Monday, 29 April 2013

Titanomachia: Command and Control Systems, and Other Stuff

In the development of Titanomachia I've tried representing crew as an element of the Titans, the giant robots at the heart of the game, and recently decided just to gloss the card-handling mechanics as the crew; market the conspicuous lack of over-complicated mechanisms representing the crew as the player representing the crew. But even more recently, I realized that the card-handling mechanics could be integrated with Titan record-keeping as a system that structures card-handling.

There are two elements that I had held constant during design, and that was the number of cards in the player's hand, and the rate at which they were replaced. I had experimented with playing multiple action, battlefield, and objective cards during a turn, and even crew members allowing specific cards to be played at certain times, and a whole lot of over-complicated stuff. What I have settled on, so far, is that there will be a Command and Control System card in each Titan deck defining the number of cards that the player can hold in hand, and the number they can draw from their Strategy deck at the end of each turn. Suffering light damage will impede these capabilities, although not as badly as some systems: Destroyed is still dead though, and overkilled Command and Control systems will still cause light damage on another random system. Oh, and of course they will have their own Armour rating, presumably one of the better ratings to represent the protection necessary to maintain such delicate components.

Which raises an interesting point: What about multiple Command and Control Systems? It's certainly something to think that giant robots like Ork Gargants will have multiple Command and Control Systems, to represent their large but relatively inefficient crews. One imagines certain giant warmachines would have something of a hind-brain going on, or at least something of an auxiliary bridge to take over in case of the main bridge being taken out.

I had also figured a way to deal with that irksome, but possible, outcome where a player has nothing but objective and battlefield cards in hand, and no action cards to play: Successful actions would have their buy-in set at 0, so any action played by an opponent will be successful.

Having multiple Command and Control Systems, perhaps with varying characteristics such as one allowing more cards to be held in hand, and another allowing the player to draw more Strategy cards, representing perhaps one system more integrated into the Titan's other systems, and the other being a body or pool of strategic analyzers, or team of auxiliary strategists, or simply additional databanks.

In addition, I thought it might be something to work in some third element into the Weapon system mix of Power and Rate of Fire: Area of Effect. Some weapons, such as the Inferno Cannon, affect a wide area, and they're simply not a discriminate weapon. Or at least they're not as discriminate as high-explosive armour-piercing shells, or lasers. I think giving them an Area of Effect can easily be stated by giving them a number equal to the number of systems that they will affect upon receipt of a successful attack: A sand-blasting rather than a jab, if you will. And an existing mechanic already exists in the form of the light damage done to another system due to overkill. Against battlefield terrain models, the effect should be the same, since battlefield terrain will be standardized in size, and larger models built out of smaller models in similar fashion to how Titans are built out of systems, with the added nicety of having weapons that can not only demolish buildings, but clear out city blocks.

To summarize the systems available for building Titans:

Command and Control
  • Armour, the system's resistance to damage.
  • Training, the number of cards in the player's hand.
  • Stamina, the number of cards drawn at the end of each turn.
Sensors
  • Armour, the system's resistance to damage.
  • Acuity, the number of targets the system can maintain.
  • Gain, factors into the margin of success in aquiring a target.
Weapons
  • Armour, the system's resistance to damage.
  • Munitions, the cost to arm a weapon at a particular rate of fire.
  • Range, limits the distance at which the weapon can affect targets.
  • Power, factors into the margin of succcess in firing on a target
  • Rate of Fire, limits the number of shots per Fire Weapon
  • Area of Effect, the number of affected systems on the target.
Propulsion
  • Armour, the system's resistance to damage.
  • Acceleration, the limit to stride actions increasing the Titan's speed.
  • Top Speed, limits to the Titan's speed per turn.
  • Agility, limits the Titan's ability to change direction.
  • Traction, factors into the Titan's success in Movement actions.
  • Signature, factors into the margin of success in being acquired as a target.
Shields Generator
  • Armour, the system's resistance to damage.
  • Shield Strength, the shield's resistance to damage.
It's worth mentioning, yet again, that Titan systems get an orientation, defining whether they can be affected by attacks from a particular angle, and what they can affect: A weapon cannot fire on a target that is not within its orientation, for example. Shields will be re-orientable, being raised in the orientation of their generator system, and then moved around as player's choose (or can afford).

A note about Acquire Target actions: You pick a target within its orientation, and compare Gain to Signature. A target's Signature may be reduced by modifiers, such as intervening terrain and battlefield conditions. The effects of moving and weapons-fire are factored into the base cost of the Acquire Target action. So the difference between Gain and Signature defines the margin of success of any attacks directed at the target, and should be small. Higher numbers on either side of the equation are better, and players will be able to spend bonus Strategy cards to increase the gain to match the signature. A target should be tracked by a marker and a die indicating the current margin of success. Naturally a margin of success of zero (0) or less means that the target fails to be acquired, or is lost. Suppose, for example, that a target uses its Initiative to move behind obscurement, or to change the battlefield conditions through a battlefield card, then the target may be lost as the margin of success is adjusted. Likewise, destroying an intervening building may remove a negative modifier, and increase the relative margin of success.

