Thursday, May 30, 2024
Design NotesRules

Rules Release v1.2.4

Alright, 6 months of actual playtesting later, we’ve got a new rules release! Here’s an updated Roadmap:

  • v1.2 – The 2017 version of the rules
  • v1.2.1 – A copy-paste of the 2017 version with some cleanup and minor fixes.
  • v1.2.2 – Significant core mechanics changes, rules reorganization, scenario rewrite
  • v1.2.3 – Balance/lore accuracy pass, additional mechanics.
  • v1.2.4 – We are here. Significant competitive tuning changes including changes to mechanics, Mars/Mercury test rules.
  • v1.2.5 – Continued competitive tuning, addition of personnel, deployment, and espionage mechanics.

Here’s the relevant links:

First off, I want to issue a massive thank you to the playtesting team. We have the entire Jovian Wars/Heavy Gear community in Houston, playing at Board and Brew games, who have been giving me feedback, we’ve got the San Francisco/Bay Area testing community which is coming online. The most prolific testers though, are Eric (Lith) and Tony (Witless) out of Denver, who have been testing basically every weekend and then sitting in a Discord call for hours afterwards to talk things through about their experiences. And of course, thank you for all the typo and clarity fixes that are submitted from everyone playing the game and reading the rules.

If you’d like to join the playtesting effort all you have to do is test the rules and let me know how your game went! It’s that simple. If you want to “try before you buy,” there’s a TTS module that you can mess with. It needs some updating, but it’s good enough to get some practice in, especially against people you don’t live near:

If you want to take the plunge there’s a few different options for starter sets available on the DreamPod 9 store:

Alright, onto what you’ve actually been waiting for!

Unit Changes

I’ve done a fair amount of rebalancing on unit costs, weapon statlines, etc. Nothing too shocking there, but I did decrease the overall speed of most capital ships across the board to make Thrusters more important. Also, I’ve added a new ship stat called “Signature,” which affects the maximum range at which a ship can be “seen” by another ship.

Previously, range was calculated as follows:

  • Squadron: 3″ + 3″ x Sensors Rating
  • Capital: 6″ + 3″ x Sensors Rating

Now, range is calculated as follows:

  • Signature + 3″ x Sensors Rating

There’s no differentiation between Squadrons and Capitals by model type anymore, and the differentiation is now done with the Signature stat of the model. For the most part, Squadrons have a Signature of 3″ and Capitals have a Signature of 6″, so there’s no real change in the majority of cases. However, for the truly big ships like battleships and fleet tenders, Signature can increase to 9″ or even 12″ to represent the significantly larger “radar cross section” or what-have-you.

This adds another dimension to unit design and another knob to turn without creating significantly more complexity. It also allows me to drop the Signature for stealthy factions like Venus and free up the Stealth and ECM keyword traits for other more interesting usages. Some other things that have happened is a recosting of Fighters. Fighters were just so expensive because they were paying a ton for the extra speed, so I just scaled their speed cost differently than Exo-Armor. The costs are still being tweaked but I’m happy with this direction.

The Wraith got a pretty significant cost reduction and an important new keyword: Formation. Formation basically allows you to deploy two Squadrons in base contact and treat them as a single Squadron that shoots more and has more structure, effectively. This was to make CEGA more of a swarm faction to represent their short logistical supply train to the inner solar system in comparison to the other powers.

Venus got a lot more redundant boxes, including triple redundant boxes. Against most types of weapons this doesn’t really change much, but it does make them very vulnerable to the effects of Particle Cannons! This Tsar, for example, has 5 Structure against most weapons, but only 3 against Particle Cannons!

You can also see that the Brunnhilde has a Signature of 1″ and loses Stealth. This is because a lower signature is basically doing what Stealth was doing before, and now Stealth does something else. I’ll get to that shortly.

You’ll also note that there are little “Upgrades” indicators on the unit cards now. This is because Upgrades are back! To account for Mars and Mercury having a ton of Cargo ships as well as modular hull designs (along with Venus), you can actually choose weapons for some capital ships as well as load special types of cargo.For example, to have additional Drone ammunition, you need to have packed some in your cargo hold! For example, an Appalachian can buy up to 4 cargo slots worth of cargo upgrades (due to it having Cargo: 4).

Some of the Cargo, like extra reloads for Drones, is pretty boring but effective. There are some pretty spicy Cargo options though, like the ability to put secret Squadrons in shipping containers to be sprung upon unsuspecting enemies!

There are plenty of options, including some faction-specific options which you can explore. I also added crew member upgrades, which will allow additional customization (and the possibilities for spies and sabotage!).

Weapon Changes

There have been some relatively minor weapon tweaks, but I do want to talk about the new Attack Modifier mechanic. We borrowed this idea from Infinity the Game. Essentially relative position, traits, armor, and other in-game effects grant bonuses or penalties to attack. If you’re in short range, you get a +1 modifier and Armor grants a -1 for each point of armor in the appropriate arc, for example. This means if you’re in short range and attacking something with Armor: 1 in the relevant arc, your net bonus is 1 – 1 = 0. If you were outside short range, you get no bonus for range and instead are on a net -1.

This allowed us to abstract all sorts of situations and buffs/debuffs into a single number. Once you’ve calculated your net Attack Modifer, you just consult the following table:

Net ModifierEffects
-1 and beyond-1M and -1M for each additional
0No Effect
2+1B, +1F
3 and beyond+1B, +1F, +1M and +1M for each additional

You get a diminishing effect by stacking more positive bonuses, starting with +1 base die, then +1 base and +1 flex, then +1 base one flex and macro beyond that. This has a lot of neat intuitive effects, because linking weapons now just adds +1 to the attack modifier for each additional weapon linked into an attack. So when you’re trying to defeat armor, shoot more guns to bring your net modifier back to 0 or even positive again!

