Version 1.87 – Gameplay Notes

I have been playtesting with various players in the last few days and am happy with the results so far.

The low morale Pikes turned out to be a great reminder for all players about the under-used rally ability. The change also nicely stutters the start of each campaign battle or at least gives Commanders something interesting to think about.

The removal of long-range grapeshot came with a bonus. Namely, the addition of long-range cannon fire, starting at range 2. It might seem obvious, but I was stung more than once with this and my opponent managed to rack up multiple locked hits unexpectedly. Damage may have been greatly reduced for range 2 targets, but now the cannon fire keeps going for quite a ways. I also liked that battles were not overly focused on the cannons. That was a very welcome change.

With the controversial SF penalty for falling back, it has been a mixed bag, but overall far more positive by far. My battles have definitely felt more intense and exciting.

The downside is that it can sometimes be anti-climatic if your opponent retreats their weaker units and leaves you with the objective prize. However, this can be a realistic outcome sometimes. Regardless, the battles now have a more conclusive feeling to them. The victor gets to savor the win more, the losing commander gets to bitterly watch his keep (or whatever) be overrun and taken. It sets the stage for a more intense next battle,  where the Commander that lost, really wants be the victor the next time around. I like this.

That said, I just had a fantastic battle with Rotamouche where I was a bit stronger (or luckier) and overtook the area around his keep, but just barely. His deeply injured commander had to retreat and leave the fighting to his remaining units which also fell back, but just a bit. I had the dilemma of going for a keep kill (not easy with injured units) or trying to finish him off. Since I was already surrounding his keep (and his Commander was far away, behind a small army of troops)  I decided to start wearing down the Keep. Well, this also had the effect of wearing my troops down and then Rotamouche counter-attacked when our sides were somewhat equal again. I thought victory was mine but now I am not sure what will happen next. We are still fighting (at time of writing this), and if he manages to push me away from his keep will he have enough to take over my keep? I am quite pleased with our seesaw battle. This was exactly what I was hoping for with the SF fallback penalty. A spectacular and intense battle all around one of the keeps. Previously, I almost never had first battles this good, as one side would usually fallback at the slightest hint of unfavorable adverse conditions. I feel the Campaign battle experience is now as I had originally hoped (when I had originally created the campaign). They are now utterly perfect.

I’ve also noticed that more battles now go to completion. There is certainly a lot more commitment to battles now. So all in all, I feel that grapeshot change, the pike morale and the SF fallback penalty – are three ideal tweaks for our aging game. I think 2018 will be a great year for Musket Smoke battles.


Musket Smoke, 1.87 update

I hope that everyone is having a good new year so far. I have been busy with making iOS applications for a long time now, and so it’s nice to finally dust off my hobby app and spruce it up a bit. This is the second update within two weeks. This particular update is for the loyal Dukes who have stood by Musket Smoke for all these years. From now on, my focus on updates will be for the loyal Dukes. I feel that I have done plenty enough for new players, as many past updates were just for them.

There are two major issues that I wanted to address with this update. The first was way too many easy fallbacks in the campaign, just to save an SF unit. The second issue, that affects every battle in and out of the campaign, is overly defensive play because of the cannon’s long long-range grapeshot. The change to Pike morale in the campaign was just to add a tiny bit of realism. The morale change should also shake up and make each campaign battle more interesting.

So the update was mainly this:

• Range 1 grapeshot only.
• The player that falls back no longer gets an SF unit reward.
• Pikes units lose 1 confidence (campaign only).
• Artillery Run battle has changed. No more race, some trees added.

The biggest change with the 1.87 update was the range reduction of grapeshot. This was done to better balance defensive options across all units and not unrealistically ‘over-depend’ upon cannons for defense.

Initially, I enjoyed the over-powered cannons as much as anyone but as time passed it hurt the larger game as a whole. We want more tactical movement in general (protecting flanks, etc) and less fear to close the ranks and melee lock with our opponents. Every single battle in both Mini Maps and the campaign will be deeply affected by this change. I’m looking forward to all the fresh new aggressive battles!

Siege cannons were also overpowered because when you combine the move and fire capability with range 2 grapeshot it becomes effectively range 3 grapeshot. The advanced cannons can still move and fire but now only with range 1 grapeshot. The Cannon Showdown map will now be a better battle, more realistic and the cannons will really need their troops for support when things get hairy.

The next biggest change affects the campaign. If you fall back you get no SF unit reward. Your winning opponent will still get an SF unit if you fall back. This only affects the Commander who chooses to leave the battlefield.

