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Darth Veggie

Honouring the Dead: Runewars Activation System for Armada 2.0

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Lately their is a lot of speculations about what would be desireable in a second edition of Armada. @Truthiness has been written about it on the Steel Squadron HQ. @Crabbok made a video about it. One point in the discussion (and it has been since the beginning of the game) are the problems of the current Armada activation system.

Simply for speculation, I want to discuss in this thread how a runewarsian activation system would influence Armada.

But first I want to review in short the current activation system. There are some great aspects:

  • It has the potential to be tactically challenging by forcing difficult tactical decisions about the activation order
  • It allows asymmetric game play which contributes to the variety of the game (i.e. that each game is played under unique conditions)

However, the Armada activation system is plagued by several drawbacks, some of them in principle incurable:

  • First, (a mechanics problem): the dreaded last/first bug. High activation number combined with first player advantage makes is possible to fly in with the last activation a damage spike ship (MC30, Gladiator (especially Demo), BTAvenger etc.) for a perfect double arc, unloads with the first activation of the next round, and flies away. There are several reasons why this bug sucks: the defender cannot retaliate (which is unsatifying for a lot of people), it does not need much navigation skills (because you need a lot less enemy ship movement prediction skills), and it kills one of the key advantages of the current activation system – the difficult decisions about activation order: no brains are needed for deciding that your damage spike ship is activated last/first.
  • Second, (again a mechanics problem): pursuit is for second player close to impossible, because every time he activates the first player has activated first and moved his ship out of your preferred distance.
  • Third, (a thematic probelm): the current activation system is not only non-thematical (what is PLAUSIBLY represented by the arbitrary order of ship activation or the first player advantage?), in fact it is anti-thematical: it is simply implausible that a fleet of a multitude of ships is easier to coordinate than a fleet with lower ship count. Admittedly, more ships give in some situations navigational advantages, but surely not an coordination advantage. But exactly that is what is in Armada the case. I can postpone important activations by a higher activation count and thereby force the opponent to come closer into my firing arcs, before I activate.
  • Fourth, (also a thematic problem): the current activation system and its asymmetrical nature might make a more thematic scoring system difficult. Because the objectives are asymmetrical it is very difficult to design them in a way that mainly the outcome of the objective does decide about victory (like in Legion). Hence, we need to calculate who has destroyed enemy fleet points – quite an abstract scoring mechanism for a tactical engangement scenario.
  • Fifth, (and again a thematic problem): It is reasonable to include ships only for activation padding reasons, not for how they contribute to the tactical options in a thematic way.

The perfect solution to this problem would be in my opinion to honour the dead: after Runewars got axed (if it has), why not stealing the best activation system there is? 🙂

To be continued...

Edited by Darth Veggie

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The Runewars activation system works in principle like this: The activation order is determined by the commands printed on the command dial which is unique for each unit.

Its key advantages are that it forces difficult tactical decisions, it is thematical, and (especially interesting) it allows to define the nature of a unit even further!

To give a more vivid impression what the benefits of this system are and how it works, I want to give an example how it could be implemented (of course there are other ways to do it).

However, for this example, I need first to define some more commands apart from the 4 we already have and to define some command dials (soon the example comes):

  • Perfect Moment [This will provide more flexibility when determining initiative.]
    • (Dial): Half the dice in each of your attack pools (rounded up). Your tech and squad values are halved (rounded up) for this activation. You lose one click on the last joint where you have clicks.
    • (Token): The Perfect Moment Command cannot be tokenized.
  • New Orders [Because with this activation system, command 2+ ships do not only have to plan their command one or more rounds in advance but also their activation order, it seems reasonable to me to introduce a command that helps with that.]
    • (Dial): You may change the top command dial of one friendly ship in distance 5 that has at maximum your command value +1
    • (Token): You may change the top command dial of one friendly ship in distance 5 that has at maximum your command value.

Now, we can start: we need to define the command dials for each ship type, let us say 8 commands per dial. Here are three examples:

ISD Command Dial:

  • 3 Perfect Moment
  • 4 Concentrate Fire
  • 5 Engineering
  • 5 Squadron
  • 7 New Orders
  • 8 Navigate
  • 8 Concentrate Fire
  • 10 Perfect Moment

This would be an universalist ship, with an offensive touch.


