Expansion chat 1: Experimental Loadouts

Expansion chat 1: Experimental Loadouts

September 9, 2021
Game Design

Hi there! In this post I’m going to be talking about the Campaigns section of the upcoming Aces High. Specifically, the mechanical bits: Crisis Advances and Moonshot Advances.

Crisis Advances #

The idea behind Crisis Missions is that they’re intended to add points of challenge and tension to an otherwise power fantasy-oriented game. But when the consequences are simply narrative, this can create a disconnect when the Aces' actions are otherwise unaffected by these encounters that are supposed to signify increasing danger to the place they call home.

To solve this, I considered my previous inspiration from XCOM (and X-COM, for that matter). When I was formulating the idea for Crisis Missions, I realized quickly that I was thinking largely of Terror Missions from XCOM - more difficult missions that force you to defend something against assault rather than simply doing business as usual. Part of what made them so stressful, though, was that you would often encounter new or nastier enemies that would subsequently show up on normal missions. I wanted to recapture that feeling and make sure that Aces would start to feel it.

Crisis Advances are permanent changes to enemies. This is usually something small, like a secondary attack, an important tag added to an attack or a defensive increase, but they will definitely add up over time and can easily change the context in which they operate. To give an example, here are the sample Crisis Advances for Legionnaires:

  • Legionnaires gain the following Attack:
    • Service Gladius: 2 Harm, Close
  • Legionnaires gain 1 Vigor.

The first of these gives them a Close attack option, allowing them to more readily retaliate against Aces who favor Close attacks and be more aggressive against Aces who favor Far attacks. The second puts them just out of range of several Systems' damage, forcing Aces to be a bit more strategic to ensure they’re taking out targets efficiently.

Right now the examples given are largely focused on enhancing existing enemies. In the future, though, I want to go even further back to the XCOM concept and introduce new standard enemies.

Crisis Advances are offset by…

Moonshot Advances #

So another XCOM aspect I wanted to emphasize was their tech tree. As time goes on, you end up researching and developing new equipment and better capabilities that re-contextualize encounters and make it clear that you’re making progress. Moonshot Advances are my way of replicating that steady growth. This concept was broached in the core book very briefly, but this section makes it more explicit: when you complete a Moonshot Mission, you get one of these.

I’ve broken this down into three categories:

  • Ability Increase (your base abilities are simply made better)
  • Tech Expansion (you have access to new stuff)
  • Capability Increase (you can do something you couldn’t do before)

In general, players should get 2-3 of these per Moonshot Mission. You’re heavily encouraged to cater Moonshot Advances to the mission - this allows you to tie the Aces' increased ability to The Collective doing something important.

Here’s a sample:

Survival Boot Camp

  • Associated Missions: Any Moonshot Mission that involves an explicit assault, like capturing a long-term resource for The Collective or storming a major outpost, or any Moonshot Mission that involves noticeable casualties or damage.
  • Description: After debriefings following (the Mission), a gap was identified in training. Every pilot and Ace is required to attend a boot camp focused specifically on self-protection and preparation for anything. You’ll thank us later.
  • Benefits:
    • Exceptional Spirit: +2 Maximum Vigor
    • Backup Plan: Aces can now pre-configure which Backup Armament is loaded for a given Armament. They may add Tags to Backup Armaments as if they were standard Armaments (the “stock model” costs 0 Materials).

The idea is that a less interesting but still useful upgrade (Exceptional Spirit) is paired with one that increases options and allows for different loadout strategies (Backup Plan). This means that an Advance less likely to be the equivalent of a “dead level” but can always provide a degree of freshness and novelty. It also means that you can introduce noncombat benefits without them seeming like a waste of an Advance.

That’s all for this section. The next and final one for this expansion is about Tyrants. Until next time!

(Originally posted here)