Wednesday, 18 May 2016

9 Games that inspired me when making a game.

As part of the Radlandz introduction, I want to talk about the game systems that inspired aspects of the rules. I've played a lot of games, and no game system comes from isolation. Its all part of the game development process and every new game stands on the shoulders of the giants that preceded it. 

So in this post I will talk about the games that either inspired me on a gameplay level, or games that I used mechanical ideas from. Some will be obvious, some a little more obscure. 

First up, the most obvious ones. 


In all honesty, their would likely be no Radlandz without these two games. They were the original "warband" level games that I played and their influence can be seen throughout.

Core concepts like group size, rosters, character types, loot, experience, skill upgrade and territory all find their origins here 

The core gameplay mechanics are very different, but the overall feel is similiar. But I really wanted to make a few changes in the overall feel to "fix" what i perceived to be problems with the games.

The two core issues are randomness and loss. Random skill increases always led to big skews in power between gangs, so instead I allow people to select them from a short list.

Loss was a huge deal in these games. If you played your first game with a gang and your heavy died, taking almost a 3rd of your gang value with him, you were actually better off rolling up a new gang. In Radlandz, your group will never drop below a minimum level of functionality. New troops are free and they come with their basic kit, they just have no XP or special upgrades. So even if your entire group is killed in the first game, you don't need to reroll.    


"A dog made me build Radlandz"

Frostgrave is the game that kicked off the whole process. I really really wanted to like it, but I found the randomness and lack of distinction in the forces frustrating. 

In the game we play, a war dog ate most of my army. Single handily killing 4 characters, a man at arms, an infantry man and two thugs. I rolled no less than a 13 on all 4 combats, but the war dogs player always rolled higher. The difference between a -1 rating war dog at 10 points and a +1 rating Man at arms at 80 points is negligible in a d20 system. I felt the game was pretty damned arbitrary at that point and that units really didn't matter much.

But I saw potential in the game, but figured it needs many house rules to make work. The randomness was too swingy for me, the spell lists full of chaff, the XP system skewed heavily in favour of combat mages, and the cost of losing your wizard was brutal.

What I really liked were the turn order sequence and the idea that Wizards had spells outside their primary disciplines. I've adapted the turn order sequence and am using something similar, and the wizard selection thing has become the "identity system", where a group has a primary identity it can buy characters from, but can also pick up secondary identities and populate their list with skills and troops from there.

A Mutant identity group fields mutants as their primary forces, but if they get some points in the Arcane identity, they may pick up an apprentice spell caster and some magic skills. Hopefully, with 12 identities, this means that there are a plethora of combinations and no group looks completely like another. 

Spartacus - A game of blood and sand

Spartacus was one of the most surprising games I've played. It a really good design, true to the source material, and a great backstabbing fun fest.

The gladiatorial combat system is fun and simple, and represents wounded characters losing fighting capacity really well.

I borrowed a lot of elements from the combat system for the melee system of Radlandz.

Each player rolls their melee pool of dice, then modifies them with parry re-rolls, shields and other tricks. Then they match numbers on their dice from highest to lowest. The more dice you win on the matchup, the more damage you inflict. Tie and you both inflict damage. Strong melee characters are normally either more dice or bigger dice, so will win more often. Wounds reduce the size of your dice in the dice pool.

What this has mean't in testing is that well trained unwounded soldiers tend to butcher wounded ones easily, but not always. Poor quality troops have taken down melee masters as well, one expert melee character was taken down by a group of 4 guys with knives, as each one got a small hit in, reducing the big guys combat skills and making him easier to wound. Gang ups really work well.

It's also led to two already wounded characters killing each other in combat as they both score enough hits to do a killing blow to each other. 

The overall result is a rather cinematic combat system that has already produced numerous classic and memorable moments. 

Melee is the key to the game, shooting is designed to pin people and wound them, making them easier to mop up in close combat. 

Fortress America

Fortress america is an inspiration for the dice shifting mechanic in Radlandz. In fortress america, better units roll a higher sided dice which has a better chance of hitting and doing damage. Defending can shift a units dice up by one improving their chances of hitting and damaging.

In Radlandz I use a similar system. Each model has it's default dice pools for making ranged, melee, and morale checks. But these pools can be modified up and down depending on the models state. For example, Aiming and Charging allow you increase a dice by one size, each wound level reduces a dice by one size. 

The core difficulties to pass most checks are designed around the difficulty required for a d8 to succeed. So having upgraded dice to d10's improves that considerably, without altering the difficulty of the roll. In a way, it allows for more marginal alterations of difficulty than changing a target number, especially in a multiple dice system.

All dice are discrete, so if the target number for a roll is 6, and you roll 8, 6, 4. You score two hits, dice are never added together in Radlandz.  

Dice can go all the way up to a D12, but never below a D6. 


A really simple one here, D8's

Looking at X-wing over the last few years I have really gotten to appreciate the D8 in regards to probability. 12.5% per pip is really easy to work with, as a shift in difficulty by one is significant, but not huge. 

Also, the core concept of rolling a number of d8's and marking the number of hits scored is directly linked to X-wing in its original form.

