Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Game Design #25: Mordhiem, Competitive Campaigns, Stats (again), and Balance

I have often wondered why no game has attempted to follow up the now-defunct Mordheim/Necromunda series of games with a more streamlined, modern version.  There is a lot of nostalgia, and a player base who are hankering for a similar style of gameplay.  The closest I can think of offhand would perhaps be West Wind's Empire of the Dead, written, not coincidentally, by an ex-GW designer.  But that was just a watered-down VSF LOTR with d10s. To my disappointment, skirmish top-gun Infinity really missed the mark with their Paradiso rules (only 1 mini per army could level up.)

There are a lot of skirmish-RPG lite rules with campaigns/advancement, spearheaded by Song of Blades & Heroes, and it is a growing genre.  However they all share a similar assumption of a co-operative, friendly mindset, of like-minded players, with a story focus.   However Mordheim leagues could also be competitive.  Basically, the game catered to different types of gamer.

So is it possible to make a campaign game "Balanced" - so it can appeal to both narrative (I call em the 'RPG crowd' and competitive gamers?  What are some of the issues preventing the rise of another Mordheim?

I think if having a campaign system as an integral part of the game (rather than tacked on at the end or added as a supplement as is the norm) you need to consider it when designing the game - right at the start.  So what to consider?


Stat Lines vs Special Rules (or "this dead horse again?")
I've often championed the now-unfashionable stat line. I'm not talking excessive RPG/D&D style stats, but using a sensible amount of stats to represent the most often-used attributes of a mini.

Stats are a shared language. No one needs to look up what "Speed 5" means.   In fact it's as easy - or easier  - to use Speed 1-20  than Very Slow, Slow, Average, Fast, Very Fast, Superlatively Quick.  (and offers more graduations).  Because you have to work out what Superlatively Quick is on the tabletop  - it actually adds another step.

Stats are numbers. Numbers can be easily compared against each other.  A 9"move, barring complications, is worth 90% of a 10"move.  A 20"move is twice as valuable as a 10"move.

When should something be a stat? 

When you use it a LOT for the level of game (skirmish, platoon, company+) you are playing.  The more stuff you do with an individual mini, the more likely you are to want differentiation for specific abilities.

For example, melee would be a vital stat in a fantasy/medieval skirmish game but might not be necessary in a modern combat game where melee is rare.  A modern platoon game (where all combatants are human and use very similar weapons) "Troop Quality" and "Morale" might be all you need.  A fantasy game where ogres face off against pixies might need more stats to "describe" key facts about the game.    

Mordheim had a bloated stat line, but one (Agility) which at first glance seemed uneccessary, is arguably worthwhile given the vertical nature of the terrain (a lot of jumping and climbing on/over ruins, rooftops, ledges etc).  This is not a stat that would belong in most games, however.

Take a modern platoon level game. If you are moving stuff in groups, you may abstract the speed of the individual models, perhaps by troop quality, in favour of a "group" speed.  However, if you are moving soldiers individually in a 8-man skirmish game, then movement speeds might vary markedly both by physique and equipment carried. A speed stat makes sense here.

I've read a few rules lately where game designers have made interesting choices to abstract many traditional areas - I think "abstraction" is worth a topic of its own.

How do you measure a "Special Ability?"
Most modern skirmish games not only do away with stats, but they overcompensate by adding in the lost detail with a plethora of special rules.

How do you measure the effect of stealth on a battlefield?  Let's say it works like in Warmachine - no one beyond 5" can shoot at a stealthy model. Simple. Now, if your game has everyone with guns that only shoot 5" it's effectively worthless. If most people have guns that shoot 10", its useful.  If everyone's guns go 48", it's very powerful.  And what is the chance to hit?  How lethal, on average, are the weapons? A 2+ on a d6, or do you need to luck out with a '6' to hit?  This also effects the value.

As you can see, it's difficult to assign an accurate value without a lot of playtesting.  And if you have lots of special rules (by "lots" I mean more than 20) then the job becomes exponentially harder as you also have to judge how the rules interact with each other.    E.g, how many models have access to "X Ray Vision" which cancels stealth?

