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Tuesday, 11 August 2015

System Wars Review Part 2 - Planetfall Rewards Table

The second part of the review of the new System Wars Supplement for Firestorm Armada covers the Planetfall rewards table. This is split into three sections covering two pages of the booklet. The first page covers General and Scenario Rewards, the second page Factional Rewards.

The basic premise here is that whatever your Battle Log scores in Firestorm, you "spend" these BL points to gain additional effects (or penalties if you've a negative score) in the Planetfall game. Why your Battle Log?

Well, initially the thought was to use a separate tracker for Planetfall points, but two things came out of this - it was possible to get utterly trashed in Firestorm but still manage to put positive Planetfall points down, and it also was rather cumbersome tracking two separate numbers simultaneously. As we're already tracking BL during a game, it made sense to link into this since it also reflects how the wider game played out. 

From a background perspective, if you land a lot of stuff on a planet, but lose the space conflict, those forces are going to be isolated and vulnerable. On the flip side, if you tear up the enemy defences, your forces - even if small - are going to be easily reinforced, resupplied and supported from orbit. So using the Battle Log seemed an elegant and familiar tool to use here - the trick then was to get the balance of Planetfall MAR points right! The additional benefit to this method is that even if you don't care about invasion ships or missions, but want to link the games, you can. Play your favourite Firestorm Armada scenario, then link it to a Planetfall battle - no extra purchases, ships or investment needed - so it's a very inclusive mechanic.

So let's take a look at the first table;

So the format of the table has confused some, since it is consolidated and covered by the phrase "Where a negative score is shown in parenthesis, this is the cost to wither reverse the effect and grant the bonus to the opposing player, or apply a negative effect to the owner's forces". Of course, the lengthy way to write this table out would have been to list the negative modifiers separately from the positives, like so;

Disrupted Supply Lines:      Increase the cost of Logistics points by +10 Points:    -2
Secured Supply Lines:         Decrease the cost ofLogistics points by -10:               +2

Maybe that is for a future amendment/errata, but as it is when you understand the concept of the table (negative points do the negative things in brackets), it's not so hard. The intent here is to give small but manageable boosts or reductions to a force that reward or penalise a player for winning or losing a prior Firestorm Armada game, without making any of the effects auto-win/auto-lose. The effects have to be worthwhile, otherwise what's the point in playing the Firestorm game, and they have to be subdued, because otherwise why play the Planetfall game?

From my personal playtest experience of using these, I've found they have an effect on the game, without making the conclusion foregone, and winning a Planetfall game when you lost the Firestorm game is great kudos, and feels very thematic - yes the horrible aliens breached your defences, but they were fought back by the brave men and women of the 401st....

That segways nicely into the Scenario Rewards - at the moment there are no "official" scenarios for Planetfall (but watch this space!), but making this table have very generic "Attacker" and "Defender" slots means you can use it right off the bat - I attack an Aquan planet in Firestorm using my Pacification Fleet, get some troops down and then play a Planetfall game - I'm the attacker by default, simple.

Now, you do need to win big to make good use of this table, since the rewards start at +12 points, so you're not getting these if you're only playing Patrol Fleet games. Background wise, Patrol fleets aren't big enough nor attacking important enough targets to get to these.

Finally, we have the Factional Rewards. These are designed to give some racial flavour to the table, and make it less generic. Now there have been some mis-conclusions drawn from this table (for instance, you can't put Carbantium Plating on an Hyperion Leviathan - the effect specifically states an Armoured Squadron, and Leviathans are Elevated), and there are also some errors/omissions that need addressing (Perfect Cloak should also have this "A single Armoured squadron" wording), but overall the intent of the effects are as before - to add small but manageable buffs to existing gameplay.

Of course, the way this is handled makes it a very easy format to release campaign and even scenario specific modifiers or replacements for these tables in future - and as Planetfall is an evolving game that is exactly how it should be - there are no aerial helix bonuses, for instance, as there were no aerial helixes released at the time. So, just like Planetfall is a living ruleset, so the Planetfall rewards tables are meant to be a starting point, rather than a finished entity. They allow linking of ANY Firestorm game with ANY Planetfall game, and hopefully tie the two together in a loose and flexible way, rather than a restrictive manner - this is certainly what the design intent is.