22 October 2008

Tannhäuser: Putting More Story In Story Mode

By Mark O'Connor

 The Tannhäuser u-chronic universe is inherently rich in story opportunity, with its ties to historical aspects of the World Wars and its speculative digressions from reality in the form of alternate history, UFO technology, and arcane relics reminiscent in flavor to the Ark of the Covenant. Moreover, because the number of characters being fielded is small, more descriptive detail and background can be lavished on them, allowing the backstory of a particular game of Tannhäuser to be tailored to the characters involved in ways battles with a large number of minis cannot. Moreover, Tannhäuser has the mechanics for story already built-in with various Objective tokens to customize what type of mission must be accomplished. The variety of Objective tokens can give players a direction for their imagination in creating the story behind what their teams are trying to accomplish, or can accurately describe in game format goals players have already conceived for their game.

Story Arcs
One way to add more story to Tannhäuser is by placing each game in the context of a wider story arc. Creating this context can be accomplished by tying individual games of Tannhäuser together, so instead of playing two completely isolated games of Tannhäuser, players can connect them through plot. Players can plan the two games (or series of games) out ahead of time or create a second game that logically follows from the first after the first game has been played. For example, after an initial game in which Union forces led by John MacNeal assault Hermann Von Heïzinger's Reich forces in Ksiaz Castle before Heïzinger can unlock the powers of an ancient artifact, the scenario for the second game can can play off the results of the first one. At the most basic level, the second game can be another, more-desperate attempt to stop Heïzinger, an attempt by the Union to recover a different artifact first at another location, or the like. On a more advanced level, the mission and various game aspects can be changed for the second game depending on the results of the first game.
If the Union was successful in stopping Heïzinger in the first game, the second game could be based on the Reich wanting to eliminate him for his lack of success before he can be captured by the Union forces. Surely, a Blutsturm strike team would be happy to eliminate him for his failure. On the other hand, if the Reich was successful in the first mission, the Union may need to rescue an incapacitated John MacNeal. Either way, the results of the first game can influence what the second game will be like and what resources will be available.
The winner of the first game could be rewarded in some way, as long as the reward doesn't imbalance the second game (perhaps if the winning player bids for a mercenary, he will always get his bid, or the mercenary will not cost a victory point). Perhaps a killed (or "dramatically wounded") character is unavailable the second game, or starts injured, or loses some gear (as it is destroyed or the character has been captured), or becomes part of the victory conditions (as in the examples mentioned above in which Heïzinger must be eliminated or MacNeal must be rescued).
If two games were planned ahead of time, each side might have only a pool of four heroes to choose from for both games, and any hero killed in the first game cannot be fielded in the second game. This option may necessitate extra copies of troops to fill in empty slots resulting from shortages of heroes and a bending of the rule requiring a minimum of two heroes to be fielded, in the event that a player only has one hero available for the second game. Or the player may be forced to hire a mercenary to assist his team. Players might also choose some or all of their Objectives to fit the plot of the particular game rather than determining them somewhat randomly, or might place them in circles where they cannot ordinarily be placed.
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