Thursday 30 August 2018

2G2BT: Cracker Jack Run

I ran a playtest session of 2G2BT tonight, with a reduced group: two players, Tim playing the Rigger, and Stephen playing the Prodigy.

We continued with the Darnan Offensive campaign (the one in the PDF)—this time, they were given a "short notice" mission to go and hit an apparently stranded convoy of Fiedan tanks.

Playtesting a game that I've had on the back burner makes things feel a lot less emotionally charged for me, which is a welcome relief. I'm not delivering a newborn up for judgement, I'm showing my friends this thing I have in the garage so we can kick the tires together.

A number of things went well:

I really like the NPC group traits table, that was useful. The players' mercenary company has recently come into possession of a Troll dropship, which has four slots, and they immediately tried to press some Republic tanks into riding along with their mission.

Rolling on the table got me, 'Favored' and 'Green', which naturally translated into them having dragged long some Republic general's children on a show tour. Woops!

Later, after all the action, the players had some prisoners. The question came up as to whether the prisoners would try to escape, or what. Rolling on the NPC table got me: Locals, Vengeful. Obviously they will!

Also, the establishing roll, SNAFU, all felt very natural in play. Despite the adventure being literally a two-sentence description, it was enough to generate a nice setup. The Prodigy's weird plans move also worked out nicely.

Too Tough!

Less successful was incoming fire—the PC mechs are waaay too tough for the fire that was coming their way, and there was a lot of it. 2-armor means that the Prodigy in his Angel can basically shrug off 4d Direct fire, which isn't right.

All in all, I think this miscalibration comes from me treating mechs in the game like main battle tanks. In The Regiment, troops are mostly unarmored (they only get armor late in the game). They're going to die quickly if they take the full brunt of enemy weapons. They need to really make use of the battlefield cover, the squad's heavy weapons, and suppression fire to achieve their goals.

The way I've written up the mechs, they're like tanks, but better all around. I think they make more sense as a high-tech way to protect very highly trained elite infantry; tough, compact, responsive, and deadly. But still, they'd definitely avoid head-on shootouts with heavy tanks.

So, I think I need to reduce armor (tough mechs should have a few more damage boxes, with 1-armor being pretty rare).

Theatre of the—wait, where was group B?

The other thing is subtler, and may involve more extensive changes. Tim's fondness for the Firefight mechanic from Burning Empires is starting to rub off on me, and I think building out the moves so they are creating battlefield terrain would be sensible. Spotting useful positions (and naming them), sites of tactical advantages, that sort of thing gives a very concrete context for the ground-taking moves like assault. If I can do that without making the battlefield overly player-authored, I think it's worth exploring.

Similarly, doing damage to large number of NPC vehicles feels unsatisfying. They're anonymous, and individually not that fictionally interesting.. when they don't have a concrete position. I suppose a chess pawn is a useful analogy: all of its tactical significance comes from its exact placement.

This makes me think that the weapon systems in PC hands can be simplified a bit. There's no need to obsess over the precise AOF and cover damage dice all to find out you do 3 points of damage to tank #2 out of 6. The player engagement and fictional payoffs don't seem that great. (I remember feeling this way about The Regiment.)

I'm wondering if weapons systems could be reduced to much simpler things, mechanically. I may actually take a page from Fortnite, which I think does a nice job of making its weapons feel distinct, yet balanced. It's really handy to have a shotgun (great damage at short range, but it falls off very quickly) vs. an SMG (also deadly at short range, but the recoil makes them no use at range), vs. assault rifles (modest ROF, but accurate enough to dish it out at medium range), vs. sniper weapons (slow, awkward, require aiming, but highly damaging and able to reach at long ranges).

Also, the current damage mechanics don't do much in terms of letting players engage with the salvage rules. Salvage is important to the grind (earning cash, buying upgrades). Taking enemies relatively intact with careful disabling shots seems a thing to bring into the game.

Much thinking to do!

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