Sunday, February 2, 2014

Mission Creation 102 - Strategy

The principle of incorporating Strategy when writing up your missions is discussed at length.

Delving into how to make the ideal missions one of the major elements in playing a good scenario is for it to have the potential to be highly tactical.  So what does this mean though?  Well many people think that this is highly abstract and to a certain extent it is, however there are a few characteristics that are necessary to make the mission less about just rolling dice and moving around at random.  So here are some of the key themes to making your game based in disciplined thinking.

One of the best ways to include strategy (I need more words for this, I'm getting sick of writing strategy and tactics over and over but other words don't seem appropriate b/c of various contexts required of other words or phrases such as 'game plan' or 'approach' etc.  Sorry, word choice just always bothers me) is to introduce an element of priorities.  In order to achieve your desired result, in this case winning, you need to make choices and place more emphasis on doing one thing over another.  For instance, an objectives based mission requires you to consider not only holding your own ground, but taking ground that your opponent is holding, and killing their units.  So you need to decide what the best method for this is and so this might result in you deploying 2/3 of your army to rushing forward in order to contest their area while the remaining 1/3 hold your ground b/c you are more interested in first taking their objectives, then killing their units with the large amount of yours, and that remaining 1/3 of your army will hopefully hold your territory.  But that is just one example, what makes the Nova style of playing the game (and I'm sure other tournaments do this as well such as I think the LVO and the BAO but I'm not sure, 11th company is always doing things the Nova way and talking about that tournament in particular so that’s what I know the best) is that you're trying to accomplish 3 missions at once with different levels of importance for each one.  If you realize that you're at a disadvantage when trying to accomplish one purpose, you simply reprioritize and decide to try and tie up the enemy in that field and find victory by fulfilling the other conditions you have available to you.

So when you are writing up your own missions you need to realize that choice is going to be an important factor in the game play.  This is one of the reasons that the Capture and Control Mission of 5th edition was such a failure and jokingly called 'roll dice and tie' or 'draw-hammer' among other names.  All that the players could do was hope to overwhelm their opponent and it was ridiculously easy to just end the game contesting both objectives since it only took one unit to do so at the end of the game.  Make sure to provide one of several things when writing up your missions:  multiple victory conditions - 6th edition GW did something good here with the introduction of victory points and the 3 secondary goals of slay the warlord, line breaker, and first blood - and this can be anything from having multiple objectives on the board to providing different purposes (such as trying to hold a spot, blow up a generator, and assassinate one particular individual in the enemy army); potential counter play - a winning condition of holding an objective for one turn isn't very good for instance, whereas keeping it uncontested for 3 turns starting in the center of the board would be much more difficult (this is not a suggestion however as this will put some armies at a disadvantage, mainly those that do not have much presence on the table and must sit back where its safe such as gun line armies) - both players need to be participating in the game, make sure that each has something they are trying to do in your mission; unique victory conditions - having a variety of ways to win is nice, but make sure that while it might be possible to win several ways at once, don't make it particularly easy to be doing everything at the same time otherwise that element of choice will be lost as both players attempt to do the same things at once because it’s the optimal way to acquire victory - these also don't actually have to be completely different, just make sure they are independent from each other unless you are doing something special where to unlock some sort of victory points to determine the winner they need to accomplish something (that kind of idea is typically best for a thematic or campaign game anyways and would likely be very difficult to do properly in a competitive format); viable winning ability - all the choices should have the potential to decide the game or else there isn't any point in including the others, and by this I mean that doing something similar to Nova multiple missions is fine since its just as viable to win by going for the secondary and tertiary objectives over the primary, but requiring someone to try and win by getting 6 hullpoints off of an AV 15 building with It Will Not Die in only 3 turns of shooting will just never happen reliably unless someone designs their army for that one objective which could easily be massacred in the first 2 or 3 turns of the game or something silly like that - having variety in your game is the best way to introduce the element of strategic choice to your missions.

Another note about tactics in your missions:  contrary to GW's belief random is not better, in fact its frequently a detriment.  A solid part of strategy is the ability to plan ahead, and in order to plan you need to have a decent idea of what is going to happen and what you're up against.  A randomly moving objective can be fun but it will never be competitive b/c it would require armies that wanted to win that mission to be highly mobile and be able to force out other units in a very small area b/c they'd all be trying to follow this small area that keeps shifting around.  Or if it is teleporting around there is literally no point in moving your forces to claim an area, both sides would simply be spreading out as far as they could in the hopes that they'd end up being near it on the final turn to claim it.  Don't get me wrong, its alright to have unpredictable parts of the game, however in the parts that are critical to victory should not be randomly determined.  Removing chance from the game entirely would make this no longer a game of tabletop miniatures, but you should limit the excessive randomness as much as possible.  Include the mysterious terrain if you want, or the archeotech objectives (or whatever its called) but make sure that your players know even before they are designing their lists what they will need to do to win.  A significant part of this game is list-building after all, and the relationship between missions and lists is highly strategic as well.

Hope you guys enjoyed this post, feel free to comment your ideas or opinions or criticisms, I'm always happy to receive any feedback.

As always this has been Charging Carnifex, signing off.

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