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Sergeant_Crunch

My ReaperCon '14 CAV:SO Evaluation

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I offered to objectively play demo and participation games of CAV: Strike Operations (henceforth referred to as SO) and provide my feedback. I think we got halfway through the demo before it devolved into about an hour~hour and a half conversation with Jon. I started a participation game playing against a couple teens and Ludo administrating, but they conceded after a few turns (some incredibly lucky die rolls on my part probably influenced this more than anything else, I was even trying to offer them some advice on how to beat me). I then played a game against Colonel Kane the next day, which we played to conclusion. I have to admit that I had some incredibly lucky die rolls during all of these games. (Actually the whole weekend, I managed to bring the Bolt Action participation game to a screeching halt in turn 3 after a series of unlikely rolls. I did not touch any of my own dice at all during the weekend.)  These are my observations on what I experienced and are my own opinion.

 

Bottom line up front: I don't hate it. I can't say that I like it better than CAV2 either. CAV models in Bones (not new news now). Rules were changed from day to day during the con. If given the choice between playing this and Battletech, I’d play SO. Between this and CAV2, I’d play CAV2.

 

Colonel Kane ran the demo, a one-on-one Dictator-A (Dictator 60 for us old-timers) mirror engagement on a hex shaped board about 20~24" across with a hill in the middle and some trees.

 

Terrain is area terrain, not WYSIWYG, which I actually like better.

 

Datacards were very colorful, which is nice for demos, but I would hope that there is a low-ink version for those of us that don't want to have to buy new printer ink just to print the cards out (especially if you're like me and have a bit from each faction). However, I'm not a fan of the layout. I'm not sure what would be better, but it just didn't flow if that makes sense. It seemed like I was working to find the information I needed.

 

Datacards also fundamentally changed the functionality of several CAVs. Some models gained attacks. For example, Vanquishers were fairly competent at anti-CAV with four moderate RAV attacks when historically they were generally only good for taking out infantry/soft vehicles. The increase in number of attacks has significantly increased its potential performance. The Katana is another example, instead of linked attacks allowing a reroll, it has four PBG attacks. In another example, the Kahns LBGs have Overload now. I never used it, but it seemed odd.

 

Datacards also saw a significant increase in the number of damage tracks each model had. In CAV2, attacks generally only did one point of damage and models (with the exception of superheavy CAVs and tanks) could take anywhere from four to six points of damage. In SO, each attack has the potential to cause one, two, or three points of damage (more on combat resolution later) but the models have more tracks, so I think this is a wash as far as “lethalityâ€. CAV2 was already a fairly “lethal†game with plenty of fast kills, so if you want to make models go down even faster keep the same number of tracks and a resolution mechanic that increases the chance for multiple points of damage per attack. It didn’t seem like models attritted any faster or slower than before.

 

I had some confusion with SAs of all types, mostly because some were mostly the same as before, some had the same name but changed how it works, others were just new.

 

The reference sheet was handy, but some things were misprinted, like a repeatable action that was listed as a free action (it makes a big deal for those not familiar).

 

Some basics, the initiative deck and two action activation mechanic were retained from CAV2 with free, repeatable, and non-repeatable actions. That's good, I liked the mechanic with only a very few specific issues in CAV2. Ranges are shorter. Weapon types have been renamed. Most are innocuous, others have some significant changes, like PBGs have a range band of 6 inches (which I don’t get at all and played into why Colonel Kane got mauled so badly in the game we played).

 

Missiles probably took the biggest change. Instead of Indirect Fire Missiles and Direct Fire Missiles, you now have rockets and guided missiles. Rockets are indirect fire only and do not require a target lock and generally work as before, even with the new attack resolution mechanics. Guided Missiles are different. They require a target lock in order to be fired (in either direct fire or indirect fire), so if the model is providing its own target lock it can’t move that turn. A model with an EST pod can pass it’s lock as normal, allowing for some movement. This came up for me first when I attempted a Run’n’Gun (more on that later) during the demo. In CAV2, direct fire missiles did not require a lock and could be included in the RnG. I went to roll for the missiles and was advised that they were unavailable for use because I didn’t have a target lock. So if you don’t have a recon model providing a TL for your attack CAVs, they’ll never get to add guided missiles to their RnG.  I will say that allowing the guided missiles to fire indirect gives more utility to the missile-boat CAVs like the Conqueror, Archer, and Specter. I probably wouldn’t mind guided missiles if the TL was only required to fire indirect. If the WSO is firing at a target with the guns, the targeting computer already has the target acquired. My fear that the requirement to have the TL to use the missiles in a direct attack role will either cause the game to become more static without as much fire and movement or to take longer as the total number of attacks being attempted goes down. I need to see larger games than what were at the convention to properly assess if this will be an issue or not.

