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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is a very sticky subject of discussion, and while I have a feeling it was brought up somewhere before, I haven't been here long enough to sift through a decade's worth of posts. It also doesn't require a poll because the responses I'm looking for are too specific, and I don't want to beg the question by forcing certain outcomes. Please bear with me.


The question is simple: What characteristics of tabletop wargames or wargames in general place them ahead of the pack?

The nuances are not: Wargames vary wildly in everything from mechanics to aesthetics, and about the only thing approaching a standard is the use of random chance somewhere along the line.

One way or the other there are "winners" and "losers" when it comes to the entire genre. If this can be chalked up to notoriety and positive press, then so be it. But if not, what do you guys think? I ask for opinions, any really, because of my current scratch-built project. (That it's digital is beside the point for right now; were I rolling in dough I'd have built a factory to produce playing pieces already.)

So take for example the roughest possible sketch of this idea:

- Air combat is the primary focus
- Operational/Theater level, meaning each playing piece is a squadron or platoon, not a single aircraft or tank
- Warhammer 40k is the setting
- It incorporates certain realistic/contemporary elements in order to fill in gaps/inconsistencies in lore and will be fairly technical in nature, whether or not that means intricate calculations during play

If this showed up in a hobby shop near you Today, what would make or break it for you? This is taking into consideration basically everything, from the box art to the manual, except for 'cost,' since I consider that a business-level issue rather than part of the overall design. At this point it's all about the game, not the money.
 

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That's a very subjective question. It all depends on the individual playing. I could want something completely different from a wargame than my mate.

For example, at the moment my group is playing a lot of WWII systems like Flames of War or Bolt Action. Someone suggested we try Battlegroup Kursk, which we were happy to do. It's one of those systems were you roll for fuel in every tank and every shot taken has two or three tables to consult. I hated it. It was really slow and you spent more time with your head in the rule book than looking at the table. My mate loved it. That level of detail really appealed to him.

For me a game needs to be easy to learn but difficult to master, fast flowing and have something unique, like Bolt Actions random unit activation or the Malifaux card mechanic.
 

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Khorne's fist has the right of it, a great game is very subjective, for me a game has to have pace and the ability to build tension and get you emotionally involved in a good way, personally I love the board game Risk, strategy, resource management, and tactics plus pot luck rolled into one but in an easy to manage package. As for what you have described, I could not comment until I gave it a go, there was is/was aeronautica imperialis, but I never played it
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
Fair points so far but there's already a 2 to 1 trend of a faster pace and smoother flowing being more important than intricate detail. I would concur with that, but then I have seen people claim that 40k is smooth flowing, and the rules strike me personally as massive and ungainly.

there was is/was aeronautica imperialis, but I never played it
Curiously enough this wouldn't be a good point of reference in the first place. Aeronautica Imperialis is centered on fighter-on-fighter maneuvering on a small scale, where movement is like a maze of invisible movement cards you have to link together to hit your targets. While non-fighter aircraft and even ground targets exist, they are dealt with in abstraction. To my knowledge, there aren't many, if any, additional rulesets that really flesh out what these other elements are capable of.

By comparison an operational level environment with whole squadrons and platoons would focus a lot more on broad tactics like fuel management, anti-aircraft defense systems in networks on the ground, and the application and destruction of multiple airbases with sub-systems that can be targeted. It's sort of like Epic to 40k, only the scale blows up proportionally, meaning the map is huge. Whereas Aeronautica Imperialis would be hard pressed to have two opposing airbases with all of the involved defense systems, all crunched together due to scale, this game sees all of that, including turnaround of aircraft from individual sorties with reloading and rearming, as bread and butter. The real nuances of it would arise from the judicious use of airpower, not wasting precious munitions on unimportant targets, not overextending your forces such that they run out of fuel and crash, using mobile SAMs as part of your overall plan rather than as a nuisance that can be bombed out in a single turn, and so on. (And since I'm making it myself that means I can pursue any fancy I please, such as stopping a squadron of Titans trudging across several thousand kilometers, or simulating orbital squadron drops and airfield conquest using Valkyries and Thunderhawks, but that's just wankery.)
 

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If you gonna make strategic level wargame there are many things to consider.

