[minis+] Combat: Doll-play vs. Wargame style rules/mechanics/approaches



  • Using Arthurian legend as an example, you'd need:
    1. As NPCs, a green knight, a red knight, a black knight, a damsel, a child (boy or girl), two or three peasants, an old man/woman, a cleric, an angel (or white knight) and some boss threat if it isn't already one of these first ones (like a wicked king/queen/witch/wizard/dragon). Maybe throw in a wounded king/queen and a righteous king/queen. But really you could get by with less than half of these because no story ever uses more than four of these;
    2. As terrain, a small chapel, a swamp, a stretch of road, an isolated well, a peasant's hut, a castle gate, a bedroom, a single great tree, a stream, and a woods (maybe four or five more trees). If you're really extravagant add a throne room. But really, again, you could get by with less than half of these. You certainly wouldn't need them all to start.

    If your game was about challenging stereotypes or re-inventing these legends, you could change things up a bit, but you still wouldn't need more miniatures and the terrain would be the same. With faery tales, it might even be easier and require less.
    That's a pretty great example.

    Going with what you've suggested in your post, I would probably look at that as the list for the game master/initiating player to collect. There's the base unifying vision, expressed through a core toy collection.

    Building off your concept, and assuming the other players ( or a majority of them) also wanted to use minis and would contribute something ( the willingness and budgets are there, but let's also try to make it as easy as possible on those), what would/should other participants bring to the collection?

    My initial thought for a list would look something like:
    Their Knight
    Their Squire or other helper character ( or pet or horse)

    A certain minimum ( 1? 2? 5?) number off the following list:
    A potential rival
    A miniature that fits with one of the settings/terrain bits ( a monk or nun for the chapel)
    An animal ( or animal family) or monster ( a wolf pack, a bear, a stag, a family of badgers)
    A small group of potential hostiles ( Picts, bandits, angry peasants, or raiders of some flavor, like 2-5 of them)
    Some other character type you'd expect to find in the setting, but not already covered ( a foreign knight, a travelling trader, a beggar)
    A terrain piece that expands one of the core terrain pieces or ties to it ( maybe a small prison cell to pair with the throne or castle gate. Someone is always imprisoned, right?)
    An entirely new small terrain piece that fits the setting ( a mysterious cave, a small lake with an island, a boat or ship, tents and stands for a jousting tournament)
    Some general area terrain, or terrains bits ( a banquet table, some more trees, a small hill or two, a couple of candle stands, a religious statue)

    If you had 3 other players, with those minimums, you'd still have a bunch of stuff to work with when you were done, but paired with a "vision" of where play would go broadly. It would also be easy to expand very slowly and without vast expenditures of time or money.

    And that expansion concept could also play into the "unlocking" concept that was being talked about earlier.
  • Sigh. I can't believe I went quite so far afield before getting back to the bit of Eero's post you quoted just now, Hopeless_Wanderer.

    I completely agree with the idea of cutting down to ( roughly) just the core essentials and having those be only relevant parts represented by the toys.

    It's actually easier to describe what I'm thinking by way of an example with a link to product I'm actually considering buying if I ever run a fantasy geared game with minis, but a bit sandbox-y.

    A printable, 50" x 50"Drow City.

    Now, that's pretty big admittedly, but if you look at the link and think about even an adventure module using a dungeon where Drow are involved, it's really not that big of an area represented by the printed product. A module would have all kinds of other connected tunnels and mines and so on and take up even a vaster table area if all done up to use with minis at the same time.

    In play, I would just use that if players were visiting a Drow city. It would be a stand-in for everything else involved, possibly for the entirety of that underground Drow Kingdom. It's the relevant bit where the important action/events will take place if you go visit the Drow.
    Yea, you could get a lot of mileage with a map like that. It has enough different locations to satisfy the needs of lots of play. Some of the locations could even change purpose from "game" to "game", some building serving as what ever type of shop or home is necessary for the current "scenario".

    I might, maybe, have some smaller tiles/maps printed up if I wanted to represent some locations along the way to the core city. Maybe.
    Module D1 Descent into the Depths had a node and path map with several set pieces along this idea.

    The link FFilz was showing with the Lego layout does something similar, but on a single large table, rather than as a series of printed and mounted maps. If you look at that thing, the lay out is pretty clearly representing much more fictional space than the area covered by the toys, if we scale it to the Lego people.
    Yes, very definitely selective compression, yet obviously it works. I have yet to do any sort of gaming with that setup, but here's a setup of Evil Stevie's Pirate Game:


    The islands in the same size range as the ships, and the space between islands is often less than the length of a ship, yet hours of play can be had.

    The Pirate Game generated a lot of talk between Chris Weeks and I about this sort of game. The challenge was finding the right balance between mechanics and toy play.

    Some things about LEGO present some interesting possibilities:

    - Ease of customization of characters

    - Ability to change what the character is holding

    - Ability to change the scenery (battle damage, new construction)

    Note that my castle setup is actually made following a modular standard, so it can be rearranged to some extent. With more pieces and a larger space, there would be even more options for rearrangement.

    And toys do that regularly. Since I've been talking about how "toy play" ought to ( in my manifesto-y way) be a better basis for miniatures use in RPGs/SGs, here's the toy I desperately wanted as a child, but never found under the X-Mas tree ( :( ) : 1970s Death Star Playset.

    Man, look at all the selective compression going on there! They've reduced a moon sized battle station to a few stylized areas. The only thing really missing is the docking bay. As kids ( with my buddy's playset...grrr!), we'd just put his Millennium Falcon Toy next to that. Done. There's our escape to the docking bay bit taken care of!

    Even with all that selective compression going on, we had hours upon hours of toy play with that thing. The same concept or approach can be ported across to gaming with the use of miniatures, if we bring stuff down to the essentials, whether of locations ( like that playset or the Drow City printout) or the collection of character miniatures ( including NPCs/monsters).
    Cool playset, and yea, that type of toy presents immense possibilities.


  • edited February 2017
    Bob, you beat me to the punch mentioning selective compression. I also had an epiphany looking at a LEGO set box (not the same set as you, but the effect was similar). But, actually, you got me thinking about selective compression even before that, when you gave the example, in an earlier thread, of placing a threat on the edge of the table but outside the "play space" to represent an approaching threat. Then moving it closer and closer as the game progresses to represent their imminent arrival and increase the dramatic tension. That's what really got me thinking this way. Before that I was really struggling to warp a skirmish game into a story game.

    Eero's brilliant comment about selective archetypal compression really gets us back on track, I think.

    There's other ways that selective compression can be used. In stories (and RPGs), time and space are always selectively compressed. When the hero goes on a quest, we don't hear about every gruelling mile travelled; we don't see every step taken. Time and space are compressed. That's the most obvious kind of selective compression, but another one would be scale.

    You're a miniatures wargamer (I was too, long ago). We both know that minis come in 6mm, 10mm, 15mm, 25mm, 30mm, and 54mm. Why does the game have to stick to just one scale? Why can't we use scale to our advantage?

    Think of it from the movie making perspective. A film isn't usually just make of close-up, or just long-shots, but with a mixture of close, medium, and long shots edited together. The viewer's perspective in relationship to the action is always changing. It was, again, LEGO that got me thinking about the creative use of scale in mini+ play, so I will give an example from that (but the same example would work with other types of minis).