This let us reduce the effectiveness of long range shooting in a way that allowed us to let you even do it. Here’s the new range chart:

RangeDistanceCan Fire?
Short<= Target SignatureYes
Optimum<= Target Signature + 3″ x SensorYes
Long> Target Signature + 3″ x SensorRequires Sniper Trait or Long Shot action

We kept most of the weapons systems the same with the following differences:

  • Kinetic Cannon secondaries are now -1 Attack Modifiers
  • Drones now deploy 6″ not 12″. It was a little ridiculous.
  • Mass Drivers now give you the choice of a critical hit or rating damage at [D], and turn all positive Macro dice into Flex.
  • Particle Cannons now mark off redundant boxes of all ratings, including Structure!

The really big difference is Missiles having fixed ranges, i.e. they are always considered to be in Optimal Range and cannot shoot past their Maximum Range. This effectively models the missiles running out of reaction mass to maneuver past a certain range and becoming inert, self destructing harmlessly, etc.

Missile TypeMaximum Range
Anti-Capital (AC)18″
Anti-Squadron (AS)12″
Cluster Munition Missile (CMM)12″

Nukes target a specific point on the table and detonate, resolving Particle Cannon attacks against all models in the area of effect to represent the radiation and charged particle effects. This also gave Nukes a purpose in helping clear out an area of fighter cover, etc.

Mechanics Changes

I made big changes to how Dogfights and Bombing Runs work. I borrowed very heavily from the Bushido ruleset for both. I’ll talk about how Dogfight works and let you explore Bombing Run on your own. The design intent here was to capture the feel of the Itano Circus:

Essentially here’s the mechanic. You have a few relevant stats at your disposal:

  • Skill – How good are the pilots in the dogfight?
  • Fuel – How much reaction mass can you expend to manuever?
  • Missiles – It’s not an Itano Circus if you don’t have missiles!
  • Weapon Stat – It’s a mecha fight, you gotta have some pew pew.

When you show up to the dogfight, you pick a non-missile weapon in secret, and secretly bid an amount of Fuel you want to spend. Your Dogfight dice pool is:

Skill + Bid Fuel + AS Rating of Chosen Weapon

You then secretly divide the dice pool into an “attack” pool and a “defense pool.” You reveal your attack/defense pools and your chosen weapon simultaneously, and then resolve opposed rolls of your attack versus opponent’s defense and vice versa. The chosen weapon defines the order in which the attacks are resolved:

1Beam Projector
2Particle Cannon
3Kinetic Cannon
4Mass Driver

Lances are resolved simultaneously with any other weapon choice to represent the lance wielder rolling up in close combat and swinging a sword while under fire. It is possible (assuming dice cooperate), for someone firing a Beam Projector at you to kill your Squadron before you get a chance to fire your Kinetic Cannon, and that’s just too bad for you! If you’re concerned about this happening, and you have access to a lance, you can guarantee a chance for yourself to roll dice and go down in a blaze of glory (perhaps along with your opponent!).

To really make it an Itano Circus, missiles are _always_ fired, and you always resolve missile attacks versus the defender’s “Defense” pool at the end of the Dogfight. Some units have very strong missile attacks, so you may want to spend your pilot’s Skill and Fuel evading missile attacks, and maybe even dedicate some of your shooting to taking out the incoming missiles! Missile attacks are Escalated, so they’re scary and you shouldn’t dump everything into Attack, unless you’re okay with potentially losing a unit.

Playtesting has shown that this speeds up Dogfights while keeping them pretty lethal. It’s also a fun little narrative minigame that gives you a fair amount of tactical control as well. Bombing Runs follow a similar mechanic, but involving Point Defense.

Point Defense is also another thing we should discuss. All Capital Ships will just fire on any hostile Squadron that moves into range with their Point Defense, even if that Squadron is just passing through. Squadrons may also intercept at any point the active Squadron moves into interception range. There were just too many instances where Squadrons could zoom past a defensive screen of smaller capital ships and Squadrons and then start attacking stuff like Carriers in the back.

This was basically 100% against the desired narrative feel for the game, so interacting with Capital Ships is now very dangerous as Squadrons. You have some ability to defend against this by declaring Boost, which grants you the Evasive trait during your activation. This means you can roll your skill versus the Capital Ship’s point defense to avoid getting shot.

Finally I wanted to talk about some new actions to help players have some more agency on the tabletop. We’ve added a Hard Burn action, which doubles a Capital Ship’s speed for two turns and reduces that ship’s Turn rating to 1 also for two turns. You’d better intend to go fast, or you’re going to have some limited options in terms of maneuvers the following turn.

We’ve added a Suppressing Fire action as well, which allows you declare a Kinetic Cannon attack at Capital Ships. The attack doesn’t do damage, it just reduces the target’s Thrusters rating, representing the limitations on an enemy ship’s movement options by throwing a cloud of fast moving dense particles at them. The target’s captain can choose to ignore the Thrusters rating reduction, but then they’re plowing into the cloud of kinetic cannon fire, and you then get to resolve an attack against them!

There are a number of new actions that are floating around as well, and I encourage you to have a look!

I’ll be releasing another article on faction design space soon. I am looking forward to everyone’s feedback on v1.2.4!

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