How long will be one game? Many older wargames in particular which are strategic level takes so many hours to finish game. Over 6+ hours is simply too much for many players. Some games have option for playing their game for Grand campaign mode or smaller scenarios to cut down playing time.

Victory conditions need to be clear. Many wargames have problem that when other player has clear upperhand, rest of game losing player just sits there waiting him to be totally destroyed. Also if game is only about destroying opposing forces there isnt much variety on strategy. Only tactics matter.

How clean and elegant are rules. Nothing worse than having 30+ pages manual with so many tiny little rules that you have to check and argue with opponent everytime. Better games come with easier to learn rules that every gets after 1-2 games that takes time to master. Also rulesbooks on many companies are not very clearly written.

Strategic level games. These normally cover map of hundreds of kilometres which in turn bring needs for logistics system in games. Manevering on grand scale is also another needed component. You said air combat is one focus of game. Will there be like in other wargames, strategic bombing instead of just bombing his military units.


Wargame as whole is rather a big term. To some its light wargame like Memoir 44 and their type. Another might think wargame is miniatures tabletop wargame like warhammers are. Some like strategic wargames like Europe engulfed or Eastfront. And some still like old Squad leader system with squad level gameplay. Some wargames are just dice fests while others clearly cut random factor by making lots of meaningfull decisions. Ive played maybe about a hundred different systems past 20+ years and there is so many times during these days for different games to choose from. Just go and check bgg 77 pages ranking list on wargames:

http://boardgamegeek.com/wargames/b...bjecttype=family&rankobjectid=4664&rank=29#29


You might wanna check airwar over hanoi or some other games simulating strategic level air combat.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
How long will be one game? Many older wargames in particular which are strategic level takes so many hours to finish game. Over 6+ hours is simply too much for many players. Some games have option for playing their game for Grand campaign mode or smaller scenarios to cut down playing time.
I'd need play testers to figure that out, but so far the system is rather rapid-fire when it comes to each squadron or platoon's activities. There's a bit of bookkeeping with squadron strength, fuel, and weapons but you don't have to roll dice every 5 seconds. I can't imagine it lasting longer than a game of 40k.

Victory conditions need to be clear. Many wargames have problem that when other player has clear upperhand, rest of game losing player just sits there waiting him to be totally destroyed. Also if game is only about destroying opposing forces there isnt much variety on strategy. Only tactics matter.
Again, play testers, but thus far I'm rolling with a point value system that can account for every single unit, structure, attachment and payload. There are a million different ways to break this, of course, but that's where objectives will come in later. Since this is on such a large scale, anything is possible: You could start with "total battlefield dominance" and work your way down to individual missions or even skirmishes, such as destruction of enemy air defenses, blunting an armored assault, hitting a critical command center, strategic bombing of hive cities (or Tyranid hives for that matter!), and so on. And even though most combat is based on skillful application, there are dice rolls and the element of chance involved. It's entirely possible for a squadron of rookies in outdated equipment to butcher a squad of aces who aren't paying attention.

How clean and elegant are rules. Nothing worse than having 30+ pages manual with so many tiny little rules that you have to check and argue with opponent everytime. Better games come with easier to learn rules that every gets after 1-2 games that takes time to master. Also rulesbooks on many companies are not very clearly written.
I would say that the rules have been streamlined to the point of being too basic in some areas. The catch will involve races other than the Imperial Navy which is my starting point: While the vast majority of mechanics carry over, some simply must be changed otherwise things don't make sense. Tyranids flyers are mostly winged beasts, for example, that should be able to land and rest anywhere, making fuel consumption a moot point.

Strategic level games. These normally cover map of hundreds of kilometres which in turn bring needs for logistics system in games. Manevering on grand scale is also another needed component. You said air combat is one focus of game. Will there be like in other wargames, strategic bombing instead of just bombing his military units.
Yes, there are provisions for targets of every conceivable stripe, soft and hard, military and civilian. Ground units are even permitted (really slow) movement in some cases. If you ever wanted to bomb an approaching Titan to death, now's your chance. As for logistics, that's all coming from fuel and munitions consumption which must be replenished at friendly airbases. And maneuvering is a piece of cake: In my experience people 'dramatically' underestimate the actual range and speed of combat aviation, even without 41st millennium shenanigans. It will be a matter of course to divert squadrons half way across the map, and get there in short order using afterburners and gravity assist through a shallow dive.

