Friday, February 24, 2017

40K Friday: Making Terminators Great Again

If you've played 40K for any length of time you've heard the legends of the Space Marine Terminators. Maybe you read them, maybe you've heard tales from earlier versions of the game, but you probably haven't seen a ton of "legendary" behavior from them in any recent games. The only type you tend to see these days are Thunder Hammer and Storm Shield Terminators and while they do usually perform as expected they are still an expensive and limited-purpose choice. I really dislike this state of affairs as they are one of the things I loved about 40K in the early days, so here are a few ideas about how to fix this problem:

  1. Give them the Special Issue Ammunition rule from Sternguard. People like sternguard, and not just for the combi weapons, Their special ammo rule makes them amazingly flexible and capable of taking on almost any enemy unit. In-universe they are 1st company veterans, as are terminators, so there's not much reason to share this rule. Sternguard do not get to use it with storm bolters - fine. Maybe terminator storm bolters have special ammo feeds that can handle the complication. This is the single easiest change GW could make to improve this unit - no modeling changes required at all, just a change to the rules for the unit, and no, I would not change the point cost they have now. People would still take sternguard because they would still be cheaper, could still take combi-weapons and heavy flamers, and you can fit more in a drop pod. They might also consider using terminators in some situations though, and that would be better for the game. 
  2. Let them swing their powerfists at initiative. Terminator armor is rare and special, right? Let them ignore the "unwieldy" rule. Yeah that, especially combined with #1 above makes termies really scary - isn't that how it's supposed to be? Yes it makes characters in this armor really nasty but then maybe we would see a few more of them and a few less on bikes. This is another no-modeling-change-required option.
  3. Bump their toughness up by 1. I know, I know, but if a bike makes you that much tougher, why the hell doesn't terminator armor, the ultimate form of personal protection in the game? It lowers their vulnerability to massed small-arms fire which is the main way terminators die these days. It helps reset the balance when it comes to "how do you kill termies" from "50 lasgun shots" back to "plasma guns". Again, no modeling changes are needed. The models are already huge compared to the old Rogue Trader days anyway, so this seems completely appropriate. 
  4. Terminator suits are super-strong right? Those legs are pretty bulky, and they're supposed to enhance the already Captain America level strength of the guy inside, right? Make them jump infantry! They don't need jump packs, they just leap! heck, make it a once-per-game thing if we have to and we've mitigated their other big weakness - they're slow! 
Now I would be happy if any one of these was implemented and ecstatic if any two were. I'd say #1 and #3 make the most sense and would solve the two biggest problems they have in the game right now. #2 might be a little too much and #4 is probably too radical for how the unit has been portrayed but really any or all of these would help put terminator marines back in their proper place.

Special note: Chaos terminators? Yeah I'd do the same thing. Let them have some fun too.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Agile-Style Gaming

Agile development has been a thing for a while now and if you know what it is you don't need to hear anything more about it from me, and if you don't you probably don't care. That said there have been some interesting parallels between work and hobby recently so bear with me.

We've had a lot of talk here about games we'd like to play more and the downside of being locked in to a set game for every available session time. I had a new plan but as it turns out we're only really following about half of it so far.

The first weekend of the month is Mutants and Masterminds. That's held steady. I was originally thinking we would rip through Time of Crisis in a few sessions and get on to the "main" campaign. My players though are having a ton of fun with the adventure which means more RP and talking and more deliberation over choices and also means it's just a really meaty campaign. So I have stopped worrying about when we will "get through it" and just started enjoying the journey instead. That's kind of the real goal, right? I have it! Right here! So all is well with that game.

We also planned to run Deadlands on the second weekend each month. That worked for January. For February, one of my three players was going to be out that weekend so I opened up the conversation about what to play. Apprentice Who was going to be around  and based on the past that meant Marvel Heroic sounded like a good idea. Then Apprentice Red ended up coming home that night while Apprentice Who had a school dance to attend. We didn't have a pre-existing "default" game for that particular combination of Paladin Steve, Apprentice Blaster, and Apprentice Red so now it was really open.

I ended up running Runequest, second edition to be specific.

So now our "gaming matrix" looks like this:

  • Two of the boys usually means ICONS
  • All three of the boys is Star Wars d6
  • Steve + Blaster + Who = Marvel Heroic (Red has played in this too)
  • Steve + Blaster + Red = RQ2
  • Steve + Dave + Blaster = Deadlands
  • Steve + Dave + Tsai + Lady Blacksteel = DCC
So instead of having a set game I run all the time and drop players in and out of - or have them ignore because they are not interested - I pretty much run a set game based on which players are available. Now this does mean I have a ridiculous number of campaigns that are technically "live" but they may not have been touched for 2-3 months. 

To touch on the "agile" parallel this is my backlog: Each system is an Epic, each specific campaign is a "feature" (because theoretically I could have multiple campaigns in the same system, like I sort of have with Deadlands and do have with M&M). each session is a "story". It's not a perfect analogy but I needed to call it something. It's not a traditional campaign setup. It's not really an open table/west marches type of game. It's really its own approach in my view. It just kind of developed over the last year or two and now I'm embracing it as an actual plan rather than happenstance.

How do I organize it? well, each campaign has its own binder with notes on prior sessions, ideas for future sessions, comments on using some published material where I can, and probably some character sheets. I keep a folder with material on the computer too, from notes to HeroLab files. I'm also playing around with some online resources for the players too - more on that if it becomes a real thing. My memory hasn't completely failed so once I skim through some notes it's not difficult to pick up where we were when we ended last time. I have started having the players tell me what they remember first, going around the table, and then I sum up with what I have noted myself. It seems to work and gets everyone's wheels turning about where the game is right now. 

One of the side benefits: this helps handle any "Gamer ADD" I am feeling by ensuring that we rarely play the same game three times in a row.

Of course the maximum flexibility approach here means that we may only play some of these a few times a year. No one seems to mind. Yet. It's something I will be watching for, and I have no problems with trying to "force" a session on occasion - "Hey, I have an open Friday night coming up and we haven't played X in a while - can you 3 make it Friday night?".

Anyway, that's how things are going around here.