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Subject: Advice for running this as a DM rss

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Luke
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I own Doom 1,2,3 and now 4 Star Wars Imperial Assault.(Edit: Having played more ST:IA recently, I have to say it's a far enough step forward from the original Doom, that I should stop joking around and let it be it's own thing.)

Every time my group plays these, we run into the same problem. Balance swings hard in one direction early on, then it run away leaders and my heroes don't want to play anymore, or I get tired of waiting 20 minutes to move a dude towards assured death.

More often than not though, I'm the one doing the trouncing. I read BGG, they don't, I think about the game when I'm not playing it, less so with them.

But now I have all these stormtroopers and a darth vader and they're actually made from a decent plastic this time!

So I figured I'd run this as a quasi-rpg. I'll play as a DM with the intent to challenge, not to kill. Although as any good DM, I won't save the players from getting themselves killed.

With an eye towards that end goal, a fun minis campaign for my friends to door kick dungeon bash their way through(which is how they're going to approach it, objectives be damned.).

And I get to see the entire game played out and use all these minis.

I see some simple changes I could make so far.

1. Play thematically, not optimally.

Storm troopers tend to walk forward and shoot. Cover isn't a huge deal for them.

2.

De-prioritize objectives by putting less pressure on them with my troops. If my players lose, they want it to be a TPK, not a scenario loss.

3. Make a totally custom Emperor's deck per scenario or for the campaign.

Maybe not necessary, but it would allow me to tune difficulty.

And that's what I have so far.

does anyone else have any advice?

Thanks!
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Bryce K. Nielsen
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It doesn't sound like you need to tune your gameplay, sounds like your Rebel players need to up their game. They're probably playing it that they shoot all the bad guys, then move towards objectives. They need to shift that mindset into a trade-off mindset. Look at the enemies on the board that haven't activated, calculate how much damage they could do, then decide if the exchange is worth heading towards objective. They don't have to kill every stormtrooper on the board, especially since they tend to just respawn. Hit those objectives and plow forward.

-shnar
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Luke
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shnar wrote:
It doesn't sound like you need to tune your gameplay, sounds like your Rebel players need to up their game. They're probably playing it that they shoot all the bad guys, then move towards objectives. They need to shift that mindset into a trade-off mindset. Look at the enemies on the board that haven't activated, calculate how much damage they could do, then decide if the exchange is worth heading towards objective. They don't have to kill every stormtrooper on the board, especially since they tend to just respawn. Hit those objectives and plow forward.

-shnar


Thanks Bryce, the problem isn't that they don't know how to play, it's that it isn't interesting for them. They like the combat system and prefer to do more hacking and slashing. The Star Wars theme is one we all enjoy.

I'm not looking to change them, I'm looking to run a simple minis campaign using Star Wars, and I'm asking for input on how to do such a thing using this game.
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Sean Riley
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To play this more as a GM:

Remind them of their abilities
Remind them to rest
Remind them that your forces will keep coming so that they need to balance killing storm troopers and focusing on the objective.

If this still doesnt work, go look at RAIV, print off the cards and use the actions on those cards on how to move and attack thematically.

Chase down the heroes instead of using meat shields on objectives.

Then gradually stop referring to the AI movements and move your figures strategically
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Luke
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az933k wrote:
To play this more as a GM:

Remind them of their abilities
Remind them to rest
Remind them that your forces will keep coming so that they need to balance killing storm troopers and focusing on the objective.

If this still doesnt work, go look at RAIV, print off the cards and use the actions on those cards on how to move and attack thematically.

Chase down the heroes instead of using meat shields on objectives.

Then gradually stop referring to the AI movements and move your figures strategically


Thanks Seanith, that all sounds great. I don't think I'll need RAIV, but everything else I like a lot.
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Bryce K. Nielsen
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mournful wrote:
shnar wrote:
It doesn't sound like you need to tune your gameplay, sounds like your Rebel players need to up their game. They're probably playing it that they shoot all the bad guys, then move towards objectives. They need to shift that mindset into a trade-off mindset. Look at the enemies on the board that haven't activated, calculate how much damage they could do, then decide if the exchange is worth heading towards objective. They don't have to kill every stormtrooper on the board, especially since they tend to just respawn. Hit those objectives and plow forward.

-shnar


Thanks Bryce, the problem isn't that they don't know how to play, it's that it isn't interesting for them. They like the combat system and prefer to do more hacking and slashing. The Star Wars theme is one we all enjoy.

