Thursday, March 28, 2013

Google Blogspot Problems...

I've been updating some articles over the past couple of days on the blog and have run into a problem.  I discovered (after deleting my link list to remake another one) that Google seems to be having a problem with their HTML links system wide.  Some of the posts have been moved around a bit by me but I'm unable to properly update my table of contents to show it.  Also, I'm not able to save a new link list for the websites that I previously had linked on my blog (like other fan blogs).  Hopefully Google will fix this problem that has been going on for almost a week.  I'm patient seeing as how they're just a mom and pop operation and not some multibillion dollar company with thousands of employees... :)

EDIT:  The problem is partly fixed so I've updated the links to include the new chapters as well as restored the links to other blogs and websites.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Weapon Range Thoughts... Part 2

EDIT:  I've combined the previous Weapon Range Thoughts post into this one as I plan to make the original the Table of Contents linked rules chapter.  Unfortunately, someone broke something at Google last week and the link lists haven't been working properly since.

In my quest for a leaner and simpler Blitz datacard (and rules), I've left only a single part of the datacard untouched... namely the weapon section. While I did incorporate model chassis firing bonuses into the individual weapon accuracy stats, I've largely left the rest untouched. While I do feel that the number of weapon traits in Blitz needs a bit of housekeeping, the multiple weapon ranges are the bigger eye sore for me personally at the moment. I've avoided changing or even discussing them until now because frankly there were bigger fish to fry with the house rules but I would like to touch on the subject now.

First off, I'm simply not a fan of the nomenclature Blitz uses for range. Optimal, suboptimal, and extreme seems like a needlessely complicated and elite way of simply saying short, medium, and long that most games instead use. For the purposes of my Flash! houserules, I'll be changing the ranges to the more easily accessible short = optimal, medium = suboptimal, and long = extreme terms. While I'm sure that there was some reason for the use of the unique terms above, I'd rather have the game and it's playstyle more easily recognizable to both wargamers and the general public alike and I think the change in terms helps with that.

Secondly, perhaps it's more of a personal issue of early onset dementia on my part but I find myself referring to the card for weapon ranges more than anything else. Most other games I've played don't have as many brackets but, if they do, they tend to be simple multiples of the same number (linear progression) instead of the quadratic progression of Blitz. I've found myself wondering how the game would play if the weapon ranges were instead simply linear multiples of the same number (thus requiring only the memorization of a single range for each weapon).

I've gone through a couple of versions of this that I'll describe below. The first would be to take some sort of average of the various Blitz numbers as the "base" number (excluding obviously the infinity ranges) and then either adding that same number or doubling the previous one for the next range bracket. Here is an example using the ubiquitous Hunter/Jaeger LRP. The LRP in blitz has optimal/suboptimal ranges of 6/24 meaning that the average would instead be 15 giving us short/medium range brackets of 15/30. That's personally too big of an optimal/short range increase in my opinion and would lead to excessive camping due to the increase in the effective range (optimal) similar to how my extra range modifiers did. Multiples of the optimal range as a base number tend to break down on the extreme ends like with VLFG (which if doubled would give you an optimal/short range bracket of 60 inches... basically the entire board for smaller 3x4 sized games).

Method 1

The first acceptable option is to just go with the optimal range number as written and then just double it for additional range brackets. This has the unfortunately tendancy of shortening the effective range for Blitz down significantly for suboptimal/medium range shots. Long range shots are also affected to a lesser extent but those frankly rarely hit except for lucky area affect deviations so I'm not as worried about that. Basically, an LRP would be 6" for no penalty (no change), -1 up to 12" at medium range (changed from 24" here in Blitz), and -2 up to 48" (changed from infinity in blitz). The LAC would be 12/24/48 and the MAC would be 18/36/72.

