Monday, June 04, 2007

Start the week @ RD/KA! : M44 playtest update

So, I've posted the results of Badger's and my recent M44 games to the Expanded Nationality rules threads I started on the M44:DoW and M44:BGG forums. Interested readers could do worse than head across and join in the discussion.

So, having commented on the games themselves, it's time to reflect upon the new rules.

The British rules
As things stand at the moment, these rules are looking pretty good to me.

The Marksmanship rule is having exactly the effect it should: ie. in a straight infantry-v-infantry exchange, the British can stand-off in cover at a 3-hex range and plink away at the enemy with 1 dice. Hardly overpowering, this is profoundly irritating nonetheless, and it could prove decisive in some situations, eg. picking off weakened units. Moreover, this minor advantage forces opponents of the British to close to bring the exchange under the parameters of a normal exchange of infantry firepower. In other words, this rule would seem to be working to change the dynamics of fire and movement in an interesting and appropriate way.

Meanwhile, I would have to say, however pleased I am with the Marksmanship rule (and that is quite pleased indeed really), that it is the Big Push rules which have been the real star so far. In fact, I don't think it is at all hyperbolic to say that these have exceeded our most optimistic expectations. So, before commenting further, I really must restate my thanks to neil1967 over at M44:DoW for bringing forward the basic idea back in March. Thanks Neil, your ideas would seem to have become the key to getting the Expanded Nationality rules project ship-shape.

So, the net effect of the Big Push rule is that the British can play 2 Command Cards in the same turn, and that it will take them a minimum of 3 turns so to do:
  • plan 1
  • plan 2
  • execute
Badger and I are finding that the ability to play 2 cards simultaneously is a treasured resource, to be exploited at every opportunity (this stands in stark contrast to both the Kampfgruppe and the Saddle Orders rules, neither of which have been seeing much use at all so far). The effect of the planning prerequisite is that the British tend to use Big Push as much as possible early in the game, when their opponents' reaction to their own inaction poses less risk. Later in the game, when units are engaged across the battlefield, the pause to plan- not to mention the commitment of resources to plan, which are therefore not available for immediate reactions to events; these features of putting Big Push into practice make using the rule a much riskier affair. In other words: the Big Push rule works to make the British in M44 behave exactly as they should; and that this is so in both historical terms; and- perhaps more importantly- in terms of making this work in a way which enriches rather than encumbers the uniquely satisfying gameplay of M44.

The German rules
The first point to note is that, following on from comments posted to the M44:DoW and M44:BGG threads, Badger and I concurred that the hand-reduction rule in the Kampfgruppe rule is wrong. What had persuaded me in the end was that this clause- designed to restrict the formation of Kampfgruppe to a reasonable and balanced degree- ended up being just silly really. Why? Because it penalised the Germans in exactly the area whose strengths the Kampfgruppe rule is intended to represent- namely their superior operational doctrines. Becoming aware of this stupid self-contradiction, I soon realised that paying the price of losing a VP for the unit removed in the formation of a Kampfgruppe was the correct way to go.

With that fixed, I'm satisfied that the Kampfgruppe rule is satisfactory as it stands... well, perhaps the Kampfgruppe so formed should be allowed to battle as normal? I don't see why not really. It'd be more fun, and the Germans really were that good. Hmm. I like that myself. Anyhoo, the Kampfgruppe rule has yet to be tested in practice, although we did get close in one of our games. But Badger had Medics and Mechanics, so he didn't need to form a Kampfgruppe after all!

Meanwhile, I have to say that the Saddle Orders rule is looking a bit ropey. The rule is looking in the right place for a specifically German national rule, but the effect- a free Recon-type draw on a discard- has proved to be of little use. More often than not, actual play is proving that playing a Command card is a better choice than doing nothing to get this chance of marginal improvement in your hand. But the Big Push rule is coming to the rescue: Badger and I are thinking of how to adapt this rule so that Saddle Orders allows the Germans also to play 2 cards in 1 turn, albeit with more flexibility than the British.

Badger and I had a long discussion about the implications of a wider development of the plan-card concept introduced by neil1967. We still have many details to pin down before we have a testable version of a new Saddle Orders rule according to these ideas. But I was able to satisfy myself that this method is in keeping with the spirit of the C&C system. Why? Because playing 2 cards in a single turn is one of the key features which makes Epic BL more than just basic BL on a bigger board. So using plan cards to enable this in M44 seems apt.

And that's it for now. Badger and I will be returning to this project just as soon as we can. I'll keep you all posted. ;)
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