Friday, June 19, 2009

Looking for feedback...

Hi guys,

First, I want to apologize for the lack of new content recently but my spare time being reduced to its bare minimum, I'd rather use it actually playing or having a "social" life than posting on my blog...
I hope I'll get more spare time soon... I've got a few things I'd like to share, but which I need to actually write down first...

Now, when I created this blog, my intention was to share what I came up with for my gaming group. But one of my hopes was to get as much feedback from other players as possible about the rules/scenarii that we use with my group to see what others thought about them, if they had any problems with them while playing, etc...
I didn't get that feedback (yet)...

So here's today's question: have you tested any of the rules/scenarii presented here so far and, if you did, what was your experience with them? Any problem? Any part of the rules that wasn't clear enough?

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Scavvy Attack - On Indefinite Hyatus

I've been a bad blogger, left this place unattended far too long!

As we worked upon tweaking the Necromunda rules and writing new ones for those aspects not already covered by Necromunda, we realized that the Scavvy Attack project required much more work and time to develop than we could currently afford, for personnal and professional reasons. So we've put it aside for the moment. We've got the bare bones for the game, but it needs so much fine tuning, a lot of the so-called rules we're using are just too much instinct based, that we won't be able to present any playable version for quite some time...

But we're continuing our slow work on this game, so, it'll see the light of day, just not in the near future. I'll keep you informed once in a while as we make breakthroughs in the development.

Sorry to have started that Pavlovian reflex and failed to deliver... I promise I'll be back with more alternative rules and mini-games for Warhammer 40000 soon.

Meanwhile, you can enjoy the new free Necromundan RPG, Underhive!, created by our friends at the Eastern Fringe Forums.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Scavvy Attack - quick update

After some quick rule writing, we've started playtesting with 2 of my usual opponents (1 playing 2 factions) and the first thing we've realized is that playing against "other civilians" wasn't really fun... Hence, we've modified the fluff to bring the game back where it came from and for our "enemies" to be zombies.

There are a lot of issues with the current rules. There are aspects of the game which I had overlooked and which will require heavy rule devising and some that I had thought would be easier than they actually are (It is quite hard to find a "simple" system to resolve the impact of a given expedition upon a factions' influence, for example.)

But I'm working on it.

I won't post much more about this project as long as it is still in WiP state, simply because it actually requires a whole new set of rules instead of a simple adaptation of existing ones (Necromunda) like I originally thought. But be sure that "one day", you'll get the finished product posted on this blog as a pretty pdf.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The "Scavvy Attack" Project

A french web-games company has recently released a 'nice' little free game called "Hordes". In that game, you find yourself stuck with 40 other players in a shanty-town lost in the desert and attacked daily by ever increasing hordes of Zombies. Cooperation is necessary if you wish to survive, at least up to a certain point... It is a very grim yet humourous game which, from the very first day I tried it, I thought could be quite easily adapted to the Warhammer 40000 universe... Maybe as a Necromunda campaign...

Then, I started reading Planetkill and reached Richard Williams' excellent story Mortal Fuel, which, without revealing too much of the story, talks about what happens to a world once it is deemed of no further worth by the Administratum.

These two things bumped into my head and I thought, why not create a game which would replicate the cooperation system of "Hordes" instead of a simple campaign?
I even found a pretty simple title for it "Scavvy Attack"... (If you've got suggestions for a better one, then I'm all ears of course.)

Here's the basis for the fluff of this game:

A few days ago, the Imperium declared your world "Orbis Cassi", of no further worth, and all the men and equipment still deemed useful have been taken offworld. The whole planet has fallen into chaos and anarchy.
If you weren't deemed worthy enough to be taken away aboard the Emperor's mighty interstellar ships, you were lucky enough to reside in a small town lost in the ash wastes and to survive the initial outrage untouched.
However, the survivors from the Hive-cities are fleeing the anarchy and are crossing the desert, each day more and more are regrouping in the ash wastes outside the town looking greedily at the small oasis of civilisation that you're calling home. They have so far been few enough that you were able to repel their attempt at looting your town, but soon there will be too much. There is only one way to ensure your survival, bolster the town defences...
But there are other threats to your life, your own neighbours. The endless talk of the last few days have revealed several factions inside the town, each with the same agenda, ensuring their own survival even at the cost of the others. Your one and only goal is to make sure you'll survive, even if that means coming to terms with those you can't help but call "the enemy within"...

In game terms, it would require 4 players. Each player is the head of a 5 men "faction" within a town of 40 souls. (There is thus 20 "neutral" citizens.) The players have to cooperate to mount expeditions into the ash-wastes to gather the necessary ressources to ensure the town's survival and at the same time plan for the eventual betrayal of the other players, for there can be only one winner!

The games themselves will represent the expeditions in the ash-wastes. Each player will take his men beyond the walls to try and bring back enough ressources to gather more weight into the town's decision making process (via the use of "influence points")...

In between games, depending on the different "factions" successes and failures in their expeditions, the building of new defenses (making the city gain defense points) and other equipments (such as wells, hydroponic plants, etc...) will be made possible and the decision as to what should be built will be put to the vote, the faction with the most influence points gaining the back up of (part of) the "neutral" citizens.