Limiting Skills: Cutting down on confusion
A further aspect is how many special abilities a player can possess. Later in a campaign it can get confusing to remember what skills your characters actually have, when everyone has 10 skills each. It's annoying when you have so many skills you forget when you can use them in a game.  "Oh, I forgot I had "Great Balance" - I could have re-rolled that fatal fall into a lava pit."

Skills definitely need a cap on how many can be taken (I'm talking 2-3) and/or how many people can take them (see Heroes & Minions).

The 20% rule.  
I remember a FPS MMO developer (I think Planetside?) who said they did studies where they said the maximum "level up" boost was 20%.  I.e. they could only add say 20% HP to a character, and have a non-boosted player still retain a reasonable chance to beat them.  Any more than this and it was simply too hard for a new player to overcome an experienced one.

I'd say this would apply to "advancement" in a campaign game.  The bigger the stat change, the more the chance of imbalancing the game. The 20% benchmark seems reasonable - an edge, but not an overpowering one. It also results in campaigns where a warband with early wins can "snowball" into an unstoppable juggernaut (and make it hard for new players to join an existing campaign). 

For example, in Mordhiem, models could choose the skill "dual wield' and get an extra attack.  This doubled the chance of a hit (and getting kills, gaining XP, and winning). Unsurprisingly, this 100% boost in offensive power was somewhat imbalanced in practice and became a contentious rule.

The D6
Game designers seem wedded to the d6. It's like they think they use anything else they'll drive people off.  "These new-fangled d10s!"     The D6 has a few issues.  It can fit less "stats" modifiers and results "on the dice." I.e. a soldier who hits on a 5+ whose target has a -2 cover modifier has an impossible shot (needing to roll a '7' on d6).  The game might require a roll of '6' then an extra roll of say 4+.  However this requires more rolls and the math can get murky (For example, I noticed in Bolt Action that the US Infantry bonus to move-and-fire means they have a 17% chance to make difficult shots others need a 1% on - making them 17x better at difficult shots - which is not the best way to show a semiauto vs bolt rifle).

It also has dramatic graduations of 17% (see the 20% rule above) which means stat changes have dramatic effects.  A veteran who hits on a 3+ (67%) is literally twice as good as a rookie that hits on a 5+ (33%) and half as good again as a regular soldier.  That's a BIG improvement.

A d10 not only fits more numbers on the dice, but fits with the decimal system which makes building/balancing points systems easier.

Handicap the Min-Maxers
No points system is balanced. However you can limit abuse by ensuring there is a degree of randomness in upgrades and advancements. 

I quite like "controlled randomness" - i.e. allowing players to use specific advancement tables so you don't get skills that are complete nonsense for that type of character - I.e. a blind ogre with a huge axe getting sharpshooter skills - but prevents players from "cherry picking" the best skills or combinations of skills. 

Remember how Blood Bowl had skill categories for Stength, Agility, Passing, General etc?  I'm suggesting players should be able to choose the category, but not the precise skill, which should be decided by a dice roll.

This of course applies to stats.  For example in Infinity, BS (Shooting skill) can also be used to avoid enemy fire as well as reliably inflicting lethal damage at massive ranges. This makes it at least twice as useful as "armour" stats which is used for defence only.

Heroes and Minions
Whilst I don't agree with the "only one guy levels up" of Infinity, having every man (and his dog) using non-standard stats and umpteen special rules can get confusing.  Weapons are simple enough if they are WYSIWYG, but everyone having different stats and a zillion unique skills can be confusing.

I liked how LOTR's Battle Companies worked.  You might have a few heroes with special skills, but most of your force - the "minions" - simply could swap equipment or "level up" to a similar but better model (i.e. Gondor men at arms becomes an elite Guard of the Fountain Court).  Minions likewise did not roll on special injury tables but simply missed a game or were removed outright.  This removed a lot of record keeping and hassle.

Going the "Minions" route would mean there would be range of different types of models, which come in rookie, regular, and veteran versions.  They can thus "rank up" to the next level (i.e. rookie to regular, regular to veteran) without acquiring a plethora of stat changes or special rules.  Veteran versions could perhaps then roll to become heroes themselves.

