DZ Experimental Thoughts

Lots of very useful comments on my DZ Experimental rules. Thanks for that. What is obvious is that not everyone has the same experience of them. Some find the Deadzone rules perfectly balanced as they stand without the changes, others think the experimental rules cap things off nicely, whilst a further few think they cause more issues. This sort of variety is normal, and a good illustration of why balancing games is so complex. Whatever you do it is unlikely to suit everyone 🙂

I’ve got some specific points to address which I will do in reply to the comments there. Here I just wanted to round up my current thinking on these rules in general.

Firstly, I don’t think that they’re quite right yet. I do like the intent of both of them and think they add to the game. I don’t think either of them are currently balanced properly.

Changing the activation sequence can cause one or two issues with regards specifically to the relative power of Indirect weapons. Good point from Pika. I think the overall benefit outweighs this problem, though it is still going to need addressing.

A few people think that Excessive Force takes away too much from Tough/Really Tough beasties, and they may be right. As Peter B says, it is currently a little blunt in its execution, though the rule is necessary in some guise. Personally I think it works fine for some combinations of forces and not for others, depending on the actual AP levels of the weapons they have to hand. Of course, it needs to work for everyone…

Jack Trowell’s suggestion of a variant for Excessive Force warrants exploring. That’s one option. There are some others I wanted to look at too.

I do think that some folk have failed to understand the value in rating a model’s resilience by both Tough and Armour. This allows for a much greater degree of variation than simply making anything that looks hard Armour 3 or 4. That approach would effectively make many things identical in terms of resilience, which I think is less interesting. By using a combination of Tough and Armour models can not only have different levels of overall resilience, but also that resilience can degrade differently against different weapons, which I think adds far more interest to the tactical environment.

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35 Responses to DZ Experimental Thoughts

  1. heretic30k says:

    Currently Tough is always superior to AP, but this does not always need to be the case. There is also the additional design space possibility of having an ability which negatives Tough, but not AP – for example a bioweapon which effects exposed organics but not inorganic armoured vehicles/sealed systems.

    • theearthdragon says:

      You’d almost think fire weapons would do something like this, helping to improve the usefulness of pyros and such that seem a bit weak as of now

  2. byzantinecataphract says:

    It is true that a certain level of granularity is needed, and that it is achieved through the use of Tough/Really Tough and normal armor. However, while a rule that makes overwhelming AP useful IS necessary, it should be a simple and elegant rule, much like the rest of the DZ ruleset. While I understand the need to model “reality” (emphasis on the quotes), any rule that is overly “complex” (again, emphasis on the quotes- people have a different tolerance for complexity) will detract from the playing experience and will create more problems than it’s worth.

    As for activation, I personally don’t see much of a difference in activating half of what you normally activate if it’s just in the first round of battle. If it’s for every round- that might make a difference and remove the whole “chess-like” mentality of “I move everything first then you do” that can happen with some armies (though it should be an advantage since it’s not easy to get in the first place).

    Tl;dr version: Excessive Force needs to be easy to apply, if it’s to be at all (though it is necessary). No comment on first round activation.

    • jasb87 says:

      I may be wrong but I think that every weapon that currently has the irresistible special rule also has AP4 or more. With that in mind why not remove excessive force altogether and have every weapon with AP4 count as irresistible? As it stands the only time this plays differently is when a shooter has AP3 and the target has 2 armour and really tough. This simultaneously streamlines the rule and also limits the amount of ‘excessive force’ style weapons available to each faction. It also prevents any out of the blue situations where an AP1 weapon all of a sudden develops excessive force from ammo and a card.

  3. Smud says:

    I think that Excessive Force isn’t a good way to deal with Tough. It would be better to change irresistible, make the rule less effective and more common. This way there is not ANOTHER rule that handles the interaction of AP and Tough. More than one rule for such an aspect makes the game unnecessarily complex.
    By changing irresistible instead of intergrating Excessive Force you could make a much cleaner ruleset ;).

    I agree to byzantinecataphract post, please consider to reduce the amount of activations not only in the first turn. That would increase the tactical possibilities and reduce the strike teams which can get activated in one initiative, these aren’t so skirmish-like. They also make it even impossible to change the initiative during the game and kills some of the skirmish aspect.

