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Star Trek: Attack Wing» Forums » General

Subject: Narrative in Attack Wing rss

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David Griffin
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I was recently talking about Narrative in the Myth boardgame and it occurred to me that lots of different types of Attack Wing games all have a place on a continuum between low and high narrative games.

On the low side we have the mixed faction pick-up game where you just get out some ships and play. No theme, just kill the other player (regardless of what ships he happens to be flying).

On the high side we have a card mission (or similar home-build scenario) where the mission has thematic requirements and where the players are making a good attempt to at least stay with the intent of the mission.

Something close to the low side would be a mixed faction OP game where the main scenario element has essentially failed. Case in point the Doomsday Machine where the actual DM was irrelevant. This is basically a mixed faction pick up game with scoring.

An OP game with a strong story element which is fleet pure (I heard of a Tholian Web OP where they used TOS ships fleet pure) would be a fairly high narrative game.

All this raises the questions of 1) is a high narrative game better than a low narrative game, and 2) What does narrative do for a board or miniature game?

All you can really answer to 1 is your personal preference. I suspect you all know I like high narrative (thematic) games but that doesn't translate to it being "better" in some qualitative way. But I have thought about it enough to have an idea of why I think narrative is a good thing.

Story context/narrative/theme raises the stakes of the game. It's one thing to win a battle with your friends, but when you play a game with a strong scenario where you're saving the Kobayashi Maru (or trying to) or breaking through with the Defiant to DS9 or trying to dodge the Cardassians in the Badlands, you feel as though your battle has more consequences. You're being allowed to participate in Star Trek in a way you might not feel as strongly just seeing the ships on the board.

How do you feel about narrative in this game? Do you like to see narrative or do you prefer just to see the ships and upgrades as game tokens you combine to make a powerful combo?
 
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Evan
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I think narrative is often seen as being at odds with strategy. That's one major element of the purity debates: do you give players as many fleetbuilding options as possible, or impose restrictions which might reign in power builds, but which are first and foremost guided by thematic considerations?

Now, this tradeoff may be true some of the time, but I don't think it holds as a general rule. You can have high-narrative, high-strategy games just as easily as low-narrative, low-strategy games.

That said, I think, other things being equal, more narrative is better than less. I agree that part of its value is that it makes one more invested in the game. On some level we're all here to play Star Trek, and saving your crew from the Genesis Planet feels more like Star Trek than an open-space joust between the Vidiians and a swarm of Lightships.
But for me, what's even more valuable about narrative is the sheer variety that it creates. Deja Q, Peak Performance, AR-558, Wrath of Khan...these were all unique, detailed, and fairly complex scenarios. And yes, one could have done them without the narrative elements: "your ships respawn when they're destroyed and you get points for damage," but the whole thing gels so much better when you can begin an explanation with "it's like that one episode"
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Liam Thompson
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For me, narrative is the prime reason I play the game. I find it extremely difficult to create a fleet for OPs without finding some thematic element to tie things together. So far I've run an all-TNG-era-Romulan fleet for Zero Hour (not the most thematic, I'll admit), an all-Xindi fleet for Wrath of Khan, and an all-TOS-era-Romulan fleet (even down to the choices of skill-1 captain cards) for The Doomsday Machine, and I'm planning on taking a Delta-Quadrant-Federation(ish)-fleet for The Void at the end of the month.

I don't like playing against non-narratively-themed fleets, but I accept it as a necessary evil since I realise that not everyone is as fanatical about Trek and Trek-canon as I am.

Narrative is one of the things I feel went wrong with a much older game: the Star Trek CCG. The first edition of the Trek CCG was a glorious thing in terms of narrative: you could assassinate Kirk with a tribble on K7 (with lasting, timeline-affecting effects), you could harvest organs as Vidiians, and even assimilate your opponent's crew, ships, planets, and homeworlds as Borg. But when the second edition of the game came around, I felt it had much less of a narrative feel. I felt that the mechanics of second edition could have been transplanted onto almost any other IP and still make sense, which is something that I don't feel was the case in first edition. Second edition felt more like a "sport" than a "game" to me.
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Bwian, just
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In general I like narrative, although it isn't my main interest. But I do have a bit of a problem when "narrative" turns into "historical". That is to say, I actively don't want to recreate a battle we saw on the screen. We know what happened in "history", and I have no interest in revisiting the matter over a wargaming table.

Now, "what if" scenarios throwing a different mix of characters or equipment into a situation we saw on screen? That is more satisfying to me. Not only does it provide new tactical options, it's something that Starfleet might actually game out for training purposes. robot
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Liam Thompson
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Bwian wrote:
In general I like narrative, although it isn't my main interest. But I do have a bit of a problem when "narrative" turns into "historical". That is to say, I actively don't want to recreate a battle we saw on the screen. We know what happened in "history", and I have no interest in revisiting the matter over a wargaming table.

Now, "what if" scenarios throwing a different mix of characters or equipment into a situation we saw on screen? That is more satisfying to me. Not only does it provide new tactical options, it's something that Starfleet might actually game out for training purposes. robot


I think both of these scenarios have merit, for their own reasons. There's definitely a case of "could I have done it better with the same forces?" mentality about the "historical" way, and of course the chance to re-enact famous battles as seen on screen. On the other hand, "what if" scenarios are, as you say, something that could happen in-universe for training purposes, but also allows you to re-enact those battles in completely different ways to how they went in canon.
 
