Monday, April 16, 2018

Wargame Design: Movement can be Cool?


Frequently, when I am designing or working on a game one of the least exciting of the 4Ms is movement.  I would spend a great deal of time thinking about the Melee, Morale, or Missiles but very little on Movement.  Most of my effort was put into activation and turn sequence.  However, now I see I may have been trying to use activation/turn sequence as a way to bypass a potential core issue with movement itself.    

I tend to take Movement for granted, and instead use the basic Movement stat and a measuring tape to call out the distance.  That is what I have grown up with and what I am most familiar with.  For years I took it as a no-brainer decisions and something I did not even think about.  However, my mind has been opened up on this subject recently, and I feel like Movement may now be the new hotness for everyone to explore and play around with. 

So, what caused this big change in my thinking?  I mean, I have done movement related gimmicks for games like Total CARnage, Green Army Men: Plastic Men, Steel Resolve, and Redline before.  However, the first two were for purpose built dexterity games, and the third still uses the base Movement stat and Measure as the base.  Instead, I tried to make movement interesting by tackling activation/turn sequence or looking at the interaction between maneuver and firepower.  I also tried to make movement interesting by using a “Unit Leader” mechanic similar to Chosen Men where the movement and measuring is all done form a leader model and the rest just kind of “fill in” from there.  What opened my eyes was going back and reassessing the FlightPath system from Wings of War and X-wing fame and looking at how other games have utilized similar ideas, and then diverged from it. 


The FlightPath system essentially allows the player to choose from a series of templates which then dictate the movement path that the models follow.  Besides X-wing you can see this mechanic in many other games, but especially Fantasy Flight Games miniature games.  They also used it in Rune Wars.  To me, this method makes sense for some flight and sailing ship games as those types of genres tend to use fixed turn radii and travel distances. 

However, how would such systems apply to other genres?  I had two places that I looked first.  Initially, I looked at a tutorial for the game Tanks!  A Tank also has limited turn radius and travel distances, but has more ability to back-up, traverse terrain, use a turret, etc.  How did they tackle it?  Well, the template was used to measure distance, and then at the end of the template, it could be adjusted, and the final position of the vehicle just had to touch the template somewhere on the tank. 

Then I looked at Mercs.  In this game, each model had a stat card, but the stat card also was a tool for movement as it had various arrows on the card that you could align the model with and move to the opposite arrow on the card.  A movement and a stat card in one. 

Curious, I then started to cast my gaze further afield.  I found a number of new and interesting approaches to moving beyond the movement stat and measure with ruler model.  I saw movement sticks- Of Gods and Mortals, Fistful of Kung Fu, and Song of Blades and Heroes- which essentially acted as templates for movement.  I also saw the use of playing cards as a measuring tool such as Kobolds and Cobblestones and Pirates of the Spanish Main. 



The biggest innovations I found were with Rogue Planet and Squad Leader.  In Rogue Planet everything either was not measured or was only measured with a few fingers.  Squad Leader had infinite move as long as you were going from cover to cover.  Squad Leader is not a new game by any means, but this method had eluded me for so long.

The most interesting aspect of Squad Leader is that your opponent can interrupt your movement as a form of Overwatch.  Thereby movement is a permissive aspect of the game where a player can move as much as they want between cover until an opponent stops them.  This reminded me a bit of Force-on-Force but even that had a measured movement range. 



These “Discoveries” rekindled my interest in Movement.  For many years, the basics of movement in my mind were static.  I never questioned my preference or even looked beyond it.  However, my base assumptions around movement as its own set of mechanics has been static.  I encourage you not to make the same mistake as me. 

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