Throughout the design of this game, I switch back and forth between working on generic mechanics versus applying those to specific situations. I want the generic rules to be as clear and complete as possible, yet I constantly think of specific scenarios and how the rules would portray those and if additional modifications would be needed. Ideally, I would like these rules to be able to cover many different conflict scenarios.
Here is an example of this interplay between the generic mechanics and applying a scenario against it:
I’m taking a short scene from the really awesome book I am reading right now (“REAMDE” by Neal Stephensen). Without giving anything away, we have two groups (think armies in the game terms) – Russian Mafia (ex Spetznatz) and Jihadist Terrorists. Let’s say for simplicity’s sake, there are 5 units of each…individual soldiers. The Jihadists are unaware of the presence of the Spetznatz.
The Spetznatz travel up the stairwell to the fifth floor and they knock in the door where the Jihadists are building bombs. The Jihadists are surprised and it takes them a minute to react. Now, a firefight ensues as each takes shots against the other. There’s a bit of different tactics as the Spetnatz drop and roll and then shoot, but the Jihadists are aware of the rooms they are fighting in and use that to their advantage. People on both sides are dying back and forth.
The Jihadists were making bombs, right, so of course that stuff is primed to cause some problems if there is a firefight in the room. Flames start up threatening to blow the explosive materials. The remaining troops on both sides realize this a bit late and now they are trying to leave the room and indeed the building while still shooting at each other.
Some escape down the stairwell and some climb out of the windows in a search for a quicker way out and away from the ticking timebomb. One character tries to cross to another building via a tangle of electrical, phone, internet cables.
So, that’s just a bit of the scene so as not to give too much away (cause you really must read this book!), but has many examples of the type of gameplay I want to model in the new version of BWS, but in the simplest form possible. Here are a few ideas I pull from this example:
Awareness – Groups in a zone can be unaware of the other until a visual or aural clue is given. I would say that if a unit fires on another, that’s definitely going to give them away. If they ran into a Zone, that might also do so. But there should be the ability to cautiously sneak in so that the other side is unaware. Now, having one side start with awareness might be scenario specific or maybe all units start aware, but can use tactics to hide their movement.
Zones and Movement – I’ve already discussed Zones and movement, but this helps give some good examples. We have a zone for the stairwell and it’s harder to travel up than down. We have the hallway of the 5th floor and if the Spetznatz are quiet they can keep the other army from becoming aware. We have the apartment of the Jihadists. You could break this down into individual rooms, but it’s not necessary as the zone itself can be modified to have different cover options and the Jihadists will have an advantage when fighting in the room (after the first surprised turn).
One thing that is interesting is that both armies know about all of those zones to a lesser or greater degree, so you could consider if gaming these, that the Zones were preplanned and set up. However, I envision that the tangle of wires leading from this building to another is not something planned. However, one of the players creates this new zone using an action to allow one of his units to escape. I want this kind of dynamic battlefield where you can almost discover as you go. So, I think we allow players to create new zones and connections between zones as part of their actions by spending a token or more on that.
Timers – When the firefight breaks out in the apartment, of course the bomb making material is going to be a risk. In game terms I would set a chance that the materials will ignite and then give a timer on how long before it blows. I like the idea of timers, but do not want it to become a pain to keep track of.
Environmental Effects – Fire damages units, or at the very least is going to affect their performance and make them want to exit the situation. Explosion definitely is going to damage units. I want Zones to be able to change dynamically in the game. It was a big deal when video games announced “destructible terrain” in their first person shooters and that’s what I want to see with Zones. An explosive blast is really going to have quite an impact to the zone, rendering it dangerous or even making it no longer possible to enter/exit.
So a possible setup of the Zones for the above situation might be:
Mod: Climb – units going up take 2 turns to move out of this Zone or one turn and are exhausted.
[NOTE: I can’t really find much interesting to say about a hallway, but maybe there’s some tactical advantage that can be taken advantage of]
Zone: Jihadist Apartment
Mod: Jihadists are familiar with rooms and have 1 die advantage when fighting in the apartment.
Mod: Explosive materials. On a failed die roll of 1, the materials ignite and will explode in 1d6 turns.
Zone (new): Wire Rope
Mod: Dangerous – chance to fall while traversing or chance it will just separate from the wall it is attached to.
Taking this specific scenario back to the mechanics of the rules, I have to decide if Awareness and Timers are something I want to add to the generic rules and if they will fit in with other scenarios. I’ll consider different scenarios and see if that makes sense.
Production wise, I have always planned on publishing BWS as a free, open-source game. However, I am also considering taking the generic rules and developing very tight settings, scenarios and campaigns that might be published for a small fee. These would contain more art and lots of development to make a stand alone game. We’ll see if that happens.