 

Provided I understand it correctly, combat resolution is a two part mechanic with a single 2d6 die roll per attack. The first part is determining whether or not the shot hit, the second to determine damage. To determine if the shot hit the player rolls 2d6 and adds/subtracts modifier for range, target lock, WSO, and anything that assists with hitting the target (this also serves as the roll to determine if an indirect shot hits the intended target point or drifts). If this is greater than seven (the average roll on 2d6 by the way) then the shot hit, if not it misses (drifts in the case of indirect fire). Now the modifiers that effect damage are added/subtracted. RAV, and other modifiers are added, Defensive Value and a collection of SAs related to the target subtract from the total. The difference between the final total and seven (the margin of success) is compared to a damage table. Damage increases for each five points of margin of success. So 1-5 points margin of success do one point. 6-10 does two and an increasing chance to knock the target down (which only has the effect of -1 to ranged attacks greater than 6†away and causing the player to spend an action to stand up on their next activation). 11-15 does three and a roll on the critical hit table which has specific effects, but it never came up in my games. I saw several different methods for working this out, but the one I liked was roll 2d6 and add targeting mods, subtract seven from this, if positive it’s a hit, then add damage mods (like RAV), then subtract damage mods.

 

I don’t hate the 2d6, but I think rolling multiple d10s to resolve all of a model’s attacks is more efficient than rolling 2d6 for each weapon, though color-paired 2d6 could help with this. I also think that there is a lot of conceptual complexity and mechanical complexity (using different types of modifiers on the same die roll at different points of the process). I prefer the single die that indicates that the shot either did damage or didn’t. The math isn’t difficult, but it is a process. There were several times where figuring out what was going on with modifying the die roll took what I thought was a relatively excessive amount of time. In CAV2 I figure out the modifiers, roll the dice and compare to the target’s DV. I also don’t have a problem with margin of success modifiers, I’ve toyed around with them quite a bit myself actually as a house rule for CAV2 and getting rid of the automatic 10 critical hit. I’d rather see a system where the “damage bands†(for lack of a better term) get increasingly longer to cause more damage rather than a set number each time. I think it’s just the way in which they are combined that it doesn’t do much to improve to the game experience.

 

Ammo depletion is still a thing; on a double one result on a hit roll the player rolls a d6 and a one results in ammo depletion, 1 or 2 in some cases.  Also, if a double six is rolled on the hit roll, an additional six is rolled and added to the total which increases the margin of success. (My first attack roll I rolled a double six and followed up with a six, my dice luck was on fire that weekend.)

 

I did not use ECM in a game, so can’t comment. My understanding is that it negates positive modifiers within 18†of the jamming model, but does not add additional negative modifiers. (Say a model had no modifiers on the attack, jamming would have no effect. If the model had a positive modifier, to hit a model within the ECM bubble, then the jamming would negate the positive modifier concurrent to the rating of the ECM SA.)

 

Neither of my games were very mobile. Both games were played on what I’m assuming was a 4x8 table with canyon terrain. The canyon splits in the middle and goes around an “island†in the middle of the board. Models have spots where they can climb onto the high ground on either side of the canyon and there are rock bridges connecting the four corners to the middle. A hill on top of the “island†blocks LOS from one bridge to the opposite bridge.

 

In the first game I was playing two teams of two Terran models (A Ronin and Talon and a Thunderbird and Raptor against two teens each running a team of Rach models (one team was an Emperor and Khan, the other was two Conquerors and a Dictator-B {Dictator 70}). Both sides deployed in and advanced within the canyon. In the first turn I scored an amazingly lucky hit with the Ronin utilizing a target lock from the Talon. I rolled double six and the follow-up die was also a six on a 68†indirect fire shot. This did a point of damage on the Emperor and knocked it over (due to an SA) and did two points to the Kahn. For three turns I moved each of my models one move action and the recon model performed a Target Lock and the other model performed an indirect attack. I put a few points of damage spread around the five models, I only took one point to the Thunderhawk by the time it got halfway across the board. The opposing team only moved about a quarter of the way up the board, then conceded the game before any of the models were able to engage in direct fire combat (no LOS yet).

