It’s Mini Monday, where I share customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying and tabletop gaming. This week we’ll add movement to the skirmish minis game we’re building and we’ll try out a new prototype of the game. Our little game is coming along, we’ll be half finished with writing it up by the end of this article.
Now, let’s consider how far minis move in our game. We also need to think about everything that affects movement, like terrain, and also the types of movement we’ll allow in Dagger Lords.
We’re updating the public Dagger Lords game document as we go so that you can see the latest version of the game.
Actions and Free Activations
Movement might cost something — such as an action or activation point — or be free. There might be penalties (another cost) attached to movement, such as in Warhammer 40K, where some weapons can’t be fired if the model moves. In Pathfinder 2e, you have to take actions like a Stride to move, leaving fewer actions for attacking or casting spells.
Essentially, these costs are saying that it’s important for the player to consider if they’ll move or not, adding a layer of tactical depth to the game.
We might decide that everyone gets to move, and there’s no cost for doing so, but let’s consider our theme. We’re making a game about fantasy gangs fighting on the streets. It might seem great to let everyone move around for free, but then we’ll never have exciting moments wondering if a character shouldn’t have spent that extra action point.
We already mentioned Reflex Points, so why not use them as action points? I’m hoping we can build a more fluid game here than, say, Warhammer 40K or Age of Sigmar, and Reflex Points might be an ideal way to do that. We’ll get back to this in a moment.
“Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. His hands can’t hit what his eyes can’t see.”
— Muhammad Ali
How far a model moves affects the game’s pacing. Short movement distances slow the game down, while too much movement will have units zipping around the table faster than bullets. In my gaming experience, most tabletop miniatures games at 28mm scale average around 5 inches of movement per move. Double that for a run. Let’s go with 6 inches for a faster game. That’s the benchmark, and some units will be slower, others will be faster. We can always tweak this value later, but let’s not waste time figuring that out now, I want to play.
In our last version of the game, our first prototype, a model could move twice if they wanted to run. Let’s formalize this a bit more by nailing down how we want to use Reflex Points. In the prototype, you were effectively getting two free Reflex Points when your model’s turn happened. You could move, attack, or do either twice. What if you got a free Reflex Point when your turn happened, but you could still spend Reflex Points outside of your turn. However, your Reflex Points would do far more during your turn. Effectively, we’d be incentivizing saving your Reflex Points for your turn.
This sounds complicated though. I’m sure we can simplify it.
What if your turn multiplied your Reflex Points. You didn’t need to spend them during your turn even, you could wait to interrupt another player, but because your turn had happened, you got a big reward. To be safe, we could double your Reflex Points and subtract one.
Turn Reflex Reward = (Reflex Points x 2) – 1
Are we making it too complex again? Maybe, but this seems like a good time to stop and try things out.
Dagger Lords — Prototype Game: Paint the Town Red
In this small tester game, the object is to paint your opponent’s minis before they paint yours. If you want higher stakes, turn the paintbrushes into vorpal daggers that send their victims to another plane. The point is that we’re concerned with moving and turn order here, combat is a super simple, one hit, one kill affair, so we can focus on the mechanics we need to test now.
Setup and Rounds
Each player controls 3 gangster miniatures, with the player representing the gang boss. A game can have up to six players. Any miniatures can be used, and for these rules, only close combat weapons are considered because of powerful magic influencing the battlefield. Each mini has 2 Reflex Points and 3 Hit Points.
The game is played in a number of rounds, and each round has three phases:
- Activation (Movement and Combat)
Each player rolls 2D6 for their gang. Each miniature can spend 1 of their 2 Reflex Points to add +2 to the roll. Play proceeds in order from the player with the highest total to the player with the lowest total. The player with the highest score regains 2 Reflex Points to share among the models in their gang.
Dice off for ties.
Each player then acts in initiative order and can activate their miniatures, one after the other. At the start of the player’s activation, each model in their gang gains a number of Reflex Points equal to the following equation:
Activation Reflex Points = (Remaining Reflex Points x 2) – 1
The minimum number of Activation Reflex Points a model gains is always 1.
To activate a miniature, you must spend a Reflex Point and can do any of the following:
- Move up to 6 inches
- Make an attack
To make an attack against an enemy model within 2 inches of your model, you much roll a 4, 5, or 6 on 1D6 to hit. If your attack hits, remove the target from the game — they’ve been painted red.
Any model can interrupt another model’s movement to perform one action from the list above by spending 1 Reflex Point. The order is decided in the order of declared interrupts, so it’s possible for a model to interrupt another model that is interrupting its turn, the player only has to declare their interrupt after the interrupting player does, and spend the required Reflex Points to do so.
3. Top Up
After all the models have activated, each model that isn’t destroyed regains 1 Hit Point and up to 2 Reflex Points. A model can never have more than their starting amount of these points.
Winning and Losing
The last gang with any remaining models in it is the winner.
More Movement Rules
We don’t want to get too big, but we need to be sure we cover enough situations to make the game complete. Following are a few more rules you can add to the prototype. Try coming up with your own rules to replace these, or cover instances I didn’t think about, then let us know what you came up with in the comments.
A model can jump 1” up and 1” forward, once, for every 4 inches they move. Effectively this lets a model clear three 1” cubes if they run, for free.
A model can vault over a 2” obstacle, once, for every 6 inches they move.
Most use one of two methods for flying: minis can “hop” and must land at the end of each movement, or they have a height indicator, which might be constant or incremental.
Let’s think of our theme again though. We’re making a street-level skirmish game, so flying doesn’t make much sense. At most, we’d expect a few characters to drop from rooftops or fly magically for a short distance, but there’s no room for wings between tall buildings, and anyone flying would have to be low enough to avoid cables, so we’ll skip flying for now in our minis game.
Since interrupting is a major mechanic, having a way to counter an interrupt becomes invaluable, and fun. Let’s add a creeping mechanic:
Creeping is a move action, requiring a Reflex Point, but you move half your movement, rounded up. If a model is creeping, it can’t be interrupted by a model that can’t draw a line of sight to it. Creeping must be declared at the start of the action.
Moving up an incline greater than 45 degrees reduces your movement to half its normal distance. In our prototype, this means models can climb 3 inches.
That’s it for this week’s go at building a minis game. Remember to check out the game and let us know if you have any other ideas to improve on it.
Apothecary Class — New D&D 5e Release
Our newest D&D class is an alternative option for the bard: the Apothecary. This class is all about healing and buffing allies by supplementing cleric spells with healing abilities in the form of potion-like concoctions.
As a special offer, we’re giving away 10 copies of the PDF for free, on condition that you’ll play the class during your next D&D session. Sound good? You can grab the book here.
40 for 40 Sale
I’m turning the big Four Oh this month, and to celebrate we’re running a 40%-off sales on many of our products on Drive Thru RPG.
The Rising Phoenix Games dude.
Rodney is a writer and editor of tabletop RPGs and a painter of Orks. He is worryingly fond of mill decks in Magic: the Gathering and a self-confessed Japanophile.