    In LEGO, there are three main scales (there are others, but they're not as relevant for our discussion and not as well-known). From smallest to largest, they are: micro-scale, heroica scale, and minifigure scale. You might be most familiar with minifigure scale, but you can search online and easily find examples of the other scales. Why not use these different scales within the same game? This can work as both a selective visual compression and as a selective compression of the game mechanics themselves. Think of these ways scale can be used effectively:

    *if the GM wants to show the presence of something at a great distance, or great distances travelled, or a tactical-sized battle space, use microscale for that.
    *if the action is wide ranging over a large action space then use heroica scale,
    *if the action is close up, or critical for the game play use minifigure scale,

    There are more examples of ways scale can be used within the same game, but I think you get the point.

    When you chain these together, you're dynamically creating a visual and mechanical kind of selective compression.

    One final example to illustrate what I'm talking about, imagine our questing hero is approaching a castle in the distance for her battle with the final boss. You throw down the hero on a section of road in minifigure scale with a micro-scale castle at the edge of the place space. Maybe she meets a peasant on the road with a secret about the castle. As play progresses and she approaches the castle, you put down the castle gate in minifigure scale for some important trial she has to pass before entering--passing the guards, answering a riddle, tricking them, whatever). Then, when your hero is exploring the castle space, you switch to heroica scale. When something key is going to happen in the castle, you switch back to minifigure scale.

    I think this is both a money and play space saving approach to mini+ play (and taken with the other contributors suggestions above solves your "sandbox problem"). I think it also has some interesting effects on the actual game play itself, which I'd be happy to discuss.

    I've run out of time to write, so I'll leave it to you to decide whether to continue with this idea or not.
  • It works, because in these types of tales, only the hero, villain, and maybe one other person (side-kick, rescuee, or mentor/donor) have names. Everyone else is nameless.
    With my lengthy ( cross-)post I lost track of what you mean in this reply post, H-W.

    Could you explain further?

    I know I went off side-ways talking about what to encourage other people to bring.

    Also, a bit of a follow up on that, and thinking about what Eero was talking about with regard to other, non-minis prepping, does anyone think there's a possibility for participants to swap out minis/toy prep for other kinds of prop-prep?

  • edited February 2017
    Well, what I meant was that in most of these kinds of stories, the hero meets people during her quest (usually three) who are just referred to as a monk, or peasant, or child, etc. These characters have something the hero needs before the end of the story, but they aren't important enough to have names. They are the most basic kind of stock-character. This is the place where you can save a lot on buying and preparing minis because they can be used in the same stories over and over. Even sub-bosses fall into this category, sometimes. Every genre has familiar types. In Aurthurian legend, the hero often meets a threat only referred to a the red knight, etc. You really only need one of those in your collection, etc. This same reduction happens in faery tales, and other mythic literature.

    Bob, we posted simultaneously, and I wrote a long post to you above your last one, that I hope you will read.
  • edited February 2017
    I think you can get a lot out of varying the scales along the lines of what you're talking about with the various kinds of Lego scale.

    ( Mind you, I'm always a bit behind when we talk Lego because of my lack of experience with it). As a kind of similar concept, I can talk about a couple of things I've considered, but with more gaming minis.

    Backdrop "flats" for urban settings.

    You know how in Old West movies, the street scenes are usually just the facades of the buildings painted up ( Blazing Saddles makes a big visual joke about this)? I thought about doing this for some urban environment gaming. If a building interior isn't important, just make a series of facades with a base that will hold them upright, maybe 12" or so long. Then pair them with buildings that arerelevant with accessible interiors. The stuff isn't really in scale to one another, but if you were doing a big table layout, it gives an effect of a much bigger space by blocking line of sight and still having relevant areas relevant.

    For example, I might use this Modular Urban Center Kit, but only print and mount the fronts of the buildings. I could then pair it with some of these larger scaled interior sets.

    Not quite the same idea as the mixed Lego scale, but getting there.

    Using littler dudes for bigger battles
    While I mostly tend to think of RPGs with minis being RPG scale conflicts ( a few dudes vs a few dudes, and maybe recycling mooks), sometimes you have a big battle event. If you don't also have appropriate amounts of genre soldiery handy, it might be more reasonable on a budget ( and we all have practical limits on money and time budgets, even miniatures fanatics) to use 1/72 plastics for the mooks and allies and just pair them with the larger 25-28-30mm gaming miniatures.Plastic Solider Review has gobs of pictures by historical period of what is out there, but there are also a couple of manufacturers making D&D and LotR style fantasy minis in those scales.

    ha might be one of the cases where I wouldn't worry too much about painting up the minis pretty, and just go with spray single colors for the sides if was in a hurry. I also wouldn't worry too much about the visual difference in scales, as the heroes/villains are more important anyway, and a movie would visually make them stand out from the crowd, so why not do something similar by use of scale.

    If you've got a big scale switch for some aspect of play, it's completely okay to switch over to littler toys
    SF games are the ones I'm thinking of here, where you might suddenly have a space ship fight or chase. Yeah, completely switch over to tiny spaceships and even have planets represented by a colored disc of smallish size, even though space is vast. A bit more like extreme selective compression. It wouldn't be hard to vary scale with this stuff either or use the "building threat concept" to give a feel of vast, sweeping areas. A Mad Max type setting or even a Dust Bowl Bank Robber car chase through the countryside could work similarly, with matchbox cars or even smaller toys involved for those scenes.
  • Well, what I meant was that in most of these kinds of stories, the hero meets people during her quest (usually three) who are just referred to as a monk, or peasant, or child, etc. These characters have something the hero needs before the end of the story, but they aren't important enough to have names. They are the most basic kind of stock-character. This is the place where you can save a lot on buying and preparing minis because they can be used in the same stories over and over. Even sub-bosses fall into this category, sometimes. Every genre has familiar types. In Aurthurian legend, the hero often meets a threat only referred to a the red knight, etc. You really only need one of those in your collection, etc. This same reduction happens in faery tales, and other mythic literature.

    Bob, we posted simultaneously, and I wrote a long post to you above your last one, that I hope you will read.
    Ok, Stock Characters. Yeah, definitely. I usually think in terms of mooks/victims/townsfolk, but Stock Characters is probably a nicer name for them!

    That Old West set I linked upthread is pretty much nothing but Old West genre stock characters you'd find in a town. Bartender, merchant, card sharp, saloon girl, school marm, dusty old miner, town drunk, blacksmith, etc.

    If you were playing repeatedly in a single setting ( all our stories revolve around Tombstone), I'd expect them to start getting names and personalities, but if the main characters head to another town for an adventure, I'd certainly re-use the bartender for whatever bartender was n the saloon in the other town. Heck, I might re-use the bar as well.

    Taking your concept, in a design I might really put that as one of the core things a planning player needs to do when they're starting their unifying vision for overall play.

    They need to collect X number of Stock character minis and also Y number of stock (selectively compressed) relevant/essential locations.

    It's then up to the other players to, in some fashion, modify the stock chassis by their contributions.

    Oh man, good stuff is coming out of this thread. Soooo much good stuff.
  • So, some general stuff coming out of this thread, that is aiding greatly in clarifying my thinking:

    In a design or playstyle that involves this stuff, it's fundamentally axiomatic that it's going to involve toys. Likewise, it's fundamental that participant contributions beyond the initiating player ( in some fashion) are going to be involved.

    This is going to impact recruitment of players. To get the most out of this type of play, you need to have folks down with the concept or willing to be down with the concept over time.

    The planning/initiating player needs to have some kind of vision of core play and plan out the core toys involved. This is their responsibility. This includes core stock character toys and core stock locations. How they gather or create these things is up to them.

