Author Topic: Simple, easy & complex single-board double blind rules-set  (Read 10220 times)

iamfanboy

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For a while now, I've been bothered about the mind-boggling complication (NOT complexity) of the double-blind rules. It's simply impossible to use, unless you're an insanely anal-retentive madman who enjoys inflicting his madness on others. Multiple mapsheets? Paper records? Eighteen referees making sure that one player doesn't so much as glimpse the other player's board, punishing any who do so with repeated taser blasts? (Ok, I made that last part up.)

But the problem is that it seems to have been made by someone who equates complication with complexity, and that just ain't so. You don't need a ton of rules for complexity; you just need to have elegance and flexibility. Chess is complex yet simple (only 6 types of piece on each side and a handful of rules yet the game is incredibly in-depth); Final Fantasy 1 is complex yet simple (6 character classes yet an infinite combination of parties; 4 Red Mages away!)

So, I've had it as my goal the last couple of months (in between getting fired, making sure I still have a place to live, not succumbing to soul-crushing depression) to create a set of double-blind rules that are:

1) Easy to use (requires as little additional rules and resources as possible)

2) Tactically complex (allows for as much variety of play and tactical gambits as possible)

3) Cheating-resistant (nothing is completely cheat-proof, but ideally, if you're afraid your opponent will cheat, keeping an eye on them will prevent cheating)


The first step? Go to the Downloads page (or right here) and grab the Battleforce Tokens: Mercenaries. In case you don't know, one of them looks like this:
.

You're probably seeing where I'm going with this, but if not, let me spell it out:

Each token represents one Battlemech, vehicle, or infantry unit of the appropriate weight class, with the model represented by the token written on the bottom of the token.

[Dev Note: This is to reduce cheating; while someone could conceivably switch two tokens of the same weight class around, though hopefully you'd notice them trying, it would be nigh-impossible to replace a Light 'Mech token with an Assault 'Mech without being called out for it.]

For simplification's sake, each side's sensors are assumed to be strong enough to tell where an enemy's unit is on the battlefield, as well as its general type (Battlemech, tracked/wheeled, hover, VTOL, infantry) and weight (A, H, M, L), but direct LOS is necessary for specific identification.

At all times the token moves as though it were the model, with the front orientation represented by the 'up' direction of the letter or image, but any piloting rolls that might have been required by dangerous behavior are ignored (without the immediate threat of being under fire, a pilot can take more time to keep control of the unit in question).

The Spotting Phase comes right after the Movement Phase, and is devilishly simple: Any tokens that can draw LOS to each other are flipped over, identified, and replaced by their appropriate model.

The LOS rules work exactly as described on pages 99-103 of Total Warfare, but with the following exceptions:

An Active Probe can achieve LOS for purposes of identifying units regardless of intervening terrain within 18(24?) hexes. Note this does not mean they can fire or act as spotters, but that the tokens will be turned face-up and replaced by the models they represent.

A Light Probe can do the same, but with a limitation of 12(18?) hexes.

Any unit within 6 hexes of an ECM-carrying unit (including the ECM unit itself!), instead of using specific weight tokens, will be replaced by a generic 'blip' token. Probes within range of an ECM bubble, instead of achieving LOS on models and identifying them, will be able to identify the type and weight class of the units inside said ECM bubble. Blip tokens that end their movement outside the ECM bubble, but that are still not within LOS of an opposing unit, will be replaced by a token of the appropriate weight and unit-type.

[Dev's Note: Rather than just having the Probe be able to "tell it's being jammed", I elected to have the Probe be useful for halfway defeating ECM and giving some information.]

A unit with both ECM and an Active Probe may only use one per turn, declared at the start of the Movement Phase before the unit moves. If had ECM active at the start of a turn, but turns it off to use its Probe, any 'blip' tokens not within LOS of an opposing unit will be replaced by a token of the appropriate weight and unit-type.

EW Equipment can either act as a Light Probe or an ECM with 3 hexes of range, declared before the unit with the EW Equipment moves.