I'm not looking to change them, I'm looking to run a simple minis campaign using Star Wars, and I'm asking for input on how to do such a thing using this game.

Ah. In that case, play skirmish. It captures that feeling exactly and is pretty fun and quite (about an hour).

If you want to make it more 'thematic' like that for the campaign, try this: Stop increasing threat every turn, only increase threat when the mission says to increase it. Double the amount that the mission allows you to increase the threat by. This way they won't have a steady stream of bad guys to whittle through, but rather 'bursts' or 'waves' of bad guys to go through. They can play the game where they first focus on killing baddies, then move towards objectives.

To make that alternate way to truly work though you might have to remove the Rest-To-Heal rules (otherwise they would just constantly rest to full health before opening the next door, making it impossible for the Imps to win).

-shnar
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Jeff Collins
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RAIV?
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Pasi Ojala
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Get the Imperial Assault Campaign module for Vassal from http://www.vassalengine.org/wiki/Module:Star_Wars:_Imperial_Assault
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j41c wrote:
RAIV?

RedJak's Automated Imperial Variant (RAIV) V1
RedJak's Automated Emperor Variant V2
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Luke
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shnar wrote:

Ah. In that case, play skirmish. It captures that feeling exactly and is pretty fun and quite (about an hour).

If you want to make it more 'thematic' like that for the campaign, try this: Stop increasing threat every turn, only increase threat when the mission says to increase it. Double the amount that the mission allows you to increase the threat by. This way they won't have a steady stream of bad guys to whittle through, but rather 'bursts' or 'waves' of bad guys to go through. They can play the game where they first focus on killing baddies, then move towards objectives.

To make that alternate way to truly work though you might have to remove the Rest-To-Heal rules (otherwise they would just constantly rest to full health before opening the next door, making it impossible for the Imps to win).

-shnar


Thanks Shnar, I hadn't thought of Skirmish. I think I'd add that in as well, maybe use them as sorts of side missions.

Thanks as well for the tips on threat, I think that will really help as well.

I'll take a look at the rest to heal rules, we ran into that problem in D&D 4E sometimes.
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Tim Garrett
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shnar wrote:

If you want to make it more 'thematic' like that for the campaign, try this: Stop increasing threat every turn, only increase threat when the mission says to increase it. Double the amount that the mission allows you to increase the threat by. This way they won't have a steady stream of bad guys to whittle through, but rather 'bursts' or 'waves' of bad guys to go through. They can play the game where they first focus on killing baddies, then move towards objectives.

To make that alternate way to truly work though you might have to remove the Rest-To-Heal rules (otherwise they would just constantly rest to full health before opening the next door, making it impossible for the Imps to win).

-shnar


Clever solution! I hadn't thought of that. My only concern would be that this would likely be a very large handicap on the imperials' side. If the OP would like to ensure that the rebels win every mission, this would be a good solution. If he'd like to make sure that they simply have an advantage, but may lose a mission here or there, here's what I'd recommend:

1. Add one to the time limit for each mission (if the rebels are under the limit) or subtract one (if the imperials are).
2. Subtract 1 from the threat level for every mission (this may be bumped up to 2 for the late campaign).

This should give the rebels some breathing room to complete missions, and should ensure that the Imperial forces are less overwhelming than they'd otherwise be. At the same time, it should limit you enough that you shouldn't need to feel like you're holding yourself back- if you are able to eke out a win with those handicaps, you deserve to! It should allow everyone to stay invested- the rebels have a handicap, but will still need to fight for their wins, and the excitement and tension of a close game can still be preserved.
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Matthew Barille
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If you are going for the campaign as comes with the core I would recommend trying to facilitate the game more than compete against the others. I either do not like the 1 v all concept or just have not seen it properly implemented yet. It has a very high likelihood of snowballing one way or another, and if it is a competition then someone is going to be unhappy. There are some serious balance issues in this game, though the errata does help some. If you plan on playing as the IP then I would look through the missions and judge for yourself how to better balance them, this will get easier as you play through some of them. If you are just looking at using the components and rules to make a star wars themed campaign for your friends then you have a ton to work with. If anything I would recommend designing missions that have no timer but are tough enough that the rebels have to preserver through. You can always house rule single rest per turn to prevent them from being able to just heal up constantly and outpace you. Or give yourself enough threat to flood them that they don't have the time. The game changes so much once the heroes get leveled and geared up. If you do find a fun way to implement this game I would be interested in hearing about it.
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Tyler Q
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Honestly...I'd try and make your own missions and have them organized in stages.

