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Star Wars: Imperial Assault» Forums » General

Subject: Exploring Storytelling in Imperial Assault (Some Spoilers) rss

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Thomas with Subtrendy
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Right off the bat, I feel compelled to acknowledge that Imperial Assault is not Star Wars D&D. I realize that, and I realize that I have options in Age of Rebellion, Edge of Empire, etc.

But the campaigns do try to tell a story. It's a pretty loose story that allows itself to be adaptable to all of the moving pieces and permutations that could present themselves in the game, but it's a story nonetheless.

For the purposes of this post, I want to examine a few different areas that Imperial Assault (specifically the campaign mode)touches on in regards to story- with an emphasis on how flavored mechanics help build the story.

Flavor is very closely related to theme, so it is also very important to story. In Imperial Assault, each hero/villain/ally/unit has its own attributes that typically reflect what it is capable of. For example, consider the Jet Troopers we're getting in Jabba's Realm. For the most part, they have stats pretty similar to a typical stormtrooper- however, their abilities and traits (Mobile, Agile, Jets/Fly-By) work to translate their speed and maneuverability into the game itself. Such abilities make a game like this more immersive than a simple dice chucking affair (like Risk) and therefore have the opportunity to tell a deeper story. Though the plot of a story may be "hero defeats villain", most of us would like to see the hero defeat the villain, not just hear that it happened sometime off screen. So, combat and mechanics are very important to the story of this game, as they provide the (pretty open ended) action scenes of our work.

I think flavor really fails in a few aspects with this game, though, and that's when you start looking at the campaign as a whole. Each mission both sides have the opportunity to get a little bit stronger, but:


a. Whatever condition the heroes end up in at the end of the previous mission, they'll return fully fresh at the start of the next
b. We rarely see the outcome of one mission directly influence the next (outside of forced missions)
c. Rewards seem to be pretty randomly won


These points are all somewhat related, but they all pretty much relate to this simple fact- there really isn't a ton of cohesion between missions in the game. Sure, there are a few stand out missions that do really advance the "plot" but for the most part even the story missions seem like another segment in a string of tangently related events. Again, I'm not saying that I dislike this game or that it tells a bad story- simply that I think it could be better.

I would like to elaborate on Point C, though. By "Rewards seem to be pretty randomly won", I'm referring to anything gained at the end of a mission. There just often seems to be a disconnect between the mission text and what is earned, sometimes. I think this is worst with Ally/Villain missions. I've talked before about how I wish the Greedo/Kenobi/GI missions included just a passing reference on why these characters are still alive (given that we currently don't have a campaign set in a timeline where they should be) but this applies to any ally or villain, really- why are they joining us? These missions should almost feel like recruitment, but they're typically simply just a random mission with a character. With canon characters you're going to have slightly more difficulty with this, but it's doable- for instance, for Boba Fett maybe our mission should have centered around sending Imperial Troopers to rendezvous with him at a shady cantina to arrange a contract, while the tables are flipped by having the Rebels try to run interception on them. It gets even easier when the ally/villains are not canon or are just unit types- for instance, maybe the recruitments for Kayn Somos or the Rebel Troopers could have focused on rescuing them from a prison camp.

Overall, I think what I'd like to see more of is just more meaningful stories in the campaigns. Maybe we revisit some locations (with changes made to reflect the ravages of the previous battle) maybe we need more forced mission structures. Maybe we need to rethink how side missions are done. In the end, I don't think what we have is bad. Not at all, Imperial Assault is one of my favorite games of all time! Rather, it's because of this love that I have for the game that I hope FFG continues to improve on it and make it all that it can be- and that included improving their storytelling experience.


Thanks for sticking through it with me this far, I know this was probably a pretty long post. I wouldn't consider it a rant- I'm not mad at all, simply passionate about what I love. I'd love to hear your ideas on what I've written here, as well as how you think the storytelling experience can improve, too.
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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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The missions in the minicampaigns are quite a bit much more tied together with the use of separate epilogues written for the minicampaigns. With less missions, without side missions breaking up the flow, and separate branches (which do not combine later), it is much easier to write up a cohesive story.

I'm somewhat breaking that with my extended minicampaigns in play by forum, but with the latest extended Bespin Gambit one I'm hand-picking the additional missions and also rewriting a lot of the flavor text to better tie the missions together. In the play by forum there is time to do that, and it is not that much effort. (I hope my rebels appreciate it, but I'm doing it for the fun of it.)

Cloud City Crackdown - SWIA033 (FINISHED 20161209)

With a bit of an effort anyone can do the same, and using your own imagination to fill in the blanks can also be a good way to unwind after a mission.

(In addition, I personally think the full campaigns are a few missions too long.)
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Thomas with Subtrendy
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a1bert wrote:
The missions in the minicampaigns are quite a bit much more tied together with the use of separate epilogues written for the minicampaigns. With less missions, without side missions breaking up the flow, and separate branches (which do not combine later), it is much easier to write up a cohesive story.


That's a good point- mini campaigns are a lot more cohesive.

I don't think side missions are inherently what's wrong with storytelling in this game, though. I think some are well done- some of the Hero specific ones, Diala for instance, really almost help develop the protagonists. Of course, part of that reasoning might be specifically because those missions are conditional- they require the hero actually be in the party, which requires less guess work on some things, allowing the campaign to still feel random but with a personal feel. I think that personal feel- that thing that ties the characters to the story- is vital.