During the Firing Phase, any units that have not been identified but are equipped with Indirect Fire weapons can fire them per the IF rules (via spotters/TAG).


Experimental stuff:

Any units that move out of LOS, then move into an ECM bubble, are replaced by a 'blip' token with their unit written on the underside. If they move out of the ECM bubble but are still not within LOS, they are replaced by a token of the appropriate weight and unit-type.

Units with Stealth Armor active may not be visually identified at all until they are within 15(20?) hexes of a spotting unit, along with the effects of being an ECM-carrying unit as explained above. They are still be able to fire if they have weapons in range.



It's still a work-in-progress, and needs to be playtested more thoroughly, but still... I like it. It doesn't require a whole bunch of extra gear, it maintains complexity while keeping it simple, and it makes certain pieces of gear (Active Probes, ECM, maybe Stealth Armor) have more of a presence on the battlefield. Any thoughts?

Dread Moores

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Re: Simple, easy & complex single-board double blind rules-set
« Reply #1 on: 26 April 2011, 02:31:29 »
It's a real interesting idea. On a first read through, it seems like a very workable system. I don't have a group to playtest it to offer up more detailed suggestions or tweaks. Nice work. :)

Frabby

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Re: Simple, easy & complex single-board double blind rules-set
« Reply #2 on: 26 April 2011, 02:49:05 »
We had one test session with double-blind rules back in, oh, 1997 or something like that. Although it was fun, we decided it was essentially unplayable as a boardgame. The rules/concept is good but requires computer support, imho.

Now if MM came with double-blind rules...  [drool]
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Dread Moores

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Re: Simple, easy & complex single-board double blind rules-set
« Reply #3 on: 26 April 2011, 03:12:30 »
Now if MM came with double-blind rules...  [drool]

It does. It has for quite some time. What it doesn't have is hidden unit rules and point blank shots.

iamfanboy

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Re: Simple, easy & complex single-board double blind rules-set
« Reply #4 on: 26 April 2011, 04:54:48 »
We had one test session with double-blind rules back in, oh, 1997 or something like that. Although it was fun, we decided it was essentially unplayable as a boardgame. The rules/concept is good but requires computer support, imho.

Now if MM came with double-blind rules...  [drool]
I don't... think you quite see what I mean. This is meant to be on one board, with both players standing there at the board, and not even a referee necessary (though in a tournament it'd probably be recommended...)

Here, let me put up some pictures to show you (though I will admit, they're a bit blurry, they still show the basic elements!)


Were we omniscient beings 150 times taller than the Battlemechs, this is what we would see of the entire battlefield.


This would be our view of one side...


And this a view of the other.


However, we aren't omniscient; all we see are tokens representing what each unit is, with only the weight identified! The real names are written on the bottom of the token, to help ensure we don't cheat by 'accidentally forgetting' what each one is.


Now, if that Raven represented by the Light chit were a regular Raven, it could walk forward and scan with its Beagle Active Probe to see what those 'Mechs are...


But it's a Raven captured during the 4th Succession War, so it lacks the Active Probe. Anyway, the Stinger on the green side has an ECM unit so all anyone sees from that group of units is a set of anonymous blips!


At the end of the first movement phase, the Javelin has leapt atop the building and can spot the Raven, Hunchback, Phoenix Hawk, and Catapult... and the other player has slid the Enforcer forward to help reinforce the poor Javelin while keeping the rest of his 'Mechs hidden.


Another view of the same turn.


Meantime, the Archer has moved atop the level 3 hill and can spot the Banshee in the distance, behind the Comstar building... but the last two tokens on the gray side remain hidden, one in the water and one behind the building.


Several turns later, the Javelin has taken an ammo crit and vanished (aside from a pair of leg stumps!) and the Enforcer and Phoenix Hawk duel at close range atop the hospital building. The Phoenix Hawk has direct LOS to the ECM-equipped Stinger in the background, but the one remaining token (which is a Crusader) is blocked from direct LOS by the intervening building.


The Vindicator and Banshee on one side duel at long range with the Awesome and Archer on the other side; perhaps a losing match, but the green side has ignored the light 'Mech token moving fast up the side...


