Saturday, January 14, 2012

Designing a Mission for Flames of War, SinSynn style

Hello folks, SinSynn here.

Okey dokie...serious post time....disregard the fact that I began this very serious post with 'okie dokie.'

Here's the (very, extremely serious) deal:
I've decided to try my hand at mission design for Flames of War.
I'd like to apologize in advance- reading this will require some knowledge about the game.
With that being said, I'm gonna dive right in.

Simply put, there is only a single mission in the entire game- and this includes the new/updated missions in the upcoming 3rd Edition rulebook, that allows both players to deploy their entire army.
I find this...odd.
Seriously (okay I'll stop that now).

*Damn...there's a kitteh pic for everything!*

While admittedly I come from a 40k background (forced reserves as a game mechanic is an anathema to me), I have this feeling that a lotta gamers just wanna put their all of their lil' troopies and tankie tanks down on the table and go at it.
I'll say it straight out (cuz I'm all serious and whatnot), Free For All is the most popular mission in the game. It shows up at the majority of Tournaments large and small, and it's the easiest mission for 'one off' games at the FLGS, and hence the one a lot of players will become intimately familiar with.
Kinda begs the question- why is it the only one?

At first glance, designing a mission for any game system probably seems an easy affair.

My first thoughts were, 'Pfft! Just throw some objectives in the middle of the table (Free-For-All places two in each army's deployment area), and have a meeting engagement! How simple is that?'

Well, as a guy that runs an infantry force, I'm a lil' suspicious...

*From the look on this guy's face...I'm guessing 'no.' He plays German Infantry, clearly*

All manner of horrible things are gonna happen to infantry advancing on those objectives.
My poor lil' grenadiers would be shot up by Stewarts or pounded by artillery batteries on the way in. They'd never be able to 'get there' and dig in (which is what infantry forces need to do) before a mech or tank list absolutely demolishes them with machine gun fire, or arty reduces them to uselessness, moral checks are forced, etc.

Obviously, the 'defensive battle' special rule won't help here- they gotta get outta those foxholes and march.
As for using a balancing factor like, say, giving the defensive player an 'ambuscade' outside the defined area for placing objectives, or an 'easy out' like 'night fighting'....I don't think so.

Part of Free-For-All's charm is it's simplicity- it uses just two of the Mission Special Rules: Fair Fight (to determine a victor, duh), and Mobile Battle (to prevent alpha strikes, basically).

That means I won't be 'inventing' any rules here.
Not due to any unwillingness to do so. Quite the contrary, in fact- inventing a rule like this would make my job easier:

'Be on the lookout!'
-For the first two turns of the game, infantry platoons are considered concealed during the opponent's turn, even if they moved, as they put their heads down and carefully approach possible enemy-held positions.
-If shot at, they gain gone to ground status as well, as the alert soldiers immediately dive for any cover available!
-An infantry platoon that gains GtG status loses it if they fire during their subsequent turn, naturally, but retains concealment until turn 3 arrives, then 'Be on the lookout' is no longer in effect.

Granted, it's a quick and dirty rule of sorts, but whatevs.
It doesn't have the wacky table of night fight, nor is it a 'pre-game platoon tradeoff' like ambuscade is.
It would allow infantry platoons to deploy forward and race towards the 'middle of the board objective area' in relative safety, I guess.
Unless of course someone brings recce stuffs, and takes that GtG away.
That's the balancing factor (bring a balanced list, buddeh!), in a sense, but I don't like when mission rules 'force' list design, and consider that more of a 'scenrio' thing than a 'core mission' thing.

My goal this time (I'm sure Battlefront will immediately hire me to redesign their entire system, so fear not- SinSynn special rules are coming! Heh) is to employ an old military-born acronym as my FIRST RULE:

*My salary is negotiable, Battlefront!*

So with that one rule to guide me, and Free-For-All as my example, my GOAL is pretty simple:
Create a balanced mission with no more than two special rules that allows both players to deploy their entire forces prior to beginning the game.

Flames of War, with it's baseline method of parity (aka defensive battle in most cases, forcing reserves in others) for balancing Tank, Mech and Infantry forces, makes designing a mission with the parameters I've set an interesting challenge.

So, I'm off!
I'll be posting stuffs here as I 'think out loud,' and once I've got it play-tested and fine-tuned I'll post it up in the FoW forums.
That's the plan.

It goes without saying that anybody wishing to offer help, suggestions or criticisms...or simply wanting to call me an idiot, during this process is welcome to.

Until next time- Exit with catchphrase!

- SinSynn

Because it's relevant

Many of you may know that I'm writing a series on Intelligent Design over at HOP.  
I'm interviewing various folks, talking about the various aspects of design and their takes on them. In doing so, I've checked out a lot of awesome work that I want to share. 

Before I quoted a single person, shared a single image, or used a single comment, I asked permission. Mostly because I am nice; but because I don't want to infringe on anyone's copyrights. Why? Well, because it's the *^%$ law. Wanna see more about this?  Check out the utterly awesome article written by Lauby here

I hope you enjoy this article- it's well written and well researched. Plus, it's by Lauby; so it's double awesome.