Quasar Command Dial:

  • 3 Perfect Moment
  • 4 Squadron
  • 6 Engineering
  • 7 Squadron
  • 7 Navigate
  • 8 Concentrate Fire
  • 9 Squadron
  • 10 Perfect Moment

Here we can see the squadron dedication of the Quasar. One can dial in a squadron command at three different initiative value, giving the player a lot of control when to activate squads in the ship phase, whereas other carriers (flotillas come to mind) are quite limited in their squadron activation timing.

CR90 Command Dial:

  • 2 Perfect Moment
  • 3 Navigation
  • 4 Concentrate Fire
  • 5 Egineering
  • 6 Navigation
  • 7 Squadron
  • 9 Navigation
  • 11 Perfect Moment

This ship is build for perfect timing and Movement.

Now the example:

[Edit:]

Let us say player1 has an ISD and a Quasar whereas player2 has five CR90. During the first command phase both players dial in their commands like in current armada games. But their command dials show 8 different options (the ones mentioned above). Each option has a number linked to it: its initiative value. They will determine the moment of activation. Some commands are multiple times on the command dial of a ship, but every time with a different intiative value. Thereby it is possible to have some flexibility of predetermining the moment of activation with that specific command.

player1 stets the three dials of the ISD to the following options: "10 Perfect Moment", "4 Concentrate Fire", "3 Perfect Moment", and for the Quasar to: "9 Squadron", and "4 squadron"

player 2 dials in for two of his CR90s the options "2 Perfect Moment", for further two "5 Engineering", and for the last one "11 Perfect Moment".

At the beginning of the ship phase all the top dials are revealed simultaneously. Now, the ship with the lowest initiative number shown on the dial is activated first, in this case the two CR90 with "2 Perfect Moment", next the ones with Engineering commands (value 5). Then it is the Quasar with squadron (value 9). Next, the ISD activates. Finally, the last CR90 ("11 Perfect Moment") is activated.

In the second round, new bottom dials are set. The initiative value of the ISD (4) and the Quasar (4) are already determined by the dials set last round. But they will first be revealed to the opponent at th beginning of the ship phase of the second round.

I think this should be enough to understand the possibilities of such an activation system. There are two obvious drawbacks. But both have been dealt with in X-Wing 2.0: first, we need new and individual command dials for each ship. Second, the costs of each ship need to be rebalanced, because in the current system counts in for each ship that you get an additional activation. With a runewarsian system that does not matter any more. You take a flotilla, because you need it for slicering or jamming. The most stupid practice of activation padding would immediately end. No need for a flotilla hard cap anymore.

The last thing to consider would be what to make of objectives. My proposal would be that (quite like now), both player include three objectives in their fleet, but that (unlike now) from each player one objective is chosen by the opposing player, determining this player's aim during the battle. The imperial player might score victory points for hunting the rebel Most Wanted ship, whereas the rebel player might need to capture the VIP at all cost. Fulfilling your objective and denying your opponent his determines victory foremost.

With this activation system we get a highly thematic tactical system that enforces difficult decisions - a system that does not know activation padding or the last/first bug, but where each ship contributes to the tactical game by its thematic role or outfit.

Edited by Darth Veggie
Example added

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You are assuming people are familiar with the Runewars system. I have never touched that game, and haven't the slightest clue how it's command system works. Going solely from what you posted, this seems to me to add even more complication to what's already arguably a complicated game (at least compared to things like Xwing), and this is going to be a barrier to new players, if there's even such a thing.....

To make a considered judgement on this I need to know how the Runewars system works.

edit: never mind, think I get how this is supposed to work. Not for me, adds too much complication. One of the main things for me is how streamlined and elegant Armada is. This seems....clunky, somehow.

Edited by Darth Lupine

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5 minutes ago, Darth Lupine said:

You are assuming people are familiar with the Runewars system. I have never touched that game, and haven't the slightest clue how it's command system works. Going solely from what you posted, this seems to me to add even more complication to what's already arguably a complicated game (at least compared to things like Xwing), and this is going to be a barrier to new players, if there's even such a thing.....

To make a considered judgement on this I need to know how the Runewars system works.