Something similar goes for Movement actions: A Titan may attempt to accelerate using a Stride action, but its speed will be constant, and obstacles will either need to be avoided, or they will reduce the Titan's speed (or impact on the Titan!) if they exceed the Titan's traction score. Exceeding the Titan's traction score will reduce a Titan's ability to Stride, Come About, Halt, and Kick by increasing the adjusted card cost of successful actions. A Titan with a Traction score of 3, for example, moving through terrain with a Traction score of 4 will need to pay an extra card to successfully Halt or Combat About. It will also lose 1" of its current speed. Conversely, players should be able to pay extra cards to multiply the success of Movement actions, Striding, Coming About, and so on at double or triple rates.

Finally, and not least at all, there will be all the business about Shields. As mentioned they will be raised in the orientation of their system, but thereafter can be moved to a different orientation, outwards in an orientation to take the place of damaged shields, or even repaired. Probably best that they be represented by dice placed around the miniature Titan, or even something fancy like additions to the base or something. I think it's worth allowing players to have a bonus for shields in the sense of addressing multiple shields with a single action for commensurate cost. So naturally only the best trained and healthiest crews have the opportunity to really juggle their shields, but since they're essentially ablative, they should mean the difference between life and death.

The general theme is that there should be a basic cost to each action, a number of conditions based on game states such as a Titan's speed, direction, currently armed weapons, etc, and adjustments or modifiers to the cost based on battlefield conditions (board and terrain model-specific) and bonuses that players wish to utilize. The idea is to give players lots of choice, lots of options in gaming a path to victory. I want players to use the notion of acquiring targets to hide, the arming of weapons to play for time, and especially traction and other terrain effects to make the battlefield another weapon in the players' arsenal. Having the Command and Control system as a system makes a concrete connection between players and their Titans, integrating the executive function it performs with the active functions performed by other systems.

Oh, and updated weapons, because it's all about the guns:

Vulcan Megabolter - Munitions 4/1, Range 12", Power: 1, Rate of Fire 8, Area of Effect 1
Gatling Blaster - Munitions 2/1, Range: 24", Power 2, Rate of Fire 4, Area of Effect 1
Quake Cannon - Munitions 1/2, Range 36", Power 3, Rate of Fire 1, Area of Effect 2
Hellstorm Cannon - Munitions 1/2, Range 24", Power 3, Rate of Fire 3, Area of Effect 1
Hydra Battery - Munitions 1/1, Range 36", Power 1, Rate of Fire 1, Area of Effect 3

Melta Cannon - Munitions 1/2, Range 12", Power: 4, Rate of Fire 1, Area of Effect 1
Inferno Cannon - Munitions 1/1, Range 12", Power 1, Rate of Fire 4, Area of Effect 3

Tactical Missile Launcher - Munitions 2/1, Range 36", Power 2, Rate of Fire 2, Area of Effect 2
Strategic Missile Launcher - Munitions 1/1, Range 36", Power 4, Rate of Fire 1, Area of Effect 4

Plasma Blastgun - Munitions 1/2 cards, Range 18", Power 2, Rate of Fire  2, Area of Effect 1
Plasma Destructor - Munitions 1/2 cards, Range 18", Power 3, Rate of Fire 3, Area of Effect 1
Plasma Annihilator - Munitions 1/2 cards, Range 18, Power 4, Rate of fire 4, Area of Effect 1

Turbo Laser - Munitions 1, Range 36", Power 3, Rate of Fire 1, Area of Effect 1
Laser Blaster - Munitions 1/1, Range 36", Power 3, Rate of Fire 3, Area of Effect 1
Volcano Cannon - Munitions 1/3, Range 36", Power 4, Rate of Fire 1, Area of Effect 1

Armour-wise, I think it's worth setting (however temporarily), the protection of a Warhound Titan at 2 to 3 for most systems, including crew, Reaver Titans at 2-4 with bits like the Command and Control having the most armour, and Sensors the least, and Warlord Titans having the same, but a higher weighting of 3-4, with 2 left to systems like Sensors and Shield Generators. I'd set most shields to something like 3 so that weapons either require serious power to down a shield with a glancing hit, or some serious aim.

Lightly damaged systems will typically have their Armour score reduced by 1 point, and will feature some 0 ratings when they hit Heavy Damage. In other words, Light Damage reduces capacity, Heavy Damage removes capacity, and Destroyed removes it permanently. Light and Heavy damage can be repaired.

Movement wise, I think that an Acceleration of 3" (undamaged) and Top Speed of 9" works for Warhounds, with perhaps a 3 for their Agility when each point is 30 degrees of arc. Warlords get to accelerate 2" with a Top Speed of 6", and Agility 2. Maybe give Reavers an Acceleration of 3" and otherwise like Warlords for their propulsion systems. Oh, and a Silhouette of 4 for Warhounds, 3 for Reavers, and 2 for Warlords. Sensors all around should be set at 2, 3, and 4 Acuity going up Warhounds to Warlords, and all at a Gain of 3. Yes, Warhounds are hardest to hit. They're ambush predators. But they fold to glancing hits rather than quality smashing, so it works somewhat.

Crew, of course, would be somewhat variable, but I'd set all Imperial Titan crews at 5 and 5, for Training and Stamina, respectively. The Adeptus Titanicus can afford to be picky. A Gargant might have two Command and Control systems at 3 and 2 each, giving it a total 6 and 4 until one is heavily damaged.  

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