Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Combat Cards Sci-Fi Playtest III

"Those about to die, salute you!" The attackers consult their hand of tactical Combat Cards after dropping in to assault our industrial installation
 The first two playtests of the Combat Cards rules that Keith had downloaded hadn't gone particularly well, in my book. After the last game (a WW II scenario), I had lobbied hard for significant changes. There had to be more shooting, in my opinion. Otherwise, we have this several hour battle and no destroyed or significantly damaged units. Keith agreed, and we instituted a couple rules changes this time that had the desired effect.

The scenario was a Sci-Fi one, with three commands per side. Joel and I represented the force guarding an important industrial installation. Keith, Allen, and Mike S's friend Eric were the rival corporate force dropping in from space to wrest control of it from us. Mike S was the rapid response drop force coming to assist our defense. The effect of this was Joel and I deployed first. We chose to deploy our commands back-to-back, with the installation between us. There was a clever mechanism for the enemy's space drop. The player would select a unit and designate a target hex. He would then pull the top card from his stack and consult the "Drift" instructions. This could be Dead On (never happened), 2 hexes towards the nearest friend or enemy (2 separate cards), or 4 hexes off (towards nearest friend/enemy). The drop was humorous, as forces scattered or drifted way too close for their own comfort towards our deployed troops. Mike S dropped in a conservative distance off, and we were set to begin.
Joel's troops on the left and mine on the right, deployed back to back, guarding the industrial installation from hostile, armed corporate take over
As I mentioned before, I did not like how there was very limited combat going on in a modern or futuristic game. Previously, the only time you could shoot was with an "Open Fire" card, or in response to enemy unit with an "Opportunity Fire" interrupt card. Keith changed this to troops being able to fire on ANY movement card, which meant there'd be a lot more things blowing up around the table, which is what gamers like to see! Keith had decided to randomize movement, and we gave him a lot of grief on the first turn as it turned out all three enemy players moved before we did. We should have been happy, though, that they moved fast. All three of us had our hand of 8 cards full of Opportunity Fire cards. When the enemy started moving, we blasted the snot out of them. Keith lost a unit immediately to Joel's deadly shooting, and one of Allen's units fell victim to mine, as well.

It helped us that Joel and I began the game with nearly all of our units dug in and in cover, as per the scenario rules. The return fire did not do much to us because tactical modifiers adjust the damage shooting inflicts on the target. If you have an advantaged shot, it makes the damage more deadly, if disadvantaged, less effective. When you shoot, you count up the net shifts up or down, and then flip the top card of your deck. Results range from Eliminated, Out of Action (misleading, you can recover from it), Shaken, Fall Back, or No Effect. So, our dug in and in cover modifiers made their shots do little to us. I had two units with "Shaped Charges" which move the level up 2, plus I was shooting from elevation, which shifted up. So, my attacks were eliminating Allen's units ranged against me, while his were just making my go Shaken, or less.
Joel blasts away ineffectively against the three big giant robots, at left. Dug in and in cover, with advanced damage control, they were impossible for Joel to damage no matter how many tons of explosives he threw their way!
The one foe we couldn't dent was Eric's contingent of 3 giant robots, Keith classified as Behemoths. Not only did Eric keep them in cover or dug in much of the battle, they also had a special damage control modifier that lowered the effect one level. Joel launched several air strikes and pounded away at him, but caused no losses. Meanwhile, Keith was taking shots from both Joel and Mike S's advancing troops. He ended the game with only one or two units left. On my flank, I was receiving fortunate "Opportunity Fire," "Open Fire," and movement cards. So, after his advance was blunted, I closed in for the kill. My big killing machines were my mechanized units with the shaped charges. However, even an infantry unit got a kill in a close assault against a unit the my Fire Support had softened up.
One of Allen's robots bursts into flame as my infantry close assault it (after the fire support unit on the hill softened them up). Fortuitous cards? Or good, combined arms tactics? Guess which *I* will say!
With each Keith and Allen down to one or two units each, and the defending forces having taken only one loss, we decided to call the game. I enjoyed the game much more -- not because we were doing so well. Instead, you were able to actually cause losses to the enemy side. I think Mike S said at the end of the game that of the 10 units we destroyed, maybe only two would have been under the original rules. I told Keith I think the tactical situation -- with us starting in cover and dug in -- gave us too big of an advantage. He didn't seem to think it was as important. Part of it, he said, was that we got the right cards from our decks at the right time. I agreed that did happen, but when coupled with our tactical advantage in damage shifts, it produced a bloody nose for the attackers and a resounding victory for us.
Joel's battery fire of smoke cover -- meant to mask the robots and make them leave their cover and fortified positions to shoot (but off target) -- obscures the battlefield as we call the game. One of Keith's two remaining units is out of action near the installation, while the other hunkers down on the reverse slope of the hill.

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