Rogue Planet - Tactics 1

Subsequent to my recent Rogue Planet Battle Report I've had a number of requests for more Rogue Planet insight*. Well the game provides PLENTY of opportunities for the development of a dramatic narrative; however it may surprise some people that a game with (1) virtually no measuring, (2) limited unit stats and (3) non-existent record keeping also can provide players with considerable tactical depth.

For the war gaming boffins out there, I like to think of tactics as the things I can do and decisions I can make during the course of playing the game that has a influence on the game's outcome e.g., do I move into cover or hold my ground and open fire? Strategies, on the other hand, are decisions I make prior to the game proper commencing e.g., whether I outfit my Troopers with close combat or ranged weapons.

So I thought I'd illustrate how some of the game's mechanisms lend themselves to both interesting and somewhat unusual (relative to other game systems) tactical play.  Enjoy!

*One Battle Report and I'm now an "Expert"?!? Well that's the internet for you!  Mind you it's great starting some correspondence with other people around the world - thanks!

Rogue Planet's Turns

In most games a "Turn" describes each player's opportunity to activate most/all their Force.  A Rogue Planet Turn is a little different and can have very little or lots of activations involved.  At one end of the scale, a Player's Turn might be limited to activating and Moving a single Unit (i.e. one model or a collection of model's designated as a "Group").  Alternately, at the other end of the scale, a Player's Turn could result in the activation of 6 different Units or a single Unit 6 times - yes, one Unit could be instructed to fire upon the enemy 6 consecutive times!  It quite different to most other games and takes some getting used to.

It's worth a quick summary of the various some of the key concepts/mechanics in a Rogue Planet Turn:
  1. Each Turn in Rogue Planet has a variable number of Actions performed.
  2. Each Force in a given Turn can elect to have 3 Action Points or go with lady luck and receive as many as 6 or as few as 1 Action Point i.e. a random 1-6 else a default/safe 3.
  3. The Player with the Turn's highest number of Action Points decides who has the Initiative i.e. who will commence the Turn and utilise some or all of their Action Points.
  4. Once the Player with the Initiative has exhausted their Action Points, play is handed over to their opponent.
  5. The opponent now exhausts their Action Points and the Turn is concluded.
Two Rogue Planet mechanics that add some additional flavour or twists to the above mix are Skill Checks and Counter-Actions.

When Skill Checks (for example, resolving a Charge Action) result in something less than Total Success, one's opponent is typically awarded an opportunity to perform one or two Move Actions, out of the standard Turn sequence and at no Action Point cost.

Counter-Actions describe an opponent's opportunity to react to the evolving situation. Whilst the Player with the Initiative can initiate Actions, most Actions trigger an opportunity for their opponent to attempt a Counter-Action. The manner in which Counter-Action's can shape a game's Turn provides for some really challenging tactical choices during play.  I'll illustrate the above with a couple of various on a set scenario and describe some of the tactical considerations/opportunities at hand.
Captain Stonnet fights again!

Scenario Setting

A single Human, Captain Stonnet (designated with the Blue "S" icon on the following diagrams), is engaging three Tani Quarra (designated via the Green Q1, Q2 and Q3).  The Human Player rolls 3 Actions and the Tani 2 Actions.  The Human elects to go first, so holds the Turn's Initiative.  Finally, I'll assume that both sides' Energy Pools have been exhausted i.e. neither Force has the means of offsetting any damage dealt to their Unit(s).

Variation One: I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

Stonnet has Line of Sight (LoS) on each Tani and elects to open fire - with 3 Action Points available, Stonnet can perform three Shoot Actions.  Stonnet performs each Shoot Action sequentially, with each Action resulting in a Total Success.  Without the means of offsetting the damage the Tani Quarra are destroyed, Humanity's saved and game night is over.


That's kind of typical of most games - a Player can activate a Unit and their opponent watches the dice roll, often to their frustration.  Yawn.  I wonder what's happening on Master Chef this week?

Variation Two: Humans Make Mistakes

Stonnet has LoS on each Tani and elects to open fire - with 3 Action Points available, Stonnet can perform three Shoot Actions.

Stonnet's first Shoot Action (costing 1 Action Point) generates a Total Success and Q1 is eliminated.  The second Shoot Action (costing a further 1 Action Point) results in a Partial Success eliminating Q2.  A Partial Success means Stonnet destroys Tani Q2; however the Tani are also awarded an optional, no-cost Move Action which need be executed prior to the resumption of Stonnet's Turn.

The Tani takes the opportunity to move Q3 to the South-West, out of Stonnet's LoS.

Now Stonnet is faced with some new decisions: with one final Action Point available before handing the Turn over to the Tani Player, Stonnet could reestablish LoS by (for example) moving due East; however that Move would leave no further Action Points to initiate the desired Shoot Action.

To complicate matters further, the Human player cannot 'save' the Action Point for use later during the Tani's portion of this Turn nor for future Turns AND the Tani player presently has 1 Action Point still available for their portion of the current Turn.  So what to do?  Mmm... let's look at another variation.

