The Problem With Accelerated Deployment

What?  You didn’t know there was a problem with Accelerate Deployment?  I suspect that might be due to the fact that you probably don’t know what I’m referring to.

Accelerated deployment is a term that I came up with to help expedite Apocalypse games in general.  Specifically, I was referring to deployment for a four sided Apoc game (see complete rules description here), which by using default methods for deployment, allowed for a savings of up to 100 minutes for just deployment.  The pertinent rules are as follows:

  • Teams can bid between 0 and 20 minutes for deployment.  Ties will be handled by a d6 dice off, with the higher dice roll being added to the total deployment time of that team (not to exceed 20 minutes).
  • The team who bid the lowest amount of time will become #1, working their way up to team that bid the most as #4. 
  • After bidding, each team in numerical order will choose a deployment zone.  Team 4 will be stuck with the last available spot.  At this point each team will be allowed 10 minutes to move their models into position to expedite deployment (but they may not deploy any models).  Any pre-deployment (such as Tyranid Spore Mines) must be handled during this 10 minutes as well.
  • When deployment officially begins, a clock will start at 20 minutes.  Any team which bid 20 minutes (or more) can now begin deployment.  As the clock ticks down, to the respective number of remaining minutes for each other team, they may begin deploying their models as well.  In effect, all teams will deploy their models, “simultaneously.”
    • EXAMPLE:
      • Bids:
        • Bob bids 20 minutes
        • Kyle bids 15 minutes
        • George bids 15 minutes
        • Lisa bids 4 minutes
      • Team Order:
        • George and kyle tied in their bids, so they dice off.  George gets a 1 and kyle gets a 5.  George wins and becomes Team 2.
        • Team 1: Lisa (4 mins)
        • Team 2: George (15 mins)
        • Team 3: Kyle (20 mins)
        • Team 4: Lisa (20 mins)
      • Deployment begins with Kyle & Lisa.  Five minutes later, George can also start deployming models.  When there are only four minutes left, Lisa can begin her deploymen

These seem fairly self explanatory, and at the time of this game, they were well received by the folks that particpated (well, I seem to recall them being so, but can’t say for certain as I never bothered to do a proper write-up of the game… DOH!).  Anyway, during deployment for our most recent game, there was some heartache over these rules–and it continued until after the game, at which time several players brought this up as something they’d like to see changed. 

The loudest voice for change in this instance was that of Cole, occasional guest blogger of, so I thought I’d post our conversation on the subject.  What follows is a short email chain between us with brief commentary. 

My Thoughts:

(in an email to Cole)

I believe your argument with Accelerated Deployment is that both advantages come to the team that bids the lowest: They not only get the first turn, but they also get to react to the other team’s deployment.  I wasn’t very eloquent in my response after the Apoc game, so now that I’ve time to think about it, I thought I’d react.

The problem I have with the default Apoc deployment is that the advantage is, by default to bid high and go second (evidenced by the majority of Apoc games resulting in one or more teams bidding the max–simply to react).  This allows you maximum time to deploy models, and to react to whatever sneaky tricks your opponent has up their sleeve once play commences (also allowing you the final turn to snatch objectives).  This is further compounded in the basic rules by simply not deploying anything–which wastes two turns of your opponent, as they have nothing to do aside from movement.  The advantage of going first is to be able to react to your opponent’s deployment, and to alpha strike key targets.

In our games, we’ve tried to mitigate that by forcing at least half of your units to deploy.  Also, the ability to snatch last minute objectives by going 2nd is mitigated by scoring each turn.  In effect, cancelling one of the benefits for each  option out.  This leaves the advantage of going second to be able to react to whatever the first player does during their turn, and the advantage of going first to alpha-strike.

I would argue that simultaneous deployment also serves to mitigate reaction during deployment.  Neither team has the upperhand in deploying models, as either can react to the other’s movements until the final seconds of the phase.  Therefore, the benefit of reaction would really go to the second team–who gets to react to the deployment of reserves, etc. by the first team.

Nobody seemed to take issue with this during that first game (in fact, on the contrary, everyone seemed to like it–yourself included), so I wonder if perhaps you weren’t a little sore because you had forgotten we were using that rule.  I’m sure the communication breakdown there was in no small part caused by insufficient organization/communication on my part, and for that I’m sorry.  Now that a little time has passed though, I thought we might be able to discuss this intelligently to decide if it’s really a flaw in the deployment strategy or not.

 I think it’s still balanced, but given the other additional rules we’ve implemented, I’m not sure it’s necessary anymore (other than to save 20-30 minutes each game in deployment).

Your thoughts?

 As you can see, we put quite a bit of thought into how to make Apocalypse (an inherently imbalanced game) a little more fair.  Several of our homegrown rules were designed to limit shenanigans we’ve seen in other games–though there is always a question of taking a set of rules too far…

Cole’s Response

(again, in an email)

You’re right that normal apoc games with normal scoring and normal open ended abuse of deployment makes going second almost a more advantageous situation if teams are in the mindset to win.  I have been to Muldoon games where the going second team reserves it all, and lord knows i have seen objectives snatched up last turn to win the game by units that would be a smear the turn after if that turn were to happen(a general 40k problem that it is rumored 6th edition will do away with thankfully).

