Irrational Number Line Games, LLC

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Quick Intermediate Level Skirmish -- So What?

There are lots of games out there that have all types of overlap with the kind of games you can play under the QILS system. This little piece of real estate talks a little about two aspects of those games: (1) where QILS is good, and (2) where QILS is not so good.

The section on what QILS does well is not inteded to bash other games or say they are "worse" and ours is "better." We don't really believe in those types of assessment. Games should really be considered to be more or less appropriate for a particular type of game experience you want. Since the fundamental requirement, what you want to play, is subjective it doesn't do any good to pretend that you can really establish an overall objective "rating."

Does all that mean we think there's no such thing as a "good" or "bad" game? No. Not really. There are several games out there that have very limited appeal and applicability. There are lots of people (and gamers) out there, but lots is still finite. So there is a limit to what is just "niche" and what really doesn't appeal to anyone. We hope QILS isn't that.

What does it do well?

It's Quick

One of the big design criteria for QILS is that it should play quickly. We believe we have achieved that. Simple movement and simple combat resolution were key factors. QILS allows you to do this basic stuff in a fairly simple manner that doesn't require a lot of thought. That allows you to think mostly about "what does this action do for me?" and very little about "how do I do this action?" In the optional rules, the things that slow the game down a bit are magiq, elevation, and teams. We hope the minor additional work is well worth the richness provided to your gaming.

The magiq system is simple and straightforward. Obviously, the more different things you try to do at once, the more complex managing it gets. But, the different adjudications are themselves, pretty simple. If you want to mix it up a lot, it is pretty simple to make an index card sized "cheat sheet" mapping out who is in opposition and antagonism with whom. We figure if you are really into gaming with magic powers, you would probably enjoy drawing this out, anyway.

Elevation was a bit of a compromise. The rules are pretty simple because they rely on intuition (like is the sedge grass between the two guys shooting each other) for interpretation rather than very detailed rules (calculate the ratio of the obstructed lines of fire drawn from eyes to eyes, eyes to center of mass, eyes to base, ...). As such this still runs pretty fast, but it does have the drawback that it makes using elevation with QILS less appropriate for situations where people get rules-lawyery. Unfortunately, tournaments often fall into this category.

The team rules require a little more than move your guys and roll some dice. Even if they introduce a little complexity through additional rules, they are designed to make larger force on force engagements quicker. In a game where each player has 40 warriors if each player had to give individual orders to each figure, taking turns would get monotonous quickly. It would also bog down in decisions like "when Stavard charges into the invading Slobovians does he attack that guy or the guy standing next to him ... hmmmm" In the same game, if each had a team of ten warriors players would move the same number of figures, roll the same dice, inflict the same mayhem, but not get bogged down in the minutae of man to man target selection and adjudication for large forces.

Min-Maxing is Hard

Well, for some people, that would be a major drawback. However, since it was a major design consideration for us, we consider it to be a major advantage. Talking about how this is hard can also give some good insights into combatant, die, and team design, so this section will address some of the big aspects of how QILS plays from both perspectives in those areas.

Combatant design has one of the more powerful normalizing factors. Each attack is evaluted as the best value rolled across all your dice for that combatant. As a result, power grows logrithmically with more dice, so each die you add gives you a smaller incrent in power than the last one did. This power delta for each new die asymptotically approaches the power you get for just being able to sustain one more hit. Although the math is completely unrelated, we like to think of this like the relativistic velocity of light speed limit. Each little extra bit of effort costs you more, and adds a little more, but you will never break that boundary.

The big benefit of this limitation is that it keeps multi die combatants from getting out of hand. If you've played other games, you've certainly seen this - a 200 point monster isn't the same thing as ten 20 point SWAT members. In some cases 20 point combatants can't even possibly harm a 200 point combatant. Even if your had twenty of them. Or fifty. When this happens, it usually isn't a result of an intentional game design consideration, like Porganian aliens should be immune to bullets, it is usually the unintended interaction of numbers of complex rules.

We can actually see the fun in the intellectual challenge of finding such an unintended consequence of the rules. But not the fun in playing it over and over once you've verified this combination is practially unbeatable no matter what strategy you or others use. If you find that fun, you probably need a different game. And maybe a better therapist, too. :) Instead of that type of immunity, QILS has something we like better - imminent mortality. Every combatant has a reasonable opportunity to get eviscerated unless you intentionally design the scenario otherwise. Plus, if you are unbeatable, it is all about you, and not the side effects of the system. :) :)

Die design has a similiar property to combatant design, if for a different reason. You use a six-sided die. That's it. You can't have more than six of anything ever on the die. And one out of six rolls, you get a one. Instead of being a logrithmic limitation, this is a linear limitation on power. If you try to aggregate 200 one-die guys as a super kill-all to beat that one 200-die monster (you do have 200 dice lying around, right?), you have to live with the fact that ~1/6 of them can be taken out with a roll of a two.

