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Play Test Write-up Number 2

The second play test of the Alpha build went well, lasting about 30 minutes of real play before an unexpected crash. There were a number of small issues and things that need to be re-balanced, but overall, the game was great fun.

When comparing to the real-time version of the game from 6 months ago, there is a marked improvement is fun, and real moments of excitement, at least for this play tester.
The mission chosen was one with multiple small groups of enemies scattered around the map. The player had limited artillery and air support, one unit of each. Both sides had a combat support unit for de-buffing opposing troops, and the enemy also had a general support unit for buffing friendly troops.
A short time limit meant that the player had to split their troops to tackle several objectives at once. This made the mission quite interesting as several small combat arenas were active simultaneously. The small map size (32x32) wasn't a problem, it never felt that cramped, and at times, it could have done with a mini map for quickly navigating between the objectives.

At one point paratroopers were dropped in to the enemy rear area and promptly forgotten. Something will need to be added to the UI to help show and quickly select active units.

Enemy AI was set mostly to "HOLD" with a couple of exceptions. They mostly just sat in prepared positions and defended. The support units and AI artillery worked as expected.
Some of the air support missions seem a bit overpowered, they will need to be nerfed or more limited with a greater recharge time between calls.

The turn based gameplay leads to a situation where units are advanced in to range and try to weather the initial response. This worked well with the tanks, but infantry needs to advance en-mass otherwise they quickly get cut down without any chance to go prone.
Perhaps an "AUTO_PRONE" action would be useful, to allow infantry to go prone automatically if they take enough shock.

The "shock" game mechanic worked great. A shocked light tank can be observed in the screenshot above. 2 red dots mean 20 points of shock damage, which is enough to make sure their next turn will be wasted as it takes one action to clear a point of shock (automatically done during the recharge cycle, there's no option to skip it, as shock is supposed to paralyze the troops).

On several occasions, heavier infantry weapons were used on enemy vehicles to shock the crews and steal an action point. This gave the infantry support teams something to do, and stopped them from being useless.
All the combat special effects are now active, so we can see vehicles which have been destroyed and replaced with a wreck marker. There are also craters and other decals which track the progress of the battle.
Using transport trucks to carry troops is a very helpful ability. It allows them to quickly be moved in to position for an attack without having to micro manage each one. Having them dismount with all free actions is perhaps too much of an advantage though. They were able to dismount, go prone and throw grenades, causing quite a lot of damage.

Grenades and satchel charges are proving to be a vital addition to infantry units, allowing them to make some contribution to vehicle combat. It seems they need to cost two actions though, as otherwise grenade spam can be a problem. Instead of throwing twice and waiting 3 turns to recharge, it seems better to be able to throw every turn until out of ammo.
As well as grenades, artillery can be devastating, but its inaccuracy makes it almost as dangerous to friendly units. These kind of attacks need to be carefully chosen, as they can really cause a lot of damage to your own forces. Long range artillery works best in combination with spotter aircraft.

Some issues which will need to be dealt with:
  1. The crash involved an explosion near the edge of the board. It seems calculations included off-board tiles, which shouldn't happen.
  2. Units destroyed when a transporting truck is knocked out need to be accounted for. Either damaged and dismounted or removed from play.
  3. Paratrooper paradrop animation is broken since adding the infantry sprites. It will need reworking.
  4. Soft terrain currently blocks movement, but it seems more interesting to allow vehicles to move on it with a chance of suffering mechanical damage or becoming bogged down if they fail a saving throw based on their "HANDLING" attribute, which is based on their off road capability.
  5. The game shouldn't auto end player turn. Some units still have zero cost actions remaining.
  6. Weapon jams happen too often, and require a whole turn to clear. They should only require a single action and there should be a mechanic for reducing their chance of happening.
  7. During the enemy AI turn, there needs to be a camera animation to pan between active units. The player needs to know what's going on.
  8. A mini map with click to move camera would be useful.
  9. Some units still seem to be affecting visibility calculations even after they are dead and removed from play. This needs to be investigated.
  10. Designing missions will revolve a lot around setting up prepared positions and placing cover in the best locations for advance. An enemy can be made a lot more difficult with the removal of a single bush. Advancing over open ground will make an attack much more costly. This kind of thing will make good scouting a big part of a successful attack.
  11. Artillery and anti-tank units are very vulnerable to area of effect attacks like airstrikes or grenades. They may need more hps and have a mechanic for taking crew damage so they are more likely to be left without a crew than destroyed.
  12. Area of effect attacks need their radius reduced. Right now they have too large an effective blast radius which makes them much more useful than regular attacks. 
  13. When doing long range artillery attacks a camera animation should quickly move the camera to the hit location. If not it can be hard to gauge where an off target shot landed.
  14. Special radio actions like aimed shot and rapid fire are almost useless as they expire in a single round. It would be better for them to last for 3 rounds before expiring and have a 6 round recharge cycle. This will make them more useful. 
  15. When radio is jammed or out of action it should grey-out actions requiring a radio. Right now it allows them to be selected, but not used.
  16. Some infantry attacks need to be more effective. Doubling rate of fire of rifles and reducing their damage to 1 would be a good idea.
  17. Giving all infantry a reduced effect "MARK_TARGET" ability might be a good idea so they have something else to do to assist vehicles.
  18. It should be possible to "CAPTURE" unarmed support vehicles from an adjacent tile. It's a waste to have to destroy them.
  19. Retreat needs to be considered for units which are unable to take any useful action. They should move to the nearest board edge and then be removed from play.
  20. A UI tool for keeping track of and quick-selecting friendly units is needed.

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