It’s with great joy that I announce version 2.0 of Dinosaur Cowboys! After nearly two years of changes, tweaks, and edits, I feel that this version is finally done and polished enough to replace the old v1.0. I’m going to the v2.0 line because there have been enough core changes to the rules (which I sheepishly remember saying I’d never do). You can see a general idea of the biggest changes from the v1.9 release notes. Anyone who has been following the bleeding edge version knows pretty well what v2.0 has shaped up to be.
I think the rules are absolutely great at this point. I have numerous playtests under my belt, I’ve encountered and fixed/clarified a lot of corner cases that really only come up during repeated play, and most of all I’ve created the type of game I enjoy playing!
I’ll keep my eye on rule tweaks and fixes as I go, and I do want to reformat the rulebook to two columns at some point, but otherwise I don’t foresee any large changes. Then again I said the same thing for v1.0, so who knows! I do have a few ideas of “expansions” to the rules (like an armor system for Dinosaurs) but those would all be separate documents.
You can expect to see lots more campaign reports and general matches, since like I said I really enjoy actually sitting down to play the game.
Version 2.0 Changes
Anyway here is a list of the minor tweaks since v1.9 that I’ve added to really solidify and give a fresh face to v2.0:
– Added two new Deployments: “Layered” and “Delayed”
– Added 5 new art pieces, replaced 2 pieces
– Added ‘spohniscool’ Xenozoic Landscapes as title page (link)
– Reworked the version, licensing, and credit information into a table
– Renamed ‘Range’ to ‘Distance’ for how far weapons can attack, to avoid confusion with RTN and the entire term “range weapon”
– Change Defoliant Grenade from $200 to $100
– Updated trait text for consistently with other traits and with the latest rules
– Noted to measure from the attacker’s base to the closest point on the enemy, to prevent measuring to the back of a dinosaur to avoid Minimum Range
– Noted who to Flee from if multiple enemies are the same distance away (ie: no “nearest”)
– Increased playtime recommendation from 30-60 to 45-60 minutes
– Noted playtime increases with more players
– Moved “firing in close combat” to the bottom of the section, since text involving range attacks shouldn’t be the first item in the melee section
– Also said firing into close combat replaces ANY Distance modifier instead of specifically Short, since shooting into melee could be done from further away
– Noted that the enemy that took a dinosaur out of action places the passengers, instead of the generic “enemy” which could cause confusion in multiplayer games
– Saloon: Made the Load table view scrollable based on the browser size
– Saloon: Added title mouseovers to weapon special abilities in the store view
– Saloon: Added an option to Sell an item instead of Remove it. Sell gives half refund, and is meant for ongoing campaigns
– Saloon: Updated trait text to match the latest text
– Saloon: Added option to sell a Dinosaur for a half refund, instead of Remove for full
– Saloon: Fixed removing a member to properly include hiring cost in the ND amount listed in the status
Enjoy! And of course feedback is always welcome.
I always think taking a breather and reflecting is a good idea at any milestone in the development process. In the case of v2.0 I can look at a game that “feels” like something I wrote, while at the same time be continuously pleasantly surprised by how well it plays. I’ve sunk numerous hours into the game, between original brainstorming right up to modern day campaigns (and the tedious formatting of battle reports that goes with it). I think if I was more of an entrepreneur I’d make an effort to get the game on Kickstarter (especially now that it came to Canada). But so far I haven’t gone that route, and I’ve been quite content to keep the rules free. In some ways I think that rules should always be free, although I know if that was the case the wargaming and RPG industries wouldn’t be where they are today.