Start with the Points System
This is a bit controversial, but if you are aiming for a balanced point system (yes, I've said it is impossible) then you need to consider your points system while designing your game mechanics.  Designers often try to come up with the wackiest ways to resolve shooting, melee, etc - but using weird dice resolution methods can complicate the balance process.  3D6 vs 2D8s might seem cool, but it's difficult to balance, given the statistical "curve"of results.  Having to roll a 4 or less on d10 is undeniably a 40% chance to succeed - a lot easier to balance.

Don't think this is important?  Look at the success of Song of Blades - it's basically a points system with a game attached to it.  Think about 40K and Warmahordes - people often spend more time "building" and discussing army lists than they do playing.  Points systems allow players to have fun even when they aren't playing.

Off Topic: If you want an example of list building taken to an extreme, have a look at this Warmachine statistical breakdown and discussion of all units used in "masters" competitive play.  Just...wow...

Have a Set Campaign Length
A lot of campaign games can falter as time goes on as "imbalances" between warbands can become exaggerated and new armies can find it hard to beat "levelled up" armies no matter what artificial bonuses/handicaps you give them.  Having a set campaign length - say say ~8 games - means you can plan for the amount of "advancements" and skills a army might have by game 8.  If the games are 2 per week, that's a month of play.

Advancement not tied to winning (not extra XP for wins)
This sounds a little weird, but it's to prevent the "juggernaut"effects of a few early wins making a warband level up faster than everyone else,  thus making it easier to win, and get more XP/advancement to get farther ahead.  Catch-22.  Players don't need any inducement to win, and losing can be just as character building as winning.  Whilst not everyone is uber-competitive, no one plays to lose. I mean, you look at all the guys with the win-loss ratios of their Warhammer armies as their online avatar.  The competitive are going to compete anyway - they don't need extra inducements.  Furthermore, the loser probably already has more troops injured or out for next game - they don't need extra punishment.

Different Scenarios
If you want to stop every game from turning into a deathmatch, scenarios with varied an interesting objectives are essential.  This is not something that gets done at the end of the rules book at the last minute - it needs to be considered at the start, as some scenarios radically impact a faction's chance of winning and losing.

Playing Catch-up: the "Offline" skill roll or "Bye"round
Weaker or newer warbands are often compensated by extra gold or XP or rerolls.  But they aren't that cool and always seemed a bit contrived to me.  Maybe allow "late arrivals" to a campaign to have a few free skill rolls once, but at a much lower amount to actually playing.  Kinda like a bye in sport.  I've played MMOs (EvE, Planetside) where you can "advance" when you were offline, and they made me play MORE because I'd be keen to spend and test out my new skill points.  Obviously playing should be more attractive, but missing a game night shouldn't leave you hopelessly behind the 8-ball.

Co-Op Option (Space Hulk/Horde mode)
This is not about balance, but might add a bit of variety to a not-so-serious campaign.  I enjoyed Strange Aeons' "co op" feature - their warbands never fought each other directly but each player would take a turn being the "Opfor" and controlling the monsters.  Each players warband could level up without ever directly opposing another players' warband.  This makes things more relaxed as the Opfor player doesn't have as big a stake in proceedings and it would be a fun change of pace.  Two thoughts: a player who had played way more games than the other players might have to be an opfor now and then - he can harm his opponents kinda indirectly, while not increasing the gap in mismatched warbands.  A hopelessly outgunned warband could request a horde game or it might be a random occurrance.  The other idea - this could possibly be automated and allow players who cannot attend games days to play a solo 'catch-up' game, earning XP at a lower rate.
Lastly, a horde game can also be directly balanced against a player's warband i.e. an 300-pt elite warband faces 300pts of foes, and a 100pt warband gets 100pts of foes.

Short Game Times (60-90 minutes)
Two Hour Wargames?  It needs to be faster than that.  You need to be able to play back-to-back games in an evening. Song of Blades does this very well (about ~45 minutes per game).  Games need to play quickly, so you can do the fun advancement stuff between battles, and see genuine progression.  Instant gratification ftw!

