Wednesday, February 19, 2014

VII. Broken Contract - Black Squadron Security


Black Squadron Security
Security Officers or Prods oversee the daily toil of the Tracted on behalf of the Corp they work for. Ensuring quotas are met and the work is done gives them their purpose. They exist to ensure that Contracted do not slack off, inflict calamity upon themselves, sabotage their work, or attempt to organize. They serve as the de facto police, supervisors, and in a bloody minded and militant way as the middle management of the dark and twisted life that causes so many to risk their necks before enduring another day under the boot of the Prods.
Many corporations prefer to keep their Security Force in-house, but private Security Firms are big business as well. Often there are layers to the corporate security structure, with in-house security being better armed, better paid, and invested in the continued profitability of the corporation they work for. The private Security Firms are employed because they are a much cheaper option. Private Security Officers are poorly paid and are given inferior equipment and training. They provide warm bodies, semi alert and semi capable, who are there to provide greater numbers when needed. Still, they know their lot is superior to that of the common worker and they have no desire to change that paradigm.
                In the event of any sort of work stoppage or Break attempt, Security Officers are paid to intervene and stop not only the Breakers, but to shut down any widespread frenzy that it might create. Riots need to be crushed before they can start and that is where the Security Officer training excels. Overseers and Officers employ shock batons, arc pistols, and repeater rifles with rubber bullets to great effect to rapidly halt budding insurrection without significantly damaging corporate property.

Left to right: Officer Anlika, Officer Tulson, Xer,
Overseer Billins, and Officer Moerta.

Security Officer Characters:
Overseer Wire Billins
Officer Naria Anlika
Officer Hickley
Officer Sarie Moerta
Overseer Smythe
Gun Officer Lamal Tulson
Gen-Mod Xer

Pick up the Black Squadron Security Faction Set from our webstore.

See the Black Squadron Security range on Guerrilla Miniature Games, Widgets and Wonders.


Sunday, February 16, 2014

VI. Broken Contract - Actions and Interruptions

“Open revolt. One of the miners in your crew, Trest, has overtaken one of the guards. You had discussed this. You planned for this. The moment is upon you and all those plans are blurred by fear and adrenaline. It’s time to act. A Security Officer moves past you with his shock baton charging towards Trest, demanding that Trest stand down. You step forward and swing your shovel, connecting with the Security Officer’s head. You instinctively anticipate gunfire from the Gunner’s position and drop to the ground to take protection behind a bin and plan your next move.”
 
Just over a week ago I gave an overview of Stats and Checks. I covered Stats and Checks because they are the foundation that makes it possible for Actions and Interruptions to work. Here's an overview of Actions and Interruptions.

Actions

Each Character has a number of action points to use. During each Character’s Turn they may perform as many Actions as their Action Point value. Most Characters will be listed as having Actions: 3, thus they may perform three Actions. The more complex or time consuming an Action is to perform, the more Action Points it will use. In the opening narrative above, you step up to defend Trest. In game terms you Walk forward (1 Action Point), you make a Check to make an Attack on the Officer Moerta (1 Action Point), and knowing gunfire is going to start spraying your way you go Prone behind a bin (1 Action Point). You have used all 3 Action Points and are done for the Turn.

There is a large variety of Actions available to simulate an exciting and cinematic experience. There are Move Actions so you can do everything from Walk, Crawl, Jump, Go Prone, Stand Up, and even Dive Roll. There are Combat Actions like Shoot, Throw a Grenade, Attack, Grapple, Push, and Throw. And then there are Utility Actions, those seemingly mundane Actions that really come in handy like Carry a Comrade, Clear Gun Jam, Apply First Aid, Apply Restraints, Open Door, and *"Stand Down!" This huge variety of Actions (which is not an all inclusive list) allows Characters to behave like they would in an RPG or first person shooter video game. It allows you to really feel like you are involved in the action, without everything being an abstraction.

