A Slower Thought About Mercs

Some good points came up in the comments about last night’s quick thought. I thought I’d carry on here though as I wanted to make some additions.

Firstly, while we may do a whole mercs army at some stage, for the moment we need to focus on the main factions. That means that mercs aren’t the main event here, they’re the cherry on top.

In a background sense, especially in campaign terms, I don’t see any military unit progressing and being well regarded if their work is all done for them by hired hands. For that reason I’m tending towards being quite restrictive with the amount of help they can give. One brutally simple option would be to say that forces which included mercs cannot advance as a result of that mission. Individuals may skill up, of course, but the force as a whole wouldn’t as they weren’t actually doing the work themselves. Maybe that’s too much though.

Another way would be to say that mercs cannot earn VPs for any mission goal. This is what I mentioned yesterday. The logic holds for any goal as having your work done for you doesn’t differentiate about the work. And would you believe them anyway? “Yes, of course I killed, oh, 5 or 6 Stage 1s. They’re just around that corner. You can’t see them because the building collapsed on their bodies. Can I have my bonus now?”. Yeah, right.

Even if you did believe them, whilst achieving the mission may be great however it is done (from the point of view of the overall command), it isn’t going to earn Brownie points for the unit involved if they rely on hired guns. It might make the merc more famous though. I’m sure they’d love that. However, we’re not playing a game about a single merc (that would be an entirely different game), we’re playing a game about a strike force from one of the main factions. As such you have to look at it differently.

Individual units don’t have the cash to hire mercs. They’re paid by the higher echelons who have the budget for these things, and they’re only hired when they think that their own units can’t hack it on their own. That does not make the units look good at all. No sir.


So, while I’m not 100% sure of a final version of the merc rules, I’m thinking along the lines of a maximum of 1 per game per side, and them not being able to claim any mission goals. As a starting point.

This entry was posted in Deadzone. Bookmark the permalink.

41 Responses to A Slower Thought About Mercs

  1. GrumpyOldMan201 says:

    I thought some of the Mercs were more like named characters, specifically Recon N32-19 and Dr Simmonds. Would this apply to them as well?

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Yes it would.

      Imagine you had a unit go off on a mission and they achieved their objective. Huzzah! Everyone loves the unit. Imagine the same unit goes off and achieves the same mission but this time Chuck Norris tags along and does all the killing. Do people remember the unit (who?) or do they remember Chuck Norris?

  2. Jonatan Reino (asdepicas) says:

    the one per game per side limit seems fine to me, maybe with a sidenote allowing more in bigger games?
    the thing about not allowing them claim mission goals is that there could be a scenario where you cant achieve victory due to merc killing too much stuff… he was hired for that work so why should that be considered a unsuccesful mission? i agree that some limit should be imposed as they shouldnt be used more than their regular units (as we´ve seen with blaine and teraton) other options can also be considered:
    -adding a Vp cost as D.Randolph said, that would make the mission a bit more complicated to achieve
    -overpricing a bit the mercs so that regular troops are more interesting
    -adding a system for capaigns like the one blood bowl uses with starplayers
    -making a dice roll whenever he achieves some Vp to see if boss believes the merc or not
    -adding a rule where another friendly unit must be adjacent to the merc so that his vps are counted.
    -imposing some kind of morale or command penalty at the begining of the game due to the troops being pissed
    -giving a penalty to experience earned by the force (i like the subtle idea you´ve thrown in of force gaining xp in addition to individual models)
    -adding some kind of rule were oposing player can pay points so that the merc isnt in the game (outbidding)

    this is just some kind of brainstorming, on monday (maybe sunday) we will be having a couple more games, so we will be doing some more testing, we may try some different options to see how mercs behave if you dont have anything more urgent to test (as you said that main factions are priority)

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I’ll come back to some of this. Just to take a couple of points.

      Bigger forces for bigger games will be built as several smaller ones. So, a two mat wide game might have two forces, each of which would be chosen like a normal one mat force.Doing it this way means that everyone is familiar with the process, but still leave people able to give different forces different tasks. For example, one force could be the supporting force whilst the other was given the hob of assault.

      Outbidding was something I mulled over this morning I’d been thinking about Machiavelli (the game) and that includes bribes and counter-bribes that do a similar thing. I think people might find it a bit harsh in this context though, much as i like it. It also takes value out of the game and models off the table which I’m nit sure works either. I’ve not completely abandoned the idea yet though, partly because I like Machiavelli 😉

      • Jonatan Reino (asdepicas) says:

        it could be as easy as sending troops of the same cost or higher to “convince” the merc not to take part on this mission, it could work for one off games. the only problem you may find is that you may find games being played with just a few points in miniatures…

        I´m also a machiavelli lover 😉

        • Quirkworthy says:

          The background reasoning is fine. The problem is whether it would lead to a more or less workable game, and I’m not sure. I think people might get frustrated by losing their cash for nothing.

