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Subject: Preview: Scenario Design rss

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Matt Burchfield
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I've been posting a lot about the design and publishing process for this game at our design blog ( http://worthingtongames.blogspot.com )

I realize that a lot people who check these pages might not check the blog. So I also wanted to post the piece I wrote about designing the individual scenarios for the game...so here ya go...

No new artwork to post today. Gary Zaboly is currently adding color to the geomorphic boards. I suspect we will have some good stuff to show you from that soon. Today I am going to prattle on a bit about scenario design.

I mentioned last week that designing modular/scenario based games can be a grueling process. It does take a long time. It does take a ton of research. It does make you want to toss kittens down a well. But there is also a lot of fun to be had in that you are essentially making your own mini-game.

So let's break down what goes into the initial design of a scenario for Cowboys: Way of the Gun.

In this case we were working with a historical scenario involving Wyatt Earp. More specifically a shoot-out at Mescal Springs (also called Iron Springs) in 1882. Wyatt Earp was on his vengeance ride with Warren Earp, Doc Holliday, Sherm McMasters, "Turkey Creek" Jack Johnson, and a small number of others. On an errand run, most likely involving some cash, they were ambushed by rival "Curly Bill" Brocious and his gang of miscreants. In the course of the shoot-out ALL of Wyatt Earp's allies fled. This left Earp, off his horse, with his gunbelt around his ankles. His luck would hold up though. He managed to get a blast off with his shotgun. This shot allegedly put a nice hole in Curly Bill's chest. Earp jumped on his horse and sped away while Brocious died. Accounts of this story differ. Some people say Earp wasn't ambushed but that he was searching for Brocious. Others say that Brocious might not have even died. Either way we took the word of historian Bob Boze Bell and went with the above account of events.

So we start with characters. Side A will be Wyatt Earp's crew. We then begin with Wyatt. He will have a horse, shotgun, and pistol. His modifier will be a +2. In each scenario every cowboy starts with a modifier of 0, +1. or +2. These modifiers can effect things like firing and retreat rolls. It is a statement of the skill of the Cowboy in question. For someone like Wyatt Earp, at this point in his career, he would be a +2. This is the best you can start out with. For someone like Warren Earp (his little mentioned younger brother) who is an unknown quality would be a 0. So Warren Earp is a 0 and is on a horse, with a pistol. We'll give Doc Holliday a +2, a horse and a pistol. Some might disagree, but we think he is pretty darn cool. Sherm McMasters and Turkey Creek both get 0s, pistols, rifles and horses. This forms side A.

Side B. is Curly Bill and five other Cowboys. Curly Bill will be a +1 (he wasn't quite as good as he was mean) with a pistol. The five other cowboys will be 0s, with half carrying pistols and the other half carrying rifles.

Now we need a setting. There wasn't much at Mescal Springs. Sources say that Curly Bill and co. ambushed Wyatt from cover. So we will use the board with a fence line to provide cover for the rascals. The board configuration would be as follows...

CLEAR A CLEAR B
CLEAR C FENCE LINE

That gives us a total of four boards. Wyatt and co. have to set up first and are allowed to set up anywhere on the right edge of CLEAR B. Curly Bill's gang gets to set up second and sets up anywhere they want on the fence line, in cover.

Since Curly Bill got the drop on Wyatt his side gets the first turn.

Now on distribution of the cards. Wyatt was luckier and more skilled than Curly Bill. We need to give his side an advantage in cards. Wyatt's side will draw 5 cards. Curly Bill will draw 3.

Now it looks like we've actually stacked the deck against Curly Bill. But let's go to the special rules for the scenario. This is where we get a chance to craft the specifics of the scenario toward the historical event.

The first special rule is that on the very first turn Wyatt automatically falls off his horse. Getting up from a fall costs a character two movement points and means that they cannot fire on that turn. We do this because Wyatt was off his horse with his gunbelt around his ankles.

The second special rule is that the panic card cannot be played on either Wyatt or Curly Bill. These were both cool cats. The panic card halts a character's actions for the turn in which it is played. Doc Holliday might usually get this benefit but we are told he actually retreated during the course of the fight.

The third special rule is that all characters (with the exception of Wyatt Earp and Curly Bill) have to do retreat rolls starting at the beginning of their phase on the second turn. To determine this (and this same rule is used in other scenarios it is called the "Surrender/Retreat Rule") each player rolls two six sided dice. For Wyatt's crew a total of 1-6 means they stay, 7-12 means they run. Doc Holliday is the exception. Because he has a modifier of +2 he stays on a 1-8, and runs on a 9-12.

Health DOES alter the required roll. If someone is shotup they are more inclined to run. For every hit a character takes they add oneto their roll. For instance lets say Sherm McMasters has taken one hit of damage and rolls a total of 6 on his dice on his retreat check. Because he has taken that damage one is added to his roll giviing him a cumulative of 7. This means he skeddadles.

This means that everyone on Wyatt's crew (except Doc) has a roughly 40% chance of staying (Ninja Edit-Thanks for catching that Richard).

The stories don't whether or not Curly Bill's crew ran. But honestly it would unbalanced if we had JUST Wyatt's crew dipping off the board. We will install the same rule for Curly Bill's five compatriots. The difference being that they all stay on a roll of 1-8 (instead of 1-6). This means that some WILL retreat, but they should retreat at a slower rate.

Then we set the victory conditions. This is the simple part. Side A. has to kill Curly Bill to win. Just like real life. Side B. must kill Wyatt to be victorious. This was a relatively short gunfight so we will say they have to do it within ten turns.

So then you playtest! This one has played pretty balanced. This is a relatively new one (we just started playtesting it on Sunday) but the current tally after ten plays is 5 wins for Wyatt and 5 wins for Curly Bill. Each time the scenario has gone fairly deep with both sides having a good chance to win. It should also be mentioned that it often comes down to just Wyatt vs. Curly Bill. The other guys usually melt away or are killed. This scenario still has a lot playtesting in store for it, but we feel pretty good about where it is.

And there you are. You start with that and just keep playtesting. Adjustments will be made along the way. Sometimes taking or giving an extra card to one side fixes the balance. Sometimes you need to add a special rule that mirrors the historical event.

 
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Tom Lynch
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This game sounds really cool. Can't wait to get my hands on it. I don't know very much about the various historical gunfights of this period, but it is good to know that you guys are doing all of the proper research to get it both historical and playable. Are you planning on including a brief historical description with all of the various scenarios? I really think that would add a lot to the game.
 
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Matt Burchfield
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You are correct. Not sure what I was thinking. I was calculating using a d12 when we are using a 2d6. The main point is that the Earp gang will retreat more easily. In fact if you are rolling 2d6 the most common roll, at least mathematically, should be a 7.
 
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Dick Butler
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I'm confused. Which does the game use--1-12d or 2-6d?
 
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Matt Burchfield
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2-6d.
 
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