Missions Accomplished! What's Changed With Breachstorm's Objective Cards
Last week we rolled out the v.80 update to Breachstorm's rules (you can read all about it here); which included some huge changes to the game's mission system.
Breachstorm's objective cards have always been a unique feature of the game. During list construction, players choose the objectives their teams are trying to complete - meaning that there's no chance of hitting a bad mission based on a die roll, and you can sculpt your game plan around the objective you selected. After all - no self-respecting covert unit would arrive unprepared for the task at hand!
But not every mission is the same; and you'll have to think on the fly to prevent your opponent from completing their objectives first - since the first player to complete their mission will be the winner...
In the new version, players race to score 10 Victory Points and have more than their opponent. This is significantly more granular than the 1-per round of the rules' previous iteration. This has allowed us to add a much wider variety of mission parameters to the game, giving both players multiple ways to score, rather than a single, repetitive task they must complete over and over.
One issue with the complexity of previous systems were the minute differences between objectives - many Mission Parameters were only repeatable several times, or would progress into a repeatable form that was not communicated well. These have been standardized; parameters no longer change over the course of the game, and clearly state when they are scored and how many VP may be scored each round. Likewise - asset point generation now only triggers from your own objective, so you don't need to pay attention to whether or not your opponent's mission allows you gain AP separate from your own.
We've also totally rebuilt the cards' format from the ground-up, and moved them to a 2.75x4.75" 'tarot' card size. This doesn't seem like a huge change compared to the playing cards of the previous incarnation, but has given us the space to add the additional mechanics necessary for each mission, as well as some flavor text to help ground the mission in the universe of Breachstorm.
Telling a Story
And speaking of that flavor... moving forward we plan to make narrative building within the framework of Breachstorm's rules a key part of the game's design. With the newer, more in-depth missions we feel they can capture the essence of the mission at hand more effectively; both by encouraging a player to play to the mission's theme via its mechanics, and literally tying missions to in-universe events.
An ongoing through-line of the six objective cards included with the v.80 update are the operations during and immediately following the mysterious C26 Dataleak - an international incident with harrowing political implications between the Homeworld Confederacy's federal forces and the bordering Zhren'thrar pride of Mu'rhasa.
Moving into the future, we plan to further dive into this particular event, and the evolving storyline of The Spur with subsequent updates.
But for now, let's take a deeper dive into the game's updated objectives... and exactly what's changed.
A Good Offense
Attack Objectives are used by the First Player in a 1v1 game of Breachstorm; a hefty bonus that comes with some additional benefits alongside getting to move first - including placing the first terrain feature.
With this in mind, attack objectives are generally tougher to complete than their defensive counterparts, so require the attacking player to adopt an aggressive game plan.
A classic mission for players wanting an all-out aggressive style; Breakthrough's primary mission parameter - holding the Zone placed in opposing territory; is one of the toughest in the game to complete. This is offset by some relatively simple new additions, that will score easily for players that embrace that aggressive style.
Crucially, Breakthrough is one of the few objectives that can score over 4 VPs per round, making it possible to win in 2 rounds - although this is extremely difficult to complete since it requires at least 4 enemies to have been destroyed in those two rounds. High model-count teams such as swarms of Volucrid may give up these points easily, but likewise have the greatest chance of contesting the zone to prevent scoring of that parameter.
In the past Recon Sweep only required the scanning of 5 terrain features chosen by the opponent; this made terrain placement crucial since both players needed to plan ahead which terrain features they wanted to force the other to interact with. Now, with a huge overhaul to its parameters the mission has been simplified - all terrain features must be scanned, and once they're scanned you can go back to them for another round.
The newfound ability to scan multiple features each round (scoring up to a maximum of 4 VPs) means that planning ahead and setting up to sweep forward and score objectives in enemy territory in future activations is important, and even allows the attacker to scan objectives for no immediate benefit - giving them more opportunities to gain Asset Points or get closer to the state of all terrain resetting to Unscanned.
Out of all the missions in this update; Retrieve Intelligence has seen the single biggest mechanical overhaul, totally changing how it operates. Previously an intelligence marker was set up in the center of the field that had to be retrieved, and moved to the zone on the opposite side of the centerline. While functional; we found this mission to be functional, if uninteresting and narratively strained.
The new version assigns several Intelligence Markers to the attacker from the very start, and requires them to bring their carriers to deposit the markers at the retrieval zone every turn. It's important to note that only two markers will ever be in play at the same time, and while it's possible to deposit multiple in a turn to force them to respawn, you will only score once for this parameter. Also important to note is that careful terrain placement can force the defender to place new Intelligence Markers in an advantageous spot for the attacker, however going back to retrieve new markers is going to be difficult and dangerous - so to help out a little; the Mobility tactical asset has been added to the attacker's arsenal.
The Best Defense
In games where there's a parity in the number of Field Officers in the combat zone, the defender will have the benefit of later activations, which can help to off-set the attacker's early-round advantage. Because of this, Defense Objectives will typically score more heavily at the end of the round, making them much more straightforward and less complicated to complete.
Data Security is the only wholly-new objective in this update, but acts as the spiritual successor to the previous version's Raise Alarm. While we considered Raise Alarm to be the quintessential Defense Objective - being straightforward to complete but possible to contest, especially in later rounds with aggressive play from the attacker; its simplicity often lead to stagnated board states.
This new incarnation maintains that simplicity - only requiring Interactions with the terminal objectives to score the majority of its VP, but requires the defensive player to move out of their territory to complete consistently. This more offensive stance is benefitted by expanded aura of the Security Sweep tactical asset that is projected by the mission's secondary Terminal features - allowing the defender to gain Accuracy bonuses against a wide area of the combat zone.
Similar to the changes that Data Security brought to the Raise Alarm formula; Hold Position has been updated to require a slightly more aggressive playstyle. While it was intended to be a defensive objective that would mesh with a more aggressive team composition, we found that its previous version that it could encourage too passive a play-style that wasn't consistent with the narrative of holding the center of the combat zone.
So in order to spice things up; one of the missions parameters now requires that the defending team leave their deployment zone. This is compensated for with more granulated primary mission; where the defending team must hold the zone and clear it of enemies, but will still score a few VPs even if the contesting attackers survive.
This mission has been a fan favorite since its release, so the primary gameplay loop of Scorched Earth has remained the same. The largest changes have instead largely been made to simplify the gameplay. VPs can now be scored by detonating both Obstructing and Low terrain features, and as a result the restrictions on obstruction placement during the setup phase have been removed.
Notably, this is the only objective to put a hard cap on the number of VPs that can be scored on it; since we've found over the course of rigorous scientific testing that an object can only be detonated by high-explosives once. We're interested in hearing feedback from the playerbase about whether this is too much of a disadvantage.
As one of the most crucial components to a game of Breachstorm, we're extremely excited about the updates to the mission structure and how much more dynamic they make the game. With this update being such a large shift to game, we're also excited to hear community feedback about these new objectives as well.