For the big battles in Mars Attacks we’ll be using a simple points system, as mentioned earlier. This will give you a chance to tailor your army to suit your style of play. If you want lots of robots, go robot. If unstoppable waves of grunts is the way you invade, then go for it. Fleets of saucers? Knock yourself out.
The following points may change slightly before the final version as we’ve still got more playtesting left to do. However, I don’t anticipate radical changes, just minor tweaks.
So, Humanity’s noble defenders first:
- 9-man US Army squad (includes Sergeant and 2 SAWs): 6
- Missile launcher: 3
- Patriot (MG): 3
- Patriot (ray): 5
- 6-man Novas Vira squad: 9
- Heroes: 2-5 each (priced individually)
And the Martian invaders:
- General Tor: 5
- 10-man Martian grunt squad: 10 (includes unit commander and freeze ray)
- 5-man Martian marines squad: 9
- 5-man Stealth Troops squad: 9
- Saucer: 5
- Robot: 10
There will be a system for balancing the odd point or two left at the end if you can’t quite get exactly the right total (starting with extra cards in hand, support cards in play, etc).
I know that you haven’t got all the stats for everything yet. However, these points will help you work out what you want your force to look like and what you need in terms of models.
Big Battle Scenarios
There are two of these: one for a single mat and the other for a four mat game (2×2). Again, this is the initial draft and so it focuses on whether the core of the game works properly at this size rather than fancy frills. There are some refinements to add in, most notably a random roll at the start to see what sub-mission you’re on.
Single mat games are played at 40 points per side, and four mat games at 100 points each.
For the moment we’re using this simple victory condition. Count the number of models in your army at the start of the game. Count each soldier as 1, each hero, saucer or truck as 3 and each robot as 5. Using this same calculation, the first side to reduce their foe to half or less of this total remaining on the battlefield wins the battle.
With the information above, you can see what sort of combinations you can get on the tabletop. On a single mat you could have a couple of saucers flying over a ground wave of two squads backed up by a robot. Or, you could have two robots, four saucers and forget the ground forces! Hmm, maybe that’s a bit excessive. Maybe…
On the bigger board you’ve got room to really indulge your megalomanic fantasies. You can happily have General Tor leading three robots, three saucers and fifty Martian infantry. Now that really does look like an invasion!
On the human side you’ll be wanting a fair amount of infantry and those missiles are great for taking out the big things. At the same time, your heroes are where you have an edge, and even though they’re small they can turn the tide on a flank, which can then domino through the rest of a battle. Trucks can be mobile cover as well as mobile pill boxes, so don’t forget to take a couple. however, if you want elites who have actually been waiting for the martians invasion (and preparing and training and… ) then the Novas Virae are on hand. They’re much pricier than your normal infantry, but they are good.
Both sides have a number of approaches they can adopt, and if you play the same opponents regularly you can have fun trying to second guess what style of army they’ll be fielding this time. You could also play “winner stays on” and not allow the winner of the previous game to change their force. That way you can test out tactics and get to know both how your force works and how your enemy responds.
Can you give me an idea of a typical skirmish group for humans or Martians that could be used in DZ?
I’m afraid I can’t be to specific as we’re still concentrating on the main game at the moment. What I can say is that in DZ the sides represent elite groups of specialists. That means they can cherry pick from different units, so a little bit of everything would be a good start. That would give you a nice rounded and versatile force with some normal guys, some heavier armoured elites (Marines), some sneaky guys (Stealth), and so on.
In 100 point games is it possible that units would act as squads instead of individually? Moving models two at a time could take a while with 50+ models per side. Will escalation be making some rule changes (optional?) to speed up the game?
Good question. Actually you find that two things make this unnecessary. The first is the sergeant level characters (on both sides) who are able to move several men at once as a Heroic action if and when they choose. Making it a choice rather than an automatic makes for a more interesting game. The second is the massive rate of attrition. The board just doesn’t stay full for long!
Thank you the explanation, I feel a bit better, I come from the war gaming and not board game side of things. Though I’m sure you are already, I beg you to play test the heck out of the 100 games to make sure they can consistently finish in under 3 hours. If they can’t, please consider some optional rules,for the war gamers among us.
Again thank you, the game looks fantastic and I can’t wait to play it with the kids.
Have you played any of my other games?
