Halo Ground Command

Damn... they did it again.

In addition to all the Spartan Tabletop fun getting me to play my Halo Master Chief Anniversary edition, its been getting me to spend some time on the forums.

So far everything I have read is getting me more and more excited about the land version of Halo that Spartan are releasing soon. 

The models (you can find from Google) look pretty awesome, and the rules sound solid too. 

Below is an extract from Spartan Derek (the games designer) posted on their forums (link here)

Hello all, Derek here! :D

After the tumult of Salute (which was great fun, despite losing my voice!) I thought it would be a good idea to open up a little on the Halo: Ground Command Game from a war-gamer's perspective.

As I have mentioned before in previous articles posted elsewhere, we have worked really hard to maintain the tactical first-person-shooter feel you get in the Halo 1-5 Video games as well as the strategic real-time-strategy feel of video games like Halo Wars. But how does that translate in real terms to wargaming? In the following articles I will discuss how we hope this has been achieved.

Firstly, bear in mind the challenge of creating a war-game that exists in both FPS and RTS video game genres. One is singular, fast paced, bloody, and has no lull in the action at any point... the other is more general, measured, careful in asset focus, and requires intense forward planning to execute perfectly. Both have the wonderful Halo Universe as a backdrop of course, but provide entirely different experiences within that backdrop.

To simulate the diversity of gameplay that exists in the Universe on the tabletop, we looked at dividing Halo: Ground Command (in our heads at least) into two key gaming spaces Pre-Game and In-GamePre-Game being the Strategic/RTS part of the game and In-Game being theTactical/FPS part of the game.

In the Pre-Game, players can flex their RTS muscles, building their Battle Groups as they perceive to be best for completing the tasks presented. In general play, all scenarios are encouraged to be rolled PRIOR to forces being chosen, so players can go away and plot their enemy's eventual demise - this gives the game a planned-outcome-feel since players have had time to reflect on the mission at hand and have brought the right tools for the job (hopefully). The greatest challenge presented by this will be in the competitive/tournament sphere of gaming where players will often have to submit their lists WITHOUT knowing the scenarios being played - this will lead to many unusual lists being posted (something I am particularly looking forwards to...) as competitive players attempt to build their best-fit-army given the points available.

Choosing a Battle Group (or multiple Battle Groups) is a simple process that uses the Build Rating method we use in Fleet Battles. All Battle Groups have Requisites and then gain access to Optional Units. Requisites MUST be taken for the Battle Group to be considered to be legal. These vary from Battle Group to Battle Group - the ODST Battle Group must take ODST Units as Requisites whereas a UNSC Army Battle Group must take Troopers, for example).

Requisites are deliberately kept to the bare minimum needed to truly represent the nature of their Battle Group because we want to give players the ability to flexibly innovate within their own Battle Groups, finding new and interesting combinations to play with. Of course players wishing to exist in cannon might decide to add more of the same Requisite units into their Battle Group, creating massed infantry formations that become companies of UNSC or Battle Lances of Covenant....and that's cool, it looks great and plays really well. But others might want to play with more diversity and that is possible too. The Requisite system allows for both competitive and cannon players to comfortably coexist.

Once Requisites are taken, players have a number of Optional Build Rating points to spend in each of the following categories: Infantry Units, Armoured Units and Aerial Units. The number of points available also varies depending on the Battle Group chosen, giving certain Battle Groups greater access to certain types of unit - A Covenant Dark Hunter Battle Group (made up of Elite Rangers) has more Build Rating Points allocated to it in its Infantry Allowances but gives up Armoured Build Rating Points to do so..... etc. If your are thinking as a Covenant player that you will want more armour.....simple take an Armoured Fist Battle Group to go with it, the Requisites in that Battle Group are ALL armoured elements and there are more Build Rating Points allocated to Armoured Elements as well (although you lose access to any infantry and a lot of Aerial Build Rating Points as a balance).

All of this leads to an incredibly flexible army building mechanic that gives great longevity to the game. There are literally thousands of combinations, giving players the chance to execute their plans in a prepared way (especially when using the Force Selection After Scenario rules). Inside the core rulebook we will be putting the rules for 4 Battle Groups, and will release numerous others for free (in our Downloads Section in our website) as the weeks and months develop. I would also expect there to be a number of Blog articles that discuss the various merits and drawbacks that new Battle Groups present.

