Thursday, October 14, 2010

Advocatus: Modified Kill Points

I played a really good game recently where we used a modified version of the NOVA format by replacing victory points with kill points as a victory condition.  However, the kill points were actually selected by each opponent and were limited to five. Mike Brandt, over at Whiskey & 40k, introduced me to this system and I have to say I really like it!

The basic concept is that, before the games starts, you and your opponent each pick 5 units from the others army list that will be worth a kill point. You can put limitations on this, like no more than 2 dedicated transports or a unit with a dedicated transport must always be taken together as 2 kill points, etc. There are also different ways to allow selection of these kill point units (i.e. before/after deployment, secretly before game starts, secretly until game ends, etc.).

Using kill points in this way required a different set of tactics, as now you had priority targets to take out and your own kill points to protect. The game itself was great and I lost in turn 5 because one of my kill point units broke and refused to rally by the end of turn 6.

For the next game, I will have each player secretly choose their opponents kill points before deployment. Then, once both sides are fully deployed, each player reveals the kill points chosen to their opponent. This way, there is no advantage gained either by a) knowing what your own kill points are and deploying them accordingly (holding everything in reserve, bunkering them in transports, etc.) or b) knowing how your opponent is deployed then selecting the most vulnerable units as kill points.

The cool thing about this system is the simplified creation of new scenarios based on mixing up the kill point selection. Here are a few mission examples:

  • Taking Scalps: Both players fully deploy. Each player marks a copy of their opponent's list with 5 kill points. At least 2 of these must be non-vehicle units. Lists are folded over and set aside so that kill point selection remains a secret throughout the game.
  • Assassinate: Both players fully deploy. Each player openly selects 3 kill points from their opponents list. The other 2 kill points are assigned to the highest leadership independent character or, if no ICs are available, an HQ unit selection with the highest leadership (Ex. guard company command squad). If their are 2 (or more) ICs or HQ units with the same leadership, randomly determine the target AFTER both sides have deployed.
  • Priority Targets: Before deployment, each player secretly marks their opponent's list with 5 kill points (no more than 3 may be dedicated transports). After both sides have deployed, the kill point selections are revealed.

There are many more possibilities that a 5 kill point system opens up. The mechanic is fairly simple, but the permutations should keep the game fresh without encumbering players with oddball victory conditions (that I usually manage to forget).


Rushputin said...

Given that, to me, Kill Points is supposed to deter over-mechanization and MSU, I don't think I like the idea of restricting the number of dedicated transports that can be designated as KP-worth.

If you don't want someone to pick all of your Rhinos as KP, don't take a bunch of 35 point Rhinos.

Mike Brandt; mvbrandt@gmail said...

I think the argument that KP is supposed to deter over-mechanization and MSU gives GW too much credit. The entire design and rules of the game of 40k actually encourage mechanization and MSU, and this makes sense - it sells more models.

It's also generally tactically deeper in most strategy games - in RTS you see it play out as "micro/micromanagement" ... etc.

KP is a hamfisted attempt at best, if it is one - because the "hope" is that you'll random draw at a tournament someone who actually has materially fewer KP than you; that such a thing is so random in and of itself should help identify that it doesn't function as a deterrent in reality.

There are actually probably even "better" ways to do KP than the nominate-5 (although it's better than flat KP IMO), "win by" KP amounts is another good one.

It's a hard sell to call it balanced or "good," however. It's just too arbitrary a measurement, and one not related to the actual valuation/measurements used to rate units in the game as is. KP would be brilliant if it was one KP per force org slot, and all force org slots were created equal ... but even that isn't true.

A lot of people argue that VP as a win condition favors MSU, and while arguably true I think it's more a simple acknowledgment of MSU as superior in a turn-based strategy game where most units can only target one enemy unit at a time. Game design at work, friends. If you get over the notion that MSU is bad (because really, why is it? Most armies that go "pure" MSU are bad in play, whereas the use of at least some MSU to cover your bases on redundancy and what-not is more just "smart"), VP becomes a pretty functional way to give players EXACTLY what they earn by killings things.

You could go a step further and actually utilize and function off missions that try to balance for codices, instead of balancing for build style ... but hey that's another discussion altogether.

I *AM* glad you enjoyed the nominate-5 ... though interestingly it actually EMPHASIZES MSU ... and having seen it in action at the Battle for Salvation this past weekend, I'm less of a fan of it than I used to be.

- Mike

Morgrim Dark said...

Mike, thanks for the wall 'o text ;)

Richard, I am really just want to explore some different mission options. Come up with a good mission where ALL dedicated transports (up to 5) are automatic kill points, with the rest being chosen by your opponent. Maybe call it Armored Column with the idea being that you are trying to disrupt the enemy troop movements.