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alextroy

Less Dice Rolls, More Game

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As we’ve been having these discussions about ways that FSA can be improved, one reoccurring thought I’ve had is we need to cut down on the amount of dice rolling in FSA. I’m not talking about reducing the AD pools or killing Exploding Dice. Rolling handfuls of dice and the interesting variable results we get from Exploding Dice are part of the charm of the game. Still, there are far too many instances of rolling dice, your opponent rolling dice, then rolling some more dice, all to get to a single result. So here is my list that I think Warcradle should explore ways to reduce the instances of dice rolls and speed up play as a result.

Remove Defensive Rolls

There are many instances in the rules where player A rolls attack, player B rolls defense, and then the two rolls are combined before you determine the effect. This isn’t necessary and adds to the time it takes to play the game. I say get rid of those Shield Rolls, Point Defense Rolls, Cyberdefense Rolls, and Boarding Defense Rolls. They can all be replaced with either static Success removal values or a comparative Target like DR/CR.

·      Shields: With values between 0-4, you can reasonably just have the current Shield values remove their value from attack successes

·      Point Defense: With squadron PD values quickly easily reaching 6-10, these values would need to be paired down before they could be just removed from the successes of a Torpedo attack

·      Cyberdefense and Boarding Defense: Get a static defensive stat for these that you get escalating results each for each multiple of the target your attack achieves

Remove Rolls that Lead to More Rolls

Ever notice that a lot of actions  in FSA are made with a roll that you end up making 1 or 2 more rolls before you know the results? I’m talking about you, Collision Rules (any other similar rules). You may a roll to see if you collide, which results in a roll to see how much AD the Collision causes, which then means an AD roll, which can lead to Critical Hits. Can we just come up with a system that gets it over with in one roll, please? The only thing you care about when making a Collisions Roll is do I take damage or not. We could easily just make the Collision rule be, if you run through an Asteroid Field your ship takes one Exploding Dice of HP damage.

Less Critical Hits

A while back in an email discussion, a friend of mine suggested we just get rid of Critical Hits. I pretty much dismissed the idea, but he had some valid points. Most ships don’t suffer much from Critical Hits. 2 HP ships never roll, they just get removed. 3 and 4 HP ships can’t suffer more than 1 Critical effect from normal weapons because the second Critical hit kills the ship. Some Critical effects have no real impact to such ships. Does your Cruiser really care that it lost 1 CP and has a Hazard Token on it? Did the Critical come so late in the turn that the effect never comes into play because you promptly fixed it in the end phase of the turn before it impacted your turn or your opponent could capitalize on it?

Maybe we really can do away with most Critical Hit rolls and instead embrace a crippled ship stat block much like some games now have you flip your stat card over to reveal different stats once a specific event happens. Your ship is at half HPs so it is time to flip over to the crippled ship side of your card where you have different weapon values, defensive values, and this is when you roll for a Critical Hit that is either hard or even impossible to repair, which can’t be done until after the ship’s next activation.

Thoughts?

                                                                                                        

 

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In a perfect world, I agree. But if we want a more attractive game, we need to cut down the playing time.

And tell me you don't get annoyed when you shields decide to take a vacation from getting successes :D

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Defensive roll allow the defending player have an active role in determining outcome rather than a passive one.   With no ability to roll defense he is standing at table side only to be a witness to his own demise (and confirm the killing rolls were indeed rolled).

the difference in player experience is huge even if there is no difference in in-game action outcome.

don't get rid of defensive rolls!

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The idea of having two sets of stats (full strength vs. compromised) is interesting. That would allow for a lot of new variations on ship designs.  It would be interesting to see this put into testing at least.

 

 

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13 minutes ago, fracas said:

Defensive roll allow the defending player have an active role in determining outcome rather than a passive one.   With no ability to roll defense he is standing at table side only to be a witness to his own demise (and confirm the killing rolls were indeed rolled).

the difference in player experience is huge even if there is no difference in in-game action outcome.

don't get rid of defensive rolls!

Agreed.  I am not aware of any war game that is at a loss for having defensive rolls.  The question is more of how many types and the level of detail you seek to include.  For torpedoes and SRS, they are both facing up to two levels of defensive rolls, but it would feel bad if they both ignored shields, too.