          As I said, I come from a gaming background where that’s just part of the challenge, though I realise I may be in a minority there.

        • Deaven R. says:

          An alternate method to abstract the “Bidding” process would be to simply say that if both factions have the same Merc, then neither side gets to use them.
          Treat it as if one side paid them off to not help their enemy.

          Simple, but equitable and flavorful.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          I can hear the grumbling already 😉

      • Luke Howell-Williams says:

        I don’t think an outbidding system would feel quite right in a wargame, unless both players bid on individual mercs before list creation, and any mercs ‘won’ by a player MUST be used by the winner (to prevent bidding simply to deny your opponent the merc.) This would work better in one-off games, and I’m not too sure how a bidding system could work in the campaign.
        Perhaps sides can use accumulated force influence (for lack of a better term, I’m not sure what exactly you’re planning on doing with the force progression) to secure mercs for games rather than using the influence points to advance. That is, of course, assuming you do decide to go with a force xp accumulation system.

        Any system where bidding occurs after both sides have already made their lists is going to leave players down cast for the rest of the game if they feel they’re fighting a loosing battle (at least from my experience.)

    • Luke says:

      I’m also a little worried about not being to win kill missions if you kill too many guys with a merc. It might be a bit telling if I have a merc and secretly draw the kill for vp mission and then he doesn’t attack anyone.

      • Quirkworthy says:

        Um, well don’t kill too many guys with the merc then. You know what your mission is, and you take the actions that do the killing. It’s entirely your own fault if you get into that situation.

        It depends on how evolved your group’s tactical play is. This is just the sort of thing that is ripe for exploiting for double-bluffs. You don’t start off doing lots of killing, and when your opponent decides he can be safely ignored you strike.

        Simples 😉

  3. David Kenny says:

    I really like the limit of one per side. I think for games the size of what I reckon DZ will be, having more than one merc will dilute how a faction plays or feels. I also wouldn’t be too upset about them not being able to complete objectives. As you said, they’re not the stars. They might be there to fill a hole or provide a speciality but not to run around doing it all. That said, it might be worth one or two mercs having a rule which allowed them to complete missions. After all, this may be the speciality of some of them!

      • jonatan reino (asdepicas) says:

        I think it would also be nice that cards cannot be played on mercs, i see the cards as tactical benefits of each factions tactics so as they do not belong to the force they shouldnt be allowed to benefit from them.

        • Deaven R. says:

          That’s actually a really good point.
          Mercs probably should not benefit from cards because they won’t care about low level leaders.

    • ph3brickid says:

      Yeah I like the idea of a special rule that exempts them from the limitations if it fits their theme.

    • jonatan reino (asdepicas) says:

      I just fear the posibility of a player throwing some of his troopers to be killed in melee by a merc just to not give Vps to his oponent…

    • jonatan reino (asdepicas) says:

      Also, if mercs are allowed to gain vps by killing then plague would be the faction that would be in a better position to hire mercs due to its misions… I dont think that would be right

  4. Mike says:

    I always thought the Blood Bowl system was very strong.
    For example, you’re not able to hire ‘star players’ or ‘mercenaries’ until after your first game of a campaign. Actually that rule maybe a house rule, I can’t remember now…

    Also in Blood Bowl the hired gun stats and skills are frozen, they can’t improve! So they may be best thing in your squad for early games but overtime once your troops starting progressing they then overtake the mercenaries in terms of skills and abilities.

    I also like the idea of having a limit to 1-2 mercenaries per force.
    Really mercenaries should add flavour to a force, not dominate it.

    While named characters I can see being used in large games and/or specific scenarios.

    • jonatan reino (asdepicas) says:

      I agree about the BB way of dealing with star players is strong, i can see a faction leader hiring a powerful merc to aid his troops when they are facing a specially powerful enemy

    • Quirkworthy says:

      It would be nice and simple to restrict mercs to campaign games where their influence is more easily managed. It’s the one-offs that cause the major problems.

      Unfortunately, people will inevitably want to include them anyway.

