Sunday, October 26, 2014

Code Red - Dev Diary 5: Dice, Cover and Conceilment

Today we´re talking about dice.


Those of you who played Force on Force will remember the multitude of dice used to display different quality levels. The charm about that solution is that you can set a flat target number (like 4+) as a success threshold and don´t bother about modifiers for different troop quality levels or profiles with differing success numbers.

A problem I encountered after inserting my saving roll into the infantry firefight was that I suddenly had two thresholds for successes - 5+ for saves on a D10 (always a D10, no matter the troop quality)  and 4+ on Troop quality dice on all other aspects.

You can probably see the problems that created - suddenly it was no longer clear which dice you should use, you had two different target numbers and no coherent ruling.

I also found that people mistook the different dies (especially D8 and D10) and grabbed the wrong ones, a problem not uncommon with players new to Force on Force.

So one day I wondered if it was worth sticking to the dice and principles inherited from FoF and came to the conclusion that I could simply switch to a single die type: my beloved D10.

Statistically speaking, the different quality levels have the following average success chances per FoF (4+ = success):
D6: 50%
D8:  62,5%
D10: 70%
D12: 75%

With some minor distortion that can be rounded and applied to a D10:
Bad Training:  50%
Regular Training: 60%
Veteran: 70%
Elite:      80%

The loss of 2,5% for regulars is a minor issue, barely noticable on the large picture. The 5% increase for Elite troops is actually not so bad because they already lost some combat power due to to the saving mechanics taking their excellent defense dice away and replacing them by the plain, cover-dependent D10-roll. So giving them more successes on average is justified to restore that loss.

So using a D10 is easily possile by either setting a 5+ base chance and applying a -1 to +2 die roll modifier  or  setting the following basic profiles defining the success threshold:
Bad Training:  6+
Regular Training: 5+ 
Veteran: 4+
Elite: 3+  

Same principles applies to morale. The distribution is the same as above, so D10 Morale is now Good Morale with a +1 modifier or a 4+ success threshold.

The basic profile helps to speed up the core game mechanics, but we´re still looking at how to optimise that aspect properly as reaction tests and rolls to use heavy weapons still have to be modified by -1 to +2 while almost all the other rolls can be handled through the basic profile (the basic idea behind the profile was to drop these modifiers and see your success number on first glance).

We´re not yet set the final solution that is going to make it into the game, as it comes down to a question of taste. The less  confusing but more calculation-intensive method is keeping the modifiers and always applying them flat out. From my experience you get used to it pretty quickly and things flow very naturally from this point on.
On the other hand it might be helpful - especially for new players - to have to basic success chance in plain sight without applying another modifier on top of all the others. On the other hand, this adds confusion on reaction tests and heavy weapons.

In the end, we might go for a mixed solution, presenting both approaches to the player and having YOU choose according to your personal preference.

As the Diary is pretty small at this point, I might as well include a second topic in this entry:
So let´s talk about Spotting, Cover and Conceilment. 

The modern battlefield is called "the empty battlefield" and even though the game is an abstract version of reality and takes place on a rather small area even if you assume a larger groundscale than figure-scale, we still felt that spotting was pretty underrepresented in the available games for modern combat.

While thinking about how to model this better it came to mind that we already had reaction tests simulating who´d be laying down effective fire first. So the natural point to implement such a mechanic was already there.

Furthermore, I never liked how FoF handled Failures on reaction tests. Every single new player I played with was confused by the notion that both sides failing their tests is an "equal" result, even if A rolled a 3 and B rolled a 1.

Combining these two thoughts brought about the Spotting-Mechanic:
All failed Reaction Tests (below success threshold, i.e. 5+  with all modifiers) would represent a unit failing to spot an enemy in terrain features offering conceilment. Failed spotting will reduce your firepower by half, so you´ll actually have a harder time killing or suppressing the enemy if you don´t know where he is creeping around, instead shooting at the general suspected position.

Successes on Reaction rolls means your troops get to shoot with their full firepower, knowing the position of the enemy and being able to concentrate their fire on this point.

The higher number on the die gets to go first, regardless of being a success or no success.

The implications are manyfold:
The system is less confusing now with just having the higher number go first
Rolling low is still bad for both sides as they get reduced firepower
Troops that are sucessful at spotting their enemy will always go first against enemies that fail to spot them.
We can actually differentiate terrain between obstacles providing conceilment and terrain being hard cover.  Troops in the open are obviously spotted in any case, conceilment can half the enemies firepower, hard cover is both conceilment and also a bonus on your cover save.
We can implement night combat by just adding a  negative modifier on the reaction test - spotting gets harder at night! Night Vision Devices can help mitigate that by a positive modifier.
Better troops are better at spotting!

I think I could go on, but I´ll stop at this point - you see I´m pretty happy with a simply idea adding a lot of depth to the game without requiring a huge rule-overhead.

A small example before I´ll stop for today:

A group of SAS (Elite, +2) are assaulting a russian military base (uh-oh) and engage a two man patrol (Regulars +- 0)  in the open. The SAS group is in thick underbrush providing conceilment but no hard cover.  Both sides roll for their reaction test, both sides score a 3. The SAS gets to modify this by +2 for training level, scoring a 5, the Russians stay at 3. Being in the open the Russians are clearly visible and don´t have to be spotted. If they where conceiled, the SAS would still have spotted them with their 5. The Russians however fail to spot the SAS - so should they survive the initial attack they´d be unable to bring their full firepower on target. Shooting on suspected enemy positions gives them only half the firepower, bringing their effective pool down to 1 die (assuming the two guardsmen are regular riflemen).

 That´s it for today, see you next week!

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