Thursday, June 23, 2011

Playtesting small boards on MDRG

I got some time today to playtest the suggestions to better accomodate my Mutants and Death Ray Guns skirmishes in 2'x2' boards with 28mm figures, as I'd like to do for the Wasteland Wandering scenario. For these tests I used a board with only three terrain pieces and two warbands of three figures each -- not very different from the encounters I expect to have in the scenario.
Each team has a mutant with a Long-range weapon that grants +2 to combat, a human with a Medium-range weapon that grants +2 to combat and a robot with Heavy Armor and no ranged weapons. The idea was just to get a general feel for the options, not to test extreme cases (like all melee vs. all ranged, for instance.) They were deployed within 1 Short from the board edges.

Option A: Fleeing towards cover
The first option is to use the normal measurement sticks and morale rules, but to always allow figures to flee towards cover instead of board edges. A model that fails a second morale roll when in cover (say, due to cascading morale checks) must flee towards the nearest board edge.
My first test was very quick, as expected. Given the smaller board size, the warbands were shooting at each other from the second turn. At one point, one team's mutant caused a gruesome death of a human, scattering the other figures who both failed two dice on their morale checks. Note that in this specific case the figures could have run to cover with standard MDRG rules, since the cover pieces were closer than the closest board edge.
On the following turn, the fleeing mutant got killed and that caused a morale check on the robot for losing more than half of the warband. He failed on one die and maneuvered to the edge of the ruins, so as to keep in cover but trying to leave sight of the enemy robot.

After this game I played one more with a single piece of terrain at the center of the board. Once more the game moved really fast and in one occasion a figure that would have fled the board was allowed to move to cover instead.

Option B: Using 15mm-scale sticks
The other option is to keep all rules unchanged but to use the 15mm measurement sticks instead of the 28mm ones. This may feel wrong to some wargamers since the weapon ranges will become really short. In my opinion, shorter weapon ranges allow for more melee battles, which seems fitting for sci-fi fantasy like MDRG. In any case, I wanted to try this.
With the shorter sticks, the game's pace is closer to normal (i.e. using a 3'x3' board.) In this playtest, I managed to move the robots into melee and the blue one got itself killed when attacking the enemy mutant.
Later on, the team that lost the robot got a gruesome kill on the blonde human. The other figures failed one die and ran for nearby cover (which was closer than the board edges to them.) Note that I moved the yellow robot towards the trees since the human was so close.

I also ran another game with the 15mm sticks, this time using lower penalties for range: 0 for base and 2x range, and -1 for 3x range. I didn't like the result: most of the time, this makes weapons with Medium and Long ranges pretty much the same.

Option A (using the 28mm scale sticks and slightly changed morale rules) makes the game really fast-paced. Failed activations become more dangerous because of the smaller board. The action starts at the very beginning of the game. It's the kind of setup I'd like to use when showing the Song of Blades engine to friends who don't know it, to get them into action right away.

On the other hand, option B (using the 15mm scale sticks with 28mm minis) keeps the game feeling more like when playing with matching scales (i.e. 2'x2' for 15mm or 3'x3' for 28mm). That is great to me, as it opens up ways for me to play with larger minis in a smaller space. It does make the ranged weapons feel a little underpowered regarding range, but for me it's acceptable.

So, regarding the question "which is the best way to prevent failed morale checks from ending the game too soon when playing MDRG with 28mm miniatures on a 2'x2' board?," both options worked well. Since in my "wasteland wandering" scenario I intend to have something like 4-6 encounters during a single game, I'll use option A to avoid making the game too long.


Dale said...

Good analysis. Keep it up.

Jonathan GAY said...


Great reports.
I'm a new player of MDRG, 15mm on 2'x2' (maybe reduce to 1,5'x1,5').
Your trees are cool, where did you find them?

Ricardo said...

Hi Jonathan

Thanks for the comment. Those trees are the work of Scott Everts who, among other things, was the map designer of Fallout. He made a bunch of nice paper models for Mage Knight, which you can find at BoardGameGeek:

For the trees, search for "3D Cardboard Pine Trees" within that page.