Variation Three: Dodging A Bullet

Stonnet has LoS on each Tani and with 3 Action Points available, declares a Shoot Action (costing 1 Action Point) on the nearest Tani Quarra (T1).

In response to Stonnet's Fire Action declaration, the Tani (target) declares a Dodge Counter-Action at the cost of 1 Action Point.  Importantly, while there's a variety of Counter-Actions available, selection is dependent upon the triggering Action (e.g., you can't Intercept a Shoot) and each Counter-Action costs 1 Action Point - so if you haven't any Action Points left, you can't counter.

Stonnet's initial Shoot Action (costing 1 Action Point) generates a Failure.  As a result, Q1 makes an FX roll and is able to perform a Standard FX ranged Movement, simulating the Quarra dodging Stonnet's hail of death.  Additional, in this particular instance, Stonnet's Failure also generates two free Move Actions for the Tani which, if utilised, need be executed prior to the resumption of Stonnet's Turn.

The Tani takes the opportunity to move Q2 and Q2 into Engage Stonnet directly.

Stonnet still has 2 Action Points available but not the freedom of movement that he'd had at the Turn's commencement.  Once Engaged (defined as being in base-to-base contact with an enemy) a Unit might declare various Actions such as Melee (i.e. close combat) or Shoot (but with a penalty); however to Move away from the enemy requires a Skill Check.  So if Stonnet determined that the current close combat odds weren't to his liking and wanted to disengage, he'd have to make a Skill Check.  If that Skill Check was successful, all's good.  A Partially Successful result would allow Stonnet to break contact but also provide the Tani with an additional Move.  A Failed Check would provide the Tani with two additional Moves, allowing Q1 to also engage Stonnet... suddenly those 2:1 odds were looking pretty good after all. 

'What If...'

Upon declaring a Shoot Action, one's opponent can declare a Return Fire Counter-Action at the cost of 1 Action Point.  Now, rather than resolving the Shoot Action as a standard Skill Check, the Tani's Return Fire Counter-Action introduces the possibility of damaging/destroying Stonnet and leaving the Tani unharmed.  The odds?  If you're worried about odds, then go look at Advanced Squad Leader or something... let's just say it's possible and plausible, if not likely.

If the die were to resolve in Stonnet's favour, not only would a Tani be eliminated but the Tani's Action Points would have been reduced from 2 to 1 Point , constraining what they might have otherwise initiated during the course of the Turn, whilst Stonnet would still have the opportunity to initiate 2 further Actions.  What are some of the options available to the Human Player now?

Firstly a second Shoot Action might also be successful and should the Tani also attempt a Return Fire Counter-Action, the Tani Player would have no further Action Points available to spend come the end of Stonnet's Turn.  What a bonus that would be!  That would mean a third Shoot Action couldn't be countered and a whole new Turn would commence at the conclusion of the Human Player's Shoot Action.  Who knows, the Human could end up with the Initiative again...

Alternately, subsequent to a Successful initial Shoot Action to which the Tani's Return Fire Counter-Action failed, Stonnet might Move (1 Action Point) to engage Q3 and then declare a Melee Action (1 Action Point).  At least once consideration here is that the Human's move into Melee would also provide the Tani Player with further Counter-Action options including Op Fire i.e.  at the cost of expending their last remaining Action Point, the Tani could open fire on Stonnet which might cause Stonnet's move to fall short or even damage/destroy Stonnet.

Summary

Executing Actions within Rogue Planet will often provide an opponent an opportunity to declare Counter-Action, provided they've got and are willing to expend the necessary Action Point.

For example, a Move might be Counter-Acted via a Op Fire, Shooting can be countered by Return Fire and Charges (attempts to smash into and send an opponent sprawling) can be Dodged and Intercepted.

The rules provide for a variety of Actions and Counter-Actions.  Some Actions can't be countered.  For example initiating close combat (a Melee Action) can't be countered (e.g., Dodged) and Leader's issuance of a Command cannot be specifically Countered, however the resulting moved Units might be.  I'm still trying to get my head around the effective use of Command Actions - and how to defend against a Command - maybe that might make for a future post?

The combination of a variable Turn length, Actions, Counter-Actions and free Actions/Moves resulting from less successful Skill Checks makes for an engrossing game.  I don't think you could successfully play Rogue Planet as a traditional IGTYG-type game - doing so would really limit the wealth of tactical play that's available and lose elements that make for some great in-game narratives.  It's different, even verging on hard to come to grips with (especially if you've come from another traditional system) but I think the effort of giving it a try is well worth the reward.

2 comments:

  1. Argh, Blogger has eaten my comment twice already!
    Anyway, great analysis!
    It shows the strengths of Rogue Planet, keeping both players involved in the game and allowing many tactical decision points.

    Best of all, it keeps your head in the game, with tactics and decisions, not in the rulebook!

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    1. Blogger, how I love and loathe thee...

      Thanks! There is a special something to the game - the way it encourages you to keep involved, I haven't felt that way about a game since I first played 1st Edition Full Thrust about 1,000 years ago. Like most things, the more you put in, the more you get in return - just recently the implications of double Rogue Die became apparent to me. Maybe that will be another 'Tactics' type post. Thanks!

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