Thursday, 2 February 2012

Adeptus Titanicus: Inspiration?

I've been hung up in a creative funk about how to proceed with my plans to write an Adeptus-Titanicus-style giant robot game. But, as I mentioned in a previous post, I am feeling inspired because I think I have a good idea about how such a game could work. Basically the notion is using cards to control things like how the crew of a Titan can act, how they perceive the Titan's surroundings, react to other units, and so on.

The inspiration is Tactical Assault's Combat Card system. The notion is that there is a deck of 72 cards with four different types of information mixed across them. The first sort of information is Action information. You can 'spend' the card on a unit to make it do something, such as move, shoot, assault, use cover, and recover from various impairments. You can only use a single action per unit.

The second sort of information is Situation information, meaning that given certain conditions you can initiate situations like an enemy becoming confused, an off-board artillery unit firing, shooting at attacking enemy units, grouping units for a massed action, or infiltrating units being placed on the board. Situations can be played after your opponent has played an action, or after you've replenished your hand of 6 cards from the deck.

The third sort of information is combat resolution information. With five levels of outcome including forcing a defending unit to Fall Back, or be Shaken, be taken Out of Action, or destroyed and removed from the game (and there's even a null situation, No Effect, which is a nice touch). These levels are mediated by the interacting units, but in general you, draw cards to see the result of a shooting or assault action, or artillery situation.

Speaking of artillery situations, the fourth and final type of information on the cards determines deviation and scatter by things like artillery, smoke, and so on, also using the relative positions of units.

The neat thing being, of course, that using some cards for one thing, such as an action, means that you often face a choice between carrying out an action, or holding it back until you can create a situation, or discarding it because you can't do either with any cards. I can imagine discarding cards to cycle through the deck faster too, if you've been counting cards and realize that the ones you want have already been spent.

By tying these aspects of the game together through the medium of the card deck, as well as limiting the number of cards available to each player (6 per hand), defining how they can be replenished, and spent, the designer manages to free the players from lots of calculation in an otherwise complex situation. There's also the scaling technique of making ranges relative to the size of the board, which means that when an artillery barrage scatters, it literally scatters a short distance towards your closest friendly unit, and if your friendly unit is far enough away, and the enemy units are not, then success!

There's a neat little note in the rules that really makes me, at least, think. It says something like: Why a unit acts or fails to act is irrelevant, except perhaps to boards of inquiry after the action. This notion of not juggling all the units in play at the same time is not new, but it does move the game along.

In terms of Adeptus Titanicus, it makes me think of building Titans in terms of building a deck of cards, rather than the traditional record sheet. This reifies things like the activity of the Titan's crew, its ability to power and feed its weapons, and structures the way that the internal components of Titans and external elements of the game interact under the highly abstract terms of table-top wargaming. Taking each Titan as a deck of cards also means that the game can accomodate different players, each with their own deck of cards, or allow a single player to command a Battle Group without creating that 'perfect coordination' that creeps into wargames along with the 1000' commander effect of perfect information about the battlefield.

In addition, the ability to combine features of the Titan chassis, weapons, and crew into the same deck allows flexibility in accounting for the value of experienced crew, personality features of the Titan, and things like pre-existing damage. Furthermore this allows Titans to 'tailor' the battlefield to their advantage by doing things like including ambush points and cover in their deck to represent them hunting their adversaries. The specific position and state of the Titans on the board, as with the Combat Cards, would then be used to determined the specific results mediated by the cards.

Going forward, as my project managers say, I think I'm going to go back to my notes and to collate elements of Adeptus Titanicus in an attempt to determine how to distribute them amongst a deck of cards.

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