Well, that means that my post was a total failure 😅

 I wanted to give you an idea how Runewars system works in Armada terms, not to make a proposal how to implement it.

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51 minutes ago, Darth Lupine said:

As far as I can tell, you can still game this system with activation padding and playing with the dials to get last/first.

I like the objective idea tough. Never made sense to me that both sides would have the same objective.

Last/First is with this activation system quite difficult to achieve. And if you achieve it, most likely you will have limited firepower and navigational flexibility.

Ok, I will try to give an example and add it in the post above:

Let us say player1 has an ISD and a Quasar whereas player2 has five CR90. During the first command phase both players dial in their commands like in current armada games. But their command dials show 8 different options (the ones mentioned above). Each option has a number linked to it: its initiative value. They will determine the moment of activation. Some commands are multiple times on the command dial of a ship, but every time with a different intiative value. Thereby it is possible to have some flexibility of predetermining the moment of activation with that specific command.

player1 stets the three dials of the ISD to the following options: "10 Perfect Moment", "4 Concentrate Fire", "3 Perfect Moment", and for the Quasar to: "9 Squadron", and "4 squadron"

player 2 dials in for two of his CR90s the options "2 Perfect Moment", for further two "5 Engineering", and for the last one "11 Perfect Moment".

At the beginning of the ship phase all the top dials are revealed simultaneously. Now, the ship with the lowest initiative number shown on the dial is activated first, in this case the two CR90 with "2 Perfect Moment", next the ones with Engineering commands (value 5). Then it is the Quasar with squadron (value 9). Next, the ISD activates. Finally, the last CR90 ("11 Perfect Moment") is activated.

In the second round, new bottom dials are set. The initiative value of the ISD (4) and the Quasar (4) are already determined by the dials set last round. But they will first be revealed to the opponent at th beginning of the ship phase of the second round.

 

Edited by Darth Veggie

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As I said....lol complicated. I'm old and cranky, and I like simple. I understand how this is supposed to work now. Don't like it. Mind you, I play Imperial, and I'm a Gladiator specialist.....so, I have zero issues with the current last/first mechanic. 😆 

As I said however, your idea for objectives is intriguing....may have to try that one out.

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I think that this actually presents a more elegant system once you become proficient with how to maximize the value of commands and timing. It is a fairly big shift in core mechanics however. Eventually I could see it being 'solved' as to when is the best time to do X command or to use X timing, but nevertheless it adds a lot of layering to the initiative and activation we have now. Besides, this is often something very 'solved' in our current state.

 

You do have to wrap your mind around it and I could see it becoming a main mechanical challenge for being good at Armada. Perhaps that's fine?

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18 minutes ago, Darth Lupine said:

As I said....lol complicated. I'm old and cranky, and I like simple. I understand how this is supposed to work now. Don't like it. Mind you, I play Imperial, and I'm a Gladiator specialist.....so, I have zero issues with the current last/first mechanic. 😆 

As I said however, your idea for objectives is intriguing....may have to try that one out.

Yes, that is true. It is more complicated than the current system, but I don't think mind boggling complicated. However, I understand people who prefer less elaborated systems.

The idea about objectives does not work, if you use it with the current system without reworking a lot of them. Because my idea presupposes that there is no first/second player asymmetry. But it can be done with a complete rework of the objectives (which the Runewarsian system needs as well).

Edited by Darth Veggie

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1 hour ago, Darth Veggie said:

Yes, that is true. It is more complicated than the current system, but I don't think mind boggling complicated. However, I understand people who prefer less elaborated systems.

The idea about objectives does not work, if you use it with the current system without reworking a lot of them. Because my idea presupposes that there is no first/second player asymmetry. But it can be done with a complete rework of the objectives (which the Runewarsian system needs as well).

Actually, I think your idea with objectives would work just fine as is, simply use the first players aims for both sides. Hmm, may have to try that out. Danke, mein Freund!

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TL:DR

Stop trying to mess with stuff that isn’t broken.  If someone wants to take advantage of trying to bid themselves into first player, let them.  If you want to play right at 400 points, go ahead.  Life is about choices. If you choose to be right at your points limit, you should know you’re likely going to not have the choice of being first or second.

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I think you'd have to completely revamp the tokens & commands if you went with Runewars' system for Armada.  I've thought about it a bit.  I think it's probably a bridge too far for Armada 2.0, but it's an interesting thought exercise.

