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Thoughts on game balance


First, I want to say that I really like Crimson, and it's exactly the kind of 
war game I've been searching for for Linux for the last two years.  I don't 
know why I didn't find it before, though.  But I'm really enjoying it, and in 
the last couple of scenarios I played well enough that I was glued to the 
edge of my seat for the whole game.  So I'm very happy with it.

That said, I've been thinking about game balance, and here's what I've got.

On attack, both artillery and air units seem to be weaker than they should.  
It seems to me like a gunship should be able to take out a tank unit with one 
attack, or two at the most.  Bombers should be able to take out anything on 
the ground with one attack.  Interceptors, presumably intended to fight only 
air units, should be extremely effective against other air units, but may 
require two attacks to get them.  Fighters should be slightly weaker, but not 
much (unless I've got them backwards).  AA guns and howitzers both should be 
able to take out a unit with one or two attacks at the most, and/or fire at 
multiple targets each turn.  Or have a firepower spread across all the 
targets they fire at, and let you fire weaker shots at multiple targets or 
one really powerful shot at one target.

On defense, both artillery and air units seem to be stronger than they should.  
:)  Consider that artillery might have a squad of infantry for defense, but 
likely don't have anything tough.  And the gunners themselves should probably 
have hand weapons, but if they used them in defense it seems like they should 
lose the turn's attack because they're too busy fighting defense.  Maybe we 
don't want that kind of detail, though.  :)  In any case, I figure that any 
unit capable of firing at air units are going to have something portable and 
powerful enough to take them out with one or two hits.  We're dealing with 
highly advanced, right?  In today's military, marines carry some AA weapons 
(the old ones were called LAW's, but there are newer, more powerful ones) 
because their automatic rifles don't do jack against the armor of an air 
unit.  While the things aren't usually as powerful as a missile mounted on a 
jet, or shot from an AA unit, they are pretty powerful.  So I would assume 
that a single infantry unit would have such a squad within it.  Not that I'm 
a military expert or anything.

In any case, I'm finding that artillery and air units are both far less 
effective during actual use than they should be, because they're matching up 
more or less the same as the tanks.  I realize they're capable of flying over 
any terrain and that gives them a pretty good mobility advantage, but it's 
not enough.  When/if they get surrounded, they should either be able to shoot 
their way out pretty easily or fly over the enemy units.  Further, it 
shouldn't even be possible for ground units to surround an air unit and 
prevent it from escaping.  As it stands, if your gunship gets surrounded, 
he's probably toast.  Air superiority is big in modern warfare, but is mostly 
nullified in Crimson because of this particular trait of air units.  The 
mobility advantage of air units could be turned into both an advantage and a 
disadvantage, if you require them to move each turn (except for gunships, 
which are presumably able to hover).  Then you can make them extremely 
powerful, but they have to keep moving or they crash.  Combine this with 
ramming (mentioned below) and it would make them very...interesting.  :)

What do y'all think about a second movement phase after the firing phase is 
resolved?  I ask because that's how Ogre/GEV did it, you got a second 
movement phase for GEVs (Ground Effect Vehicle, aka hovercraft).  That made 
your GEVs very useful, if light, strategic pieces.  I realize that in Crimson 
the hovercraft can also carry troops, but there isn't a piece capable of 'hit 
and run' tactics.  In a battle against superior numbers, which most of them 
are, hit and run tactics are essential to being able to win.  With them 
missing, well, maybe I'm just a poor tactician after all.  ;)  In any case, 
I'm thinking that air units (with the possible exception of gunships) and 
hovercraft should have a second movement phase after the firing phase.  In 
Ogre and GEV (the same game sold in different packs with different maps and 
assortment of pieces, but the rules were the same) you could move your GEVs 4 
hexes in the main movement phase, but only 3 in the second movement phase.  
I'm thinking a similar arrangement here would be very useful and effective.  
In any case, in Ogre, the second movement phase basically put all of your 
GEVs on the flanks, so you could respond very quickly on the flanks (which 
need faster moving pieces anyway).  Or you'd put them on your enemy's flanks 
and have them charge through holes you leave in your own flanks, attack, and 
then pull them back (except that you could stack multiple pieces in the same 
hex, if I recall correctly, but it's been over 10 years since I played it).  
With air units, you can actually keep them behind the front line, fly them 
over the line, attack, and then pull them back and let your ground troops 
stand for defense (which is what happens on your opponent's turn).

Two more things I'd like to see, though.  :)  Ramming, such as when a powered 
unit like a gunship or a tank are so weak they can't mount a serious attack, 
but they can use their vehicle as a weapon to make a big explosion.  And also 
being able to split infantry and distributing the remaining power of the 
infantry amongst the new divisions.  For example, a full-strength infantry 
(6) could split into 6 1-strength divisions, or 2-5 variable-strength 
divisions.  That would make them far more useful on the front lines where 
they can split to fill in the gaps that occur from time to time.  Especially 
in the hopeless scenarios (which most of them seem to be) that would make 
them far more effective than they already are.  Then they would be able to 
recombine, up to 6 strength, of course.  Just an idea.  Filling in the gaps 
in the lines is a problem that has haunted generals for thousands of years 
and isn't likely to go away...  ;)  If the other units are intended to be 
units of vehicles rather than single vehicles, then they should be able to do 
this too, logically.  But if they can, and the infantry can, then there's no 
significant advantage gained with infantry (other than the fact that they're 
the only ones capable of taking a city).  Oo, one more.  The suicide stand.  
:)  Basically, you tell a piece "Kill everything until you get killed".  So 
they get some sort of enhanced power because of the resulting surge of 
adrenaline a real unit would experience, but in exchange for that they are 
dead soon.  Like maybe give them 3 turns of high power, and then make them 
really really weak afterwards.

Just some thoughts, anyway.  Maybe it's obvious that I've been looking for a 
good game similar to Ogre/GEV, and Crimson is the closest to it that I've 
found.  Those games were really cool, if painful to play because they were 
regular board games.

Besides all of that, I haven't played this game with my sound turned on.  Is 
there any background music?  If I provide some good throbbing metal tracks, 
would you guys be interested in them?  I can provide complete stereo tracks, 
and I can even compose them in such a way that they'd be interchangeable (by 
putting them all at the same tempo, and/or having each track end solidly at 
the end of a measure).  You can find some poorly-mastered samples of my music 
at http://www.davefancella.com/index.php?page=Music .  Metal seems to go well 
with board games, but then again I think metal goes well with everything.  :)  
I might be able to coerce my digital effects processor to turn guitar sounds 
into various machine sounds, like chopper blades and so forth, or even 
explosions.  Interested in that stuff, or are we all set already?


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