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BattleTech Kickstarter Update #26: Prototyping Turn Order
Game News - posted by Infinitron on Fri 8 April 2016, 11:22:23Tags: BattleTech; Harebrained Schemes; Jordan Weisman
Harebrained Schemes' Jordan Weisman published an interesting and very crunchy BattleTech Kickstarter update last night. It's a highly detailed look at Harebrained's experimentation with various turn order paradigms for the game's turn-based combat. They prototyped seven different systems in total, starting from tabletop BattleTech's simultaneous action paradigm and iterating from there, with the design goal of offering fluid play in both single player and multiplayer, making light Mechs useful, not overwhelming the player with information, providing visceral feedback, and of course, making sure it all feels like BattleTech. Here's the system they ended up with at the end:
Combat rounds are divided into 5 Phases, counting down from 5 to 1. ‘Mechs are allowed to act during the Phase that matches their Initiative. (That 5th Phase is the province of extremely skilled MechWarriors piloting Light ‘Mechs.)
Each Phase, each side takes turns choosing a ‘Mech to Activate. When a Mech is Activated, it can both move and then fire its weapons. However, once the ‘Mech fires, its turn is over and it can’t act again until the next Round of combat.
After you Activate a ‘Mech and take a turn, the game attempts to give the next action to the other side. If the enemy has units available to use in the current Phase, they get the opportunity to activate one of them. If, on the other hand, they have no more units they can activate in the phase, and you do, you’ll get to go again.
This means that if you and your opponent are both using full lances of assault ‘Mechs, every Round will be pretty predictable: You’ll go, then your opponent will go, and so forth until all eight ‘Mechs have been Activated and have taken a turn.
When the game finishes counting down Initiative values and Phase 1 units have taken their turn, the Round ends. The Phase counter resets to 5, and every ‘Mech is ready to act again.
We think this is a neat system because it reinforces and distinguishes between the different weight classes of ‘Mechs - but the place where it really becomes really interesting is when you start reserving ‘Mechs’ Phases for use later in the Round.
Any ‘Mech that isn’t an assault can be held in reserve when its turn to act comes up. That temporarily sets its Initiative Value one lower. So a Light ‘Mech that normally acts in Phase 4 will instead act in Phase 3.
With this system, you can keep reserving your ‘Mechs’ actions, holding an entire lance of ‘Mechs until Phase 1, if you wanted to.
What’s so interesting about reserving actions? First of all, consider the case of a whole lance of Light and medium ‘Mechs being reserved until Phase 1, where they’ll get to act right at the end of a Round. Then, when the round ends and a new Round starts, they’ll immediately get to act again in Phases 4 and 3! (This tactic isn’t theoretical - in a recent battle, I snuck up behind our Lead Designer Kevin’s Centurion with a Jenner I’d reserved to Phase 1. Then, on Phase 4 of the next Round I got to make a full alpha strike right into his back armor.)
As you’d guess, there’s also a lot of value in using this tactic to locally outnumber an opponent. You want your engagements to be uneven in your favor, and you want to be able to fall back from any engagement in which you’re outnumbered. Focusing your forces in one spot when your enemy is spread out is right out of Sun Tzu.
Our initiative system, which allows you to reserve units, means you can locally outnumber your enemy in time as well as space. If you can take three actions in a row, and all three actions are effective fire on a target with no chance for it to respond by moving or returning fire… you’ve essentially made part of the turn a 3-on-1 battle.
Conversely, reserving your faster ‘Mechs to break up long sequences of enemy action with opportunities to respond can be useful in preventing your own forces from becoming focus-fired.
We’re reinforcing the role of Light ‘Mechs in other ways, but this system is a significant component of their value. Light ‘Mechs get to choose where and when they engage, and if used carefully can be exactly the tool you need to get out of a bad situation. Heavy and assault ‘Mechs pack a much bigger punch, but the tradeoff is that they’re inherently more predictable - and thus are more often reacting than acting.