With dice shifting and the like it's now quite different, but the ranged combat system started off with x-wing as the inspiration.  

Flames of war

I've never actually played Flames of War, which seems odd as I know a lot of one of the oldest playtest groups for the game (who I am hoping to co-opt into testing this), i'm a military history nerd, and I own the rule book.

I just never got around to it.

The one thing I did love reading the rules was the idea that the difficulty to hit a solider with a ranged attack is based on their training level. Conscripts use cover poorly, Veterans hug the dirt like its a long lost teddy bear.

In Radlandz, the difficulty to hit a model is based on their Brainz stat. Smart and savvy characters take cover quickly, poorly trained troops do not. As characters get more experienced, they become harder to hit. Also, big dumb killer robots are easy to hit, even if they are hard to damage.

It's a simple concept, but one I had not seen before Flames of War. 

Cthulhu wars

This is an example of how a mechanic in a game can inspire you to make a game design decision, that if you didn't spell it out clearly, no one would probably notice.

In Cthulhu wars, each faction has six spell books that are unlocked as complete objectives. You don't get all your powers and abilities at the game start and must do stuff to get them.

This system inspired the base system in Radlandz. Bases determine what models you can field and how many skills are on your available skill list.

At the start of the campaign, you may only have access to 3 or 4 skills, and 3-4 unit types. But as you progress, you can expand the base and gain more skills to choose from, more unit types to field, and more equipment options from resources.

Civilization 5 
Inspiration doesn't just come from board games. Computer games can also have excellent concepts that you can draw on, and I did that with Civilization 5 and strategic resources.

In Civ 5, you can only field as many tanks as you can supply with oil, or as many cavalry as you can supply with horses. I incorporated this idea into the base and roster mechanics. 

Each base building produces a certain amount of resources that you can use. A lot of basic gear, like swords, rifles, pistols and basic armours don't need any resources to field. But heavy machine guns, power weapons and magic armour do. 

The consumables resource also serves as your "unit cap" and restricts the number of models you can field.

Different bases provide different resources, so a Techno idenity base will get a lot of Energy resource that it can use to field multiple laser weapons, while a Mech identity base will have a lot of industrial resource to supply power armour.

It allows a group to field special weapons, while ensuring that not every model has power armour, a laser cannon and a magic sword when groups get very experienced. 

It also allows for progression, as your base expands you get more options. Base expansion is capped, but can be reconfigured in a long campaign. Decide you want more machine guns, demolish a building providing mystic resource and build one that provides industrial. 

Designing a game is about your own experiences and what you enjoyed playing in the past, and how, in your own way, you want to replicate that experience.
I think it's good to acknowledge those inspirations and sources. No doubt there are things I've forgotten to mention, and other indirect sources. But these are the ones that stood out.

This should give some insight into what the final Radlandz product will look like

Monday, 9 May 2016

Radlandz - A new miniatures game by me

Less than a month ago I decided to make my own skirmish game, using a post apocalyptic setting. 

I set out to keep model count low, action high, cover important, and have huge variety in units and equipment.

Well, its been a success and Radlandz now has a full rulebook weighing in at 64 pages.

Game features include

  • Estimated 60-90 minute playtime per game (once up to speed)
  • Unique Dice shifting and Dice building game mechanics. 
  • 12 group identities
  • 60 unit types
  • 100+ skills
  • 40 odd weapons
  • Full combat rules
  • 6 Scenarios (more to come)
  • Campaign rules 
  • Roster and group record sheets.

Alpha testing experiences so far

Testing is still at its early stages, but the first 5 games have been quite an enjoyable experience for all involved. The game seems to have a relatively "epic" feeling to it for a skirmish game, and each game has produced at least one memorable moment.

I attribute much of this to the unique wound system that allows characters to sustain multiple hits, without requiring a "damage boxes" or "hit point" system. When a character is damaged, they suffer a wound penalty, and that adds to later damage rolls. But if the character receives the same type of wound again, it does nothing additional. So a model may be wounded countless times before that final good hit takes them out.  

Glancing shots rarely kill in this system, but they make follow up attacks deadlier. But even the toughest model will eventually succumb to small stabbing blades as well.

And sometimes, you roll enough hits to kill someone outright. Normally an experienced melee fighter vs a mook, or someone standing in open ground in front of a machine gun. While you can survive a number of glancing hits, direct hits are still lethal.

Shooting will rarely win you a game out right. Shooting allows you to injure models and pin them, allow your assault to be more deadly.

This is working exactly to plan, as I wanted a game with tactical shooting, but not one where "planet bowling balls machine gun legion" would be dominant.

Guns aren't just for show, but knives are certainly for pros. 

What is next

A lot more internal alpha testing to come. And I still need to write systems for weather and hazards, neutral creatures, and a few more scenarios. 

I also need to seriously proof read and edit the damn thing. 

I'm aiming to get a couple of beta test groups in my local community to try a blind test of the rules as well. 

Oh, and i'll be doing a series of these posts on the game mechanics and the rationale behind each one.

Thanks to

The initial alpha test team of DJ Ekim, Megapope, Arvald von Kuggenstein and the Millernator, for actually wanting to play this contraption while it is still a horrific mess. 
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