So this is a game I'm working on. This is a direct copy-paste from the other forum I frequent (not another board game design forum, I think this is the only one. It's just where I talk things over with my friends,) so I don't know if it will be 100% coherent here. It was written for a slightly different audience. Sorry. Here goes.
The queen has vanished, the dead walk the earth, good men murder each other for the ashes of the world, and every day, at three in the afternoon, a train leaves from Jamestown Station for the Wasteland. No one on it is ever seen again.
That is the original game concept, the theme, the sort of 'feel' of the game. It's got a lot of Stephen King, a bit of Lovecraft, and a lot of Bob Dylan as influences, a sort of vague apocalyptic desperation.
The game is played across a map of post-apocalyptic North America. I will not explain the apocalypse, the magic, the demons, or the history. You will need to figure it out yourself. This map, in addition to a large number of normal regions, has several 'other' regions. These are Temples and Railroad Stations. They are small circles inside of existing regions, and are treated as regions with only one border. These regions are special. They have time effects. I'll get to the passage of time in a minute. Some regions also have action symbols, which I will explain in a minute. There is a large gap across the middle of the map. The 'mortal world' is on the West Coast. The Wasteland is on the east. There is no straight-out physical border between the two.
The intent of the game is to create a sort of guerrilla war. To this effect, all of the actions in the game is very powerful (the basic 'military turn' allows six simultaneous attacks, the base 'build-up turn' gets you most of the way back to your unit cap. Also, the unit cap for each player is about 200, which is strong enough to defend a border, but not strong enough to defend ALL of the borders. And you will need to defend all of the borders, because of A. How open the map is, and B. The Trains. I will explain the trains when I explain Time. There is also the system that the game uses for actions.
Many regions have one or more symbols on them. When you take a region, you take a little oblong chit with that symbol on it, from the box if the region is neutral, from your opponent otherwise. When you take an action, you discard it's chit, put it over the region's symbol, and do whatever the action was. If you abandon a region with 'black' (unused) symbols in it, you must return them to the box. At Dawn, all 'red' (used) chits on the board are returned to the controllers of their regions (or the box.) The result of this should be that, if one wants to defend a temple, one needs a 'fortify' action. (Fortify recruits 30 points of human units in a single region.) However, there are only 3 Fortify symbols on the whole map. One of them is in a temple in the deep wasteland, one is right in the middle of the great plains, where anyone can get at it, and one of them is in a tight pass up in the Rockies. So if you want to fortify, you'll likely need to kill for one of the symbols, and you may not just be able to grab the Plains one, because they only get one use each every day. A day is 24 rounds. I'll explain Time now.
The game has a Time track. It is a 24 hour progression. The game turn works like this:
1. Move the clock forward an hour. Then resolve everything that took place as a result. The active player resolves one event of their choice first, then the non-active player does one. Alternate until everything that occurred has been resolved.
2. Once all of this madness is over, pass the Active Player token.
3. Active player takes on action, as described above.
4. Non-active player takes an action.
Time controls a number of things. Some demons get bonuses when they fight at certain hours of the day (and most humans take penalties for fighting at night.) Most rituals can only be performed at certain hours (in the case of Summonings and similar occult rituals) and only WILL be (in the case of some Human magic.) Some things about the board change. The Monument of Kuuat (or whatever it's called now?) casts a shadow that banishes those inside it from the Wasteland. This shadow moves like a shadow. Then there are the trains. There is a train schedule, you see. At certain times, the occupants of a certain Station will be transported to another station. They cannot choose not to, and if it's occupied, there will be a fight. (This is a fight to the death for the attackers, as they cannot retreat anywhere. The defenders can retreat [i]per normal[/i].) These trains (as well as temples that function as ports) force players to maintain internal as well as external borders, and much of the territory they are defending is useless for up to 23 rounds after use. Thus, it is a game of quick, brutal strikes.
