Skirmish game design diary: Mean Street 2084
I’ve recently been signed on to write a series of one-off miniature wargame scenarios for miniature wargames magazine. I thought people might like to hear a little bit about my process in writing this series of articles since it’s a little unusual to be commissioned to write skirmish games in this way. The first article ‘Mean Streets 2084’ appeared in the April edition of Miniature Wargames, released in late March, and it was set out in a brief to be a 2-player skirmish game with 10-30 models a side set in a sort of 80’s B-movie dystopia. It would feature on one side an elite paramilitary super soldier police force backed up by heavy duty combat robots and on the other a series of low-down armed revolutionaries with the advantage of numbers and sneakier tactics. The game would be squad-based with alternating activation, theoretical line of sight an emphasis on cover and would use victory points.
My first thought was to offer up an idea that was the centre of a system that myself and Mike Hutchinson had been working on as a possible full project, whereby crowds of civilians would react to gunfire and violence and that herding their reactions would form a central part of the gameplay. It was felt that asking people to provide civilian minis would be a bit much and that straight up urban warfare was a preferred option.
Now, I’m not great at writing straight up urban warfare. I think this is largely because its not really possible to be great at writing straight up anything, if people want to play a skirmish level dystopian warfare game there are a whole bunch of systems available out there, and I certainly can’t offer anything very interesting to that pool in 2000 or so words. So, I immediately started trying to fiddle around with the brief. My first version had a few features, but the main one was that it centered on an escalation mechanic whereby the police forces would gain more and more arms and armament as the revolutionaries caused more problems and the escalation would reduce as revolutionaries were killed or arrested, with the police winning if they managed to lower escalation enough and the revolutionaries if it rose high enough. Secondly, the sides were massively asymmetrical with the revolutionaries being more maneuverable and able to take advantage of cover and lay markers that could be objectives or bombs. Thirdly that there would be hidden objective that the revolutionaries were privy to by the police were not.
I would not generally recommend writing a system with asymmetrical forces from the ground up, it’s a far better idea to write a system and then add the asymmetry on top as the forces are added. However, when your whole system amo