 

In the second game I played Colonel Kane. I took an Emperor and a Khan (teams were preset based on point value) and he took a Starhawk VI and a Katana. He deployed his CAVs on top of the canyon wall. I deployed mine in the canyon, but positioned the Emperor so that it could climb up and take a protected position on top of the wall on the opposite corner from where the Terrans deployed. Basically I knew he was going to have to come across the choke point of the bridge between the canyon wall and the island and be in the open. That would be close enough for the Emperor’s guns to shred his CAVs. I moved the Emperor into place, using a Run’N’Gun for the final movement as his ‘Hawk was already on the bridge. The Khan moved into a covered position in the canyon that allowed it to move out if it needed to. I had scored a couple lucky indirect hits as the ‘Hawk VI was advancing, the Run’N’Gun did it in. I returned the Emperor to its position and waited for the Katana to come across (they had gotten separated, and the bridge would have only allowed them across in single file anyway). It came out onto the bridge and got to activate before I did. That’s when I learned that the PBGs now have a range band of 6 inches. He got a single point of damage on the Emperor. On my activation I Run’N’Gun’ed into point blank range and took him down several damage tracks and knocked the Katana down. The Kahn moved out and fired, and did another point. I got activation the next turn and took him out with the Emperor. There was some more movement in this game, but not the fluid advances, withdrawals, flanking, and charging that expect from CAV2. Mostly the path he chose to take through the terrain made it easy for me to wait for him to come to me. This game gave me a much better understanding of the combat resolution mechanic. However, I still need to see a larger game to see how all of the changes impact the game in aggregate. For example, there was never a really good point for me to use ECM in this game.

 

The thing that makes me the least confident is that rules were still being adjusted from day to day during the con. I’m sure this is from play results during the con, but makes me wonder how widely play tested the game was. If there are only a small handful of people play testing then there are going to be a lot of issues that were missed or opportunities to smooth out mechanisms. If released as is, there will be an errata document issued that will serve to only confuse things.

 

Regarding the game background, I was told the fluff is changing. I was told that part of the reason is marketing. Regardless whether it’s good for the health of the game or not, it’s going to cause confusion. At best the different background timelines will need to be treated like parallel universes.

 

In the end, I don’t hate the game. I do think that it needs a lot more play testing with a lot more people outside of the group that has been working on it. I prefer CAV2’s combat resolution. I don’t mind the concepts introduced in this combat system, but don’t like aggregate result. I don’t care for the changes in model stats. Ultimately though, I can’t really give a final opinion since the rules still seem to be in flux. Given the choice, I’d play CAV2 over SO, but SO over Battletech (I hate the bubble sheets). Maybe I should try out Alpha Strike…

 

Of course I’ve got Robotech on the way eventually too…

 

 

 

I think the biggest issue here is what people want CAV to be. I, and to my knowledge most of the CAV2 “Old Guard†though I don’t presuppose to speak for them, want high level combined arms with fast streamlined play abstracting the processes to get the end results. We want maneuver, not static engagements. I think where SO is today is more focused on intermediate steps to get to the result, but not with a lot of recordkeeping and not as much maneuver as the “Old Guard†would like. I can’t assess the combined arms portion as I have not seen any stats for or play reports involving vehicles or infantry.

 

I want to make clear that I appreciate that Reaper has continued to keep the CAV models available during periods of “less demandâ€.  I wish for CAV as a property to be successful because I really like the models and think that CAV2 was the best option to playing the bigger, better known BSR* style games and want them to remain available, as well as Reaper’s continued success. I’m not entirely sold that the changes (both mechanical and background) in Strike Operations are the path to take.

 

 

*Big Stompy Robot, otherwise known as mecha or mechs.

 

      

Edit: I also want to point out that at all times, Jon (CAVBOSS), Colonel Kane, and Ludo were all curteous during our conversations and gameplay. We kept things civil and focused on the game.                                                                                                                                        

Edited by Sergeant_Crunch
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Crunch, thanks for taking the time to post and approaching the game with an open mind. A couple of things I did want to touch on. There were no rules changes that Im aware of just clarifications to the GMs to make sure they were doing it right. They got right into the action before we had a chance to sit down and talk.