While this change does adversely affect optimal range 6" weapons like LRPs, RFBs, and Snub cannons, it fixes the feeling I get that the suboptimal range for other weapons is almost meaningless due to the incredible ranges (like MACs at 48" resulting in almost the whole table being in suboptimal range for non-camping gears in most games). I'm not entirely happy with this as I don't want the game to return to the rush to point blank range playstyle of L&L and the original Blitz but I've found that most people try to maneuver to optimal before firing and this only noticeably adversely affects camping FS style units (which I'm ok with frankly) and unfortunately very short ranged weapons like snub cannons in actual practice. The overall change though is still acceptable.

Method 2

The other reasonable option I thought of that still keeps thing simple is to increase the optimal range by 6" and then use that number instead as the base range and then doubling it for each additional bracket. So, in the LRP example above, the range stat would be 12". For the LAC, you'd end up with no penalty at 12", -1 at up to 24", and -2 at 48". An LAC from the same Hunter/Jaeger would have a range of 18" giving you no penalty until that point and a -1 at 36" as well as a -2 at 72". A more longer ranged ATM for instance would be 24/48/72 instead. This has the added effect of increasing the optimal/short bracket by 6" for each weapon which I'm not completely happy about frankly after my experience with the last demo. Since I feel like long range weapons are a bit too powerful currently (like camping with twin LFGs or twin/triple linked rocket packs), I'd be hesitant to give those weapons as well as every weapon an addition reason to stay further back from the enemy.

Finally, melee range and thrown weapons would stay as written ruleswise in Blitz but would just have the initial ranges listed under the entry as a reminder.


Part 2

On a completely unrelated intro note, I added the "follow the blog by email" widget to the blog a few weeks back and was wondering if anyone is using it and (if so) if it's a useful alternative to traditionally subscribing as a blog follower or just checking in every few days/weeks.  Anyways.. back to the meat of the post..

Well, the first game with new weapon ranges is done and it was a bit of a wild ride conceptually.  At first, the reduction in weapon ranges (especially the LRP) was quite disconcerting but stepping back and analyzing the situation has made me realize that it was more reactionary to a change from what I expected rather than disliking the change itself.

In general, I consider the effective range of a weapon to encompass the short and medium range bands (optimal and suboptimal for those who haven't read my previous post changing the rather clunky nomenclature).  Since my Flash! houserules promote smaller games, I've been unofficially pushing the 3'x4' size table for the smaller test games as opposed to the standard 4'x6' sized table for games of 1000TV or more.  My goal is to have a wider range of real choices amongst weapons so that the 12/48 and 18/72 ranged weapons don't necessarily dominate most games.  Ideally, I'd like for the weapons that are supposed to be long range beyond the horizon death dealers to shine in that role for both 3'x4' and 4'x6' table sizes. 

Unfortunately, the 12/48 and 18/72 weapons like the MRP tend to dominate most of the smaller sized game tables as the entire .  The diagonal on a 3'x4' table is 60" so an MRP placed in just 6" away from the corner of a deployment zone can effectively cover all of no-man's land as well as the most of the enemy deployment zone as well (all except for a roughly 6" crecent on the complete opposite deployment corner); if using the short table edge deployment (as in the pic below), it covers the entire table if placed just a few inches from it's own edge.   With that large area covered, there really isn't a need for longer ranged IF unless they offer some sort of other benefit (like stun via natural AE or an incredibly long optimal bracket).

With the changes I proposed last post in Method 1, the MRP stays the master of the midrange bombardment to cover no man's land as well as your own deployment zone where longer range mortars are at a disadvantage due to MR; at the same time it loses that across the board coverage over your enemy's deployment effect.  The commonly available 30" range weapons (like VLFG and HGM) fill that new void nicely and can reach the entirety of the 3'x4' board (including corner to corner diagonals) within medium/suboptimal range whereas the truely long range weapons (like heavy field guns) do the same on 4'x6' boards. 

