Monday, January 28, 2008

Why the movement rules in AT-43 are being played wrong.

Mmmkay.





This post is THE reason why this blog exsists. I used to be part of an online community named the Board Game Geek (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/) which is a wonderful community and excellent and just all around cheeky cool. Unfortunately it's being completely over run with internet dickwads (please refer to this link here: http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/19) and I have less than no tolerance for any person lacking intellect. (As a disclaimer by intellect I specifically mean "capacity for thinking and acquiring knowledge, esp. of a high or complex order; mental capacity" and not just saying "NUH UH YOU'RE WRONG!") You don't have to agree with me, you don't have to be cunning or witty, but you do have to use your brain or I get pissed. A tool on the Geek and myself were engaging in a debate over the mechanics of the movement rules of AT-43. Well, I thought we were at least, and as the digital conversation progressed this person became less intellectual by the moment and more dickwad. It culmunated in such fury filled frustration on my part that I left the community all together. It wasn't just this person, I should clarify, I had seen other evidence of the dickwad infusion way before him and did my best to ignore it. But ultimately every forum based community is over run with these people. I'm sure you all have stories, further even i'm confident some dickwad will post something on this blog eventually. If they do so, i'll not hold back. This is my Sparta and all men (in the coloqial non-genDered sense of the shortening of the word 'human') will be responsible for their words.





This being prefaced, I'll dump the blog now...





AT-43 is a miniatures table top war game, which is to say we use army men to run around and roll dice and shoot at each other. I'm stoopid for these games, really, just love them. I love miniatures and love rolling dice and most of all I LOVE GAME MECHANICS. I think I might be in a minority there but i'll read rule books just to read rules.





When I read the rules for AT-43 movement mechanics I flipped with joy. It seems, as I read them, to be a stunningly evolved collection of rules to stream line play time and increase tactical options without reducing the quality of the game. From this point on it gets geeky, be warned, also understand I am arguing for the reading I have taken from the text and support this with actual text. Very geeky indeed.





Let us look now upon the 'normal' mechanics involved in moving miniatures. We shall use the game Warhammer 40K, which is an excellent game in its own right IMO. Let us create within our minds an imaginary unit of 6 Space Marines, one is carrying a missile launcher, four of them bolt guns, and the last is a sgt. with chain sword (vrooom vrooom!) and a bolt pistol. The player decides to advance the squad a normal movement which is six inches (last time I played at least) so he lays out his tape measure and moves the sgt. (or any other model) six inches, then again for the missile launcher troop, then one time each for the other four models. Six measurements, six movements and we are done. Now I haven't timed this but I'd wager you're looking at a couple minutes of play time to move those six models. Some players will move the few models in front and just guess the rest of the models movement into similar formation.





Now let us look at the AT-43 squad movement rules (available rules here: http://www.at-43.com/pdf_EN/AT43/AT-43_rules.pdf). We will use a Steel Troopers squad which consists of six models; one sgt. with a laser rifle, four troops with laser rifles, and a missile launcher. Now this is were I differ from most understandings of the rules, apparently even the company itself (cheeky eh?). One model within the unit is always the leader no matter what, if the leader gets killed the next closest model becomes the leader and you replace him with the model that is being used as the leader model. To move the unit you measure the movement of the leader and then move the remainder of the models up to the leader adhering to the rules for cohesion of a unit. So in practice you measure the movement of the Steel Trooper sgt. (his movement is 14 cm I think) and place the model 'there' and then pick up the rest of the models in the unit and put them around the sgt. how ever you want them to be placed. This takes less than a minute, really less than 30 seconds, I haven't timed it but I played less than 48 hours ago.





Now that we have placed the two examples before you I will show my argument and why I am reading the rules this way and why it is silly to do it any other way beyond some deep intrinsic need to waste time. The location of the models on the tabel is important in both games, but it doesn't need to be to maintain the integrity in either game and I think the designers of AT-43 understood this and created an excellent set of rules around what is important in a table top game. Let us examine the points of importance as I see them:





1. Who can shoot?: as in all wargames of this type if a model can see any of the enemy unit, he can shoot at the enemy unit. Normally the movement rules act as a restriction of the ability of a model to get into a location where he can see the enemy. This, in logical thought, is stupid. On a battlefield no one runs the same speed, or walks the same speed, and the squads of modern warfare do not maintain a formation. Soldiers run to cover, move where they need to to get the best shot, and generally do their best to kill the other guy while not getting killed. The movement rules of all wargames are representative of reality and not ACTUALLY reality themselves. So it seems to me that as no unit moves the same speed on foot since no individual moves the same speed on foot that it is a convention of ease that all units of the same type move the same distance on the table top. This manifests to my mind that idea that the models are place holders for the unit's presence and not actually where the model is all the time, only when they are actually subjected to firing or actually firing. So inbetween it doesn't matter a hill of beans, and further it is logical to think that the forces in question would not move to the best position possible at all times.





