One Tiny Thing

In the land of one-square models, the two-square model is… bleedin’ awkward.

I am referring, of course, to the Dwarf Driller that comes with the Dwarf King’s Hold bundle deal, and who is a central feature of the scenario that goes with it. You might not have thought that it would make much difference, having a two square model, but it does. Oh yes.

All other models in the game fit neatly into a single square. This means that they are nice and discrete when it comes to movement, turning and so on. They can get round corners in one square wide tunnels and all manner of clevernesses. With a two-square model you have to think about things like which square does it turn on (front or back), where are its front and rear arcs, how does it fight, and so on. Basically, this one model needs almost a complete rewrite of the rules. He is Mr Exception.

You may be expecting that I’ve done some inelegant phone book of a rule set for this chap, but if you are then you need to have more faith. Fret not. All is under control. Having some additional rules is unavoidable. Simple geometry requires explanation of the difficulties that being 2 squares big causes. I have, however, been able to refine the rules down so that even with his inherent awkwardness the mechanics are clean and simple (if you’ve played Dwarf King’s Hold, you may have realised that I like clean and simple rules).

So why am I bleating on about this? Well, I thought it was a good illustration of how one tiny change can make a huge amount of difference in design terms. As an example, this will make more sense to those that have (had the good taste to have already) played Dwarf King’s Hold. The principle applies to any game where you move in squares though. Try playing snakes & ladders with a two-square big model. There are almost zero rules in snakes & ladders, and all of them need a caveat when you change to two squares from one for a piece.

I am well over my allotted words by now, so I’ll leave you there to ponder. Suffice to say that I shall revisit this concept in an article later.

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9 Responses to One Tiny Thing

  1. Elromanozo says:

    Dear sir, this is a fine piece of writing… But you have said nothing !
    All I know now is that there is a driller that is two squares long in said scenario, and that you had to amend, or rather expand, the movement rules because of that. Or rather that the scenario uses that very two-square way to move as a theme for the scenario, a handicap and/or a strength for the dwarf team.
    You reveal nothing of those rules or thsi scenario, only that they’re not too complicated.
    In other words, you have said nothing… Nothing that wasn’t easily deduced simply by looking at the driller himself : He’s two squares long, so that must be more cumbersome, he must move differently, that could be fun… And knowing DKH and/or its author, the rules are probably fairly simple, yet game-changing.
    My, my, Jake, you’re getting more and more victorian… πŸ™‚

  2. Quirkworthy says:

    From the mahogany desk of J Thornton, esq.

    My Dear Elromanozo,

    All sound and fury, you say? Signifying nothing, eh? Positively Shakespearean πŸ˜‰

    You must realise, old chap, that my intention here was to merely tease with the mention of the Driller, as this is not the proper place for those rules. The larger and more important purpose was to use this as an example of a small change that has had a large effect in game terms, as I believe I mention in the penultimate paragraph. This is the real point of the post, though as I also say I ran out of space and will have to return to develop the thought more fully at a later date.

    By my smoking jacket, if I am getting more Victorian I think that might be a jolly good thing; culture, invention and an Empire upon which the sun never sets. Ah, the good old days.

  3. Andy Frazer says:

    That’s why I always go from the 1 square model to 4 squares… or better yet circular bases with no facing. In Go Fer Yer Guns! (playtest rules available now from BTW) I first ran the game with circular bases and facing (like Infinity), but it becomes much too complex when you start using models with cool poses and difficult to determine “Line of Sight”.

    I want cool models in my game, so out went facing, in favour of having the ability to sculpt a model that is firing in a different direction from its obvious facing, or that has a sculpted base, which doesn’t easily allow facing to be marked… there are no facings… however, Go Fer Yer Guns! has to now follow a more cinematic theme, as more granular reality has just gone out the window!

    Just as a last note… I hate 2 square (or cavalry) bases… I love the round base and the larger round base used by the GW Lord of the Rings models is great. It’s 4 squares!

    The future is round… just like me! πŸ˜€

    P.S. I rebased most of the Mantic stuff we have onto round bases so that they can be used in D&D or DKH… I’ve even got a Dwarf Berserker Lord that gets mixed into the Dwarf Team… for the moment he uses the Orc rules, but I might make him a bit different just for fun! πŸ˜›

  4. Quirkworthy says:

    You’re quite right that 4 squares is easier, though in DKH that would still be an issue in moving round corners and as such would require a few extra twiddles.

    The Driller is 2 squares big because the model looks like it should be. That’s how I tend to start with figure games: get the toys on the table and make it work like it looks like it should work. He’s very clearly 2 squares big. Put him on a 4 square base and he drowns.

    Interesting comment on losing granularity for cinematic feel. That’s one of the classic decisions in miniature game design: how much of the gritty detail of “reality” are you going to bother with? I think there are some general rules you can apply to figures to define facing, and few bases are so elaborately modelled that they cannot be subtly marked to show it, but I take your point. Having no facing can allow for a more fluid game. However, losing the ability to sneak up on people is a shame as it is an obvious and fairly simply implemented (when you have facings) concept that everyone can understand. It also tells a good story, and that’s something I always like to encourage. As ever, it’s a case of balance, and of deciding which bits are most central to telling the tale you wish your game to tell.

    By the way, if you haven’t seen Go Fer Yer Guns, you should pop over and check out the rules. They are a great excuse to pick up some of the many excellent western figures out there πŸ™‚

    • Andy Frazer says:

      However, in GFYG, there is a stealth mechanic that allows models to sneak up on their opponent… πŸ˜€

      The Go Fer Yer Guns! rules will be up on BoW soon, the video crashed during upload, so they’ll be available this afternoon. 😦

  5. Quirkworthy says:

    Cool. I look forward to having a look through the latest incarnation of ‘Gopher’ when it’s up.

    Good to hear that you have a stealth rule for sneakage. Sneakage tells a story. However, I would wonder whether it looks right if I sneak up to you from the front. I’m not saying you must have facings, but it is entirely intuitive to have someone sneaking up behind his opponent and less so when the models are both (apparently) staring at each other.

    On the subject of videos, when will I be able to watch the game of Smog we filmed for Backstage? Ever?

  6. fiend says:

    Heh. This is what you run into when programming, day in, day out.

    “This all works this way. And it’s happy. Oh yeah, can you just make a small exception for this bit. It lives with all these here, but it works in such a completely different way, you’re going to have to rewrite all your code to cater to it alongside all the other stuff.”

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Yup. I remember that song. Usually starts with “Can you just… “, and the accompanying “It’s only a little change”.

      In my case with the Dwarf Driller it has, in fact, demonstrated the robustness of the core rules, which I’m rather happy about. As I said before though, it is an excellent example of the design ramifications of a single small change.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Oh, and this also illustrates how an analysis of the marvels of gaming encompasses the entirety of human endeavour πŸ˜‰

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