And the equalizer is a Wolfhound in perfect backstab position on the Archer.


...I hope this little playlet has made my rules-set a bit clearer? The goal is to have an easy-to-use, one board double-blind rules set that helps simulate a fog-of-war scenario.

Not overcomplicated (that's why no friggin' sensor rolls; either you know in general what weight/type each unit is from the start, it starts within LOS so it's ID'ed right from the beginning, or it's under an ECM cloud and you won't know until you get closer), and also that's hard to cheat on. Not impossible (nothing's impossible to cheat!) but if you trust someone not to use loaded dice you can trust them to not cheat on this.

Darthvegeta800

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Re: Simple, easy & complex single-board double blind rules-set
« Reply #5 on: 26 April 2011, 07:28:14 »
A most interesting idea!


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Medron Pryde

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Re: Simple, easy & complex single-board double blind rules-set
« Reply #6 on: 26 April 2011, 10:57:02 »
Yes...very interesting...though I don't like the idea of stopping something like the Raven from using both ECM and Probe at the same time.  That rather badly nails its usefulness as a scout jammer...:(
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iamfanboy

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Re: Simple, easy & complex single-board double blind rules-set
« Reply #7 on: 26 April 2011, 11:22:45 »
Yes...very interesting...though I don't like the idea of stopping something like the Raven from using both ECM and Probe at the same time.  That rather badly nails its usefulness as a scout jammer...:(
I wasn't aware it could use both at the same time anyway... I assumed that the rules were...

Huh. If it can use both at the same time according to Total Warfare (and I will admit, I don't remember actually READING anything saying that it can't!) then there's no reason that it shouldn't be able to in my little kludged-together rules set. Doesn't seem too overpowered, and still adds to the usefulness of both ECM and Probes - which they sorely need.

doulos05

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Re: Simple, easy & complex single-board double blind rules-set
« Reply #8 on: 26 April 2011, 23:20:27 »
<snip target="awesome ruleset"/>
Totally using this.
I mean, it's not like once you having something in low Earth orbit you can stick a gassy astronaut on the outside after Chili Night and fart it anywhere in the solar system.

gooseman

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Re: Simple, easy & complex single-board double blind rules-set
« Reply #9 on: 27 April 2011, 10:10:31 »
Been doing something similar since I first saw it used in the early '90's. Thanks be to Darrel Castillo, you magnificent "person who's parent's marital status was in question when you were born"!  ;)
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Re: Simple, easy & complex single-board double blind rules-set
« Reply #10 on: 27 April 2011, 10:54:35 »
I have had this exact same idea for awhile now. Good to see that I was on the same track. I think this could be very playable and add another dimension to the game. Always struggled with not being able to have unidentified units on the table after playing double-blind in MM. The tactics of the game change by factors playing double-blind... Your scouts and lights are actually very useful.
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Morpheus1975

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Re: Simple, easy & complex single-board double blind rules-set
« Reply #11 on: 27 April 2011, 12:12:27 »
Does anybody have a set of dowloadable chits or counters that can be used for this.  We do something similar but having a chit with the names on the back means that you don't have to worry about cheating. 

What would be nice are plastic chits that just show in what weight class a unit is and where you can put the unit name underneath with something like masking tape so that you could reused the chits easily.

Dread Moores

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Re: Simple, easy & complex single-board double blind rules-set
« Reply #12 on: 27 April 2011, 13:34:51 »
The first step? Go to the Downloads page (or right here) and grab the Battleforce Tokens: Mercenaries. In case you don't know, one of them looks like this:
.

The link is in the first post.

Edit: Brilliant usage of those tokens, by the way.

iamfanboy

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Re: Simple, easy & complex single-board double blind rules-set
« Reply #13 on: 27 April 2011, 17:08:59 »
The link is in the first post.

Edit: Brilliant usage of those tokens, by the way.
Well, I had the idea of using those tokens for this purpose ever since I first saw them... and I've been hammering out a few rules for doing so ever since.

Though really, the initial impetus came from playing Advance Wars and wishing there were some way for the fog of war in that game to translate into Battletech terms...