  5. I kinda like the idea of your team members double crossing the merc at some point. Maybe this could be in some form of leadership type dice roll to keep the rest of your team in line (i.e. if they’re in adjacent cubes to the merc)? This would also be harder once your leader is killed and command passes to the next guy in the chain of command.
    (It kind of goes with the idea that the merc is forced upon them by higher ups and they’ll work with him, but accidents happen. 😉 )
    I thought of this because it reminds me of the merc in William Gibsons’ novel Count Zero who was always looking for the guy on the team who was going to double cross him. It was the m.o. of his employer and totally expected. After all it’s just business….

  6. Gavin Bateman says:

    I personally dont agree, if an objective is achieved then no one cares how it gets done. If you decide mercs cant earn vps or any other restrictions are placed then you need to make mercs much cheaper than a comparitively skilled faction model. Otherwise they wont be used which would be a shame.

    • ph3brickid says:

      Yes this is my concern too. The mercs cost points, so they shouldn’t be fundamentally over powered as they are.

      I think there should be a little bit of restriction to prevent a force being full of mercs, but too much is going to invalidate them. At the moment I’m worried that no VPs along with no progression and no order cards is going to make mercs a lot weaker than comparably priced models.

      As things stand, my favourite idea so far is not using the order cards from a faction- this makes perfect sense and does restrict them a bit. Perhaps that alone doesn’t go far enough but at the moment mercs feel in danger of being ‘fluffy’ but very weak in game.

      • Quirkworthy says:

        I don’t think that “really weak” is a reasonable assessment of Nastanza or Blaine under any combination of these limitations. They are still very powerful characters. Just not as powerful than they would be without restrictions.

        @Gavin – as I said above, if the merc does the job instead of the unit then High Command is happy that the job is done but the unit gets nothing for it. In game terms, they do not count as having achieved the mission. The cleanest way to replicate that is to deny the mercs VPs. Anyway, mercs don’t care about VPs. They only make a difference to units.

        In either case, all of this is to deal with an actual problem which is that mercs are too potent when unrestricted. Whatever your view of them, that needs addressing.

        Whilst this may be that the points system needs further tweaking (they always do) I think the real problem is that they are high end warriors who can be taken off the shelf to specifically fill a gap in a faction. Factions have gaps to balance their overall play and this breaks that balance. It’s an old problem.

        I don’t like disallowing order cards as it is too easy to forget as we’ll as not being enough of a restriction. Nor do I think it really makes a great deal of sense. The first two points are enough to rule it out for me though.

        Finally, to reiterate a point I made earlier, mercs are the cherry on top. They are not the main event (the factions are) and if they threaten the way that works then it only makes sense to cut them back hard. Better they are a bit underpowered than they break the game.

        • ph3brickid says:

          Yes but guys like Blaine that are tooled up specifically for killing are a detriment if you’re playing a kill x,y,z mission where you get VPs for every kill. I still think it is counter intuitive that I would be hoping not to get a kill mission BECAUSE I have taken Nastanza and her main role is killing.

          I don’t see why limiting mercs to one per side and then giving more thought to their points cost isn’t sufficient. As you say, the mercs are filling holes in a faction’s abilities, so they should be costed appropriately for that by maybe making them 10-20% more expensive to include in your force.

        • Quirkworthy says:

          That won’t work well either. Because both the mercenaries and missions are variable you will never find a single % bonus you can apply globally that will accurately reflect their relative worth for different factions, let alone different missions.

  7. Gavin Bateman says:

    Mercs however should not be able to use leadership or resources of a faction.

  8. Tom says:

    Just to put in my thoughts… Mercs are characters to add flavour as others have said. I like the no cards rule, and maybe limited numbers of vps or none at all. They should be highly skilled but with no real attachment to the faction. I’ll do my job, but finders keepers and if anyone pays me more, I’m off… Named characters I see as heroes within each faction who could do everything as normal and inspire the other troops. I can’t wait for this game!

  9. Rigel Anderson says:

    (Re-posted from the other quick point about mercs topic)
    I think the VP price is a very good idea. It seems to me that if mercs are getting hired by someone then they want them to be able to get the job done. To emulate that you could have the VP price or winning with a merc could subtract from your win bonus. This would represent the issue you make about high command feeling there was an asterisk next to the victory.

    When you point out that Mercs are erratic and you can’t always account for their motives then maybe another negative could be to make it more likely that mercs don’t do what you tell them during a given turn. Perhaps all mercs have the ability “Ulterior Motives” which makes them lose 2 turns when the “Distraction” card is played on them. Or maybe you have to roll each round to get them to activate.

    I think in the end that mercs should be able to get victory points but I agree strings should be attached.

    • Deaven R. says:

      And if you’re looking for a fluff reason for increasing the VP requirements to win with a Merc, you could say that High Command has given your unit this bonus asset (the mercenary) but now they expect more out of you.

