The first proper playtest of Duty & Honour v2 has come to an end and now I have a mountainous pile of notes and ideas to wrangle into an actual game text. Gaz, Martin, Andrew, and Guy did an amazing job of not just playing a great game, but also providing great feedback, ideas, and analysis. So much analysis!
But Neil, I hear you cry in my mind’s ear, why does a game that has been out for 12 years need such a rigourous going over? Surely just a lick of paint, some new art, sorting out that Measures issue nonsense, and a quick Kickstarter and you can fund your retirement?
That, gentle readers, would be a travesty. When I started writing D&H in 2006, the world was a very different place and gaming was a very different hobby. What passed as a decent game then wouldn’t see the light of day now and you all deserve a modern game, with the kinks of 12 years experience well and truly worked out of it. So what are the big changes.
The Measures Economy
Measures mean something now – they are a bank of points you can spend to heal yourself (more on that later) and boost the cards you can use in a test. You can earn them back by being lucky in a challenge, but when they are gone, they are gone.
The New Damage Tracks
There are now four damage tracks, associated with a Measure and the skills therein (yes, skills are now associated with Measures). Endurance is the Guts damage track, and you take damage here in combat or maybe from arduous Soldiering. Confidence is the Charm damage track etc.
Reputations and Favours and Wealth
Reputations are spendable resources too, that regenerate at the end of a Military Mission. Favours are ‘one-shot’ Reputations, that once spent disappear. Wealth is now spent to buy you cards in tests where spending money – legitimately or illegitimately – would help.
Less Cards, More Chances for Cards
What this adds up to is less cards to be flopped on average, but more tactical choices for when you hold back, and when you go all in to win. The game becomes more dangerous, with every challenge having potential damage, rather than just combat. It makes more sense and provides more tension rather than the old competence porn.
Different Mission Structures
To balance this out, Missions have had to change. The old 4-2 Mission now feels quite deadly, so we settled after LONG debate and a fair degree of number crunching at the ‘Best-of Odd Number’ model. So Missions are best-of-3, best-of-5, best-of-7 etc. with commensurate rewards, and penalties.
Those are the marquee changes so far, but there are a couple more to be settled, including a more fervent Skill prune and the addition of a load of new traits.
So what else needs to be done?
Well, there are two things that need to be addressed and done properly. The first is a good, thematic Massed Combat system. Beat to Quarters gets plaudits for it’s ship-to-ship combat system, but the Extended Skirmish rules in D&H are, to be fair, awful. I have some rules designed and they work for me but they need extensive playtesting. Alongside these will be a lot of work on the Regiment system, including more ways to personalise the Regiment and maybe even improve it as the campaign progresses. You have to give the Sergeants something to do.
The second one is much more important. Duty & Honour, as written, has some really quite offensive, sexist pieces of text within it. Whilst keeping to my original mission of staying true to the source texts of Napoleonic fiction, the way I wrote about the role of women back then was horrible and when I reread it recently I was horrified. That isn’t going to happen again, and those passages will not be repeated in the new version. As I have alluded to previously, the game will support both historically accurate play and play that explicitly allows a more inclusive format if that is what you want to do. However, there will be no repeat of that rubbish.
So, with that said, it’s time for the hard work! Thanks to the 103rd Monmouth Rangers for some excellent adventures and onwards to the next battlefield we go!