Deadzone Points Values

Of all the games I’ve worked on, Deadzone is probably the most awkward to balance in terms of points. There are all the usual reasons for points systems not working, though in the case of DZ it’s more than that. Terrain plays an unusually large role in the game, and for this reason the exact set up can make a huge difference to the relative values of individual models and, indeed, whole strike teams. The type of set up that you normally play on may make one side or another globally better (or worse) or it may favour a particular troop type.

When you have a game with a fixed terrain (as with most board games), then this whole aspect disappears. Even when compared to most tabletop games the scenery in Deadzone is unusually important. This issue is, therefore, more problematical here than elsewhere.

I could have been far more prescriptive when I was writing the game, defining exactly what went where. However, this was against one of the major themes of Deadzone, which is that you have a set of terrain you can assemble as you choose (and re-assemble, and so on), and build up into whatever you think looks cool. So I opted for suggestions and guidelines instead, to allow you to keep the freedom.

DZ is still a very new game, and so people are still familiarising themselves with all the ins and outs of the tactics and forces available. It’ll take a while for things to settle down. This is normal.

For the moment, I’m hearing a number of comments about points. “This model is too expensive”, “that faction are all too cheap”, and so on. However, these comments don’t yet show a pattern when compared across gaming groups. In fact, they are frequently completely contradictory. While I was at Salute I was told that the same faction was both entirely unstoppable and that it couldn’t win because it was horribly overpriced. In an abstract sense (which is the only way you can practically point something) this cannot be true. However, when taken with the many permutations of missions, player skill, and terrain (yes, back to that) it can.

On the little evidence I have, one thing that seems to be influencing things is the style among individual groups. By “style” I mean what the group collectively accepts as a reasonable way to set up the game; what “looks right” and so on. It’s not really right or wrong, but as I mentioned above, even 10 or 20% more or less scenery can make a huge difference in apparent values of models. If this sense of what looks right differs between groups then they may well have different experiences of how one faction fares compared to another. Anyway, it’s a theory.

So does anything need to be done? Personally, I’d say it was far too early for any rash changes. What we need to see is the results of hundreds or thousands of games, and we don’t have that information yet. For every person who’s saying that x or y is wrongly pointed, another tells me that they’re fine. If I did change the points values then the ones who think they’re right now would complain when I did so. Can’t win ;)

If you’re interested in exploring your own perceptions a little, try playing a DZ game and then refighting it (same strike teams and missions) but with half the scenery. Then a third time with double the original amount. Then ask yourself: did the value of each model stay the same or change between battles? Even more awkwardly, did the amount by which they changed stay the same or vary?

Aren’t points systems fun?

Posted in Deadzone, Game Design Theory | 13 Comments

Deadzone: When Do You Count VPs?

Have a look at the different ways to earn VPs on page 41.

When you Kill a target listed on your mission, or scamper off with an item for Scour, it’s pretty easy to see that you should count those VPs from that point on. After all, the item ain’t coming back and the dead guy isn’t getting any better. Infiltrate is the same, as is Intel. Survive is simple as it only adds up and can’t be lost either. The only ones that seem to raise any questions are Capture and Control. When do you count these?

These are pretty straightforward too, though they aren’t the same as the others for the simple reason that they can be lost as well as gained.

In real battles, at both a local and grand scale, objectives are won, lost and won again. This can happen in a game of DZ too. You can gain Control of an objective only to have the controlling model killed, or an enemy move up to contest it. With Capture and Control, you have the VPs as long as you fulfil the conditions for that goal. If you subsequently lose Control then you lose those VPs. Easy!

Think of it this way. You get back from the operation, covered in grime, blood and stinking of cordite. Your boss comes over to get a one sentence summary before the full debrief. If your mission was to Kill someone and you did so, then your boss is happy. If you were tasked with Controlling an objective and the battle ended with it in enemy hands do you think he’d be impressed? Not so much. Even if you did control it at one time, early on? That’s not his happy face. 

Or, to put it another way, unlike every other type of goal, Capture and Control have no memory. If you’re not doing it now then it never happened.

If the game ends by timing out, then just tot up your VPs at that moment, Capture and Control included. If, on the other hand, you want to claim a victory earlier, then you simply need to keep a running tally of how many you have at that moment. As you should be focussed on your mission anyway, what you need to do to win should all be pretty clear. Personally, I don’t worry about counting VPs till I’ve racked up a few (regardless of what kind of goal they’re from). At that point I take a moment (during my opponent’s turn) to work out what options I have for winning. What more do I need to do? Very often there are two or three different ways to win, though exactly what they are depends on which mission you have, what your strike team is composed of (or what’s left), and what you’re up against. Don’t forget that you can always abort a mission or simply go for wiping out the foe.

DZ-Zee-Scavengers_wipOn a separate, but related issue, what happens if a strike team’s last model moves off the board to Infiltrate or Scour? Does the enemy win (case 2 of claimed victories) or do the VPs for the moving model count?

There are a small number of other situations in which a single action can result in both players being able to claim a win simultaneously. In common with all fun things, most of these situations involve explosives.

