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War of the Worlds game: Concrete rules for the 1st implementation

War of the Worlds, figure 2.  The weed expansion mechanic
War of the Worlds, figure 1. A shody mess of doodles, sketches, inspiration and bad ideas.

(I wish this was a more structured insight into my game development process but reality is not like that. My mind lurches from bad idea, to poor implementation, to crushing lack of self-belief, and back to another inspired bad idea.

I also hadn't actually intended for the blog to be so public. I'm hoping that I'm not annoying everyone by posting the random contents of my mind. Please do let me know if this isn't the appropriate forum or I'm using the site wrong).

--

As I stare at the game, I've realised I've remade 'Whack-a-mole'. The Martians are the Hammer, and the Earthlings the Mole. Except there's like a hundred moles. So, 'whack-a-roach' really.

So the rules flowed forth ...

- The map (using the one from Pandemic)
- Earthling player: 100 Soldier Battalions (green cubes), placed whereever they like, on the board, in whatever quantities they wish
- Martian player: 10 martians, and 3 rockets (1 Martian in each) in-bound toward earth

Actions:
(Earthlings): Attack, Move
(Martians): Attack, Fire Black Gas, Move, Launch Rocket (once per turn, total of 10 Martians)
Each side gets 4 actions per turn.

Black Gas - permanent cube added to a node. Each cube removes 1 soldier battalion per round if they share a node on the map.

Battle - deck of cards, each containing a single number. 5,5,5,5,5 4,4,4,4 3,3,3 2,2 1. Attacks draw 1 card from this deck and compare the number of soldiers on the node. If there are an equal (or greater) number of soldiers to the number of the card, the soldiers win. Otherwise they all die. Reshuffle the deck when the 1 card is drawn.

Victory Conditions:
(Earthlings): Disease - 1 martian dies at turn 15, 16, 17, 2 die at turn 18, 19, and all die at turn 20. Earthlings win if all the Martians are dead.
(Martians): Subjugation: Martians win if there are 10 or less soldier battalions left on earth.

Turn order is:
1 Increment turn counter.
2 Check victory conditions, and apply any rules for this round.
3 Choke - Remove 1 soldier battalion on each map node for each black gas cube it contains
4 Advance any rockets 1 step (3 step mini map representing travel from Mars to Earth)
5 Land any space rockets that have reached earth. Remove 1 soldier battalion if the rocket lands on a square occupied by soldiers.
6 Martians turn
7 Earthing turn
8 Go to 1

--

This is the simple core of the game, and it's not a whole lot of fun (unless you are the Martian).

It's also rather easy for the Earthling player to win because the Martian player needs to move and attack to kill a unit, whereas the Earthling player only needs to move away and run down the clock.

So instead of fixing the more fundamental game design issues, I decided to make it harder for the Earthling player to run away ... cue the Red Weed.

When the Red Weed appears in the story, it's unknown if the Martians seed it or it hitched a lift in a rocket. It plays a minor role 'explaining' Mars' red colouring and provides foreshadowing for the Martians fate (as it dies off shortly before they do).

But for me, I'm imagine that the Weed was intentional, and has more useful properties. The weed is more like horrible impassable Brambles and that it grows fast (across a country). I'm going to use it to pin the human player in and make them waste turns to clear it out.

I've worked out a rough expansion mechanic for it (weed seeds adjacent nodes on the map), so I'll try it out and see how it plays...

Comments

Command Points, Temp Barriers

A couple thoughts to consider, that recent comments have inspired in me to share.

COMMAND POINTS
There could be certain strategic locations worth holding for X rounds to provide for another victory condition for the Martians. It could be something impartial like "hold three capital cities for 5 rounds," or something more specific like, "Capture London, Paris, Washington, DC, and Tokyo."

This forces the Earthling faction to spread itself out to protect a wider area, and affords an advantage to the Martians in terms of mobility and choice of locations to attack. "Turtling" becomes a suboptimal strategy, or at least forces the Earthling faction to predict where they ought to turtle.