In Runewars, you choose two dials for each unit: one is the action, and the other is the modifier.  The action options tend to be: attack, move varying speeds and directions, or perform some buff or debuff.  The modifiers tend to be: add traits to your attack, change directions for your move, do an attack after a move, gain a buff / defense bonus, or activate an upgrade card.  There's typically 8 options on both dials, but you can't pair everything together: they need to match in a color system.  The 8 options are each at a certain initiative: slower moves and weaker attacks happen first.

I think, if we wanted to go with the dial system, we'd remove all the command/squad/eng traits from the cards, and incorporate that into the dials.  High command means that it takes a while for larger ships to perform their actions, right?  So I'd get rid of the "setting turns in advance" and just have bigger ships have all their actions at slower initiatives.  For Squadron and Engineering, I'd build that into the dials.  A ship with a good Squadron ability would have "Squad 1" at a very fast init, "Squad 2" at a slower init, and "Squad 4" at a really slow init.

The problem is that Armada expects you to attack every turn (and it'd be a pretty boring game if you didn't), so we'd have to figure out a way to not make it optimal to just spam the fastest action on your dial to attack ASAP regardless of what the action was, but we'd also want it not to optimal to just spam the attack move on your dial and ignore all the others.  Maybe ships have a default attack initiative, and options on your dial can change it?

For example, the ISD has a default initiative of 8.  It's large and slow.  Barring something in your dial changing initiative (I'd represent that with an asterisk in the example to follow), you get your normal attack and move at init 8.  The dial has a red Concentrate Fire at 9*, a red Quick Shot at 5 (single arc at half dice), a blue Navigate at 7*, a blue Boost (move speed 1) at 6, a green Squadron 2 at 4, a green Squadron 4 at 10, a yellow Engineering 2 at 5, and a yellow Engineering 4 at 9.  So, your firing options would be to quickly get a shot off at 5 if you need to finish something off (then you'd activate at 8 and be able to use a different arc at full, then move), or make a bonus speed 1 move at 6 to change your location for your activation at 8, or change your whole activation to 7, or do a bigger shot at an activation at 9.  Or you choose the various Squad or Eng options and activate at your normal 8.

As I said, it's pretty complex to write about.  This doesn't even touch upon modifiers (you could have modifiers to add rerolls, accuracy, etc; squads move further or reroll dice; engineering costs for repairing crits are lower this activation; bonus yaw, etc).  You'd be able to have each different ship chassis have different initiatives and different modifiers to really tailor the ship for what it does.

I think it'd be too much of a change for Armada 2.0, but, like I said, it's a fun thought exercise.

 

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29 minutes ago, emsgoof said:

TL:DR

Stop trying to mess with stuff that isn’t broken.  If someone wants to take advantage of trying to bid themselves into first player, let them.  If you want to play right at 400 points, go ahead.  Life is about choices. If you choose to be right at your points limit, you should know you’re likely going to not have the choice of being first or second.

Yes, all those who think it is not ideal simply have not realized that they could bid higher.

 

18 minutes ago, pheaver said:

[...]

In Runewars, you choose two dials for each unit: one is the action, and the other is the modifier.  The action options tend to be: attack, move varying speeds and directions, or perform some buff or debuff.  The modifiers tend to be: add traits to your attack, change directions for your move, do an attack after a move, gain a buff / defense bonus, or activate an upgrade card.  There's typically 8 options on both dials, but you can't pair everything together: they need to match in a color system.  The 8 options are each at a certain initiative: slower moves and weaker attacks happen first.

I think, if we wanted to go with the dial system, we'd remove all the command/squad/eng traits from the cards, and incorporate that into the dials.  High command means that it takes a while for larger ships to perform their actions, right?  So I'd get rid of the "setting turns in advance" and just have bigger ships have all their actions at slower initiatives.  For Squadron and Engineering, I'd build that into the dials.  A ship with a good Squadron ability would have "Squad 1" at a very fast init, "Squad 2" at a slower init, and "Squad 4" at a really slow init.

