Tell me about "Tactical" story games.

edited February 2012 in Story Games
So we are getting a little burnt out on story games and actually want to play some deep tactical combats. But, we do not want any of the traditional roll for hit, roll for damage, type systems. We also have between 7-8 people in the group so games with a lot of "Scene Time" just do not work. What are some recommendations that you might have?

Comments

  • Do you have a genre in mind?
    Guns? Swords? Lasers?

    Also, what do you mean by "Scene Time"?
  • edited February 2012
    Three games that come to mind that might fit your interests:
    Agon: This is a great game for encouraging ‘tactical’ decisions by the players—what weapons to use from round to round in a combat; when, where, or even who to move on the battlefield, which target to attack, when to call on assistance from other characters, etc., without requiring specific swing-by-swing level detail, tactical maneuvering on a grid, or details like called-shots and critical hit tables. Battles can take a long time, but Agon can certainly be played so that character is what you are on the battlefield. There is lots of dice rolling, but not rolling to hit/rolling for damage. Attackers and defenders roll at the same time; if the attacker’s result is higher, and the defender then fails an armor check, the defender is wounded. Six wounds and the opponent is defeated!

    Burning Wheel: BW’s Fight and Range & Cover rules would likely provide deep tactical combats. These combats may take too long for your group, at 7-8 players—unless, perhaps, their characters are fighting each other. Combats can be conducted quickly in BW by avoiding the Fight and Range & Cover rules. Instead, the Bloody Versus rules, in which characters build dice pools and then divide the dice between offense and defense—a tactical decision if ever there was one—provide a good compromise. The size of the dice pool is partly based on things like armor, weapon reach, physical characteristics of the combatants, the geography of the battlefield, and other factors that savvy players will look to maximize. The battle is won or lost before the dice are rolled in the creation of the dice pools and the decision on the offense/defense split. A single set of dice rolls (offense/defense) by each combatant determines the victor.

    The One Ring: I have just started playing TOR, but I think it lays in between BW (Bloody Versus) and Agon in terms of tactical complexity. In combat, the player characters determine a battle stance. This stance determines the target number both of the PC to hit the opponent, and the opponent to hit the PC [modified by armor]. On a hit, weapon damage is fixed—although good dice rolls will increase that damage. Monsters have special features powered by Hate, and the PCs have non-attack type options to do during the fight—inspire others, defend others, etc. Combatants can be defeated through either the gradual loss of endurance, or one or two very effective blows. The tactical decisions involve combat stances and the use of special actions, as well as balancing the amount of armor worn—more armor means a better defense rating, but a lower endurance threshold.

    Bottom Line—they’re all worth trying!
    Mel
  • Wushu Open Reloaded is something I remember being both tactical in its resolution and consistently satisfying fictionally, due to the fact that the 1st rule is essentially, "whatever the person says happens, happens," with 2 caveats: Other players can veto you, which sort of forces you to stay at least within genre, and you can't barrage the death of any important PC or NPC without first defeating them mechanically (in all other cases, you describe the fictional action and its results, THEN roll, which is actually pretty boss).
  • Anima Prime is an awesome choice. It's tactical, while still feeling breezy and accessible. It's inspired by the Final Fantasy series and other JRPG ideas.

    Cinematic Combat: You spend turns doing maneuvers to accumulate dice before making a big strike. This leads to combats that involve lots of leaping from ledge to ledge, charging up your powerful soulbound weapons, planning ambushes, etc. Combat always feels dynamic and exciting.

    Powers: You have 10 powers. Some just boost a specific type of action (like giving you +2 to combined strikes), while others give you magical powers (like turning your missile-based attacks into fire-elemental attacks, or causing your fists to drain psychic energy from opponents). There are a list of "power kits" to pick from at the start of the game if you just want to get playing. You pick two "power kits" and combine them - boom, that's your 10 powers right there. Now you're an interdimensional soulwalker, or a steambound soldier.

    "Cut Scene" Mentality: Think like a video game. You've got a big, exciting fight. Then there are character cut-scenes. Whether they're flashbacks, tender confessions of inter-party love, or training montages... your cut scenes recharge your skills and abilities. Then, there's a scene where you're scouring the underside of the airship, looking for that one last rogue stowaway. But when you find him, gasp!, it's Luca Kane! How did he find you here? Didn't he die on the Bridge of Souls? Cue the fight scene music.
  • 3:16 works well for a large group and has some tactical goodness
  • So yeah, what I'd go for here would be Tunnels & Trolls. Let me say that I expect that your antipathy towards traditionalism involves greater systemic issues than just the base fight mechanics, but even if we take that by face value, T&T is just great for your purposes: it does not have the initiative -> roll to hit -> damage roll structure of D&D, it doesn't primarily run off miniatures tactics (important if you want to stay away from the modern D&D, Savage Worlds, etc. line of thinking), and I guess it is a "story game", if we understand that to mean a game where fictional positioning has massive, drastic consequence. It also takes up to 20 to 30 players after a bit of practice.