    • byzantinecataphract says:

      To be honest, the only teams that can get activated in one turn consist of 6-7 models and are already small:
      Enforcers with a Peacekeeper Captain, which are already a ridiculously small group
      Plague with a Stage 1A and only 5 more others, which is too small for usual Plague tactics
      Asterians with the Commander and 6 more units- a typical Asterian force, though, but they are supposed to be so “ninja”
      Forgefathers with Huscarl in Forge Guard armor and again 5 more.

      So they do deserve maintaining the Initiative and controlling the game, I do believe.

      • Smud says:

        Three of the six factions have a high chance to maintain the initiative, because of high command stat and low body count. These teams would still maintaining the intiative and controlling the most games. But they can’t shoot everything or move everything without even leaving a chance for the opponent to interact.

        I also think these teams deserves to control the game, but it should remain a skirmish game with bad tricks like “distract” and such. 😉

      • VaultAge says:

        IMO, the gameplay core favors this kind of setup (ie Controlling factions with few powerful models that can act as a whole).

        If you reduce the activation numbers, you just decrease the advantage of the controlling factions if favor of swarming factions.

        Going too much that way would let the game fall into the typical “Igoyougo” turn structure which is much more “chess-like” (which is so typical in games that I qualify it of “boring”) than the existing turn sequence… so that would bland the overall game to lessen the effects of having teams with initiative (ie high command) against others who do not have it.
        Having control over game turn structure is something you paid for so it should be rewarded.

        On the contrary I would love to see added depth mechanics letting people play with different faces of command which would still be viable :
        – Control vs Swarm : ie : either your commander have strict control over a number of troops vs. your troops are more a horde with much less discipline that act more ore less individually
        – Active vs. opportunistic : either move / shoot / engage in CC with opponent’s models or exploit opponent’s actions to get advantages

        –> Achieving these while keeping the ability to (re)gain initiative as a different and independent parameter would probably enhance gameplay.

        Multiple examples that come to mind where you have control+opportunistic/reactive factions facing swarming+active / aggressive factions (starcraft protoss vs zergs being one, romans legions vs. german / gaules warriors being another…).

        Whether achieving this with battle cards and / or other mechanics / added rules is to be defined (made a few suggestions in the dedicated thread – Deadzone experiments)

  4. Chris says:

    I agree with your analyses of the comments. I personally liked the alternative options presented for tweaking excessive force weapens. Besides it being a slightly blunt alternation I think it should be more carefully evaluated what weapons get EF. Just giving it to all AP3 weapons might introduce a very powerful model. For example; there’s a enforcer with a move and fire AP3 weapon (don’t have my stat cards lying around). I loved this guy because he could use his movement to move up on the big guys and blast ’em point blank in the face. Additionally he could shoot pretty far using aim and long range; from a higher level with a shoot card that was still pretty devestating. None of the other Enforcers could cause this kind of devastation without have a major disadvantage. The bazooka is a lot more balanced being a move or fire, poor in combat fellow.

  5. Smud says:

    Please make an officially reference sheet, which includes a short summary of all actions (with modifiers and results) and all abilities. I know there are few fan made reference sheets, but an official one is better.
    This is realy important to get new players into the game. It’s just way easier, when you got them all listed up. Something like the beginners guide, only with all actions and abilities.

    Oh and there is another thing that bothered us in the beginning. There are a few skill, which just gives a +value to some actions, like marksman, etc… Why just write “shoot +1” on the card? You don’t have to look it up and it’s clear and easy ;). This is only meant as a hint. Overall it’s a great game, but there are some possibilities to improve the gamedesign.

    Where I’m at it, it would be great to see a boosts for specialists like engineers and medics. Maybe in some missions or as a bonus in campaign games. A medic could for example try to resurrect an additional model after a fight (with an higher chance to get complications). Engineers could try to gather data during a mission to get more vps (maybe making a command check while standing on a mission objective). This could increase the depth of the game.

  6. JonnyG says:

    So I didnt see another place to post this that would not get buried. Earlier this month Ronnie mention the KOW KS possilby starting in a few months into 2015 (whenever that is) and I was wondering if he meant the large war game or the skirmish version a la dead zone? Also will the KOW skirmish follow pretty close to the deadzone rules?

  7. Teemu Hemminki says:

    This just came to me a few minutes ago during my good nights sleep.

