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Author Topic: House Rules: What are yours?  (Read 4111 times)

PGaither84

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House Rules: What are yours?
« on: 29 July 2015, 19:22:38 »
I would like to ask if any of you ever came up with house rules for MWDA/AoD, why, and the results. I would also like feedback on my proposed house rules, which I will list below:

TLDR version:

*Adopt the Star Wars Miniatures "Round-Turn" sequence, explained below.
*You may move half your printed speed value and attack in one order, or vise versa.
*Mechs gain "Double attack," explained below.
*Remove "pushing."

This is really important to me, which is why I am taking the time to share it and ask for replies.

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PART I
Movement and Combat


PROBLEM: The game encourages a defensive strategy, which I have often heard called "turtling."

I have never played in tournaments, but when I played with my friends and random people at my LGS (Local Gaming Store), the rules encouraged players to take a defensive posture and wait for their opponent to come to them. Maybe at higher level play (ex. tournament winners) know how to play aggressively, but that was never my experience. I felt the root cause of this was the rules about orders.

In my life, I have played a little bit of Warhammer 40k (40K), a lot of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), a lot of Star Wars Miniatures (SWM), and have read about Classic Battletech (CBT), though I never had anyone to play with. I have read that in CBT, you have an "I move-You move- We shoot" combat system. In 40K, you have the move action, shooting phase and assault phase. In D&D and SWM, characters have the choice to move and then attack, attack and then move, or to move twice and forgo an attack. Some characters have special abilities such as double attack or triple attack, which replaces their movement. However, in MWDA you are forced to either move or shoot. In my experience, that led to the common interaction at the table:

I move into range, end my turn, we roll initiative, you go first and shoot my stuff. Sad Face.
or
I move into range, end my turn, we roll initiative, I go first and push my unit to shoot (taking a click of damage) you shoot back, next round I can't go and you can attack me again. Sad face.

This resulted in players choosing to play defensively and choosing to not being the one with a sad face. Artillery helped by dropping ballistics onto turtle shells and forcing them to move. That is a fine tactic, and what artillery is for. However, the rules shouldn't encourage that kind of play. It should just be a natural choice of the players, not something which feels the most strategic/beneficial.

SOLUTION: Adopt the rules from other games about turn and order sequence without breaking the game.

The expansion/relaunch Age of Destruction (AoD) came with rules updates and changes, including ASSAULT ORDERS. I think this is a good starting point ,and showed that it isn't game breaking to allow a unit to move and shoot in a single turn. I would like to expand on that idea.

As I said earlier, in D&D and SWM, you can move and attack, attack and move, or move twice. Allowing units to move twice in a single turn in MWDA/AoD seems too powerful, but the ASSAULT ORDER caused a light bulb to go off in my head and I figured that the printed speed value on the dial could represent the maximum speed value of a unit. That Any unit could chose to move up to half their speed value and attack (or vise versa), or move up to their full speed without attacking (just like it is now). I disagree with assigning a "pushing penalty" to such actions.


Potential problem: This rules change might just be a form of :moving the goal post." So, now instead of moving full speed and ending in range of an opponent, then getting shot first, you and your opponent instead get involved in a game of positioning where they stay just far back enough that your combined range and half speed leaves you outside of range to hit, but on their turn they can move forward at half speed and attack you first.

Is that a real problem? I don't think so. I think that creates more interesting interactions, including a more active game state where units battle for positioning, and defensive players are forced backwards if they want to maintain that advantage, and defensive unit hiding in hindering terrain are doubly punished. It has worked with my friends in making games more proactive. In the end, that is what this is all about. Crafting a game experience that everyone enjoys, and nobody seemed to enjoy the game states the default rules created.

Related Rules: Mechs need to feel special.

If every unit can carry out the equivalent of an ASSAULT ORDER, then how can mechs be made to feel special? Well, like with D&D and SWM, I feel that mechs should have the special "double attack" feature. Specifically, all mechs have two damage values (weapon systems), so like the "double attack" rules, they may forgo their move action in exchange for the ability to make a second attack using the other "weapon system" if such an attack is legal. You can't just shoot the same weapon twice. I was thinking about applying a +2 to hit penalty to this second attack roll if this is too powerful. This second attack would cause a click of heat in addition to any other heat this unit would incur.

Related Rules: Breaking away.

In D&D, there is the "5 foot step" rule which allows a character to use a movement order to break away from any enemy unit it is base contact with. For MWDA, I suggest that a unit may spend half their movement speed in exchange that they only fail a break away attempt on a roll 1. Special equipment, such as grapple overrides this rule. Units with jump jets obviously don't need to sacrifice their movement speed.


PART II
Pushing and Heat

PROBLEM: "Pushing" doesn't make any sense, at least in terms of flavor/fiction.

