Visions in the Flames: Panic in Update 1.5

In this article we will continue to take a look at the upcoming changes that will occur with the 1.5 update for A Song of Ice and Fire: Tabletop Miniature Game, and this time we will be discussing Panic Tests! Let’s get to it.

Panic is a core mechanic in A Song of Ice and Fire, designed to represent the mental fatigue and consequences of the battlefield upon troops and commanders. While we were generally happy with how it functioned, there was one aspect we weren’t happy with, and that was the swingy nature of the accompanying dice rolls. While they were outlier scenarios, a sudden roll of double 1s could have extreme impacts that were controlled by neither player. As far as tactics went, strategies that focused on Panic tended develop as “How many negatives can I stack on this one roll to cause the most damage?”, again, putting the emphasis on one big bomb rather than tactical allocation of resources.

To get a little math-y, Combat Damage usually has a controlled variable to it – units have a set amount of Combat Dice and we know all the potential variables that can add and/or subtract to that. They then have a To Hit value that can be factored, as well as Abilities on top of all that. While Panic has a lot of the same, the fact that its based on a 2d6 die roll, versus “Combat” dice that are spread over a curve, leads to the potential for “big swings” that we mentioned above.

While this system worked fine from a raw gameplay perspective, we really didn’t enjoy the mindset and actual applications of it – that go big or go home mentality. Knowing 1.5 was going to be our time to re-evaluate any and all aspects, we decided to explore Panic to bring it more in control and curve with other aspects of the game.

In 1.5, the new way a Panic Test will occur is that the player will roll 2D6 and a D3. If the sum of the 2D6 matches or is higher than the Morale value, the unit passes its Panic Test – just like before. If the sum of the 2D6 is lower than the Morale value of the unit, it will now suffer 1 Wound plus the result of the D3. This means that the variable for failing a Panic Test is now between 2-4 Wounds (of course, this can be modified by Abilities, such as Cut Them Down!, which adds +2 to the amount of Wounds suffered). A very important aspect to note here is that that the D3 is rolled at the same time as the 2D6 and can be re-rolled (just like the 2D6) with a Panic Token.

Considering the full scope of our 1.5 changes, all of which layer together to create the overall, the Panic change we believe will have the most “initial impact” to players. We knew going in that revamping such a core part of the system would require… Well, quite a lot of data-collection and testing… But these updates have been in the works for… We’ll just say quite a long time (which feels even longer, given the raw volume of testing), with everything being calibrated until we were absolutely sure they moved the game in the direction we wanted. There are a number of things that this specific change impacts, however, so let’s talk about a couple of them:

First and foremost, this will reduce the swing in damage on units with a poor Morale Stat. Albeit the average damage output will still be the same throughout the match (or at least on the same math curve), units won’t be able to lose more than 4 wounds even if they roll double 1s. This puts an emphasis on the Pass/Fail Check for the test, rather than the actual result. In the specific case of units with poor Morale, this shifts the mentality from “How badly will they fail by?” to “They have a greater chance at failing.” Which is the fundamental mindset shift this change is meant to encourage.

Secondly, this change will also hinder good Morale units susceptible to taking damage from Panic Tests. Previously, units with a Morale Stat of 5 or less could essentially ignore it, outside of effects that would specifically modify the role. This reduced its overall impact against these armies and, in turn, removed a core element of the game from being utilized.

Under these new changes, these units are still susceptible to damage from sources of Panic, but the tactic is going to be a focus on making them fail the test, rather than making them fail the test… and hoping they roll poorly.

This reduces the luck factor of the game and reward players that plan ahead and play consistently – properly utilizing the resources they are given, rather than be at the mercy of die-rolls (or as little as you can be in a game based around rolling lots of dice).

Another impact this can have is it actually leads to a shift into how some units operate, and their overall role in your list. We’ll leave the tactical analysis for you to discover, but one good example to look at would be everyone’s favorite Queen Regent, Cersei Lannister.

Previously, her role was one of a damage multiplier. The common tactic would be to target a unit with already poor Morale and punish them that much more for failing. This sort of speaks to the general tactic often employed with Panic currently. With the shift in how things operate now, her role has moved from one that would typically target existing weakness and instead gives her army a tool to consistently target and damage those units with a good Morale Stat. A general example: currently if you had an enemy with a Morale Stat of 4+, even playing Cersei on them, they would still have to roll poorly, or have the Lannister player commit even further resources to diminish the die roll, to deal any significant damage. Again – hope they roll poorly. Now, she acts as a straight modifier to allow them to fail, with the result being on the curve between 2-4 Wounds (before factoring in option to re-roll via Panic token as well).

This shift also means that using her to, another example, target a unit with 8+ Morale is a bit inefficient, since they were probably likely to fail anyway. Before, it would compound Wounds – punish you for failing. While you can still utilize her in that way when needed, its not nearly as an efficient use of her in 1.5. Long Live the Queen.

And that is going to wrap up our look at the updates to Panic that will be coming in 1.5. Join us for its official launch on December 9th! Yep, just in time for the holidays! We’ll have more soon, so join us then, loyal bannermen!

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