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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Size Matters, So Does Interest, Make It Unusual

This is Steven Petrick posting.

When creating a scenario, it is tempting to go for the large major fleet action.

The problem with such large scenarios is playability.

Even a Hydran fleet composed of a Paladin, Lord Bishop, 2xDragoons, Apache, 2xTartar, Warrior, 2xKnight (the medium cruisers and destroyers are formed into a battlegroup allowing one extra ship to be used), 2xCuirassier, and a New Scout Cruiser is going to have more than 27 Stinger fighters to keep track of.

That is 27 units that you have to move when called on to move, remember which are under erratic maneuvers, and which dropped erratic maneuver to fire weapons, which had to use a chaff pack to decoy enemy drones and whether or not the delay between then and when they can fire their weapons has passed. Which ones changed speed, and when can they change speed again. Which ones have satisfied their turn modes, and which can sideslip this turn and which cannot. Which ones are carrying two pods, which are carrying one pod, and which have no pods; not to mention what kinds of pods. Which are within reach of a platform that can lend them electronic warfare, and which ones have moved beyond the reach of lent electronic warfare. Which ones have fired one fusion charge, and which ones have fired both. Which ones fired two pulses of phaser-G at a drone, and which still have all four pulses left. Which ones are undamaged, and which ones will be crippled by another damage point. Which ones used a high energy turn already during the current turn, and which ones still can.

All that in addition to keeping track of what the 13 ships in the fleet are doing (and trying to figure out what the enemy is doing).

Large scenarios can look good, but they generally cannot be played by a pair of players over a long weekend to a conclusion (and you do not want to think what this Hydran fleet would like in terms of fighters if the ships were all their fusion/fighter counterparts, i.e., the number of fighters to track would more than double).

So when designing a scenario, look for something that is small enough to be enjoyable, and try to make it interesting. Special tasks (covered by special rules) beyond the norm of just get in there and destroy something.

But when creating those special tasks, keep in mind the capabilities. Requiring ship "A" to capture ships "B" is all well and good, but you need to consider if ship "A" actually has a chance to accomplish your special task of capture. If ship "A" has the same number of boarding parties as ship "B," and only one transporter, it is unlikely it will be able to accomplish the task.

And do not always fixate on the real warships. Think about the options the other ships give you for fights. Perhaps a battle between mining interests in Kzinti space, involving armed freighters, mining freighters, skiffs, and free traders could be interesting. Yes, it is a kind of "civil war" but the two sides might not be really serious (i.e., crippled merchant ships would be required to disengage rather than fight to the death because the owners do not want to lose their ships). Maybe the whole battle is an attack on and defense of a prospecting platform which the attacker wants to capture (balance the forces here).

Use your imagination, keep it small enough to be playable in an evening, and use things that players seldom get a chance to see in a small hard fought battle.