Good Monday morning Snailers!
I was prompted to write an article on Aggressor's Order of Battle mechanic as a result of a discussion I had with some fellow gamers on unit choice and the flexibility to field units that players want to, when they want to. Let's dive in!
Here we have our Order of Battle.
Now let's talk about it.
What is the Order of Battle?
The Order of Battle is a mechanical framework that imposes some structural requirements on Aggressor armies above, beyond, and outside of the structure imposed by simple unit point values. Units in Aggressor are categorized into Command, Regular, Specialist, Support, Individual, and Transport. These categories dictate how they are treated by the Order of Battle. The Order of Battle is really only a few unbreakable tenets applied to armies. What are they?
1. An army requires a minimum of one command unit. Additional command units may be taken at a ratio of one command unit for every other four units in the army (excluding Individuals).
Someone or something; a person, an artificial intelligence, or othewise, has to lead your army. Aggressor forces players to take a unit that can command their army.
2. There is no limit to the number of Regular units an army may field.
The grunts, the dogfaces, the work-a-day soldiers that comprise armies are put in the Regular category and can be fielded in as massive a formation as a player may envision.
3. The combined number of Specialist and Support units within the army must not exceed the combined number of Regular and Command units in the army.
This line in the Order of Battle was the very crux of the discussion we were having. In a single line this rule forces players to field a Regular unit before they can field at a maximum, ONE Specialist or Support.. Their compulsory Command unit gives them the option to field a second unit as a Specialist or Support. Specialist and Support may not outnumber Command and Regular. I'll wax philosophical about this one further a bit later.
4. An Individual may be added to the army for every three units of any other type within the army.
Individuals will typically comprise special or rare characters and in support of this the Order of Battle limits them to one for every three units in the army.
5. An unlimited number of Transport units may be taken but only if they are option available to a unit already in the army.
Since transports can't be taken on their own (only as options for already selected units) there is no limitation on them by themselves. The limitation of having to piggy back on an existing unit is sufficient!
Finally, there are also two other rules the Order of Battle delivers us.
6. The number of models in units considered Regular must outnumber the number of models in units considered Specialist or Support. A vehicle itself counts as two models and each of its crew one each.
This rule complements number three in a very important way. Not only must the number of units that fall into category Specialist and Support NOT outnumber the units that fall into Command and Regular, but they must also have less individual models as well. Why would we do this!? Very simple. This rule is in place to prevent a certain meta in tabletop gaming that we know as min/maxing. Taking two skeleton-crew sized units of Regulars so that you might field full squads of Specialists and Support simply won't fly because of this rule.
7. When taking Transport as options for other units within the army the base unit must have an equal or greater number of models in it than the Transport and its crew.
This one may at first not make sense but as you're reading it, frame it in the context of min/maxing that I mentioned earlier. Imagine if you will a transport vehicle, loaded to the gills with equipment and weapon options only carrying a measly three soldiers. Utilizing a unit's transport option to min/max is something the Order of Battle is also designed to prevent.
Now that we've covered all of what the Order of Battle is (and seasoned it a bit with some theory) let's get deep into theory. Why have an Order of Battle at all? The hypothesis raised by my good friend (and near-finished builder of an awesome Gorssk army you can see on last weeks blog posted here) MikeTheFish. Why can't players just field whatever units excite them and look fun?
Here is my answer. The reason Aggressor doesn't give a player full reign to field as many or as little of any and every type of unit is simply; Aggressor isn't designed to ensure the fun of only ONE player, but BOTH.
Points-based table top wargaming has long been predicated on the concept of parity of forces. In Chess there is always a parity in forces. Both players have a king, queen, two bishops, two knights and so on down the line. In a game as complex as Aggressor where one faction may have something like a rook but no bishop, and another faction may have a near endless supply of pawns but no knights a system (or systems) are required to give players parity and allow them to play on even footing. The systems that perform this function in Aggessor are two-fold, point values for units, and the Order of Battle.
If we were to eschew such systems we'd see armies of all one unit type. Or we'd see strange unit sizes that have no resemblance to a realistic military formation (let's not forget Aggressor is a hard science-fiction setting after all). How much fun would new players have being tossed into this chaotic meat grinder? How fair could we say our tournaments are?
The reason for an Order of Battle is the same as the reason for a salary cap in professional sports teams. Competitive gamers crave a sense of parity, they want a fair fight. What they want to know going into a game, is that when the game starts, skill and generalship won out the day and not list building and crazy dice rolls. We are a company that aims to give it to them. Doubtless, endless debates can and will ensue over whether we got it right, or how it could have been done better. Are the points values correct? Are the units structured (or categorized) appropriately? Aggressor is a new product and time will tell.
To players; push the limits of the Order of Battle but don't break them. I promise you the victory will be sweeter knowing you you didn't have to go full beard to win.
This has been a blog!
Rob, The Notorious Dev