers for a tower assault ruleset.

Following up on all of that, I thought I might describe a possible alternative approach for squad-level games I've been mulling over. It's nothing revolutionary, but might be useful.

The idea is to introduce a simple self-balancing mechanism, something that might better allow the players to put down any value of force without needing to worry about how equal they are. For simplicity I suggest using the squad as the basic measure of value, but of course the problem here is the fact a squad could be of any size and composition.

A way around that variability is allowing a player to recycle a destroyed unit in a later turn, on a 50% chance say, as if a sudden weakening in the front is being reinforced.

So far, so ordinary - we see this often. And it only does a limited job, when a massively more powerful force could still overwhelm the other in short order, recycling or no.

But what about if a force destroying a unit then incurs a one-unit handicap on its own recycling? That is to say, what if the next unit of this force to be destroyed is not recycled, as if the strong performance means reserve units are directed elsewhere?

Let's see an example. Force A destroys two of B's units in the first turn; these may reappear to help B in later turns. But force B can now destroy two of A's units without them reappearing. Only the third of A's units destroyed would be eligible for recycling.

It might be argued that this is unfair to the stronger force, but the point here is that we don't know which has the more value; the system reacts to the events on the table. On the other hand, if the forces being used are by chance equal in value, this would increase the challenge for the stronger player and give the weaker a helping hand.

It could mean more circling or probing, with a bold strike needing to be well set up, and so suggest more respect for the troops, and hint at the larger battlezone. It could keep things tighter through the game, not to mention make spontaneous games easier.

How does it look? The principle is the issue, given victory conditions are crucial, use of squads can be switched out and the idea refined. As ever, thoughts are very welcome.


Andy said...

I have used this idea in a game of 40K. Destroyed units respawn the next turn, but at a random side of the board decided by a roll of the die.

Any unit, no matter how weak or little, can become a serious threat if it emerges behind your lines!

The Happy Whisk said...

Hey Porky. I can't answer as to how it looks since I don't game much. Here and there with Tim, but that's all. But I am happy to see that most of the writing is done.

Go you. Rah.

beat ronin said...

This is a neat idea. I'm sorry I don't have much to say other than that, but I might see if I can give this a try with one of my regular opponents

The Angry Lurker said...

If the unit is too good, command then thinks it doesn't need help...I like that, too good for it's own good...nice.

Porky said...

@ Andy - This kind of thing is especially useful for 40K these days, just because the scale of the game has changed so much, to the point where tables can get pretty packed, almost ridiculously so at times. It's very evocative too, and having wave after wave come in over a game without a turn limit is a refreshing idea. The major issue here is the effect the extra handicap would have, whether it could swing things too much or would still be too little to do the job, and what other features might be used. It would need looking at with the range of victory conditions in the given system of course, and another thing to consider would be interaction with any existing reserves.

@ The Happy Whisk - Thanks, but I'm not counting my chickens yet..! Although the writing is nearly done, the playtesting is still going so I'd be naive not to be ready for a fair bit of revision on the back of that. Then there's the editing. Setting out a schedule does help though, a flexible one at least, and I have a strong enough passion for it and interest in the reaction to want to see it through.

@ James S - I'm glad you like it. I've not looked at how the handicap element works in practice so I'd love to know how it went if you did give it a go. I'm intrigued by the whole idea of a fluid balance and I imagine the approach could be improved plenty for any given system. What would it mean for 40K say if points values and army lists could be avoided or removed?

@ The Angry Lurker - Exactly. That issue of perception is an important part of resource management in the real world. I also think internal politics and rivalry between commanders is a very underplayed area in terms of actual mechanisms.

The Happy Whisk said...

It's great to work on something with passion. That's the way to live.

There's a cup at Barnes that I wanted to get. It reads, live with passion. Love the color too, but it's got a dent in it that looks like it will chip.

Hoping they get more in.

Porky said...

Sounds ideal - it's just the message to have right in front of the eyes all the way through the day.