And speaking of the rules, I thought I’d mention a few of my favorites from v2.0 (although a lot of these go way back):
- Alternating activations. Simple enough on the surface, but I think the game has enough unique and fresh ideas to really help gameplay flow smoothly. By rolling Initiative at the start of EVERY Activation set (instead of just the Turn) you end up with a very back-and-forth game. Tactics can change and you can react to your opponent almost like a real time game. I also am quite happy with how I handled uneven numbers during Activation, such as a posse who is badly outnumbered 5 to 1. Thanks to the “calculate the ratio” approach you never feel like you’re at a huge advantage or disadvantage for the size of your gang. The other major benefit is player involvement. You have to wait a maximum of a minute or two for your opponent to handle a character before you get to pick up dice and interact with the game again. And even while you’re opponent is performing their activation you at least get to look up the Defense of characters in your posse when they get shot at. I really like this approach over “UGO-IGO” where an entire army moves and shoots first while the opponent drearily sits there half-awake.
- Any order to phases. This might seem like a small aspect of the rules, and in a way it is, but also reflects the choices I made during development. Often games will force you to move then shoot, or shoot then move. I went for the more freeform style of “whatever order you want”. This opens up many more tactical options, especially when coupled with the activation system and general flow of combat.
- Combat. There are many aspects of the combat system I like, ranging from melee and shooting being resolved the same way to the single dice throw to do damage (instead of hit, then damage, then save of other games). I like how people can choose weapons based on their preferred approach. Do you go with the “all eggs in one basket” approach of a single attack that delivers a lot of damage when it hits (1A-5D type guns)? Or do you play it safe and go for a lot of attacks with low damage (5A-1D). Both types of weapons are great in different situations as well, and synergize with different Traits to boot! Even the simplicity and fun of the Reload system add to this. Modifiers for Distance ensure positioning is always important, as does Facing. Critical Hits are just gravy on the top, because who doesn’t like something special to happen when they roll the max on a die?
- Penalty to hit moving targets. This is another small rule that gives a lot of flavor and balance. Instead of games devolving into static positions with no motivation to move, people will try to keep repositioning everyone to get that crucial bonus to defense when shot after they’ve moved. This also works well with the Activation system because you have to factor in how precious a target is when you decide who moves. Do you go for the important attack before the enemy can move away, or do you try to duck for cover with a fragile asset?
- Deployments, objectives, features. These are three big categories that I added pretty late in the v1.0 development lifecycle, but I think they provide a fresh approach to every encounter. The game also feels mature for having 12 unique deployments (which were really hard to come up with) and a similar amount of Objectives. The vast number of Features (and how drastically they can change the encounter, such as a Volcano) are just icing on the top. Variant Rules are another example of this.
- The dice. D12s! They have a wild enough bell curve to be exciting without being TOO wild (like a D20). They are still a Platonic solid (unlike a D10). And they aren’t boring (D6) or awkward (D4). Plus I just love how rolling a handful of D12s feels. They provide enough granularity to include a few to-hit modifiers without vastly changing the odds.
- Dinosaurs! And theme in general. I struggled with how to integrate dinosaurs, and they certainly have been one of the most heavily revised sections during the early development of the game (cue me fondly remembering when they had Damage Tracks). I’m quite content with how they ended up. Ignoring Difficult Terrain on movement is a small but flavorful example of this. Having slightly different stats might be imposing when you first learn the game, but rapidly becomes a cool way to differentiate man from beast.
- The Saloon. Although not part of the core game, having online software available to easily create Posses is really nice. But the best feature are the absolutely beautiful PDF rosters that it outputs. I’m really proud of the program and the dedication I had to finish it (and keep it up to date), since as anyone in software development knows, it’s easy to get personal hobby projects 80% of the way done (ie: the fun stuff) and skip the rest.
- Dozens of others. From the vast array of weapons, complete control over Posse customization, unique Allegiances and the flavor they bring, morale via Bravery Tests and Panic, tons of fun Traits, balanced campaign system, and even superficial items like the state the interior art is in.
All in all I’ve been very happy with what Dinosaur Cowboys has grown to. And like I have recently been saying, Dinosaur Cowboys is something I really want to play, instead of sort of feel obligated to play (like some of my older games). Tweaking and poking a game for 5 years (seems so long!) has been really nice and a good way to exercise my brain and keep those development muscles strong.