At this point, the game sounds unwinnable. It'll just go on forever like this. That's because it's not like this. I haven't explained Demons yet. Demons are very powerful units. They can generally not be hurt by non-upgraded units, and they roll much better dice than humans. (I'll explain the whole dice system in a minute.) The trick is, you can't train them. The 'fortify' action that gets you 30 points worth of humans? You can't just recruit new demons. You need to summon them. This requires a ritual. Usually a ritual sacrifice. A low-grade demon (Not named yet) can be summoned just by sacrificing seven points worth of humans at a certain temple at midnight. A mid-grade demon (A Timebreaker) requires that a Fountain's Chosen be sacrificed at the Ziggurat of Eternity in the Wasteland. Fountain's Chosen aren't all that hard to obtain, you can Mark one of your soldiers occupying the Grey Fountain as one every day at Noon. However, the Grey Fountain is about as far from the Ziggurat as you can get, and the Chosen needs to survive. (Timebreakers carry a memory of every friendly unit that has ever died in their presence, and all of these units have a good chance of coming back to life if the Timebreaker dies. Other than that, Timebreakers blow.) The Timebreaker will not appear immediately, but in a number of hours equal to the current time of day, so it is advantageous to perform this ritual very early in the day. Higher-grade demons are harder to come by. The Road Virus (mid-high grade) can only be created from a person who was the sole survivor of a battle at some point in the past, and the person has to die in the Wasteland as a result of combat, which can be easily prevented by running the fuck away from the Lone Survivor. (The Road Virus is an attrition/sabotage unit.) The Faceless (high grade) require a 100-point sacrifice, and it can be easily interrupted (and resumed, but still...) Bleak Collossi (Very High Grade) require you to hold a specific temple for 36 hours. (Faceless and Bleak Collossi just whup every ass, although Faceless do it with more subtlety. Bleak Colossi are just huge stone-and-bone robots.) The Four Horseman have the very hardest rituals, and are potentially game-ending units.
War, for instance, requires a single champion to be created (you've got a very slim chance, it's single combat against bad odds) and to collect the souls of a vast number of enemies. They must take these souls to the Wasteland, and descend into the Ravine with them. All without dieing. This unit will re-emerge as War in 24 hours through the North Gate. (This is the most tactically useful gate. It's in Canada, rather than Northern Brazil, Baha California, or the Deep Wasteland.) War inflicts obscene amounts of damage, and increases the damage his soldiers (and his survivors, interestingly) do in combat. He also forces his armies to fight skirmishes with regions they are adjacent to, which can be a blessing (more powerups, more souls, more damage) or a curse (if you're already hurting from a larger battle.)
Desolation requires a champion to visit all four Gates. This is harder than one might think. It's quite a long journey, and you CANNOT afford to send an army alongside your champion. If you do that, the unit cap will screw you so hard that you will never be able to defend your actions, and you will lose the game before Desolation ever sees play. Desolation removes units' ability to heal after battles, among other things. (Before someone tells me Desolation isn't a Horseman, Death is redundant, as it (he) is the logical conclusion of War, Famine, and Plague. Desolation is a bit more subtle. Also, in Revalations, I think one of them is Conquest, which is a dreadful idea.)
Plague has a giant quest spanning most of Cuba. The thing is, this quest completely screws up people who attempt it. It's basically a giant sacrifice, but it's not as reliable, and it is easiest to sabotage. Plague is still the easiest horseman to get, but he's also not too great. He creates plague, see. This plague will eventually kill anyone who is infected with it, and raise them as a zombie-thing loyal to Plague (and hence to you.) However, zombies make shitty soldiers, and unreliable auto-kills don't even begin to make up for Plague's (relatively) poor combat dice. Of course, he is probably the hardest horseman to kill... Also, the plague affects your own guys too, which can be a good thing or a bad thing. Zombies don't count against your unit cap, at least. (Neither do Demons, it's a human cap.)
I'm not sure about Famine yet.
I should probably explain the Marked, too. Many temples, and some actions, will 'Mark' units. These units then gain some sort of special ability, or extra combat dice, or in some cases, just a reference. (Units that return from the Wasteland get a mark, but it isn't immediately useful. It allows them to damage low-level demons that would otherwise be impervious.) This works particularly well with my combat system.
There are a bunch of different kinds of dice. The most basic has two 'hits' and four 'misses.' The stranger ones have negative numbers that score hits against your own army, or score multiple hits on some rolls. The 'overlord' die has two double-hits, two quadruple-hits, one 8X hit, and one 16X hit. (War rolls several of these.)
Here are the Combat Phases. I also explain Sorcery.
1. Precombat is mostly for static abilities, passive and/or 'ritual' sorcery and passive blood magic. Some things (usually Marked, but some demons) gain abilities for being in combat under certain circumstances (static abilities, that is.) This is where you check for that. After any modifiers here are in place, roll any 'ritual' rune dice. Ritual rune dice are listed in the pre-battle section of the reference card for a unit, rather than the combat section. Put all of your ritual dice into your sorcery dice pool for the battle. Anything with pre-combat sorcery (any sorcery listed in the precombat section) can use it after the ritual dice are rolled. Precombat sorcery uses only ritual dice. Precombat blood magic works just like any other blood magic.
