Mary Russell

Like many of my designs, Table Battles is a fragile game, one in which the game state is prone to sometimes gentle and sometimes severe distortion. A player who obtains an advantage can see that advantage rapidly increase over time, and even become decisive and irreversible. The trick is to stop the other guy from getting one over on you in the first place, and to put him in a position where you can get one over on him.

So both players should have this goal in mind, and should be working toward maintaining deadlock until it's to their advantage to strike. The second-worst thing you can do in Table Battles is just make tiny attacks whenever you can. It's sloppy and costly. For almost all Formations, attacking is going to result in at least one friendly casualty, and taking little potshots is going to see you approaching the end game with pitiful little one- and two-stick formations that can't attack without significant risk, leaving the door open for your opponent to make a comeback. That's the second-worst thing you can do. The worst? You can pile up dice on one card, waiting for an opening that you haven't created and that your opponent certainly isn't going to voluntarily create for you.

Finding that balance is crucial. Using your mix of cards well is crucial. And perhaps more than the rest of it, tempo and momentum are crucial.

Let's say there are two cards I can attack with. One of those attacks (option A) I can make with impunity. The other (option B) will trigger a reaction - maybe a screen, maybe a counterattack. And let's say the other guy has an attack ready, but that I've taken some care and I have a reaction in waiting of my own.

If I take option A, then I'll do some damage to the enemy Formation. Now it's my opponent's turn, and he attacks, triggering my reaction. Now it's my turn, but on that turn I can't take an Action of my own since I reacted on his turn. Maybe on his roll he prepped another attack. Now I'm either forced to take my lumps, or to hope I'm able to roll something that will screen it. The next few turns are going to be about him attacking and me blocking until something connects.

If I take option B, then I'll attack and he'll counter, and on his turn, he won't be able to attack. Now the next few turns are going to be about me attacking and him reacting. I'm controlling the tempo of the game. I have momentum on my side. He might be able to set up attacks, but those dice are of no use to him if he never has a chance to take an action.  And there are plenty of cards where in addition to an attack, there is a reaction, so I might be able to trigger that reaction and remove those dice, and the threat of attack they represent, entirely.

In the absence of a compelling reason to go with Option A, I will almost always go with Option B. I can't control what dice I roll or what dice he rolls, but I can absolutely control whether or not he even gets to have an action on his turn.

The game isn't about inflicting damage. It's about tempo. At least until such a time when it isn't about tempo, and then it is about inflicting damage as effectively, quickly, and efficiently as possible.

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