    Specifically, I recommend T&T because it is tactical in the sense of purposeful planning and action. It's not a drama game, a narrativist game, however one might phrase that - it's not about your own scene, it's about teamwork and using your imagination to overcome obstacles. Very tactical, with plenty of leeway for the players to hijack both the direction and narration of the events as long as they have a strong sense of the facts on the ground (fictional positioning) and their options (medieval fantasy commando tactics).

    And yes, the combat system of the game is still one of the most radical out there.
  • Seconding Anima Prime. It's a wonderful game.

    But! Its mechanics feed into narration during battle. When you make a roll, you need to fictionalize the stunt you're doing or the killshot you're landing or whatever. Plus, as Joe points out, cutscenes. If your gang is weary of story games, that might not be right for you.
  • I'd recommend Weapons of the Gods, for a very large number of reasons, but the short version is that:
    a) its combat mechanics are quite intricate and involved, yet exceedingly fun to play out, with plenty of dramatic events and narration
    b) its system of Lore Sheets allow the players to shape the evolving storyline in an explicit, yet organic way that's guaranteed to fit within the game's theme
    c) the game's rules support your choices well - there's no disconnect between "narration" and "mechanics"
    In the two campaigns I've played, I've played a Martial Chef (and had "food fights" a la Kung Fu Panda with other chefs) and a transsexual Baneful flute-playing/fighting seduc/er/tress - both of the Courtier class - yet had amazing combat scenes.
    It's a fantastic game that's much deeper than it appears, though it does require some serious parsing through the massive corpus of text to figure out what the rules are. Only real problem may be the length of battles with 7-8 players. We were 4 players + GM and had time for maybe one long or two short fights per session, plus some of the usual troubles and hare-brained schemes.
  • Posted By: johnzocutscenes. If your gang is weary of story games, that might not be right for you.
    I dunno. I find that the cut scene mentality translates into "we'll advance character stories in little increments here and there, rather than trying to create non-stop character drama." So maybe you have two character scenes per session, and each is about 1-3 minutes long.

    In the first one, you tell Squeaks (your childhood quasi-romantic best friend) that you can't stay on Dimville, and that he can't come with you. You walk away, a single tear streaming down your face. 2 minutes, something to keep the character interesting, but not something that requires much emotional investment for reals. In the second one, you are taking out your loneliness in a training montage, slashing sandbags at the edge of Fort Lightly. Two minutes of narration, and you're charged up and ready for battle again.

    Certainly your character scenes could be much more involved than that, but I've played Anima Prime in the mode where we have cute, simple character cut scenes... and then segue right back into the crazy airship bat-monster fights.
  • edited February 2012
    Posted By: lachekI'd recommendWeapons of the Gods, for a very large number of reasons, but the short version is that:
    I would recommend Legends of the Wulin for the same reasons, and because it's basically a cleaned up version of Weapons of the Gods.

    Edit: Scratch that . . 7-8 players might get a little unwieldy for something like LotW. I mean, it might be worth a look, but I think you'd spend all night running a single kung-fu brawl. (Maybe that's not a bad thing?)
  • Posted By: akooser3:16works well for a large group and has some tactical goodness
    Okay, I agree with the former but can you please explain your reasoning for claiming the latter? The game is pretty much a mindless splatterfest, much like Starship Troopers.
  • I'll dig up the storygames threads about 3:16. There is a large amount of depth in the game and the tactical game plays out in a manner similar to T&T describe above by Eero.
  • Ingenero is meant for action-themed play. Tactics are based in fictional choices rather than mechanical chocies, however.

    Mechanical choices are act, counter, cross and resist but they are informed by the fictional circumstances.
  • I don't want to clutter the thread with 3:16 stuff so here are two older threads on storygames worth looking at if you are hunting for a tactical story game
    http://www.story-games.com/forums/comments.php?DiscussionID=8334
    http://www.story-games.com/forums/comments.php?DiscussionID=8851

    The game and AP has lots of nods and winks kinda like if you ask how to run/play Lacuna.

    ara
  • If you're thinking of big stompy robots, MechWarrior + BattleTech is a good combo.
    --
    TAZ
  • Posted By: zircherIf you're thinking of big stompy robots, MechWarrior + BattleTech is a good combo.
    --
    TAZ
    Back in high school, gaming was as much a social get together as anything else. We had 15 players show up for a MechWarrior session once. During combat, while waiting for my turn I got hungry. So I went and mixed up some pancake batter, made some pancakes, ate them and returned to the gaming room. I still had to wait for my turn. It was a 10 hour session and all we did was the one combat.
  • edited February 2012
    Yeah, the thing to remember is that a mech is just as complex as a character and as tough to kill. Fifteen of anything will take time. I made a fast kill version of BTech for my son and his friends several years ago where all the data for a single mech fit on an index card. These rookies were running full lances with ease and much of the BattleTech 'flavor' intact.
    --
    TAZ

    BTechZ (for those that are curious)
  • I think just saying "tactical" might have some issues here. What kind of tactics specifically? Resource management? Wargame or chess style tactics? Bluffing and deducing what opponents are hiding type tactics?

