Chris Montgomery
United States
Joliet
Illinois
flag msg tools
Dear Geek: Please insert the wittiest comment you can think of in this text pop-up. Then times it by seven.
badge
The Coat of Arms of Clan Montgomery - Scotland. Yes, that's a woman with the head of a savage in her hand, and an anchor. No clue what it means, but it's cool.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I have been reading and watching reviews and playthroughs of Alpha Strike for quite some time. I have played a couple of low-mech-count solo games. While I am generally not one to tinker with game designs, Catalyst actually encourages this for their games, and there have been many house rules over the years to tweak BT for a specific playing-group's style and desires. While Alpha Strike comes with many Advanced Options, which I think add playability, strategy, and tactical-depth and decision-making to the game, none of them really address the primary complaints raised by critics.

The two most-common criticisms which I feel have some merit are:

CRITICISM #1

CRTICISM: The movement rules facilitate a conga-line type of battle where everyone is trying to get into everyone else's rear arc for the +1 modifier.

MY TAKE: Due to more-relaxed movement rules, this is much easier to do in Alpha Strike and can result in mechs standing in a line as each shoots into the other's back. This was a problem (but less-so) in Classic Battletech, owing to the more costly movement requirements imposed. Classic Battletech penalizes movement for facing-changes, and the overall distances moved are shorter to begin with. Alpha Strike has longer movement distances permitted and allows facing changes for free at the end of movement. Some have suggested larger playing areas such as 6x4 and 8x4. I find that the conga-line issue is a moderate-level problem. It seems wholly unrealistic that mechs -- the way they play in the PC games as well as how they are envisioned to play on the tabletop -- should be doing this on any kind of regular basis. In my plays, and the video replays I have watched, this conga-line phenomenon is a common occurrence - and mechs jumping and running behind others is very common.

POSSIBLE SOLUTION - DEFENSIVE FIRST FIRE: This is a modified carry-over from various raking rules in Age of Sail games in which a defender can fire at a moving opponent who may rake him. How it would work in Alpha Strike is that when a player "outflanks" an enemy mech by crossing into the rear-arc of an opposing mech, that mech may fire immediately (in the movement phase) causing all damage and crits immediately. This ability to fire during the movement phase is *only* granted *once* to each mech that is being outflanked. The fire may only be made at the point the mech crosses into the rear arc, prior to that there is no defensive first fire. After a *single* Defensive First Fire has been performed, no other firing is permitted during the rest of the moving mechs move. The firing mech - if it uses it's firing option - is considered to have fired and does not get a firing opportunity during the Fire Phase (mark the Mech as Fired). After taking damage the moving mech may finish its move or stop; the only exception to continuing movement occurs when the moving mech receives a movement crit and has already moved more than its new movement value, i which case, it stops in place. If using advanced movement rules, firing mechs that already moved and are "Evading" cannot fire; firing mechs that have not moved yet may not use "Evading".

REASONING: This will encourage players that want to "outflank" an opponent to do so at range *then* try to close in using a "wide arc". Or at least use terrain to be out of LOS when they cross into an enemy's rear arc. This, in turn, leads to a more realistic flanking maneuver with minimal overhead. Opponents aren't likely to take obstructed, low-odds shots, either, especially if they have other threats nearby that they need to respond to. It will also give the players a wider-array of decision-making and make tactics a larger part of the game. Finally, it will also require flanks to possibly be "set up" a turn before and usually require multiple turns of having initiative.

CRITICISM #2

CRITICISM: Mechs are too squishy; this leads to fewer crits, since 'Mechs die so quickly. So the idea of blowing off legs/arms and losing weapons isn't really a feature of the game . . . except for larger mechs who might last a bit longer and take a couple of crits. Coupled with this concept is the all-or-nothing nature of hits. In Classic Battletech, you could fire many weapons and all, some, or none of them might hit the target, making variable damage results and creating a more tense game.

MY TAKE: This is an area where Alpha Strike's compromises for fast-play, in my humble opinion, go a wee bit too far. Getting crits during the game is one of the best things about Classic Battletech, and the ease with which Mechs go down makes crits pretty rare unless you are fighting with Size 4 (assault) mechs. May other critics have proposed an "armor saving throw" or some other type of system to model this. But the Classic Battletech community likes their armor bubbles. My solution for this will lead to slightly longer games, but hopefully add more fun.