For too long I was overly focused on worrying about new players and the snowball effect (a strong player gradually becoming too strong due constant rewards, which hurts the campaign in terms of fun competitive battles). Now I believe it’s time to reward the strong players and Dukes who have stuck with us all these years. This rule change will make the campaign more intense and dramatic for experienced players, and hopefully, keep newer players from being too reckless.

So again, I am concerned with the snowball-effect anymore. Not at all. This is a new change in thinking. I even considered ending the campaign if the user fell back. Instead, we have this ‘bonus life’ of the player can continue without a pat on the back and a reward. There should probably be only 3 bonus lives as this is a computer game, but right now that has not changed. You can still fall back as much as you like. The fallback is SUPPOSED to be painful for the loser and now it is.

With a completed battle objective, win or lose, both sides will still get re-enforcement SF units. However, if a commander screws up and needs to survive to fight another day then no SF reward. This will reduce the frequency of overly casual fallbacks because someone doesn’t want to risk losing an SF unit. Now if you fall back you are CHOOSING to lose an SF unit for the right to continue fighting another day. So now there is a significant price for screwing up or a cost for playing too casually.

Why this is good? Because it should liven up the games quite a bit. Just make sure the rule is honored. Do not let your opponent off the hook. If your opponent concedes then force him to fall back. Your WIN reward is that he doesn’t get an SF re-enforcement. Don’t let him con or guilt you out of your reward. I know some players might say “Hey, you win, ok.. you can kill my keep”. Don’t be suckered and conned out of your reward by these guys. That is just using psychological tactics to minimize their losses. In this case, it’s better to go for the throat and try to kill another SF unit or the Commander.

Honor your opponents and the spirit of the game by forcing fallbacks and not accepting bribes for easy wins. The campaign will be a LOT more fun with high stakes if you take turns making each other fallback, with some battles resulting in a completed win where both sides get re-enforcements.

As to worries about the snowball effect, we have the four horsemen handicap rule to address lopsided SF units in later battles. Or the losing side can just up the stakes and play riskier in an attempt to even the odds, which is always fun. Sometimes it is just better to go out with a bang or a valiant attempt at a comeback. Also, keep in mind that the opponent with more SF units has more to lose. Things can change pretty quickly if you kill an SF unit and then force a fallback. Now suddenly the SF difference has changed by 2.

Another significant change to the campaign is the idea of conscripted pikemen. We can now assume that pikemen didn’t really want to be part of the battle as much as the other regular troops. So they all have slightly lower confidence than the others. What this means to battles is not as significant as it first sounds as they can still do a rally to bolster confidence to normal levels before each battle. So what is the point then? Well, first it’s a turn or two wasted for pikemen to get into position if you want confident pikes. However, you now have the tactical option of just rushing in with some fear in your spines and taking chances with lady luck. This will be a significant and interesting decision that each commander must make before each battle. If you want the initiative in battle, then you pay for it.

Also SF Pikemen now just have a +1 confidence as well (down from the old +2 confidence). So this also slightly adds to the value of winning a battle vs losing it, when both sides are rewarded for a completed battle.

Before I get to the summary, I want to make a special shout out to the deeply respected top Duke Mentors. Thank you, and I hope that you continue your good work, especially now that it’s optional. “gazzalw” is the hero of the day here! However, I also appreciate everyone who participated and is still participating. Especially Duke Mentors with at least 2 digit points (10 an above). There is nothing more welcoming to a new game when grizzled old Duke level players help new players get a chance to make some kills and get settled into the game.

So in summary, I can hardly wait to play Musket Smoke 1.87! Mini Matches were starting to get a bit stale for me because the long-range grapeshot was producing an overly defensive playstyle. So I will definitely play all of the mini maps again, deeply enjoying the more aggressive playstyle. Likewise, I can hardly wait to see how the dramatically new campaign plays out now.

The whole game should feel refreshed. Every battle will be affected by this grapeshot change and the campaign will be entirely new. With hesitant pikemen, less defensive play, and SF units that won’t fall back when things get interesting, the campaign battles should be a whole new tactical game.

Now the only question is… Who will dominate the new style mini matches? Which Commanders will develop a bloodlust for SF units in the new campaign? Who will be the great conquer?  We shall see…

Happy New Year!

( btw: I did not add any advertisements, I’m not getting any money from them. WordPress added them automatically because this is a free blog. It’s annoying, I know. )