2. Keeping it togther.: all of these games contain morale and cohesion rules. AT-43's are excllent IMO because of their simplicty and effectiveness. In any game a model can only be so far from another model within the same unit and from the leader of the squad itself. With AT-43 this cohesion is 2.5cm from an other model within the unit and 10cm from the leader. Now if for some reason this cohesion is broken, say from casualties, then there is no effective upon the unit in game turns. Cohesion is a restriction to location of the models within the unit, not something that must be maintained or bad things happen. A unit must be in cohesion after it moves, period, no options. So you must place the modles within the restricted space available. So, if two of my six Steel Troopers get offed breaking cohesion, what do I do? NOTHING, until they activate again and then they must end their activation in cohesion even if I don't move the unit I'll have to move models to make cohesion again. No morale test, no special rules, just the limit of the model's distance from the leader and each other. The game uses a zone of fire (in the rules) for all units when they are making a shooting attack and the cohesion rules effecitvely limit this zone of fire to 15cm in width which can be obtained with only 7 models. So it doesn't really matter how many there are, they can only string themselves out so wide to take aim.





3. Who dies?: location affects who dies in any war game but as I mentioned above in number 1 this is truly only important at the instant of the attack. The rigid turn based mechanics of a miniatures game is for ease of play, not actual recreation of a battle field. In reality soldiers rarely form up and fire together, it's not a twenty-one gun salute, it's a fire fight and you shoot every time a target presents itself. The turn based firing mechanics more acurately portray a single slice of time for that unit in the scale of the game. In AT-43 impacts (i.e. hits) are applied starting with the models closest to the attacking unit and applied backward one for each lucky soldier unitl they are all applied. Any left over are wraped back around to the front and applied again each getting two until you run out, and so on. If the officer is killed, he's dead (but there is still a leader model fyi) same as the regular or the special weapon carrier. So when placing your models on the table after the movement you are taking a strategic stand on their location until you activate that unit again. Most miniature games require you to move each model seperately, which means if you want your flamer thrower to get to the front and do some flaming throwing you have to slow the remainder of the unit so he can do so. This, really, is stupid. No real unit would work in such a way. The officer would call for the flamer who would huff it from where ever he was up to the target and let 'er rip! No officer would order the flame thrower up and everyone else slow down so that he can get up there. Now I'm sure this has happened before, but only because they didn't want to be in front of the flame thrower and not because the guy with the flamer thrower moved exactly the same speed as the rest of the unit.



4. Where do they shoot from?: this is the key point IMO. In AT-43 all measurements are made from the leader model in the squad. Now some people say to the contrary but neither is this supported by the text of the rules nor is it really such a great idea. Let me unpack this for you. Let us refer to the above two game units. The Space Marines have a range of 24" with their bolters, the sgt. 12" with his pistol, and the missile launcher 36" (I think, it's been a while). So, when you are declaring an attack on the enemy you measure for each of the models to determine if they are in range or not. With the AT-43 squad you do not, you make one measurement from the leader of the attacking unit to the leader of the targeted unit. PERIOD, no more measurements than that. Range is not a measure of limitation but a measure of probability in the game. Weapons have accuracy and the further away the target (in increments of 10cm) the harder it is to hit. It is possible the target is far enough away that the weapon's effective limits are reached and do not hit. There is a dynamic difference between these two mechanics in the sense that you do not lose fire power due to range only effectiveness of that fire power in the hands of the soldier. If a United States Marine and I were to play paintball, he would own me. I am not a bad shot but he would have a better understanding of fire fights and more skill (i.e. accuracy) with the fire arm he was using even if it is a paintball gun. The effective range limitations of the weapon play its part, but they are identical (in a theoretical sense obviously) so only skill affects out come. It is not logical that the bolt pistol has less range than a bolt gun beyond it's EFFECTIVE range which is where the weapon looses accuracy. The bullet doesn't magically stop and drop to the ground.



So I've listed my arguments now I'll put up my reference points, right out of the rule book itself. To briefly reiterate; I am stating that the movement rules should be played as follows:



1. Move leader model (be this officer or not).

2. Place all remaining models in squad around the leader model as desired maintaining unit coherency rules.

3. Go on with your life.



This seems pretty simple eh? You'd be surprised how much out of the box I'm thinking here, damn near inquisitorial levels. Now keep in mind, I am not changing the rules to the game, I am seeing this in the text as it is provided. It seems that the players are for the most part playing it wrong adhereing to a system that is not necessary. I will admit that an "Official" ruiling was obtained on the "Official" forum but I have no proof that either A) this comes from the actual designer of the game or B) that that person knows what they are talking about (no offense intended whoever you are). All of the following are from the AT-43 rulebook as published in 2007 by Rackham, the game's manufacturer. (Bold text is kept as it is in the rule book, it is not bolded by me.)



