Skirmish Game Design - An Ongoing, Open Discussion - 3-12-24 AI for Enemy Abilities & Powers

Mad Robot

Maddest of Them All
Tribe Council
Mar 11, 2015
Chandler, AZ, USA
So rather than posting a bunch of specific questions that are floating in my head about game design, I decided it might be more appropriate to start a designing thread.

You don't need to be a designer to give your thoughts on these things. I just want some feedback and the more the better.

If any of you have thoughts/ideas/questions about certain practices or mechanics, feel free to post them and maybe we can act as a sort of resource for others out there exploring the idea of making their own game. Let's make sure to keep it focused on skirmish level games though, ok?
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I prefer permitting pre-measuring. Banning it merely rewards people being good at guessing ranges, which isn't really tactics. It also encourages 'gaming' the system (e.g. trying to get an idea of one distance by legitimately measuring another). And it's pretty silly to combine no pre-measuring with rules like 'you must shoot the closest target'.
Pre-measure, unless a specific bit of kit is wildly inaccurate. Even then though, I'd prefer to pre-measure with a high chance of (or guaranteed) scatter.

Especially in a sci-fi ruleset with state of the art targetting systems and the like, the troops on the ground should know if they're in range or not.
I like the idea of it. It makes sense because you don’t always know if your opponent is in range when you want to shoot so you could waste time and ammo on an out of range target. (Fog of war and all that.). But at the same time it’s a real hassle…
Its too vairable to have a guess range. Back in the day (think warhammer fantasy on a green static grass mat), when terrain was light (a few forests and a hill), it was okay. It worked fine because while more expereinced players could judge distance well, there were very few points of reference, so you did actually have to judge it.

In skirmish, terrian heavy, patterened boards or tiles (zone mortalis walkway artwork is a fine example, as is a standard necromunda bulkhead, or various mdf kits that are common), these remove the need for real 'guesswork' and ability to judge. If I 'know' the tiles are 12" or that each height is a 3" interval, and there is a lot of terrain around for me to go... hmm, thats 12", plus that piece is about 5, and there is a 2" walkway between them, so I know I'm within 20" for my shot. It might as well be premeasure at that point, and all it does is massively hinder those who dont know these 'typical' dimensions.

just my 2 creds
As someone who has been a game designer, definitely pre-measure. It just eliminates so many issues and keeps the game moving more smoothly. If you take "real life" examples, any decently skilled combatant is going to be able to judge distance to know "that guy is about this far away" or "I can run this far, this fast". So even in a low tech setting pre-measuring makes sense. I know from shooting archery that I can determine range fairly accurately. With higher tech available it's a no-brainer. Heck, I have a laser rangefinder on my bow that takes all the guesswork out.
No pre-measuring is thematic in games like Necromunda, and I have no issues with that. I respect the argument people better at eyeballing the distance are in advantage. (🤫)

In large scale games like regular 40k it has its place and should be a no-brainer to allow pre-measuring.

This gave me an idea... A weapon attachment or a wargear that allows pre-measuring for that one exact ganger if the ganger used the 'aim' action.
If you are asking for Requiem (or a similar style game), then distances were significant. If I remember right, 12 inches was a standard range, which allowed for maneuvering until you were in that range. Until I was in that range, my guys were just charging down the middle of the road with no regard. Afterwards they were scarcely seen at all. It felt a little inorganic. Maybe allow pre-measuring, but greater distances can be attempted as one-in-a-million shot. Or a dedicated long range weapon has certain rules to be able to use it, such as can only be used on overwatch.

It doesn't answer this particular question but I was doing research here too. Here is a link, if you think it would be useful.

Relating it to ORB, 24 inches felt like a good range (compared to the standard size of boards) as you quickly entered the grey zone but heavies made you duck and cover at longer ranges too, but being relatively safer. Where as anything less than 16 inches felt like it wasn't worth the effort unless it had serious advantages like a template/area of effect.

But of course, if you have a smaller board or the terrain is tightly packed, space hulk-esk, then ranges should be smaller too.

I know this doesn't directly answer the question but I hope the opinion helps.
Good one. That's what I am using for my rules. Seems like a tried and true way to go but I always thought a value system was an interesting idea.

Every model has a base value, say 3. From there each activation could present different circumstances that would either increase or reduce that value and that is what you have to work with that turn.

I never thought more about it because it seemed to cumbersome for what I wanted to achieve.
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“Cumbersome” is fine for RPGs (D&D, Rolemaster, etc) but can be annoying for table top games, especially during the action bits. It’s it in downtime (like between games when you’re doing the bookkeeping stuff) it’s not so bad. In my opinion.

“cumbersome” is also a decent grunge song…
How about the established two action points system per model in modern skirmish games? Good or bad? Can it be improved in some way?
I suppose you could use an action points based system but skirmish games excel at creating a dynamic flow to games, so points counting bogs things down. But that said, it seems to work in tactical squad based computer games.

ORB in a sense has a two action system, but... with additional free actions available, in the form of certain skills, like leap. That could be extended upon easily.

Ultimately though, I think one action is too few for a skirmish game, as it doesn't give you much to do, but might work in an epic scale game with tons of units to move. Three gives you too many that you can negate too much risk taking, unless you are playing a dueling game for example and only have one character to play with.
Topic on the front burner today...table size!

I have started playtesting my rules on a 2x2 play area, as opposed to a 3x3. We found that, given there were only 5-6 minis per side, the action started almost right away. There was no real maneuvering of any kind. With the 3x3, there was always at least a turn or two of moving around just to come to grips with each other. I know most skirmish scenarios will involve more than just "shoot the other guy", but we both found it more enjoyable on the smaller battlefield. Next session, we will try the 30x22 that has been made popular as of late.

So...Do you have a preference? What about mixing sizes, from 24x24 to 30x22 and back again, depending on the scenario? What do you guys think?
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Our dining table is about 3' across, but it's inconvenient if you really need to use the whole width.

There are some Frostgrave scenarios that specify 30"x30". That strikes me as an ideal size, though it isn't so good for people who have 1'x1' floor tiles.
The grognard in me wants to scream that those are too small, that the only reasonable table size is 4x4! But then I remember some snippets of conversation from that campaign I ran far back in the annals of history. “No one even used that. Piece of scenery.” Or “did anyone even go to that side of the table?” So maybe a smaller size would be better.