Sunday, August 21, 2011

Starcraft Stargrunt Playtest Report Part 2: Stuff We Did Wrong, Reprise

So at the end of the playtest report for the Stargrunt game I ran last night, I mentioned that I was concerned on a number of fronts, in that close combat, artillery, and possibly anti-air fire all felt just a little bit 'off'.  Went and re-read the rules this morning, and here's what I'm seeing:

First off, close assault.  The biggest thing, looking back at the rules, is that initiating a close assault takes two actions; thus, we can't do that thing we were doing where we make a non-combat move six inches towards the target, then initiate close assault, guaranteeing that you'll get there in one combat move.  This makes final defensive fire a lot more likely to happen, which is great for Terran.  On the other hand, it really exacerbates the problem with Zerg being suppressed - if you have to spend an action to try to break suppression at the beginning of your activation, there is no way you can close assault.  I really think a free suppression removal attempt at the beginning of Zerg activations at morale levels where they have to close is probably a good plan.

The other thing we did wrong with close assault was casualty resolution with regard for stunned troops.  The way we were doing it, we were resolving the status of casualties at the end of each round of close combat.  This in incorrect; the book states that a casualty is out for the rest of that "close combat resolution".  We interpreted this to mean that round; however, the Ending Close Combat paragraph opens with "After the first round of close combat resolution..."  Thus, a 'resolution' is the entire process from charging to one side breaking and abandoning an objective, while a round is the process of pairing off and making opposed rolls for each pair.  Therefore, casualties aren't resolved until one side breaks, and stunned individuals on the losing side may 'come to' out of unit coherency and surrounded by the enemy.  Thus, 'stun' isn't just "Oh hey, the squad leader's fine."  It's roughly on-par with being an actual casualty.

Finally, there's an important line in the close assault modifiers table that states that if in cover, the defenders get a 1-die shift during the first round of that close combat.  Oops.

As for artillery, I found a very important line in the artillery rules that the spotting unit must have line of sight to all three points nominated (the two dummies and the actual incoming).  This makes overlords and other aerial units excellent spotters, and also gives hills some value (besides as places to sit at the bottom of and fire up at the enemy who are trying to take it...).  However, we did do it wrong last time.  Still couldn't find a mention of the Observe action, though, outside of the list of actions at the beginning of the book.

Finally, I screwed up the firing at the overlord, in Terran's favor, actually.  We used the rules for firing on point targets with heavy weapons from page 39 and the guided missiles section on page 41, which seemed like the right thing at the time...  but we should've been using the "On-Table Anti-Air Fire" rules from page 49.  Under these rules, Terran would've needed a roll to acquire the overlord as a target.  Then the overlord would've had a chance to take evasive action, allowing it another chance to avoid the fire, after which Terran gets a chance to actually fire the missile, and has a third chance to miss.  It's kind of ridiculous really.  Terran gains two things from this: first, if an aircraft takes a hit, the pilot has to take a confidence check at +2 TL or decide to purple and GTFO.  This means you could potentially drive the overlord off the table, denying the Zerg their command squad, transport, EW, and artillery support.  The other thing Terran gains is that when hovering in place, the overlord suffers a negative die shift on its ECM roll.  But the Terrans now need more successful rolls in order to actually take a shot at it, so this is a really bad change for them.  Considering that their AA fire was already horrifyingly ineffective, we might not want to change the way we played it to this rule.


  1. With regards to the zerg, it seems reasonable to allow them an automatic suppression break when close assaulting; even if they're not mad, they're good at attacking up close. It may even make sense to give them a chance to break all suppression markers, or even ignore them entirely.

    I'm sort of a fan of that because it has similar results to starcraft - either the zerg close and eat the marines, or the marines stay away and murder the zerg. The only problem is that the zerg combat move is potentially very large, so maybe some kind of penalty for being suppressed is in order?

    Huh. There's an idea. Instead of forcing zerg to stay put when suppressed, try just giving them a down-shift in speed per suppression token. Something to think about.


  2. I would like to reassert that hydras are just better than marines, which makes me concerned about having them balanced with marines. Given that in our playtest the hydras inflicted no casualties whatsoever with ranged attacks, I don't think that they're strong enough at range.
    Hydras at ranges are the ONLY current counter to firebats, and they are (and should be) more expensive than marines, so they need to be very strong comparably.

    Also, I like the suppression slowdown idea, but I still think there needs to be a free suppression break as well, because if both actions are needed to close assault, suppression is going to be a big problem.

    Finally, MOAR LINGS KEKEKEKEKEKEKEKE. I didn't have large enough squads of lings, and didn't have enough of them either. Squad size should be at least 2 more than the largest terran squad size, and there should probably be over a 1.5:1 ratio of lings to marines, at least. I had 4 squads of 4, which was a mistake. It should have been more like 3 squads of 8-12. While they did perform quite well, the goliath didn't fire on them very much, and any casualties are very bad if they're already outnumbered. Their deal is getting the surround.

    -Matt B

  3. Good points all. One problem when downshifting speed on suppression is that at three shifts, you're down to 2" move, which is intensely useless. I do like the idea of a free suppression break if you're in close-assaultable range; kind of "lurking in cover / keeping heads down... oho, but we smell flesh! At them, and damn the bullets!" I guess technically it would be adding 'initiate close assault' to the list of things a suppressed Zerg unit can do, rather than actually breaking suppression.

    Hydras vs. Marines - so perhaps up Hydra Imp to d12 and drop Marine Imp to d10? Altering FP really doesn't do much (just changes ideal squad size), so that leaves either +Imp or adding support weapons...

    Also re: MOAR LINGS, I think the combined close assault rule on page 44 might help this... It lets you activate multiple units at once and have them all close assault a single target. It should make many small units of zerglings more viable than we thought, while also allowing flexibility / minimizing suppression.