Now, I can see the rolls to see what you roll to see what you roll can be a problem.  It was part of the problem with Vehicles in 40K between 3rd-7th (the other parts being crappy rule-writing in general and the freedom from such interactions that MCs had).  Now, in 40K, Vehicles are treated like Monstrous Creatures, which makes it simplified, but also reduces some of the depth like stripping a Vehicle of its Weapons or having it outright explode on a lucky shot. 

But that is getting more in to the style of the game you are seeking to develop.  Battletech is a great example for this because you can have the standard game where 4 'Mechs can go at each other for hours because of the level of health and detail presented in each shot.  They also have the new Alpha Strike game where you can have 12 'Mechs going at each other in half the time, but you miss out on little things like surviving/dying to amazing critical hits.

In this case, I would say, allow for Task Force to provide that in depth level of detail which allows for the rolls to get rolls to get rolls, but you are only dealing with a squadron or two of ships, at most, and Armada where things are more simplified.  In Armada, surpassing CR gets a roll on the Crit Table, and done.  In Task Force you can get more CR results, some of which may lead to more CR results.  Things like that.  This allows for the players to decide which level of detail they want to go for and run with it.

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Good topic. 

On defensive fire I agree that Shields could be improved by being a simple removal of hits, while Cyberwarfare and Boarding could target a statistic (like Crew or Crew+AP) rather than a defensive roll-off.  However, I really like the feel of rolling PD.  It's fun to toss dice and imagine your gunners trying to shoot down evasive bombers or fast incoming torps.  I do think we could simplify PD, though, rather than linking in a squad, each ship gets a comparable PD value of its own.

Rolls that lead to more rolls I couldn't agree more.  Collisions are one.  Targeted Strikes and Boarding could be another.  Are there more?

Less critical hits ...as some others like @Ryjak have pointed out, the vast majority of crits don't actually affect the game, yet it takes time to roll every freaking crit and several games to memorize the chart.  There's room for big improvement there.  I'm not a fan of stat cards, but changing the way crits work I'm theoretically in favor of.   I've playtested if only Targeted Strikes, Boarding and Cyberwarfare generated a crit effect of the attacker's choice from a more limited sub-list of the existing critical hit effects.  It was only one game, but I felt like a weight was lifted!  Effects become more rare but also more gratifying, and game speeds up dramatically.   A friend suggested that Crew Points could be used to do repairs , like assigning damage control teams.  I'm not sure how that would be work but I like the feel of it too.  Furthermore, I think the duration of crit effects could be re-thought: some last until your next activation, or until the end of turn, or until the attacker's next activation (like Jamming/Cyberwarfare).

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There should be one set of defensive rolls: either shield or point defense.

everything else should be a hit modifier of an AD modifier

what bothers me more is having to look things up on a chart.

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Remove Defensive Rolls:  Generally, it’s a good idea to get both players participating during the game, and this is an easy mechanical way to do it.  However, the way it’s typically implemented is also a terrible way to this, such as rolling Defensive PD or Armor Saves.  Games are ultimately about making a series of meaningful choices, and while mechanically rolling dice with no choices to make works for the same reason people enjoy playing a slot machine, it doesn’t really add to the game experience, it just gives the passive player something to do besides playing referee for everything their opponent is doing.

Remove Rolls that Lead to Other Rolls: In general, this is a good philosophy to follow, and is the main mechanical issue in 40k.  If you could spectate a 40k game without knowing anything that was going on, you’d see a ton of dice being rolled multiple times before anything changes on the table.  The ideal situation is for one player to resolve one ‘dice-rolling event’, then something happens on the table.  An opposed roll could be acceptable, if you can’t figure out how to get the passive player involved, but that should be the extent of it.

Less Critical Hits: I don’t think there is more to say here... X-Wing Miniatures has a good system, where Critical Effects are randomly generated from a deck of cards.  It’s easy to resolve (when necessary, flip a card) and they always impact the gameplay.

