//Suggestions for increasing play speed

Suggestions for increasing play speed

In the Dropfleet facebook group a recent post brought up some suggestions for speeing up game play. In my opinion, one of the main challenges of Dropfleet is that if you want to squeeze in a game in an evening, you have to play at a rather small point value to be able to make it – the game simply takes too long. In this post I will come up with a couple of suggestions either from that thread or inspired from it.

I think there are two primary sources for reduced play time in a game:

  • Parts of the game, that works as intended, but takes too long, and can be made more efficient – either by redesigning or by providing tools to make it faster or easier to do.
  • Parts of the game, that takes up time, but are not really essential to the game experience and hence need to be removed or totally redesigned. This is the hard part to identify but also where the biggest potential is.

My suggestions are a little bit of both.

Replace standard bases

As you might know, I’m no fan of the standard bases – as more or less all who have tried them, I guess. I even made an alternative suggestion that you can download and 3D print yourself, if you have a 3D-printer.

One of the problems about the existing bases is their fiddly-ness. It takes far too long to change information displayed on the base. Changing to another base can cut some time (and frustation and misunderstanding) in a match. Not a big contributer, but rather easy to identify.

Simpler crippling tables

I think crippling tables are peripheral to the core of the game. While it does add something to the story that you are able to roll different crippling effects, it takes a little too long time to handle and in many cases, when a ship receives a crippling roll, it is going to die soon anyways, and the specific crippling effect is not as important as the amount of damage received. Having complex crippling effects introduces the need for counters and for a repair phase without really adding a lot to the core of the game.

The only really central thing about the crippling roll is the damage in my opinion, as this creates a damage threshold that has strategic importance.

Hence I suggest a simplified crippling table.

1-2Ship receives minor spike.
3-4Ship receives minor spike.
Ship suffers 2 damage with no armour or passive save.
5-6Ship receives minor spike.
Ship suffers 3 damage with no armour or passive save.
Ship unable to fire until after next activation.

This crippling table has a number of benefits:

  • It is easy to remember – there are only three different results, evenly spaced out.
  • There are no effects except being unable to fire until after next activition. This means that the repair phase can be removed from the game – one less thing to remember. It also means fewer counters that you have to use. But you still have the possibility of reducing a ships usability before it is fully destroyed.
  • There is only one roll, instead of two rolls (which the current table uses).
  • The “exploding dice” possibility is removed; you cannot cause more than three damage with a crippling roll. Some people might dislike this change, but I think the current model adds a little too much randomness (and – again – it is even more dice rolls).

I think this model could speed up gameplay considerably, remove some randomness and not really impact the core experience of the game.

Simpler catastrophic damage

This is another element with two rolls accompanied by a large table and a number of hull-based modifiers and it all takes quite some time to learn by heart. There is also some double-effect going on; you both roll for distance and for effect, but sometimes the effect is nothing. Why not bundle these two together and save a roll?

I suggest the following simplification:

Distance of explosion is 3″ for Light tonnage ships, 6″ for Medium and above. You roll on the following table adding +1 for Medium tonnage and +2 Heavy and Super Heavy tonnage ships.

1-4No effect
5-6All ships within range gets a minor spike and suffers 2 damage, saves can be taken as normal.
7+All ships within range gets a minor spike and suffers 3 damage, no saves can be taken.

The advantages are:

  • Only one roll.
  • Easy-to-remember table with fewer effects and difference is based on tonnage (which is easier to see and remember) rather than hull (which cannot be easily seen and is is more difficult to remember, especially for newer players).
  • The very detailed placement of ships in a group to keep as much distance as possible to minimize the impact of a catastrophic damage roll becomes irrelevant – if the ships are in group formation, they are within range of explosion. Hence time in the movement phase is saved as well.

Simpler ground Combat

This is treated as the holy grail for reducing play times in many debates so far.

My own experience is, that it is not the ground combat itself that is the issue here, but people having a hard time grasping what is optimum – where should I drop what kind of troops depending on what my opponent is going to drop where, etc. If that is true, we need to simplify the options a bit to save time.

I do think, that the different sectors are a core aspect of the game, and we need to be fighting over different sectors, so we can’t simplify too much.

With that in mind, my suggestion is the following changes:

  • Tanks are out. Strike carriers will only have one possible drop option; 2 infantry. Shaltari motherships drop 2 infantry per gate and when moving troops around, each voidgate can deploy two tokens instead of one.
  • When ground units fight you roll 1 dice for each unit, on 5+ you kill an opposing unit. There is no armour save in ground combat.
  • Infantry save against bombardment is changed to 4+.

You could also simply further and totally remove the armour save against bombardment changing the rules as follows:

  • All sectors increase their armour save by 1 and their hull is reduced from 4 to 3, from 6 to 4 and from 8 to 6, respectively.
  • All damage on a sector automatically destroys one infantry.

Both of these changes would speed up ground-related activites somewhat. The ground combat rule changes I am fairly certain would work well, the changes to bombardment might make bombardment with real bombardment vessels a little too good, so it might need further tweaking. But again, the process of first rolling to hit, then rolling saves on the sector then on the ground asset is one roll too long.

Less randomness in close action attacks

A friend of mine commented on that in the aforementioned thread on facebook; you often have four set of rolls for what in many cases end up being 0 damage; a roll to see the amount of attacks, a roll to hit, a roll for point defence and finally an armour save.

However, close action attacks are central to the game, I think. My suggestion would be to remove the random number of attacks and instead assign a fixed number to all ships – or at the very least, all ships that has it as a secondary weapon. There is already a random factor in the to-hit roll, I don’t think a random number of attacks is needed.

Maybe you could even change the point defence to a penalty on the number of attacks removing one more roll, though that would require tweaking a lot of places.

Would these changes make a difference?

Unless you want to change the game dramatically – which I do not think is necessary – cutting playing time is all about finding the small things here and there. I thing implementing all of the above changes would make the game faster but without really changing the core or the feel of the game. Or said in another way; if the first rules we were represented with was as described above, I don’t think anybody would have said “We need more different crippling rolls” or ” the rules for catastrophic damage is too simple”.

I know, that changing such fundamental elements so early after a game is releases is not near the top of what the developers want to do but since their desired intention is that you should be able to play a 1500 points game in 2½ hours, I also think that they must be looking into options at the moment – and this is then a suggestion for them to look at.