Maybe what we need is a new type of side mission for campaigns- let's say yellow cards- that are conditional upon certain things in the party. For instance, maybe one of the cards requires either Diala or Davith and revolves around searching for a rumored surviving jedi master to train them (if successful, they could get a "Jedi Cloak" armor, granting bonuses to health and some surge effects. Or, another example could require that the current campaign be "X" campaign, and feature a standoff with one of the B-Villain big bads of the campaign, like another encounter with Weiss.

The way I see these being played, Yellow would have their own stack. Whenever the campaign requires a Yellow mission draw (maybe replacing every odd numbered side mission) the Imperial Player would draw from the top until a card was found in which the group met the requirements to play it. Obviously the requirements can't be too strict for these missions (or you'd either end up seeing the same "easy to meet requirements" mission repeatedly, or you simply wouldn't even be able to even play one) but even with relatively loose requirements, the game can still be a little personalized. For instance, the above mission requiring Diala or Davith is a little specific- that one' not going to see play on every campaign, obviously. On the other hand, if there's a Big Bad one for each campaign, you can at least count on that one instantly being playable.

Other options for requirements, just off the top of my head:

- If this side mission is directly between two story missions that take place on two different planets: Triggers a boarding of the Rebel players' ship (which, by the way, how do the Rebels not have a named ship? That sould be so cool!)

- If this side mission is played after a mission that occurred on a ship: Triggers a mission at a crash site, after losing control of the ship

- If this side mission is played after a mission on Tatooine: Triggers a mission at Mos Eisley spaceport where the Rebels attempt to leave the planet

- Flip the character sheet of the Rebel player with the highest sum of health and stamina (Rebels choose between a tie) to the wounded side, then fill up their stamina entirely. This character cannot rest during the next mission: Triggers a mission where the Rebels try to get meds to cure this character's Bledsoe's Disease (alongside Luke and R2, both under the wounded character's control). The wounded character's withdrawl means Rebel defeat, so it's probably best to keep him out of the fray.


Just some ideas I'm having fun with. Anyway, I'll have to take a look at your custom campaign, looks interesting. In the end, I wish FFG had an official way of improving storytelling, but user content can sometimes be even better!


edit- 10/7


I'd just like to point out something in today's "Inside the Palace" article: https://www.fantasyflightgames.com/en/news/2016/10/7/inside-...

"Finally, we enjoyed finding ways to improve the narrative of the campaign, incorporating more opportunities for thematic and narrative choices outside of gameplay that impact the campaign, both in mission selection and sometimes even within a mission itself!"

So, that sounds like it might be a big step in the right direction!

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I agree with this sentiment. I think this game is crying out to be turned into a structured action-RPG experience. Spoilers below as I defend my position!


Spoiler (click to reveal)

I say this because in my experience and opinion, the main campaign story content is a bit weak. Little drops of set-up text, then a bit of action narration, and a 'you run away' or 'you blow up the thing' finale. If you don't run the correct set of missions, you don't necessarily even get an explicit introduction to Weiss iirc.
And as a competitive experience - again, in my experience - the vanilla campaign is very difficult to win as the Rebels. A half-competent IP playing in Full Imperial Dickhead Mode (TM) will win, especially the later missions which are laughably hard - particularly the showdown with Weiss.
So if the campaign aint that viable as a competitive experience - and imo it isn't, but that's just my opinion - why not improve it as a story experience?


I really love IA. But the story and game balance just aren't where they need to be in the vanilla campaign.

So I think it's crying out for a conversion - I'd be happy to work on one - into a structured RPG-lite.
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Thomas with Subtrendy
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sexpanther wrote:


[SPOILERS BELOW]



Spoiler (click to reveal)

I say this because in my experience and opinion, the main campaign story content is a bit weak. Little drops of set-up text, then a bit of action narration, and a 'you run away' or 'you blow up the thing' finale. If you don't run the correct set of missions, you don't necessarily even get an explicit introduction to Weiss iirc.



I'd like to see a little more "storytelling" during missions, but I get why the focus is on combat instead. I do agree, though, that we need better introductions to things. I think this is what the text on mission cards tries to do, while the intro text in the campaign book is more for flavor, but I don't think it works all that well.

Spoilets for the core campaign below:

Spoiler (click to reveal)
Yes, I believe that if Under Siege is played instead of A New Threat, Weiss just sort of appears. I get that Weiss and Vader are both Big Bads in this campaign, but Vader doesn't need an introduction. They either should have had Weiss in either mission and saved Vader for later (sounds like that Weird Al song...) or had Weiss in the very first mission.

Imagine that iconic door in the very first mission, Aftermath- but along with that E-Web trooper staring the Rebels down is Weiss (represented by an Imperial Officer- don't give away the big AT-ST so early!)

Little things like that are crucial to telling a good story. Aftermath was the perfect opportunity for the game to really introduce some big story elements. Every core campaign begins with this mission, so FFG has total control in that they can actually begin their storytelling here. Maybe Weiss's fate dictates the next mission, or maybe it even dictates his behavior/state of wellbeing later in the campaign. Maybe he even has to be in his AT-ST because he can no longer walk after his last encounter with the Rebels!

Stuff like this would be really cool, and wouldn't be too difficult to implement It's a whole lot better than a generic mission on Yavin IV that doesn't really have much of any effect on the story as a whole.
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I'm not even sure if I should be pronouncing Weiss's name with a w or a v.
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