      Where they may have been satisfied with you killing 8 guys before, but now they want a full 10.

      One other interesting (I think!) idea is that instead, the mercenaries give your opponents VPs at the start of the game. Could be a really fun mechanic: you get these really awesome and points efficient units but you now have less time to win!

  10. crimsonsun says:

    Hi Jake,
    First up thanks for all the work in progress stuff you have been posting up, liking a large amount of what I have seen and cannot wait for more. 🙂

    Am I missing something regarding Mercenaries because from reading the comments it seems people are talking about Generic Mercenaries and named Characters as both existing in the current form. I have only seen the V2 (public) Merc list you posted a few days ago which only includes Named Characters. (though the Jelly fish could be more generic) So am I missing something or am I just getting confused somewhere.

    In terms of what is being discussed I feel that named Characters should be limited to one per force and have special hiring restrictions, the limit is simple as these guys whole livelihood comes from there reputation and as a result they most avidly would not want to split the glory. I positively hate the idea that two factions can hire the same named Merc (yes we could give them a different name and imagine them as being something else but I really dislike that, it feels cheap.) so I imagine there needs to be some form of pre game agreement or open lists for one off games, and in on going campaigns some kind of moderation to stop this happening. Though to me the main issue is in on going campaign style games as they too me are where its more important to maintain a narrative feel.

    I do agree with what someone posted above that some Characters should be able to give victory points in set missions – or one better is that they have there own mission pre designated, a small chart would suffice in which you get VP’s only for what they have been paid for, this could be to kill a type of faction member, or too capture an objective etc but anything else they do you get nothing for.

    I am trying to keep my post down in length so I will quickly finish by asking if you have come to a decision regarding generic Mercenaries being included and if so are you considering using the exact same system for there recruitment as well as limitations as the named versions?

    Thanks for your time, Crimsonsun

  11. Tom says:

    Just one other thought. What about choosing your force with or without mercs/named characters before picking the mission card. That way it negates the mercs making specific differences. Downside is presumably the idea is to be able to pick the force ideal for the mission, so picking the mission card first makes sense, and therefore all of the above merc vp debate stands…

  12. Brian S says:

    Hi Jake-

    I’m afraid I really don’t like the idea of not allowing Mercs to acheive objectives. Have you ever read Hammer’s Slammers? If not, the idea is that an expensive Merc unit will be relied upon to acheive objectives that the line troops cannot. I think that the whole point of taking Mercs is to do something your force is not good at. To that end, I really feel like they should be able to acheive objectives. I think your idea of limiting Mercs to one per side is good. I think the other answer would be to make them expensive. Ostensibly players are going to take them to fill in a hole or perform a certain task with good effect. That should cost more points than perhaps a straightforward calculation with your foruma would produce. So that’s my thought: limit them to 1 per force and make them expensive for what they do. That way the players have to choose between taking a Merc but paying a premium, or making do with their line troops.

  13. chrisbburn says:

    I think not allowing the mercs to achieve vp is brilliant. They are there to support and thats what they can do even if they are a huge points/money sink if anything they can be used to bluff and hold up enemy forces. Also i think people are forgeting that the forces in deadzone arent your run of the mill troopers and are all specially trained for the job they are going to do. In that respect each unit should be able to do their job without any help from chuck norris or his friends if they do they arent coming home to tea and medals are they.

  14. Tony Hooper says:

    How about limit them based on the leadership value of the commander.

    And that each requires 2 additional VP’s to win.

  15. Matt Grant says:

    This may have already been said but what about simply using a slidding scale? You can get mercs but it halvs the VP over all value, thus cheapening it still making Mercs more or less a waste of points. I mean if you can get some other units/pieces that can do the same or similar things then why use mercs at all….or spend time creating them? I’m newer to the whole world of mini war gamming but this kind of seems like a bit of misused time to create pieces that are subpar. I don’t know…just thoughts from a novice perspective.

  16. What about a Mercs-only Faction Deck with some kind of special rules where they don’t mesh as well together like the more formal faction’s Strike Forces/Teams? Sort of a specialist team thrown together by a mutual freelance contract rather than working to their Faction’s interests. Even if this were an optional rule, it’d at least make buying Mercs more attractive. I’d probably like a Ronin movie style game, where there was a chance your own Mercs might have interests beyond/counter-to their player’s drawn objective card…

    As for the Mercs as is, treating them like MVPs in Dreadball (can’t gain experience, only good for the current mission, auto-respawn fully healthy for the next go-around), minus the auctions and (named character mercs?) being unique to the entire league/campaign so as not to bog pre-game down with more needless minutae.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s