So I got to play Cornered twice in person with a friend. Definitely is more fun than trying it over Roll20, since the tactile element (especially rolling dice) is so important to me. Anyway we had a great time. I just used old paper maps I had drawn up for Dungeons and Dragons, and we started with a simple graveyard to get a feel for the mechanics. We each played a Few and sort of took turns choosing what the Many should bring on as Reinforcements. The game went well even though we escaped pretty much unscathed. For the next attempt we used a bigger map of a medieval fort town, and added a couple tweaks to the rules. We barely escaped the town after capturing our set of objectives. One or two more turns and I think the mass of Many (some of which had some really tough stats) would have overwhelmed us.
From the playtest there were FOUR very important changes. Let me list them and talk about each one in detail:
- Added “None Escape” (opportunity attack)
- Cannot use “Take Three” for attacks
- Added automatic reinforcements of X basic Many (X = Few players)
- Changed RP to D6+X (X = Few players)
1. Added “None Escape” (opportunity attack)
This is a change that I had considered before, but the playtest confirmed was necessary in the game. Currently in v0.04 a Many can reach the Few, probably after a lot of slogging and near death experiences, and then the Few can use a single Character Dice to interrupt and move back from the Many without any downside. So tons of survivability at the moment, and also a loss of realism since once a Many gets close they are sure as heck going to get a swing or two in.
So I added the “None Escape” rule, which is basically a fancy name for an opportunity attack. You may know the mechanism from games like D&D with their Attack of Opportunities. The basic idea is that if a Few leaves a space adjacent to a Many that Many gets a free attack against the Few. To stop the Few from being hopelessly pinned I made the “None Escape” attack at -3 Attacks (minimum 1), which in mosts cases means the Many would only get a single D6 to try to hurt the Few.
When I was trying to figure out a good alternate term for Attack of Opportunity I stumbled across a bunch of articles and blog posts where people don’t really like the mechanism! In all honesty that’s a big surprise to me. The general concern is that AoO slow down the game, confuse people as to what turn it is, and so on. Those are viable points for D&D, but don’t really apply to Cornered since there is already a bunch of interrupting, turns don’t take long to begin with, etc. Personally I’ve played games that don’t have an opportunity attack mechanism, so people can just freely leave combat, and that approach SUCKS. I’m not saying the current implementation of AoO’s is the be-all end-all, but it’s certainly better than the alternative of people skipping around the field without repercussion. Nothing makes a player feels as powerless as finally getting to grips with an enemy only to have them move 12 squares backwards on their turn while you sit and stare.
Anyway we’re here to talk about this game and not D&D, so I’ll continue.
2. Cannot use “Take Three” for attacks
I like the option of safely taking the average (3) of a Character Dice (1D6) for something like moving. But I was always on the fence for Take Three and attacking. After the first game I talked with my friend and thought about it and decided to remove the option to Take Three when attacking. This is pretty understandable as you end up not rolling many dice if you just face basic Many (3 Defense, 2 Life) since it’s generally ALWAYS better to just Take Three and automatically kill the basic enemy with 2 Character Dice. Sure that reduces randomness and let’s the Few players predicably down Many…but it just felt dry and dull. It also meant cutting through a horde of basic Many was pretty easy and reliable.
So now you always have to roll for your attack, which is still pretty reliable but still means the basic Many are a bit harder than a simple roadblock that can be assuredly killed.
3. Added automatic reinforcements of X basic Many (X = Few players)
This idea was purely thanks to my friend. He thought there needed to be more Many on the board, and I tended to agree. But I was so focused on modifying the Reinforcement Point roll that I missed a more elegant solution: automatic basic Many.
Think of a game like Left 4 Dead, where there are TONS of common Zombies roaming around, and a few special infected to spice up the combat. In a way Cornered mirrors that approach with the customizable stat lines via prefixes and suffixes. But the missing element to really give the Many a MANY! feel was automatically getting some basic Zombies each turn.
So now at the start of each turn the Many player gets X basic entities PLUS their usual Reinforcement Points. X in this case is the number of Few players in the game. This frees up the Many player to spend their rolled Reinforcement Points on something more fun than just filling up the board with basic guys.
We tried this approach in the second playtest game and it went really well.
4. Changed RP to D6+X (X = Few players)
Pretty simple here. I’m still working on a good, balanced solution for Reinforcement Points (which I’ll probably post more about in the future). For now having 1D6+X (X = Few players) makes sense and is quick.
What I’ll try next is drawing tokens from a bag, since I like the option of modifying WHAT tokens are in the bag to change the difficulty of the game (similar to adding or removing Epidemic cards in the boardgame Pandemic). For example players could add in more tokens with 5 or 6 Reinforcement Points on them, or make the game easier by having more 1s and 2s.
So there you have it, four rather big changes (at least in the scope of the game!). I also made a few minor changes:
- Removed Crossbow
- Must be able to see a friend for +2
- Put miniatures backwards to track who hasn’t acted
I’m really close to moving houses now, and once I do I can get more games of Cornered in. I’m going to look at options for tiles and boards to play on. I also want to look at the possibility of a loose campaign system. And then of course all my usual TODOs like fleshing out more themes/genres, etc.