 

Rolling to-hit. Im going to follow up with this one because what you describe shouldn't of happened. All modifiers (+ or -) get added/subtracted to the base dice roll. If the modified roll is 7 or greater its a hit. Any value over the base 7 is added to the RAV and compared to the ARM value. IF its equal or greater, damage has occurred.

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So I basically add all the negative and positive situational mods to get an aggregate total (let's say +1) I then roll my 2d6 and add that (I roll an 8 +1 for a total of 9). More than 7 so I hit. Since I my total was a 9 I then add 2 to my RAV. If my RAV is 6 then my total attack value is 8 (MOS of 2). SO I would compare that to your ARM to see what damage I do, correct? So there is just a single die roll.

Edited by papabees

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So I basically add all the negative and positive situational mods to get an aggregate total (let's say +1) I then roll my 2d6 and add that (I roll an 8 +1 for a total of 9). More than 7 so I hit. Since I my total was a 9 I then add 2 to my RAV. If my RAV is 6 then my total attack value is 8 (MOS of 2). SO I would compare that to your ARM to see what damage I do, correct? So there is just a single die roll.

-- The MOS comes in if you equal or exceed the ARM of the target. So in this example if the model had an ARM of 6 you would have a MOS of 3, which is 1 point of damage.

 

Here in the next couple of weeks I will be posting a quick play book to allow someone to "kick the tires" so to speak. I did one for CAV1 and it was well received.

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I think the biggest issue here is what people want CAV to be. I, and to my knowledge most of the CAV2 “Old Guard†though I don’t presuppose to speak for them, want high level combined arms with fast streamlined play abstracting the processes to get the end results. We want maneuver, not static engagements. I think where SO is today is more focused on intermediate steps to get to the result, but not with a lot of recordkeeping and not as much maneuver as the “Old Guard†would like. I can’t assess the combined arms portion as I have not seen any stats for or play reports involving vehicles or infantry.

 

I want to make clear that I appreciate that Reaper has continued to keep the CAV models available during periods of “less demandâ€.  I wish for CAV as a property to be successful because I really like the models and think that CAV2 was the best option to playing the bigger, better known BSR* style games and want them to remain available, as well as Reaper’s continued success. I’m not entirely sold that the changes (both mechanical and background) in Strike Operations are the path to take.

 

 

*Big Stompy Robot, otherwise known as mecha or mechs.

 

      

Edit: I also want to point out that at all times, Jon (CAVBOSS), Colonel Kane, and Ludo were all curteous during our conversations and gameplay. We kept things civil and focused on the game.                                                                                                                                        

I've seen a lot of call to keep the system simplified like in CAV 1 during my 'net trawl for information on the game.

 

 

I found CAV 1 to be a decent, simple game, but prone to dice luck -- the d10 vs d10 system meant the spread was wide enough that good rolling could (and did) dominate the modifiers you could get from good tactics. CAV 2 I though a good sci-fi combined arms game. The CAVs were good everywhere, but infantry, VTOLs and tanks all had their specialties. But yeah, the modifiers in CAV 2 were a pain to keep track of.

I've never played CAV 3, so I have no opinion.

This post on The Miniatures Page forums probably summed up the general consensus I got from various post in the forums I looked (I.E. DakkaDakka, CoolorNot, RPG.net.) Though I will readily admit there were not a lot of threads and/or post on game mechanics themselves, it was mostly about the mini's (which are fairly well regarded, the Dictator being a favorite.) The other two more common complaints I saw was; 1) CAV was pretty much abandoned shortly after CAV 2 and there is a lot of skittishness over CAV 3 (SO), but some willingness to see how it goes if/when it comes out. 2) The lack of a printed rules book was a detriment to the system.

 

This point on is just my personal opinion in no particular order:

I can definitly see were stream lining the rules could be a plus. In my one game I played and the one I watched, the most common trip up was the modifiers (WSO, Targeting Computer, etc) and what they affected. However, if thats not what you're going for, thats not what you're going for. I would, however, try to solidify the rules a bit more and maybe release an 'Alpha' build of rules during the run up to the kickstarter. This will potentially help with two areas; 1) Getting wider play testing in before final release is probably going to be needed, I agree with Sgt._Crunch on this 2) Act as advertisment for the Kickstarter and to say *in best Monty Python impression* "WE'RE NOT DEAD YET!" But, again, I'd try to solidify the rules a bit more first before doing so.