At the end of each campaign turn (each night), an attack of scavvies will take place (the number of attackers decided using a random table with ever increasing numbers night after night). If the number of defense points of the town at the end of the turn exceeds the number of attackers then the town survives untouched. If it's the number of attackers that exceeds the number of defense points, then the factions get to play a special game where they defend the town's walls against the scavvies who got through their defenses.
For each scavvy which wouldn't be killed during this game a citizen would die. It could be a neutral citizen, hence dimishing the number of points that can be put into additionnal defenses on the next campaign turn, and also the "pool" of support for the leading faction; or a member of a faction... (Who would get killed would be decided randomly.) It is thus best for every faction to be able to make sure that the defenses are always strong enough to bear the strength of the scavvy attack. (But it will of course not be that easy or the game wouldn't be fun at all!)

Of course, during the expeditions, if a faction member is wounded, he'll be out for a number of games and may even die, decreasing your chances of success for your next expeditions... The players may recruit the temporary help of one or several "neutral" citizens to replace members who are not combat-able or dead but at the expense of influence points.

The campaign ends when only one faction remains.

I'll have to write rules for each aspect of the gameplay. I'll probably use the rules from Necromunda (heavily modified) for the expeditions themselves, but for the construction and influence parts of the game, I'll have to write brand new rules from scratch.

So, now you know the basis of this new game (you know almost as much as I do in fact!)
I'd really like to have your opinions, ideas, criticisms before I really start working on the rules themselves...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Why playtesting is necessary... (Black Reach Scenario-building part 2)

So, yesterday night I tried my new scenario with a friend and after only about 10 minutes of game we were already starting to make adjustments...

The first thing we had to deal with was a problem I hadn't thought about: in which direction should the Orks fall back? For, if they fall back towards their table edge, as is normally the case, that makes them go towards the objective!
It was easily solved however, within 30 seconds of the question being raised, by deciding that they would fall back towards the nearest side-edge instead. It seems logical anyway, since the Orks own edge is supposed to be the Hive-city wall, that they call fall back that way...
Yet, this clearly shows that playtesting is necessary because there will always be potential problems that you won't think about until you're faced with them.

The game went quite well. It was a bit harsh on the Marines, as I meant it to be, yet the Marines won by contesting the breach and killing Zanzag. But my opponent and I were in agreement that the scenario wasn't really balanced yet, that a beginner SM player would have had much more trouble getting a victory than I did, with my almost 20 years of experience...

Thus, we decided to play another game changing a few things:
- First, we've forbidden the entry of Ork reinforcements via the 12" of side-edge nearest to the objective, making it harder for the Orks to simply rush in the last game turn to contest the objective.
- Then, we made the Marines start only 30" from the objective.
This time, I won the control of the objective a bit too easily and was able to use my captain and the dreadnought specifically on killing Zanzag... But, in the end, we were not sure of the real reason for this "easy victory", because my opponent had rolled a lot of 1s and 2s when rolling for his reinforcements and having all his units enter 48" away from the objective in the last 2 turns means they've been mostly useless.

And thus, we reset the game once more, adding another change: the Ork reinforcements only enter via the Marines' edge on a result of 1 on the d6. But this quickly proved not to be the solution. Even with this change, once the Marines have succeeded in taking control of the objective (and thus don't need to move anymore, allowing them to use their heavy weapon at its full potential), it is much too hard for the Orks to come back and get a chance to contest it.

That's why we played a fourth game, re-setting the initial distance at which the Marines were to start at 36". And this time we were happier with the balance of the game. It is indeed challenging for the Marine player on the first 3 turns, because he has to decide whether to make his unit(s) Sprint to reach the objective early or to move normally and thus get to thin down the Ork ranks, but the "tables turn" as soon as the Marines have reached striking distance of the objective and the Orks start to feel the full wrath of the Emperor...

In conclusion, the final scenario limits the entry of the Ork reinforcement to part of the side-edges and makes it less probable that they enter via the Marines' edge.
I'll make a cleaned up pdf version of the scenario as soon as possible. I hope you will enjoy it as much as we did! And I hope that these 2 posts on the "mechanics" of scenario-building will inspire you into building your own. It is IMO a very interesting part of the Warhammer 40000 Hobby...

Before calling this post complete, I can't help but share a funny moment we had several times during the 4 games: Have you ever seen a Marine player crossing his fingers not to kill too many Orks? Well, you'll sure see that while playing this scenario because in the last turns you'll really wish to kill just enough to cause them to fall back but not enough for the Ork player to get reinforcements, believe me...

Monday, September 15, 2008

Coming up with a Black Reach introductory scenario...

As you all know by now, I've been quite disappointed not to find any scenario in the Assault on Black Reach box. I had ordered the novel of the same name (which made for a nice quick read even if it sometimes sounded too much like an advert for the new SM units that you can get in the spearhead box) , and now know enough about the events to try and come up with scenarii of my own which would use the contents of the box. (Why? Because I want to!)