    What if models in cover got +1 armor, or gained tough vs. Blaze Away attacks? They would still be as likely to go down, but being in cover would make things less lethal.

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  9. theearthdragon says:

    Jake, a few things that I still would like to see explored:

    How revivals work. Paying for it seems inappropriate in particular when you have medics on staff. In addition, minor wounds might get a bit more complicated (gangrene type infections) and something may need to happen after the fact.

    Another issue that more and more players are having issue with is no real benefit to effectively managing your force. Our first campaign, one player was able to build a force that pushed over 200 pts. To her, she was getting penalized for having a couple battles where she swept the enemy, all her troops ranked up, and then they were all too expensive to continue to field in what she believed were effective combinations. Though refined tactics and more fortunate mission objectives played a part, not being able to utilize her vets or her stockpile of scoured items properly was a turn off, and we’ve yet to get her to play again in a campaign. It seems simple to have a chart added to where you get a bonus amount to deployments when your strike force is so large. To have three times the points available but be regulated the same as if you were forced to throw everything you got at the battle doesn’t make for as interesting of a campaign. This is also where underdog bonuses can come in. Just to step in against a stronger force is always impressive. Plus one rep for playing against someone with a larger force type thing win or lose. A simple chart could be:

    For Deployments of less then 100
    Strike Force size:
    146 or less – no bonus
    147 to 153 – +1
    154 to 160 – +2
    161 to 167 – +3
    168 to 174 – +4
    175 to 181 – +5
    182 to 188 – +6
    189 to 195 – +7
    196 to 202 – +8
    203 to 209 – +9
    210 or above – +10

    For deployments of 100 or more
    Strike Force size:
    209 or less – no bonus
    210 to 219 – +1
    220 to 229 – +2
    230 to 239 – +3
    240 to 249 – +4
    250 to 259 – +5
    260 to 269 – +6
    270 to 279 – +7
    280 to 289 – +8
    290 to 299 – +9
    300 or above – +10

    And honestly for deployments of 100 or above you could probably send this proposed chart all the way to plus since the numbers are so much higher. This is obviously just an example, but marginally rewarding players for managing their roster, scouting equipment and just plain keeping troops alive would be a big positive for campaigns.

    Finally, I prefer the scenarios as outlined in Nexus Psi versus the overly generic set-up. It’d be great to have a template to where we can pick a series of hot spots to build a battlefield where you can snatch territories from other players. Definitely looking forward to more campaigns like Nexus Psi using other combos of teams.

  10. theearthdragon says:

    One thing I forgot: Initiative

    I feel EVERY first turn should only be the first number, not just the first round. It gives more of a feeling of integrated turns if you aren’t getting a full-fledged turn at the start of the round.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      I’ve not tried that out. Why is it needed though? The idea of the first turn of the game being partial is because the other player cannot position himself as well to deal with it – so it balances this out. The start of Round 2 or later has already seen both sides make whatever moves they wanted, and if a player is out of position it’s his fault, and not the game’s for giving him no opportunity.

  11. lord_blackfang says:

    I know I already said something similar when Excessive Force was originally put forward, but we need less exceptions to exceptions to exceptions (Excessive Force), less redundant rules (there are currently like 4 versions of “cannot be pinned” across all the rulebooks), less fixing of one broken rule by breaking a different rule (making Indirect terrible to “fix” Massive Frag) and less russian doll style nested rules which obviously even the designer himself has lost track of (Pathfinder Bike, anyone?)

    I do feel bad for Jake, he makes amazing games but obviously has too much on his plate with Mantic’s crazy kickstarter schedule and doesn’t have time to properly polish anything before it’s sent off to print. We already have word that the Mars Attacks Deadzone cards reference game elements specific to Mars Attacks that do not appear in Deadzone, like critter tokens and hero points, so there’s another botched rushjob.

    I’m always all for getting more stuff, but I do not look forward to another 80 page book with all the above problems. Mantic needs to take a break so Jake can actually go back and finish his game, then publish a full on second edition book and replacement card decks when they’re good and ready.

    • Quirkworthy says:

      Thanks for your complements LB 🙂

      MA DZ decks: I’ve not seen the printed versions, however I have just checked my original files and searched for “critter”, “hero”, “alien” and “tech”. None of those terms appear in the file for either deck nor in the notes that accompany them. Not sure what that’s about. Could you quote me the mistake?