To illustrate that point, I've constructed the admittedly crude diagram below showing weapon ranges of a unit placed at the front of a short side deployment zone.  Remember that with my revised range stats the next range is double the previous so an LAC is 12 short/24 medium/48 long range.  A 12" base range weapon still covers the entirety of no man's land as well as almost half the enemy's deployment zone within short/medium range whereas an 18" weapon covers the entire table within short/medium range with aggressive deployment.  Both brackets still cover all of no-man's land even with backfield deployment as well.  With this change, the corner to corner deployment bombardment becomes the specialty of longer range weapons like HGMs, LFGs, and HATMs instead of just doubling up with MRPs and AGMs/ATMs.




It takes some getting used to as the LRP and shorter ranged upgrades like snub cannons become limited to 12" or less effectiveness but I think that frankly goes with their fluff as well as previous editions of blitz (flanking tanks to get a close range shot instead of sniping from 24" with a snub as is commonly done now).  I realize (as my opponent astutely brought up) that the above likely changes the effective TV of various upgrades and units slightly (no more than 5tv per model though IMO) but I'm not ready to start tweaking them directly until I get alot more games in with my house rules.  In the end, I do like the fact that I had to make actual decisions on which weapons to use at what ranges in the most recent demo game instead of just defaulting to twin-linked MRPs for most things without much thought.    I'll likely be incorporating and adjusting the previous post to become an official chapter under my table of contents in the next few days. 

As for a preview of the next post, my opponent brought up some interesting observations regarding my cover system and had some good advice so I'll likely be revising it soon.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Weapons

In my quest for a leaner and simpler Blitz datacard (and rules), I've left only a single part of the datacard untouched... namely the weapon section.  Perhaps it's more of a personal issue of early onset dementia on my part but I find myself referring to the card for weapon ranges more than anything else. Most other games I've played don't have as many brackets but, if they do, they tend to be simple multiples of the same number (linear progression) instead of the quadratic progression of Blitz. I've found myself wondering how the game would play if the weapon ranges were instead simply linear multiples of the same number (thus requiring only the memorization of a single range for each weapon).

First off, I'm simply not a fan of the nomenclature Blitz uses for range.  Optimal, suboptimal, and extreme seems like a needlessely complicated and elite way of simply saying short, medium, and long that most games instead use.  For the purposes of my Flash! houserules, I'll be changing the ranges to the more easily accessible short = optimal, medium = suboptimal, and long = extreme terms.  While I'm sure that there was some reason for the use of the unique terms above, I'd rather have the game and it's playstyle more easily recognizable to both wargamers and the general public alike and I think the change in terms helps with that.

The option I've chosen is to just go with the optimal range number as written and then just double it for additional range brackets.  This has the unfortunately tendancy of shortening the effective range for Blitz down significantly for suboptimal/medium range shots.  Long range shots are also affected to a lesser extent but those frankly rarely hit except for lucky area affect deviations so I'm not as worried about that.  Basically, an LRP would be 6" for no penalty (no change), -1 up to 12" at medium range (changed from 24" here in Blitz), and -2 up to 48" (changed from infinity in blitz).  The LAC would be 12/24/48 and the MAC would be 18/36/72.   Finally, melee range and thrown weapons would stay as written ruleswise in Blitz but would just have the initial ranges listed under the entry as a reminder.

With these changes, the MRP for instance stays the master of the midrange bombardment to cover no man's land as well as your own deployment zone where longer range mortars are at a disadvantage due to MR; at the same time it loses that across the board coverage over your enemy's deployment effect. The commonly available 30" range weapons (like VLFG and HGM) fill that new void nicely and can reach the entirety of the 3'x4' board (including corner to corner diagonals) within medium/suboptimal range whereas the truely long range weapons (like heavy field guns) do the same on 4'x6' boards.

To illustrate that point, I've constructed the admittedly crude diagram below showing weapon ranges of a unit placed at the front of a short side deployment zone of a typical Flash! 3'x4' board. Remember that with my revised range stats the next range is double the previous so an LAC is 12 short/24 medium/48 long range. A 12" base range weapon still covers the entirety of no man's land as well as almost half the enemy's deployment zone within short/medium range whereas an 18" weapon covers the entire table within short/medium range with aggressive deployment. Both brackets still cover all of no-man's land even with backfield deployment as well. With this change, the corner to corner deployment bombardment becomes the specialty of longer range weapons like HGMs, LFGs, and HATMs instead of just doubling up with MRPs and AGMs/ATMs.