The main difficulty comes from the difference in points of the 2 forces present in the box, which can make it hard to build balanced games. But by either using only part of the SM force, or giving the Orks a slight advantage, or placing the SM player in a challenging situation this problem can be solved.

I thought that it could be interesting to show the process by which I build a scenario, using the limits imposed by the fluff and the models available... I'm sure it may help those of you who never tried their hand at scenario building to see what needs to be considered.

Okay, now that the necessary introduction is made, let's get to work!

The first part of the novel describes how the Ultramarines drop-podded near Hive Ghospora with two missions. First, to keep the Orks from invading the Hive, which means that they had to cross the battlefield from their landing point to the breach in the hive-city wall. And, two, to try and kill Zanzag, to "cut the head" of the green-tide. That's what I'll use as the fluff basis of the scenario.

First, let's see the basic table layout. Since a breach in a hive wall isn't something even the heaviest terrain builders have in their collection, the breach will simply be represented by the central point of a table edge. To make reaching this objective in time to contest/control it challenging enough (and to force the SM player to Sprint instead of firing for at least one or two turns), it will have to be at least 36" away from the SM deployment zone. This means the table will have to be at least a 48" square to leave enough room for the SM to deploy. The Orks will simply deploy at least 18" from the Marines to represent the fact that the landing zone was cleared by the initial Orbital bombardment. I've made a quick sketch with MSPaint to make that easier to understand:

Since one of my goals was to use the whole contents of the box for both sides in the opening game of the "campaign", I have to give an advantage to the orks to make the game more balanced. I thus decided that, except for Zanzag himself and the Kopters, the Ork units would be recycled during the game. As soon as enough Orks will have been killed (i.e 10 Boyz or the 5 Nobz), they will come back as a new unit. This will represent Orks, spread by the initial orbital bombardment, coming back from other parts of the battlefield to deal with the "Marine-Boyz" threat.

However, simply making the Boyz and Nobz recyclable would give too much of an advantage to the Ork player if I allowed the Boyz to enter the table too close to the objective (even more so since the Nobz also count as Troops). It means I have to limit their entry points to either the Marines' own table border or from the two side-borders to make them enter at least 24" away from the objective. [I even think it'd be better to also forbid entry by a fraction of the sides closest to the border representing the objective, but this will have to wait a bit of playtest to decide.] To add a level of randomness to the Orks reinforcements arrival, the table border will be decided by a d6, on 1-2 they enter play from the Marines' border, on 3+ they arrive by the side-border of the Ork player's choice.

Now, I have to decide on a more detailled table setup. Since the box doesn't have any terrain, and since the newcomers to 40K won't have much in terms of terrain to align on the table, I came up with the conclusion that a table as barren as possible would be better. It fits well with a battlefield flattened by the orbital barrage that comes before a drop-pod landing anyway. Since they are easily scratch-built even by beginners (and are readily available from GW for those who have the money) the only terrain pieces allowed will be barricades on the Ork half of the table and craters on the Marines' half, in equal numbers. [A quick note for beginners who would read this: folded pieces of cardboard can make acceptable barricades, round-ish pieces of cardboard put flat on the table can easily simulate craters.]

So, we now have the limits to the forces in presence and a complete table set-up, all we need is the victory conditions. Since there is only one objective on the table, it is quite easy: the side which holds the breach at the end of the game wins 1 victory point, if it is contested no one scores.
But there is an additional objective for the Marines: killing Zanzag. If Zanzag is killed (well, badly hurt actually or there wouldn't be a campaign after that) the Marines win 1 victory point, if he's still alive, the Orks get 1 victory point.

So there, we've got the basis of a simple scenario which fits the box contents, fits a beginner's possibilities in terms of terrain and fits the known fluff about Black Reach... It wasn't even that hard to do! [Rant Mode On]Couldn't GW do it?[/Rant Mode Off]

I'll test it tonight and will keep you informed on how it went later this week... I'll wait till I've had playtested it to make a "mission sheet" but I'm pretty sure I've got all bases covered already.

Any questions, criticism, ideas... Fire at will! I'm eagerly waiting for your opinions.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Black Reach "Rant"

So, I got my hands on the "Assault on Black Reach" box first time this morning and as far as the "plastic" content is concerned, I'm fully satisfied...

However, I'm appaled by the "paper" content of the box. Not about the small rulebook, it'll be extremely useful. But the fact that the "other book" features nothing, in terms of fluff or scenarii, related to Black Reach really bothers me.

One of the thing I liked about the Battle for Macragge set was the small scenarii it contained (which gave me ideas for larger scale scenarii)... In fact, I bought it only for the terrain pieces and got a good surprise when I found more content than I expected.

Now, with the new box set, while I got what I expected in terms of physical content, I was disappointed by the complete absence of a real "setting". What's the point of naming a box "Assault on Black Reach", if you get nothing about Black Reach in it? Just call it the "Warhammer 40,000 starter set", then you won't lure anyone into expecting you'll actually be talking about Black Reach in the box!

Well, that'll be all for that "rant". However I wouldn't have bothered posting this if I didn't wonder:
Am I the only one disappointed by the lack of fluff and scenarii in that set?