Monday, 11 February 2013

Adeptus Titanicus: Drafting More Rules

Back in the day, when I would start work on a game or game idea, the first thing I would do would be to write it down clearly. Which meant that I wrote something incredibly confusing, vague, and impenetrable. And then I would inflict it on someone to see what would happen, which was inevitably the confusion and boredom of fiddling around and arguing, and eventually a distinct lack of people to try these scripts on. Now I would not say that writing things down is the last thing anyone developing a game should do. Writing stuff down is important, particularly if you're going to be involved in an actual development process rather than just wanking. Unless you like wanking...

I think that tabletop games should be worked out from players and elements on a table before rules get formalized, and that writing them down is moreso an act of communicating those ideas rather than creating them. There's something to be said for writing stuff down early though; so that memory is externalized and publicized, and made into something that can be checked and versioned. The worst sin in technical writing is to introduce errors into the content via poor layout and design of documentation, and it's best to work on them in tandem, since they're both important facets of the user experience.

So back to notions like figuring out a sequence of play, how players take turns and interact, and so on. It's also probably something to define how cards are used, how elements address each other and interact, and all the nitty-gritty procedural stuff that together will enable users to become players. To whit:

Sequence of Play

Purpose: Organizes games of Adeptus Titanicus so that players can compete strategically and tactically.

Context: Games of Adeptus Titanicus involve two of more players, each commanding a Titan.

Organization: Strategy > Tournament > Game. Which is to say that there are tournaments, strategies, and games. Tournaments are sets of multiple games that players play using a single Strategy Deck. There may only be one game, a one-off pick up, but players still need to agree on the size of their Strategy Decks first. Likewise tournament organizers need to set the size of the Strategy Decks that players will bring to their tournaments.

Strategy Decks

Purpose: Enables players to choose their Titan, its battlefield, its behaviour, and its goals.

Context: Each player constructs a deck of Strategy cards, which are pointed out somehow or other. So that each player has an equal value in cards, if not an equal number of cards beginning play.

Organization: Decks are made up of sets of cards including: (1) Titan cards, (2) Battlefield cards, (3) Action cards, and (4) Mission cards.

The Titan cards are essentially Titan systems, allowing players to select systems, and indeed sub-optimal systems for their Titan. These are offset against the other three types of cards, so a fully equipped and crewed Warlord Titan might, for example, have relatively few battlefield, action, and mission cards. I've gotten a set of 64 Action cards written up. The other three types of cards are going to be rarer, and the Titan cards themselves are not going to be part of the strategy deck that gets played in-game. Instead they're going to be in card-form because to shoehorn them into the game game, making 'list-building' an extension of game-play prior to the game.

Part of the reason for doing so is somatic (is that even a word?) so that players have little cards they can fidget with, and Titans can be sold as packs of cards rather than little booklets of rules. Unlike Warmachine, the giant robots will be collections of cards. The cards themselves will be placed on the table, or a side-table, where the systems are arranged in ranks, files, and stacks depending on the arrangement of the Titan. The command crew, for example, should be stacked in the centre, where the "head" of an Imperial Titan is usually located. The stacks will be the locations targeted by the enemy Titans, and all systems in a stack may be damaged depending on their power/armour/etc interaction when attacked. The other neat thing is that the arrangement of cards can be used to deviate shots from attackers as the position of the Titan on the board changes in relation to its attackers.

Battlefield elements are likewise less than straightforward. Instead of players setting up a table and then playing on it, terrain gets set up as the game goes along and Battlefield cards are played. Which is to mention that players not only get to choose the contents of their Strategy deck, but also the order in which it will be played. This allows players the ability to develop their position outside of their ability to move, and encourages them to wander their Titans around the board by putting obstacles in front of their opponents, giving themselves cover, and so on. Plus, I have a hard-on for constructive games, and being able to affect terrain.

Playing a Game

To play a game of Adeptus Titanicus, players need:
1. At least one Titan model.
2. One Strategy deck per Titan.
3. A 4'x4' playing area

To begin a game, players should:
1. Deal themselves a hand of cards each off the top of their respective Strategy decks.
2. Compete for the initiative by bidding cards. Bid cards are placed face down on the table. Players may either call the bid, or up the ante. The player bidding the most cards wins the initiative begins play, and all cards so bid are discarded prior to the first turn. The player with the initiative gets the first turn.

To play a turn, the player with the initiative should:
1. Play the first card, placing an Action, Battlefield, or Mission card face up, and placing other cards face down to 'activate' it according to the cost stated on that card's face. The player without the initiative follows suite. 
2. (a) Update the battlefield by adding terrain pieces, or replacing them, or changing their state.
2. (b) Resolve actions by indexing their type to find the basic cost of success. No action is resolved without meeting a basic cost, and may be resolved with the cost of a bonus. That's right, tables. The initiative action is resolved prior to the non-initiative action.
2. (c) Determine whether or not a Titan is winning. Index missions against state of Titan and Acceptable Losses or Mission Parameter.
3. Places the spent cards in any order they choose at the bottom of their Strategy deck.
4. Award the initiative to the player with more cards left over. In case of a tie, the player with the initiative retains the initiative.

To win a game, a Titan has to win, and its opponent must be losing according to the index of mission parameters.

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