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.

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