Balancing Detail And Playability

Part of the success of this little racket we have going here is, I think, the balance that was achieved between detail and playability. This is no easy feat, as 20 years of trying on my part can attest to, through change after change to the rules and various attempts to balance the many types of units in the BattleTech Universe: BattleMechs, Tanks, WarShips etc.The other major issue was how detailed the system could be. Would players have control of single units, lances, companies or battalions at the lowest level, and would they be able to choose the design their factories produced. These sorts of questions are critical in game design, as the heavily influence the mechanics of the game from top to bottom, with a change anywhere creating ripples throughout the system, some known and others unknown. It is those latter ripples that are the bane of game design and the focus of many a rewrite of a system.

So how was this accomplished, allowing Successor Lords (the name of the game, or SL), to provide players with detail and playability? The answer was found through the use of spread sheets. By having the sheets undertake many of the calculations the game requires, players merely needed to update data, with the sheets looking after the rest. With this tool, details such as the exact production from factories, or the actual ‘Mech strength of a regiment could be easily displayed.

This also allowed for greater detail in the statistics of a unit, more than just experience and loyalty. For units in SL, there are 21 statistics. Sounds like a lot, well yes it is, but by having two thirds of those automatically calculate themselves, players can easily manage the numbers.

What is more, spread sheets allowed us to create a Combat Resolution Sheet, where regiments are dropped into for combat resolution. It is in the Combat Sheets where space, air and land battles can be fought in easy sequence, allowing the Gm’s a modicum of sanity. It is at this point where the invaluable assistance of Bruce Jensen has been most important, as he works at automating both combat and intelligence, following his success with a sheet that allows players to easily manage the repairing of units.

So how detailed have we got? Lets look at two examples, the production facilities on Pandora and the 24th Arcturan Guards.

On Pandora, there are 8 Civilian Industrial Points (CIP), useful for generating cash, but also in supporting the military industry on world. Also on world are 20 lines for the production of light tanks, 15 for heavy tanks, 1 for heavy ‘Mechs and 1 for Assault ‘Mechs. With each line producing 6 units every six months, the yearly rate of production is 210 tanks and 24 ‘Mechs.

But what models you ask? That is all found in the CISA Industries Review, which players get each six months of game time, similar to MadCapellan’s Industries listings, but heavily modified to suit the Kapteyn Universe (KU). When looking up Pandora, we see that there are lines for the production of Centipede, Condor, Scorpion, Pegasus and LRM and SRM Carrier tanks, as well as lines for the Rifleman and Battlemaster ‘Mechs. Rules exist that allow players to modify the units produced, or create their own.

As to the 24th Arcturan Guards, located on LC/TA//Skokie, which tells the sort functions in excel that the unit is located on Skokie, in the Tamar region of the Tamar Province of the Lyran Commonwealth. From there we see that the unit has a ‘Mech regiment with 132 BattleMechs, of a heavy average with the regiment possessing a mid-range regular experience value. Backing the ‘Mech regiment up is a regular, light aerospace wing and a regular, medium conventional brigade.

Conventional Brigades were a balance between armour and infantry. Each consists of a tank regiment and 2 infantry regiments, supplied by the production from armour factories. Placing infantry and tanks in separately, would have been too much detail. As it is, the AFFS has 587 separate units on its rosters, adding in infantry would nearly triple this, for no real gain.

So, as you can see, we were able to create a richly detailed universe, that has allowed us to give players the real feel of leading a great start empire, without making them cry every time they have to make a decision. That is unless you are the Federated Suns player, who just keeps getting kicked…

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