Familiar Mechanics (or "different but not too different")
Players seem to like the familiar.  Think how many games use 40K mechanics.  The trick is to be different, but not too different.  Many indie developers like to tear up old mechanics "just because." Whilst I personally enjoy their creativity, I wonder if there might be a bigger market in evolution, rather than revolution. How many of us tried to make a "better 40K?" Honestly, tossing out IGOUGO for a more tactical initiative/activation system with reactive actions, and adding some depth with some sort of easy-to-use resource management would be great.  The basic combat-resolution mechanics can remain 40K for all I care (although a shift to d10 might be nice) and would be familiar to old 40K players (which as Warlord and Mantic know, are a huge market.)  I don't think "no measuring" for example is needed - people seem to like the familiar.  I'd like to see the familiar, but better.

EDIT: Don't delay gratification too much...
I don't like having to play 2-3 games with a vanilla warband before getting any fun skills. I think having a pre-campaign skill roll means you start with flavourful warbands.  Progression should be occuring from the first game. While advancements shouldn't be handed out willy-nilly, you shouldn't have to "endure"though a heap of games before your warband gets interesting and fun to play.

I guess this is a bit of a wish-list of ideas, so let's summarise them:

-short, sweet games allowing the fun "advancement"and "injury" stuff in a gaming sessions
-advancement is not tied to winning (to reduce snowballing)
-special rules are minimized (by either amount i.e. 2-3 per mini, or limiting them to 3-5 "heroes" while the majority get "global" upgrades); special rules are kept to a minimum (~20)
-keep mechanics familiar, but improve key areas (activation, reactions, resource management)
-handicap min-maxers by making skills/upgrades 'controllably' unpredictable
-keep stat upgrades sensible (the 20% rule) to keep warbands from "snowballing" to be unbeatable
-some sort of horde mode/free skill roll for people who start late/miss a game or two
-bear the points system in mind when making the game
-balance campaigns (and advancement) around a set amount of games (~8)

EDIT: I think the main thrust of the ideas are stop "wildly unbalanced/runaway juggernaut" warbands that get a few early wins (or min-ax with certain cheesy combos) and them steamroller everyone (without lots of artificial "balancing" outside the game, like Blood Bowl extra gold etc for weaker teams), and to keep the game simple and clean with few special skills, and only mild stat improvements (max 20% stat boost, not the 100% dual wield boost of Mordhiem, for example).

I'm sure I'll think of some other things, but it's a school night and there'll be plenty of ideas from the comments section I'm sure.  What are ways to "balance" a campaign and keep it fun?  What would you like to see in a "new" Mordhiem?


  1. I think the perfect Skirmish progressive system is purely dependant upon the environment the game is being developed for, which will then decide the required focus needed in terms of Balance against Narrative progression options. Personally I prefer a more narrative focused game but that's not to say any glaringly obvious balance issues should be ignored but some can be in terms of theme.

    To explain what I mean, I will relate to a discussion on Yaktribe about Necromuinda, which with community refined editions they have been trying to balance the gangs/skills/development based on much experience. Now in some cases I feel that balancing has gone too far and has removed the narrative behind some of the gangs but the conversation in particular was about Spyrers and how they could be balanced with normal house gangs. My response was simple, they cannot without losing what makes them a solid narrative device because its the fact that they are superhuman death machines that makes them special so how can you possibly balance them against a gang of what are essentially ghetto thugs. Does this make them bad, not in my opinion but it does mean they could not be used in a competitive environment as such, so coming back to your question that really depends on what your looking for from a game.

    From a purely personal perspective I like Skirmish games as a cross over between RPG's which I love and wargames which I also love but as you reduce the scale in terms of model count I'm looking to increase the RPG elements, of course that's just me.

    Creating a RPG Skirmish crossover I'd use some core themes such as; A small group alternating activation system (so part of your gang) with a alertness and reaction mechanic - So basically you shoot someone or charge head long act them unless they are suppressed in some fashion they can attempt to return fire (within fire fight range) or can shoot at you while you charge recklessly at them. This is a far more natural and engrossed core system of interaction between players and provides many layers of tactical and expandable depth (Expanded by Order systems, magical control/robots AI, beast mastery. stealth, observation, laying in ambush, having zones of control/threat etc).