    I'm going to suggest the Marvel Universe RPG, if you can find a copy and like resource management.
  • Posted By: thadrineSo we are getting a little burnt out on story games and actually want to play some deep tactical combats. But, we do not want any of the traditional roll for hit, roll for damage, type systems. We also have between 7-8 people in the group so games with a lot of "Scene Time" just do not work. What are some recommendations that you might have?
    Posted By: Mel WhiteAgon: This is a great game for encouraging ‘tactical’ decisions by the players
    Agon. Definitely Agon. Super fun tactics.

    7-8 people is a lot for any game. I would almost consider breaking the heroes in two opposing factions. Agon is already very competitive between PCs.
  • Posted By: akooserI'll dig up the storygames threads about 3:16. There is a large amount of depth in the game and the tactical game plays out in a manner similar to T&T describe above by Eero.
    3:16 is our game of choice for a tactical fix and I've played it with six not problem. And I agree, for us it plays like Eero's description.
  • We have played a lot of these in the past and enjoy them. Our big complaint is the "Scene Time" required for some games. And by scene time I refer to the fact many games require a significant amount of time for "Each" character to play through their scenes, while everyone else just sits and waits.

    For tactics we need lots of combat options and "If this...then this" type situations. For us we did not find 3:16 tactically engaging at all, but Agon definitely sounds like a good choice.
  • Posted By: Eero TuovinenSo yeah, what I'd go for here would beTunnels & Trolls

    (...)

    And yes, the combat system of the game is still one of the most radical out there.
    That sounds quite interesting. Hoping I'm not hijacking a thread... suppose I'm thinking about giving T&T a try: which editions shall I be interested in? Do I need supplements to play it?
  • We talked about T&T here a bit back, I seem to remember that we went through the basics then... here's a thread about T&T combat at least. Apparently I'm remembering some discussion somewhere else, can't find the thread about the differences between T&T editions right away.

    Anyway, the correct answer (read: my opinion) is short and easy and doesn't derail the thread much: Any edition of Tunnels & Trolls you can actually get your hands on will serve you just fine. The differences between 5 and 7 are, while noticeable, not significant in terms of procedure and method. They're also very compatible, you can just pick the features from each that you like. And no, you don't really need any supplements, although reading a bit in the Internet about the methodology will be useful: the rules texts are brainchilds of their time, and not written in Forgese, so it's easy to miss the real strengths of the system ;)
  • While Anima Prime does have lots of fun tactical bits (especially in custom effects goals), it starts slowing down with 5 PCs. 7-8 would be too many for a fluent game, I'm afraid.
  • edited February 2012
    Posted By: thadrinewe do not want any of the traditional roll for hit, roll for damage, type systems
    Posted By: zircherIf you're thinking of big stompy robots, MechWarrior + BattleTech is a good combo.
    Not if you are trying to avoid "roll for hit, roll for damage" systems. (OK, so BattleTech is really "roll for hit, roll for where the damage happens", but still.)

    Mecha is a better mech fighting game (and my BattleTech hack of it even better), but still not what the original poster is after, I think.

    Now Mobile Frame Zero, on the other hand, might be what you want. Or not.
  • edited February 2012
    Posted By: Wordman
    NowMobile Frame Zero, on the other hand, might be what you want. Or not.
    Ok, now this makes me kinda mad ;P . I have been following Mechaton for years and now I find there is another "Lego Mecha" game by the same dudes and I have ever heard of it.

    All this talk of Mecha talk has also made me interested in playing Aegis Project. Any of you have any experience with it?
    Especially since Blood and Honor is still a strong contender for our next game.
  • Posted By: thadrine

    All this talk of Mecha talk has also made me interested in playing Aegis Project. Any of you have any experience with it?
    Especially since Blood and Honor is still a strong contender for our next game.
    I do not have direct experience with AP, but what I have heard from people both in and out of my group is that it is literally missing vital chunks of the mechanics-- like, the game frequently references things that just don't exist in the text (for instance, the game says that damaging a mech's battery will make it explode, but the battery is not actually listed on the mecha hit location chart). If you don't mind the "fixer-upper" nature of Wick's other games (like, isn't Blood and Honor actually missing any kind of healing rules?), then have at it.
  • We've had lots of fun both with Agon and 3:16, if you're staying focused on story-gamey games. I think the latter has a slight edge for larger groups due to lower handling time. Also, 3:16 rations out its screen time very specifically, mostly via the flashbacks thing.

    Aw man now I'm in the mood to play 3:16 again.
  • edited February 2012
    Posted By: thadrineOk, now this makes me kinda mad. I have been following Mechaton for years and now I find there is another "Lego Mecha" game by the same dudes and I have ever heard of it.
    It's the same game, new edition. If you want to know what's going on with it, I'm publishing it and writing a lot of the book. You can keep up on Twitter @JoshuaACNewman or on Facebook & G+.
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