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Subject: Capabilities and Period Events rss

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Todd Carter
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First the story: I am in the middle of playing a Vassal game in which I clicked on "period events," when making the deck. Myself and the other players did not catch on that we had to manually place the capabilty counters and played without out the pre-listed capabilities for the first half of the game. (I will not make that mistake again!) As I looked at the rulebook, I realized that these capabilities should only be initially active when the period scenarios are being used.

Now the question: Is there anything inherently unbalancing about the game if one uses period events but not the capabilities? It seems arbitrary to me. But, I lack experience and I would love to hear some explanation for the starting capabilities. Were they just placed there for historical accuracy?

Thank you ahead of time.
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P. Fowler
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Question: How long is the game? Full, medium, or short?
 
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Todd Carter
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That would be necessary info. Sorry about that.

Medium.
 
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Oerjan Ariander
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The starting Capabilities are very much there for scenario balance, in both the Short and Medium scenarios. Playing without them makes life a lot harder for the communists, particularly the NVA.

My failure to get Volko and Mark to put some form of starting Capabilities in the non-Period scenarios (similar to how it is done in ADP, but only going through 12-24 of the unused cards and not always giving the US the unshaded Capabilities) is one of the very few things in FL I'm outright unhappy with

Regards, Oerjan
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Oerjan Ariander
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But to answer your question: No, using Period Events without starting Capabilities is no more unbalanced than using non-Period Events without them. Either of these variants favours the COIN side.

/Oerjan
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P. Fowler
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Oerjan wrote:
The starting Capabilities are very much there for scenario balance, in both the Short and Medium scenarios. Playing without them makes life a lot harder for the communists, particularly the NVA.

My failure to get Volko and Mark to put some form of starting Capabilities in the non-Period scenarios (similar to how it is done in ADP, but only going through 12-24 of the unused cards and not always giving the US the unshaded Capabilities) is one of the very few things in FL I'm outright unhappy with

Regards, Oerjan

So were the Capabilities your idea to implement?
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Oerjan Ariander
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Not the concept of starting Capabilities as such, no; the Period Medium scenario always had some. Giving the NVA shaded AAA in the Period Short scenario was my doing.

/Oerjan
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Vez A
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Oerjan wrote:
The starting Capabilities are very much there for scenario balance, in both the Short and Medium scenarios. Playing without them makes life a lot harder for the communists, particularly the NVA.

My failure to get Volko and Mark to put some form of starting Capabilities in the non-Period scenarios (similar to how it is done in ADP, but only going through 12-24 of the unused cards and not always giving the US the unshaded Capabilities) is one of the very few things in FL I'm outright unhappy with

Regards, Oerjan


I've had quite a bit of fun playing the short scenario recently. So far I've used a period deck, but obviously, to avoid repetition, it would be great to be able to play games also with non-periods decks as well without the threat of imbalance. Would you please be able to post here potential starting capability set-up(s) that one could try out playing the short scenario with a non-period deck?
 
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Oerjan Ariander
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There are several different variants.

The simplest (and probably the most balanced) is to just give shaded AAA to the NVA, and remove the AAA card before building the play deck. This keeps the US from Air Striking the Trail into oblivion - a particular problem in the Short scenario, since there's so little time for the NVA to recover. (Of course the US can still use any Trail-busting Events that appear, but those are a lot less flexible than the Air Strike SA.)

The variant I mentioned earlier was to first build the non-Period play deck as per the standard rules, then reveal 12 of the unused cards for the Short scenario (24 or 36 for the Medium) representing Events that have already occurred earlier in the war. Put all revealed Capabilities in play: shaded version if VC or NVA, unshaded if ARVN, and if US roll a die: 1-2 shaded, 3-6 unshaded. (IIRC the original idea was to use die rolls for all revealed Capabilities, not just the US ones, but that's too risky for the non-US Factions.) This version provides a lot more variety, particularly to the Medium scenario, but of course the balance depends a lot on the exact Capabilities that get revealed. It is theoretically possible to reveal all nine US Capabilities and roll 3+ for each one

These methods can also be combined: first give AAA to the NVA, then build the deck, then reveal a bunch of cards for additional Capabilities. This would both give the NVA their safety line and provide variety.

Regards,
Oerjan

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Todd Carter
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Oerjan,

Thanks for your answers so far. I find the design decisions interesting.

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When I first noticed that I left out the starting capabilties, I was trying to figure out a way to just not to use them. But, it seems like they're necessary to balance the game. So, thanks for the info!
 
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Vez A
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Thank you, Oerjan.

So it seems from what you are saying that there's no particular overpowering/debilitating combination of capabilities that ought to be avoided but the main thing is that the Trail gets somehow protected at a reasonable level.

The fear behind my request above was in fact that VC might become unstoppable if the abilities of the other factions related to controlling the growth of opposition become too challenged.

So, say, we've got shaded Arc Light ("Air Strike spaces removing >1 piece shift 2 levels toward Active Opposition") and shaded Search and Destroy ("Each US and ARVN Assault Province shifts by 1 level toward Active Opposition") in effect together perhaps with Cadres ("VC Rally in 1 space where VC already had a Base may Agitate as if Support Phase even if COIN Control"). This would seem to debilitate the US in that each time the COIN military muscle is flexed opposition increases. Throw shaded Cadres into the mix and it ought to be pretty darn difficult for anyone to stop VC.

