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Subject: Road to a play test disaster rss

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I’ve decided to make a solo play test, me against… me.
Just ended the first operational object ‘faction’, a simple add on, that put objects in STA with some real effect on the game without changing rules or game play. Time to test if it full fills the expectations.
This need of having an objects ‘faction’ was because the need of even deeper scenarios, and specific rules for objects in that scenarios. In the first approach, the rules for objects would be designated in the scenario description. But soon I realised that the tokens, the counters and reading the scenario rules all the time would be unnecessary complicated for this game.
After looking at it, the solution looks easy, create a faction for objects. Then the objects would have common STA cards, as factions, play tokens, as factions, abilities, as (by now you get the point…)
So I did the objects faction. And design a new faction driven scenario. Combine will be defending 4 communication towers. The general idea is: Combine player chose 4 towers of any level he wants. Then sum the total cost of the towers, and that would be the Skirmish Points. Attacking player chooses a faction and we are ready to go.
To go to game scape, totally done by Combine player that has the advantage of defending, so he chooses the terrain. Combine player has to remember that the only place he can deploy is the centre square. After creating the game scape, combine player deploys the 4 com towers in the corners of the centre square.
The attacking player, to balance, can deploy units anywhere in the two external rows of the game scape.
Other logical setup change, it’s combine deploy first, they are defending, so the attacking would easily scout before attacking.
Finally, no initiative rolls in the first round, attacking player goes first.
And because I’m curious about Erthen, I chooses erthen as attacking faction.
I think everybody understand why I decided to make a solo play, I don’t have much people that likes this type of games (and the few, the happy few, I prefer to reserve to play a developed game like Memoir44 and not massacre with my mad experiments).
Let see, I’m going to: Test a new object system, with a new faction in a new scenario. None of them tested before by me (at least Erthen have seen some tests by others, and I could have gone postal a take Echo faction… or the problematic SoL faction).
Yep, looks like the road to disaster, and add an almost 4 year boy looking curios at the end of the room and we are ready to go…
First, lets choose the towers, two recruits and two veteran towers look good, total points 24, first note: towers are to cheap, 4 elite would give a max points of 48, to unblock elite units in this scenario, towers must pass 60 points and (big strange loop, the points aren't enough to even have veteran towers), so the max level of the towers would be the max level of the other factions, in this case veteran.
After having the points, time to deploy the towers, crossing the recruit and veteran.
Now its time to chose the combine units.
Inferno is out, 9 points isn't cheap and the flame-thrower isn't a good weapon, since easily can damage the towers.
Two veteran commanders (10 points), Two veteran vanguard (10 points) and two recruit Harpi (4 points). Tried to distribute the units as good as possible.
Next, time of chose the Erthen Units.
Hellebore is out, the two vanguards and the two harpi are immune to the Toxin Burst, Ion core as advantages against combine, two veterans (16 points) leaving 8 points, chose one recruit deatvine (3 points) and one recruit geomancer (3 points), leaving 2 points, hellebore is going to war after all. I consider taking the tremor but I can really decide between the death vine and the geomancer to remove. And in the end, I want to try Erthen faction.
Since top corner squares have buildings, that’s where I deployed Erthen, each side receives an Ion core, (trying to crossfire the middle with Cation blasts) and put the others closing by covered.

First round: Erthen move Ions to blast range. Combine move one vanguard and fire the other, ion loses health. Erthen move death vine and geomancer closer, flanking. Combine send the commanders to flanks to avoid surprises. Erthen move hellbore over elevated terrain. Harpis just move away from cation blast line, but keep near for health support.
End of turn one, since towers doesn't have abilities.

Round 2, initiative phase.
Since the skirmish started, normal initiative takes place.
Combine score 9 Erthen 3, Combine takes first turn.
Vanguard takes another shot against Ion core. It rolls a 2, a 4 and a 10, here goes another health on ion core.
Erthen have to make tough decisions. Both ion cores have targets on sight, one of the vanguards can be target by both ion's, 2 towers are target able to, and cation blast can be used against commanders and harpi group. Vanguard are dangerous, so let try put the exposed one out of misery. Ion cores score 3 out of 4, making Vanguard a hitting bag.
Time for combine. Second vanguard shots, 1, 5 and a 9, re roll the one and scores anoter 9... Ion is reduced to one point. Cyborg commander to the kill, it passes through dificult terrain, but worth the shot. 5 and 3 make a fail.
Hellbore moves right to the side of commander and harpi, engaging on CC, protecting the ioncore, death vine moves to the barbwire preparing to use it's special abilitie of consscript.
Combine commander makes a cc on hellbore and scores a hit, harpi cc scores the deal, hellbore are no more. Final harpi moves near the damaged vanguard to repairs.

