Friday 20 April 2012

A Reason to Fight II: Campaigns & Advancement (DVtG)

Competitive fight-to-the-death games satisfy a certain type of gamer, but such battles are unusual in reality.  One side will leave well before total destruction, having achieved or failed its mission or in response to strategic dictates.

A campaign system gives context to fights, and can generate interesting situations beyond simple "kill em all" battles.  Mining outposts can be defended, merchant convoys raided, shipyards blockaded. Surprise attacks can be launched on naval shipyards. Sometimes forces might only gather intel - other times they may lure enemies into a trap.  Battles need not always be perfectly balanced affairs and sometimes 'victory' might be simply extricating the force with minimal losses.

It's All About Combat
These sorts of games can devolve into economic and political sims with nary a shot fired. This defeats our purpose - we want to pew pew with our spaceships.  The campaign game mechanics must:
*abstract economics and politics
*encourage regular combat and discourage "turtling" - i.e. hiding behind powerful defences whilst building up an overwhelming force

Detailed simulations of trade, economics, politics and research are best left to video games. We just want to pew pew with metal spaceships!

Units that gain experience and skills are fun. They have character and flavor. Giving ships the ability to gain traits and advancements through combat will encourage players to engage in minor skirmishes to 'blood' their crews and gain experience levels. 

Campaigns are important to give context and variety to battles but should encourage (or indeed mandate) regular battles rather than players meta-gaming any economic or social aspects of the game. Campaign record keeping and paperwork should be minimized.


  1. Again, I couldn't agree more with you. Varying Victory conditions for differing forces give options and tactical variation needed as the "my 2,000pt fleet attacks your 2,000 pt fleet" get old very very quickly.

    Advancement gets you to start to care about your sips - players wont throw away escorts in useless attacks if that ship has some history and therefore is now more effective with its veteran crew.

    The problem of course is pacing it - a 'realistic' list of requirements to skill up isnt going to be much fun it it takes 6 games to go from Green to Average, 12 more from Average to Experienced etc.

    Similarly, a Fleet Commander or Captain's experience bay be different to the crew and affect the Fleet initiative and so on. Of course this can be adverse too, so having an influential but poor Admiral in Command might wont be what you want!

  2. These things are great for a campaign but you can run into the problem of one person viewing the game from, say a BSG view point and another wanting the feel of B5, while a third is happy with the Tuffly-verse. Of course, the guy running the campaign can probably pick the view point - LOL.

    Another way is for someone to be working on their own narrative campaign, and have the players get handed a "mission brief" for the game. The players can take turns at playing either side, if they wish, but they don't necessarily have the involvement in the campaign that the narrator does.

    For one-off games, a scenario or mission generator can be fun as it gives a reason for the battle. I've done this informerly (and our Napoleonic Naval group would do the same), it shouldn't be hard to run up a what, why, where, who chart to set the scene, possibly fiddle the points ratios (both players start with 2000pts and then roll to see if they are under or over strength and by how much) and even set victory conditions at variance to the scene set up. This could mean that both players win if their victory conditions are met.

    Have no idea if this would work, but it could be fun to try and work something up.

  3. Advancement: this need not be terribly involved, but simply be a low crew skill moving up to a higher crew skill. Generic skills like "weapons" "engineering" "navigation" might allow re-rolls in specific areas. I don't think it is terribly complex for what it adds to the game.

    In fact I'll do up a suggested advancement table today. Paul, I agree - you don't want a complex XP chart telling you when you can level up. Regular combat should skill up ships rapidly, but not turn them into uber-unstoppable-killing-machines-of-doom.

    I also agree a one-off mission generator would work and certainly adds a lot to the game for very little complexity. 3-4 linked games could be fun.

  4. I was just thinking that another approach could work well too, based on how players advance in the game Blood Bowl.

    Roll 1d6 after a battle, on a 6 the ship goes up a skill level.
    Have +1 modifiers for destruction of enemy ships can apply etc.

    Same thing for Commanders, except on a 1 they go backwards for combat fatigue etc

    Quick, easy and units do more in the battle have a higher chance to advancing.

  5. Lol Ninja'd. See my next post. I use the same concept only crew must FAIL their CQ roll to advance meaning green crew level up to normal faster than veterans become elite, for example.

    If they even get a roll depends on what they do in battle - I don't want ships jumping in, then instantly leaving so they can get a level up chance...