It seems to me an overpowered VC is perhaps particularly likely to occur in solo play (the shorter the scenario, the larger the problem) given that e.g. the ARVN and NVA bots do not really seem to be tuned to fight opposition.

Or so it would seem to me having recently solo-played the short scenario twice as the US: there was no help whatsoever coming from the said bots with regard to reducing opposition. In fact, it probably was VC Tax, alongside my extensive pacification efforts as the US, that reduced opposition the most in these games!
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Oerjan Ariander
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plainscape wrote:
Oerjan,

Thanks for your answers so far. I find the design decisions interesting.

thumbsup

When I first noticed that I left out the starting capabilties, I was trying to figure out a way to just not to use them. But, it seems like they're necessary to balance the game. So, thanks for the info!

It depends a bit on how experienced your players are, too - you can use the starting Capabilities as a handicap. With inexperienced US vs experienced NVA, I'd be comfortable leaving out AAA. If it is the other way around... not so much

/Oerjan
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Oerjan Ariander
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masil wrote:

Thank you, Oerjan.

So it seems from what you are saying that there's no particular overpowering/debilitating combination of capabilities that ought to be avoided but the main thing is that the Trail gets somehow protected at a reasonable level.

Pretty much, yes. If the US gets too many of their Capabilities unshaded and none of them shaded, that's pretty rough on the other Factions. The NVA hurts without shaded AAA. Other than that, I'm not really worried.

Quote:
So, say, we've got shaded Arc Light (...) and shaded Search and Destroy (...) in effect together perhaps with Cadres (...). This would seem to debilitate the US in that each time the COIN military muscle is flexed opposition increases. Throw shaded Cadres into the mix and it ought to be pretty darn difficult for anyone to stop VC.

IME this combination makes the game a bit more challenging for the US, but far from unwinnable. They need to embrace their softer side though (i.e., go heavy on Train+Advise - remember that Ranger/Irregular strikes via Advise and Raid are unaffected by Capabilities!), and must try to restrict major combat activities to designated free-fire zones (spaces that they allow to drop to Active Opposition). VC can't Rally in Support spaces, so Shaded Cadres only works in Neutral and Passive Opposition.

In multi-player play, the ARVN and NVA can help cut the VC down to size. In solo play, careful coordination of US Sweeps and Train+Advise pushes the VC out of the Cities and coastal Provinces, and secures those spaces by Pacifying them to Passive Support - that's sufficient to keep the communists from sneaking in, and ARVNbot won't Govern lower than that unless player US has 51+ VPs (which you shouldn't have, if you only Pacify to Passive Support). Pushing the VC into the same "free fire zone" spaces as the NVA also increases the chance that NVAbot will Infiltrate VC Bases. The biggest danger is if the NVA breaks out of the "free fire zones" so you're forced to Assault them in a Passive Opposition space...

A more dangerous combination for the US is shaded Cobras - shaded Combined Action Platoons - shaded CORDS - shaded Booby Traps

Regards,
Oerjan
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Vez A
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Great points, Örjan. In my next game I've got to think of creative ways of making use of the Advise SA.

Free fire zones. Although I see the basic idea, I don't know how well that might work in practice. The NVAbot marches into highest pop spaces first and if those are your free fire zones then you'll just be ramping up opposition at 2 points per assault (if shaded S&D). On the other hand, the lowland 2 pop spaces often seem to be at active opposition anyway so they are good candidates for free fire.
 
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Oerjan Ariander
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Free fire zones work quite well in practise
NVAbot tries to avoid US Bases except when executing certain Events; use that to guide it into your free fire zones. Shaded S&D and shaded Arc Light don't do anything if their target spaces are already at Active Opposition, so after the first bout of major combat you're not giving the VC any further VPs by fighting there...

/Oerjan
(Edit: Errant quotation mark)
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I'm kind of tempted to get a Forum vs Bots Reloaded going playing the short scenario as the US. To me that seems about the most intense way of experiencing FitL solo.


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masil wrote:

I'm kind of tempted to get a Forum vs Bots Reloaded going playing the short scenario as the US. To me that seems about the most intense way of experiencing FitL solo.


I'll play.
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Oerjan Ariander
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But in the Short scenario you're not starting with any shaded US Capabilities in play...

/Oerjan
 
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I'm thinking of getting the short scenario going, playing the US against the bots, and using a non-period deck. Reading back to the above discussion, I'm still not entirely sure how to build the deck for the game. I was thinking of using this method:

Oerjan wrote:
These methods can also be combined: first give AAA to the NVA, then build the deck, then reveal a bunch of cards for additional Capabilities. This would both give the NVA their safety line and provide variety.


So 1) I give AAA to NVA and 2) set the corresponding event card aside. But what do I do then? Ultimately I will of course want to randomly draw 3 piles of 8 events to constitute the deck for the short scenario, but do I constitute that deck using 3) all the remaining 119 event cards (as per Set Up 2.1 Deck Preparation), or 4) using the cards marked with a particular year only, say, 1968 (excluding the year 1965 cards), or 5) all the remaining 119 cards minus the year 1965 cards?

I realize the answer may be down to personal preference.
 
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