    The concept of essentials and selective compression , on both core locations and core/stock characters, guides them in this. The goal is to keep this to a relatively small number of each.

    This all needs to be presented to the group as a whole at some preliminary stage.

    Other participants are going to be expected to contribute, optimally both to the toy collection ( and related hobby aspects like painting and assembly) and the fiction direction/initial situation set up.

    The additions of the other participants modifies the core concept, core fiction, and may initially "unlock" plot potential, adventure hooks, or potential rewards.

    It's probably a good idea to have backup methods to account for varying levels of participants' skill, budget, and commitment constraints. Perhaps "trade-offs" of supporting activities if someone has wildly different talents/skills/budget than the bulk of the group's participants?

    If a very large collection of location and character toys are already available, it may be possible to use a kind of subtractive process, where the initiating player still chooses stuff for the "core vison", but has other participants choose and prioritize elements from the even greater collection or , alternately, to block out some of the collection as undesirable for the (initial) set up. Think of this in comparison to a Fiasco Playset: You never use every element of a playset, but everything on those lists is paired with the "vision" or core concept of the playset in question.

    The core set + participant contributions define the beginning of play, but any of those things can later be expanded upon by further contributions over time, assuming longer term ( multi session) play is involved. Methods and suggestions for this are appreciated, as it likely unlocks other fiction or potential rewards and challenges.

  • The "board" in play

    There are two main possibilities, and play could switch between both, session to session. Only one should be used in any given session, as a way of minimizing handling time.

    The Big Board ( the modified war gamer approach, very similar to what FFilz was showing in his Lego board game link) Approach

    For the session, a large table is laid out. Every possible location where action will take place is already on the table, and there may be discrete "locations" where scale is different form other locations on the table, or where scales are mixed, along the lines of what Hopeless-Wanderer was talking about. The locations are those essential/selectively compressed locations. They (probably) are in rough layout to one another as they exist in the greater fiction, although intervening distances are deleted or also selectively compressed in some fashion to show location "boundaries". Possibly those boundary zones are also "generic" location types.

    In any case, what you see on the table is where you can have scenes taking place, with minor exceptions for easily done, all-verbal, mini scenes, although even those are probably done as bets able with the toys, as that is a core part of play.

    In any case, few modifications to the location toys will likely occur during play, and it's not expected that any locations will be added. What you see is what you have to work with.

    This style is best for
    A special session or convention
    When you have some available space where games normally occur for it to be left up ( god help you if you have cats) or can easily be stored and brought out for sessions in that consistently available space.

    The RPG table standard approach
    You're consistently playing at a table, and you have a good idea of how much space is commonly available in the center of the table (or how much you can make regularly).

    This circumstance is the one where having printed or drawn key essential, selectively compressed locations ready to go works best. These can be enhanced by the addition of a small amount of 3D or 2D spot terrain. In any case, each key, essential location needs to be sized to fit within that available table space, regardless of the fictional scale it represents.

    This very likely works best when each key location is largely ready to go as a single mounted play surface, spot terrain modifications are kept to a minimum, and few character toys are being used at any given time for a scene.

    Storage and travel considerations can be minimized by using both sides of a foamcore or cardboard sheet for different key locations.

    In any case, whatever location is currently on the table is where things are happening. switching to another location is going to mean at least minor reset time eating up play time, so figure out the best ways to get the most out of each location each tie it's used.
    Truly minor side scenes can be done completely verbally to save on breakdown and reset times.

  • Re-use of character toys:

    Stock characters
    Stock characters can be re-used easily...because they're stock characters. If you have to initially skip on decoration, these are lower priority than main characters, so painting can wait, or you can look for useable pre-paints for these guys. These are supporting role characters, until it's necessary by way of fiction ( or player choice) for them to become important. If they become important(ish), but are later "killed" in fiction, it's easy for the toy to be recycled back to "stock character" status.

    Important characters, whether PC or NPC (or just focus characters if you're going more GM-less/GM-full)

    The design of the game needs to account for this and have methods handy for why these characters aren't killed-killed on a regular basis.

    It can be mechanical or fictional or both. You'll still want to work in concepts of failure or loss in combat or horrible accidents, but it needs to be in a way that still allows re-use for these character toys, at least up until some point in play where the group agrees that indeed Death is On The Line!

    In D&D-ish games, this may be helped by a flatter range of power levels, and player characters being less Zero on the Zero to Hero spectrum than normal. If levels/HD 1-10 is your range ( how old school am I?), start PCs at 3-4 level, and reserve lower levels for companions, with their levels related to importance more than anything else. Heck, you could even start PCs more at 5-6 level of ability, companions at 2-4, hirelings at 1st, and give everyone 0 XP. They don't advance until they exceed whatever the XP minimums would have been for their level. This should give you long play, keep mooks in groups threatening, and let them be able to deal with some monsters without constantly either being eaten or constantly overwhelming the monsters.

    For baddies, maybe part of your prep is ...you always need to note the baddies' top three preferred methods of escaping death at the hands of adventurers, and assume the baddy in question has already prepped for one or more of those. If they get away with it, they'll reprioritize those methods next time, which should keep players on their toes.
  • Action at whatever location is currently in play

    Okay, so this is what I was focusing on initially, so I'd best get back to it.

    In Big Table Play, you'll define what part of the board the action is currently taking place in. Indicate it in some fashion, whether physically or by gesture ( this area I just showed you by pointing out the boundaries with my finger) In RPG Standard Table situation, it's whatever tiles/map just got placed.

    Initial placement of the toys is defined by the fictional circumstances described.

    Freeplay occurs for initial movement. Describe and show it with the toys. Use Dungeon World type methods if initiative matters because of conflicts of ideas or someone is just plain describing stuff that doesn't really fit with group consensus, and go on. Keep doing it until some kind of action-packed occurrence comes up. It might never come up if it's mostly verbal exchanges, no matter how tense. that's okay. It's how kids play with toys all the time.

    But wait! Now action/combat is going on!
    Okay, because I'm being manifesto-y, this is more a list of general concepts that could be used in some combination and would need a bit more formalization. All of them though are about ease of handling time, and are an inspired muddle from the 13th Age/Range band stuff Adam linked, Fate, Dungeon World, and a couple of minis skirmish games I've owned and played.

    The defined location is the area where everything important happens, but you can use space outside of the area to show looming problems/foreshadowing

    This is what Hopeless_Wanderer was referring to. You've got your "arena", but you can still use the area around it as a set up ( think of it as a soft move in DW showing future dangers) for enemies that might soon enter the "arena". Keep them back a little bit from the edge, and note them verbally by way of fiction. Place them relative to where they'll enter the arena on the equivalent of a hard move result in DW. Since the fiction is partly defined by your map or toy layout, make this make some kind of sense. Unless they're physically touching the boundary line of the arena, they're still at a distance. If they touch the boundary line, they're almost there and if fictional reasons allow, they can interact with the arena and miniatures there ( usually it means they have ranged weapons or rapid movement capability).

    "I hear sirens. The cops are on their way!" ( Moves little cop car up, but not touching boundary line for arena, at some place where a road is shown in the arena. Vroom-vroom)

    Move distance is relative to size of the play surface/location being used. Just name a fraction of the longest distance as a standard move and derive everything from that.

    This works best for ungridded play maps or 3D terrain lay outs. It works better also if you just have relatively similar sized "arenas" you use or just consistently use the same fraction.

    "It takes 3 ( or 4 or 5) moves to cross the arena on good going at normal combat walking pace for a healthy human being of normal capabilities".

