Monday, 11 April 2011

Up in the air - Real Life (part 15 ish)

(NB: This is a bit out of date, - I wrote it on the 3rd April, then couldn't upload it for a week)

Those of you who have follow this blog for a while will know that I don't always blog from the comfort of my own home. I have, in the past, written pithy communiques from speeding trains and also from my stainless-steel and glass topped executive desk at work (during my lunch break, for anyone who knows what I do or knows anyone I work with, I hasted to add).

This one is being composed from the comfort of my executive jet, as I speed to one of my international speaking engagements, although clearly it can't be posted until we are back on terra firma.

Okay, to be perfectly honest I'm actually in the Premium Economy section of a BA 747, but I am heading towards an international speaking engagement (I've done one before, so there), this time in New Orleans. And all at the expense of my hosts, so it costs me and my employer nothing. Nada. Zilch.

Actually, not completely true. Mrs Trebian pointed out when I got the invitation that she'd always wanted to go to New Orleans, and wanted a clear explanation as to why I should get to jet off for a week and get boozed up whilst she was stuck at home on her own. Especially as both the children aren't at home at the moment. So I did a quick check and confirmed that the hotel I was booked into was following the wonderful American tradition of charging the same amount regardless of occupation level. So she gets to go to New Orleans for the week for the cost of the air fare. And as it's cheaper to fly me out weekend to weekend we get some time together whilst there as well. Plus we've only been back from Costa Rica for a week, frankly neither of us really knows what day it is, so we may as well go back to the Americas.

Unbelievably due to overcrowding on the flight I got upgraded to Club Class. We tried it on to get Mrs T upgraded as well, but no dice, alas. So I manfully surrendered my extra luxury and we both ended up back here. Which is quite nice actually. Apart from the really large man to my left, who snores so loudly I can hear him with my i-Pod plugged in quite firmly, and who, when he gets up reveals he has a pair of trousers that don't fit properly, and an annoying tendency to bend over and stick his rear end almost in my face. Still, a bit of sympathy I suppose. He's sufficiently large that he can't open his lap tray, and so has to balance nay food on his lap.

The flight time is about 10 hours, so there's lots of time to while away. The movie selection is quite good, but I rather overdosed going to CR (watched three on the flight, plus a couple of sitcoms), and those headsets, even the really good ones, hurt your ears after a while.

With that in mind I brought the trusty net book with me, and set aside some time to work on my Spanish Civil War rules. These currently have the working title of “Send Not To Know”. I was going to use “For Whom The Dice Rolls”, but that's been done repeatedly already.

I have several pages of scratchy notes, and a sort of idea as to how this all works so I thought I could spend the time knitting it all together. I suppose in the end I got about six hours at it, but of course ended up somewhere different to where I started.

My normal technique for the physical act of writing rules is two fold. Firstly I jot down notes whenever I think of things that might be interesting to use. These can be in any random sequence, - some thoughts on firing, movement, command and control. Odd bits pieces that don't fall in to any of those categories. I usually type these into a word document as I go along, adding thoughts and corrections. At this point they don't look like a set of rules, and I often haven't even got as far as putting toys on the table to help me think. I may have played a game using someone else's rules, and decided that they don't do what I want.

Next I sit down and try to write a first draft in a logical sequence. The actual act of trying to write what I'm thinking in clear English then prompts me to consider the issues I have missed. If I'm lucky at this point I may have an idea of what is significant in the game structure. Often I don't.

So for “SNTK” I started off with unit organisation. That's not too bad as I've sort of sorted that out already. Although not for cavalry (first missing bit!). Then I looked at unit classification. I've gone for two types for each unit, one to cover training and one to cover how motivated units are. This breaks away from my normal approach which is to have a simple three level Raw/Ave/Vet type classification. For the SCW you need something else for those forces that just simply picked up weapons and got on with it.

After that I went straight into command and control. I want to have a turn sequence where play alternates between players, but not too much, and restricts freedom of action, but again not too much.

I'm looking at using an army effectiveness number that is then added to a die roll to see who decides who moves first. The number will be something like 10, less one or two or more depending on many different elements are in the army. My reading so far hasn't thrown up much in the way of outright battlefield disobedience because of different political affiliations, but it is clear that it affected the efficiency of command and control. That's okay, but not too original.

My next aim was to give real benefits to units that are able to co-ordinate their attacks with other units. Co-ordinated units will be able to move and shoot together in any sequence a player wants. Otherwise a unit has to do all of its actions before moving on to another.

Co-ordination will be done by drawing playing cards for the number of units involved and the player will be able to co-ordinate a number of units up to the number of cards of the same colour. They'll be ways that a player can redraw cards so that he can effectively defer a co-ordinated attack to a later turn in order to get more kit involved. Jokers will mean co-ordinated airstrikes.

It all looks very good on the screen, and came as a complete surprise as I wrote it. I think it may be an original idea as well.

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