RED WEED = TEMPORARY BARRIER
I'm curious to hear how you work the Red Weeds into the mechanics. The way you describe it seems really useful, again in terms of limiting the Earthling's mobility while the Martians have few limits. Combining this with the command-point victory condition above, the Earthlings might really have to scramble.

MORALE
Maybe the Martians can subjugate areas of the world. If there are too many victories for the Martians (for example, if a large contingent of soldiers is defeated and/or choked in a given area), Earthling morale suffers. If morale becomes too low in a given area, the Earthlings of that locale surrender to their new Martian overlords. If the Martians subjugate too many of these locales, the Earthlings lose.

I have a feeling this victory condition stretches beyond the plotline of the book, and into what the Martians's master plan was when they first invaded the Earth. After all, the Earthlings didn't know that the Martians would all die off until it happened (well, neither did the Martians...!). It might be worth exploring.

Command Points, Temp Barriers

Quote:
COMMAND POINTS
There could be certain strategic locations worth holding for X rounds to provide for another victory condition for the Martians. It could be something impartial like "hold three capital cities for 5 rounds," or something more specific like, "Capture London, Paris, Washington, DC, and Tokyo."

That's a very interesting idea. The only problem I have is - and I fear I may offend some people here - I really don't like Victory Points, or rather abstract Victory Points. I like a concrete victory condition. Victory points, in a such a thematic game as I'm trying to design, feel ... weak for me.

This also leads to the the Map. I'm using the Pandemic map at the moment but I'll need some thing better soon.

Quote:
RED WEED = TEMPORARY BARRIER ... Combining this with the command-point victory condition above, the Earthlings might really have to scramble.

Yeah, I'm not completely convinced by the Red Weed to be honest. It works to reduce the Earthling's ability to run away, but I suspect it's going to get annoying. Also, potentially, a hell of a lot of cubes on the board ...

Quote:
MORALE ... I have a feeling this victory condition stretches beyond the plotline of the book, and into what the Martians's master plan was when they first invaded the Earth.

I tried some Martian actions to (directly/indirectly) mess with the Earthling player but it felt thematically hollow. The book implies the Martians perceive Earthlings as little more than Cattle. You don't start trying to play Mind Games with cows in a field, so they wouldn't care about subjugation. I doubt it would occur to them.

They plan to wipe out all the soldiers and then they can 'drink' the rest of the defenceless population.

Quote:2 Check victory

Quote:
2 Check victory conditions, and apply any rules for this round.
3 Choke - Remove 1 soldier battalion on each map node for each black gas cube it contains

This seems weird to me. The Martians win if there are <= 10 soldiers.. shouldn't that be checked after the black gas, rather than immediately before?

Fleeing CAN be fun, but you have to make it fun. There has to be a strategic element to running out the clock. Something like your Red Weed could totally help that.

Obviously there must be more rules than this.. The best strategy I can see is to put 100 soldiers on the same square and just wait 20 turns, maybe move a little if black cubes are piling up (if rockets are shot at specific locations, unknown to the human player, AND rockets were to kill everyone in the square they land in, this strategy would not work well)

Re: Quote: 2 Check victory

Quote:
This seems weird to me. The Martians win if there are <= 10 soldiers.. shouldn't that be checked after the black gas, rather than immediately before?

Victory conditions should check the state of the game at the end of the round. All turns played. All battles resolved. All deaths done.

But we also need a 'setup' phase (incrementing turn counter, moving rockets, etc). I didn't want both 'setup' and 'clean-up' phases so I merged them into the 'setup' phase to keep it cleaner.

Quote:
The best strategy I can see is to put 100 soldiers on the same square and just wait 20 turns, maybe move a little if black cubes are piling up

Yeah... I wondered about that strategy but it won't work against the Martians. The reason is the Black Gas.

Some rules I omitted from above, apologies!
1) Moving affects just 1 unit at a time, not a group.
2) Every Martian carries 2 Black Gas canisters.
3) Black Gas kills 1 soldier unit as it lands, and then 1 soldier unit each per gas sharing the same location during the 'choke' phase.
4) There's no limit to the amount of Gas that can be placed on one location.