The system of bidding is meant to afford one team with a disadvantage of being limited in the amount of time it is allowed to deploy it’s forces and being unaware of where the opponents forces are, in exchange they get the chance to alpha strike and get to choose which deployment zone with be theirs.  Alpha strike being the huge bonus, in a game of 12,000 points a side or more you easily have the potential to table a single enemy army on turn 1 with a typical army setup, this can be even worse if the majority of the armies are ranged and not melee.  Essentially alpha strike is so powerful because it essentially means the players going second are coming to the game shorthanded, yes those units that died did of course soak up firepower giving them a purpose but that’s all they really did. This a flaw with the 40k system and it’s generous range’s on shooting…but my point is at the scale of apoc and Superheavies, its even more potent.

I think we have done some great things to make our apoc games more interesting and more balanced.

  • Force Org chart restriction, forces armies to be balanced
  • Seize the initiative gives the team going first a little worry to be cautious with their deployment.
  • Random Asset cards instead of strategic assets, helps to regulate some of the power of assets and gives a fun random element.
  • Scoring of objectives every turn, in essence solves the issue with last turn objective grabs( and is rumored to be the way of 6th edition)
  • Deployment of at least 50% of force not deploying within a formation with it’s own deployment type, gives players incentive to deploy more not less
  • Vet abilities, gives players a lasting bonus and something to look forward too.

This deployment method of each team bids and the team that bids the most goes second and starts deploying first though seems only to assist in overall game length, while breaking down some other elements.  In your below argument you say that by forcing players to deploy at least 50% of their units we are negating alpha strike to some extent, i’m not sure how you come to that conclusion as the rule of 50% was put into place to keep the team going second from not deployment much of anything thus negating alpha strike?  If more of my units are on the table to be shot, my opponent instead gets a better selection of what he wants removed from the game prior to it having any effect other then to soak up fire.  So for me it almost seems forcing more units to be on table turn 1 is an advantage for the team getting to alpha strike.

Obviously I agree 100% that our objective scoring negates going seconds advantage of nabbing them on last turn, and I think that’s the way it should be.

So with this method we get:

  • a short time savings, somewhere around 10-20 minutes based on our limit of 20 minutes max for deployment.
  • players going second get more time based on their bid, but also have to place models first if they want that extra time.
  • players going first get less time but also get to see where the opponents are placing models prior to placing their own.
  • both players are given incentive to hold off placing key units as they watch the enemy to see where they place key units…or don’t until last moment.

So we saved a few minutes of time, and we swapped the advantage of knowing your enemies deployment from the team going second to the team going first, if the team going second actually uses it’s extra time it bid.  If not were left with both teams trying to react in real time to deployments of units.

In this last game our team bid full time because we considered it more important for us to know where your multiple big bugs were going to be then to be able to shoot first, obviously we didn’t remember this deployment type was in effect and it was a surprise to us that our plan essentially back fired… but it wasn’t what makes me not like this deployment type.  I don’t really remember the first time we used this it being a problem, but in that game we had 1 super heavy and 3 separate teams which probably made it less of an issue.

Now in this last game you had the genius idea of the chess clock and each team having essentially a max amount of time for the game, if your goal is to save time overall, why not say max bid on time is 20 minutes with the time not used being added to your teams game time.  This would make an extra incentive to not just bid max, even if you want to go second you might want to bid 15 minutes instead of 20.  You could extend that and say teams can still get half the extra minutes they don’t use by finishing deployment ahead of their time, so if a team bids 20 minutes, finishes deploying in 10, they get 5 minutes added to their clock.  Where as a team that bids 10 minutes would get 10 minutes added then if they finish deploying in 5 minutes they would get another 2.5 minutes added for a total of 12.5 minutes bonus.  This makes the bidding more interesting, keeps the normal bonuses of 1st/2nd turn, and helps give players incentive to speed up the game a little.

I was really pleased with his reply.  He really took a good look at the problem, and convinced me to see it from his side.  It might be due to the fact that he normally writes with slang and poor grammar, and the effort demonstrated to write a coherent retort just wowed me.  He does make good points though.  In general, I agree with almost everything he said.  As a result, we won’t be using the rules for Accelerated Deployment in the future (except for in 4-way games, as the time savings at that point are justified). 

I also liked his idea of adding unbid deployment time to the chess clocks for the game, but don’t like the fiddly bit of  reserving half of the leftover minutes towards the clock as well.  That just becomes too much effort for such little gain, so I believe we’ll be using that rule as well.  By the way, if you’re asking yourself, what I’m talking about with chess clocks, go read this post.

So, here we have a problem, that a little reasoning seems to have solved.  Don’t you love when communication works?



3 comments on “The Problem With Accelerated Deployment

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