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Robert Wood
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I know some scenarios aren't very conducive to narrative, but I do like a good story to go along with the game when possible. ^^
 
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Robert Wood
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Bwian wrote:
In general I like narrative, although it isn't my main interest. But I do have a bit of a problem when "narrative" turns into "historical". That is to say, I actively don't want to recreate a battle we saw on the screen. We know what happened in "history", and I have no interest in revisiting the matter over a wargaming table.

Now, "what if" scenarios throwing a different mix of characters or equipment into a situation we saw on screen? That is more satisfying to me. Not only does it provide new tactical options, it's something that Starfleet might actually game out for training purposes. robot


...This makes me imagine Starfleet cadets playing Attack Wing for Strategic Planning courses. ^^
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Leo Zappa
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Narrative is fairly important to me. That's why I generally play either the published missions or, when playing a home-brewed scenario or campaign, I go strictly era-pure and faction-pure (with some allowances for "historical" alliances and officer exchanges). This is also why the OP scene never really appealed to me, at least the ones where there were no purity rules in effect. I don't begrudge others who play the game primarily as a tactical exercise without regard to purity, because I can see the attraction in creating an optimal build, but being a Star Trek fan first and foremost, my immersion into the ST universe compels me to seek out narratives that are in keeping with the source material.
 
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David Griffin
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EduSun Trebor wrote:
Bwian wrote:
In general I like narrative, although it isn't my main interest. But I do have a bit of a problem when "narrative" turns into "historical". That is to say, I actively don't want to recreate a battle we saw on the screen. We know what happened in "history", and I have no interest in revisiting the matter over a wargaming table.

Now, "what if" scenarios throwing a different mix of characters or equipment into a situation we saw on screen? That is more satisfying to me. Not only does it provide new tactical options, it's something that Starfleet might actually game out for training purposes. robot


...This makes me imagine Starfleet cadets playing Attack Wing for Strategic Planning courses. ^^


I used to say that most OP games I've played were like Starfleet cadets fooling around on a Sunday night when all the instructors are gone and can't tell them their builds are useless for training. Most games try to give you a sense that if that battle had been fought "in real life" or in this case on screen, that your outcome in the game might have been the result. This one obviously doesn't try to do that.

I suspect that most players who bring mixed builds for OPs wouldn't care if the theme was powder puff girls, as long as the cards worked the same. I'm not saying that's bad, I'm just saying that is the game WK wants OP players to play. Every time in the past someone hinted their intent might be a more thematic game, they proved them wrong with various cards and resources. The Mixed OP IS the game, whether we like it or not.

I like more narrative in my games though. It makes the game more fun for me anyway. I've had a lot fun playing STAW over the years. Having had the chance to dip back into previous games (like Federation Commander and FASA), I've spent more and had more fun playing this one. It will be interesting to see how much of a long tail this game has once WK support ends.
 
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Steve Smith
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The narrative is extremely important to me and the last of the STAW players in my area. If you throw theme out the window in a Star Trek-themed game, you lose the very narrative that draws many players to the game.

Mixed fleets might have been the intent of the designers since the start of the game, but it's something that needs to be changed when a new starter pack and updated rules are released.

Penalty pure fleets need to be the norm - choose a faction and build a fleet based on that faction with penalty-free cards allowed.

I think that this change is even more important than the Borg nerf, which saved the game. Penalty-pure fleets could actually bring the game back to life.

No one believed me when I suggested that the Borg first came out and I said that the spin needed to happen after the maneuver or that the 360 firing arc needed to be range 1-2, but BOTH of my suggestions were adopted after a year of horrific losses to the player base.

WK, listen to me now. Go with penalty-pure fleets and watch as the player base recovers even more.
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Evan
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carbon_dragon wrote:
I suspect that most players who bring mixed builds for OPs wouldn't care if the theme was powder puff girls, as long as the cards worked the same. I'm not saying that's bad,


It's still pretty patronizing. Geek culture has enough of a gatekeeping problem; surely we can be respectful enough to disagree about our preferred format without resorting to "your Picard Bioship means you obviously don't care about Star Trek like I do."
 
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David Griffin
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kobold47 wrote:
carbon_dragon wrote:
I suspect that most players who bring mixed builds for OPs wouldn't care if the theme was powder puff girls, as long as the cards worked the same. I'm not saying that's bad,


It's still pretty patronizing. Geek culture has enough of a gatekeeping problem; surely we can be respectful enough to disagree about our preferred format without resorting to "your Picard Bioship means you obviously don't care about Star Trek like I do."


I don't recall mentioning a Picard Bioship. Though I HAVE been hit with a 3 Bioship build with (if I remember correctly) Picard 9, Dukat 7 and Spock 6 but I can't be certain. Excellent effective build -- simple and easy to play. Let's face it, in this game Picard 9 has commanded virtually every kind of ship from all factions. Somewhere there is a cloning machine turning out copies of Picard.

I know I and some others do care about the theme, but when I'm playing, the builds I used to play against and hear about were definitely NOT thematic. And when I'd talk to them about that, some would tell me they hadn't even ever WATCHED Star Trek. They just liked the power gaming aspect of STAW (something that doesn't work as well in some other games). If fact they were quite proud of not knowing anything about Star Trek.

This game is built to mix and match from every faction. I don't like it much but I believe it. It's the way it's intended to play. If you do a thematic build, more power to you -- you can often get geek cred for doing so, but you probably aren't going to win. Tilting at windmills is noble but not optimal.
 
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Robert Wood
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Cloning facility making copies of Picard? Hmmm. Sounds like the plot to Activision's Star Trek Armada game. XD
 
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David Griffin
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Shinzon kind of shows the Romulans were thinking they needed a Picard 9 too. And he did OK against the real thing considering he was fatally ill at the time.
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