Wargame as whole is rather a big term. To some its light wargame like Memoir 44 and their type. Another might think wargame is miniatures tabletop wargame like warhammers are. Some like strategic wargames like Europe engulfed or Eastfront. And some still like old Squad leader system with squad level gameplay. Some wargames are just dice fests while others clearly cut random factor by making lots of meaningfull decisions. Ive played maybe about a hundred different systems past 20+ years and there is so many times during these days for different games to choose from. Just go and check bgg 77 pages ranking list on wargames
I understand. There's just this nagging feeling that there are a constant set of "things" that 'must' be there to make it likeable, regardless of the genre or the scale. Thanks for the link and the suggestions. I'll be looking into those.
 

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if your wanting us to provide feedback for a ruleset YOU have created, I would suggest to present us the actual rules in a PDF format.

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Otherwise I think a "wargame" that is designed as a pickup game / lazy afternoon should last 2-3 hours from start to finish (including cleanup)

Rules and keeping informed of info must be at a minimal or with clear to understand markers (provided for me, either as a download or as a cut/punch out - for example X-Wing) for the actual game play.

HAVE AN INDEX!

Keep like items with like items; for example at the 40k night a small group of us were playing the alpha/beta/play test version of Bolt Actions 28mm game that they are preparing to release in Q1 of 2015 - the "rule book" is a cluster f*ck trying to find where X is the rules for weapons of Y type are on page 30, Z are on 35 with pages about something not about shooting the weapons in between.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
HAVE AN INDEX!
Excellent advice. Looking back on the rules I've already written up, I try to explain it in chronological order of events, but it still becomes a bit disjointed due to "technicalities" unique to different factions. An index would do a lot to alleviate that.

Rules and keeping informed of info must be at a minimal or with clear to understand markers (provided for me, either as a download or as a cut/punch out - for example X-Wing) for the actual game play.
I'm not quite following with this one... but would an index of point values, "data cards" detailing each unit sorted by faction and role count? Or is there something else you were referring to?
 

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Theres's a lot of things that make a game good. A good theme/background; game mechanics that fit the theme; tight, well written, clear, concise rules; and simple gameplay that is still very tactical. Also, luck should be incorporated very carefully, often it becomes a crutch to support poor game design *cough 40k*.

Essentially everything that X-wing does.

PS: These are just my opinions.

EDIT: Also the game should be pretty quick to play and designed for competitive tournament play. It's easy to take X-wing's 100pt tournament rules and turn them into a fun, casual, bear and pretzels mass 500pt trench run/battle for Endor/escape from Hoth; it's much harder to do the opposite. Hedge your bets.
 

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Excellent advice. Looking back on the rules I've already written up, I try to explain it in chronological order of events, but it still becomes a bit disjointed due to "technicalities" unique to different factions. An index would do a lot to alleviate that.

I'm not quite following with this one... but would an index of point values, "data cards" detailing each unit sorted by faction and role count? Or is there something else you were referring to?
Edit: Not quite that route, although having an "army list" at the back for each faction for stat lines would be nice to have - look in the back of the book to find stuff easily, instead of in the random parts of the book.

Also the game should be pretty quick to play and designed for competitive tournament play. It's easy to take X-wing's 100pt tournament rules and turn them into a fun, casual, bear and pretzels mass 500pt trench run/battle for Endor/escape from Hoth; it's much harder to do the opposite. Hedge your bets.
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Following up ChaosRedCorsairLord, if you have ever played a game that requires a lot of tokens, or situational happenstance (if you have ever played Dystopian Wars or Firestorm Armada by Spartan Games then you know what I am referring to), say a "out of ammo" situation happens in your game, I would expect as a gamer that you have some piece of artwork, that looks more legit than "no ammo" written in crayon, or token or symbol readily available for me to make use of.

Think of all the situations that happens in 40k that are not of the norm, fleeing, pinned, running - these are rather simple and can potentially be rather easy to keep a mental check on.

but if you make that chart of "extra" things exponentially bigger where one has to keep track of EVERYTHING, of which everything all started out easy (say a fighter plane), 1 is on fire, and at half speed, 2 is "in the clouds", with no ammo, along with the "ace" upgrade and 3 is being "harassed", on low ammo, and low fuel.