First point of reference: [page 46 Measureing A Distance] "For a unit consisting of several miniatures, measurements are taken from the edge of the leader's base. Unit to unit measurements are done from leader to leader." This clearly indicates where the measurements are taken from and the heading indicates distance which is what a movement measurement is.



Second point of reference: [page 47 Units] "A unit of several fighters includes a leader. This fighter has the same characteristics as the other members of the unit but the miniature is different. He is used as a reference point when measuring distances." We see the direct statement that the leader model is a reference point for distances.



Third point of reference: [page 58 Movements] "Each unit can move once during its activation. The type of fighter and type of movement define the maximum distance that can be covered. For each unit, it is possible to choose between two types of movement: rush movement or combat movement." Now this is the big point for me. It clearly states that we are discussing the movement of a unit not the movement of a model by the use of the word unit. What determines how far the unit moves? The type of fighter and type of movement; type of fighter being according to the stats on the card because all models of the same unit are the same fighter, type of movement being rush or combat. If you take the time to read the rules by the link I posted you'll see that there is no place within the entire length of the movement rules of a single reference to movement of an individual model by measurement. Obviously if there is only one model anyway you will, but it is not required to move them individually.



Fourth point of reference: [page 74 Resolving Morale Tests]

"Morale test upon the unit's activation

A unit is subject to a Morale test upon its activation in the following situations:

*A Type 1 or Type 2 infantry unit has fallen to 3 members or fewer;

*A Type 3 infantry unit has fallen to 1 member;

*A unit of armored fighting vehicles is entirely immobilized."

>immaterial line skipped for brevity<

"Morale tests outside the unit's activation

Outside its activation, a unit of armored fighting vehicles is subjected to a morale test when one of its members is destroyed or abandoned."



So this shows all the instances that morale tests must be made. None of them have anything to do with cohesion. Typically becoming out of cohesion requires morale tests or special movment in such games but not in this case. This is a minor point truly but it's still valid.



Overall I think these movement rules are a logical evolution of miniature war games. It can take hours just for the movement of large forces, when really it shouldn't, and these prevent that. I think that if you read with an open mind you'll see the same thing I'm seeing. And if not, no big deal, it's just a game.



A couple post scripts...



Post Scrit One: The flamer issue.

In the game the only time a measurement is made that doesn't involve the leader is a flamer special weapon carrier. I won't bore you with all the rules but basically I think this was implemented more as a restriction upon flamers than a restriction upon movement. To use the flamer (which is very dangerous) effectively you must risk that special troop by putting him closer to the enemy than you would probably like. You could argue this but I think you'd basically be hitting your head on a hollow log.



Post Script Two: Maximum Effecive Range.

A real life fire arm has an maximum effective range which is defined as; "The maximum distance at which a weapon may be expected to be accurate and achieve the desired effect." This is not the limits that the bullet will go. You project a 7.5 gram lead slug at 1,180 feet per second it is not going to stop any time soon, namely because it's going ONE THOUSAND ONE HUNDRED EIGHTY FEET in a single second. Dodge that! To show you what I mean lets compare a couple guns.



First we have the Heckler & Koch MP5 Submachine Gun (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heckler_%26_Koch_MP5) with an effective range of 100 meters (about 325 feet). It uses the 9x19mm Parabellum cartridge which is the bullet I reference above.



Second we have the M9 Semiautomatic Pistol (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/M9_pistol) with an effective range of 50 meters (or about 160 feet) and it uses the exact same cartridge. If I recall right you can actually take the bullets out of one and put them into the other.



So we see the same bullet with wildly different effective ranges but both of those bullets are going to go 1,180 feet per second. So in theory you can wing a whole clip of them at the enemy and you'll not likely hit anything at 150 meters but you might. The ranges in AT-43 are looong indeed to give us a feel for just this sort of occurance.



Post Script Three: Board Game Geek.

I am back on the geek, my handle is Wickerman555 (which is also my xbox live gamer tag) and struggled until deciding to found this blog. It has given me the catharsis I need and didn't feel I could generate with the geek. If you want to look me up be my guest and I love good conversation or debate :)

Post Script Four: Boad Game Geek.

Fuck 'em. I caught shit because they didn't want me to even indirectly refer to the asshats on the geek as the dickwads they were. At first I started to complain but then I just deleted that acct. too. I have no patience for stupid people anymore.

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