      I think you’re being a little “glass half empty” though, and perhaps also missing some subtleties. There are not 4 versions of “cannot be pinned” that do exactly the same thing. I’m not even sure there are 4 all told, though it depends on where you draw the lines. From my reading, they each do different things. Granted, they are related, and the separation could be clearer, and that will be dealt with. I don’t think there are redundant ones though. Perhaps I’m wrong (it happens). Which do you think are redundant?

      Excessive Force is not an official rule, it’s experimental. Hardly fair to use that as an example of a problem. The fact that it is still experimental should tell you that I’m not entirely happy with it yet. I could have made it an official change months ago…

      Has Indirect really been made “terrible”? How?

      As you say, Mantic has had a frenetic release schedule over the last 2-3 years, and I’ve done a lot of that work. Still, Mantic is a young company and it’s been pushing out its first editions to find its place in the world. Kickstarter is new to everyone too, not just Mantic, and that’s made a very big difference in how people work. They’re learning lessons each time, and with DBX and DS more development time is scheduled. That is good all round. Which designer would not like more time (however much they are given)?

      You also need to remember that these are all first editions, and come with the inherent challenges of taking point. DZ has suffered in some ways from its own success. The layering in rules is partly the result of the amount by which it was expanded in the KS, months after the core design was complete. A second edition would have a much better idea of the entire scope of things that needed to be included and therefore be more able to include everything more neatly. Several things that are now in DZ were explicitly never going to be in when I wrote the initial version. This isn’t an issue with DZ specifically, it’s an issue with the growing process of first editions. It could have been worse. Sedition Wars and Super Dungeon Explore both had more major issues and more complete rewrites. Even non-KS projects like Malifaux needed a 2nd edition to clean up all the things which had been layered onto the original small core and were causing issues. And it’s not really about these examples either, nor even limited to gaming. The problem is a very common one among complex projects and systems.

      Back to DZ. The next Mantic KS is a Veer-myn flavoured version, and included in that is an opportunity to revisit the rules and make them clearer. This isn’t planned as a 2nd edition, instead it will simply clarify the unclear, add examples and include points raised in the FAQ. Given the opportunity to do a new rulebook I’d be lying if I said there was zero chance we would make any changes, but that’s not the main aim here. Version 1.5 is not 2nd ed. By the time we do come to a proper 2nd edition we should also know which (if any) of the models for Warpath are supposed to be included and be able to come at the whole with a more coherent approach 🙂

      • lord_blackfang says:

        All valid points. The Martian cards are, so far, word of mouth, so let’s hope I’m misinformed.

        I don’t keep up with the FAQ threads and this has probably all been answered, but off the top of my head: I think every 2nd wave vehicle has some sort of Aggression rule. Vehicles are Constructs and Constructs have been amended to have Aggression permanently set to Alert. But the goblin walker, enforcer strider and rebs strider are also Unflinching, which does the same thing. Then the plague strider has Crazed, which sets it to Enraged (a direct contradiction). The pathfinder bike has rules stating it must dismount when pinned, but it’s also a vehicle, so it can’t get pinned at all. Then there’s 3Z’s Uncaring, which again duplicates Unflinching with some extras.

        Crazed only appears on the Plague Strider. It directly contradicts Construct, but let’s assume it takes precedence and sets Aggression to Enraged. What are the effects on the Plague Strider?
        +1 Fight
        +1 Survive vs Blaze Away (barely ever relevant)
        -1 Shoot (never relevant)

        The same net effect could be achieved more simply than messing with Aggression by just giving it a second +1 Fight rule, or replacing Brawler with a +2 “Big Brawler”.

        As for indirect, can you really deny that it has been nerfed into the ground to “balance” the Guntrack and Plague Mortar, which were, to be honest, breaking the game? They now can’t fire on turn 1 at all and then can’t fire within half range, which is most of a 8×8 table. It was really Massive Frag that needed to change, but Massive Frag was already in print and Indirect wasn’t, so you changed that.

