Skirmish: Tactical Miniatures

A new week, and a whole new project.

Yes, I have trouble focussing on one task. Yes, I promise one day I’ll finish a project I’ve already started. No, I haven’t discarded any of my previous projects in disgust and/or frustration. Rather, I just started pondering a few different trains of though:

  • I need to work on the d3RPG combat mechanics a bit, but given the effort that goes into writing a whole RPG system from scratch, I wanted the chance to experiment with something else first. It would be a shame if the combat system didn’t hold up under the load purely because I hadn’t played with enough different ideas first.
  • My kids (6 and 9) desperately want to play Pathfinder with me. Somehow I get the feeling that they’re more interested in the hack-and-slash than the political intrigue and shades of moral grey roleplaying though. Pathfinder is a rather complex system, so how can I simplify and focus on the combat so the kids can have fun?
  • After designing and printing a heap of HexTerra tiles, I wanted an excuse to use them. I have another early game design that I never mentioned on the blog (no big secret – it just slipped my mind) that could be expanded to incorporate the HexTerra system. Why not play around with that a bit?

 

And so was born Skirmish – a totally thoroughly thought-out name that wasn’t invented literally as I was writing this piece after realising I needed to call it somethingYep, definitely.

Skirmish is a tactical miniatures game where two players duke it out on a hex-based map, using a small party of customised adventurers.

Yeah, I like the sound of that. In fact, early playtesting with the kids shows it’s already quite fun and has a lot of potential. However, it’s been a super-busy week, and I only started working on this a few days ago. As a result I’m really only going to be giving you the most cursory overview of how things currently work.

 

Setup

    1. Start with a hex map. Here’s one I created for the purpose, sized to A1 paper at 200dpi. This is something you’re probably going to want to get printed at your local print shop. Feel free to use it for literally anything you want.
    2. Throw some terrain down. Shameless plug: HexTerra works really well for this. Of course you could use any type of terrain you like – it doesn’t need to specifically be hex-based.
    3. Get some miniatures. The map and terrain I’m using are based on a 28mm miniature assumption, but you could use any scale you like. In fact, you can use any sort of miniatures you have already lying around. No need to buy specific stuff!
    4. Build your party of adventurers using pre-determined rules. The framework for this will be covered under “Creating an Adventurer”. Take inspiration from the minis you happen to be using – it makes it much more thematic.
    5. Toss your dudes on a map, and fight!

 

Play

  1. Determine the number of Actions available for the round, and which player goes first. I’m currently experimenting with both a dice-based and card-based variant of this Action determination. The cards are currently winning, and have the potential for some cool effects in a future iteration of the game.
  2. The first player uses the allotment of Actions for the round on a combination of Movement, Melee and Ranged attacks, Magical assaults, and activating Equipment or Abilities.
    • Move one hex for one point
    • Make a Melee or Ranged attack for two points
    • Throw some Magic out there for three points
    • Use your Equipment or special Abilities for however many points are listed against the relevant Unit.
  3. The second player then does the same, before returning to Step 1 and determining a whole new number of Actions for the next round.
  4. Continue until the game ends. Currently this is a simple annihilation scenario, but there’s no theoretical reason why Capture the Flag, Take-and-Hold or something else wouldn’t work as a victory condition as well.

 

Creating an Adventurer

Each player should have a team built on the same foundation – select a total number of Points to build towards (and possibly total number of Units), and get cracking! There are three main steps, which can be completed in any order.

  1. Purchase your Attributes (Strength, Dexterity, Magic, and Resilience). The first three Attributes assist with different types of attacks, while Resilience provides Health, helping the unit last longer in a fight. Each of these Attributes cost a different amount, and may scale differently as more points are spent. Testing continues…
  2. Select which Equipment your Unit will be provided with. Each piece of Equipment will be priced individually. This equipment may provide an edge in certain circumstances (eg, When you score a hit, deal a minimum of 3 points of damage) or provide a benefit that may be used at any time (eg, heal 2d6 damage, usable twice only). This is a potentially endless list that could be expanded over and over and over and over….
  3. Pick your Abilities which make each unit stand out from the others. Perhaps you will get a bonus when you and your ally are flanking an opponent. Maybe you provide great leadership, giving your allies a +1 bonus to attacks within a certain range when you activate your Rallying Cry (aka – spend points to do so!). What about allowing your friends to share their pain with you, splitting damage they take between the two of you? If you’ve played RPGs before, you should definitely feel some familiarity with some of these Abilities. Again, these abilities are individually priced and could be eternally expanded.

 

Eventually, you’ll run out of points, and your character building is done. It’s quite similar to the current state of d3RPG, really. It shouldn’t be surprising that my ideas tend to bleed one into the other.

With enough Equipment and Ability options, there should be plenty of different character builds possible. The challenge is to actually write them up!

So it’s all based on Attacking… How does that work?

Glad you asked!

Different types of attacks are based on different character attributes or scores – much like an RPG:

  • Melee attacks are Strength based
  • Ranged attacks are Dexterity based
  • Magic attacks are….. Magic based.

 

Rather than using a static Target or Armour Class, attacking and defending are made by opposed rolls. Defending against each of these attacks is assisted by the same attribute – Strength defends against Melee attacks, etc.

When attacking, roll 3d6, add your attribute bonus, and any other situational bonuses from Equipment or Abilities. When defending, you add the same bonuses, but you only roll 2d6.

When Attack > Defense, that’s a hit. The unit takes damage equal to the difference. (eg, an Attack of 17 vs Defense of 13 results in 4 damage to the defending unit).

When a single adventurer (or unit… I’m no especially good at keeping my terminology straight) hits 0 health, they are removed from the game.

In general, equally matched opponents will usually score a hit, but there is approximately a 20% chance that the attack will miss. If you are much better equipped for a certain type of attack than your opponent is equipped to defend against it, that chance goes down, and vice versa.

What Happens Now?

I’ve played enough games to be confident that the basic 3d6 v 2d6 mechanic is sound, so now I need to work on incorporating some additional rules, then testing, testing, testing them until they inevitably break:

  • Scaling/climbing terrain (cliffs, hillsides etc)
  • Swimming/water
  • Cover against attacks
  • Bonuses for attacking from high ground
  • And of course, never-ending expansion of the Equipment and Abilities list.

 

There’s bound to be plenty more that I haven’t even thought of, but I’ll address it all as it comes up I suppose. The kids are very enthusiastic to play (which really was the main thrust to it all) so this is one project that I don’t have to worry about where my playtesters are coming from!

As a reward for getting all the way to the end, I’m going to give you something special – a tiny glimpse into the depths of my mind. Behind this link right here, you’ll find an Excel file that has literally every part of the system – in it’s current form – in a format you can peruse. Honestly, it’s probably no more enlightening than what’s already written in this article. Indeed, I’ve probably mentioned several things in this article that are not stated at all in my working document. But for what it’s worth, you can see how much (or really, how little) I’ve done so far.

Enjoy!

Yours in Adventure,

Shane

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