Monday, July 13, 2009

Apocalypse First Turn Deployment Thoughts

I got to play Apocalypse for the first time in ages over the weekend. I might get into what I brought (3,855 points of painted Dark Angels, 145 of unpainted Dark Angels) and how it went (tied); we'll have to see. Mostly, the undertaking was an exercise in making clear how essential planning is with an Apocalypse game.

One of the problems we ran into was with what I'm going to call First Turn Deployment. What I'm talking about is how half of the Drop Pods in a Space Marine army and half of the Deep Striking Terminators in a Dark Angels army don't actually get deployed at the start the game on the table, but instead get to enter the game at the beginning of the first turn. Chaos Daemons are the ultimate example of this, in that they don't even get to choose to start models on the table and, instead, must Deep Strike half of their army during their turn.

One of the players was relatively new to the game and was playing Chaos Daemons. Their team bid 10 minutes to deploy.... which ultimately became nearly an hour and a half as the Daemon player took over an hour to Deep Strike their initial wave of troops into the battle.

Mind you, this was unintentional. The Daemon player wasn't trying to take all morning putting their troops down, and she wasn't trying to abuse the bid/deployment rules. It just ended up that way.

It is a problem, however, because Apocalypse needs to move... and frankly it's unreasonable for a Daemon army to be able to bid zero minutes (ensuring that they go first) and then spend 45 minutes actually deploying their troops. So, I've come up with two solutions (and have been presented with a related Apocalypse house rule that also addresses this):

Option 1:
If you have units that are placed on the table after initial deployment or at the start of your first turn, you may not spend more time on these deployments than you bid for your initial deployment.
I've expanded the initial wording a little bit to account for Infiltration.

If your team bids 10 minutes to deploy, they get 10 minutes to do their initial setup and then 10 minutes to do any first turn deployment. This is still a good deal, as it effectively doubles your deployment time, but it does cap how long you can spend.

Option 2:
If you have units that are placed on the table after initial deployment or at the start of your first turn, the amount of time you bid to deploy is shared between your initial deployment and and subsquent "first turn" deployments.
This one is significantly more restrictive but even more fair, I think, to players without first turn deployments. If you bid, for example, 25 minutes to deploy and take 20 minutes doing your initial deployment... then you only have 5 minutes to do any first turn deployments.

Jay suggested the third option, which is what's in use at Games Workshop stores during their megabattles. It doesn't explicitly address this issue, but it does cover it.

Option 3:
Players have a set amount of time per turn. Bringing in units past the initial deployment counts against that time.
In other words, if you take too long doing your first turn deployment you won't have time to shoot, run or assault.

This is certainly the easiest to implement but seems a mite punitive towards armies like Daemons who really don't have a choice about the first turn deployment thing.

That said, there is something very attractive about turn time limits. If we'd gone with 30 minute turns, we'd have gotten 6 rounds in instead of 3... but sometimes it simply isn't feasible. (If we'd gone for 30 minute turns, this weekend's game would have been a complete disaster.)

What do people think? Alternative approaches to this problem?


  1. First suggestion: Apocalypse is not for people new to their lists or the game. :)

    That being said, Option 1 or 2 sounds most fair; and I might argue that option 1 is easier to implement; whereas Option 3 requires a timekeeper for everyt turn. Option 1 would be the most friendly "Keep it moving" one; while option 2 would be for more competitive tables.

  2. Agreed. Playing a game of that size with 4 of 5 people being as unfamiliar with the format was A Mistake. In fact, this was one of the least significant problems with the game on Saturday... but it's the only one that provides fertile ground for analyzation and discussion.

    The thing about "competitive" is that it doesn't have a place with Apocalypse. Apoc is a different sort of animal... and given that the format as written handwaves away points costs away (rounding them off to the nearest 250) it should be clear that "fair" isn't an enormous concern.

    "Fast," however, is. It's incredibly easy to get bogged down in a game of a Apocalypse and, when things get bogged down, they stop being fun for someone. If it takes you an hour to do something, then that means your opponent's sitting around for an hour, waiting for you to finish.

  3. I chose the wrong word - basically it is the difference between beer and chips RPing and the serious "we're here to immerse ourselves in the characters."

    Or perhaps, playing regular cards might be a more apt analogy. Amanda and I shouldn't play cards together often - she prefers to socialize, with cards occasionally hitting the table, and I prefer to play cards, while occasionally socializing.

    Basically, I'd go for option 2, for the more game-focused games; and option 1 for the more socialization focused games.

  4. Yeah I know I suggested it but I would still have to go with option 3. The big thing it makes you do is only do the stuff that matters. Do you need to fire those 400 lasguns your IG guys have to kill those last couple marines in the building or do you do the assault that decide if you control the objective. Apoc is about big events that effect the ebb and flow of the game and not if ever guy in your army gets to shoot his gun or rolled his feeble attack against the Great Daemon.

    Yes I will agree this works better in group games and not as well when 2 individuals are playing but it has merits in both situations. I would also suggest scheduling a break somewhere in there unless the game is two players with barely 3K armies. Big armies and multiplayer games can really sap your reserves quick and a 30 minute break after turn 2 or 3 can help with this.

  5. Apocalypse is most decidedly not for Amanda-play, then.

    Are you familiar with Twilight Imperium? The FFG ur-game? Playing it is a massive undertaking; there's a ton of chits and pieces and rules involved: if you play it, you need to focus on playing it. Apocalypse is similar; there's so much involved, you really need to remain focused on keeping everything moving.

    As an example of this (and one that relates to the issue above): in Apocalypse, there's a clever mechanism for deciding who goes first. Both players (or teams) secretly write down how long they think it will take for them to set up their armies. Whoever bid the lowest goes first... and both sides have that much time to set up their armies. If you bid 5 minutes, at 5:01 into your deployment you stop... anything else will have to roll on later.

    The point is to get the game started and moving quickly.

    And depending on the makeup of the team, Option 1 could be considerably less fair: a team that bids 20 minutes to get all their stuff on the table effectively has 40 minutes to get all their stuff on the table.

  6. Jay, I think we have slightly different opinions about what really matters in Apocalypse... but that's probably because my main army doesn't have anything "big." Plus, with some armies, the little stuff is the big stuff, you know? And who's to say that lone Guardsman Jones isn't going to do something epic and take down the Bloodthirster?

    As I mentioned on the board, fixed time limits might or might not be appropriate for "small" games of Apocalypse (though it can never be bad for a player to know how long they're taking). I cannot imagine a big, group Apocalypse game working without them. It would be (and was!) madness to try.


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