    It might take more moves if you're in super slo-mo, if terrain features are limiting movement, or some character is sneaking or crawling, or has faster movement abilities. You get the idea though, just adjust as needed on the fly or until you've developed methods agreeable to your group.

    Option: Area movement
    This works similar to Fate. Define areas. People normally move one area at a time. Areas aren't necessarily consistent in size. Often they're defined by a significant feature. With miniatures, what fits in a an area is what fits in an area, and movement is possible within an area. this also a bit like 13th Age where characters in melee are always within one move of a pal. Can be modified based on other factors, as above.

    Works best with 2D drawn or printed surfaces. If you're keeping to essentials/selective compression and just important areas, you could have all of this done even before play ever starts. A bit harder, but not impossible with 3D terrain or Lego.

    Option: straight line movement only ( limited or unlimited distance within the arena, I've seen both), with terrain interactions.

    With this kind of movement of toys, they can pivot before and after their movement, but not during movement ( the pivot may or may not be a move in itself. Kinda depends on what you're playing with).

    The character may not interact with more than one piece of terrain during it's move ( there are some variations available on this as well).

    For example, a character could move in a straight line and hop a fence and keep moving, but it couldn't hop a second fence in the same move. Likewise, it couldn't switch directions of movement during the move to get around the second fence, although it could end it's move faced in such a way that on a following move it could work it's way around the end of the fence.

    This works best with an arena that has lots of terrain messing up movement and line of sight, and where areas that might represent say a forest are broken up into smaller clumps of trees and rocks, rather than one big area representing it.

    Likewise, rules variants can be added where some terrain is "sticky" and the miniatures can not move away from it on the turn it interacted with it and must still be in contact.

    Example: Crawling through a window. My little dude makes a straight move through the window, but it's a sticky terrain feature. My guy goes through it, but his move ends with him just on the other side of it, with his base touching the house he entered at the window.

    And, naturally, some terrain may not be entered by certain characters or dangerous to them. You know how that works.

    What this does: It increases the effective size of even a small arena, as characters need to navigate around problem areas ( or enemy characters) while skipping fiddly terrain multipliers.

    Ranged attacks and reactivity
    Once you've got your methods for movement, the other stuff starts to fall into place.

    Ranged attacks depend a little on genre and how you're working movement. With area movement, really short effective ranges (pistols thrown weapons) are only good within an area or possibly into an adjacent area if a miniature is clearly placed touching the area boundary, and only then against miniatures in that area very close to the boundary (like a base distance or so away). Most other weapons are one or two areas in distance ( you still need clean, open lines of sight). really long distance weapons may even fire to or from that arena boundary to interact with looming threats, but they'd be an exceptional item in some way.

    Really short ranged weapons are probably also Reactive, meaning they can Intercept, much like intercept movement in 13th Age. I'd likely do that with any form of movement.

    With one of the more open forms of movement, you main limiters are terrain and line of sight. I'd parallel movement restrictions and terrain effects, using a similar methods as for restrictions on movement. The simple one is that visually blocking terrain blocks line of fire unless the target is directly in contact with the intervening terrain ( or some weapon quality is in effect, or other rules simply give a modifier to a roll).

    I'd also assume that the range of weapons was anywhere within the boundaries of the arena, unless there was some special case involved. The Star Wars collectible miniatures game worked like this for all your baseline shooty wepaons, and just made spate rules for the effects of very long range or very short range weapons.
  • Sorry for the wall of text. I really had meant it to be a crush up and assessment of eveyrthing iin the thread so far. It got a bit out o hand...
  • I'm really glad that this minis+ thread is getting a lot of traction! I've been following along closely, though I haven't had much time to post. Briefly, though:

    I've mentioned before that I use areas kind of like fate zones. Rather than focusing on boundaries, though, I instead focus on centers of gravity. In a given outdoor scene, then, I might have a pile of rocks to signify one area of combat, a cluster of trees to signify another area, and a strip of water to show a third. (In other words, I use Eero's idea of archetypes--and specifically symbolic objects--to signify an area, rather than representational terrain.)

    Within each area, everyone can move freely and engage others.

    Ranged weapons can usually fire into adjacent areas (I use Legos at skirmish scale), but we adjudicate things like cover based on the fiction. When shooting into the trees, for example, everyone would have cover.

    This set up is quite flexible, because the layout can be quite schematic/iconic, but more important or interesting locations can be given more complexity (like aesthetic details).
  • Also, a quick note on mixing scales:

    I love mixing in my kids Duplo animals to represent large monsters in a fantasy setting! My players were fighting this huge shadow bear, and were already terrified, and then I showed that first bear was only a youngster, and I brought out the elder bear. The look of alarm was priceless! (Photo coming... On phone now)
  • I've mentioned before that I use areas kind of like fate zones. Rather than focusing on boundaries, though, I instead focus on centers of gravity. In a given outdoor scene, then, I might have a pile of rocks to signify one area of combat, a cluster of trees to signify another area, and a strip of water to show a third. (In other words, I use Eero's idea of archetypes--and specifically symbolic objects--to signify an area, rather than representational terrain.)
    I like this approach - efficient. Sort of like Bob's flexy area of engagement, except there are multiple nodes on the table simultaneously.
  • edited February 2017
    Can you sketch or take a photo of that centers of gravity concept? I think I know what you mean, but I'm trying to visualize it.

    BTW, just something I saw once at a convention game, but I've never seen anyone else use, related to "area" approaches.

    I played in tis war game where the guy putting it on had taken a sheet of cloth and covered it with irregular polygons of different sizes to create areas. Some big, some little, all adjacent to one another ( no blanks spaces). Sometimes one polygon fit weirdly with another adjacent polygon.

    Anyway, the guy used it for all of his games, placing terrain on top of it, and used area movement. The size of the polygon directly related the number of miniatures that could fit into it ( if they couldn't all fit, they couldn't all fit). Sometimes he'd line up house doors and windows so that they sat astride one polygon while others were reached from different polygons.

    It made for an interesting approach that also factored in some terrain effects without actually doing more common terrain effects ( like doubling or tripling costs of movement through an area) and made for interesting tactical choices.

    Might also be a neat tool to consider using.
  • Here's a side question for the folks who've experimented with some of this kind of thing, in whatever form:

    Do you find that players interpret the use of miniatures and maps/terrain to mean "Only action/combat"?

    I've had mixed results with experiments I've done.

    Some people seem to naturally gravitate towards my preferred result of about a 40/60 proportion Talky:Action, while other seem to be 5/95 Talky:Action ( which I tend not to be going for. If I wanted that, I'd play a straight up war game) when using these kinds of physical toys.

    [Talky could also include any other non-combat thing: Investigating, sneaking, interacting, trading, etc]

    Is there some way to get across the idea, especially to experienced gamers, that all the non-combat stuff doesn't inherently get dumped, just because toys are being used?

    Also, a small observation, from earlier experiments:
    Even when using a Big Board Approach, the "arena" or locations, tend to get defined at a physical, real world size about on par with a printable location or partial wipeboard.

    What I mean is, they tend to have a roughly minimum size of about 12" x 12", but also rarely go above a size of 24" x 24" ( shapes can differ, rectangles or circles being common, sometimes slightly irregular). Usually they're slightly smaller than 24" x24".

    Is it a common experience for anyone else that they use these kinds of techniques?

    If it is, it may point to more mechanical approaches that can be experimented with design-wise.
  • I hope you all are continuing to follow along and will continue to bring in your great ideas.

    I did have one of those moments of clarity as I was waking up this morning.

