It´s been a while since I posted the last development diary on Code Red, our modern wargaming system. Time for another update on what´s been going on behind the veil of silence.
After several weeks of writing the german version of the rules, Code Red has entered the first stages of playtesting in January. Since then, several playtests have been conducted with a basic version of the game (including only infantry rules) and reports have been coming back with important feedback on rule wording, missing bits and confusing or unclear rules. These annotations will be refined into the next version of the rules, while the testing framework will be expanded bit by bit each version by adding rules for heavy weapons and Fire Support, Vehicles and at last, scenario and list building.
This allows any playtesters to get introduced to the ruleset slowly, learning and commenting it bit by bit. It also allows me to judge the different building blocks and mechanics with their respective effect on the overall game balance. It also enables me to prepare an English version somewhere in the middle of the road, based on a refined and playtested german version – i.e. I can translate infantry combat to widen my circle of playtesters at any time, even if playtesting for games including Air Support rules are still being tested. It also allows me to get rid of “lazy” playtesters who are not showing that much interest after all. Playtesting is work and can be frustrating at times, because it´s very likely to discover some ambiguity in rules or balance issues.
The downside is obvious as well, you don´t get the whole picture throughout the first test versions. Some tactical decisions are simply not available (Artillery, Airstrikes, Vehicles), which can be problematic for some formations in certain situation. A few factions, especially mechanized elements, are just not meant to operate without their vehicles and thus are not very fun to play without vehicle support (duh…). The downsides of some choices will not be apparent until later versions.
But the very first versions are tightly controlled by me anyway, so I can pick out the things that need immediate fixing and put some other issues onto a list to raise the issue again in later versions of the game.
So, what has been done and what needs to be done? At which stage of development are we?
The following list, in no particular order, should give you a nice overview:
- The first (german) version has been written.
- Infantry Combat works - it is being tasted and no major flaws have been detected yet. Minor issues are being on the watch list for testing when the other elements are in place
- Basic infantry cost/benefit - balance seems to be good right now
- Draft versions of fire support have been written and are waiting to be tested on a larger scale
- Basic vehicle combat framework exists
- Testing, Testing, Testing…!
- …and balancing + refining
- Correcting the usual minor flaws, oversights and rewording the rules to reduce ambiguity.
- Writing the vehicle rules into a proper rules text
- Reworking vehicle and heavy weapon pricing formulas and get the relation to infantry point values right
- Refining & possibly expanding available scenario objectives and their point cost
- Expanding list building options to create more variety in scenario building (depleted units, patrols, etc.)
- Design a balanced framework for national flavor in faction lists
- Build lists for the many factions that are not yet included!
- Translating the rules into an English version
- Evaluate the playtest of the English version
As you can see, there´s still some way to go, but the list has been shrinking down considerably during the last 4 months and progress has been good despite very little opportunity to playtest the game myself.
The game is perceived as very fun overall, with playtesters stressing the tactical depth of the game. It seems to be flowing nicely but sometimes runs the risk of slowing or even bogging down. I hope future options (vehicles, artillery) and some of the changes from the last versions help to mitigate this factor, but only more playtesting will show.
That´s it for today on Code Red!