Ever since we announced that we were working on Deadzone people have been asking whether they could play on a bigger battlefield. Sure you can, we said, why not?
Deadzone is designed around a single battle mat that is 2 foot square. It’s a claustrophobic combat arena with no room to hide and no time to mess about. However, as I said the other day, there are many modes in which you can play the game and the classic game is just one of them. Each format has its devotees and no one size fits all (which is why DZ comes in several sizes).
Some people will be quite happy playing the classic 2-player game on a single mat and that’s great. Others will find that too small and want the wider expanses of several times that area. Still others will only ever play solo, or as a multi-player club game. All of these options are equally valid and all allow you to tailor Deadzone to the gaming experience that best suits you and your friends.
So, what’s the difference with larger games (apart from the obvious)? Well mostly it’s the implications of that extra space and larger forces which makes the game different. To recap on the modes I mentioned before, there were two specifically for larger games:
- Multi-mat Games. Two-player games with more than one mat as a battlefield. Playing lengthways down a two-mat battlefield gives a different type of game as there is a longer approach/position phase, plus long ranged weapons play more of a role. It’s possible to use light vehicles as there is enough space and ground to cover.
- Multi-player Games. Usually on more than one mat, but possible to play on a single one. These games pit teams of players against other teams of players – in effect taking a large two-player game and breaking each side down into sub-commands. Introduces an element of co-op play into Deadzone. Naturally I’ve slightly spun this by saying that even though each side shares a common goal they also retain separate missions for the sub-commands.
One thing that a few of you have asked is whether you can combine X and Y modes. Well, yes. That’s why I included the final paragraph on that post which says you can do just that. As far as possible all of these models will be compatible with each other. Some will require more thinking than others to fit together neatly, but when it comes to things like multi player games on multiple mats it should be easy.
Anyway, let’s have a think about each of these in a bit more detail.
The deep battlefield is the key feature here. It adds several turns of approach movement that allows forces to disperse into a more considered defensive perimeter or offensive pattern. This includes using the third dimension as well, so snipers can climb up to vantage points and so on.
This extra time removes some of the urgency and pressure on the player that is typical in a classic game where the enemy is pretty much in your face from round 1. Whether this is a good idea or not is a matter of taste, but it’s an interesting change of pace. Rest assured though, things still get hectic once the forces close in…
The other thing that deep battlefields do is allow longer ranged weaponry to shine a bit more. So mortars and heavy machine guns will come into play as may light vehicles. Things that take time to position and deploy correctly such as sentry guns are easier to use here too, and can be integrated more easily into an overall plan. Overall the extra time shifts the balance slightly towards the heavier weapons.
Talking about coherence, the depth can also be a bit of a trap for the unwary. It is tempting to get your assault troops out in front and leave lines of supporting troops far behind. Indeed, this may be a good plan. Remember though that success in Deadzone relies heavily on your ability to use your forces as a team rather than as a collection of individuals. No matter how well trained an individual model is there are something s they can’t do alone. Some elements of the game are designed specifically to encourage teamwork and, in fact, to be hard to do at all well without it.
Other things such as missions remain as normal. However, you’ll be surprised how different the whole thing feels with just the simple addition of some more space to move through.
As well as giving two players a deeper battlefield to fight over, a larger game can involve more than two players. The dynamic for this is independent of the number of mats used, though obviously the more players you have the more mats and models you’ll probably want.
The intention here is to provide a way of playing games with all your mates at once rather than just one. Whilst you could play a free-for-all the two sided game makes more sense in terms of background. Even if there are three or more forces vying for an objective, it’s likely that one will allow the other two to maul each other first before weighing in to claim the prize. At least, that makes military sense to me. A true three-way meeting engagement is a rare thing indeed! So, two sides with several players per side seems to be the way forward.
Having decided that sharing sides between players was the thing to do, we then have to find a way to make that (a) fun and (b) slick to play.
Fun often comes from choice and conflict – having to pick between many options with limited resources. It’s balancing the risk and accepting the challenge of outthinking or outguessing your opponents. This requires there to be choices, and a common issue with co-operative play is a diminishment of hard choices. In other words, when you’re playing on the same side and are entirely trustworthy and reliable there’s a lot less challenge. So let’s make people less reliable 🙂
A simple way to do that is to retain a secret mission for every player and make that a big part of winning the game. Having a public mission for the players on a single side to share between them is another good idea as this gives them a reason to work together to an extent. What we’re after is a tension between working together and working on their own as this is more fun than either end of the spectrum.
The bit I haven’t finalised yet is how to balance the points from the combined and individual mission and exactly when is bets to end a game. That’ll be obvious when I’ve played some more games.
Mix It All Together…
And what have you got?
Like most of the different modes these two can be combined quite successfully. In this case you end up with increasingly large battlefields and games with anything up to 6 or more players involved. I’ve not played a game this large yet, though I see no reason it wouldn’t work. It will take a bit longer to play because you’re adding so many more models and players, but that’s to be expected and in some ways is part of the fun. Once you’ve gone to all the trouble to get everyone in the same place at the same time you want to make the most of it!
This is the first and most straightforward of the multi-player and multi-mat options I’ve been working on. In due course I’ll get to more free-for-alls and other more complex narrative multi-player battles. Rare they may be, but not unheard of, and in the context of a good story and an exciting campaign I think they could really shine.