    In pretty much all of these [minis+] threads, talking about some of these less-game-y, more imaginative play type approaches, there's inevitably a point where a couple Lego fans come in and really seem to grok where I'm going with it.

    And it's always a bit weird for me personally, because I really don't have that childhood connection to Lego, but I appreciate the contributions.

    This morning, I had one of those A-Ha! moments where I realized, well of course the gamers who are Lego-heads get it more than just about any other type of gamer!

    Later on today or tomorrow, I'll try to post why I think that is, and see if Lego-heads who are gamers agree with some of those, new-to-me, insights.
  • edited February 2017
    My A-Ha!moment regarding Lego and these minis+ threads and ideas about combining toys with story-gaming-ish approaches to imaginative play

    I'm beginning to think, at this point, that if I end up designing a game, or even just a "manifesto" with some game mechanics in it ( Stealing Cthulhu is an inspiration for the approach), maybe should switch gears entirely away from gaming miniatures and over to Lego ( and similar, compatible, building brick toys).

    Part of it is, that while I've gotten great ideas and feedback from all sorts of gamers, I have noticed that Lego fans (who, in addition, are also gamers) seemed to grok where I was going with a lot of these concepts rather rapidly. And they seemed to grok it in a way that other gamers, even gamers who like and use miniatures, had a harder time grasping.

    (I have a few of those folks in my IRL circles of friends, so it also may make properly testing these concepts easier)

    I realized it came down in equal parts to qualities of Lego fans, but also qualities of the toys themselves.

    Often, when Lego fans talked about the potential for using Lego for this sort of play, the focus would come down to qualities of the toys themselves which offered advantages over gaming miniatures. And there are certainly some of those, although I personally will always love gaming miniatures first and foremost. Roughly, these are the Lego advantages I see:

    1) They're sturdy in a way that gaming miniatures are not. yes, some constructed item may be knocked apart during handling, but it's relatively easy to fix it by snapping things back together.

    2) They come in colors and the individual bricks can be recombined multiple ways, so re-use is high.

    3) Generally, they're readily available in a way gaming minis aren't. You find them locally, but also it's easy to source them from online sellers without the need to constantly deal with multiple online sellers for specific parts. Even if you want to do something really specific, you probably don't need to deal with a half dozen different sellers.

    4) Almost anything you want to represent can be created in some fashion, provided you have enough bricks available.

    5) They often have pre-made kits that you can buy that have very easy use in different genres that line up well with common gaming genres.

    6) The skills necessary to build something with Lego ( for beginners) are just much less intimidating than for those associated with gaming miniatures and terrain. While there is a high skill involved that experienced Lego heads bring to building stuff with Lego, even a beginner can probably, given a pile of Lego brick build a house, if a not terribly intricate or involved one, and in fairly rapid order.

    So those are the inherent qualities of the bricks, among others I've undoubtedly forgotten.

    It was more the "qualities" of Lego-heads and the use of Lego that sold me more on the concept, however. Some of those I see:

    1) They aren't afraid to spend money, and they very likely already have spent money of significant amounts if they're long-term Lego-heads. Although often not spoken of directly, there's always something of a cash concern for posters when I talk about minis use. And I get it. Gaming minis collections don't sprout over night, and to try to build one over night can be rather daunting compared to your bank account and discretionary spending limits. Lego heads, like minis gamers, have committed to a long term hobby and have generally built up a fairly large collection with a rather high dollar value over time, if the MSRP of all of that stuff was suddenly tallied up.

    2) They're used to building stuff. Maybe not the same techniques as painting gaming minis and building that sort of terrain, but Lego fans get that building is part of the fun. Often Lonely Fun, but you have something cool to share ( if even just visually) when it's finished.

    3) Lego are toys. There's no question about this, no matter how cool and intricate the thing is you end up constructing. They're not inherently associated with gaming, in themselves, but they are associated with play. And that association is more important for the kinds of things I've been talking about than the game parts.

    4) Depending on the things you're buying and building with Lego, there's often implied beginnings of story/situation/characters. Lego fans often make dioramas of sorts. It isn't just a castle, it's a castle with stuff going on and characters there, even if it's setting on a shelf on display.

    5) As with many toys and toy play, Lego fans seem to inherently grok selective compression and "essential" locations, and even how to fit it all in one big display. There's not as much need to explain that, because they're already doing it.

    6) They just plain get "toy-joy". With Lego, there's no concealing that you're an adult playing with toys, in the way, sometimes, you see with minis gamers. They get the tactile and visual fun of this stuff, but not concealed behind talk of artiness or historical accuracy or other nonsense social camouflage.

    So anyway, this all makes me think that, in the future, if I pursue this line of thinking and design, I may just start to focus on gamers who are also Lego fans, and just plain hope that other folks encountering it will make the mental translation to other formats ( like gaming miniatures and terrain) on their own.
  • For what it's worth, to me the material technique of using Legos seems eminently sensible, despite my not being a Lego hobbyist myself. Legos have two key qualities that make them superior gaming toys compared to miniatures in my eyes:
    * A consistent, non-realistic, symbolic visual language that nevertheless has rich ways to express complex concepts.
    * High reusability.

    As a practical consideration, I think that Vincent's Lego mecha combat game is a feasible and entertaining-looking little wargame, just the sort that I might play if I had the time for minis wargames like that. The Lego element contributes to this assessment; I probably would not be as interested if the game was presented as a line of robot models you purchase one by one; that just veers too much away from creative art and towards consumer behavior for me.

    Odds are that if I ever get seriously into playing with toys, it's going to be either origami or Legos :D
  • edited February 2017
    All of those make sense to me, as an avid gamer and also Lego fan! The "toy joy" part, I think, is crucial. For example, the model railroaders that I know grok many of your points, but there's something about modeling that often brings out a serious, historically-accurate, "adult" mentality that makes them not really think of their hobby as play, even though running operations is just that.

    In my experience, there's something similar going on with a lot of minis gamers; they obviously love assembling/painting their little people and crafting meticulously detailed scenery, but it often feels (to hippy dippy, toy loving me) that they are also pretty invested in serious "adult fun" components like accuracy, detail, and historical realism (including fidelity to a fictional history, for fantasy gamers). In other words, the modeling component pushes back against the play component of what they do.

    I think that "adult fun" and toy joy components can fit together, as they do for Bob, but that the match perhaps isn't as natural as it is for "real" toys like Lego.

    Two examples:
    1) I know serious minis gamers who will deny that what they do is playing with toys, whereas adult Lego fans rarely have that issue!
    2) Even during the play/game phase, minis gamers often (thing not always!) rely on simulation as their dominant paradigm for play. This is intrinsically more "adult" than the doll house / floor play that Bob is describing.
  • (I'm still going to post pictures of the zone thing when I have time and am not on the phone!)
  • While I agree that the toy nature of LEGO aids the sort of game play discussed here, I think there are folks who use more traditional miniatures that would not be alienated by the types of play discussed in this thread.

    My go to inspiration for less serious miniatures gaming is:

    Major General Tremorden Rederring's Colonial-era Wargames Page

  • edited February 2017
    I steal lots of practical ideas from Mjr Gen Tremorden, especially about "toy" scaling and using mixed scales on the table at the same time.