In D&D, each player character and group of monsters rolls for initiative at the start of combat and that order remains the same until the end of combat... with some exceptions I won't get into here. In SWM, the game is played with ROUNDS and TURNS. Players roll initiative at the start of each ROUND, then take turn giving up to two orders to their units and passing. They take TURNS until all units have been activated in this manner and that concludes the ROUND. That is their solution to staggered activations and fair play. I assume you already know the turn order of MWDA, so I won't waste your time explaining it. However, the Wizkids rules are their approach for staggered activations and game balance.

Pushing was designed as a "drawback" for activating the same unit on consecutive turns, however, their explanation: "the damage represents the fatigue caused by taking orders back to back" doesn't make any sense. Why would trained soldiers take fatigue damage from marching forward? That's what they do in training all the time. Why would a vehicle take damage from simply advancing? Never have we seen a mech accumulate heat from running around on a map.

There are lots of great articles and videos about game design, and one common topic that developers must be aware of is "first move advantage." I feel that pushing was one of two mechanics introduced to try and balance "first move advantage." The other rule is rolling for initiative at the start of each new turn instead of having a static turn order throughout the game.

First Move Advantage videos:
Extra Credits: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRHdIScOMWQ
Keith Williams: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jah9yFTC8dk

Kind Acts of Randomness, by Mark Rosewater - This is an article which talks about randomness, which is a great read and relates directly back to why we roll three dice in MWDA as opposed to a D20 like in WotC games, why we roll for initiative each turn and more. Also, as was discussed in the Extra Credits video, MWDA is a fixed resource game. I feel that the random chance at alternating who goes first is the best solution for rectifying "First Move Advantage," while "pushing damage" is unnecessary and actually slows the game down.

SOLUTION: Adopt the Classic Battletech "I move - You move - We shoot" system, or adopt the Star Wars Miniatures staggered activation rules. I choose the later.

I am more accustomed to the SWM system, so I am biased. however, it is a great system and similar to MWDA. It also allows Mobile Field bases and their "command" special equipment to still matter. As I said before, in SWM you activate up to two units in alternating turns until all units have been activated. If player 1 has only two units and player 2 have 5, then player 1 activates both, and then player 2 activates the rest of his or her army. In a high point value games with large quantities of units, the first 2 rounds of play take the longest as both players alternate moving units into position two at a time. "Command" special equipment would allow you to activate three units at a time for every two your opponent can activate, making it a useful piece in high point value games.

Related Rules: Mechs need to feel special.

So, if you fundamentally change the turn sequence and remove pushing from the game, then how does the heat dial come into play, and how can we make mechs feel special and also keep heat as an important part of the game? After all, in the core game rules, mechs don't take pushing damage, only heat, making them far more powerful on the battlefield. This had a direct impact on the calculation of their point values. This is my biggest problem in making house rules. Accumulating heat from walking/running around is silly. Punishing mechs for firing weapons in successive turns when you don't punish infantry or vehicles is also silly.

In the Battletech universe, ballistic weapons don't generate much heat, not even lots of LRMs. It is normally energy weapons, especially large lasers and PPCs. Otherwise heat wouldn't be much of an issue. So, I don't know exactly what to do, but I don't think reducing the sources of heat is a game problem either. You tell me.

===========================

Anyway, those are the big house rules I came up with and play with. that is what I do to try and speed up the pace of the game and encourage more active participation. What do you think? Thanks for reading.

PGaither84

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Re: House Rules: What are yours?
« Reply #1 on: 30 July 2015, 13:33:34 »
I was at lunch today thinking about the rules I have written and trying to solve the "heat problem" I hinted at. Here was the solution I came up with:

If a mech fires a weapon, it gains one click of heat. If it doesn't, it may remove one click of heat. This can obviously be adjusted based on planetary conditions.

I think that a vent order should replace a single attack, and like in the core rules, using vents means that your mech doesn't cool off as normal.

That gives you the choice of:

Move full speed (cool off one heat if not on green)
Move half speed - Attack (gain one heat)
Attack (gain one heat) - move half speed
Attack (gain one heat) - Attack again using the alternate damage value (gain another heat)
Move half speed and vent
Vent and move half speed
Attack (gain one heat) - Vent
Vent - Attack (gain one heat)

Am I missing anything?
« Last Edit: 31 July 2015, 13:06:28 by PGaither84 »

GhostCat

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Re: House Rules: What are yours?
« Reply #2 on: 31 July 2015, 09:55:42 »
Have you actually tried to play with the Rules as Written? 

There was an issue early on with "Turtles" as a defensive power, But there are ways of Winning without total destruction of your opponent's forces.  That's what VC3 was about.  Artillery was a fast and easy answer until an outcry of "Artillery is Over Powered" and it got nerfed into oblivion, and for a while even turtles used artillery to compensate for their lack of mobility.

But to "Run and Gun" in AoD is an acquired skill, and you still have to know what your units are capable of.  The Heat Dial is the mechs' Achilles Heel, and a good sense of timing is required.  I learned to deal with Heat the hard way in my first game, I ran a fast Legionaire "Jacalyn Tadaka" two turns in a row and watched it self destruct. 