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Just my two cents, but I really don't like this idea. I feel like dice rolls are my other source of agency after movement and attack declarations, but more than anything it's just more fun throwing more dice. I find critical hits fun, I find it fun rolling point defense against torpedoes, I don't see the game improving by removing either BUT this is subjective opinion. I can understand why you might not like the amount of rolls per turn, and maybe it oughtta be a homebrew set f rules rather than an official set, because it sounds like the rest of the playerbase isn't crazy about losing dice rolls

quick edit: this game has two tables you'll have to look up regularly, that's nothing compared to some other games. You can quit your complaining there

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We have seen from WC a willingness to remove some of granularity and I am not convinced that simplifying is always the best answer.  We need to look at the right level of granularity, and shields are different from ablative, are different to PD, are different to stealth.  Having a variety of systems of defence allows different focuses and strategy, and getting to roll dice, even just a couple allows a sense of interaction.

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As someone who likes to play FT as well, I would far prefer static defense that you can rely on than rolls. Most importantly, you can price shields/PD much better this way, as they always give the same effect, and criticals that cut them in half also work better. In FT, I will always pick armor boxes over shields, because they make the ship plain more durable with no luck element. 

Loss of "interactivity" might be an issue,  but with alternate activations, both players stay "in the game" so to speak, so it's not like one player sits for 5-10 minutes just watching his ships take it before it's his turn.

And with stable values, you can even have weapon mars that pierce shields and so on, making weapons more interesting to use.

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I like a Defensive Roll as much or more than the average player. I play Terrans. I love my shields. I love picking up my Battleships's 3 Shield dice with +1 Target from a Shield Cruiser and turning my opponent's Critical Hit into no damage. I always put extra PD on my Battleship to ensure those pesky Torpedoes don't have a chance at damaging my lovely flagship.

I however also hate the mounting sense of frustration on the other side of the table when every one of my opponents good rolls is countered by and equally good or even better shield or point defense roll. And I really dislike how much time it ends up spending in game time. I've taken to the time saving measure of rolling my defenses while my opponent is rolling his attacks. We still need to spend time comparing rolls to see what actually happened. I can be down with saying DR 6/CR10 with 3 shields instead of rolling if it means a faster game that I can play more often with more models on the table.

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A few thoughts

1) There's a big risk in wargames of following that MOBA games have sort of done to RTS in the computer world. That is speeding and simplifying things and cutting out complexity.  It makes for faster more competitive focused games; but it often makes for a very fast very throwaway experience.

I think there's a risk in taking out too many steps that soon you end up playing battleship rather than a wargame with dice. 

You can still have weapons that punch through and ignore shields or such even with dice rolls. The other aspect is that with a defensive dice roll, yes its more dice rolls, but it also throws in a second layer of random into the attacks. This helps to make the game more complex as the attacker cannot fully predict what their attack will do. Otherwise an attacker could easily go after weaker ships with impunity, the only thing they'd have to worry about is hitting, once hit the enemy ship would be going down without question. With saves you add an element of chance that the small frigate can survive that round of fire from the dreadnought - that "epic" moment in the tabletop game that is what we are trying to achieve more so than realism. 

Dice rolls are also one of those things that, correctly controlled, don't get out of hand and shouldn't take too long. An official dice-tower or dicebox to roll into and the dice situation is already contained. Also Firestorm is unlikely to have 30 frigates to a squad (as one might get in Warhammer) so we shouldn't have the vast numbers of dice that warhammer can generate (though honestly I would not be opposed to larger flight groups at all)/

2) Cards. Cards for units stats are in an odd place right now. Firstly the community likes them in general, even though they add another product to the roster that the manufacturer has to take into account*. In addition gamers today want faster and more regular updates to game balance; however if the developer is changing the game balance to improve gameplay those cards are almost worthless as soon as they are printed. If they are included in the game box then suddenly stock goes out-of-date and either has to be returned, refilled and then shipped out again or the company runs the risk of old stock confusing newer customers. Indeed this has resulted in Privateer Press gving up with stat cards in the box (and they were the one who really pushed this as a feature early on). 

So a stat card that flips over for critical damage is a neat idea, but if we also want Warcradle to balance the game we've got to consider how they deliver cards to us. Pre-made packs that we buy as an extra which will have X number of cards for each unit within them; etc... Also lets not forget that cards also work best when each unit is unique or near so - however if youv'e got fleets with the same units within them cards separate to models can be an issue in remembering which goes with which.

Cards  I think are a feature that has come and almost gone for the modern wargame as a core feature. An optional extra or rpelaced by an optional application on a mobile device.