    Off-hand, things I've stolen:

    Making gunboats in the fashion of toys, rather than scale models
    Simplifying structures down to functional essentials
    The whole section on making "mountains" for NW Frontier fights ( it's where I got the idea of the façade approach to city buildings)
    Smaller scale ( usually 1/72) aircraft with 28mm gaming minis

    Stephen P:
    Yup, everything you just said. That was the core of my A-Ha! moment.
  • Bob,
    Everything you've said is spot-on. For me, it's not just the re-usability but, most importantly, the potential recombination. Each minifigure has nine basic parts plus accessories like hats, hair, tools, weapons, etc. that can be recombined in a large variety of ways. If you buy one minifigure, it can be taken apart and and its parts recombined with any of the others in your collection. The figures aren't fix in that way. The players have a lot of choice in creating the representation of their character (it's part of the play). And they're also pose-able in a limited fashion. So not fixed in that way either.
  • Hopeless_Wanderer

    There are certainly some string positives in the toys themselves. For my purposes, it's actually the positive attitudes of Lego fans that make me think this would be a more productive direction for me to take in the future (gearing my thinking and presentation of concepts to Lego fans, rather than trying to swim upstream against other fandoms' existing conceptions).

    The key one is really just that gamers who are also Lego fans deal with their toys as toys.

    Stephen P pretty much nails it, and why it's different and important in this context.

    I recall reading, ages ago, S. John Ross talking about presenting his game Risus. He ended up presenting it with goofy examples and illustrated with stick figures. He presented it as comedy.

    It wasn't because it couldn't be used for "serious" gaming, and IIRC, he already knew that. Presenting it as comedy was sugar on the pill, the thing that made it more easily accepted by people encountering it, and who later, on their own, figured out that it was actually perfectly usable for "serious" gaming as well.

    That's a bit of how I'm tending to think of this stuff now.

    BTW, just a little explanation about why I haven't really considered Lego, but have been all about gaming miniatures

    It has to do with the socio-economic class I grew up in. I just plain grew up working-poor, and Lego were too expensive for my family to afford. Now bags of plastic army men ( and other similar stuff) were affordable, and with the weirdness of working-poor economics, so were action figures. The love for those sorts of toys later translated into a love of gaming minis.

    In my present day circumstances, I'm working-class in income, but I also never really developed common hobbies and expenditure habits that friends consider inherent. It sometimes leads to weird discussions, and when I explain, maybe you can relate.

    When I talk about gaming minis with friends IRL, often I get a response a bit like:

    "They're neat, you're collection is cool, but daaaayyumm that stuff is expensive!"

    Putting aside some very big differences in approach to budgeting, credit use, etc, let me just point to one aspect probably almost everyone here can relate to: Usually the person is a committed electronic gamer of some kind, console, computer, whatever. Very likely, a bunch of you are as well.

    Think about all of the money, added up, you've spent on electronic games over say, two and a half decades. It probably adds up to a fair bit, even with some highly developed bargain hunting skills.

    Right. I never developed that as an interest ( again, tying back to that working-poor socio-economic background environment I grew up in). My discretionary spending went to minis.

    So my spending on minis has been instead of electronic games and related gear, rather than in addition to electronic games.

    Combined with some other budgeting/spending/saving/bargain-hunting strategies, it explains how a working class dude of modest means can have gaming minis as a hobby, despite how godawful expensive they look from an outsider perspective.

    From an outsider perspective looking in on the console game expenditures of these same friends my calculations on their spending looks a bit like this ( and just all averaged out as current dollars and assuming MSRP*):

    Core console system $300
    A total end collection of about 20 games at $50/game: $1000

    Rough total per console system by the time it's done being used: $1300

    Estimated time they stick with that system before going on to another one: 5 years

    Averaged out, it's under $25/month over five years, and about 4 games per year purchased. So not really a crazy money dump by any means.

    So, over 20 years, about $5200.

    That's about how long I've had minis as a hobby as an adult.

    (*Everyone presumably does bargain buying, as I do with minis, so let's just go with MSRP and assume it's a wash in the end.)
  • edited February 2017
    Hi Bob, I'm sure that you have a great mini collection (I think I've seen pictures of your Braunstein games), and I'm not trying to convert you into a Lego-head.

    But for others out there reading this who are thinking about giving this a try but are worried about the hight cost of LEGO, there are other LEGO-compatible brands, KRE-O and Mega-Blocks are just two examples. There are others. LEGO isn't the only game in town, any more. There are cheaper alternatives. LEGO purists would probably shudder at the thought, but I'm not a purist. The play is more important than Brand loyalty.

    And you can also buy used-LEGO on eBay and at yard-sales. LEGO is washable, there are instructions for washing it on the internet.

    The cost doesn't have to be a prohibitive factor.

    On somewhat related topic, for the mini folks that might be thinking about LEGO, there is a rather large cottage-industry in third-party custom parts and decals. And people are painting, dying and sculpting their LEGO minifigures and accessories. Here are two examples:

    http://farm1.staticflickr.com/508/20430299021_01c66741a6_z.jpg (decals)
    http://www.saber-scorpion.com/shop/decals_highfantasy.php (painting and sculpting)
    (sorry I don't know the artist's name--my searching powers are limited in my location)

    Yes, I realize that I'm still focusing on the toy itself, I just wanted to mention these two points.

    Anyway, I don't want to turn others away from the mini+ concept, so I hope we can return to a more general discussion.
  • I think those are totally valid points, H-W, and I appreciate the links.

    Any sort of toys are going to cost money, and that is a factor in thinking about design for this stuff that absolutely needs to be considered.
  • Can't you also buy huge bags/boxes of mismatched Lego parts for cheap? I thought I saw that somewhere.
  • Honestly, a good target (at least a good starting target) might be an audience who already has some toys and/or who doesn't mind buying a few more.

    For folks who are interested, there are lots of ways to build a collection for relatively cheap. Bob covered some tips for minis in earlier threads, and there are lots of resources for both minis and Legos on-a-budget across the web.

    Besides, the folks who are interested in this approach probably already have a few, even if it was just a few of the prepainted WotC boxes or heroclix or old Mage Knight figures or Lego minifigs or whatever.
  • If no one minds, I'd personally like to go with the Lego a bit further.

    We've talked about all kinds of stuff, and how I'd go about putting something together, but my experience is with gaming minis. If one was to do something with Lego using these general concepts of a starting collection, how would you do it?

    There was an example of an Arthurian/Fair Tale collection and I had an Old West example.

    Is anyone willing to have a stab at what they would gather together, build, etc, for something they can imagine doing with Lego? I think we can assume that any interested person would have some Lego to start with, but perhaps not the exact stuff for a game concept based around it.

    Double plus bonus points for talking about how they'd get non-GM/Non-initiating players involved.

    ( And yes, if you guys show me really good stuff, I plan to entirely steal it and spring it on some of my buddies locally)
  • Bob, I haven't forgotten you request, but I'm a little bit slammed at work. I'll have a response soonish. In the meantime, perhaps one of the other LEGO-heads could offer their ideas.
  • I've been trying to find time, too!
  • edited February 2017
    I'm no Lego collector, but I've thought about this a little bit over the years. It may be interesting that the thing I've mostly considered Legos for is D&D dungeoneering and similar regimented grid games. Seems to me like this takes the best advantage of the grid inherent in the blocks (a foot per dot or so I guess, if the Lego men are to scale). Of course one could think in terms of drama games, too, but that grid sure is suggestive...

    The necessary inventory for trying this out doesn't seem that bad, really: a few plates, lots of wall bricks to build dungeon walls from, and a pile of Lego men. Perhaps most of them green for goblins and other humanoid monsters (no need to distinguish to begin with), and the rest yellow for properly caucasian heroic adventurers. Everything else on top of a gridded floor, walls and little men is bonus, after all.