Finally, when we discuss Force Building, it is important to differentiate between Force Points and Build Rating Points. As many players of Fleet Battles will be aware, we have a system where an element costs Force Points to purchase and is worth Build Rating Points when destroyed (or when added to Battle Groups). This system continues to be used in Halo Ground Command, so those of you with experience in space will be well versed when it comes to fighting on terra-firma. For those of you who don't play Fleet Battles yet (...shame on you!... :P....) the differences between the numbers are designed to make totalling Victory Points easier and enable simple Battle Group building.

While we are still within the Pre-Game sphere of Halo: Ground Command, lets discuss Terrain.
All Terrain is placed using mutual consent to encourage fair and reasonable battlefields to be constructed. We have created a system (similar to H:FB) for terrain to be generated in competitive play, but in truth we expect most players to be able to come to mutual agreement on the type of table they want to fight over. This brings Terrain firmly into the narrative and mirrors the Halo Universe better than a strict Placement-Regime. Terrain is binary in its nature in rules terms to make it simple to use and fast to play within - You can or you cant move through it, or you cant or you cant shoot through it, or a combination or both, etc..... This makes Terrain nice and simple to play with but still gives players a strategic view of the battlefield and allows for a planned route of advance. With the game being 1/100th scale, Terrain is readily available in the general market and of course you can expect Spartan to make some cool looking terrain that will be available to buy. Look to the Halo Video Games for an insight into the sorts of battlefields you might want to play on and maybe make a start making some cool terrain of your own! Yogurt Pots, Fuse Boxes, Toothpaste Tops..... everything is viable for terrain construction if you have some imagination.....

So far I have talked about Force Building, Requisites and Optional Units within Battle Groups, and Terrain. As a final observation in the strategic/RTS leaning for the Halo: Ground Command game, lets look at Commanders. In Halo: Fleet Battles we went a narrative route, giving players the named characters that were present at the Battle For Reach: Stanforth, Hood, the Minister, etc. These were set with a narrative as opposed to a balance focus.

At the time of writing those characters into rules, we didn't really have any inkling of how successful the Fleet Battles game would be, and were pleasantly surprised when players started to clamour for competitive/tournament rules. Not that it is difficult to write a tournament pack of course, these things tend to be self governing, but the speed with which the game was embraced in the competitive sphere means that when Halo: Ground Command came to getting its final touches we decided to launch the game with 'competitive' commanders instead of named/narrative ones (which we will bring out later on down the line).

Inside the starter box, players will get a generic commander that is limited to three standard orders and a Factional Order. These commanders will be used in the competitive sphere as they are very similar, Faction to Faction, whereas those players who wish to play more narratively will have access to all sorts of named commanders (.....I'll leave you to speculate as to the heroes in question!....). Generic Commanders are considerably cheaper than Named Commanders, so narrative players are able to choose them too if they wish. This takes some of the pressure off Force Building in smaller games where a Commander must be present.

I know there is a lot to take in here as regards the Strategic/RTS side of the game, but in summary:
  • Forces are made up of Battle Groups, which can be of varying types: Company Battle Groups, Warhost Battle Groups, Armoured Fist Battle Groups, etc.
  • Inside each Battle Group are Requisite Units that MUST be taken, then Build Rating limits are set to allow players to build in Optional Units later.
  • Forces can (and probably should!) be made up of multiple Battle Groups.
  • In narrative play, all Forces should be chosen AFTER the Scenario is determined allowing players to tailor their lists to fight out the mission.
  • Terrain is placed by mutual consent and is designed to be simple to use, speeding up gameplay. There is a table generator included for those who cant agree, but I'm sure it wont be needed too often as we are a reasonable folks :)
  • As in H:FB, commanders MUST be taken, but unlike H:FB, in Halo: Ground Command players have access to Generic Commanders that cost considerably less. These Generic Commanders have standard orders and a Factional Order. They are the only Commander available in competitive play.

OK, that should cover most of the strategic/RTS parts of the game, leading us into the tactical/FPS sphere: In-Game.
I'll talk about that in a later article, but feel free to ask me any questions based on the things I have talked about above.

NOTE: I'll be posting 2 place-holder posts below this to make the thread easier for folks to read as it grows, so don't worry about having to navigate the questions to get the next part as it should be directly below this post. Feel free to distribute this post as I don't think I'm giving away too many secrets.... too late if I did really :P

Cheers, and look forwards to chatting.
Derek :D