3) Lets consider flightsticks. In a space game we have the joy that EVERY ship will be on a flight stand. I think these are the future for a space game. Halo and Dropfleet are both games which have made use of custom bases which allow the player to track more stats. In addition bigger ships (that might have more status changes possible - eg a wide range of crippled statuses) even have bigger stands so can hold more detailed information. 

The other bonus is that flight stick based data tracking stacks well with game size. Got 5 ships or 50 ships and the stats track the exact same way - on the model and easy to keep note during the game. Once you've learned what the colours/symbols mean its easy at a glance to keep note. Far easier than tracking a dozen or more cards on the edge or counters strewn on the map (counters on the map itself are a pain as they can easily get jumbled up with each other or forgotten to be moved with their host ship e tc..).

4) I think that crippled status on ships is important. We don't want to play battleship where each ship takes X amount of hits and then just blows up. That's fun, but I think its more fun - especially with larger battle and dreadnought ships - to have the ships capable of being crippled in various ways through the game. It lets you make those bigger ships more powerful and able to take more damage, but at the same time lose performance so they will last longer, but not be the powerhouse. A ship with crippled engines that can't stop ploughing into a terrain feature or another ship; a ship burning on fire and taking damage/losing crew each turn; a ship with its weapons fried but its engines good making a last ditch ram attack etc... It also ties into the use of repair ships (a feature Spartan were going to roll out with the new rules but never got too get there). 

I think if Warcradle can work on custom bases that can allow players to track varied stas on each individual model through the game we can have our crippled ships. It also allows for variety of crippled status rather than just a flat "everything is crippled" flip of the card. Bases that track stats are also better than cards since any rules update only updates the ships core stats rather than updating cards that the manufacturer has to worry about getting to gamers in an affordable manner. 

5) Critical hits. Honestly I think these should be super rare. Crippling status is one thing through regular damage; and if you've got random to hit and random defence rolls and such then there's already a good layer of random damage in the game. Critical hits should thus be the super rare event that happens maybe a handful of times in a decent sized game. Those chances that are "one in a million" kinds of affair that players can't bet on happening. Thus they are damaging when they hit, but not so often that the player feels beaten down by them. 

 

In the end I think what most players want is a game that feels epic. Where you've got frigates that dodge or just survive a barrage of fire from a capital ship; where combined fire cripples a capital ship that keeps on fighting till the biter end, even when its flame, its engines are shot, its port weapon banks are gone and its bridge is mangled. It's far more fun to fight with that dogged damaged ship that it is to just have a straight hit-point stat that counts down until the ship blows up. Thrown in are those handful of tine chances of something critical happening - the super rare hitting of the magazine etc... - that moment that happens once in the game that everyone talks about after. "Yeah I was so winning then you hit my dreadnoughts magazine! Whole thing blew a huge hole in my army and set my battleship on fire with the explosion wave" etc.... Happening once like that is great - happening 5 or 10 times and its a pain (yeah that army always does well they score so many critical). 

 

Honestly I feel the issue isn't about taking dice out; its about tracking stats and keeping the level of detail in the game deep enough that frigates feel small and nimble; whilst battleships and big dreadnoughts (or heck those leviathans if they ever appear or space bases) feel like BIG powerful ships. Things that take a huge beating; can dish it out; stats that change over the battle to force players to adapt to the changes in their fleets capabilities. 

And which all in the end provides for an epic game of waring spaceships rather than battleships with pegs stuck in them 

 

 

*you can argue that home-printed cards void this, but home printed will never have the same quality as manufacturer printed; and only a fewer number of people will make use of home printing. 

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Happening once like that is great

Not really, in a smaller game it just means I've wasted however much time it took to get to that point with zero chance of comeback. In larger games, it just means I get crippled from a cheap shot. What you are describing sounds to me like a game that swings on dicerolls entirely, and takes forever to play out, because goodness knows we have to give those frigates a chance to shine, instead of treating them like cheap chaff that they are point and stats-wise.  There's this fetish for keeping the "1 in 100 chance for a single cruiser to damage this battleship" like it's a good thing, when it just ends up being your dice winning for you. It's tabletop equivalent of playing an online match, being ahead of the enemy by a huge margin, and losing because you got disconnected by your modem.

 

In short, if you want to make a game that's so swingy and reliant on dicerolls over everything else, that's fine, but at least don't try to make it tactical and slow in resolution. Age of Sigmar is a good example. It's very simple, very dice-reliant, but I can finish a game with 50+ models in about an hour and a half, so it doesn't feel like wasted time if it goes funny.