    For the sort of dungeoneering play I'm envisioning one would presumably build the walls notionally, one brick high, instead of trying for some sort of ceiling height. This makes the building process quick enough to do on the fly, allowing the "lego view" to double as a sort of real-time map, which would be half of the point for D&D use of terrain props in any case. So instead of pre-building sets you could just build as you go.

    This sounds so simple that I wonder why more people don't do this. It's a bit more involved than the "battlemat, pencils and dice" playscape we ended up using again last Wednesday, but not much. If I had a respectable pile of legos gathering dust in the house I might as well try this out any time.


    It may interest you to know, Bob, that your incessant babbling about miniatures play inspired me to look into using paper miniatures for Fables of Camelot, and perhaps some other things on the back burner. No idea yet if this'll amount to anything, but whatever it takes to avoid the real chores, you know.

    As I think I've mentioned earlier, I find paper an amiable medium because of the non-commerciality, and the relative independence from a procurement process. It is theoretically possible, provided the proper skills and visual paradigm, to end up capable of making a miniature for anything you want without having to buy them prefab. Sort of like being your own minis sculpter (which is, of course, something that my crazier minis-hobbyist friends do as well).

    imageI'm currently at version 2.3 of my paper miniature chassis (the cut-and-fold pattern, I mean). I guess I might as well show where I'm at. Two of these go on a single A4 sheet, and you can either position some art on it prior to printing, or print it, draw on it and then cut and fold.

    (The end result of that pattern is basically a 40mm wide box 65 mm high. Pretty sturdy for being made of paper, and with four sides to put art on. The top and bottom can be opened, and it folds flat for storage. Glue may be used as preferred.)

    I started development on this with a somewhat bigger form factor in mind, something more like a paper puppet than a paper figure - the better to facilitate toy-like drama play as opposed to positional tactical play. However, I'm currently focused on the tactile element, which I was not happy with in my bigger paper puppet; it was too light-weight to feel like a proper playing piece. The solution I am currently testing, which determined much about the form factor here, is to slip 1-3 Poker chips inside the piece to give it some heft. The scale of the piece is directly derived from the Poker chip, of course: the figure fits a normal 38mm chip quite snuggly.

    Running this train of thought to the station, now I'm stuck with a paper miniature with a size that is sort of suggestive of a tactical miniature: it handles well on tabletop and is so small that the art doesn't really pop unless the players lean a bit closer to focus on the playing pieces. It is, however, just barely too large to fit comfortably on my Chessex battlemat, so it might not be a good idea to mass-produce 30 of these and try to run a D&D session with them, either. Too small for puppet theater, and just maybe a little too big for comfortable minis gaming :D
  • Personally, I wouldn't use peg counting with Lego for the same reason I don't think it's all that necessary with gaming minis.

    Instead, I would build a Lego Film crew, and use those to define the area as needed for each scene.

    I found this image online:

    Something like that.

    Combine that with some basic concepts in defining locations ahead of time, and it should work a treat.
  • So, apparently some Lego fans are working on a D&D set:

    My understanding is that a whole bunch of stuff already exists that could be easily used, however.

    As for paper...Hmm. Much like Lego, it's outside of my experience, so I simply hadn't given it much consideration. On further reflection, I'd imagine that someone deeply into origami or other paper arts could do some really amazing stuff. Given my apparently poor origami skills, the thought is easily as intimidating to me as the idea of picking up the skills associated with gaming minis and terrain building is for others.

    OTOH, having seen some wonderful origami creations and having an inkling of the way paper pattern/texture/color plays into the creation of origami stuff, yeah, I could see something very cool coming out of exploring it as an option. When I think origami, I tend to think animal figures, so I could see a whole animal based fairy tale type game being played out.

    As for Eero's suggestion about a basic use of Lego...well, that's my level of skill. OTOH, I'd imagine that a Lego Head would likely want a bit more than that, the same way I'd want a bit more than some miniatures on a dry erase grid. It seems functional, but getting a bit away from what makes Lego fun.

    The exact level of intricacy to a layout or individual locations would necessarily be an area of compromise, much like it is with gaming minis.

    Here's a question for the Lego fans:

    What is the scoop with those green "base" pieces? Do they come in only one size or several standardized sizes? Other colors? With some molded terrain? ( I seem to recall some moonscape ones with craters built in).

    I was thinking that one option might be to incorporate that stuff somehow into area-definition methods/rules, which then has an impact on movement rules and so on.
  • Those baseplates come in several sizes, though I don't know if Lego still manufactures the smaller ones, and over time there has been a good amount of variety; solid color ones, flat roadway surfaces with pegged borders, the moonscape piece that you mentioned (a beloved classic), printed designs (I had a pirate island hideaway that was blue around the edges and then transitions to sand and ground, and a smaller one with a river cutting through it), and cetera. I used to use 8x16 green baseplates to mount minifigs in wargame-style squad formations.

    If you're curious there's an online database of lego pieces:
    Flat Baseplates
    Raised Baseplates
    Road Baseplates
  • Those are pretty fascinating. I can think of all kinds of uses for stuff like that.
  • BTW, do any of the Lego heads want to do a new thread talking about building a game with some of these concepts?

    Right now, I'm imagining something a bit like Lego Archipelago ( and how you'd modify that game's initial world/setting creation phase to employ Lego to create and use something like that big table display ffilz posted upthread).

    At this point, I'm convinced that starting from Lego fans and getting ideas solidified would really help me with the gaming minis end of things.
  • BTW, do any of the Lego heads want to do a new thread talking about building a game with some of these concepts?

    Right now, I'm imagining something a bit like Lego Archipelago ( and how you'd modify that game's initial world/setting creation phase to employ Lego to create and use something like that big table display ffilz posted upthread).

    At this point, I'm convinced that starting from Lego fans and getting ideas solidified would really help me with the gaming minis end of things.
    Start the thread and I'll participate, I'm curious to see where this goes.

    One thing to do is to research the existing LEGO games out there. This is old, and links may not all work, but here's a start:


  • This has to be a quick note, sorry.

    Eero mentioned use the studs as a grid. I think this would tend to turn your game into a skirmish game again. If that's what you want there's a well developed LEGO example.

    I'm hoping to make a more story-gamey game with what I'm working on.

    Other LEGO minifigure games exist

    And of course, there is Vincent's game

    Brickquest, Brikwars, and Mobile Frame Zero are all well-established games.

  • This has to be a quick note, sorry.

    Eero mentioned use the studs as a grid. I think this would tend to turn your game into a skirmish game again. If that's what you want there's a well developed LEGO example.

    I'm hoping to make a more story-gamey game with what I'm working on.

    Other LEGO minifigure games exist

    And of course, there is Vincent's game

    Brickquest, Brikwars, and Mobile Frame Zero are all well-established games.

  • Thanks for the links!

    Anyone have opinions right away on which of those are on the more dirty-hippy end of things, and why they are?
  • They all range from fairly to highly traditional wargames, in my experience. I don't know of much Lego rpg design that isn't either wargamey or pretty traditional (in the old school dungeon crawl mode).

    I did write this little minigame. It's not minis+ in the way we've been discussing, but it does do a couple interesting Lego-specific things.
  • edited March 2017
    Can you sketch or take a photo of that centers of gravity concept? I think I know what you mean, but I'm trying to visualize it.
    Basically, you set up the tabletop with various zones placed relative to each other. The orientation and distances between zones are not realistic, but give a sense of general relationships. Then, for each zone, rather than sculpting terrain in a realistic/representational fashion, you instead set up some scenery that is symbolic or iconic for the area. The piece(s) of scenery are "centers of gravity" that define a zone--minis near the iconic/symbolic object are in that zone. Note that I call these "centers of gravity" rather than "zones" or "areas" because the borders are strictly fuzzy. This allows for flexibility--for example, if two adjacent areas are fictionally far apart, you can move a mini to the intermediate area to show their impending arrival (like the traditional "edge of the board" reinforcements). This also means that the scenery can be realistic/fitted to the scale, or can be merely symbolic ("The green felt is a bunch of brambles.")