Medron Pryde

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Re: Simple, easy & complex single-board double blind rules-set
« Reply #14 on: 28 April 2011, 00:57:49 »
The one issue I have with those hexes is that they are...well...HEXES.

Squares could be cut out on a paper cutter, entire slices at a time.  Hexes require six cuts with a scissors for EACH ONE.  *shudders*  I don't have the patience for that much time spent cutting paper...:(

Now using poker chips for something like this is something I have considered before and I do like the general idea.  I may just have to steal (ahem...borrow) these for a shot.  :)
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iamfanboy

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Re: Simple, easy & complex single-board double blind rules-set
« Reply #15 on: 28 April 2011, 01:06:41 »
I got into a pattern of cutting that reduced it to 5 cuts - once along the top of each row, once along the bottom of each row, once at an angle that took the blade across the bottom left corner of one hex and the top right of another, and then twice to trim off the excess of each hex. *shrug* Plus, I was re-watching the Dilbert cartoon so it wasn't as though I was bored doing it...

Dread Moores

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Re: Simple, easy & complex single-board double blind rules-set
« Reply #16 on: 28 April 2011, 02:15:39 »
The one issue I have with those hexes is that they are...well...HEXES.

So just cut them as squares, with some extra around the edge. Wouldn't that work? Especially if you just attached them to a poker chip (or a hexbase, or something like that).

gooseman

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Re: Simple, easy & complex single-board double blind rules-set
« Reply #17 on: 28 April 2011, 07:54:17 »
The one issue I have with those hexes is that they are...well...HEXES.

Squares could be cut out on a paper cutter, entire slices at a time.  Hexes require six cuts with a scissors for EACH ONE.  *shudders*  I don't have the patience for that much time spent cutting paper...:(

Now using poker chips for something like this is something I have considered before and I do like the general idea.  I may just have to steal (ahem...borrow) these for a shot.  :)

I can see you point regarding table top games, however on a map game, those hexes are going to serve a purpose.
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Re: Simple, easy & complex single-board double blind rules-set
« Reply #18 on: 30 April 2011, 11:52:58 »
Well, first off sorry to hear about your real life challenges, hope things work out better for you real soon!   [rockon]

And if it makes you feel better, I think this is a great compromise that adds a very reasonable house rule that doesn't conflict with the existing rules, and adds a lot of tactical depth without adding more complexity to an already complex game.  It should also work equally well in QuickStrike/Battleforce and Total Warfare. 

We will most definitely try this out during our next game, probably Sunday.  I will take pictures and post em here!

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Re: Simple, easy & complex single-board double blind rules-set
« Reply #19 on: 21 March 2012, 22:52:31 »
(Saw this link in your signature.)

This is pretty fantastic!

I came up with a similar idea independently that I wanted to use in a hybrid AToW/TW campaign I'd like to run this summer. I figured that as a GM, the players could trust me enough not to provide any information other than a blip. I was also going to make use of perception and sensor operation checks for identification, modified by range, probe equipment, enemy ECM, stealth equipment, and such.

This thread got me thinking about how I'd do it in a non-GMed game. I would probably make public the unit type (not weight class), MP, and the presence of BAP/ECM/anything that functions as such. I'd also probably use the standard BAP range as 18 hexes is quite large com[pared to the two-mapsheet games I usually play.
« Last Edit: 21 March 2012, 22:55:18 by theothersarah »

iamfanboy

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Re: Simple, easy & complex single-board double blind rules-set
« Reply #20 on: 22 March 2012, 01:39:27 »
Yep, that's why I have the link in my siggy - because it works!

*ahem* Well, if you're playing on two mapsheets, the range is short enough that you'll probably be making visual contact before the BAP even has a chance to activate with its normal short range - what is it, 4 hexes? Or 6? 6 would probably be OK, especially on terrain with heavy trees or buildings or whatnot blocking LOS.