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I'm forced to agree with Pok. I've had more than one game of FSA end on turn one due to just such stuff. I've literally had game last one activation because a lucky first turn torpedo critical lead to a reactor explosion that thrashed the opponent's fleet. That's not happy "remember the time when" stuff, that's table-flipping frustration.

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I tend to agree with alextroy and Pok that crazy dice and super-rare-luck are more of a frustration than a celebration for most players.   This goes for shield rolls and double-crits in FSA.  All minis games players accept some risk, or else they would switch to play chess exclusively.  But the first time a player feels downtrodden by his battleship critted "Reactor Overload" turn 2, it is a crushing experience for both players if they have a heart, not to mention a game-ending event and a waste of setup time.  There is no coming back from that in a 800pt game.   There are two game design theories about "locus of control" - is the game in my control, or is the game out of my control.  Somewhere in the middle is appropriate IMHO, but leaning to "in my control" - where you win (or lose) because of your meaningful choices.  You can watch videos where (love or hate Civilization) Sid Meier talks about luck and how to give players the "goldilocks" emotional experience they want ... just the right amount of luck.

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Like I said if critical events are kept they should be rare events not commonplace; that said nothing means that a critical has to be the end of the game for the ship in question. The power of a critical hit could be managed so that its important but not game breaking; where I agree a game that ends on turn one or two is a nasty experience in any wargame (esp as the setup of each game can often take quite a long time in itself before you even start "playing").

 

I think if the idea of increased levels of crippled and damaged status could be introduced then one could even lose critical hits as a feature because there's another form of extended and continued heavy damage present beyond just the health points of the ships in question.

 

As for shields I see the use of shields or armour saves etc... rather like a question/answer. The attacker asks a question of the ship being hit; whilst the attacked ship gets a chance to make a reply to that attack in the form of the shield save roll. I still think its important to keep; it tries to mess with a players attack and introduces two levels of random which are not based only upon the random chance of the players own fleet. This adds variety for the attacking player when making attack choices since this way some ships might have better or worse defensive chances to survive and strike back.

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1 minute ago, Warcradle Richard said:

How about onboard bookkeeping for status and effects?  On the model for quick but messy identification, on stat card, that opponent might not miss? Something in between? In app?

 

Apps are an easy approach with the one issue that not everyone will want to or be able to use them. Plus nothing worse than turning up and having the app die or have problems or the computer running out of power etc... I think with tabletop wargames apps are a nice extra that are well worth developing; but should never be a core required item to the game.

 

Personally the best, if most involved would be something like this

1) A base that has the fire arcs marked upon it (could be on the edges of the base with a raised lip marking - much like the arcs are shown on the gargantuan models for Privateer Press). These could be picked out by the owner with a simple stripe of paint on the raised edge

2) A means to track damage on the base. This could be a simple one or two slots for mini dice or could be a rotating base section like the one used on Dropfleet bases

3) A means to uniquely identify each ship to its specific base. This could be in the form of stickers included in started boxes with a series of unique ship names. These names could both be themed to the faction and also include basic numbers as well (esp for smaller ships that might not be named).

4) Provide stat cards with a slot on the card open for a second sticker to be affixed. The player thus able to put the same name on the card as is on the ship base. That card is now bound to that specific ship forever. Even if the player buys more of the very same ship type they can use different names from the sticker set for the other ships.

5) The ship base can now hold basic key information whilst tokens and other info can be noted on the ships individual card. The unique names (and numbers) allowing the player to remember exactly which ship belongs to which card. 

If the player also uses an app, the app can thus be loaded with the unique name as well and, yet again, the specific ship can be kept track of. 

 

The concept of named ships could be taken further with campaign play; allowing players to essentially build their own narratives around ships that survive multiple battles in a series. Without introducing any named characters, the player is thus able to have their own "hero" ships based upon the ship simply performing well in game for them. This, of course, won't replace named hero ships being released as part of formal releases from Warcradle. 

