Thursday, December 22, 2005

Empire Wars Chronicles

After getting back from Wainwright in late October I got a full time position with the army (in Vancouver, thankfully) and moved into a new place. Work and settling in has kept me pretty busy and unfortunately away from EW.

Anyway, Christmas leave is upon me and today I managed to solve a significant impediment to the success of Empire Wars: I fixed the combat system.

Fixed is actually too strong a word, since there was nothing "broken", per se, about the original system. But it did involve a calculator and grade 11 math. The solution was to go back to an old design concept that I superceded very early in the development of the game. Basically, as a game unit, a large ship (dreadnought, battlecruiser, etc.) is no longer bigger (more "hit points", combat factors, cost, etc.) than a small ship (frigate, destroyer, etc.). In the new system every ship costs 10 resources. In combat there is no damage; a ship is either intact or destroyed. Combat is now based on rolling individual "hit or miss" attacks, and not summing combat factors assigned against an individual ship and rolling a defensive modifier. The "to hit" chart is a direct translation of the original system. Frigates have an advantageous roll (4 or less on a d6) against destroyers. Destroyers don't do so well against heavy cruisers (2 or less on a d6).

One direct effect of the new system is that the "bigger" ships (dreadnoughts, battlecruisers) will see more play because they won't take multiple turns to complete and can get in the game before it is about to end.

The original system isn't going away. Though it is daunting for new players, I think it will appeal to some experienced players (especially with computer play aids like the Empire Assistant). Learning the mechanics with the new basic game will make the transitition to the advanced system easier. I will need to playtest, of course. There is a possibility that this new system is better in all respects (simplicity and strategic depth), in which case the original system will quietly fade away.

It's amazing how inspiration strikes. I wasn't even looking for a solution to this problem. I was a passenger in a car yesterday and towards the end of a long ride it came to me as I daydreamed looking out the window. Since the new system is a simplification the writing of the rules was mostly deleting. I'm pleased that the "detailed turn order" document (the meat of the rules) is down to 7 pages of 12 point New Times Roman (6 pages if I eliminated white space from page breaks), about 2500 words.

So calculators are out and piles of dice are in. I'd like to reiterate that Empire Wars is currently free for testing purposes (materials at cost).


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