The problem is that Armada expects you to attack every turn (and it'd be a pretty boring game if you didn't), so we'd have to figure out a way to not make it optimal to just spam the fastest action on your dial to attack ASAP regardless of what the action was, but we'd also want it not to optimal to just spam the attack move on your dial and ignore all the others.  Maybe ships have a default attack initiative, and options on your dial can change it?

For example, the ISD has a default initiative of 8.  It's large and slow.  Barring something in your dial changing initiative (I'd represent that with an asterisk in the example to follow), you get your normal attack and move at init 8.  The dial has a red Concentrate Fire at 9*, a red Quick Shot at 5 (single arc at half dice), a blue Navigate at 7*, a blue Boost (move speed 1) at 6, a green Squadron 2 at 4, a green Squadron 4 at 10, a yellow Engineering 2 at 5, and a yellow Engineering 4 at 9.  So, your firing options would be to quickly get a shot off at 5 if you need to finish something off (then you'd activate at 8 and be able to use a different arc at full, then move), or make a bonus speed 1 move at 6 to change your location for your activation at 8, or change your whole activation to 7, or do a bigger shot at an activation at 9.  Or you choose the various Squad or Eng options and activate at your normal 8.

As I said, it's pretty complex to write about.  This doesn't even touch upon modifiers (you could have modifiers to add rerolls, accuracy, etc; squads move further or reroll dice; engineering costs for repairing crits are lower this activation; bonus yaw, etc).  You'd be able to have each different ship chassis have different initiatives and different modifiers to really tailor the ship for what it does.

[...]

I didn't want to copy and paste the Runewars system. That would need a lot deeper mechanics refit than . I simply wanted to incorporate the idea that the chosen command determines the moment of activation and that the same command can have different initiative values based on the ship in question. Everything else stays the same (apart from objectives oc).

 

18 minutes ago, pheaver said:

[...]

I think it'd be too much of a change for Armada 2.0, but, like I said, it's a fun thought exercise.

 

Even with the less intrusive change I have mind, I think that you are right. It still touches a core mechanism and might go too far for many players (and for FFG). And it is a fun though exercise! 😄

Edited by Darth Veggie

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59 minutes ago, Darth Lupine said:

Actually, I think your idea with objectives would work just fine as is, simply use the first players aims for both sides. Hmm, may have to try that out. Danke, mein Freund!

You mean second player aims, right? But in that case you still have the first player bias of the current activation system, but no objective bias to counter it.

Further, there are a lot of objectives that are incompatible to each other, like most who deal with obstacles (you cannot have a station assault AND a contested outpost). For my Epic rules (click here), I tried to define incompatible categories of objectives. After one player has chosen one objective of one category, the other player must choose one from a different category in order to avoid objective conflict. I would make these objectives differently today, but I still consider them to be fine. Because they are for Epic play, if you want them to use in normal games you always need to insert the multiplier 1, if Epic Play Level is mentioned. But still you would have the problem, that there is nothing to counter first player bias.

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5 minutes ago, Darth Veggie said:

Yes, all those who think it is not ideal simply have not realized that they could bid higher.

 

List building, like many things, is about choices.  You choose to not put a bid in your list. Someone else may decide it’s important to them, and include one.  This is a basic function of the game.

In the space of 10 seconds, I was able to build an 8 activation list, which still has a 12 point bid in it.  It’s a rebel fleet, and it’s probably something that a person better at the game than I am could do well with.  No last/first against that list.

There are options out there. Changing one of the fundamentals of the game because you don’t like it is just laziness.

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Wouldn't a simpler solution would be to introduce a 5th kind of order: Overwatch.

 

Quote

A ship on Overwatch can interrupt an opponent turn and fire between the said opponent's Attack and Execute Manoeuvre step with one arc using half its dices rounded up.

 

So basically it is less effective that your traditional attack step (one arc vs two / half dice) so to let smaller ships have a standing chance when attacking large ship but it still let the defending ship retaliate somehow. 

Maybe the half dice is too harsh as a penalty. Could be replaced by "treat the target as obscured."

 

Getting rid of the Demolisher (and therefore the Yavaris) are a given. Both are broken.

Edited by Tabulazero

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As someone who plays both, the movement and engagement systems feel like they fit the style of each game and couldn’t be imported without losing something.  Now, it does look to me like they learned something from the Armada system when they built Rubewars and managed to remove the quirkiness of last/first, and maybe something like that can be baked into Armada 2.0.

