Monday, October 24, 2011

Selecting a tabletop game: part 2 (Playstyle)

I mentioned in part 1 of my recent post about how to choose a tabletop game that there are three things I consider when looking for a new game, outside the obvious price structure, and those are

I have already tackled where I stand in regards to looks, and during that post I did mention playstyle a little, but I'll finally get into more detail in this post.

Playstyle can be just as a broad term to use for tabletop gaming as looks in many aspects. Not only do different games have different playstyles for the metagame, but the various forces and races that make up that game also have their own distinct playstyles as well. This of course means a few things for you when choosing a game and force to play with.

The most obvious of course is that you need to figure out what your preferred playstyle actually is. For many years I played High Elves not only because of the looks, but I liked the mass of elite foot soldiers. I wasn't a huge fan of casters, cavalry, or even special characters. This made the High Elf force a good fit for me for those years, as that is exactly what they focused on. Swordmasters who (when I first got into the game) could deflect arrows shot at them, White Lions whose pelts protected them from arrows, Spearmen and archers trained to a higher degree then other races, it all fit perfectly for how I envisioned the race as well as how I enjoyed playing. Of course over time things changed and so did my playstyle.

I have learned to value ranged and magic attacks much more now days, sometimes even leaning more towards having a ranged heavy force in many aspects. Unfortunately Warhammer didn't really make me happy in that regard and I began to look for other game systems and see what options I had. Warmachine did a great job of making me feel like my two units of Cleaners were well worth the points spent, and Firestorm Armada has nothing but ranged attacks due to the game being ship based. Even now I am planning a mage heavy Warmachine force using the Retribution force list.

All of that is my *personal* playstyle, but (and again I hinted at this already) the games playstyle in the end dictates the overall playstyle of all the forces. Warhammer, Kings of War, and other games of that nature naturally tend to end up being being the most balanced between dynamic battles and tactical battles . Warmachine, Firestorm Armada, and Anima Tactics (and even inquisitor to a large degree) have much more dynamic battles at the cost of size, thus far more skirmish based. Epic, Warmaster, Heavy Gear (15mm and smaller scale games) tend to focus on the large picture and tactics rather then particular heroes and individuals.

If you are looking to get into a game where each solider is capable of being a hero, obviously first you would tart with the dynamic battle rulesets which allow those soldiers to do heroic things. If you want to see what a full scale battle would look like on a tabletop then you would go for a smaller scale ruleset focus more on overall tactics. As I said before, games like Warhammer and Kings of War gives a somewhat more balanced approach, as the heroes don't have nearly the dynamic nature to them as the skirmish level rulesets, but more personality then found in the army level rulesets.

The last thing, and one that is just as important as any of the above is the turn sequence. Many players who are only used to Warhammer style games feel comfortable with the IgoUgo turn sequence. There is alternating turn sequences though in many games; Firestorm Armada, AT-43, and Anima Tactics to name just a few, which does take some getting used to. You have to choose if you want to move your full force in one go, or alternating movement with your opponent unit by unit. The alternating sequence makes the game feel more like a much deeper version of chess to myself.

Playstyle is an amazingly deep thing to have to consider, and do not be shocked that you pick an army that you enjoy the looks of, only to find out you can't playing with it because it simply does not play the way you like or expected. Also keep an open mind in regards to differing playstyles, as you might think that you only want to be a up close melee monster, only to find a particular game system or race that has magic or ranged that you enjoy far more.
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