        I’m glad you’ll have more time available to do your future projects (tho I expect you’ll already be playtesting DS and doing initial design on DZ1.5 while still polishing DBX) and you really do good work. I think maybe the biggest reason I am frustrated is because DZ is sooo close to being perfect. I don’t get upset about 40k anymore because it’s clearly beyond salvaging and I can just let it go, but DZ is so good and then every so often I find this one thing that sticks out like a sore thumb…

        • lord_blackfang says:

          In my ideal world there would only be two abilities (paraphrased)
          Unflinching: This model cannot have its aggression lowered by morale-based effects (Blaze Away, Psychic)
          Solid: This model cannot have its aggression lowered by physical effects (Frag, Knockback)

          With Vehicles getting both, but other models not necessarily so. A Cypher might be fearless, but an explosion should still knock it on its ass.

        • Teemu Hemminki says:

          IIRC, Constructs can be damaged by Blaze Away, Unflinching and Crazed models can not.

        • lord_blackfang says:

          A nuance which,sadly, doesn’t mean anything for any model in the game, because every single Unflinching or Crazed model is also a Construct, so it takes damage via that rule.

      • Coops says:

        Hi Jake,

        I found the MA DZ deck rules queries.
        Put up a topic on the Mantic Forums about it. See here….

        The rules in question are:

        Freeze (saucer and freeze ray martian)
        Blaster (sci div heavy weapon)
        Pheremone dispensor (chief surgeon)
        Scanner (sci div engineer?)
        Disguise (beloss bel)

        Freeze, blaster and Disguise (called undercover in the MA books) are self explanatory with easily translarable rules in the MA books to the DZ ruleset.

        Pheremone Dispensor and scanner are the two MA abilities that refer to heroic points and critter tokens. There are no such mechanics in DZ and without a DZ specific ruling, these are useless for DZ play as the rules only appear (at the moment) in the MA books.

        Hope this clarifies?!


  12. Bala Matt says:

    Firstly Jake, my group like the experimental rule about reduced Leadershio in the first round. This comes from all players /factions.

    Secondly I agree that something is need for high enough AP hurting extra tough/tough. However I don’t think the experimental rule quite fits yet.

    Separately, I have a rule idea for Veer-mum. Where should I post this idea?

  13. Teemu Hemminki says:

    User “HobbyServices” from Mantic forums had his own idea about how Excessive Force could be handled. Because of technical difficulties he asked for help about giving you the link to it:

  14. Doug says:

    IMO a lot of these problems come from the restriction on armour range because the armour isn’t a roll like DB. 1 pt of armour is mechanically like having gained a successful dice roll, each time you get shot. 1AP is thus a successful dice roll that only works against armour.

    I’d prefer there to be a wider range of armour, rather than the currently narrow focus we get – really there’s only -, 1 and 2. 3 is so uncommon it’s not really factored in.

    I liked in DB that the armour had a chance of protecting rather than a certainty. That way it balanced against the uncertainty of damaging the target in the firstplace.

    Here are some spitballed thoughts:

    Armour is a dice roll – each pt is a dice rolled against the attack. Normal armour is a 5+, primitive armour is a 6+ (say a goblin) and advanced armour is a 4+ (say Forgeguard armour).

    AP is a dice roll – each pt is a dice rolled against the target that only removes armour pts.

    Tough – +1 Survive dice against attacks.
    Very Tough – +2 survive dice.

    Thus a low survive model with advanced armour will get a higher chance of surviving without it being a certainty. And hi AP weapons get multiple chances of removing a target’s armour.

    I’d just like to see a wider range of armour types is all.


  15. Doug says:

    Alternatively there is a different way to look at it entirely:

    Another way to look at it would be to treat AP as potential extra damage dice and use AP more freely across weaponry. Armour then reduces the extra damage a weapon can do.

    So an AP3 weapon does +3 dice to armour – targets, but anything with armour 3 or more ignores those pts.

    The base roll is still 3 dice for and 3 dice against. On an average roll the target is going to be unharmed because they cancel. The AP value of a weapon refers to its damage output and lethality. Taking a bullet to a flak vest still hurts a lot.

    That sorts out a lot of the AP scaling and also allows higher levels of armour. You could have armour 4 or more. The armour only modifies the AP damage, not the basic ‘impact’ roll.

    Tough would then be added to the Survive roll used to resist the base 3 dice test. A tough unarmoured opponent is still going to suffer under a high AP weapon.

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