So when it comes to House Rules, you still need to know the Standard Rules so you can still play with people that never heard of your House Rules.  It is still possible to discuss Strategy and Tactics as long as everyone is sharing the same Rule Set.  Can you imagine the chaos of playing Chess with a bunch of unfamiliar House Rules?  (It's good to be the King.)

GC
"Spirit Cats are just pirates basically." --- Quote from Herb


PGaither84

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Re: House Rules: What are yours?
« Reply #3 on: 31 July 2015, 11:27:46 »
Back in 2002 after the game came out, I played with the core rules.

On the official forums, I would work in a sub forum with other players on alternate house rules, and this is very close to the variation that I remember we came up with. It worked for my small group of friends and at our Local Game Store. This was all happening before Fire For Effect or Death From Above had even come out. There was zero tournament or scenario support in Northern California. The basic problem was the core rules led to stagnant games and no incentive to change tactics. Players just place hindering terrain near their deployment zone, and park near it for a defensive bonus while watching the DZ to stop anyone trying to score quick VC3 points.

That doesn't mean combat never happened, but it often came down to a player like me just being the aggressor despite the tactical disadvantage (and not being some pro player). I'd lose quite a few games, but at least something happened and I had fun rolling dice instead of sitting there turn after turn doing nothing.

That was years ago, and I don't recall every rule we had, so what I wrote is an adaptation based on memory and my extensive knowledge of Star Wars Miniatures, a game that the community in Northern California actually enjoyed, played, and supported. It doesn't matter if you are using a Storm Trooper, Jedi, Ultra Space Marine, Orks, or Battlemechs. The stats on the for the figure change, but the rules system works.

It feels a bit like a different game, but it doesn't have an adverse effect on point values, nor does it mess with the balance of unit design. Mechs still feel like the kings of the battlefield and are worth the extra points you are required to invest in versus vehicles, but that is all based on my local group of friends and people I played with... and those whom I used to post with on he old Wizkids site. I wish there were archives to look up.

We also had rules to make the MASH unit not worthless. I can't remember the details in the Battletech fiction, but there was an agreement to "rules of war" that the great houses abide by, such as no nukes, and not attacking medics. We had the rule that a MASH unit and an unit it was treating could not be targeted by any type of attack unless either of those units made an "aggressive" move, such as trying to score VC3 points by being in a deployment zone or attacking. It worked. The MASH truck was no longer a waste of plastic. I mean... it was still a waste of plastic becasue infantry have repair markers so the best you could do most of the time was repair one hit point (click) or two, but at least here were flavor rules that kept it from being a slow worthless point sink. you could retreat to it.


==================

Also, if anyone is interested, I vaguely remember our Galactic Conquest campaign rules as well.

We were heavily inspired by Mechwarrior 4: Mercenaries. You would earn C-Bills, there were cycle costs, repair costs, a free market, and recruit/training costs. Instead of your units just going back to full health after a battle, you could only restore them to the highest repair marker for one cycle. Each click of repair had a % cost associated with the point cost of the unit being repaired. Banson's Raiders could repair to full easier because they have very few repair markers, but that didn't mean they cost less to repair... just that they could repair and refit faster than anyone else. Capturing and salvaging equipment had meaning. Obviously you could keep your opponents figures, but if you didn't have an appropriate model to represent it for your army, you could "sell" the unit on the free market, depending on condition. I think it was worth it to repair the unit instead of trying to sell a slag heap to a scrap yard.

Players controlled three regiments (Green-Veteran-Elite). We weren't super strict on enforcing the rules of a player having to have only units from the same regiment because of player's budgetary limitations, but we tried our best to loan out models and be on the honor system. When mercenaries were added, they certainly were allowed no questions asked. It just made the games more flavorful and visually appealing. I played Swordsworn, so I had my Davion Guards, Ghost Legion, and Prince's Men regiments. Let me just say, it was fun for those who could do it, as games were less about winning and more about enjoying the game play, fiction and story telling.

PGaither84

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Re: House Rules: What are yours?
« Reply #4 on: 31 July 2015, 13:06:49 »
I edited and modified my second post.

Captain of C-21

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Re: House Rules: What are yours?
« Reply #5 on: 01 December 2015, 23:05:05 »
My buddy tried out some House rules before, basically we made it so damage/heat got calculated always at the end of the 2nd player's turn, and removed pushing penalties (damage) from infantry and vehicles.  I thought it made the game a little more fun and less risk-averse, removing the "whoever hits first wins" conundrum a lot of my friends ran into, but my buddy wasn't so sure.

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Face it - MW:DA had, for its run, massively greater commercial success than BattleTech's ever had. Over two million click-base minis - want to guess where the number of BT minis comes in? I'd guess on the order of a few percent of that. While BT has survived for 30 years, we've never had the same number of players at any point. The pity was that unlike BT, MW:DA ended up being run by businessmen, not game fanatics.