    I would utilise a Action system (1 long or two short, plus 1+ reactions) that has rules for fatigue (risk of additional reactions) a location based damage system (legs, arms, body, head wings) with post game detail for injury repair (also allows for variable location armour etc and targeted/skilled strikes). In addition I like to treat mental Trauma like health with a fluid level dependent on battlefield effects or time spent recovering and having its own detailed post game perm damage/recovery system. Fighters can this way be taken out of action via either physical or mental damage.

    1. I do think you're approaching from the "narrative"point of view - with all the creativity of that style! A few responses:

      While I agree with activation/reaction ideas, a set of 8+ stats is heading deep into RPG terrritory...

  2. Id use a split Character and Henchman type force list with characters being either leaders of specialists and henchman being basic troops who have a far more basic/codified advancement system to the far more expansive character type member.

    Important for me would be the inclusion of hidden objectives and bonus objectives that are randomly determined before each player selects the forces from his warband they can bring into play. While killing will always gain experience and possible loot it would rarely be the purpose of the encounter which instead would be won by a player securing various objectives before there opponent can do like wise. This also negates out right losing because even the non winning player may have secured various objectives which will then provide post game benefits and experience. I like the hidden variable side but with focused select simply because it keeps players on there toes, they don't know what there opponents trying to do and its constant second guessing.

    In regards to Characteristics/Skills and Special Rules I like to have a core set of Characteristics around 8 is normally right for the RPG style variation I enjoy but it could be a couple more or a couple less depending on how some things are classified. As regards to Skills I like these to be a stepped progression of specific battlefield ability somewhat like Infinity. Then I like traits that can be more physical aspects of the model that are kind of like a mix between a Characteristic or a Skill.

    As Regards to core mechanics I like the idea of a modified 2dx + Characteristic/skill & trait/environmental modifiers opposed to a target difficulty, or in the case of an Attack against a targets defence which is gained from some core traits such as the models size, armour and dexterity (both positive and negative), as well as if the fighter is in cover or not (I like a standard yes/no one modifier for this - but I have cover increase the fighters ability to absorb damage based on the type of materials providing it against ranged attacks). If hits are determined, then a location is also done so by a standard method unless targeted or area encompassing and damage is then rolled and apply directly to a fighters physical resistance/armour then health. Criticals can be achieved by doubling a difficulty and critical failures by getting less than half the required, the mechanic works with on going tests with a required number of successful tests over a period of rounds and is very easy to use while being highly adaptive.

    Well that's how I'd do it.. though that may be more detailed than your expecting its not something I've put little thought into...

    Thanks for Reading Crimsonsun

    1. Objectives are important to avoid "kill em all" games - XP can be attached to them, just not so focussed on winning.

      Core mechanics don't matter (to me). Using a Warmachine approach is fine but 2d6 makes for difficult math when balancing.

      Individual hit locations remind me of Gloire and Battletech - two games not known for swift resolution. Remember the more detailed the mechanics, the slower the game plays - and it would be ideal to be able to play 2-3 games in an evening....

      Lots of interesting ideas, by the way - you should make a draft set on GoogleDrive/Dropbox and see if people want to playtest it with you....

  3. GW's Blood Bowl did this nicely also - one 'levelled up' your players as they got experience which gives them additional, special abilities. However each of these abilities was worth a certain amount of value (think paying more for a player at the Draft). Before playing, the players total the 'value' of their team and compare.

    The team which is 'worth' less then gets to spend the difference on special equipment, ring-in 'star' players etc. This makes then game competitive despite the difference in experience levels, and works very well. The team which does very well early on and gets a lot of experience/skill is then worth more and all their opponents get more in 'extras' for the games

    I'll have a think about other systems I like but I'm 'mopping up what you're putting down' (to use a local saying here) in this post about campaigning. I introduced my son to a Viking war band game (Age of Blood) a few years ago which included a neat campaign system. It changed his play style when it took a few games to level up characters and he started really thinking about where he wanted to attack and what might happen to his 'dudes'

    1. I played a fair bit of Blood Bowl in my teens (awesome game) and am looking at getting the Android version.

      However the "filler" stuff like star players, re-rolls etc is something I'd like to minimise in favour of simply having more balanced warbands through the campaign.

