Friday, May 29, 2009

Apocalypse Tips and Tricks

So, as you can probably guess from my last two posts, I had a very fun apocalypse game, probably more fun than I’ve had in any game of 40k so far. And I wasn’t the only one- the veterans of an earlier apocalypse game that I had missed all vouched that this time through it was much more fun and exciting. To make sure that you all have similar success with your apocalypse games, here are a few basic rules that I found to be instrumental to success or would have made the game better if they had been enacted.

Tip #1: Start by ironing out the basics.

By this I mean make sure that everyone understands the fundamental aspects of the game: the rules of the game, the differences that Apocalypse makes to several rules (hello scout and infiltrate!), and the rules for (at least most of) your army/armies. These are the little things that apocalypse games need to have be no-brainers in order to run smoothly, as nothing can bog a game down more than constant rules checks/disputes. Granted, not everyone will know every rule- there might be a unit that they are using that they normally don’t, or someone might fudge up some of the apocalypse rule overlays (hello scout, infiltrate and super heavies!), but as long as they know the statlines of and how to use most of their army, everything will be fine and dandy.

Also included in this is time: when and how long. Plan in advance!

Tip #2: Have a large enough space

Nothing can ruin a huge game like not having enough space to maneuver in. Fast units aren’t able to use their speed well enough, infiltrators and strategic redeployment are moot points, and holding objectives becomes more of a slugfest than chances for deft commanding. Also assault armies are put at a major advantage. However, if you have too much space much of the action is lost and assault armies are left out in the cold. In our game we had a main board of about 10’ by 15’ and a side board that was the standard 6’ by 4’ for a game with 20k points per side, and the dimensions seemed perfect. Take from that what you will.

Tip #3: Balance the sides in the ways that matter

This would be number of titans, super-heavies, strategic assets and possibly destroyer weapons. Ours was a little skewed, 4 super-heavies vs. 3, but it was balanced out by our side having slightly more points than the other. These are the specially designed apocalypse units, and will lend a tremendous advantage to whoever wields them. I haven’t found balancing formations to be necessary as they do have considerable point costs, but you may wish to do this as well.

Tip #4: Commanders

Having commanders for our teams was a great idea. We probably could have put it into focus a little bit more, but having a set person to bounce tactics off of and to corral the other members of the team into getting phases done on time was a real boon. Also having a cohesive strategy helped speed up movement and shooting, as we knew what we were aiming at and could use our individual armies to accomplish the objective.

Tip # 5: Have a clock

You don’t necessarily have to listen to it, but it does keep the passage of time at the forefront of everyone’s mind.

Tip #6: Break the rules

Apocalypse is all about cool stuff- huge robots, tanks, and points upon points of troops. But even with super-heavies and formations, it still just plays like a big 40k game. You can change this up by adding in elements not found in the game but that make thematic sense. In our case it was the warp rift which teleported troops to the secondary battlefield. For you it could be using side tables as spacecraft (like in the Reloaded book) or placing the battlefield under bizarre environmental conditions. As long as it’s cool and it changes the dynamic of the game in a fundamental way, it should be cool.

Corollary to tip #6: Don’t make it too complicated…

…because then it might end up in the dust. The more complicated something is the more likely people are going to forget what it does, which will lead to inevitable rules disputes. The stuff can still be cool, just make sure that it’s something that your gamers will be able to wrap their heads around.

Tip #7: Additional Objectives

This goes along with the break the rules part. Fighting for objectives on a map can get boring after a while- why not add additional, thematic objectives to the game that aren’t necessarily based on map locations? In our game we all had two secret objectives that our generals had to complete, one easy and one hard. Mine was to keep two random generals from my team alive (at which I succeeded), while another player’s was to suspect a fellow comrade of being a traitor and gain the ability to open fire on him on the last turn. These added a great secondary mission to the game and helped make it more thematic and fun. Balancing may be impossible, but as long as they are relatively even in difficulty everything should be fine.

Tip #8: Keep everything manageable

So we’ve got our awesome objectives, secret objectives, balanced super-heavies and crazy special rules… now we pare it down. Having too much of anything can ruin a game of apocalypse. Too many players/points per player and you have turns taking forever and more chances for people to forget things. Too many crazy new additions and no one will be able to remember them all, leading to heated rules disputes and less fun. So introduce one cool new idea, invite a manageable number of people and keep the army sizes to more realistic levels based on how many people you have. When you have games that are this big that last this long, oftentimes less is more.

Tip #9: The obligatory Have fun!

Do it. This means not sweating the small stuff, remembering it’s just a game, and embracing the sheer ridiculousness that is 40k.

I hope these tips have been useful… if you have any questions about the game we played or anything else for that matter, let me know!


sovietspace said...

That was a really good little post, with a few points I'd not considered before, thanks a lot :)

I can't wait for my next apoc game now!

Max said...