Interruptions

Interruptions are performed outside of the Turn Sequence and are immediate reactions to Actions of opposing Characters. Most Interruptions are defensive actions like Parrying, Dodging, and Defending. Interruptions may only be performed if you have Actions remaining. For example, on the next Turn Overseer Billins does a Dive Roll (1 Action Point) to get behind an ore bin and then makes a Check to Shoot his pistol at Ned Forsythe (1 Action Point) and misses. Ned has a pick axe in his hand and Overseer Billins is pretty sure Ned is going to Jump over the bin and Attack him so he ends his turn with 1 Action Point remaining. As expected Ned Forsythe Jumps over the bin and makes a successful Check to land upright. Then Ned wants to make a Check to Attack Overseer Billins with the Pick Axe so Overseer Billins player has to decide which Interruption he might take. He has it narrowed down to Dodge or Fire! . His Shooting is better than his Agility so he decides to make a Check to Fire! at Ned as he Attacks (1 Action Point). If he’s lucky he’ll take down Ned before he even takes a swing at him.

Like Actions, there is a list of options that includes ones you'd expect, and others that you wouldn't. Defend, Dodge, Fire!, Flee, Go Prone, Parry, *Beg For Mercy, and the very vague sounding *Strength of Will all make an appearance allowing you to do what you envision your Character doing.

How It Plays Out

Each Character actively on the board has their own Initiative each turn that they draw for. There are no simultaneous Actions in Broken Contract. These means that each Turn there will be a constant switching back and forth between players as they perform Actions or are Interrupted. Sometimes you will find yourself in a position where saving your Action Points to use for Interruptions is the best thing you can do. Other times you will want to seize the moment to its fullest. The important thing is that everyone playing are almost always engaged.

That's it for today. Here are explanations to some unexplained head scratchers from above.
-Nick

* "Stand Down!" What's that? Characters can use their authority to get their opposing Characters to stop what they are doing by wasting their Action Points or even causing them to drop their weapon.

* Beg For Mercy. Who would ever do that? Like "Stand Down!" its an attempt to convince an Attacker that you will come along quietly and thus, halt their Attack. There is nothing  to stop you from immediately going back on your offer when the opponent's guard is down.

* Strength of Will. This Interruption allows you to make a Check to break out of initiative order and perform an Action as an Interruption.

Monday, February 10, 2014

V. Broken Contract - Play Testing Round 3.

Rule Book, Hand Outs, Equipment Cards, and Initiative Cards. They aren't the prettiest but they get the job done for now.
Yesterday I traveled into Next Dimension Games to do some play testing with some new people. I'm trying to get the rules ready for Beta Testing by the public so I want to work out as many kinks in advance as I can. Like the other two play testing sessions I walked away with some valuable information and I'm incredibly thankful to Josh R and Josh from NDG/ChicagoWargamers community for taking the time to play a game with me.

Game 1 was with Josh R and he was in control of the Security Officers and I was the Breakers. He managed to really rough up my Breakers. I attempted several risky actions that all blew up in my face and helped maintain his upper hand. You can't win the game if your Breakers are all tripping over each other and lying Prone all over the board, and that's exactly what I did. By the end of the game only one of my Breakers escaped out the hydraulic door to what would be the next scenario, and my other 4 Breakers were all Shocked and Restrained giving a very complete feeling victory to Josh R. In the end he felt like the Security Officers might be too good in hand-to-hand and not good enough at shooting. I decided to weigh this further and proceed to the next game with no changes to the rules.

Game 2 was against Josh (Next Dimension actually has 3 regulars named Josh. There is also another Nick, two Daniels and two Matts. It gets confusing with all the repeated names.) Josh requested the Breakers and I took the Security Officers. It was very amusing the very different turn this game took. Josh threw caution to the wind and just started swarming my Security Officers and beating them with shovels and pick axes. One of his Characters broke their weapon so he picked up a Shock Baton one of my Characters dropped and used it against me. The game ended with a dramatic closing when he Seriously Injured two of my Security Officers and picked up his own injured Breakers and carried them off the board. No Breaker was left behind and two of my three SO's would be left for dead. Additionally, he stole my Overseer's key card  and some weapons. It was the most effective Break attempt I've seen in play testing.

