Saturday, 20 July 2013

General Ramblings: Pre-measuring

There's been a recent shift in philosophy within the games I play.

This shift replaces an old paradigm, and has been called pre-measuring.
I generally list five games when I recount my vast experience in the field of miniature-based gaming: Warhammer, Warhammer 40k, Blood Bowl, WarmaHordes and Malifaux. One isn't really a miniature game (Blood Bowl, I might specify why at some point), which leaves four.

Of these four, a year ago, only Warhammer had premeasuring. Two years before that, none of them did. Now WarmaHordes is the odd duck out with no premeasuring.

This has led to great changes in how these games are played (except for WarmaHordes, obviously).

Firstly, a skillset that was previously indispensible is now entirely redundant. So you can judge whether a distance is more or less than six inches? Grand for you. I've got a tape measure. Wanna have a contest who's more accurate?

This had the most obvious impact on Warhammer Fantasy, specifically because there used to be 'guess-range' weapons, for which you literally had to guess the range to where you wanted the shot to land - 40k got rid of this mechanic like two editions ago. So the engineers among us, who had learnt to estimate distances to within an inch from across the table suddenly had no use for this.

This has had two effects. One is the old-timers (of which I am, in this case, one) sitting around with a superfluous skill.

The other is an equalization between players. No longer is the most important decision of the whole game whether those Knights are within charge distance of that block of infantry; it's whether the charge is a good idea. Which leads to the next item.

The second great change is that a large factor of uncertainty has been removed from the games that have instated premeasuring. This has different implications for the Warhammer siblings than it does for Malifaux, though, because of the different turn structure of the two (small) groups of games.

For the Warhammers, where a player can launch all of his army into the face of the opponent without retaliation until later, a fixed charge range combined with pre-measuring could have led to very predictable games (or so the theory goes) as the army with the greater charge would be almost guaranteed to get its charges off against the targets they wanted. GW has solved this with making charge distances random. It does reintroduce the uncertainty, but has all sorts of balance implications that I won't go into here (if the distance an Ork runs in a specified time is random, why is the effective distance of a Lasgun not?).

'Cause nothing's ever gonna affect how far you can see properly?
For Malifaux, the change really has very few tactical implications. Yes, the risk of a failed action because you misjudged is diminished to almost nil (yes, almost - like you've never made a measuring error) but the fact is that you can no longer muster the alpha strike that is possible with the Warhammers' block turns, as your opponent can strike back almost immediately.

So, while the games' mechanics differ greatly, the fact is that the effect of pre-measuring is to remove an aspect of the games that has less to do with tactics or strategy and more to do with carpentry. It removes the advantage from people who know the exact length of their index finger, or has carefully measured every terrain feature, or has a perfect eye for trigonometry, and moves it to the player that can do the most with whatever information can be gleaned from measuring things freely.

But, what I see as perhaps the most important effect is a social one.

There is no longer any information that cannot be discussed before an action. There should no longer be any need for a charge to fail because one player sees the distance as a fraction of an inch longer or shorter than the other. No more shouts of 'It's clearly in!'; every decision can now be anchored with your opponent before you're committed to it. So when the distance is tight, you can have the discussion before you shoot, or charge, or cast spells of ultimate destruction, at a target that is only just out of range.

It is surprisingly less likely that you get into an argument before, than after, committing to something potentially devestating (to whom? Depends on the success).

So, I end up being for pre-measuring. Assuming the structure surrounding it is adjusted to accomodate it.

Ta, and DFTBA.

No comments:

Post a Comment