It takes some getting used to as the LRP and shorter ranged upgrades like snub cannons become limited to 12" or less effectiveness but I think that frankly goes with their fluff as well as previous editions of blitz (flanking tanks to get a close range shot instead of sniping from 24" with a snub as is commonly done now). I realize (as my opponent astutely brought up) that the above likely changes the effective TV of various upgrades and units slightly (no more than 5tv per model though IMO) but I'm not ready to start tweaking them directly until I get alot more games in with my house rules. In the end, I do like the fact that I had to make actual decisions on which weapons to use at what ranges in the most recent demo game instead of just defaulting to twin-linked MRPs for most things without much thought.

As a result of an interesting discussion regarding the changes in Gear Up 6 on the DP9 forums, I've decided to incoporate the following changes (thanks goes to feral on the DP9 forums for coming up with the idea that I expanded on for the first linked fire option).

Indirect Fire: Add "Weapons choosing to use the indirect fire option may not fire at targets within half their short range. The may still fire at targets at under half short range if the weapon does not have the MR trait and therefore can use the direct fire rules."

I've always found it odd that mortars that can actually shoot almost straight up vertically had a minimum range requirement but artillery pieces that have a much lower max angle of elevation didn't. The recent changes in minimum range got me thinking about that and I've decided to extend the minmum range restriction to all indirect firing weapons. This means that most rocket pods, field guns, and other IF capable weapons will now no longer be able to fire INDIRECTLY within half their short range (remember that I've change the terms for range and "optimal" is now short). The weapons will still however be able to fire directly within that range though. Weapons with the actual MR trait will still not be able to fire directly and have no firing option within half short range (unchanged from Blitz! and GU).

Linked Weapons: Weapons that have this option may be fired together as part of the same action using one of the two options below.

     -For each linked weapon fired, assign one of your rolled attack dice results to it; this result counts as the result for the attack as well as for determining out of ammo results for that weapon. If the weapons were fired indirectly, use the highest dice roll for determining scatter for all linked weapons fired. The defender rolls his defense dice once and applies it to each individual weapon attack roll. Any extra attack dice results are discarded and any weapons having no available attack dice to be assigned are considered to have rolled a fumble (including for both OOA and damage purposes).
 
     -Designate one weapon in the link as the primary weapon. For each additional identical linked weapon fired, you may add half the ROF (round off) to the ROF of the primary weapon. You may then use the modified ROF for the purposes off the attack roll that the target or targets will defend against once only for the linked attack. Add +1 per linked weapon after the primary to the target number for OOA checks and use the highest die rolled for OOA checks for all the linked weapons fired.

For example, a grizzly with att2 rolls a 5 and a 3 for his linked MRP attack with full ROF using the first option above. The defender must then roll once and determine the damage versus the 5 and 3 individually using the normal modifiers and the 3 result causes an OOA result for that one MRP.

If the same grizzly instead had two targets 5 inches apart that it wished to attack, it could use the second option to make a singe combined ROF attack versus both models (not normally possible with the standard MRP). Using the same dice results as above, scatter would be deternined by and the target would roll versus the single result of 5 for the linked attack. The 5 would also be used for determining OOA for both pods which in this case would mean that they're both out of ammo (due to the +1 modifier for the check for two linked weapons). The grizzly fired its full payload on the gamble of damaging both models. 