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1 hour ago, emsgoof said:

List building, like many things, is about choices.  You choose to not put a bid in your list. Someone else may decide it’s important to them, and include one.  This is a basic function of the game.

In the space of 10 seconds, I was able to build an 8 activation list, which still has a 12 point bid in it.  It’s a rebel fleet, and it’s probably something that a person better at the game than I am could do well with.  No last/first against that list.

There are options out there. Changing one of the fundamentals of the game because you don’t like it is just laziness.

You really want to call everybody who does not like the current activation system lazy?

 

19 minutes ago, Tabulazero said:

Wouldn't a simpler solution would be to introduce a 5th kind of order: Overwatch.

 

 

So basically it is less effective that your traditional attack step (one arc vs two / half dice) so to let smaller ships have a standing chance when attacking large ship but it still let the defending ship retaliate somehow. 

Maybe the half dice is too harsh as a penalty. Could be replaced by "treat the target as obscured."

 

Getting rid of the Demolisher (and therefore the Yavaris) are a given. Both are broken.

I think that solves only a very small aspect of the current activation system. Apart from all those mentioned in the OP that are not the last/first bug, even last/first harbours more problems than the impossibility to retaliate annoyance: it also allows for way to easy navigation, because you know where the enemy ship will be during your next activation. Hence, a nice double arc is easy. Next, it still makes decision making about activation order quite boring, because you know exactly which ship to activate last/first. Finally, even with an overwatch mechanism you can easily avoid the main firing arc of your opponent quite easy with a quick damage spike ship (MC30, ETGladiator, ETLiberty) while getting a double arc: you fly in from beyond red range into a weaker firing arc, unload with weak overwatch retaliation from both your firing arcs, and finally fly away.

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Honestly I contemplated a Runewars initiative system for Armada way back. It could be worse than our current system honestly. 

I feel like Legions command card system would fit better with the later initiatives granting buffs. Also the idea of making Admiral effects only work on the flagship. Then grant them 3 command cards each. Thought this also has it's own problems. 

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In my eyes Darth Veggie's suggestion is interesting. To give each ship type a different list of initiative-commands could be a way to make ships more different. A VSD with better initiative-commands than an ISD could win back some earth. But at the other side. That system seems to be a horrid way of overburden beginners with planning. In my experience it makes the difference between unexperienced, experienced, and veteran players how good they "fore-see" what will happen at the board. To make this more complicated will make the learning curve even steeper. So that's a double edged blade.

1 hour ago, Tabulazero said:

Wouldn't a simpler solution would be to introduce a 5th kind of order: Overwatch.

So basically it is less effective that your traditional attack step (one arc vs two / half dice) so to let smaller ships have a standing chance when attacking large ship but it still let the defending ship retaliate somehow. 

Maybe the half dice is too harsh as a penalty. Could be replaced by "treat the target as obscured."

Nice idea. But if I don't want to move before my opponent and he doesn't want to move before me. We both will plan "overwatch" I suppose. Than initiative will be same as before.

1 hour ago, emsgoof said:

In the space of 10 seconds, I was able to build an 8 activation list, which still has a 12 point bid in it.  It’s a rebel fleet, and it’s probably something that a person better at the game than I am could do well with.  No last/first against that list.

That was true until last wave. In ten seconds I could build a list with a higher bid Pryce-ISD list that will last-first like **** against your 8 activations. And I even don't think that's a problem.

Last-first is a tactical option.

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For me I actually think it incresses the problem of activation advantage, for exsample I use the 5 cr-90's at initative two knowing that the ISD wont be able to activate until all the CR-90s shoot and fly away.  For me the best way to handle this is an overwatch type mechanism this is how i would do it.  "At the end of your activation if you have not performed an attack you may gain a redied gunners token." That token would work this way "at the end of an enamy ships movement phase, you may spend a redied gunners token to perform 1 attack against that ship, this attack is treated as being obstructed." I like this because you can still first last, but you have to be smart about it you can't just fly into the front arch of an ISD, but the side would not be to bad, I make the shot obstructed because obstruction has a bigger impact on smaller batterys that small ships have and not quite as much impact on larger batterys, that larger ships have.

Edited by xero989

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