Friday, 20 January 2017

SF Rules: What I Want



The above is a crop of a picture I got from Catalyst games showing off their BattleTech rules.  I must admit my first reaction was this is not exactly selling BattleTech as a fun game to play.  What I want are a set of  rules that I can use while playing a game.  The above is pretty much my definition of a set of rules that would slow down the game every time one wanted to refer to them.

So I want rules that are really, really accessible.  A good example would be the rules booklet for Star Wars: X-Wing.


But what I want most of all are a set of rules that give me the feeling of playing in the future, which Star Wars: X-Wing fails to do, being WW2 combat in space!  Unsurprising given the source material, and don't get me wrong I love playing the game.

To put it plainly, a game must not only to have the tropes of SF (Robots, Rockets & Rayguns), but it has to feel science fictional, which is something that's very hard to pin down.

Partly I suspect what would make game feel like the future are things that traditional wargames have toiled against down the years: too much information from having the models on the tabletop and knowing the outcome of every move your opponent makes during the game.  So, it seems to me that what are seen as bugs in traditional historical wargames could be made to be seen as features in a science fictional setting.

Perhaps that's why SF wargames are so popular?  I jest slightly, as I don't imagine for one minute that this is a concern for the average punter who buys a game like Warhammer 40K.
   

14 comments:

  1. Battle has become to scifi ground combat games what star fleet battles is to star ship combat. Bloatware. That said, is it more about being a collector. Gotta catch em all.

    I think what I have always wanted is a game that scales up and down, Skirmish games move from squads and platoons but I would like something that does that but with minimal effort can be used to do battalions.

    I'd like to see something that embraces the changes that are to come. A battlefield for fifty years in the future which, I think judging by the changes I've seen in my lifetime, will have very high tech forces fighting lower tech ones.

    The best set of rules I have seen so far has been Tommorrow's War but even that is a bit abstract.

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    1. Scaleable rules: the Holy Grail of wargaming.

      I should perhaps get a copy of Tomorrow's War, but my head is with TFL Chain of Command series.

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    2. As far as "scalable" rules go, the Strike Legion rules (including Planetary Ops and Platoon Leader) are solid. They handle different technology levels and include very detailed (if a bit lengthy) build-your unit rules. Units can be converted to other SL systems easily enough.

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    3. Cheers, looks interesting so I'll check it out a bit more later.

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  2. I jumped in on the Polyversal kickstarter just for this reason. I love BTech, but always considered it a beer and pretzels set of rules. (More precisely: Two blindfolded robots fighting with shotguns) The basic rules are fun for 2-4 mechs, but larger games are unwieldy. I've tried Future War Commander, but it also lack the sci-fi feel I am looking for.

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    1. I saw Polyversal, but I'm old and set in my ways, and have an aversion to polyhedral dice outside of an RPG.

      I agree with you about BattleTech, though I've had some fun games using a TFL inspired card activation system to speed up play, and I also agree that a large part of the problem in SF rules is the lack of SF flavour, which in itself is difficult to define, but I know when I see it.

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  3. I keep losing my comments on this post when I click on the background to scroll up, and the thing interprets that as "wipe everything irretrievably and start a new reply".

    What feels SFnal will obviously vary with the fiction you're emulating, but also with the individual.

    For me the big thing is comms. I could believe in "no hidden units" as a default, but when ECM/ECCM moves to the squad level… does a squad get fallback orders for what to do if it's cut off? Or maybe it can keep acting but less effectively because of lost coordination.

    Being grudgingly fair to Battletech, that stack of rulebooks gives you multiple details levels from the ultra-high (Solaris-style) through Battletech itself, Battleforce/Quickstrike/Alpha Strike, the new "invade a solar system" rules, and last time I looked the Succession Wars-style boardgame.

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    1. (Oh, right, and the actual human-scale RPG as well.)

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    2. Too much vertical integration for my taste.

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    3. And not wishing to be too inflammatory, but here's a link to Dream Pod 9s scaleable rules for Heavy Gear.

      http://store.dp9.com/index.php?route=product/product&path=91_81&product_id=110

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  4. Tomorrow's War gets my vote for 15mm (or if you don't want to spend money get Stargrunt 2 from GZG). Have you tried TFL's Quadrant 13? I've been a bit leery of it and have looked at it multiple times but I haven't bitten. What I really want is Chain of Command Sci-Fi. I think when Fighting Season finally comes out that will give the basis for a great sci-fi set, but I don't know if TFL is really interested in exploring that avenue.

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    1. Me too for Chain of Command SF: and funnily enough that's the basic idea I'm running with for my Bad Dog rules, which are in developmental hell aka as too much to do with too little time to do it in.

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  5. Don't I know it! I have a baby and I'm moving to a new house this month. :-) What you need is proper incentive - ie, some other people stuck in developmental hell. Are you familiar with the Delta Vector blog? He has a number of articles about game design and has a google group for discussion -- my own X-com-like solo wargame has been given a number of beatings...er, I mean given constructive criticism there. If you're interested, join the group and post your rules as is -- it's been great for me to get some encouragement and a good kick every once in a while to keep working on it. It'd be great to have another TFL fan in the group. You can find it on http://deltavector.blogspot.com/ ---- on the page search for "Delta Vector Google Group" for the instructions to join. Feel free to email me if you want more details. It'd be fun to see your Bad Dog rules - it sounds like something I'd be interested in.

    In the meantime, I wonder if Rich could be convinced to follow on Fighting Season with an SF variant? (Given the year he's had, I don't think that's top on his agenda but maybe he could be convinced)

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    1. I am acquanted with Delta Vector: I have it in my RSS feed. It's a good site, but sometimes it overwhelms me with the discussion threads. There can be too much of a good thing! ;-)

      AS for Rich, SF is not his thing, but if I could get the Bad Dog rules going then it might fall under his, "this is interesting" category. Who knows, not I.

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