Thursday, September 25, 2014

ArcheAge Tabletop Miniature Game

Real quick, my brother has published a few miniature war games. He and his partner Barry Hilton (link) have been running the gamut of historical game design for a while. Two things happened today. He sent me the play test rules for Beyond the Gates of Antares by Rick Priestly and the servers went down for maintenance in ArcheAge. I had to find something to do with all this downtime. He and I had a conversation a while back about his day job with the phone company and how quite literally his talents are somewhat unused with his current job. Like he makes way too much money with Verizon to ever leave that position and take up gaming full time. The mortgage on his beautiful home, the need for medical insurance, having the quality of life he does gets in the way of doing what you want. But at the time he said, unless I can come up with the next Games Workshop,... so my little brain went to work.

The new Tron movie had hit the theaters and being the guy that I am marketing a movie release with a miniature game seemed brilliant. I suggested we have a light bike game with little LED's, in the models themselves. I was also thinking about micro-chipping the bases because a game that is interactive with you phone is just too hot to pass up. Imagine having all the computational power of World of Warcraft in a table-top game. War games are usually simple six-sided dice because we can't keep up with all the math on the fly. Games like the Clix range, Classic BattleTech, or even Warmahordes did a good job breaking away from the one hit kills one model. But nothing goes for the 100,000 health dragon the WoW does. The industry has definitely seen advances in the mechanics as well. War Machine and Hordes do a great job of having enough things going on that you don't simple move, shoot, and assault on your turn. The new X-Wing Starfighter games has tons of these incomparable's. To quote the guys over at Extra Credits, "Incomparable's in design are game play elements that the player sees as having a non-numeric relation to each other. So for example the ability to do a short distant teleport as compared to the ability to stun a single target are incomparable. It is apples to oranges, so as a player assuming neither ability is too out of balance you can debate all day about which ability is better and you will never come close to an answer."

Here is the original video on Power Creep from Extra Credits - video

When I first started playing the ArcheAge MMO the 120 distinct classes seemed beautiful to me. Characters are built from three of the ten different skillsets. Some are focused on damage, defense, healing, movement, crowd control, but all have varying design elements that make them unique. Pile on different gear and interactions between the trees and we have a very interesting video game. Now does the tabletop game need to be this robust? Does it need to be so thoroughly character driven? One of the issues I have with Warmahordes and even Warhammer is the number of named characters running around in the games. I have talked about that before. I realize part of designing a miniature game is being able to produce a miniature for each model in the game. Having 35 different warcasters or only 12 ships makes creating the models a lot easier. One of things my brother and his partner did when they started producing miniatures was use modular design. Calvary models have different weapons, headswaps, gear, etc. In the X-Wing game a card system blends perfectly with the miniatures to assign a different co-pilot, weapon system, or upgraded ship component.

With 3D printing and design at the level it is these days, it should be too difficult to create awesome models. Archeage only has four playable races. Two human factions, elves, and the Firran (aka cat people). Each of the races have their own mount. Humans share a horse, the elves have elks, and the catfolk have big lions. There are other mounts in the game as well so that makes them really interesting. The monsters of the world include so many fantasy creatures it is really typical of anything you are familiar with in D&D or other setting. All of the environment based models are really cool - orcs, ogres, goblins, etc are there. There is also a third faction - the pirates. Elves work with one race of humans, the firran work with the other races of humans, and the pirates are composed of outcasts from the other two nations. Some of the unique elements in ArcheAge could be blended into a wargaming to make the system really unique.

Characters in the game often make trade packs and have to trek great distances to turn them in for resources. Vehicle combat in the game is there. So having naval battle rules and rules for trucks and siege weapons is definitely a go. Attacking players with trade packs on lends some of the greatest rewards in the game. Core rules could have scenarios where units of players must wear trade packs. The opponent tries to capture said trade packs. Guess what carrying a trade pack does in the video game? You move slower on foot or mounted. There are some interesting mount options like the donkey, yata, or even farm wagons that help you move a lot faster while carrying a pack, but above all you cannot equip your glider. Everyone in the game gets a glider from questing. They are awesome. If you have never played a video game with gliders and sailing ship as part of the basic movement mechanics go back to WoW. This stuff is so much fun!

I guess the thing that ArcheAge taught me is there is more to gaming that killing things. Placing iron veins on the board that you need to control during a scenario would be crazy cool. Lumber, fabric, crops, all of that stuff is in the video game as resource mechanics. Killing opponents gives you coinpurses that may contain rare items. War games traditionally shy away from resource mechanics and a persistent world or long term experience in favor of game balance. But if you look at the little bonuses of the Adventures League in Dungeons and Dragons building a game system that is tournament driven could go a long way in growing a game. I am saying ArcheAge has a lot of mechanics in place and having an app on your phone or the internet would be awesome for gamers. Something like we killed 20 guys in the last battle and harvest 3 nodes of iron. If both players report the match, you can check afterwards online and keep track of your numbers in gold and other resources which you can later use to create items, use the store, etc. Much like the way Games Workshop had a campaign system in Mordheim. Which is getting a video game too now (link).

Maybe I am getting a little carried away talking about all of this. It is pretty cool to think about how you would implement a video game into something for the tabletop. One of the biggest problems I had with Priestly's Antares game is I just didn't care how good the rules were. Here are some factions you can play that none of us have any affinity for. That Spanish game was a lot like that for me. Infinity was really cool, but I just didn't care for any of the factions that much. Here is random space merchant group or random alien race. What you are doing when you twist ArcheAge or World of Warcraft even into a tabletop game is take advantage of the existing relationship people already have. My god Games Workshop has been doing the exact opposite of going from tabletop to video game forever. Ultima Online or Everquest could snag some market share even though their game platforms are dead. Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Marvel/DC Comics all have played in every arena. Snagging some licensing and starting a company seems fairly viable these days with things like Kickstarter. I know for a fact I know rule people. I know sculptors. I know technology guys and artists. Shit, my degree is in accounting. The first information system I ever grasped quite effectively was Dungeons and Dragons. Computer games were spawned from pen and paper systems. It all kind of goes back to stuff like Chainmail. Guess I will see if the servers are back up.

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