My ruling on this is that the active player gets to claim a win first. He is, after all, the one causing whatever mayhem is happening, and I think it’s appropriate to reward his efforts. If he’s managed to scrape a win by moving off his last model then good for him. Mission accomplished.

This ruling also has the advantage of applying to any situation when simultaneous claims could be made, whatever the cause.

Posted in Deadzone, FAQ | 7 Comments

Heroes Of Normandie Army Boxes

Michael asked me yesterday how big these were, so here’s a pic. The DreadBall rulebook is lined up against the top left corner as a reference, so the HoN army boxes are slightly larger than that (all 3 army boxes are the same size).

HoN army box 2In numbers, the boxes are about 32cm x 22cm front, and about 7.5cm deep. They all come with a plastic inlay to sort stuff into once it’s burst from the frames.

HoN army box 1I’ll do a proper unboxing later, when I’ve played the core game a few times and can comment better on what the new pieces add to it.

Posted in Review | 6 Comments

Heroes Of Normandie: (Big) Unboxing

I was going to write something else today, but then the postman arrived with a large and rather heavy box. I’ve put the Deadzone box beside it for comparison as that’s one of the biggest game boxes I’ve got. It makes DZ look rather small and delicate…

HoN 1Anyway, the box turned out to be full of one of my Kickstarter purchases: Heroes of Normandie. There’s a few bits to follow later in the year. Mind you, this is more than enough to be getting on with for now.

HoN 2Out of the box it looks even more impressive. Here are the major elements:

HoN 3And here are the piles of extra counter sheets with variant units (and extra zombies). Yes, I may have got a tiny bit carried away.

HoN 4I haven’t started unwrapping anything yet as that was going to be even more distracting. It was fun having a quick skip through what had arrived though. Lovely art and an amusing style. I’m looking forward to getting a game organised.

Obviously, as it came in a box, it wasn’t long before there was a cat sitting in it. Mojo, in this case. So now it’s been officially accepted into the household.

HoN 5When I’ve digested what I’ve actually got I’ll do an unboxing of the various elements so you can see the rather nice quality of the components in more detail. It’s a little confusing as the way it’s presented isn’t quite what I was expecting. The KS evolved as it went along, and this packaging is presumably how it will go into trade. It does look nice though :)

Posted in Review | 11 Comments

Salute Spoils

Salute spoils

Back from Salute now, and what a show it was! The best show I’ve been to in ages, I think. Why? Several reasons. To start with there was a very upbeat and cheery atmosphere, both among the traders and the customers (not always the case). That’s always good. I also wangled a little more time between talking to people about the games I’ve done for Mantic to actually have a look about the show myself, and I acquired a small pile of swag (above) while doing so. I’ll do some unboxings and whatnot later.

These brief jaunts away from the stand did underline quite how much there was to see at the show. There were at least two people I had arranged to say hi to, but couldn’t actually find on the day. Several stands like SmartMax and Studio McVey I saw only at a distance and would happily have browsed in detail. Some of the aisles I didn’t even go down at all (probably why I didn’t find everyone I was after), and the entries to the painting competition were so popular that all I could see was the crowd around the cases. I never even looked at the demo games. Lots and lots to see and do.

That’s not a complaint though, it’s just rambling aloud. If anything, I’m reminding myself that if I’m ever there and not working on a stand I need to give myself the whole day to really do it justice. I can’t think of another 1-day UK show that’s true for.


Posted in Events | 7 Comments

Down At Salute

salute2014webbannerThis saturday is one of the biggest events in the UK gaming calendar: Salute. This is a big one-day show down in London, and this year I’ll be attending with the Mantic crew once again.

For many of you this will be way too far to travel, and for others you’ll already have all your arrangements in place. Either way, I’m not really trying to pimp the show as such (though it is a great place to see what’s going on in the world of toy soldiers) – just thought I’d say that I’ll be there and if you fancy a chat about games you now know where to find me on the day :)

If you can’t attend, there is usually quite a lot of coverage on various blogs. Last year Beasts of War did a bunch of shows from the event, and it wouldn’t surprise me if they did so again. It’s also a time when companies tend to release something new and shiny, which is also nice. One day I’ll get to go when I’m not on a stand and will actually have a chance to properly explore the hall (and spend some money). It’s way too big to properly recce in a short break.

See you there!

Posted in Events | 5 Comments

Gamer Bling

Of the many gaming items I’ve acquired of late, perhaps the oddest is some new dice. No, not the D10s I ordered from Chessex, I’m talking about a pair of perfectly ordinary D6s I was given as a present. Well, when I say ordinary, I mean 24K gold plated reproduction 1st century Roman dice, so perhaps not entirely run-of-the-mill.

Gold diceNow I’ve got them, I’m not quite sure what to do with them. Those of you that know your dice history will remember that Roman dice are rarely (if ever) entirely accurate cubes. Instead they are often endearingly wonky, as are these. That may rule out using them in anger, so to speak, though I don’t expect that most of my regular opponents would object to them representing heroes, and so on. I’ve no idea whether their wonkiness is a help or a hindrance.

Does anyone else have any ostentatious gamer bling?

Posted in Random Thoughts | 9 Comments