I just went from a game where I needed to know only one thing really (my planes stat line), to my planes + 7 rules that effect each plane differently -

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Edit #2: On a side note provide examples of how things work (pictures tend to work REAL well with this) in a clear ABC format.

Also if needed put in a brief sample battle report that teaches how the game worked - a la White Dwarf write up that is very simple.

I remember reading that you had mentioned tyranids are flying creatures not vehicles so "fuel" is irrelevant; simply write the rules with the mention that tyranids do not use "fuel" but it is instead their energy meter, they simply need to land in a "safe" zone (see pg x for rules on safe zone) and that it works the exact same otherwise. TA-DAH!!!!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 · (Edited)
Currently the primary bookkeeping method is a master list that each player uses I'm (cheekily) dubbing an ATO, or Air Tasking Order. The only tokens I had planned for the board itself were whenever countermeasures were dispensed (to keep track of whether or not missile launches from different angles could still hit as well that turn) and the occasional special ability (like Chaos aircraft being daemon-possessed, which is treated like "additional equipment" which is few and far between). The name label also incorporates altitude, and speed is irrelevant since the scale doesn't require concepts like acceleration. With this in mind, would it be worth it to have tokens indicating out-of-ammo and low fuel? Technically those should already be seen on the ATO sheet, and too many tokens attached to playing pieces might clutter things.

Furthermore, I currently have no indicator of morale. Since each piece is a squadron made up of at least a dozen aircraft, and since it's mostly impossible for slower aircraft to disengage without the enemy's consent, is a morale system even worth using? It's already such that a highly skilled squadron can "bounce" an enemy from behind and above and roll an experience check, doing an absurd amount of damage and virtually eliminating an entire squadron in one hit. At this rate, would pilots even have time to consider "fleeing to cover" that isn't there? In my own studies and discussions about fighter aviation, such a thing doesn't really occur; everything is really cold and calculated, because if you die, chances are you died without knowing it, in an instant.
 

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What is scale of map? Dont think fuel should be something that is needed, its just another record keeping stat.

Phantom and Hornet leader used counters for payload which you choose for mission. Like bombs, for example. You ditch counter from your plane card after it is used and there is multiple selection of armaments to choose from.

Also morale is made easier since planes/squadrons are predetermined by planes you choose for mission. Those games are campaign based so morale gets affected between missions mostly on what happened on earlier game. Things like friendly casualties and getting fired upon alot makes people go stressed and will affect their future mission unless they have been put to rest.

If this is squadron based game, dont put too many tiny little recordkeeping details into it. Less rules are usually better than bog game down on small details.

You might wanna check out following titles for some reference:
http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/65564/hornet-leader-carrier-air-operations
http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/123955/thunderbolt-apache-leader
http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/41490/phantom-leader
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 · (Edited)
What is scale of map? Dont think fuel should be something that is needed, its just another record keeping stat.​

The smallest possible map that is worth playing with fighters is 2,300km across, or 30". Lightning fighters are currently the shortest-ranged fighter I have written up, which can travel 35" before returning to base (minus 2 turns for take off and landing included). Some aircraft have shorter legs, namely Valkyrie gunships, but bombers and transports just get longer and longer. This is a game that will make full use of forward airbases and mobile mass carriers, making fuel a very relevant issue, especially between races. As it stands, fuel consumption is simply a running tally: For every turn you just add a tally slash for a squadron in the air. The one current exception is if you use afterburners, in which case you add two slashes. It takes all of 2 seconds, and since it's based on a tally you can readily see what you've used in blocks of 5, without having to re-write a number like "13", "14", "15" etc.

Phantom and Hornet leader used counters for payload which you choose for mission. Like bombs, for example. You ditch counter from your plane card after it is used and there is multiple selection of armaments to choose from.
So far the weapons work on a similar principle, but using the tally on the player's organization sheet. Primary weapons like forward-firing guns have ammo, but all secondaries come in "slots" which average around 2. A Lightning, for example, will have Lascannons with 2 shots, autocannons with 3 shots, and 2 secondary slots which can be mixed and matched with missiles and bombs. On using the latter, you just strike the name of the weapon off on your sheet. All secondary payloads are determined before the game starts as they use up points, but you can change payloads mid-game after landing so long as you have excess points left over (exchanging numbers for utility).