Round 3, initiative phase goes for...
The combine, Commander shots again, and makes the kill, one ion is down.
Surviving ion now as vanguard and harpi on cation blast, and goes for it. Robs one heath to each one.
Death vine does the same to the commander, but with a 10 and a 9, put him on trouble.
Hapi heals one on vanguard, and commander shoot geomancer, making loose a health point, that immediately is healed.

Round 4, still no attack on towers...
Initiative goes for Erthen, Ion core makes a no merci attack on the commander and harpi, scoring two 9 on the commander and a 6 and a 3 on harpi, harpi is out, commander is going.
Combine turn. Lots of choices, Death vine can do the same joke again, ion core it's still undamage, and could make funny things, geomancer is unprotected, but it's only at range of commander. Besides, the second vanguard it's now behind a tower, so no fire to him, it have to move. Going for the big guy. The vanguard with LoS fire first and misses, commander score one hit.
Geomancer does his magic and ion core regenerate the lost point, Death vine shots, and do it again, to perfect shots and commander is out. The tide seems to be turning.
Harpi runs to the commander, trying to restore it, Vanguard take the wall to have LoS on Ion core.

Round 5, middle of a normal game, this scenario as no turn counter defined yet.
Earthen score 1 in initiative. And vanguard shot ion, making one damage. Ion return fire making the vanguard drop 2 healt to recruit values. Deat vine tries to sneak the behind ion core and receives two bulets, end of game for it. Commander shots ion again and again he misses. Geomancer regenerates ion again and harpi moves to the comander.

Round 6, Erthen first, Ion shoots first and deal one damage on vanguard. Combine uses comander hability to give an extra dice on vanguard by the wall, that shoots and score one hit on ion. Geomancer heals. Second vanguard moves to a better position and harpi heals comander.

Round 7, erthan first again.
Ion core fire and puts vanguard out of misery. Commander bost the power of second vanguard, but two 5 and a 2 aren't enough to scrach the ion.
Geomancer just move closer to ion core, harpi repair commander.

Round 8, erthen initiative again.
Change on strategy, cation blast on commander and harpi, full hits, harpi dismissed, commander 1 point left.
Comander bonus and vanguard toss 3 dices, not looking good to combine now... one lousy hit.
Geomancer heal again.

Round 9. Finally Combine goes first.
Since geomancer was now at range of the vanguard, its time to kill it. Commander shoot first and score one hit ( hopping a two hit so vanguard could fire against ion). Vanguard kill geomancer.
Ion fires vanguard and scores two hits again. Combine has two units with one point, erthen one, but have 4 health.

Round 10.
Combine initiative. Vanguard scores one hit, Ion misses vanguard, commander scores one hit to, I'm going to the extra mile, and rounds to the death.

Round 11, Combine again,
And the same story,
Ion didn't score no more hits, while combine keep scoring to the victory.
Combine ended with a vanguard with one point and a commander with one point. Dramatic.
Almost so dramatic as the scenario objectives big failure...
Report next.
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David Thompson
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Awesome recap - very detailed. Did you get any pics of the action? What were your overall thoughts on the Erthen after your first play?
 
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Yes I've pictures, but I'm saving them to the second part of the report. The game analysis.
Try to write it tomorrow. Today traduce the notes and I just post the play before my parents come to lunch.
I'm a bit frustrated with the total indifference about scenario and objects. After all, I played against myself to test the scenario, the objects and the erthen... and totally miss the first two.
But, I learned that: object value should be higher than I preview. I can't use the object value in the game, since the same value can be obtained by killing enemies, a much more wise choice, because, well... because they are trying to kill you, so you have to have a bigger reward on objectives. A lot of thinking to do after the play test.
On erthen, well, geomancer and ion are very strong characters, maybe to strong. After a first play, the sense that combine could be easily taken by erthen if I had some experience before. 2 or 3 geomancer and the two ions in front would make combine life a living hell, since cation blast could hit several characters and give an additional die against most of the combine units.
Lots of play tests to do.
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Well, I wouldn't consider it a disaster. Sounds like a good combat between Combine and Erthen, which is always helpful. You also learned what I did back when I started developing scenarios - the Victory Points from scenario objectives and scavenge tokens need to outweigh kills so that people are actually concerned about the objectives.

Regardless, I like your design concept of interactive objects built on the character design engine. Seems like a pretty elegant implementation.
 
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Wait for the report... It was a disaster.