The archtype challege this presents is what to put on that [explitive deleted] face with only one pip. If it is red, you've left your combatant completely defenseless 16% of the time ... and what are you really going to hit with just a one? If it's blue, you've started out reducing all possibility of a hit on every enemy by 1/6. (It the one pip is yellow, you need to re-read the rules.) The two pip isn't much better. The three starts to get OK if you are only mixing red and blue or yellow and blue.

Two big things to consider are the probability of a color coming up and the power it has when coming up. These seem obvious, but it is fairly easy to be distracted by number of pips on a face, which no matter what you decide, don't change. Just looking at defense, do you want at least one blue pip on every face? Nice and safe ... Safer. One blue pip per face is very different than having the whole six face made of blue pips and no others, even if the average across the die is the same. Well, what about a six face of all yellow (or red)? It doesn't do more damage than five yellow and one blue and is much more risky. Besides, the best possible chance of rolling a 4 or better defense is only 50% and with a minimum of 12 blue pips, what has he got left to attack you with, anyway?

Team design is also heavily give and take. Good strategies in the disribution of different units give a lot more payoff than trying to figure out the uber-combatant that will devistate everything in front of it. Should you use ranged weapons as the main thrust of your attack or should they snipe at targets of opportunity? If they are that good at ranged combat, how do you keep them adequately protected so you don't prematurely loose a key part of your strategy? How flexible is your force to face different terrain constraints? Do you have enough different types of unit to adapt? ... too many to provide concentrated fire at a weakness that develops?

Hopefully, no one out there finds the "big undiscovered flaw" in the system that allows the kind of imbalance that min-maxing thrives on. When you make a decision to design your force one way, you take away something equally as powerful the other way. Then it all comes down to the play and the riskiness of your gambits. So your force of berzerks with all red pips and nothing else are going to rock ... if you can maneuver them in to hit hard first.

It Has a Lot of Depth

Just a few numbers here. They will be kept to a minimum for those not good or interested. Those who are big-time analysts can (and probably already have) done much better than these explanations for themselves.

Let's start with one die and just go with red, blue, and yellow. There are billions (just over 10B) ways to arrange (permutations of) the pips, but when you leave out ones that are the same like blue-red on the two is the same as red-blue, you get down to just over a million and a half different dice you can make. Some of these don't make sense (like any of face with just a yellow pip) or are functionally the same (if 5 and 6 are all yellow except one pip, it doesn't matter if you go red-blue or blue-red with the remaining pip). When you cull it down further, you still end up with about a quarter of a million different dice. If you try to segment that out by grouping "likes" you could break it down to say there are about 500 classes of different dice that can each have about 500 different implementations. Basically like taking one of the D&D monster books and rolling up a couple hundered of each monster. And that's just one die with the three basic colors.

Support Objective Play

While many gaming systems that are fundamentally set up for attrition based warfare (which many are) can support scenarios with objectives, it is often the case that "steal the Lost Tome of MeenieBeenie from the temple" becomes "kill everyone in the temple then walk out with the Lost Tome of MeenieBeenie" as that is the option heavily favored by the statistics of the game. There are also many fine objective based wargames that suffer a similar problem when you say "Can't we just have a gang war slugfest today?"

What's what does it not do well?

You Need Lots of Dice

Well, there's not much more to say about that, now is there ... maybe just a little. QILS relies heavily on the custom-designed dice to take the table-referencing, calculating, multiple rule manipulating processes of some other games. But you can't get something for nothing, so in order to have some richness in the game, it all gets bound up in the dice. The Hints and Tricks section has some ideas to minimize the impact of the need for lots of specific dice. But, ultimately, you gotta have 'em.

Intuitive Physical Representation

Another thing (one that we will call a kind-of benefit just like we pointed out that some of the strong points are kind-of drawbacks) that QILS doesn't do well is let the core stats, the pips on the dice directly correspond to a physical representation. In other games, if one gun has a 100m range and another has a 150m range, you just annotate the range on the stats and move on. Done. QILS doesn't really let you have different ranges on weapons, so what you have to do is to create the feel by having one set of dice have more faces with yellow or maybe more yellow pips per face than the other. It's a squishy correspondence that doesn't focus on the physical properties of the entities in the game, but rather their effect. The hope is that the player also spends more time focusing on the effects rather than the stats.

Before we leave this point, with the backhanded compliment, it is important to point out that while you can certainly represent the effect of different "real world" properties of combatants and their weapons since it is a squishy correspondence, it gets harder to maintain all the relationships as physical relationships as you bring more and more different die designs into a milieu. If you are just concerned with relationships between effects, no problem. But if you just worked out the 100m/150m thing and you now want to throw in a 125m, you're basically starting back at ground zero with your workload.