PROPOSED SOLUTION: Two modifications to the rules. First, double the number of internal structure bubbles. Play normally, otherwise. Second, when a mech fires, roll an off-color d6 with the 2d6 to-hit roll. The off-color die is modified by +1 for each Skill Rating below 4 and -1 for each Skill Rating above 4. On a 1-3, the mech does half-damage rounded up, on a 4-6, the mech does its full damage.

REASONING: Doubling the number of internal structure bubbles gives all mechs in the game a longer life-span and also creates more opportunities for crits to come into play. In a campaign game, that might be a good time to skedaddle - and you might have enough internal structure left to actually make it off the map before the mech is killed. Making the firing results either half or full creates more uncertainty, and will -- over the course of the game -- permit mechs to survive a bit longer, facilitating critical results and, again, giving a player time to exit critically damaged units from the map. Also - the Skill Rating of pilots is enhanced so that they not only hit more often, they have a better chance of doing more damage when they do. The downside is that games will last a bit a longer. As an aside, I feel that games with objectives of some type are the most-fun scenarios to play; these rules would give players more time accomplish those objectives without being blown to bits and would give the defenders time to adjust to changes in the tactics of the game. There may be, however, some fall-out with such rules that I am not currently seeing.

I intend to try these house rules out with some solo play and see how they work -- but the reasoning seems sound, to me.
3 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John Moore
United States
Winona Lake
Indiana
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Would you mind following up on your plays with these rule changes? I am especially interested in the doubling of the internal bubbles and third die for half damage.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris Montgomery
United States
Joliet
Illinois
flag msg tools
Dear Geek: Please insert the wittiest comment you can think of in this text pop-up. Then times it by seven.
badge
The Coat of Arms of Clan Montgomery - Scotland. Yes, that's a woman with the head of a savage in her hand, and an anchor. No clue what it means, but it's cool.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Haven't had a chance to give it a run through, yet, John. I do intend to do it, but my pace for gaming these days is measured in months, not days. If anyone else has given it a go, I would also be intrigued to see results.

I will certainly post back here if/when I get around to this - 2 jobs + daddy daycare just has a way of eating up all of one's time.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
John Moore
United States
Winona Lake
Indiana
flag msg tools
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
I just picked up the alpha strike book and can't wait to get my boys at the table for a game. I will let you know how it goes.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Lance McMillan
United States
Lakebay
Washington
flag msg tools
designer
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Your proposals seem well thought out and reasonable and I look forward to giving them a try. However...

cmontgo2 wrote:
Doubling the number of internal structure bubbles gives all mechs in the game a longer life-span and also creates more opportunities for crits to come into play.


This is the one item I'd disagree with -- indeed, it's just extending the worst failing I see in Alpha-Strike: the hold-over of the tedious BattleTech "check the box" system of tracking damage (basically all you're doing is adding more boxes to check).

To my thinking (and I accept that I'm in the minority here), any mechanic which diverts the player's attention away from the battlefield (in this case to perform administrative records keeping) is a "bad thing" as it both interupts the game's ability to convey a narrative and the player's ability to maintain a suspension of disbelief. Yes, Alpha-Strike is far less intrusive than the original BT/CBT method, but it's still a distraction. I kinda wish they'd adopted a system more similar to the firepower/mobility half-step degredation of Dreadnought.
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris Montgomery
United States
Joliet
Illinois
flag msg tools
Dear Geek: Please insert the wittiest comment you can think of in this text pop-up. Then times it by seven.
badge
The Coat of Arms of Clan Montgomery - Scotland. Yes, that's a woman with the head of a savage in her hand, and an anchor. No clue what it means, but it's cool.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
While I agree with you from a game design perspective, my proposals were made in the spirit of staying within the game's existing mechanical framework. Changes you are proposing would fundamentally alter the underlying mechanics, which was not my goal with these proposals. Thanks for the comment!
2 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris Parsons
msg tools
Re. 'Mechs being too squishy and some players desiring to see more critical effects: What about rolling a critical effect for *every* point of Structure damage, not just once per hit that does Structure damage? That would generate a lot more catastrophic failure and random destruction.

If that's too much, you could roll a critical effect once for ever 2 points of Structure damage, rounded normally?