Sunday, March 17, 2013

Updates and Coordinated Attacks

After my recent Flash! demo game as well as after hearing some feedback on the matter from Cutnose, I've gone ahead and switched back the attack modifiers and cover system back to the way it is in blitz as well as removed the +1/-1 modifier for EW/LD tests based on speed.  I was frankly hesitant about that last part without trying full specialized recon units but I worried about it the more I thought about it.  As with changing the firing bonuses, I kept thinking that players would opt to stay put for an additional +1 rather than maneuvering to lessen the amounts of cover bonus to the target number by 1.  Initially I thought that removing the in the open cover state and increasing firing range bonuses would increase the lethality of the game but it instead caused the game to keep the same lethality only moved from optimal to suboptimal range; I can see the same thing happening if I encourage staying being stationary for EW events as well.  Since this is the first time I'm updating a large part of the blog, I figured I'd list the format I'll be using.  I'll detail the individual changes and reasons in the regular blog posts like this but just delete/change them in the formal sections that I've listed under the Table of Contents to the right of this post.

Now, on to the new stuff.  Another interesting issue brought up during the last game was that the lack of coordinating fire use.  Neither my opponent nor I used the rule during the entire game.  Part of the reason likely was that my demo squads had upgraded weapons on the CGLs which normally neither of us use.  Another more subconscious reason is likely that the smaller squad size decreases the end effectiveness of the coordinated fire action.  In normal Blitz, you give up one (usually mediocre) action of firing by the CGL to give 4 other models in the gear squad a benefit.  If you decrease that total number down to 3 as I have, the mental math doesn't necessarily work out as well.

There are several ways to approach this.  One would be to do nothing and simply use the lessened coordinated fire action sparingly.  The second would be to create a separate "free action" that CGLs and 2iC models can  once a turn that doesn't take up an action of their own with either no penalty or a -1 penalty to all actions as per the original Blitz and RPG rules.  The final route (and the one I've decided to go with) is to incorporate the coordinated fire rules into another action so that the model may still do something else that turn as well.

Coordinated Attack: A CGL (or 2iC if the CGL is dead) may nominate the target of his successful FO with the additional effects listed under Coordinated Attack in the Field Manual at no additional action cost.  While any friendly model may use the FO as per the normal rules, only models from the same fire team/section as the CGL may benefit from the coordinated attack effect.  Coordinated Attack may still be used as written in the Field Manual as an independent action, gaining the ability to still work if blocked by ECM within 3" + EL.

As always, feel free to comment.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Post Demo Thoughts...

Well.. I'm definitely glad that I got to try the demo with an experienced player as my thoughts on several things have changed since the game.  Previously, I had played with people that were relatively new to Blitz so they didn't know the ins/outs of the proper game let alone my house rules so it was nice to play against someone who knew what the proper game plays like.  That said, some things ended up surprising me to say the least.

The big thing that I noticed is that the game played more statically than I expected.  Part of it was due to my choice of demo armies that both included a Fire Support fire team whose job it is to just stay put waaaay back and fire but I don't think that was the only contributor to the camping we both did.  Another was the rolls and choice of offensive objectives dependent on killing the enemy (which encourage taking shots over positioning) as well as a small 3x4 map that is known as a killing field apparently in playtesting circles.  Finally, my opponent made an interesting observation in that my smaller combat groups tended to weed out the chaff that usually ends up running up and providing flanking shots to the upgraded gun models.  Without them, the gunners tended to just hand back and shoot instead.  This was also true of my upgrading the CGLs in half the fireteams to effectively gunners instead of commanders (both I and my opponent prefer to run lean CGLs in Blitz which wasn't the case here in Flash!).  

I'm really not sure what to do with this frankly.  I *want* to be able to play with smaller squads that still feel like the bigger ones but the only things I can see to change are to get rid of the veteran slot granting yet another option you wouldn't otherwise get.  A second choice would be to give players the option of adding back in those remaining two gears that are "missing" from the squad as the second part of the fireteam before allowing a second CGL led fire team to be taken.  Basically, you'd get the fireteam as is right now but wouldn't be able to take another until you took that second group of two models cut from the squad.  It would effectively be a complicated version of the blitz subcombat group rule in the Field Manual.