 

 

 

Downside is this makes for more things to produce; stickers with a curved shape suited to being stuck on a base; bases with notches and markers; and cards (with the mentioned issues about balance changes to the games rules and how Warcradle can expect to sell cards and get them to players after they update the games core rules). This is a key matter if using stat cards, especially with a new edition of rules; because chances at at least one major revision will be needed to provide a solid game system (Privateer Press did this then hit huge issues with their third edition - donig well and having a bigger market made getting cards out to players more of a headache esp when they then wanted to be able to review and rebalance on an annual basis) 

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2 hours ago, Pok said:

Not really, in a smaller game it just means I've wasted however much time it took to get to that point with zero chance of comeback. In larger games, it just means I get crippled from a cheap shot. What you are describing sounds to me like a game that swings on dicerolls entirely, and takes forever to play out, because goodness knows we have to give those frigates a chance to shine, instead of treating them like cheap chaff that they are point and stats-wise.  There's this fetish for keeping the "1 in 100 chance for a single cruiser to damage this battleship" like it's a good thing, when it just ends up being your dice winning for you. It's tabletop equivalent of playing an online match, being ahead of the enemy by a huge margin, and losing because you got disconnected by your modem.

 

In short, if you want to make a game that's so swingy and reliant on dicerolls over everything else, that's fine, but at least don't try to make it tactical and slow in resolution. Age of Sigmar is a good example. It's very simple, very dice-reliant, but I can finish a game with 50+ models in about an hour and a half, so it doesn't feel like wasted time if it goes funny.

I think you missed part of the point of the fragment you posted.  He was all about limiting such an event to once in the average game at most, as opposed to it happening multiple times across the game.

Of course, a lot depends on the nature of what those Critical Hits DO.  If the basic Critical Hit just cripples a system, that should be sufficient, but also available more often.  The ability to cause a ship to blow up (no matter of the cause) should be possible, but rare.  I don't agree with eliminating it completely, at all.  It may take a certain CR threshold in order to accomplish it, but it should be possible with Exploding Dice.

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Just a further thought on cards to track game stats. If a ships unique card had nothing on it save for the ships name and a picture of the ship type (ergo artwork or photo). Then the card could be used only to track status changes through markers. The actual ship stats could be printed upon a check-sheet and within the rule book. 

This would mean that if there were major updates to the factions it would only require a single sheet of paper (stat sheet) to be printed off or to be sold or to be bundled with a new edition rule book. Granted this means that the player has ship base - ship card and ship stat sheet; but it would allow for easy updating without having to fiddle with updating loads of game cards.

Considering that the number of ships within the game shouldn't be vast; and that a simple A4 sheet should be able to contain basic stats, abilities, racial special abilities, possibly even damage tables etc.. Then that could be a simple easy game guide aid that most would make use of anyway. 

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An app is a great idea, nearly everyone has a smartphone these days, those who don't have a friend who does. 

As long as the app can email a "fleet list" to someone else (or yourself) to print on paper, an app will work.   Apps are great for building fleets, but not everyone wants to push buttons on a phone to play a game.   Of course, Pymapper has his FleetBuilder for FSA and there's also Battlescribe.  Both work fine, but aren't cards per se.

I also play Malifaux which uses a card for every  model, here's why I don't like cards for FSA:

  • even with 8 or 9 models cards get pretty unwieldy.  FSA games have more models than that. 
  • FSA has a lot more upgrades/hardpoints, making a card either very dense and/or illegible if it lists all the hardpoints/upgrades or requires multiple cards for different hardpoints.  Try to visualize a card for a Terran Battleship and you will see how I mean. 
  • If errata'd cards require reprinting, and erratas are likely because of mistakes and game re-balance

I acknowledge that cards have an aesthetic appeal to many players, who consider it part of the model and game.  

Here's the solution I think: the app could print pseudo-cards, which you can even cut/laminate if you choose.   Battletech's card app allows modified stats and printing of cards 8 or 6 to a sheet of paper, and even allows uploading of custom images!

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I think if cards are part of the game design or game stat tracking then they must be officiallyprinted. Home printers are not all that good and that's before you consider that most will only print onto paper, not card; and that the vast majority of people don't have laminators. 

So that would be a really low grade product on display alongside well made models, bases, maps, tokens etc... It would send all the wrong messages to the customers. 

 

Sure it could work if Warcradle design the game to work with an app only, but honestly I think that would be the wrong direction to take the game as it slaves what is essentially a real-world physical game to a digital game component. By all means an app instead of but not an app as a must have. 

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