Sunday, November 30, 2014

Code Red - Dev Diary 10: Reinforcements

Hello guys and welcome back to the tenth week since we started this Dev Diary series. To be honest, I´ve fallen a little behind on my planned schedule regarding the first playable test version since we have some more changes that need internal testing and I probably won´t be able to host a playtesting session throughout december, so the end of the dev diary will probably not coincide with the start of the Betatesting as I had originally planned.

So I´m talking about some minor aspects now instead of going full-steam with the scenario generator as I had intended. We´re saving this for later.

Today it´s all about reinforcements. Reinforcements are troops that are not in your initial deployment and will enter the table during the game. We added some new ideas and concepts here, but again we´ll have to take a look at Force on Force to understand how we got where we are now.

FoF used a reinforcement- or insurgency-level to roll against at the beginning of each turn, so you´d get a variable number of reinforcements depending on your luck. When you got them you´d roll on a table to determine which troops would enter the board and roll again to see which "Hot Spot" they would deploy from. These Hotspots where 5 points on the table carrying numbers, you roll a D6 and deploy on the rolled number, with a 6 meaning you get to choose one.

With the introduction of the Command and Control mechanics we realised that bringing on reinforcements on a random basis could actually destabilise the game a little, especially when people got lucky and deployed a lot of leaders as reinforcements. Furthermore, the reworked defense mechanics meant that troops would survive longer than they used to, so the need to deploy reinforcements declined somewhat while the impact of new troops arriving was larger (as you need more time to grind them down)

So we felt that a new measure of control had to be introduced to stop the flow of new recruits onto the battlefield.  Instead of simply reducing the overall number, we did this by introducing an element of choice and a trade-off. 
Instead of rolling automatically at the beginning of each turn, reinforcements can be called by your leaders, so they will require an order. This action will cost a command die (see also Dev Diary 3) and will be an order that you won´t have available to activate your troops.

This way, we´re giving the Insurgent player full control over their reinforcements. He can call whenever he likes, as long as he has dice left. Of course, there is a downside of coordinating a lot of forces coming onto the battlefield, so each attempt after the first will incur an increasing penalty on your roll. So you are actually more efficient when constantly bringing in small amounts of troops, but you probably won´t be able to do that all the time due to the limited budget of command dice.

Furthermore, we changed the way the reinforcement tables worked. Instead of scenario specific tables, we have a few predefined tables for each faction that can be upgraded in various ways. For the Taliban, there are currently 4 or 5  tables to choose from, containing a variety of forces from Local Taliban to Foreign Fighters and IEDs.  You can mix and match these in your list and, as I said, upgrade them in various ways, so you have a lot of room to customise your own reinforcement pool.
During the game, you can roll on any of the tables you "bought", so you can bring in Local Taliban with one command die, add Foreign Fighters to your troops with a second one and try to get an IED in the next turn with new command dice.

Depending on your upgrade, the chances to succeed are increasing - the basic table has quite a substential rate of failure, so mixing different types of reinforcements is either costly if you want high efficiency (high rates of success per throw) or a little less efficient compared to specialising on one or two reinforcement-table upgraded to higher tiers.

We have also discarded Hotspots, on the one hand because we feel that while they were quite fun in FoF they left the Blufor player with too much certainty over where troops could pop up and which areas where clear.  Second, we had introduced the Ambush Cards (explained in Dev Diary 9) and had a good way of bringing "hidden" troops onto the table already, so we felt the Hotspots where a little redundant.

Troops are thus either entering through ambush cards (hidden sleeper cells that are "activated" by the call of their leader, grab their weapons and get out of hiding)  or enter on the table edges outside Blufors deployment zone and outside of 10" of blufor troops (troops flocking in from areas outside the actual battlefield).
This has worked rather well so far and we haven´t missed the Hotspots much.

Of course this also adds the challenge of how to set up your leaders to coordinate the inflow of new recruits. Just having them sit on the edge of the battlefield is no good after all, so bringing in a lot of troops might seem like a good thing, but unless you can place them right into Line of Sight with your opponent they will strain your command resources if they don´t bring along their own leader.

During our testing sessions, these changes have spiced up the reinforcements aspect a lot by transforming them from a random mechanism to a mechanic influenced (and influencing) player decision.

That´s about it for today.


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