Getting the balance right

Japanese ashigaru and housePlay testing on our game for Salute is going along at a steady pace. We’ve played several games at my local clubs with different people to gauge their reactions. So far the reactions have been very positive, which means I may be onto something good! It’s always important when playtesting to listen carefully to your gamers and their thought and reactions. Sometimes they’ll suggest ideas which don’t quite work with your original concept but sometimes they’ll be a goldmine, which, as the author, you’ll end up taking the credit for!

The combat system is currently a single dice per side, comparing the scores to work out who won. However unlike the ‘Legends’ series by the now defunct Warhammer Historical, it is not a simple matter of the highest wins (you’ll have to wait and see!). One of my playtesters suggested using more dice to show the quality of the opponents, say six dice with 5’s counting as a success for Samurai and four for Ashigaru. This system has been used very well in a number of games, such as IABSM and the RFCM series, but really was going against the simple roll of two dice I’d envisaged. A lot of dice rolling on the table can also interfere with what should be a simple game, particularly ours with a lot of scenery. However the same tester later suggested a really clever idea, which I immediately incorporated into the game (and I’m sure at a later date will claim it was all my own idea!). In the course of the events in the game, the Ninjas will perform several actions and leave a trail of dead bodies around the place. He pointed out that to be realistic, this should change the way that civilians and the guards react on the tabletop. Loud explosions or corpses lying around will cause a general air of unease in the air, even if they are not near the action. Of course, the way to lower the tension is for the Ninja to clean up after themselves and hide the bodies, very Metal Gear Solid! We have a reaction system for guards and civilians, so the ‘tension’ level would affect how they react, generally to detriment of the Ninja trying to crawl around unnoticed.

Getting the balance right in the game is also a challenge. It has to be a tricky game where success requires a little bit of luck and good judgement by the players. So far we’ve had something like a dozen ninja missions of which only three have succeeded and two aborted. Running head long into a pile of bad guys is a good way to end up dead. One epic duel between one Samurai, three Asigaru versus one Ninja ended up with three dead Ashigaru but the Samurai finally striking down the Ninja, being only saved from the Ninja’s attacks by his armour. Another involved a Ninja sneak killing half a Yakuza gang, decimating the other half before the boss turned up and sliced the poor Ninja in two. Combat really has the feel of an epic Samurai film, such as ‘Harakiri, Death of a Samurai’, where one hero can take on several lesser opponents and strike them down but be at risk of finally being struck down himself. However the lack of Ninja success has generally been down to poor planning rather than bad luck. More fine tuning to do!

Well that’s it for now…

Jā mata ne!
(See you later!)

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