So, the turn plays like this. Knowing that just 5 soldiers are necessary to win a battle, the Earthling puts 100 soldiers in one location. Yelling "come at me bro", confident in their military supremacy.

The Martian player, having read the book, smashes his rocket directly into the stack. Collision kills one , 99 left. Martian fires both black gas canisters into the crowd (action 1, action 2). 2 more dead, 97. Earthling player barely notices. Martian moves to an adjacent location (a3). Martian launches another rocket from Mars (a4).

With only four actions the Earthling player can only move 3 soldiers from the stack, towards the Martian (a1, a2, a3) and still have an action to attack (a4). He tries but with only 3, he's got a 6/15 chance of winning. He loses, and he's down to 94.

The round ends, and the Choke kills 2 more with the two gas cubes. 92. The next rocket arrives, 91, then 89 after the gas lands, and the human player realises he's trapped. That round he'll lose 4 to the gas, 6 the next turn, then 8, then 10 ...

Repeat over and over again. This is pretty much what happens when the Martians attack London ... :)

ceethreepio wrote:Quote:This

ceethreepio wrote:
Quote:
This seems weird to me. The Martians win if there are <= 10 soldiers.. shouldn't that be checked after the black gas, rather than immediately before?

Victory conditions should check the state of the game at the end of the round. All turns played. All battles resolved. All deaths done.

I agree with that. The problem is putting it at the beginning makes it weird. Even if "the beginning" is immediately after "the end" of the previous round.

Quote:
The best strategy I can see is to put 100 soldiers on the same square and just wait 20 turns, maybe move a little if black cubes are piling up

Yeah... I wondered about that strategy but it won't work against the Martians. The reason is the Black Gas.
[/quote]
Okay, two stacks of 50, in different areas of the map. Or four stacks of 25..

Okay, two stacks of 50, in different areas of the map. Or ...

Quote:
Okay, two stacks of 50, in different areas of the map. Or four stacks of 25..

Good idea, lets do the Math.
*fires up spreadsheet*
Okay, with 100 soldiers in a stack, Martians crashing into the stack, gassing twice, moving ... on the 10th turn you will have 1 soldier left, facing 20 Black Gas cubes and 10 Martians.

With 50 soldiers in a stack, it's the 7th turn with 7 Martians per stack. However only have 10 Martians in total, so we have to stop after the 5th Martian per stack. Still think it's around the 7th or 8th turn they are all the soldiers are dead. The gas count doesn't increase after the 5th Martian but the 10 deaths per still do their work.

With 25 soldiers you're down to 4 Martians per stack, but it's still dead for all around the 8-9th turn.

Stacking isn't going to win you the game.

ceethreepio wrote:Quote:Okay,

ceethreepio wrote:
Quote:
Okay, two stacks of 50, in different areas of the map. Or four stacks of 25..

Good idea, lets do the Math.
*fires up spreadsheet*
Okay, with 100 soldiers in a stack, Martians crashing into the stack, gassing twice, moving ... on the 10th turn you will have 1 soldier left, facing 20 Black Gas cubes and 10 Martians.

With 50 soldiers in a stack, it's the 7th turn with 7 Martians per stack. However only have 10 Martians in total, so we have to stop after the 5th Martian per stack. Still think it's around the 7th or 8th turn they are all the soldiers are dead. The gas count doesn't increase after the 5th Martian but the 10 deaths per still do their work.

With 25 soldiers you're down to 4 Martians per stack, but it's still dead for all around the 8-9th turn.

Stacking isn't going to win you the game.


GOOD!

Glad that doesn't work :)

one thing you could try is

one thing you could try is that humans can only attack if they have x soldiers. im thinking here that a few lone humans can only hope to hide but when they get a big enough group they can attack. as your calling them soldiers you could also start with a low number and "recruit" others so the humans have to do somthing or they will die.

Re: one thing you could try is

Quote:
one thing you could try is that humans can only attack if they have x soldiers.

I like the idea that a single soldier unit could take down a Martian, with, perhaps, a lucky cannon shot. That, for me, is exciting. It's also very unlikely, hence the single (1) in the Battle deck.

I definitely need a way to bolster the soldier numbers though.

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