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Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Rogue Reflections - Energy Pool (Rogue Planet)

Recently I played a solo game of Rogue Planet which was a lot of fun and got me thinking a lot about a game's (not necessarily Rogue Planet's) mechanics.  One of game's defining mechanics is the Energy PoolWhat is it?  Well, from the Rogue Planet blurb:
The ENERGY expenditure system allows you to simulate the strength of your force, powers the various armor ratings of your troops, and gives you the option to keep your units in play when you want or need to- but there’s always a cost!
And the thing is since Day One I've struggled with the mechanism and its effect upon games.  It's hard to articulate the gripe (?) but it's something to do with how a Force with a big Energy Pool can shrug-off otherwise killing shots, kind of extending the life of their Units.  For example:

My Space Marine charges into a hail of fire from your Chaos Cultists.  The Space Marine's Power Armour fails to negate the resulting damage however I don't care: I can just dip into my Energy Pool and negate your once-debilitating but now totally ineffectual attack.  Heretics suck!. Go Throne!

So the Energy Pool kind of extends the life of Units beyond their natural lifespan... something like that.

Any way, recently I was reading the excellent article "Willpower and Morale as a Resource" on the Delta Vector blog (which is a great read by the way) which included some thought provoking elements including the following:

So morale and willpower are finite resources; someone under stress or making decisions will struggle to make decisions or use willpower on subsequent occasions - which points to morale being a "resource" that can be steadily eroded.  Some systems allow morale to be increased due to actions of leaders, but should morale ever improve beyond the rested, pre-battle level, even if sarge is yelling?    So tracking morale/willpower as a resource makes sense, albeit perhaps a bit messy (perhaps a micro d6 next to a unit, for example?).

And as it happens, a few days later a Rogue Penny dropped.  Rogue Planet's Energy Pool could be viewed as a pseudo morale/willpower resource.  Suddenly the mechanism made more sense to me.  Let's have a look at my previous example, slightly edited:

My Space Marine charges into a hail of fire from your Chaos Cultists.  Despite taking multiple hits the combination of the the Marine's armour and fortitude allow him weather the storm to achieve his objective.  The Marines' Energy/Morale/Willpower Pool is adequate to absorb the punishment so far; however it isn't unlimited.  Heretics suck but can hurt! Go Throne (for the time being)!
I think my whole perspective of the game's intended/optimal scale has altered.  When I say "scale" I'm not so much referring to whether I play a 28mm or 15mm game, but more so in terms of (1) the size of the map (2) the number of combatants and (3) the timeline/ticks - there's likely better terms than those but they'll do for now.

With the Energy Pool acting as a sort of clock, limiting the extent of a particular skirmish's action, suddenly the game's breadth is tightened or channelled into a more concise, sharper focus.  A skirmish game isn't the same beast as a platoon or company level game, no, it's only represent maybe a few minutes of action.

How far can someone run in a couple of minutes?  Not far, so the map/battlefiled need not be very large.

What about injuries - need a skirmish game be "deadly"?  I think yes.  A 'kill' result in the context of a few minutes of action could easily translate into someone being rendered ineffective for the remaining duration of the action.  E.g., in the few minutes it takes to remedy an equipment failure, the skirmish is over.  Similarly, taking fire might stun a combatant for 10 minutes, again meaning they've been unable to contribute to this particular skirmish but may be absolutely ready for the next.

With this in mind I can feel the shape of my skirmish games/scenarios reducing in scale and in doing so, the frustrations I was beginning to feel about tuning the game's strategic meta with the underlying tactical engine are eliminated.  Skirmish isn't the same as W40K just with fewer models, and this revelation has the makings of a good thing 😃

What now? Well I want to think a little more about how force composition can alter Energy Pool allocation and what that means in terms of game objectives.

One rule related to Energy Pools is that a Unit designated as a Group isn't allocated Energy whilst a Light Armoured unit is.  So if one was to go Group heavy, you'd have fewer Energy Points but can take more hits (kind of). Should the depletion of an Energy Pool maybe signal the end of the skirmish? I think not, but it is indicative of a Force with little left in terms of mental reserve...

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