The hunt for perfect rules

It’s more an epic quest, actually.

You know, your peculiar holy grail table top rules. For me, it’s fast-play, skirmish combat with RPG-lite elements. Call me finicky but don’t want a lot of bookkeeping or no chit-clutter. (spoils the effect, IMO) I don’t want a dozen stats/model, page after page of tables, hundreds of modifiers, errata and exceptions. No unbalanced points system that can be exploited by troglodyte, min/max power gamers. And please no convoluted gimmick mechanics to reinvent the wheel simply because you couldn’t borrow an existing elegant solution. Oh yes, and I’d like to be able to slot in figs from different game companies.

Now there are lots of games out there, some of them good, several of them great, most of them passable. But none of them quite trip my trigger. I guess that’s why I’m sifting other game systems – stealing, sorting, simplifying in an effort to forge yet another set of home-brew rules. I want both veteran and new gamers to grasp streamlined mechanics and concentrate on the game, on the 28mm story that’s unfolding on the table, rather than constantly flipping through pages.

I’ve narrowed it down to several key elements:

Alternating Activation.
Ye Gods! Nothing is more tedious, not to mention unrealistic, than one entire side moving, shooting, charging into melee while the other sits there and endures in stoic, static stupidity. In game terms, it’s called IGO-UGO, but I call it BOHICA. (Bend Over, Here It Comes Again)
Alternating Activation at least mimics the ebb and flow of combat, keeps both players engaged during a game turn, and allows them to react to unfolding battlefield conditions. When activated, units (single figs or multiple model squads) can perform up to two different ACTIONS before game play passes to their opponent.

Four Stats.
Movement, Combat Ability, Armor, Morale. That’s it. How many do I need? This isn’t a hyper-detailed RPG where I have to track ammo by the individual round, wound location, fatigue, mental state, and load burden. How fast can they run in a tactical situation? How well trained are they with weapons, either range or melee? How resistant are they to damage? How focused, motivated are they to stay in the fight? Just Basic Soldier Info for any battlespace.

Weapons are also divided into general classes (Do I really need to differentiate between species of Assault Rifle?) each with three stats: Range, (how far the hurt?) Firepower, (How many the hurt?) and Damage. (How much the hurt?)

Skills and Equipment.
Here’s where I can differentiate characters and specialty troops. Close Combat Crazies? No problem. This bunch has +1 to their Combat Ability when in Melee. Infiltrator/Scout? Sure. They can deploy up to 18″ off their table edge. Mimetic Camouflage? No problem. Note the fig/figs have Obfu Gear on their Stat sheet. All attacks are suffer -1 Obscured Shot Penalty.

Command and Control.
Here’s where leaders and tactical decisions come into play. Leader figs have a Command Stat and Control Radius. Command Stat grants them a limited number of orders per turn, the Control Radius dictates the distance and number of orders required to Activate a friendly model. Proximity confers other benefits as well, so not only does the player have to think and choose how and where to spend orders, but also consider how close they keep valuable leader figs to troops and danger.

Mission Objectives.
Toughest one so far. The idea is to keep objectives secret from your opponent. This adds tension and dimension of simultaneously trying to achieve your own goals while frustrating your opponent. I’ve stolen the idea of an Objective deck with different but generic goals. (Fortify particular terrain feature, exit x number of figs off opposite edge, kidnap one of your opponent’s models (defeat in melee) and bring him back to your deployment edge… That sort of thing) It’s next up in the play-test queue.

So far, our test games have gone well. Now our scenarios have all been straightforward, concentrating on core mechanics, but we’ve encountered very few snags. I think the basic framework is reliable. Simplicity is the greatest genius, someone smart once said. Now if I can add distinctions without freighting the game engine so that it loses simplicity and flexibility, I’ll be happy.

Working titles include Dead Run, Cleared to Engage, and Free Fire Zone. I’ll post updates as we progress and figure out how to make them a free DL once they’re polished.

Good Gaming.

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