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Firefight Playtest Designer Notes: Part One

19th Apr 2021

Rob Burman

Hi all, for those who don’t know me I am Andy Sharp, and I am the lead designer for Firefight Second Edition. As you may have seen, Mantic is currently holding a public playtest for Firefight – and you can download the rules here.

I’ll start by saying thanks to you all for such a positive and enthusiastic response to the announcement of the playtest. It really has been fantastic to see so many of you join in and engage in the process. You can watch the initial announcement in the video below….

I thought it might be useful to discuss on a semi-regular basis some of the thoughts and processes about designing the new edition, which may help you to understand the development of the rules.

Who are you and why are you writing this version?

I have been involved with Mantic in lots of ways for the last five years. I was involved in the development Kings of War: Vanguard and a number of other bits for Star Saga. However, the main thing I have been involved with is Deadzone – and I have been the rules committee chairperson for the last three years. During this time I think it’s fair to say the game has been rejuvenated by the release of Command Protocols: Outbreak, which was then quickly followed up by Escalation. Some of you may already have heard rumours that there is a lot of new stuff coming for Deadzone soon as well… although that’s for another time.

I am also one of the people behind the Weight of Fire YouTube channel and podcast, so you will see content coming out on there about Firefight too!

Why a second edition?

I think it’s fair to say that while the first edition of Firefight was a really good game, it didn’t quite have the impact of a new launch. Although the Kickstarter managed to fund a lot of good hard plastic troops and, most importantly, vehicles – the game itself never really gained a large player base.

Therefore, Mantic felt that a new edition of the game, which built on the growth and success of Deadzone would be a better approach than the first edition format of a new dice and style mechanic, which may have worked well for the larger scale Warpath game. To this end they asked me as an experienced Deadzone player and RC chair to lead the development of the new Firefight.

What are the main differences?

I think it’s important to be clear though that Firefight is not Deadzone and, likewise, it is not Firefight: First Edition. It is, to some extent, a hybrid of the two with a lot of aspects of other Mantic games and other non-Mantic games I play thrown in for good measure. So if you see something and think ‘that’s not how it plays in Deadzone or Firefight’ then it’s quite probable that it’s been done intentionally but, of course, please feedback in the playtest group in case something hasn’t been considered!

My original approach to this game was to make it fun, fast and streamlined. So you’re able to play in a reasonably short time, without taking up a huge space – but with the ability to scale up to larger games, if people want. A lot of the simplicity of play comes from some aspects of Deadzone but there are a number of new features in here too.

This is why you may have noticed there are fundamental differences between Firefight: First Edition and Second Edition. The most obvious being the use of D8s and the change of command dice to Power Dice from Vanguard. In a similar way the leader being the sole point for movement and shooting is a big deviation from First Edition. That, along with movement being standard and keywords describing changes to how a unit works, are all ways of simplifying the time at the table. In a similar vein keeping similar terminology between multiple Mantic systems was decided upon to keep people feeling that they’re in familiar territory. The use of Nerve was also in this style to be somewhat like how it works in KoW, where when a unit is severely damaged it may disappear completely so there are less units of 1-2 models hanging around the table- which visually, sometimes look a bit sad.

Overall though I feel these changes make for a fun and interactive game, which should keep both players engaged throughout the round and have to make multiple decisions about which units they activate, along with how to use their rare Command Points – which I’ll cover in a future blog.

Has the game been available to playtest before?

The alpha group has been running for over a year and includes members who were sworn to secrecy or Rob would send his murder goblins to their house. The members of this group were principally people I knew would be able to contribute fair and balanced feedback during early development. It was intentionally a small group and has been essential to getting the game to where it is now.

This is not a representation of the top secret playtest group. The picture is a complete coincidence.

The members of this group did a fantastic job of helping with the development of this game through very trying times due to the pandemic. Nearly all the games having to be played using Universal battle rather than face to face with real minis. However, even with the challenges, the game has evolved immeasurably from the DZ XL I first showed off at the Mantic open day in 2019.

Where are my minis and where is the cool new stuff?

You will notice when all the beta lists are released that some profiles or game styles have been removed or changed. There is a good reason for this, which is to make the game more streamlined or to replicate more closely how units work in Deadzone. Finally, it might be because the models are no longer available or are hard to get hold of.

Of course, I’m sure that Mantic will have some surprises up its sleeve for new models… but these have to remain top secret for now. But let me say the [REDACTED REDACTED] is great and I love the [REDACTED REDACTED] and the upcoming [REDACTED REDACTED] are just superb!

What’s the purpose of the beta?

The beta is principally to refine the rules as they are to make the game as enjoyable as possible. I envisage this will mostly be around wording or keywords and rules, as well as refining the cost and profiles of units in the game. All feedback is welcome and even if it’s not the direction we feel the game should take it doesn’t devalue your contribution at all.

For example, there’s a been a lot of talk in the playtest group about climbing buildings or shooting from on top of buildings. Because we had been playing a lot of alpha games in Universal Battle it was hard to recreate this sense of space, so it didn’t really come up. However, I really appreciate the suggestions that have been made by people so far and it’s ensured I take another look at the building rules for Second Edition.

To this end I keep a running doc of all the changes I have made based on feedback received and this will be released at regular intervals to control the number of versions we have floating around. The next version of the rules and profiles along with a new faction release (Asterians) will be on the first weekend of May.

This beta is likely to run for quite a long time and so there will be plenty of opportunities to get games in as the world situation continues to evolve. We are planning a playtest day at Mantic HQ in the summer for those who can make it (dates to follow in due course).

What else can you do? Well, just carry on doing what you’re doing really; engaging and encouraging the development of the game by talking about the rules, playing games and showing off the minis you are working on, not just in this playtest group but in any other Facebook and club groups you are in. This will encourage others to dig out their minis or even start a new army!

Thanks all and get back gaming!


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