2. Pre-round is where to check for per-round static abilities (for instance, most demonhunter Marked only get bonuses as long as demons survive, with the exception of certain of the Cursed, which only get bonuses for demonkind that they have dispatched in the battle.) After these checks, roll any sorcery combat dice and add them to the 'living' section of the sorcery die pool.
3. Expend sorcery dice to activate sorcery. Sacrifice units to activate blood magic.
4. Roll combat dice for every surviving unit.
5. Count up the hits. For each hit, the person who was hit removes a die from their combat dice pool. This die must be legal (you can only remove dice that are at the end of a unit's track, and only if the unit is capable of being damaged by THAT DIE. This can require multiple combat rolls, to distinguish legal from illegal rolls, up to one roll per unit.) For every hit, something's got to lose a die, unless there is NO place to take the hit. Removed dice are added to unit tracks. Anything that runs out of dice is destroyed. Some supernatural units do odd things when they die. Nameless roll Lost dice, Timebreakers return the harvested souls of allies to life and Bleak Collossi roll a fistfull of eviscerator and unstable dice, then curse everybody in the battle. Sorcery dice can be taken as a casualty from the 'living' section of the sorcery pool, or the 'dead' section. Sorcery dice removed this way are added to the unit's track (sorcery dice have a separate track, actually, both must be emptied to kill a unit.) These dice will not be rolled in future rounds. Sorcery dice removed by using them to power sorcery do not add to a unit's track.
6. The attacker can retreat to the region they came from (unless they traveled by train, ritual, or a deep strike action.) If they don't, the defender can retreat to any adjacent region. If they don't, the battle continues from stage 2. Move any sorcery dice from the 'living' portion of the sorcery dice pool into the main portion.
7. Remove all dice from surviving unit's tracks, mark anything that encountered something of note (This is pretty much the four Horsemen, but there are a few other ones. for instance, anything that fought a battle with Desolation can no longer regenerate wounds, and something that fought a battle with War will always roll an extra warlord die for as long as it lives. Of course, War rolls overlord dice, and pretty much eats human units like popcorn, so if War is defeated, there will be few survivors, and attacking merely to retreat at first opportunity to gain the dice is worth it if your force is large enough to soak a couple of overlords, but if you can soak overlords, why not just take out War? He's gonna finish you if you don't... Another example is the fact that there is a mark just for having ever fought against or alongside a demon, anything that kills a shade will eventually become one, and the Nameless become less effective as they are encountered more. Of course, the Faceless become more so...) Many Demons use souls as part of blood magic, and any dead are counted and distributed to surviving demons for this purpose. Friendly and Enemy souls are different for some demons, but you always use the two types of tokens. Certain units use identities instead of straight souls. (Actually, I think it's just Timebreakers, but I might work in a Timeeater that uses the sorcery of swallowed history for it's own use.) These are taken INSTEAD of souls. These tokens represent the unit EXACTLY as it was, including Marks. It is worth noting that demons do not have souls, and that they do NOT drop any souls they are carrying when they die. Unharvested souls, souls of the Damned and the Cursed, and souls eaten by Demons collect in the acid lake of Shargan in the Wasteland, where the bones of a thousand heros lie bleaching in the sun... This could be a potent power source to an enterprising demon with no fear of disaster...
For more reference, here's the google doc. It details all the die types, the actions, and the units I haven't fleshed out yet. You should really, really check this out, it's important.[Link]
So, what do I want? I want advice, input, anything. I'm really just throwing this out there, in the hopes that someone will have something to add. As you can see, it's a very Ameritrashy game, albeit a fairly chance-light one. I'm an Ameritrasher through and through. I play it, I design it, and I love it. I do play Euros, and I enjoy them, but there's something about 40 page rulebooks and playing 8 hour games late at night, scheming and talking trash...
I guess if I'm looking for anything specific, I'm looking for input on my combat dice system. It's got some real flaws. I worry that it will feel themeless when it plays, and that it will take a very long time to play out sometimes. However, it allows units to be upgraded ridiculously easily, which fits with the Mark system very nicely. Does anyone have a way to improve it? Just cutting down on the numbers of dice each unit rolls is, to my mind, counter-productive, as the large numbers will produce a fairly clean bell curve, and in large battles, the better force should win. Very small battles, however, are more chaotic, which I think will lead to people feeling the need to devote more resources to small attacks than they otherwise would.