Sunday, November 9, 2014

Code Red - Dev Diary 7: Fire Support

As you can see, the title of todays entry has been changed, as we´re proud to announce the current working title for our modern ruleset. 

Air Strike -  Image source: Reuters/Goran Tomasevic

Before we move on to the main aspect of this dev diary, I want to clarify a few points about reactions tests thatt have been pointed out to me.

Reactions have undergone some changes since FoF that I didn´t mention last time. These concern the sequence of events most of all. Force on Force tried to give the Initiative units (i.e. the units activated by the initiative player) an advantage by resolving all actions where the initiative unit won its reaction test first.

After some experience with the game I felt that this rule produces some weird anomalies. Reacting units winning their reaction tests will be acting AFTER reacting units losing their test, which doesn´t fit will with the idea of "interrupting" something. I won´t go into detail here, anyone who is interested in the minute details can check out the by now ancient discussion on the AAG-Forum.

As a consequence, Code Red will feature a much more intuitive sequencing of events. The reactive units are trying to interrupt the action declared by the initiative unit -  if they win their test and succeed, they will intervene before the declared action is resolved. If they fail, they will only act after the declared reaction is resolved.

A simple non-game example brought up by my co-developer:

A mafia boss is guarded by two bodyguards when an assassin storms into the room, aiming at the mafia boss, trying to take him down. The mafia boss fails to grab his weapon and watches in horror as the events unfold, but fortunately one of the body guards is quick enough and shoots down the attacker.
In game-sequence as follows: 
The assassin is the initiative unit and declares his attack "storm into the room and shoot at the mafia boss". 
The Mafia boss will automatically return fire, but the non-initiative player declares that he also wants to react with his bodyguards. 
 Three reaction tests are rolled, the mafia boss loses just like one of his bodyguards, but the third body guard succeeds and is thus able to interrupt in time. His interruption fire is thus resolved before the assassin gets to shoot at the boss.
Should the bodyguard fail to inflict effects on the assassin, the boss will still be in danger though

Some people might think that reactions are very powerful now, but they really should be as you´re spending precious command points. Getting a significant effect out of this is ok in my book. Furthermore, the initiative unit always gets a little bonus as they go first on ties, so acting is still encouraged over reacting, especially if you´re able to combine it with overwatch.

Now on to Fire Support

 We´ve completely redesigned Fire Support from request to effect, so where should I start...

Well, as always, let´s start with what I didn´t like in FoF.  Artillery was an instant-kaboom effect, if you managed to call in the airstrike it would strike immediately. Danger Close was a strange rule that only affected friendly troops and no enemies in danger close zone...  And the firepower effect was very large even at the fringe of the detonation radius, the usual tabletop problem of all-or-nothing effects.

Initially, I had no idea how to tackle this area, but fortunately Beast44a (also check out his blog) gave me a good primer on the problems involved with calling in and delivering fire support on the modern battlefield, especially under COIN-restrictions.

The main points I drew from his introduction where that strikes would of course not be magically hitting where you want them to, but with a bit of deviation. Furthermore, such strikes could be delayed quite considerably, especially under strict rules of engagements, either due to clearance rules or hesitant pilots.

So I coined that into a game mechanic - requesting fire support from any weapon system will have the chance of being delayed (or never arriving at all), which depends both on the skill of your ground controllers, your pilots/artillerymen and the applicable rules of engagement defined by the scenario.
Of course, your strike can be denied outright which means you have to start another request.

While this sounds very bureaucratic, it´s actually just a matter of two die rolls, adding a few modifiers on top and interpreting the result.

Once the strike is approved it also has a chance to deviate from your designated point, which is again influenced by TAC- and weapon-crew skill as well as the inherent precision of your weapon system (a dumb iron bomb will be more likely to deviate than a laser guided JDAM or missile)

If it hits, the strike will cause quite severe damage to everyone standing close to the impact (again of course depending on weapon system). Damage will decrease with increasing distance from the impact point, so being on the very edge of a detonation effect radius will not be comparable to getting the ordnance right on top of your troops.

Obviously, different weapon system have different blast radii and don´t deal the same amount of damage.

But again, I can´t give away everything in these dev diaries, right? ;)

Next week will give you a good overview over vehicle combat, another completely new mechanic!


  1. Sounds like an accurate representation of the modern battlefield. I heartily approve, and need to get a copy of your updated rule set.

    1. I´ll definitely drop you the playtesting ruleset as soon as it is ready. We´re currently focussing on the german version which is not very far from being ready for the first test - once that is in good shape I´ll start translating into english to have it tested internationally.