On the game rules side (as opposed to army construction as detailed above), two changes I made had unintended side effects when combined.  The removal of a bonus to shooting at models out in the open combined with an increase overall in range bonuses meant that both I and my opponent measured out some risky top speed moves that positioned us better for the next turn but ended up just staying put and taking combat or stationary shots in cover instead because there was no relative reward.  Zooming up at top speed for a better next turn position that grants you an in the open shot at optimal that counteracts the top speed firing penalty does encourage more movement from that safe suboptimal range at combat/stationary speed shot.  I'll likely be rolling back those changes in the blog and see how it goes instead.

One benefit to camping was that we gave the new cover/concealment and lock rules a fairly thorough go.  Despite the really wacky rolls (like my Blitz Jaeger failing his 2+ active lock check two turns in a row with 1's), it did seem to work with one caveat.  Some across the entire board active locks from one camping corner to another with unoptimized gears (like a simple Jaeger) made me think that the active lock check system doesn't account for cover enough.  I don't want to complicate it much more (especially not with measurements) but it does need to account for active locking a target model behind a house versus a target model behind a house, a hill, and a ruined building.  I think that I'll modify the rules to instead say that the TN of an active lock check is 4 +1 per piece of terrain crossed after the first (as opposed to just the flat TN4). 

As always, feel free to comment about the above. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Flash! Cheatsheet

Just a quick update and then some musings.  I worked on a quick cheatsheet for use in Flash! games that highlights some of the changes in the rules that I've proposed in a (hopefully) easy to read and understand format.  The sheet isn't an exhaustive tome unfortunately (there is no way of quickly listing every perk/flaw that was affected by cover/concealment and stat changes) but should be complete enough for an average starter game to try out the rules with some basic forces like the ones I created the datacards for.  Let me know if there is something important that I missed or if there is a mistake that I didn't catch.



As for the musing, I was involved in two recent conversations about my blog and the question of combat group size came up in one and the overriding purpose of all this came up in the other.  My goal with this blog somewhat involves both those questions in an interrelated way.  I wanted to make HG easier and quicker to play as stated in the intro to this blog.  Since I'm not doing an entire overhaul of the Blitz engine but rather pruning parts I find unnecessarily complex for a wargame, my results with that help the "easier" goal more than quicker.

The other main method is to make the combat groups smaller to allow for quicker games with the same feel.  I've noticed that most people seem to gravitate towards a large skirmish (10-15 models) size battle with Blitz that ends up being around 750-1000TV roughly.  I suspect that this is largely due to the time it takes to play Blitz games which don't unfortunately play as fast as the lightning German nomenclature would suggest.  Since adding another combat group likely increases the total playtime by 50%, I rarely see lists presented or games played that feature the less commonly used combat groups like recon squads or stealth units or paratroopers unless the entire army is built around that premise.  With smaller combat groups, you can fit that third recon fireteam in the the starter set strike and fire support ones without increasing the actual fig count or play time significantly.  It also encourages people to buy new figs to try out the more bite sized squads as a single blister and a left over fig from another squad gives you a taste of the full squad you'd play in Blitz without the added cost as well.  HG seems to work best in the above 10-15 model/750-1000TV range and I hope that the new combat groups allow you to put more variety into that apparent sweet spot of mecha gaming.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Minor Update...

Nothing major going on here since the last main update but I do have a small announcement as well as a minor change. I've submitted my skirmish scale combat groups house rules to the Aurora fanzine for inclusion in the next issue. *fingers crossed* That part of this blog is completely compatible with the existing FM rules so I figured it would be the most appropriate part to submit initially.  Also, I hope to play a game with the new rules later this week so will post a small battle report with thoughts and opinions after we're done.

As for the rules change, this one is minor and doesn't deserve it's own post or especially its own chapter. A while back, I noticed that the rules for top speed and stationary only affect attack and defense skill checks but have no effect on other things like EW. I personally believe that if you're racing across the battlefield that fast that you can't perform any other actions with your gear (due to top speed costing an action) and any command point generated shots are at a penalty, that same penalty should be applied to other actions as well that require concentration like electronic warfare and calling in precise artillery strikes.

Rules Change: Apply the following modifiers for speed to EW and LD based tests: +1 when stationary and -1 at top speed.