Friday, 8 March 2013

Titanomachia: Battlefield Conditions and Objectives

So I've worked up action cards and system cards for the Strategy deck in Titanomachia, and need to do the Battlefield Conditions and Objective cards so that players can build their battlefield and their objectives into their strategy. Note that I have yet to set about balancing the value of the cards, so that a player using a Warhound Titan can build in easier objectives or helpful battlefield conditions, but right now I want to work up cards to help define the game.

Right now the player to run out their Strategy deck first loses, but there needs to be tension, as you don't want a pair of players trying to wait each other out. That's where the objectives come in, allowing players to both set the parameters of their mission so that they can try to win before the clock runs out, and to also keep the proverbial ace-up-the-sleeve so that during the game the Titan can receive new orders. It seems pretty interesting that a player could start with the objective of destroying a set number of buildings, or doing a particular amount of damage to an enemy Titan, or lasting a particular number of turns, and then, mid-game, swap to moving off the board, or some similar contingency plan just in case they do badly at obtaining the first objective. Which is part of the design of the game, where players set up their Strategy deck as a set of contingencies.

Which brings me back to the battlefield conditions. I say "battlefield conditions" rather than terrain, because it would be nice to have stuff like background radiation, electromagnetic interference, meteor/orbital debris showers, etc, and so on beyond adding and subtracting model terrain. The point is that battlefield conditions and objectives should be playable instead of action cards, and interact with action cards.

The most obvious battlefield condition would be the placement, or removal, of a building model on the board. Now this may seem counter-intuitive, but I think it would be better to have the board accumulate terrain models as the game goes on, and naturally lose them as shots miss, Titans crash, etc, rather than setting up a board prior to the game.

Currently the plan is that a 2'x2' board is about the right size for models approximately the size of Games Workshop Dreadnoughts and Wraithlords, so terrain pieces such as buildings should probably have bases approximately 16" square, or 4"x4". Buildings themselves, like Titan systems, would have cards detailing how they are affected by light and heavy damage, with stuff like Armour, Traction, Signature (the notion being that being around certain terrain obscures a Titan's Signature),  and so on. Of course, terrain cards will need their own column on the action card cost table so that players can suss out the cost of an action being played in the context of a battlefield condition. Anyhow:

Battlefield Conditions:
Civilian Building (Small, Medium, Large, undamaged, lightly damaged, heavily damaged)
Bunker Complex (as building, maybe weapon systems)
Defensive Walls
Ruins (Small, Medium, Large, reduce traction, result of destroyed buildings)
Craters (Small, Medium, Large, reduce traction, result of overkilled buildings)
Minefields (Unsuccessful moves make successful attack on Mobility systems)
Increased Radiation Levels (+1 card for Command actions to be successful)
Increased Particulate (+1 card for Attack actions to be successful, result of destroyed buildings)
Electromagnetic Storm/Pulse (+1 card for Defense actions to be successful)
Raging Fires (build model sustains light damage per turn on fire, sets nearby building on fire)
Liquefaction/Flooding (reduces traction, stacks with craters)

Scout (Successful Acquire Target on Enemy Titan)
Evade (Prevent successful Acquire Target from Enemy Titan)
Take and Hold (Ensure a building battlefield condition is not destroyed before game ends)
Scorched Earth (Ensure a building battlefield condition is destroyed before game ends)
Seek and Destroy (Destroy enemy Titan)
Hold the Line (Do not be destroyed)
Strategic Withdrawal (Exit Board, home edge)
Breakthrough (Exit Board, opponent home edge)
Capture (Destroy a Titan's Mobility/Propulsion system)
Disable (Destroy all of a Titan's Weapon systems)

It seems right that the harder an objective should be to achieve, the more cards should be sacrificed to include that objective in the deck. Likewise, certain battlefield conditions, particularly the board-wide ones, should have a less hefty cost since they impede both Titans, while certain of them should be the result of destroyed buildings - a destroyed reactor should increase particulate and radiation, as well as pre-existing conditions. Buildings will be more expensive the better condition they are in, much like Titan systems.

Regarding Traction, it may seem odd to have a Traction issue, but the idea is that loss of traction, or at least dealing with higher traction scores than your Titan's mobility system will increase the number of cards you'll need to burn before the Titan can engage in a successful Move action. A player could, in theory, bog their opponent down by laying down a Liquifaction battlefield condition, or using a string of Attack actions to inflict craters on the ground. Incidentally, I think it's useful to consider the ground, the board itself, as having an ambient Armour value, with light damage causing small craters, heavy damage causing medium craters, and overkill causing large craters. Ditto for buildings, walls, and bunkers converting to ruins via cumulative damage, and craters via overkill damage.

