Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Morale chips in Piquet

No one has asked me to explain my exciting suggestions for the way morale chips are handled in Piquet. Presumably my public's apparent indifference is because they expect me to do so anyway, therefore here, as not requested, is the logic behind my proposals.

In setting up tabletop battles we quite rightly prioritise the aim of making it a good game. This usually means balancing the forces in some way; either the same number of units or perhaps one side having more, but lower quality troops. In Piquet the loss of troops means the loss of morale chips at, with minor exception, the same rate whether they are good, bad or indifferent. The side with the greater number of worse troops therefore needs more morale chips at the beginning because they would expect in the normal course of events to lose more units. A balanced game requires a not too extreme split of morale and that's why there is already a minimum amount defined. To balance it 'properly' would require taking account of not just each side's number of units, but also their quality and the ratio between the two sides' strength and quality. This is too complicated to even consider, so why not simply say that each side needs a morale chip level to start with somewhere between, say, once and one and a half times the number of units. This would contain any imbalance while still leaving the existence as a possibility. Too much morale would simply be swapped for new deck cards/ lower morale in a reversal of the current process.

The major morale mechanism that we play was designed by James, makes perfect sense, is rather longwinded and means one inevitably loses the game if one fails it. I have no problem with the impact if one fails it while having no morale left - although at that point the neatness of the design is paradoxically entirely superfluous - my issue is with failing it earlier in the battle. The morale cost (one chip per command) is simply too high a price to pay for one bad die roll given the overall number of morale chips one is likely to have to start with. I would not charge a chip at all when it drops to commands, or alternatively only charge commands which fail.

The features of Piquet that cause most confusion are shooting - which isn't shooting at all - and reloading - which isn't reloading at all. The shooting is best seen as the point at which the effect of ongoing, continuous fire is resolved, and the timing of this is at the discretion of the player, provided certain criteria are met. By extension I would suggest that we should view morale challenges as the point at which the ongoing, continuous test of nerve of men engaged in ranged combat is resolved and that the timing of it is likewise at the discretion of the player, provided certain criteria are met. The concept is that the firing side believe they have caused hurt and, expecting the enemy to falter in some way, issue the challenge. If the enemy do indeed flinch then that reasonably enough is a morale hit to them. If the enemy don't flinch when expected to then the firer/challenger should take a hit to morale because they have done their best and it didn't have the expected results. I have never understood why the challenging side expends morale having undertaken successful fire which has caused both physical and morale damage to the other side. In any event, and as at present, one would not be allowed to challenge when one didn't have any morale chips left.

Now like all variety artistes I usually finish with a song, but it's difficult to find one on the theme of morale, probably because there aren't many words that rhyme with it. I did think of going down the Billy the Kid route (OK?), but I'm in a musical theatre frame of mind and so here's something from 'Guys and Dolls' that has the word morale in the lyric. You'll just have to trust me on that because this is the instrumental version by Miles Davis.


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