Come up with a cool mini story/campaign and go from there.

Stage 1 = Intro. You start with a small map and clear out that stage. You level up similarly to the Twin Shadows mini campaign. No credits, instead of credits, your slain enemies drop items. 1 card for each group or so.

Stage 2 = Meet the Baddy/Go for the Objective. This is where the story advances meeting the bad guy or trying to rescue the hostage, download the plans, etc. You'll also add to the starting map at this point. Level up and items as above only class 2 and 3 items. You can basically choose how many of each or vary it depending on how they're doing.

Stage 3 = Kill the Baddy/Save the Day! Self explanatory really. They win, they win. You win, they lose! Of course, you'll add to the map again.

You can decide if the heroes start at full health per stage. Personally, I wouldn't as they can always rest.

You can design the game based on rounds, but I'd probably only do that for the last stage to up the intensity and have a hard finish.

You can add class cards as you level up or as you've designed.

It'd be fairly easy to add in actions like search for items or search for secret doors like the old Hero Quest too.

So many options!

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Richard A. Edwards
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shnar wrote:
If you want to make it more 'thematic' like that for the campaign, try this: Stop increasing threat every turn, only increase threat when the mission says to increase it. Double the amount that the mission allows you to increase the threat by. This way they won't have a steady stream of bad guys to whittle through, but rather 'bursts' or 'waves' of bad guys to go through. They can play the game where they first focus on killing baddies, then move towards objectives.

To make that alternate way to truly work though you might have to remove the Rest-To-Heal rules (otherwise they would just constantly rest to full health before opening the next door, making it impossible for the Imps to win).

-shnar

Brilliant! I gotta try this.
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Bryce K. Nielsen
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SirRoke wrote:
shnar wrote:
If you want to make it more 'thematic' like that for the campaign, try this: Stop increasing threat every turn, only increase threat when the mission says to increase it. Double the amount that the mission allows you to increase the threat by. This way they won't have a steady stream of bad guys to whittle through, but rather 'bursts' or 'waves' of bad guys to go through. They can play the game where they first focus on killing baddies, then move towards objectives.

To make that alternate way to truly work though you might have to remove the Rest-To-Heal rules (otherwise they would just constantly rest to full health before opening the next door, making it impossible for the Imps to win).

-shnar

Brilliant! I gotta try this.

I have no idea if the above idea would work, but I think it's what's "wrong" with IA right now. My friends are luke-warm with the game because even though there's a threat ticker, there's still enough threat every turn to respawn at least something, so they feel very frustrated when they work so hard to defeat those Royal Guards, just to have them instantly come back. Compare that to Skirmish, where most 'deaths' are permanent, my group loves the skirmish mechanics.

So, my thoughts for introducing that into the campaign is instead of a constant, steady Threat stream that is used to constantly respawn enemies, the threat should come in 'waves'. A lot of threat at specific dramatic moments. This would appease my friends a lot, allow them to "fight" then hit objectives. Almost like how in Star Wars, Han & Luke & Chewie fought all those Stormtroopers to the objective of finding Leia, then another wave of Troopers shows up, then they get the objective of fleeing to the garbage chute.

The biggest problem with this idea though is the ability the Rebels have for healing. Without the constant steady stream of bad guys, the Rebels could clear a room, then spend a round or two just healing before triggering the next event. So this would have to either be removed, or nerfed in some manner. Either that or maybe a balancing Threat, such as for every wound healed, the Imperial player gains a Threat. Seems like too much 'bookkeeping' though.

I'm not sure if the idea is a good answer, I've been toying with the idea of making a custom mission who's rules did exactly this: removed ability to heal, and remove threat per round, but lots of threat at key moments. I kind of think it would still play well, and even still fit within the mechanics of the base game.

-shnar
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Luke
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So I tried this out!

Thanks to everyone for the advice. Here's what I did.

Remember, the goal in this case is to run the game more as a GM than an opponent.

I took Shnar's advice of only adjusting threat when the mission told me to. I didn't take the advice of doubling that value.

I specifically did not use my units to clog pathways or body block objectives. At the same time, I figured the officer would be just fine cowering by the objective, giving it +1 def.

The map is small enough that some amount of body blocking occurs naturally anyway.

