Brainstorm: Reworking Focal Length

So lately I’ve been back on a wargaming kick, and looking back over my inspiration for Orion’s Gate and Focal Length. While I love the current incarnation of Orion’s Gate, I’m not as enamored with Focal Length. There’s a lot of mechanics in it that I’d like to change and clean up, and I wanted to step through what I’m changing and why.

The Size:

Focal Length currently clocks in at 14 pages; Not bad, certainly, and makes sense given the font size and paragraph organization and such, but not great. While this is an easily workable length (Mantic’s Kings of War is approximately 30 pages as I recall), it does make it a lot harder to see everything laid out at once and to track what needs changing and what that change might affect.

This is a primary reason why I love the One-Page rules. Not only are they short, sweet, and easy to teach, but they also are compact enough that you can see all the various interactions you need to track. It wasn’t until I was converting Orion’s Gate to the One Page style that I realized that my combat system I had in one section of my 15ish page Orion’s Gate ruleset didn’t mesh well with the component values and such I had ten pages later. As a result of working with the One-Page group, more and more I’m realizing that if a game, any game really, can’t be boiled down to functional and hopefully fun mechanics within a single page, it might be best to reevaluate whether that game is worth pursuing or if it needs heavy tweaking and modification.

The Numbers:

The base idea for Focal Length was that of fractal scaling, so that you could make the game as big or as small as needed/wanted. However, something that requires in order to do smoothly is a logical scaling system, which is where Focal Length fell short. Distances, sizes, and costs were all based on the number 2 for the scaling system, but attacks and health were based on 6. In addition to this, being a larger scale incurred a -1 to-hit but a 2x to damage, which isn’t actually fractal scaling, so I’ll be altering this.

These need to both have a clean scaling system, and for the revamp I think I’m going to see if it’s possible to condense it to a single value scaling system.

The Statline:

Where I think the biggest failing of Focal length is, currently, is the statlines. They were supposed to originally follow the Starfire setup and be easy to remember, but since then the KISS philosophy was lost. In addition, the way weapons were set up, while allowing for a lot of specific customization, resulted in a weird setup where being injured would alter how your weapons worked in strange ways, turning sniper rifles into deadly melee weapons and similar oddities.

For the new system, I’m going to be dropping the () setup for weapons, and instead making weapons always use all available options for attacks. This will mean larger models won’t be able to split attacks anymore between multiple weapons and will instead be “alpha striking” whatever they shoot at for the turn, but I think this can be offset by changing Damage so there isn’t any Minor Damage carryover (ie, damage that is inflicted but isn’t enough to wipe out a Node)

The Nodes:

Building on top of the Statline issues above, I think I’m going to look at limiting Nodes and Segments. I think what I’d like to do is make Nodes a purchasable thing, instead of making it a flat 6 for any model, but then limit Segments to just 1 per model. This would nicely cap the power levels (So it would stop making sense to have a L1 unit with enough firepower to wipe L3 units, although you could still build them so they remain dangerous against large opponents)

There will need to be some considerations of a base cost for the basic unit, but I don’t think it will be too painful.

Wrapping Up:

I’m going to see about tinkering with this, and hopefully will have a version of this up in the next couple days!

Apart from this, I’m currently working on my Negative Pressure horror boardgame, a possible CYOA book/webpage based on a setting I want to explore that I’ll likely go over in more detail in a later post, and working on Warpsteel, an RPG I’m going to be playtesting and eventually get submitted to the One-Page group.

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