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Re: Simple, easy & complex single-board double blind rules-set
« Reply #21 on: 22 March 2012, 07:59:32 »
That's true. The 4-hex range is reasonable for sweeping for hidden units, especially with the Tactical Operations rules for scanning while moving, but it's a little short for unit identification. So maybe a smaller increase is in order.

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Re: Simple, easy & complex single-board double blind rules-set
« Reply #22 on: 25 March 2012, 07:20:59 »
Nice little house rules, quite worth a try in my opinion  O0

2 things :
- your link in the 1st post is broken, the tokens are there :

http://bg.battletech.com/download/BattleForce_Tokens_Mercs.pdf

- BAP can detect hidden units in LOS and within 4 hexes, per TW rules, so are useless against blocking terrain. Giving them the capacity to do so is a house rule. This said, that is worth a try... I'll suggest that at 12 hexes, they turn your generic blip to a weight-class one, and that at 6 you replace it with the real unit. But that is just my suggestion...  ;)
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Re: Simple, easy & complex single-board double blind rules-set
« Reply #23 on: 26 March 2012, 03:48:25 »
The problem I see is that you want to extend the range of offensive electronic warefare equipment without extending the range of the defensive equipment. As per foxbat's suggestion, you are increasing the range of all probes (or EWS) by 50% for identification, and then doubling that range for contact. This gives you the following stats (It's actually worse if you use the stats from the OP):

ItemID rangeContact
Clan Light AP4.59
Elec. Warfare4.59
Beagle AP612
Watchdog CEWS612
Clan Active Probe   7.515
Bloodhound AP1224Ignores all ECM except Angel ECM

Compared to the ranges of the Defensive Equipment:

ItemRange
Elec. Warfare3
Watchdog CEWS   4
Guardian ECM6
Clan ECM6
Angel ECM6Blocks all enemy EW and targeting systems

This tells me that you need less probes than ECMs for the same coverage and that any commander trying to match ECMs to Probes will end up either grouping up or lugging deadweight around.

My suggestion is that the printed ranges of probes is their ID range (replace blip tokens with actual unit). Upto half again (or double) the range is the Contact range (replace generic blips with weight/class blips).

The counter to that is that the printed ranges of your ECMs reduces all Probe effects by 2 levels (Everything is still a generic blip) and upto half again (or double) the range reduces Probe effects by 1 level (Mini to weight/class blips to generic blips).

Extra range granted under these rules do not affect rules used to govern other Probe and ECM abilities.

Establishing LOS still IDs enemy units.

iamfanboy

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Re: Simple, easy & complex single-board double blind rules-set
« Reply #24 on: 27 March 2012, 05:36:26 »
Well, part of the problem with using that sort of contact/identification system is my goal of simplifying the rules to make them USABLE on the average tabletop.  I want all the counters to be on the table at the start of the game, so you don't need a referee monitoring movement; that's why it's assumed in my rules-set that mag/seismic sensors are sensitive enough to at least indicate unit type and weight without ECM.

The only way they'd be clouded at all is under a direct ECM effect - so no 'blip' tokens unless an ECM hides the unit. ECM is still useful for that ability to bluff, so there's no real reason to extend its ranges to match the probe's extended range.

The problem with shortening probe ranges to a mere 6 hexes is that they are STILL useless. By the time you're within 6 hexes, unless you're in a city you've made visual contact and ID'ed them; by giving them a useful (but not Long or Extreme) range, it makes 'Mechs with them worthwhile.

I'm sorry if you disagree, but my game-design credo is that EVERYTHING should have a purpose of some sort (that's why I have such an issue with the AC/5, but that's another thread!) As it stands in the basic rules (and in your suggested revision) active probes are dead weight in 90% of games. In this rules-set, it's worthwhile to have a few 'Mechs with probes simply BECAUSE they have probes. They don't completely overwhelm the field, as all they do is provide more information, but they do make ECM even more vital to have (for that continued ability to bluff out weights).

The first time you turn the corner on a heavy token, hoping it's their Archer, and find out that it's an Axman... gawd, these rules are so invigorating. Thanks for reminding me, I've been playing so much Super Dungeon Explore lately I'd forgotten why I created this rules-set in the first place!

