I’m trying to write a skirmish level wargame that plays out in real time.
Each player takes on the role of a goblin in an ancient civilization that long ago conquered its entire world, laying a grand labyrinth across entire continents before opening chasms in time-space and spreading their labyrinth to new worlds. The goblins have such a huge empire that they have fractured as a people, fighting among themselves more often than they fight outsiders, they have mutated into dozens of subraces. The subraces commonly fight each other through political intrigue and occasionally by brawling in the streets. The great goblin empire has little control over its vast lands, local imperial barons wage war against guerrilla warlords and powerful crafting guilds. They fight with a teeming horde of youngsters ever eager to prove themselves in battle, with clockwork robots, with alchemical beasts and with trained animals. Occasionally one side might enslave or recruit outsiders who have been swept up in the eternal goblin struggle; humans lost in the labyrinth, giant trolls, or other strange beasts.
Typically, goblins have very short lifespans and a breeding cycle that would drive their numbers exponentially out of control if they weren’t always fighting. A goblin is hatched, becomes sexually active at the end of a month, reaches optimum maturity after a second month, retires by the time the third month has passed, and has died of old age by the end of the fourth month. But there are special potions, artefacts and places in the world that slow down a goblin’s rate of aging, turning weeks into years or even decades. Gaining control over these goblin treasures are the main source of conflict across the empire.
That’s where the wargame comes in.
The game is a massive skirmish level free-for-all. Each player controls a goblin hero, someone who has transcended the goblin masses and has obtained a method for enhancing their lifespan. As a hero, they have gathered an assortment of lesser goblins, sidekicks, pets and war machines to their side. So at this stage we’re looking at a hero with an assortment of skills and special abilities, and a half dozen or so lesser goblins and other fighting assistants each with an ability or two of their own.
…and this needs to play out in real time with more than twenty players playing at once, in a few factions with four or so hero members in each.
It’s a tough ask, but if it can be pulled off, it should be utterly spectacular.
I’m toying with two core ideas at this time.
The first employs the goblin tarot deck I’m working on.
The second employs rolling heaps of dice.
The goblin tarot deck idea is more mystical, the dice rolling idea is more chaotic…but both are quite potentially goblinesque.
Idea 1: Goblin Tarot Combat
There are a range of major arcana, each describing a battle tactic. Different characters will have access to different tactics.
Members of a squad (the hero and their companions) are represented by cards. At the start of a round, a player sorts these cards into an activation order. When they come into conflict with one another squad, they reveal the top card of their deck with the squad they are fighting against. Minor arcana are drawn, the face value of these arcana are added to relevant skills on the squad cards before comparing to opponents. Players may activate a single ability for each squad member as they activate, they might be able to activate a second ability or gain some kind of bonus if the minor arcana has the right suit. In this way an exchange should only take a couple of seconds, and once one exchange is dealt, a second exchange begins. This continues until all troops have activated once (some may have the ability to be re-added back into the activation pile). Once a new round begins, surviving squad members are sorted into a new activation pile; with the next round, follow up actions are made.
Using this type of system all of the members of a squad can be provided with different abilities that might prove useful (or might be completely ineffective if certain opponents are flipped not.
The system can also be used for resource gathering (which will also be an important part of the game), scavenging for scrap in junk heaps to build contraptions to wage more war, or trade to wanna-be warlords. Perhaps different troops types are more effective at gathering different types of resources in different areas.
The whole idea still needs work, but that’s the basic system. The reason I’m liking this system is that it’s hard to cheat when you’re drawing cards from a deck, and a goblin game of this magnitude will keep the GMs on their toes as it is; the game needs a system that is easy enough to regulate between payers so that the GMs can be . .
Idea 2: Handfuls of Dice
The goblin tarot idea activates a single character at a time, handfuls of dice are a free for all.
Under this concept, all roll one or more dice…one die for basic inexperienced goblins, two dice for veterans (a month or two old), and three for the hero. All the dice are rolled at once, then allocated to squad members as they activate.
If a 1 is allocated to a goblin, the opponent gets a free attack on them.
If a 2-3 is allocated, the goblin is distracted and doesn’t act except to defend themselves.
If a 4-5 is allocated, the goblin acts normally.
If a 6 is allocated to a goblin, they get the chance to activate a special ability.
Experienced goblins and heroes with multiple dice may combine their successful dice for spectacular actions against individuals, or may split their successes against multiple enemies.
It would still work off the idea of activating squad members, but I’m not sure how a fast activation mechanism would work under a dice related system.
This type of system matches more of the existing wargames, so it might be easier to pick up. But I think I’m tending toward the first idea at this stage.
I’m open to ideas.