So a player could declare an Acquire Target action, be successful, and then next round declare a Fire Weapon action, be successful, but face a building between the Titan and its target. the building would be the victim of a successful attack without a valid target, a valid target being the victim of an Acquire Target action and a line of sight between a weapon system and its target.

I think that I'll need to come up with some conditions on where terrain models can be placed, as the first thing that popped into my head was that people will enjoy placing terrain in the way of Titans. Which is cool, Titans should be crashing through buildings, Godzilla style, and maybe even get mired in them. But in certain cases I think it shouldn't be allowed to place a building where a previous building was reduced to a smoking crater, or on top of another building. That's back to the 4"x4" based building models. Gives players an excuse to make a recon-by-fire, I think. It'll be interesting to see how the incentives break down in the face of play-testing.  

Which brings me to a certain issue: Signature. Each Titan's mobility system has a Signature number. I think it would be something to, like traction, make Acquire Target actions a matter of having an extra cost where the target's Signature is greater than the acting Titan's Sensor Gain; so, representationally, a Signature rating of 0 is plain as day so long as the Titan can actually see (has an Acuity and Gain of 1+). Sensor Acuity would be the total number of targets the Titan can successfully acquire, and Sensor Gain being the quality of the target acquisition (determining the threshold of successful and unsuccessful).

It's a universal mechanic, then, that the cost of a successful action may involve accounting for any opposing action, contextual battlefield conditions, and so on. For a Titan to accelerate, it will need to be able to overcome any insufficient traction. Ditto for its ability to turn: insufficient traction will see it carry on forward, and possibly crash into a terrain model or enemy Titan. Insufficient gain will see the Titan unable to acquire a target on a smoky shitpit of a battlefield. A stupidly high Munition score on a weapon will see the player needing to burn either extra cards.

Regarding munitions, there are approximately three variations on how this will work: (1) A single successful Arm Weapon action will see the weapon capable of using its full Rate of Fire when next it commits a Fire Weapon action, (2) a single successful Arm Weapon action will see the weapon capable of using only some fraction of its full Rate of Fire, and (3) a single successful Arm Weapon action will see the weapon only partially prepared for a Fire Weapon action.

In representational terms, thinking of Dan Abnett's Titan comic, think of (2) as the Gatling Blaster. With a clatter of autoloader this gigantic cannon will spray battlecannon shells like a machinegun. It can do damage on short notice. One Arm Weapon action should see it firing 2 out of its RoF4.  I think that's also an excellent way to distinguish the Vulcan Mega Bolter: less Power, but a better Munitions score for (1). A Volcano Cannon should take three actions for its fire, and so be (3). A Plasma weapon like the Blastgun or Destructor should see something like two Arm Weapon actions to use 1 of its RoF2, and another to use 2 of its RoF2 for some serious damage.

This suggests making the Munition score a fraction or something, with Rate of Fire (RoF) as a maximum like Top Speed for mobility (propulsion) systems. On the other hand, it might be something to consider it as the numerator where the RoF is the denominator. Or, saying fuck it, ratios! Therefore:

Vulcan Mega Bolter: Munitions: 1, Rate of Fire: 4
Volcano Cannon: Munitions: 3, Rate of Fire 1
Gatling Blaster: Munitions: 1:2, Rate of Fire: 4
Plasma Destructor:  Munitions: 2:1, Rate of Fire: 2

Mind you, if you consider that between three Arm Weapon actions, an Acquire Target action, and a Fire Weapon action a Volcano Cannon might see a player spend 15 cards for successes, and a Vulcan Mega Bolter might see a player spend 9 cards for successes. On the gripping hand, the Volcano Cannon should probably be the kind of stupid-level Power that means it doesn't need to be aimed all that carefully (no Acquire Target), dropping the difference to 3 cards. Alternately dropping its Munitions to 2 means that, ceteris paribus, you can get un-aimed fire at the cost of 9 cards. Giving it a Munition score of 3 might be best left to lightly damaged Volcano Cannons. Which is the cool thing about allowing players to purchase damaged or otherwise sub-optimal systems. Not to mention how a Volcano Cannon is going to be a favoured target because of its threatening nature.

Time to work on the rules and cards some more, I think.

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