    2. But what if you could get a temporary attachment - a 'wandering wizard' if you will - who comes along for the fun of one mission for his own reasons, but doesn't join the war band. The filler then adds a creative element which balances that encounter while adding to the narrative

    3. True. It's not bad in itself - it just how it is used to paper over cracks in the game design.

      Personally, I like to level up my own dudes, rather than use some random guy who I'll never see again....

  4. A campaign is always going to end up unbalanced, but usually it's so fun that the players don't mind.

    As an aside, the skill problem was solved by GW before they invented the problem. Necromunda had skills randomly generated from within a category while Mordheim let you choose freely which was broken more or less instantly.

    1. That's awful for terms of narrative development or building to a tactic, I seriously HATE random skill categories. Random increase aka bloodbowl is fine but random skills is so meh, especially since there's always a couple of useless ones which your super star gangsta killer dudes going to roll...

    2. True! My memories of Necromunda are hazy as I I remember I liked the game but disliked the post-apoc setting. There's something about leather, bad hygiene and spiky bitz that just does not appeal (...this one time, at band camp...)

    3. I don't think a campaign should be perfectly balanced nor should it be.

      However I'd like to see the wilder swings in warband ability minimized and largely remove the "filler" stuff (re-rolls, extra gold a la Blood Bowl).

      Usually the indie RPG lite-skirmish guys are the ones with enormous imaginations that add " all the cool things." The games are made from a purely narrative-RPG standpoint. I'd like to see a more "balanced" (accidental pun) approach.

    4. I don't think players should be able to "build to a tactic" (aka min-max) but neither should rolls be random. and totally unsuited to the player (like I said, an ogre should not be getting random sharpshooter skills).

      Your super-gangsta-killer shouldn't become a wtfbbqpwn machine - I vaguely recall some Mordhiem heroes (undead?) could become unstoppable/unkillable if they levelled up early.

    5. Lol Undead were utterly underpowered in Mordheim along with witch hunters because most of there warband could not gain experience and it was henchman that were broken due to a combination of limited increases open and little experience required to get them there would mean that you'd quickly have groups 1-5 for Str4 T4 A2 W2 minions running around! That and the movement Skills that technically allowed a easily achievable 24" charge range and a possible 30" range which is further than most common missile weapons could fire!

      Though I've got to admit despite its flaws I still love Mordheim though for changes I am watching the currently beta format video game version as they seem to have changed a lot of the base mechanics towards a swifter more dynamic game, though I'm still dubious about having all gangs the same size (never an issue in my opinion in the previous games and a handy balancing tool)...

  5. Crimson sun you should definitely try strange aeons its got heros and henchmen 1 major hero and 1 minor hero its got an alternating activation but you can normally nominate 3 guys if 1 of them is your leader. its got actions its got skills and stats advances. plus lots of monster variants and pulpy goodness
    I do like that 1 player takes on the role as protaganist and one is the enemy so it doesnt have that gang vesus gang feel and feels more different.
    because 1 guy is not fighting with his 'gang' he feels less stressed about losing his guys and more likely to take risks

    1. Having a look now, the name is confusing however as I swear its what some software I've used for years now for creating gaming cards and accessories for games such as wfrp3e

    2. I think I reviewed it:


  6. All great advice, I think we are on the same page as to what we like from our games. Like many others I'm busy developing my own game, and i take hart from all your observations that I am on the right track.

    1. I don't mind if people disagree, as long as I have helped people consider WHY they do things. Most rules books seem to have one good idea, and the rest is done in rote fashion as "paint by numbers/connect the dots"

    2. Roll to hit, roll for damage, roll saving throw, roll morale.
      Repeat 1000 times.

      Death by Yahtzee

    3. ^This. However mechanics bother me less than lack of thought in activation/initiative. It's a dead horse, but I like to beat it. Ignoring activation for IGOUGO is like ignoring the presence of a 3rd dimension - you're skipping a complete level of tactics/depth that isn't complex to implement.

      I'm becoming increasingly interested in simple resource management implemented within games. For example, the Robotech units getting a "command token" they can use to boost their normal move/fire/defence isn't a complicated rule, but how and when you spend it adds a lot of depth for only a tiny increase in difficulty.

    4. Limited resource generates choice. Choice generates thinking. Thinking leads to strategy.
      In the same extend, creating/having weaknesses generate choice, ...