And, didn't you say "Gone for a week "
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Now for the report:
First, when I started writing this, I review my notes and notice some turns I Forget to apply the ion bonus against combine arms and autonoma. So the close call wasn’t even so close.
In the end ‘Combine’ win because several mistakes from ‘Erthen’. some because my inexperience with erthen against combine (play it almost for a year now) and some stupid strategic moves.
Starting by the objects:

The Communication towers:
First thing to change it’s the value of the towers, and changing the way of point’s value is achieved.
Since objects have crappy values in most of the actions, or even doesn’t have values at all, the relation between the action values + abilities and the object level and cost can’t be the same.
Some new calculations have to be done.
Other thing that as to be considered is the winning condition when using objects should be relative to objects, or to the game. Example: in this case I choose 2 recruit and 2 veteran towers. In winning condition, the 4 towers would have values of 25% of the prize; even some are easy to destroy. A more balanced way was to divide the points by the weight of each object. 100% would be 24 points, recruit would be 16.6(6) and veteran would be 33.33(3) of the prize…
So, giving a prize in the end would be… complicated…
The other solution is the towers values be points itself. But that would mean that faction value can’t be the same of the object faction. I have the idea that the sum of both factions be equal or less than the objects would work. And a lot of problems to the players, since the nom use of points could be used by the other player (I’m leaving that to test, but it look good).That’s the way I’m going to develop next.

The scenario:
With the failure of com towers be significant, scenario lose some importance, never less, some solutions look very viable. Summarizing it:
- The scenario linked to the objects - didn’t work because the relation of points, but look very promising.
- One side chooses the game scape, creating all the defensive system, even without knowing who is coming.
- The sequence re-order of the setup worked fine, but would need two real players, since I already choose the second faction. Sequence was: scenario, where defending faction is pre-choose; Object faction chose, leading to skirmish points; Gamescape, all done by defending player; defending faction character choice; defending player deploy is characters and objects; Attacking player chooses faction, characters and deploys as he wants; skirmish starts with attacking player going first.
- The gamescape being done by one player, with small deploy area against a player that don’t decide anything about gamescape, but have a huge range of deploy areas, and can divide is faction as he want and choose is factions to have the terrain advantages.

The faction: erthen:
Every time I review the session notes, more I’m convinced erthen is far to brutal, at least against combine. If combined win, was because erthen was far too new, but with more plays, I don’t think combine or marauders would have a chance (SoL and Echo aren’t tested yet).
It’s easy to put geomancer at a safe distance, or even behind elevated terrain, denning LoS to enemies, but maintain LoS to other erthen and keep healing them (WR of 4 on recruit its far too good, even 3, I suspect…). Ion core it’s to powerfull to the cost it have, and against Combine, it’s almost fishing in a barrel. Let me explain, strategically, cation blast makes the enemies units to spread, and nullifies the healers, since when they get close, they are ducks.
Also have an area of 5 squares at a max distance (Note: My suggestion to cation blast is that the centre of the plus sign should be a character, but rules don’t say it, so you can fire on an open that will inflict damage to more units, strange issue with the plus sign used by cation blast). Ion core as a decent movement, and a top defence and a good CC. RC is normal, but have an extra dice against most of combines…
The other two unit didn’t shine against combine, but, changing ion cores by hellbores against other factions and you have the same basic issue, geomancers far behind healing and front units with huge area weapons, at least hellbores would have to hide somehow… by the way, hellbore recruit it’s far too weak… Give it something or in the case of campaigns, you will never grow it to veteran.
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Just uploaded 3 images:

I’m still using my Black and write printings, but in the near future I will print the gamescape in colours.

This image is on the early stages, end of round two, where vanguard deploy to counter attack ions, safe range against cation blast, and if ions move to make a two hit, one of the vanguards would move out.
Weaker unit moved flanks.


Middle of the game, the left flank totally wiped out, most of the combine units take heavy damage, but still outnumber erthen. The left flank harpi fly across the battlefield to help commander. The vanguard near the wall was almost dead.


Final chapters, the move that make the game. The erthen move of geomancer near ion, why I did this, I was convinced next shot would kill vanguard. And commander just regain health, could give some trouble. And ion core scores 2 full misses on a 1 health vanguard. Both combine shoot to kill geomancer, and then was a continuous fire to kill ion core.


Some additional notes:
Old habits die hard, I’m playing with a steel ruler to check LoS and ranges. I calculate range from the up corner of one unit to the up corner of the other unit (huge units use the nearest squares between the units, if any doubt, use the ruler in all squares).

Water only extra movement only when units exit water area (still think it’s easy to jump to water, climbing out its different).
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Quote:
And, didn't you say "Gone for a week "


Yea, but I have to do something while waiting in line to meet Tinkerbell and all the Disney Princesses and Disney World.

I saw a lot of great observations in part 2 of the recap. I'll reply when I get back or get some free time...

In the meantime, try to brainstorm alternatives for Ion Blast and ways to improve Hellebore at Recruit.
 
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Before brainstorm, preparing a second play test, this time with oil barrels, marauders and erthen.
Checking if that was a blip or a bug. And correcting some of my ideas about a scenario.
Also, just bring back home color game scape prints to the next test.
Assembling phase over here. Also need some solution to make the units stand up, messing the game scape trying to get the tokens. Lots of work not directly connected to STA, but related.

And you could take a small table and play with other parents waiting in the line... Bet they would like it...
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