Thursday, January 27, 2011

Combat in Afrodesia

Furt asked about the seeming static linear nature of the combat in my previous report using the Adventures in Jimland rules. I decided that question deserves a fuller response and further consideration than I could fit (or wanted to fit) in a comment.

First, the two instances of hostile encounters I had in that game involved a fair bit of luck of the die. First, the scouting roll succeeded both times so the expedition was able to better organize to face off against the attacking natives. Second, I forgot the natives could be split up and attack from 2 sides. Third, I only ended up rolling 1 animal. Fourth, the expedition had a good number of armed figures and I rolled well on shooting, so no natives ever made it close to getting into hand to hand combat. Also, the duration of the encounters is fairly short, so there isn't a lot of time for maneuvering.

Having said all that it does seem to me it's often a good idea for the expedition to line up and fire their weapons as soon as possible and hope to take out enough of the attackers to make the rest run off. It also seems like the rifle-armed attacking natives are better off if they stand and fire. Natives armed with hand weapons should probably rush in and try to engage in hand to hand combat as soon as possible. This does seem like it would lead to combat encounters without a lot of finesse happening. I could be missing something here, and maybe more games will bring more finesse to the encounters.

One thing to keep in mind, though, is the game isn't about combat as such. It's about exploration, with some danger along the way. So a typical hostile encounter probably shouldn't have much of a chance of wiping out the entire expedition (or even a majority of explorers, soldiers and askaris).

Still, one could introduce more finesse into the combat as desired (at the risk of making things too deadly for the expedition, making the games take much longer to play, and/or changing the focus from exploration to combat). This could range from simply adding some house rules to the game's rules for these encounters all the way to using some other combat rules instead. As for house rules, a few ideas that come to mind (untested as yet) include:

  • Increasing the length of the encounter (the rules state an encounter lasts 4 turns). Possibly only ending the encounter when all natives are dead or have run away, and possibly any creatures are also either dead, have run away, or are not fighting.
  • Placing natives in terrain features anywhere on the table as opposed to having them enter from a table edge. This could mean they are closer, and/or in cover when they are first spotted.
  • Including the possibility of more natives showing up as the encounter wears on.
  • Including native encounter cards with tougher opponents (this could be something more "historical" like battle-hardened veteran natives or more war-like tribes with higher stats, natives armed with bows or blowguns, possibly even soldiers from a belligerent nation; or more on the pulp/fantasy side, like lizardmen or swamp trolls or skeletons).

Adventures in Jimland was designed to make for quick games that could see an expedition (or a few expeditions run by different players) complete one "there and back" game in a couple of hours or so. To that end a lot has been kept fairly simple while still offering plenty of scope for a fun and interesting game. It seems to me one of the strengths of Adventures in Jimland is that is plenty of room for adding whatever complications one wants to add. The Jimland Reports are a great source of inspiration. These can be found at the NAGS website under Jimland Reports.

The above are my thoughts and opinions, not the game's designer. And I have only played one game so far, so I could be missing plenty.


Jim Wright said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jim Wright said...

--Sorry lots of typos in first post--


Your thoughts about Jimland are spot on.

To make combat more challenging for the Expedition simply add more terrain, or make what you have larger, and come in from two sides.

You are correct that the game is about exploring, actually exploring and surviving with a good story to tell along the way. Going there and coming back is the whole idea.

Encounters with hostile natives and hungry animals is meant to wear down the Expedition, not overwhelm it in one stroke. Every loss of an Askari, Soldier, or Explorer is tough on the Expedition. One less fighter for the next encounter. Lose one, ok, keep moving. Lose two, ok, watch those bushes, men. Lose three, close up, keep together, what was that noise. Lose four, careful men, no noise, stay together. Lose five, should we return to Jimville now. Lose six, ....

Drums in the night. Always drums in the night.

Reading the Jimland Reports will illustrate the process. Several Expeditions were wiped out by Native attacks. They had been slowly whittled down as they marched through the Wilds of Jimland. In our games another Expedition player played the natives, always doing their best to hammer the other guy's Expedition force. The native players had nothing to lose!

If the Expedition player has given his explorers good Shoot skills, use the terrain to close as rapidly as possible for melee. If the Explorers have good Fight skills, stand off and shoot where possible. If you have lots of Natives (10), attacks are more deadly. If you have few (4) the are more of a nuisance. But you never know how many are coming.

If you get lucky and spot the ambush before it happens, that helps a lot. If you don't, being caught in march formation from two sides can be bad. Losing Bearers is almost as bad as losing figures capable of fighting well. Lose a couple of Food Bearers and you start hearing your stomach rumble and are a lot kinder to the natives you do run into.

You are playing correctly. You have been lucky so far. Keep at it. One of these days, your Expedition may not return or a single survivor will struggle back to Jimville to tell the tale of what happened. The Wilds of Jimland are unforgiving.

Welcome to Jimland, where anything can happen.

Ever forward.