Also morale is made easier since planes/squadrons are predetermined by planes you choose for mission. Those games are campaign based so morale gets affected between missions mostly on what happened on earlier game. Things like friendly casualties and getting fired upon alot makes people go stressed and will affect their future mission unless they have been put to rest.
Currently the only crew-related stat is a very basic experience level ranging from 1 to 5. I suppose it could be dropped from one game to the next as part of a campaign, but there's something to be said for how air warfare works: It's not that cut and dried when it comes to the psychology of it.

For starters, pilots of single-seat fighters rarely "break and flee" simply because they hardly see any carnage with their own eyes. If the rest of their squadron bites it, they can simply turn tail and burn away at high speed, leaving most threats behind. Most of their in-battle stress comes from the notion that sometimes (like during escort missions) you MUST go head first into the enemy to protect others, where your speed cannot necessarily save you. As for panicking over damage and death, even in today's world most munitions can wipe out a fighter in a single hit. If you're lucky enough not to die in the blast, your training/guts immediately have you punch out from the burning wreckage. There's no time to grouse over wounds and the like; it's not that dramatic in the air itself.

That changes on the ground, when you get to see with your own eyes just how many didn't come back, and after sharing stories, how some people could have done better and saved teammates/escorted friendlies, but didn't. That said, it's only in the most melodramatic fiction that squadrons are made up of 12 people, 24/7. In reality, the only reason any airforce had 1 pilot for 1 aircraft was when they were absolutely desperate, like Soviet Union 1942 kind of desperate. Otherwise, multiple aircrews for the same airframe spreads the fatigue and morale "damage" around much better than a squad of boots on the ground. Requiring squadrons to land due to fuel explains this away in an instant: That's when they swap out crews.

As for aircraft with larger crews, I would say that 'this' is where it becomes tedious, since there are slightly different rules at work. Even then, the crew swap on the ground would still happen.

If this is squadron based game, dont put too many tiny little recordkeeping details into it. Less rules are usually better than bog game down on small details.
Aside from knowing values such as speed and damage dealt, and since payloads are established before the game begins and merely counted from then on out, these are the only pieces of record-keeping required so far:

- Base (where the squadron is landed and how long it has been, when 2 turns rearms and 5 turns rearms and refuels; acts as a tally, is erased when airborne)
- Strength (with an emphasis on the half-way mark since hitting it halves the damage dealt)
- Endurance (again, just a simple tally)
- Countermeasures (for aircraft with limited amounts, usually a tally of 1 slash only)
- Primary weapons (a tally for each, usually no more than 8 max)
- Secondary weapons (you cross it out)
- Land unit/building hitpoints (also a simple tally, and mission specific)

There are a myriad of details I could have included. Strength could have been actual number of aircraft matched to armor/durability values and adjusted for damage accordingly, but instead it's just simple HP, bloated for numbers and durability. Damage dealt could have been scaled with every loss of HP, but instead it only halves at the half-way mark. Endurance could have been an ungodly fuel calculation based on chosen speed and altitude, but instead it's just turn by turn. This means that actual endurance is a function of both speed and endurance points, but it allows aircraft with little range to still stay in the game for meaningful periods. Likewise, secondary weapons were abbreviated into roughly "pairs" and "bomb loads," so instead of tracking every single missile on all 4 pylons of every Lightning, you simply have 2 slots, or 2 wing pairs for missiles, which act like barrages.

I've been looking at games like these as much as possible without seeking out and buying expensive out of print sets, but the common theme is that many of them are nowhere near the scale I'm gunning for. What I'm doing is something like Epic 40k for Aeronautica Imperialis, and since it's 'aircraft' that balloons the scale to continent-wide proportions. I've been trying to streamline the gameplay such that having 20 squadrons in the air at one time is no big deal, but your management of their skill, fuel and mission capabilities 'is'. And since every faction plays its own way, no one strategy will work all the time.
 
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