We were on the first mission, Aftermath, and it was clear there was no way they were going to complete the objectives by round 6. They were pretty sure they weren't going to make it either. When they opened the door to the base, I reset the round timer to 1, as if that was part of the mission. Went off smoothly, they all said "Aaah!" and figured it was just something behind the GM screen.

Worked out well there.

During the second mission, I remembered to give them all Heroic because there were only three of them. Oops.

I played that one using what I considered "in character" choices for the enemies. I saved up threat to deploy entire groups, using waves as suggesed by Shnar.

To combat the, "let's just rest up since there's no auto threat increase every round" issue, I instituted a rule. If you rest on an empty board, threat increases by the threat level. They got very tactical about when to rest. Even leaving a guy on the board so that the next hero could rest, then stab.

Once or twice I had to increase threat "for reasons." just so I could get something into position to make them deal with a problem.

Behind the curtains I award the success mission payout to both sides. The rebels and empire always grow in power equally this way, and they don't have to worry about falling behind.

I've only explained this so far as "There's no REAL failure condition, it just changes which path you take."

Things I'll change. When instructed to double threat by the mission, I'll double that amount as suggested by Shnar.

I may institute the Mice and Mystics solution as well. Every time a hero ends a turn on an empty board, increase threat by... 1? Maybe half the threat level so that it scales?

Not sure yet, I have a week before we meet again.

It's working out so far.
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Bryce K. Nielsen
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mournful wrote:

Things I'll change. When instructed to double threat by the mission, I'll double that amount as suggested by Shnar.

This will help with the random increase of threat "for reasons."

I do like the idea that if you rest with no one one the board, you gain Threat. I might even extend that a little further, make it so that when ever they heal from resting, you gain an equal amount of threat? The rest-for-heal mechanic puts a big monkey wrench in removing the constant build up of threat, cuz then they can weather the wave of enemies, then just rest back to full health. But if there was some opposite/negative mechanic for when they heal, then that might balance it out (as opposed to just removing it out right).

-shnar
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I've realised that I have been subconsciously GMing rather than playing fully as the Imperial player. I've pulled some punches when it looks like they might not complete the mission, resulting in way more rebel victories than they should have received. Despite this, everyone else wants to be the Imperial player in the next campaign - which is a shame because there's only four of us and I thought it would be fun for all of us to play as rebels against RAEV.
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Sean Riley
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Sounds like a really well run game.

If you are giving out rewards even if they win, dont be afraid to let them lose some of the time too.

That way the story can deviate a little
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Luke
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Just wanted to update this with the final changes I made. We all agreed after each mission that the threat felt "just right." It was close in both games, and they actually lost the story mission.

They almost lost the Chewbacca mission. I hit him with a Relentless Trandoshan with an ACP Scattergun, just to keep 'em honest.

As mentioned above, I now increase threat when told to by the story, and twice that amount.

I also add 1 threat if they heal with no enemies on the board, and 1 threat for ending a player turn on a board with no enemies. Really encourages them to keep moving.

As for agenda cards and such, I've just been grabbing ones that seem like they'll make interesting play situations. I also threw the Kayn Somos sidequest out there, because I think it would be nice to have some special pieces too.
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mournful wrote:

Behind the curtains I award the success mission payout to both sides. The rebels and empire always grow in power equally this way, and they don't have to worry about falling behind.


This is what I'm doing with my group, though not secretly. We played through 2 story missions and 2 side missions before I realized we needed to change something: our play sessions were taking a really long time (like 6 hours), and left everyone feeling stressed and exhausted. And, of course, the losing side always had lots of questions about the fairness of the mission/game/universe

We discussed some options, and realized that a lot of the stress comes from having lasting consequences for failure. Not only do you lose the game, but you get a disadvantage on all future games. It adds injury to insult when you lose, and makes everyone feel like they need to think through every single option when deciding what to do on their turn (which takes a long time). So we gave each side the Victory rewards, and now everyone levels up at the same rate. This way everyone gets to use all their cool stuff, turns don't take so long, and players can feel free to do what's cool, or fun, or even funny rather than trying to always make the perfect play.

It also means you don't have to do anything differently during the mission, or go easy on your Rebels - my group would hate it if I let them win.

I've played 4 or so missions like this so far, and it's gone really well! I know some people probably really like playing the normal way, making it a more competitive experience, but this way works well for me and my group
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