today's post is going to be partly a discussion about how rules changes in one part of a miniature game rule set can have effects on other parts, and I want to look at how game balance is affected by rules changes. Specifically the different levels of rules changes there can be. Since there will be another Heavy Gear kickstarter in the Third quarter of 2017 we'll be issuing a rules update for the living rule book so this becomes very relevant right now.
The items that will be updated are being compiled as a list now. What the update amounts to is some points changes, a couple of stat changes, and some of the additional rules (Transport) being clarified and some new model rules being added for models that will be revealed for the kickstarter.
In the development cycle for Heavy Gear this is year two of the release of the Current Heavy Gear Living Rule Book (HGB:LRB) rules. There are three levels of rules updates that can happen:
Level 1) Model attribute including point costs, Weapon, trait, and special rule modifications. Including new models.
Level 2) Primary rules modifications.
Level 3) Game mechanic changes.
For all updates to HGB:LRB every attempt is made to only have level 1 updates. If absolutely necessary then a level 2 change to the rules can be made to clarify them or correct an issue. A level 3 change should only happen with an edition change and an edition change should only happen every 4-6 years.
All updates are intended to address game balance. Game balance is the utmost importance since a game will only be played as long as both players consider the game a contest instead of a foregone conclusion. In a game as complex as heavy gear there are multiple rules that cover all the parts of the game and so changing one rules can easily lead to a balance problem that may require another change to the rules.
As long as all the rules issues being address are all of the Level 1 variety then it can be very simple to make them and then adjust to the changes. the vast majority of changes are made this way. A level 2 change is a bigger problem, not just because it means that we missed something that should have been fixed earlier in the development cycle but because changing a primary rules can cause a cascade of effects in traits, weapons, models, and point values. These should be avoided as much as possible, or addressed in an addition to the errata.
Whenever I get feedback I have to classify the feedback into items that require a level 1, 2, or 3 updates. This informs what is my most appropriate response. Ideally I can change the FAQ/Errata on the spot and apply the changes to the next update. Sometimes an issue need a longer turn-around period to ensure that one change does not cause other balance issues.
Balance is never perfect. Even chess, a game where both players have exactly the same pieces, there is one player who moves first. It's a goal to have perfect balance between all armies in Heavy Gear and there is so much not accounted for in the rules. How dense your terrain is, or what you have available for terrain, makes a huge difference, as do player preferences in the models they choose, or have available to play with.
One of the most impressive things that I have heard about from heavy gear players is when they find a killer combination of gears and equipment and then they tone it down rather than sweeping aside all foes. This is the kind of balance that players and gaming groups can do while their feedback and messages are peculating through the system on their way to contributing to an update/FAQ/or errata. I highly recommend finding players who approach the game as a thing to be enjoyed among friends and not a professional sporting event.
I am off on some deserved vacation. Please do not worry if you do not get a response to any messages you send my way until mid July.
Have a good summer everyone!