Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Reminder: NOVA Signups Feb 1st! Thoughts on NOVA mission design

Good afternoon everyone!

I want to post a reminder that NOVA 2013 signups will start February 1st! The missions have been overhauled to represent to new 6th ed environment and offer the same tactical game play as the old 5th ed missions, while incorporating fresh game mechanics.

SIGN UP!!!! We want to see you there! More important I want to see you there! Sign up for my event! Team Trios!


So what is the NOVA mission philosophy? Well, I'm not MVB so I don't want to stick words in his mouth, so take what I say as my opinion as an semi-outside perspective.

NOVA missions are designed to be as fair, competitive wise, as possible. What do I mean by that? Well, I mean it in a couple different ways which I'll explain below. The summary is that anyone who take a balanced army, should be able to handle every mission comfortably, without feeling like the mission is screwing them over.

Let me provide you an example.

We were at Adepticon last year for the team tourney and the round one event consisted of "secret" missions which were randomly distributed at the start of the game. Our "secret" mission, was to get our troops into the enemy's deployment zone for the game end. Being orks, with battlewagons, we accomplished this really easily and then just ran amuck in our enemys deployment zone having ourselves a zoggin good time. Game end, we shook hands with our opponents for a game well played, and asked what their secret mission was. Destroy all enemy troops, well, as far as secret objectives go, that wasn't exactly an impossibility for our opponent, mechanized IG gunlines like what they were running have a field day with it regularly; but their mission wasn't nearly as simple as ours was.

Now imagine if the missions were reversed? Our opponents had vendettas, they could easily have stuck some troops inside, skimmed across the board last turn and deployed for the win. Could we have stopped them? Virtually no way, especially without knowing that was their objective.

I'm not presenting this as an example to rip on Adepticon, don't take it that way.  I liked the idea of the secret missions, and with a little tweaking I think it'd be a really killer way to run team games which are supposed to be more for fun and less "competitive" anyways!  I was one of those guys who sat at the computer at 8pm the day registration opened this year and hit refresh every 3 seconds to make sure I got a ticket, so clearly I think they put on good events!

What I am saying is, missions can screw people over who otherwise have a perfectly decent list. Ideally you want to go into a game focused on playing the mission to win, not just tabling your opponent or hoping they don't have the rock to your hammer. In order for that to work, the mission needs to be balanced to allow the "average" list a good shot at winning it, without providing significant advantages to specific builds. This means it'll come down more to player skill, and less to random pairings luck.

 NOVA missions rotated goals (5th ed) or change (6th) to prevent a "meta" gaming.

Let's use a common example.

GW always has some form of killpoints as a game objective / mission. Anyone who takes a second to think about this, can start designing lists to give up as few kill points as possible, or design lists that can morph (combat squads anyone?) depending on what's required. This is perfectly fine, but can make some games perfectly un-winnable. If I'm running my orks against Draigowing and its KP's, I have a serious mountain to climb. If I don't table my opponent, its GG and he wins almost by default. It becomes a literal tactic for my opponent to kill a few things, then run away and avoid me. Is that a fun game? Some of you may think so, I think its highly questionable and definitely unsporting.

Another example:

I played a game at Adepticon last year which had three primary goals active at once which were: KP, Capture the center with an HQ, and Quarters. My opponent ran Deathwing, and I had my orks. He proceeded to reserve deploy his entire army except for two land raiders, Belial, and one squad of terminators. We had a diagonal deployment and he sat on the far board edge waiting for me. The rest of his entire army managed to not come in from reserves until turn 4. My army positioned in an attempt to try and earn some kill points, a rather complicated affair when trying to defend quarters against deep striking terminators. Meanwhile 5 terminators +  2 land raiders basically sniped at me the entire game with lascannons blowing up kanz, b-wagons and trukks.  After killing 4 out of 5 of the terminators, he stuck the last guy out of LOS in a building where I couldn't reach him. In addition it was rather hard to catch up to a vehicle moving 12 inches away from you each turn and starts out 48 inches away. (yes I did catch them eventually, but proceeded to whiff like a boss) He won the game, by essentially not playing it.

 Now mind you I'm not whining that hard about this. I know I can compete for quarters and the center; but he wins KP by default, especially reserve deploying like that. To be fair to him, if he had started on the table or come in on turn 2 / 3, there was a fair chance he'd get obliterated. But it ultimately left me with one turn to try and eliminate 1500 points or so spread around four quarters, when he has the alpha strike on his reserve arrival.

I know this isn't legal anymore in 6th ed, but the point is, when you know a majority of missions at an event are going to be KP, it allows for some serious manipulation of the game which gives you a huge advantage before the game has even started.

Examples like the above are why NOVA's previous mission set rotated its primary mission goal every game, and didn't have all the missions in play at once as a primary.  It means if your going to try and game the system, you at least have to put some effort into it, and then know out of your 6 to 8 games, it may only help you on one or two specifically.  Since we are discussing kill points, the NOVA mission for kill points modified it from the basic book mission requiring you to win by at least 3 kill points above your opponent. This greatly helped even the balance between the super low and super high KP armies. Yes it can still be gamed, but it'll at least require a bit more skill to put that gaming into action.

The reasoning / logic is the same for why five objectives are superior to two. It is also the reason why LOS blocking terrain and a generous supply of area terrain are important. These things help even armies out, encourage more well rounded armies and a more level playing field for the game. Now are they perfect? No, some armies just plain out have advantages which you can't do anything about. But at least it gives others a chance to win with the mission, instead of trying to always table an opponent. Which by the way, is a note on sportsmanship. Who honestly likes to get tabled? If you at least have some models on the board after the dust settles, I guarantee you won't feel half as bad as if you had been tabled. It's a mental thing.

Encouragement towards playing the mission and the game, not punching the other guy in the face.

After NOVA 2012, Mike took a lot of feedback and ended up designing a new mission set. Careful observers reading the new mission packet will notice thoughtful changes to balance.

 I'm looking forward to running it at Huzzah Hobbies this weekend and seeing how the community reacts.

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