    Here's an example, also to illustrate the mixed-scales comment that I made above. This isn't an actual play photo--I just grabbed a few things that I had out/on top of my boxes and staged this scene in 90 seconds or so. But it works to illustrate how this might work in practice.

    Top-Down View
    Front-On View

    Basically, there are three areas. The first area is rocky terrain where several demon warriors (tieflings? lava men?) are fighting a shadow bear (a Duplo-scale bear cub figure, 4x bigger than minifig scale). The demon warriors have an ally, armed with a bow, in the nearby forest--the second area, represented by a tree. Finally, the third area is the river, from where the mother shadow bear is approaching to teach the demon warriors about pain. Note that each area has different levels of details represented in the scenery--the "river" is the Lego equivalent of a scrap of blue felt (which I also use); the rocks are to scale and custom built for the scene; and the tree is pretty close to scale, but way out of scale compared to the other scenery, and has been reused (from my medieval town layout).

    The scenery centers a fuzzy zone, which greatly simplifies movement. At skirmish scale, for example, I tend to play that players can freely move around within a zone, or can spend their turn moving from one zone to another. (This captures the melee feel of medieval war movies pretty well. Based on the relative position of the figures, you can also still represent engaged combatants, which allows you to include things like Attacks of Opportunity, if you so choose. I usually don't, but I've done it before, and it works fine.) Ranged attacks can usually--in the fantasy milieu I prefer--reach to adjacent zones. So, the archer guy could fire into the melee with the bear (which probably has cover or a chance of hitting his allies, if you're using such a ruleset), or he could move into melee with the bear cub for his turn. Likewise, the mother bear will need to spend a turn moving before she enters the rocky area with her cub. (Again, you could make this as crunchy as you want--for example, say that crossing the river counts as difficult terrain, so the mother bear will need two turns, or she needs to pass a Swim/Strength check not to stop her movement in the stream, or whatever you'd like in terms of mechanics).

    If it hasn't been clear, I've used the Center of Gravity approach with a range of rulesets, from 3.5 D&D to freeform toy play. It works amazingly well, even with crunchy, tactical-positional games like 3.5.

    There are a few benefits to the Center of Gravity approach, all of which come from its flexibility.
    1) For example, the scenery can be highly detailed--e.g. a full interior of a building, completely detailed--or it can be schematic, like the pile of rocks I built from Lego in 8 seconds. Thus, players can engage in lonely fun creating detailed iconic/symbolic scenery for important, recurring places, as they desire, but can also just literally anything for a quick transitory zone (e.g. "You hear the scraping sounds coming from the well, which is over by this quarter." *lays quarter down in corner of playing area*).
    2) The level of investment in material thus can reflect the time and inclination of players--I can totally see a game with several people committed to the material toys who invest time crafting (and reusing!) detailed scenery for a given zone--say, a medieval market square surrounded by several buildings, and peopled with vendors, carts, a well, etc.
    3) The approach scales--use mini-sized scenery for skirmish scale zones, but use icons of whole biomes or cities to show zones for a larger geographic area. I could see a fun game based around the maneuvering of various kingdoms, for examples, which the play area forming a sort of interactive map--kinda like one of the Civ video games, but with minis that you can physically interact with. In any case, point being that the area symbolized by the figure/scenery as the center of gravity can represent an area of any scale.

    Edit: Apparently Dropbox will no longer allow you to directly embed images through HTML. So, I provided links instead, since I don't have a fancy Imgur account or something. The links are safe. :)
  • edited March 2017
    Alright, I think I'm getting it now. That works very much like some of the stuff I've experimented with using gaming minis.

    Edited to add:
    When I was thinking dirty-hippy and asking about those games, one of the things I was wondering about was if there were any "Building Phases" or "What are we going to play?" phases in them that were laid out in terms of methods to be used by the group to determine that kind of stuff.

    One of the things about Lego that strikes me as a least slightly different from gaming minis is that building cool stuff ( scenery / terrain especially ) is more open to everyone involved, but still takes a bit of time.
  • There's a discussion going on over at RPGnet in the other games open forum(https://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?799065-Weapon-ranges-in-skirmish-games/page2), regarding weapons ranges in skirmish miniatures games.

    The whole thing is relevant, but I like this quote (from post #12), which relates a bit to what we're talking about:
    The way I like to think about it is that the scale is variable - open areas of terrain are at a smaller scale, and scenery pieces are closer to the scale of the miniatures. Therefore that 24" of open ground between the shooter and the target might be a hundred yards or more, while the 12" between two minis in the same building might be less than ten yards.
    So, even in the context of people talking about very traditional miniatures skirmish game design, there is some similar recognition of flexible distance/selective compression/abstract distance going on.
  • One of the things about Lego that strikes me as a least slightly different from gaming minis is that building cool stuff ( scenery / terrain especially ) is more open to everyone involved, but still takes a bit of time.
    So, in my mind, here's how you go about it. You say to your players, "Hey, next Saturday afternoon we're going to play our LEGO Story-game. The genre is classic castle" You tell each player to bring a setting MOC. "Bob, you bring a microscale exterior; Chris you bring a heroica scale interior; Eerro, you bring a minfigure scale interior; Frank, you bring a heroica scale exterior; and Stephen, you bring a minifigure scale interior, etc." Players build what they want based on the theme. The GM supplements with monsters, NPCs, a few other setting builds, etc. Maybe the GM could even assign NPC creation tasks to the group too. Everyone comes together on Saturday with what they've built. You play your story, randomizing how the MOC and characters show up in the story. Players have creative building input and narrative input because you're going to use their MOC at some point during the session, guaranteed. It's collaborative AND sandboxy because the GM will never know what MOC will show up at any particular session. She'll only know that the theme/genre will be similar/appropriate. Everyone keeps their build a secret. Even if two players build the same thing (which is unlikely, because you split up the tasks and scales, but could happen), two "castle gates" for example, they don't have to be the from the same castle. One could be the players home castle gate, the other could be the villain's castle gate. As long as everyone is clear about the genre expectations, you'll always have enough interesting stuff for a session. Nobody will know how anything will get used until play starts. Maybe you build a monster NPC thinking it will be the villain, but during play it actually turns out to be a donor, or mentor, or victim-to-be-rescued.
  • Okay, that seems pretty practical, having a preliminary session ( probably pretty short) to get things started.

    Heck, some of that could be done by e-mail I guess. You wouldn't even have to be F2F to spread that out.

    How much input do you think the initiating player/GM should shoot for with something like that? Where is the sweet spot between giving inspiration and being to micromanaging?

    I do like that though. I'm envisioning something where the plot/situation/important character mix isn't completely pre-determined, but only happens as play happens.

    ( I like Mythic GME a bunch, and the suggestion about the In A Wicked Age approach seems like it would work well for that too).

    As a follow up, how could you see follow up and expansion on that working after an initial session? I mean things like expansion of the initial stuff paralleling the expansion of the in-play fictional stuff ( or changes to it)?

    I could also see that being part of the fun of Lego play, as the world and cast develops.
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