Note: I've only soloed the game a little, but I did notice that critical effects don't happen all that often, especially ones that require ~4 bubbles or so. I'm not sure if that's bad or good yet (to my personal taste), but it immediately got me thinking of how to make them more common.
1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris Montgomery
United States
Joliet
Illinois
flag msg tools
Dear Geek: Please insert the wittiest comment you can think of in this text pop-up. Then times it by seven.
badge
The Coat of Arms of Clan Montgomery - Scotland. Yes, that's a woman with the head of a savage in her hand, and an anchor. No clue what it means, but it's cool.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
The other option is halving damage from weapons, rounded up -- 'Mechs would stick around longer and you'd probably get 1 or 2 critical effects for each 'Mech each game. But when I can (probably not for a long while yet, still busy), I will give my original proposals a go and see how they pan out.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris Parsons
msg tools
I think the "Advanced Combat Option: Variable Damage" rule on page 70 of the core rules might fix the problem the right way.

In summary, the points of damage that are normally just applied become "hits" that are each rolled to see if they damage (much like typical d6 war games like Kings of War or 40k). Each hit is another d6 to roll, and each d6 does 1 point of damage on a result of 3+. The minimum damage for any attack is 1 point however, so even if all the damage d6's result in 2 or less, the attack still does some damage.

Example: My 'Mech attacks yours at short range. We calculate my to-hit and I roll successfully. My damage stat for short range is 3, so that means I have scored 3 hits. Thus, I collect and roll 3d6 and each result of 3+ does 1 point of damage. If no dice result in damage, the attack does the minimum of 1 point.

Using this rule will make 'Mechs less "squishy" and critical effects will happen more often, unless the damage role goes really well, in which case, the target might just blow up, making critical effects moot.

1 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris Montgomery
United States
Joliet
Illinois
flag msg tools
Dear Geek: Please insert the wittiest comment you can think of in this text pop-up. Then times it by seven.
badge
The Coat of Arms of Clan Montgomery - Scotland. Yes, that's a woman with the head of a savage in her hand, and an anchor. No clue what it means, but it's cool.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
Interesting - though does add quite a bit of additional rolling. Still, definitely worth a look. It seems as if that might address the squishy mech problem. Thanks!
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Chris Montgomery
United States
Joliet
Illinois
flag msg tools
Dear Geek: Please insert the wittiest comment you can think of in this text pop-up. Then times it by seven.
badge
The Coat of Arms of Clan Montgomery - Scotland. Yes, that's a woman with the head of a savage in her hand, and an anchor. No clue what it means, but it's cool.
Avatar
mbmbmbmbmb
darkdaysdawn wrote:
I think the "Advanced Combat Option: Variable Damage" rule on page 70 of the core rules might fix the problem the right way.

In summary, the points of damage that are normally just applied become "hits" that are each rolled to see if they damage (much like typical d6 war games like Kings of War or 40k). Each hit is another d6 to roll, and each d6 does 1 point of damage on a result of 3+. The minimum damage for any attack is 1 point however, so even if all the damage d6's result in 2 or less, the attack still does some damage.

Example: My 'Mech attacks yours at short range. We calculate my to-hit and I roll successfully. My damage stat for short range is 3, so that means I have scored 3 hits. Thus, I collect and roll 3d6 and each result of 3+ does 1 point of damage. If no dice result in damage, the attack does the minimum of 1 point.

Using this rule will make 'Mechs less "squishy" and critical effects will happen more often, unless the damage role goes really well, in which case, the target might just blow up, making critical effects moot.


This could be even more cool if you made the to-hit number based off of gunnery skill. 3+ is a "Normal" Pilot, 4+ for "Green" and 2+ for "Veterans" -- you could also add an "Ace" who has all their hits transfer directly to damage.

I am going to have a small bit of time clearing up on the calendar and hope to have a couple of games played by early next year with a report on how I felt the game changes. The plan is to play 3-5 games under the standard rules, and then 3-5 games with modified rules.

If anyone else has tried out any of these variants (the two proposed by me and/or the optional rule from the Advanced Combat section), I would still like to hear back, despite this thread's age.
 
 Thumb up
 tip
 Hide
  • [+] Dice rolls
Front Page | Welcome | Contact | Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Advertise | Support BGG | Feeds RSS
Geekdo, BoardGameGeek, the Geekdo logo, and the BoardGameGeek logo are trademarks of BoardGameGeek, LLC.