Thursday, 13 August 2015

Scalable tech levels, or, what do you want to play today (part 1)?

Cards on the table, "tech level" really isn't the right phrase... but more on that later.

I really appreciate pointed war-games. What I mean by that is, wargames that have a points system to help balance game-play. Now, points systems have their detractors and they have a point, they can only go so far to balance a game and some companies (naming no names but you probably know who I'm talking about - cheap shot I know) gave up anything but the illusion of balance some time ago. I very much doubt that I'll be able to give All That Remains anything like close to perfect balance, what with all the planned features, but I am going to try my hardest.

No, the great advantage of points systems over scenario based games (such as Force on Force - and don't get me wrong I love me some scenario based games as well - check out BIG Force on Force for some epic stories) is that you can contact your mate, set a time and place, agree on a points limit and just turn up. There's no need to design scenarios (which is just another form of balancing) or plan in advance what terrain and specific figures you'll need for that scenario, it's just points limit, build a force, turn up.

Which I suppose is a rather long winded way of introducing the fact that ATR is designed to allow you to quickly tailor the "flavour" of your game world, but keep things easy to pick up and play.

Now back to the scalable tech level thing. The available technology at the time of, and after The Fall in your game of ATR is scalable, but that will be addressed, but through the plug-n-play elements.

What I was trying to express could, more accurately, be termed, "gun saturation."

There's no doubt that guns can really define a work of post-apocalyptic fiction, and as war-gamers you'll all be aware of how different games play depending on whether the setting has firearms - particularly automatic firearms - or not and, by extension, how firearms changed the historical battlefield.

There are three levels of, what, for lack of a better term, I am going to call "gun saturation" for now. Depending on what style of game you want, you and your opponent should agree on what level you are using before putting your forces together.

The default level strikes a balance between the three. The closest approximation to this level is probably Fallout 1. In the original Fallout there are plenty of firearms to go around, but melee fighters (or "builds" in the case of the player character) are clearly still a viable tactic. In this setting guns are fairly common, but it is conceivable that a faction would be able to survive and prosper with very few, or none. Primitive firearms will see use as well, as factions manufacture them to make up capability gaps. Factions that specialise in firearms will have to balance their desire for firearms - and resultant small numbers- against the possibility that a melee armed force will overrun them. This is probably the closest to what is known colloquially as "Brit-apoc".

Guns are most abundant in what I am calling the Postman (Film) level. Most soldiers will fight with an automatic weapon of some kind. Modern firearms are reduced in cost relative to other kinds of weapons, meaning that choosing primitive ranged weapons will offer worse value for your points. This style of game will play very differently to the other two, with most of the action taking place at range, with melee combat being rare, and assaults - unless meticulously executed - are likely to fail.

The third level is what I am currently calling the "Fury Road" setting. Modern weapons are so rare that they become real heirlooms. Those that are on the field will probably be the signature weapons of important warriors. This setting plays differently too. The battle will probably be decided by melee combat, with primitive weapons providing support. Forces that focus exclusively on modern weapons will probably be infeasibly small at this level, or at the best have to play a canny game against a sizeable, if more primitive army.

A fourth, unwritten level is of course, to not have firearms at all, either modern or modern and primitive. However, ATR is not being written with this in mind, and there may be better rulesets to capture this type of game - in fact, we're working on one, very much on the back burner right now though.

I hope this piques your interest. In my next post I will cover how you can customise your game world with plug-n-play setting elements, including everyone's favourite post-apunkalypse tropes.

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