What does this tell me? The scenario is fairly balanced. The Breakers and Security Officers have an equal chance to win the mission. However, the next question is, does it play like I want it to? My initial answer would be yes, but am I looking at the big picture of the narrative when I say that? The truth of the matter is that for the purposes of the narrative, the Breakers escaping is a good thing. The goal is for the game to maintain a narrative throughout the scenarios so it is to my advantage to pace how effective the Security Officers are or else the Breakers (currently 8 of them) will certainly all get captured or killed long before the final scenario, and that's no fun. Of course, playing the Security Officers and always having the Breakers get away would feel like being a Scooby Do villain - they're always going to outsmart you by the end of the show. I think my best plan of attack is to tone down the Security Officers some, but weight the victory conditions of each scenario so that little victories are big wins so that you can still "win" even if you don't capture all of the Breakers.

I don't want to get into too much detail about the tweaks I intend to make since very few people reading this might have seen the rules, but I'm going to add some weapons and equipment today that will reduce the effectiveness of Security Officers on the attack and improve their defense. I think this is a prudent change that I will be happy with long term.

As with the other play testing experiences I learned a lot yesterday and it has my brain spinning with ideas. I do have to chastise myself for not taking notes or photos yesterday. There were definitely some rules questions that came up that I didn't have answers for in the rules and I need to add them into the text for clarity. Whoops. I'll work my way all the way through the document this week and I'm sure a bunch of them will come to mind.

Thanks again to Josh R. and Josh, and to the Next Dimension Games community.
-Nick

Saturday, February 8, 2014

IV. Design Decisions on the Format for Weapons and Equipment

Play testing props. Brand new cut and paste weapon cards. They aren't the prettiest things in the world, but we'll see if it helps keep the game simple and flowing.
Tomorrow I'm play testing Broken Contract with at least one new person who hasn't experienced the game yet. Thus far, I've lead the charge, showing the players the rules, and telling them what they need to roll, etc.

Since I'm going to have a fresh face, I want to have him be able to "figure things out on his own" the best he can without reading the rule book cover to cover. Originally, I had a Weapons and Equipment section of the book that would require the players to reference the book for the info, or consult a comprehensive chart (that I haven't created yet. So for tomorrow, I'm going to try something different. All of the equipment for all of the characters is on the cards I created above.

The idea with using cards instead of a Chapter is that I can ensure every player has all of the necessary rules handy for their Character to keep the game as simple and flowing as possible. Of course, if I push everything over to cards then you end up with each player having a stack of 20 cards to sort through every time they want to do something. Hopefully, since I'm mindful of that concern I shouldn't fall into that trap.

I do want to create cards for the Characters themselves, and for the victory points earned during scenarios played. We'll see how much I can get done before tomorrow.

In case you're curious, what kinds of equipment is on these cards? Fun stuff: Pick Axe, Shovel, Rocks, Molotov, Dynamite, Pneumatic Drill, Arc Pistol, Shock Baton, Neuro-Grenade, and the Crowd Control Repeater Rifle. You know, all of the fun stuff you need to stage or squash a fledgling insurrection.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to tomorrow.

-Nick

PS. Play testing will be tomorrow, February 9th, at Next Dimension Games Chicago starting at noon. Feel free to come by and check it out.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

III. Broken Contract - Stats and Checks



     “We all size each other up. We look everyone up and down. Work crews, Security Forces, Contract Enforcers, and Steaders – we’re all the same. We ask ourselves who’d have the strength or skill to back us up or take us down in a fight. We know who we’d want to do the talking for us when negotiating our way out of trouble, and we know who’d have the clear head and medical knowledge to patch us up when we get hurt. I know I’ve come to respect the guy who watches everybody’s movement, and their subtle changes in behavior. And someone might look like they are weak, socially inept, or dumb as rocks – but if they have the fervor of belief burning in their heart, they can be your greatest threat. Knowing what a person is capable of is just as useful to our survival as any other skills we may possess.”