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Re: Simple, easy & complex single-board double blind rules-set
« Reply #25 on: 27 March 2012, 10:32:30 »
Very interesting, and I like how simple it seems to be, rules-wise. O0

Have you considered using the sensor ranges from TacOps for active probes and other sensor suites?
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Re: Simple, easy & complex single-board double blind rules-set
« Reply #26 on: 27 March 2012, 14:09:17 »
Very interesting, and I like how simple it seems to be, rules-wise. O0

Have you considered using the sensor ranges from TacOps for active probes and other sensor suites?
It was something that I considered for a while (and allowed myself to be hung up on, to be honest!) but I decided against it because it added an element of bookkeeping without really adding anything to the gameplay. It made the game clunkier, not smoother, and that wasn't my goal. The only reason I wanted to measure range was if the 'Mech had something special on it (ECM, Active Probe) and if there was something special to discover. Measuring range for EVERY 'Mech EVERY spotting phase when using sensors was just... bad.

Plus, it meant not having the tokens on the table at the start (requiring a referee!), or at the least having a ton of blip tokens that would be replaced by weight tokens and then the 'Mechs themselves.


Oh, and about Stealth armor: having it so that they can't be visually ID'ed until within 15 hexes is actually pretty fair, considering the other penalties of Stealth armor (high heat, no extra armor points). Dude really bluffed me out with a Stealth Raven that I thought might be a gausszilla Pillager for a couple of rounds.

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Re: Simple, easy & complex single-board double blind rules-set
« Reply #27 on: 27 March 2012, 14:31:40 »
I was actually just talking about using the TacOps spotting ranges for your active probes. I like the idea of generalizing all the rest into the things that give you the tokens. O0

Also, it's only Void-Sig that's invisible outside 15 hexes. Stealth armor has no effect on visual spotting. :)

Perhaps as an added measure of their ECMitude beyond normal ECM, use the generic blip tokens for stealth-armored stuff? Say that they're confusing your onboard sensors, so they can't get a firm reading until you get a Probe in range, or get LOS.
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Re: Simple, easy & complex single-board double blind rules-set
« Reply #28 on: 12 April 2012, 10:58:52 »
My group in phx, az tried these a few times and so far we really like them.

thanks for posting them.
The only part that is becoming a little weird is no piloting skill rolls while hidden. I get the benefit of not having to do damage to a hidden unit for trust's sake though, but im wondering if anyone else is finding that part of the rules clunky.
Also, how are other groups dealing with masc roll's, shooting buildings, minefields, and arty?


thanks again for the nice rules for making db table friendly

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Re: Simple, easy & complex single-board double blind rules-set
« Reply #29 on: 14 April 2012, 23:33:32 »
Yeah, after reading more about Stealth armor, it should pretty much just apply its TH modifier rather than hiding the equipped unit any more than something with ECM would have. Void Sig, on the other hand...

Ok, Obe.

My rationale for not requiring piloting rolls is that without the pressure of coming under fire, the Mechwarrior can concentrate fully on the movement of the 'Mech, rather than splitting attention between targeting, heat displays, radar, etcetera. If the Mechwarrior was a bad enough pilot to trip over the 'Mech's feet under normal conditions, I don't think he'd be allowed out of the simulator yet! MASC... it's a rare enough thing that I'd simply allow it to be activated without requiring the roll until the 'Mech is revealed.

I'm not sure how I'd handle attacks from a hidden unit to a building (or from a minefield or artillery to a hidden unit).

From a hidden unit, it's not too hard; simply roll the weapon attack. It might reveal what the unit is (twin LRM-20s from a 3025 Heavy 'Mech? Hrm...) but shouldn't be such a big deal. Just apply movement modifiers as normal.

Tracking damage requires a bit more trust than I'd like in a tournament-level rules-set, but if you keep the sheets hidden until the 'Mech is revealed anyway (in a binder or folder), simply marking the damage on the hidden sheet should be OK.

I dunno for sure, though. If your group comes up with good workarounds, go ahead and mention them; one nice thing about this being a fan-made rulesset is that it's not set in stone.