 

Advertisment and positive word of mouth is going to be big for the success of the Kickstater, because like I said, there is quiet a bit of skittishness over the long term support of the game. Also, I think there is quite a bit of little to no awareness of this game. I'm not a marketer, I don't play one on TV, and I didn't sleep in a Holiday Inn last night so I've little idea how you could or want to go about that. But I think putting the kickstarter up and relying on word of mouth isn't going to get a desired result from my experince following and supporting various KSer's. Also have a clear, concise plan going forward with CAV on the kickstater page will help allay some fears.

 

The d6 vs d10 thing... I'm not at all a numbers guy. At. All. It hurts my wee lil' brain. The tabletop war games I've played have all been d6, so I really don't have a issue with it. I've also got a ton of d6's from WH40k and maybe 4 d10's total, so there is that going for d6's too. I did buy 8 CAV mini's today based off of what was at the Con and I'm going to do little mock battles to get a better idea and see if I can suss out any tendancies one way or another (other than @#!$ the Thunderbird.) Also I'll see if I can drag people into a match or three and get some intresting going at the local shops (Area 51, Gen X, Reaper.) Frankly, I enjoyed the game I played and would like to see more of it.

 

I think keeping the price low(ish compared to metal) on the mini's will be a HUGE selling point. There was some concern about the ability of the plastic mold to hold hard edges well (something some, or the dakkadakka people at least, found important in BSR aesthetics), but the prospect of reduced cost seemed to turn people on to it. But if the qualitiy can get very close or match the metal mini's, I think they could be popular. Again, the majority of the post I've seen like the CAV design, which is a big plus. Also if you could add a printed rules book to the stretch goals, I think that'd really help gain intrest in some additional players.

 

Thats about all the thoughts I have atm. Hoped it helped.

Edited by swiftdraw

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Jon, thank you for the clarifications. The differences in rules were presented to me as changes.

 

Swiftdraw, thank you for the view from a new player. Sometimes the edition wars get stuck in a feedback loop.

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I know what you mean Sarge. One of the big challenges for me has been to really view this independent of any other version.

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My thoughts now I've noticed this thread:

 

The dice and modifier system Crunch described sounds kludgy, good to hear they were mistaken at the demo. Processes need to be simple.

 

The scenario / terrain is an alarm bell for me: I have found with other games that very binary terrain like that can really dominate the game. It doesn't sound like a table that favoured maneuver, feint or skirmish; just rangers dominating HERE while brawlers dominated HERE, with players not really able to manipulate the tactical situation in a way that invited escalation of risk-taking plays. No bluff, no mind-games, no fine-grained guesstimates of relative risk positions, which are what give maneuver and mobility their spice.

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I think the terrain that we played on was purposely kept simple (in game terms anyway, I imagine it took quite a while to cut and paint the foam for the canyon board) for the convention demo games. A more diverse terrain set-up would allow for a better evaluation.

 

As far as the mechanics go, I can't really give a better evaluation until the quick-start rules are available and I can set up my table and get my figures out.

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I've got some pictures I'll post later this weekend.

Sergeant, did you ever post pictures of the ReaperCon 2014 Cav:SO demo?

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If I did it's over at my blog. To be honest I don't remember if I did or not.

 

Looks like I didn't

Edited by Sergeant_Crunch

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Here in the next couple of weeks I will be posting a quick play book to allow someone to "kick the tires" so to speak. I did one for CAV1 and it was well received.

Ooo! Having never played a war game before, I would really be interested in this! Using place holder mini's and trying  it out.

 

If I did it's over at my blog. To be honest I don't remember if I did or not.

 

Looks like I didn't

'Looking at your blog Sir, How did you like that ORGE mats. I really like how many you got and the detail on them...

 

On a similar note, does reaper have it's own mates or plan on doing mats

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The mats are integral to the game, specifically for the scenarios provided. The Kickstarter provided an outstanding value for the OGRE game. The quality of the map boards is outstanding though.

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To follow up some of Arcs questions...

Im still working on the quick start rule-set. Ive been getting models ready for the plastic casting house and just about out from under that rock.

 

As far as mats, we are going to be producing a couple of 2x3 foot "maps" to use for a couple of purposes. More info as it comes available.

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