You could probably make it last 3 hours if you really tried, but you’d have to try. For players that have a reasonable grasp of the rules (by which I mean they’ve played through a couple of scenarios) MA as a single mat scenario game won’t last more than an hour per fight. Games of Mars Attacks, even big ones, last 90 minute to 2 hours, tops. Or should that be Topps 😉
Of course, all the usual caveats apply. First games always take longer and it depends on how much chatting, making tea and so on you do in the middle. But if you are sitting down and playing at a normal pace then you’d have to have a noticeably slow player or someone who was deliberately avoiding contact, and even then…
Very nice, Jake.
Glad to see some value between units to determine what to bring to the table and how much of them. Will there be a force organization chart of some sort to speak of?
I’m trying to not need one. If all the units have both good and bad points then we should be able to get away without the additional complexity of force org limitations. What seems to be happening at the moment is that robots and saucers need some infantry to take objectives and simply be in more than one place at a time (covering enemy advances, etc). Infantry, even the clever ones, really like having the big guys about to stomp tricky stuff. It’s a nice symbiosis. Some times the balance is one way or the other, but you really need a mix.
Force orgs are usually there to stop people taking monoculture forces of just the best thing. There are better and simpler ways round that 😉
This is why you’re my favorite designer, Jake.
So where do bugs come in this mix? Can they take and hold objectives or will they be a middle ground between big stompy robots and infantry?
Thank you Anthony.
Bugs are a sort of biological vehicle equivalent. They are a blunt instrument the Martians use to clear a path rather than do anything clever: another helping hand for the infantry.Iin rules terms they will indeed be somewhere between a normal soldier and a vehicle.
Neat. Can you share how the larger “wargames” expansion will deviate from the Escalation games? Will it have larger maps or just higher point limits with a few specific scenarios?
I think we might be confusing terminology here.
Basically we’ve got two ways to play MA. The first is the narrative scenarios. These are very easy to play as they set the scene and then tell you exactly what models you have on each side and what they need to do to win. They are, in effect, a tactical puzzle to solve, though even if you solve it once your opponent may move the goal posts the next time. The scenarios in the box are tailored so that they use the models that are in the box. Additional narrative scenarios in later books spotlight new models such as robots. I’d like to do one or two that are designed for the larger battlefields, just because that’d be a fun change.
If you want to play a more freedom or “wargamey” version then we have the points based version discussed here. This can be played on a single mat or a larger battlefield as you choose. It works on both equally well – it’s just a bit different when it’s on the bigger battlefield. This style of play suits people who want to tinker with their army and fight more straightforward battles rather than specific scenarios. Even so, to keep things interesting there will be a simple dice roll to generate a sub-mission so battles aren’t always the same.
Does that explain things?
Ah, see Mantic may need clarification. As they described the expansions and so forth it goes as follows.
Escalation: Boardgame on steroids
Wargame Expack: Proper wargame.
It makes it appear as Escalation is simply an upped version of the core game. Simply bigger both in units and play space. I totally get what you’re saying.
The confusion is probably mine. I’ve been writing rather than looking at what they’d called each step.
What Mantic and I are saying is the same. I broke it down into two styles of play because the board game on steroids is still the same style of play (at least, in my head it is). It’s just bigger and with more variation in units. Of course, bigger and more varied does make it quite different to play – just not to design 😉
The points version is for the third step which is conceptually rather different.
All good my man!
If you ever take a stroll through Phoenix, AZ let me know. You’ll at least get a good meal and a few beers out of it.
Thanks Anthony 😉
I think there could still be some confusion, or at least overlap here. From what you are saying Jake it sounds quite possible to play a single mat (or even a double mat) points based wargame with only the Escalation Core Addon.
Would we only need to start adding more units and addons if wanted to get up to the bigger 100 point games, or wanted a lot more choice/variation in what we field in the armies?
There is a bit of overlap (and I’m always a bit confused).
Yes to your last para: in order to play bigger battles and have more choice you’d need a few more models. You can use the points here as a guide for how many that would entail. It depends on your exact pledge level and your level of megalomania 😉
Thanks Jake. It’s reassuring to know that we are not just restricted to scenarios, even if we only have one mat and with limited models. Great job.
Is there any mechanics in particular you’re excited to see land in player’s hands?
Not specific mechanics. Individual mechanics don’t really mean much on their own, it’s the interaction between them that creates the interest. A bit like cogs and gears.
Hey Jake, don’t mean to necropost but after reading your article about vehicle interiors I went and picked up a few Humvees to try in my games. In the interest of homebrew ing some attack vehicles, may I have the Patriot statline? Just to play around with. Pretty please? I promise to let you know how much my games have changed.