There are many approaches a game designer can take to Stats. You can keep a game simple with only a very basic mechanic for movement, like one or two squares/spaces, and a rudimentary mechanic for attacking, like in Checkers. And then you can scale it up in complexity to something a little more complex like Chess, Risk, and Zombicide. Of course, you can continue upward in complexity to games like Necromunda/Warhammer 40K, and finally to role-playing games like Pathfinder, D&D, and Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play.

There is no right and wrong way to define how a game is played. Deciding whether you want all of the pieces in the game to be equal in ability, or whether you want every piece uniquely defined is up to the designer and as we know all of the above games are considered "fun" games.

In Broken Contract I want all of the characters to be unique in both subtle and dramatic ways and I want to have the flexibility in place to define them even further as the game evolves. The simpler a Stat line is, the harder it becomes to define the Characters and allow them to grow without dramatically impacting the game. Think about Checkers and how dramatically the game changes when you king one of your Checkers. Also, think about how in Checkers, once you king a Checker, there really is nowhere to go from there.

So in Broken Contract I wanted to create a robust Stat line with a lot of different Stats to be able to subtly define the differences between the Characters. This was exceptionally important since I wanted the game to stick to a very simple D6 system where almost every Action was carried out with the roll of a single D6. To that end I created this list of categories and Stats:

Average human Character Stats:

Core: Actions: 3 Move:  3 Wounds: 3 
Combat: Shoot: 5 Melee: 5 Strength: 5 Agility: 5 
Brain: Intellect: 5 Perceive: 5 Psyche: 5 Medic: 5 
Social: Leadership: 6 Dealing: 6 
Intangible: Recovery: 6 Faith: 6 

Core Stats are numbers that no Checks are made against. Each normal human Character gets to perform 3 Actions per Turn. Their Walk Move is 3"/squares per Turn. And they may sustain 3 Wounds before they are defined as Down (0 Wounds remaining), Out of Action (-1 Wounds. Ouch!), or Seriously Injured (-2 Wounds or worse. Near death.)

The remaining 12 Stats are all Stats that through the course of the game you will roll a D6 to Check against. The higher the Stat, the harder it becomes to be successful. So a normal human has a Shoot: 5, which means that before modifiers, if they want to Shoot a gun at another Character, they need a 5 or 6 to hit. Similarly, a comrade is Down and you run your Character over to try and help them. You Check against your Medic: 5 and roll a 3. You have failed, and your comrade continues to bleed out. You'll notice then, that looking at this Stat line, it seems pretty hard for a normal human to do anything as all the Stats are either 5 or 6. But as soon as you give a Character a single Combat or Brain Stat of 4 they suddenly are way more effective at what they can do. They clearly become defined as being good in that particular field. With that in mind I gave the Stat line a broad range of Stats so that a Character that was good at Melee, wasn't also defined as being strong and agile at the same time. Instead, you can have a good Agility to show your reaction time and balance are superior to your opponent's, but if you don't know how to fight it can only carry you so far.

Also, by allowing everyone to have the Medic skill, it shows that everyone has a rudimentary knowledge of how to patch a wound. They might even know how to perform CPR or tie a tourniquet. But, a Character with a Medic: 4 probably has some legitimate medical training and as a result, do the right thing successfully 50% of the time even without the right tools for the job - they are savvy enough to be able to improvise on the fly because they know what they are doing. 

By going this route, you can theoretically have 12 clearly specialized Characters with only a single point of deviation on one of their Stats; they clearly become marked as exceptional in that area. Give a Character a single point of deviation in 2 of their Stats and now you have seemingly limitless ways of defining each Character's strengths and weaknesses. Toss in a fairly basic list of Skills and suddenly you have a exponential increase in the ways you can differentiate between the abilities of different characters without branching off into D8's, D10's, percentile dice, or dice pools. You can still do everything on a single D6 roll for just about everything. That's the path I have taken with Broken Contract, and I'm pretty happy with how its playing out.

-Nick