Friday, 16 January 2015

Titanomachia: Momentum

Continuing on from the previous notion of parametric design, I think I can probably waive some of the due diligence in favour of noodling around with some first principles. You know, by doing it philosophically... Maybe it's just what's been incubating in my mind, and maybe it's the slippery roads, but ever since a daemon laid the egg of momentum in my otherwise infertile mind I've been poking at it like one would worry a new tooth. Of course, that's only really productive if we see how momentum exists (persists, subsists...?) in a more primitive form of the game I would ideally like to produce.

As mentioned, again in a previous post, momentum exists in Adeptus Titanicus and its descendant Epic games in the form of a concept of orders, whereby players choose a state for a unit, and then play according to the parameters of that state. In Adeptus Titanicus this mean Charge, First Fire, Advance, and Repair. These parameters then decide the order in which Titans move and attack, with players moving and attacking knowing that if their Titan charges, then it will move first, and before Titans that Advance or First Fire. Of course, it will move after a Titan controlled by the First Player that is given Charge orders moves, and the First Player alternates turn-to-turn. The momentum is then making the best not only of the restrictions that one's orders give, but the restrictions that one's orders given in the context of the other player's orders and First Player status.

If it seems complicated, it is simplified by the addition of the variables associated with moving and attacking. If you don't have any guns, for example, Charge and Repair are pretty much your only options. You can move to use buildings to block line-of-sight between your Titan and any Titan on First Fire orders. If your target has nowhere to hide and your guns can take it out, then First Fire is something of a default. Games, in my experience, defaulted to Titans closing to their optimum range and hoping to get lucky with dice. On the other hand, unlike Battletech, doing so involved much less work so it was actually pretty fun, and you could swap out weapons on the models thanks to their plug-and-play connections. As in many of the Games Workshop titles, it was moreso a game of bringing the right guns and chassis to the fight rather than any particular skill at applying those guns and chassis. Particular combinations of Titans and weapons sent those match-ups down well-trodden paths. I suppose it matched the background of a galactic Imperium founded on 10,000 years of war (on top of 30,000 years of history, with at least 10,000 of those years spent perfecting the Titan war machine).

My idea, however, is building on a notion of modeling a Titan that I've become perhaps overly attached to, and that's a Titan composed of Systems (Crew, Sensors, Propulsion, Shield Generators, Weapons, Munitions), with those Systems having two numbers representing capabilities ([Skill, Stamina], [Acuity, Gain], [Speed, Agility], [Power, Cohesion], [Range, Rate of Fire], [Power, Area of Effect], and an Armour score for everything). Crew affects the Titan's actions, Sensors affect the Titan's attacks, Propulsion affects the Titan's movement, Shield Generators create and sustain ablative Shield markers, Weapons affect the Titan's attacks, and Munitions affect the Titan's attacks. These Systems produce the following markers: Shields, Blasts, and Targets.

Now, immediately from this setup there's a possibility of momentum in the notion that you have to set up Target markers, and then replace those Target markers with Blast markers. Originally the notion was that players had a limited number of actions defined by the Crew system and that Munitions had to be activated prior to activating the associated Weapon system (re: 'the whine of capacitors and the rattle of auto-loaders...). Even with a two-step process that means players have to use their Target markers to generate options for Blast markers. If Munition and Sensor systems need to be activated before Weapon systems can be activated, then there's three steps of momentum, and where activations are a resource there's a +50% cost associated with each use of a Weapon system.

So that's attacking, in a sense. But I would also like to tie in some momentum for applying Shield markers and using Propulsion systems. In a sense though, applying Shield markers is pretty easy if we take a step back and think about the Crew system enabling activation. If the Crew is trying to activate the five other systems, then managing Shield markers automatically has some considerable momentum because it's a passive-defense fighting of access to resources for active-defense and offense. The trick, is seems, will be to have Propulsion deal with a two-step momentum to stand between the three-step momentum of Sensors-Munitions-Weapons, and the one-step momentum of Shields. So here's what I figure. Propulsion Speed and Agility should be re-jigged.

And what I mean by that is that there should be a relation between Speed and Agility that means that activating the Propulsion system is about selecting a Speed, and a direction. I think, off the top of my head and soon to explore this using actual objects, that in activating a Propulsion system you get to choose a direction and a speed, with speed a number between 0 and Speed. If this speed per turn is lower than Agility, you can move in a different direction at that speed. It might be an idea to include a differential there, so suppose that you have a Speed of 4 and an Agility of 2 in a Propulsion system being activated, and you decide to move at speed 0 instead of speed 1, then you can change direction two ticks. That's pretty ponderous, but I feel like it gives players the two-step "steam forward" and "slow down and turn" feeling I want out of Titans. And if you're walking into a Target marker or Blast maker, then you need to either activate your Propulsion system, or take it on the Shield markers you have available.

What kind of turn sequence would make this possible? I think there needs to be a game-turn and player-turn distinction, which I like to call the round and turn distinction with all the player turns happening in a round. The round means that there's something of a way of measuring persistence, while players alternating turns is pretty standard as we know from Chess and other, more mainstream games.

What I'm thinking is lifting a concept from an earlier incarnation of Titanomachia that worked, and have the Crew Skill be the maximum number of activations per round that a Crew can make, and Stamina being the number of activations that get added to a Titan's pool each round.

So each player gets a pool of activations, easily handled by markers. Why markers? Because that opens space for Titans to get additional activations found on the board and whatnot. Also an easy way of keeping track of all these things. Target markers would persist until the Sensor system is activated or damaged, Blast markers would persist until the end of the round, and Shield markers would persist until destroyed or the Shield Generator system was activated.

The question that vexes me ever so slightly is whether movement would persist at the same declared rate (x squares per round) until a Propulsion system is activated. I think throwing it in as a 'free' activation would make sense. Adding in free activation markers to equalize the number of activations that each player's Titan can make might go some distance to helping to solve the vexing problem of unequal activations in alternating activation games. Alternately, allowing players to take a 'by' or allow them to declare a null-activation would both go some distance to equalizing things, and enabling an ambush-style of strategy. The brake on that would be two null-activations in a row, one from each player, would signal the end of the turn. So the round would end organically, when players run out of activations, or would end when a player attempting to gain a reactive advantage is shut down by their opponent forgoing the activations they could otherwise get that turn. The free Propulsion activation marker fits into either.

What's left to do, I think, for this is to make a decision on the activation question, and then a write-up and a player-test. Oh, and see if I can balance out some of the picky details of damage/etc to make things more a matter of placing markers and taking turns that doing arithmetic.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Looking forward to hearing from you!