Skirmish: Week in Review

In the last week, we’ve had at least a dozen games of Skirmish, spread across four players (aged 6, 9, 15 and, uh… ‘adult’), with varying versions of the rules.

What’s been especially encouraging is that the two smallest playtesters have gone back for multiple games between themselves entirely of their own accord. When one of my goals was to take the combat elements of an RPG and simplify it to play with my kids, then I’d say that’s already a success!

Check out some of our action shots. Don’t forget to click/tap on the image for a hi-res version.

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Game Setup - A game about to commence. Characters and Character Sheets, Dice, and Action Cards on the right of the main arena.
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Last week I mentioned that there were still several areas that needed work (and when I say work, I really mean “creating from scratch because I haven’t gotten there yet”):

  • Scaling/climbing terrain (cliffs, hillsides etc)
  • Swimming/water
  • Cover against attacks
  • Bonuses for attacking from high ground
  • Expanding the Equipment and Abilities list.

 

I’m happy to say that most of these have been straightforward rules additions, and four out of five are now workable. Of course, the Equipment and Abilities list is still outstanding, and due to the piecemeal nature of it is likely to be in a permanent state of flux. The rest, though, have been tested a few times and seem to be working reasonably well.

A couple of these points have required a new concept – that of a “Step”. A Step is a change in level on the battlefield from one Hex to another. I’m using my HexTerra terrain for this, with the files provided in 10mm height intervals. So a fairly simple conversion is 10mm – 1 Step. Pretty straightforward overall.

 

Climbing and Descending

Climbing/Descending terrain is simply done at an increased cost for Steps of 1 to 2 above/below your current level.

Going up or down one step costs one Action point, in addition to the “base” Action needed to move.

Two steps is two Action points (plus the base Action to move).

Moving up or down three or more steps requires you to spend three Action points total, and make a 1d6 roll, adding the lower of your Strength/Power or Dexterity/Speed bonuses. If you roll equal to or greater than the number of “Steps” you’re attempting to climb, you succeed. If you roll lower than the number of Steps, you fail. A fail when Climbing/Ascending simply means you don’t move, but you’ve still spent those three Actions. A fail when Descending means you fall, and take 1d6 of Damage.

 

Swimming

Swimming requires two Actions whenever you enter a Water hex. A Character cannot attack while in the water, and any bonus to their defence is halved, rounded down.

Additionally, you cannot spend points on moving or attacking with other Characters while there is a Character in the water. They must leave the water before you can do anything else, even if this takes multiple turns.

 

Cover

Cover is provided by different types of terrain, and comes in two types – Hard Cover, through which an attack cannot be made, and Soft Cover, which imparts a -4 penalty on any attack made.

Draw a straight line from the centre of your Hex to the centre of the target Hex. If the line passes through any part of a Hex containing Cover, then apply the relevant penalty above.

Hard Cover exists when there is a permanent structure (such as a building) or a “bump” in the landscape of 3 or more Steps.

Soft Cover includes pretty much anything else, including rocks, trees, other Characters etc.

 

High Ground

High Ground provides different bonuses, depending on whether you are making a Melee or Ranged attack.

Melee combatants receive a +1 bonus to both attacks and defence against opponents 1-2 Steps lower than them (It’s hard to strike uphill, or to defend against attacks coming from above). No Melee attack can be made where there is a Step difference of 3 or more (30mm in a 28mm-scale game – roughly 6 feet).

Ranged attacks gain +1 Range for every three Steps they are above their target.

 

Other Changes

Some of the other modifications I’ve been playing with include (briefly):

  • Implementing the card-based Action Selection at the start of rounds, instead of dice. This seems to be working really well.
  • Changing the points required for various bonuses. Eg, I’ve swapped the point requirements of Melee and Ranged bonuses in an attempt to drive more Melee combat instead of relying on Ranged attacks.
  • Lowering the cost of bonuses across the board, and allowing Offensive and Defensive bonuses to be purchased separately. This should allow for a wider range of customisation, without overly complicating things (I hope…)

 


So far, things are working really, really well. I’m still thoroughly entertained when I play, and the kids are capable of playing on their own. That’s two of my big design goals right there. In fact, even the 6 year old knows all these rules well enough that I only need to help him with his maths, not with character creation, attacking, defending etc. He can play perfectly fine on his own.

What I still need to work on – but honestly think it will just come with time – is the “RPG Combat” feeling. I suspect this is mostly going to be addressed through the various combinations of Equipment and Abilities, so I’ll just keep plugging away at expanding the list slowly.

That’s all for this week – I’m slowly getting all this put together into a not-very-pretty-but-hopefully-usable rulebook. With any luck I’ll be able to get something functional out to you all soon, and you can give it a go yourselves and provide some feedback!

Until then, as always,

Yours in Adventure,

Shane.

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