Thursday 11 August 2016

Hard West (PC) - Weird West Strategy, and the "Luck" Mechanic

Weird West X-Com? Sounds like a winner.  This wasn't originally intended as a review of the game - although I perhaps should explain it is not a X-Com clone; whilst being squad-turn based strategy, it's different at the strategic level.

I bet I wasn't the only one to think "not-Deadlands on PC!"  As usual, stupid Blogger won't allow me to link to any decent Youtube trailers - bet it has something to do with ad revenue....

The gritty graphic novel style visuals of Hard West are superior and it has a  tighter story to it; whilst you can unlock weapons and cards to boost your characters stats and confer special abilities, and your characters can suffer injuries/gain buffs from battle scars, it has neither the depth of levelling, resource management nor randomness of X-Com - i.e. Hard West is prettier, more focussed and has better story at the price of being less customizable and replayable.  It's not about building bases and super soldiers but more about nursing your party through a series of linked scenarios, with text choose-your-own adventure random events to add flavour.   Despite surface similarities, it's not an X-Com clone; Hard West definitely feels like it own game.

Anyway, what interested me (besides the Wild West-with-demons-and-undead) and what prompted this post, was the luck mechanic. 

Basically, besides the normal health bar, you are protected by luck as well.  Luck is a resource which acts as your pool for evading attacks as well as triggering special abilities. Your luck usually starts at 100%, but is reduced each time you avoid a shot.

I'm not totally sure, but this is how I think it works....

1. If an attack misses you, it reduces your luck. (The amount lost depends on the initial hit chance - a shot with 60% chance to hit reduces your Luck 60%)

2. Luck is used to help evade. If your "Luck" is higher than their to-hit chance, you automatically evade (i.e. enemy shoots at you with 50% chance to hit, and you have 70% luck - the shot will miss and you only have 20% luck next turn)

3. Luck is also used to trigger special abilities.  Triggering a special ability or attack reduces it by a fixed amount (typically -50)

4. If you are hit and take damage, your Luck is replenished (not sure how much)

I.e. Cowboy Bob shoots at Frank the Ruster; with a 40% chance to hit.  Frank has 70% luck.  As the hit chance is lower than the luck,  Bob misses and Frank loses 40% of his luck score.  His Luck is -40% and is now 30%.   Another shot at 40% to hit would likely hit (as it exceeds the 30% luck score).  As he has taken damage, his luck will replenish (I'm not sure how much).  

I find this interesting from a wargame perspective; in-game after I dodge a few hits I tend to pull back to cover as I know my "luck" is running out.  It can also be used for special actions (like "fanning" a pistol to spray multiple shots) and abilities.  It adds a lot of decision points.  I feel a similar mechanic could almost be used to replace a health bar.  (In fact, I guess this is a little like a more sophisticated version of Fate in LOTR - in LOTR, heroes could spend Fate points to roll saves against damage, but each roll reduces  their Fate score... eventually the hero will run out of Fate aka saving throws..)

Anyway, it got me thinking about the use of "luck" as a resource, "pushing" your luck, and similar mechanics in wargames...

The second interesting thing in Hard West is the cards.  They are playing cards that confer passive stat boosts and/or special abilities.  A "10" might add +5 aim, and a Ace might add +10 luck.  If your character can arrange your cards in a poker hand, you can get additional boosts, say two pairs gives +10 defence.  Some give special abilities that trigger when you spend "Luck" - i.e. a 9 of diamonds allows you to exchange health with an ally at a cost of -50 luck to activate.

I think the key "take away" thought for this is the idea of a "hand" of special abilities or stats.  I think a limited "hand" makes sense for campaign games; you perhaps have a total of 5 special abilities or stat boosts which you can mix-and-match.  This cap on total power prevents mismatches between characters and wabands - an experienced character cannot be ridiculously more powerful than a mid-rank character in-game, (they both only get a combination of any 5 new skills or stat increases) but a more experienced does have access to a much wider range of abilities when assembling his "hand", and can create more powerful combinations of cards as well as being able to min-max more effectively and more easily get bonuses for specific combinations.

Anyway, I do recommend Hard West - both as a fun, turn based tactical game and as an interesting source of wargaming inspiration for both game design mechanics and as a reason to dig out those Malifaux and wild west minis....


  1. The hand of cards sounds really interesting for an RPG pen and paper game set in the wired, Wild West.

    Regarding luck, it essentially sounds like a form of combat pool dedicated to dodging. I agree as you use it it forces you to be judicious with the how going forward.

    1. " essentially sounds like a form of combat pool dedicated to dodging"

      If that was the case it wouldn't be that interesting.

      It also powers your special abilities - i.e. you might trade 50 luck for the ability to "fan" your gun and fire 3x instead of once.... or "richochett" a shot onto a target... ...or "panic" nearby enemies etc.

      So it's your "special abilities/traits/magic AND evade pool" at least.

      ...and each time you get a non-lethal hit, your luck replenishes - which is a mechanic I haven't come across before....

    2. Sure, but it is basically giving the player a chance to "burn" their dice pool on special abilities. Now that you point it out, I had never really thought of using a dice pool in that way.

      The way it replenishes is interesting. However, like you I try to avoid hit points.

    3. I think it could be done relatively simply (albeit not identical to the PC game) by varying how LOTR:SBG's Might/Will/Fate is implemented.

      For example, you don't need hitpoints - any non-lethal hit might restore 1 point of "Luck" from an initial pool of 2-3.

  2. Interesting. I might take over a few I ideas for my own card-based tabletop game (google group).

    @Eville Can you please use another method instead of the tiny font? Its sometimes strainous for the eyes. Thanks.

    1. Sorry - I'll try to think of something else.

      I tend to use the small font for random/unimportant thoughts and asides that interrupt the flow - the small font is meant to be ignored unless you are particularly interested in the point....

  3. Thats funny! I would say that the "random/unimportant thoughts" are the trademark of your blog. My suggestion is to put them in bold letters. Cheers!