  7. My 2cts contribution to the topic.

    First, let's agree on the definition of Skirmish game: 1-12 individuals per side, with micro management of the individual (we manage the equipment, the characteristics of the individual).

    For storytelling based, that will be 1-2 Hero with 3-4 Buddy (sidekicks) and a bunch of Henchmen (noname, rank and file, cannon fodder, ...) to help but without any deep background.

    To get to your balance quick game/deep rules, I would go for an extended set of characteristics, but not too much. This is still a skirmish, not a RP, and Oratory is not a bulletproof skill.

    Agility (cinematic action: jumping, stumbling, ...), Strength (hit hard or no, carry load), Stamina (= wounds, decrease with wounds taken), Willpower (from magic to capacity to stay in the fight), Perception (Against hidden units, to find stuff, which may give scenario opportunity other than flag and kill), BS (shooting), WS (Melee), Movement (inch), Bravado (for the subset of characters that count and may progress, gives extra dice to roll).

    3 categories of individuals: Henchman, Buddy, Hero
    Henchman: Stamina 1, Bravado 0. This guys is out on the first wound, cannot roll 1 extra dice
    Buddy: Stamina 2, Bravado 0. This guys can stand more than 1 wound but will not have extra dice
    Hero: Stamina 2+, Bravado 1+. The character that can really do something, with Bravado, can roll an extra dice on critical test. Bravado spent is reset at the end of the scenario. Rolling extra dice is done before actual result. It's more an insurance dice than a re-roll.

    then, you will go with at most 1 skill per Buddy, zero for Henchmen, and 2 or 3 max per Hero.
    Skill would be 6-10 per characteristics. you roll once per turn, and once you reach the characteristic increase.
    Example. Vala is a Hero. He has Agility 4 (whatever scale). Each game he survives, he gain 1 XP. He assign all his XP to Agility. Once at 4, he can buy 1 more Skill for Agility. Point is: Growing skills is long, so characters are likely set, only player will less casualties will gain edge. Skill can be limited to 1 per characteristic and drawn randomly.

    1. For Bravado, I forgot to give an example.
      Vala shoot at the enemy boss. If he hits, game is won. So, to make sure he hit, the Player roll 1 dice (standard dice to test) and 1 more dice (from the Bravado) to increase chances to succeed. If the test is failed, same. If both dice succeeded, no additional effect, Bravado is still spent.

    2. For some reason, reading your post reminded me of a gripe I have with Battle Companies - it may take 2-3 games for anyone to level up beyond vanilla. I reckon units should start with a bit of flavour (maybe skill rolls before the campaign). Will add it to the original post.

    3. Yeah - Bravado is kinda like "Might" from Lord of the Rings - a finite resource to pull of heroic moves/survive. It's a good way to make heroes heroic without giving them godlike stats.

  8. I enjoyed the old Realm of Chaos campaign rules from WFB 3rd edition. Create your Chaos Champion and his warband, roll lots of D1000s for mutations etc. Champion and individual characters get individual Chaos attributes (some good, some bad, some with no effect other than interesting modelling/conversion possibilities), units in the warband get "dominant Chaos attributes (not all in the band have it so a reduced average effect).
    Not particularly balanced because you could end up with one warband with only a couple of characters but another with fearsome mutations and 20 characters but we still had great fun with it in the late '90s!

  9. Some excellent ideas in the main article.
    I really like the idea of skill rolls during the "Bye" rounds.

    We bring this idea from the oldskool RPGs that fighting makes you stronger.
    While practice may get you to the Carnegie hall, incessant fighting gets you killed (or at least mad).
    Modern armies know this - and endeavour to rotate their troops out of the lien before long term combat fatigue sets in.

    Learning (and I think that's what we mean by progress or levelling up) really requires two things.
    1. Performing practical skills within, but at the upper end of your current ability. (Killing your first Orc is a learning experience, killing your two thousandth .. No isn't it time you moved onto the ogres?).
    2. Study and rest. Practical learning, instructed or self paced, but done where it's safe to experiment, learn that new fancy move form a fencing instructor, try some longer range shooting....

    I'd propose that the characters or unit need a mixture of both to really improve their abilities.