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Tactics (Not Builds)

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I've seen a number of people talking about tactics on these forums.  About properly timing haymakers, when to abort (and to what), where to move to, which enemy to attack, etc. 

But the last tactics thread seemed to just be a dumping ground for abusive power constructs or abusive power combinations.  Which was a shame, since my current group's tactics are basically "move to closest enemy and use attack power" and I was really hoping to see examples of how canny play can get an edge. 

So I want to know, how does a better player go about getting better results during play?  Not during chargen, not during VPP reassignment, but when the pencils are down and your team is facing their evil superclones. 

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Well, as a starter, one player with an area effect attack working with a high damage, low OCV ranged attack.  The area effect attack player attacks hoping a low defence/ high DCV opponent who is most likely to dive for cover leaving the second player who has held his attack to immediately shoot at the now DCV reduced opponent.

 

Doc

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I don't know if this counts, but i will give u a brief account of our last scenario:

We found ourselves facing 15 mind controled civilians who had force fields and arm blasters (11d6). In a crazy ploy to draw fire away from the civilians, I was shot at by the 15 of them, scoring enough hits to take me out of combat; not smart yes I know, but I did save the civilians and did not die, so not a complete loss for me). The only thing that allowed the other hero to survive the encounter was he used his illusion powers to make it seem as if 4 of them had suddenly become 4 of me, and them being in a mind control daze ("imotep...imotep...") simply drove them to start attacking themselves. The hero then decided to let them steal what they were after as he threw my unconscious form on the team vehicle (a magic flying carpet) and began following them from above (that carpet is crazy fast). Along the way I recovered. When we found their destination (a crash landed ship) we choose to stealth our way to the ship. Long story short we were able to surprise the alien in his robot vehicle that was incredibly tough and lethal (6d6 killing) and in this battle what worked for us was that the brick kept the bad guy attacking him and kept blocking for his life (which worked) while I blasted it from the air. Two turns later and badly injured (he had taken almost half my BODY in just 1 shot) w/ my last shot (no more END left) we were able to defeat it!

Side Note: Two Turns is usually the most our fights ever last. So far we have only had two that lasted a bit more; one was a one on one duel and the other was the heroes battling Strahd the vampire (dunno if i spelled that right).

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On good tactic is to hold phase until just before your next phase.  This allows you to go twice before your opponent can do anything.   If your enemy does not act in that phase it allows you to go fully offensive in the first phase and then take the appropriate strategy in the next phase.  For example you hold phase twelve and allow you opponent to act.  Just before your next phase comes up you attack all out putting all skill levels to offensive and using a maneuver that gives you a penalty to DCV.  If you manage to stun you opponent you continue attacking full out and will probably take him down.  If you did not stun him then you switch to a defensive maneuver so he does not take you down. 

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Like I said in the previous thread about tactics which was mostly stuff you can do with maneuvers and situations, not builds, it depends a lot on the characters in question.  What you can do with teleportation is much different than what you can do with flight or telekinesis.  Its going to be about creative people with the abilities they have working out teamwork and interesting ideas, and a GM who doesn't feel bitter that the party 'cheated' to defeat their favorite bad guy.

 

The GM can encourage this kind of thing by making battlegrounds interesting (how many fights in the street or warehouse can you really do?  One of my favorite Viper 4th edition scenarios is when Viper holds a very thinly disguised Planet Hollywood restaurant full of celebrities hostage by levitating it into the air.  In my game, part of the battle was inside the falling restaurant.)  I had a fight and evacuate scene within the Hindenburg as it burned (It actually took a while, in Champions terms, to burn all the way, and there was time for the heroes to get people from the back out the front before it all went up due to the construction of the thing.  It was fun working out the timetable in terms of phases and turns based on the exact events when it burned for real).

 

Having an interesting battlefield with unusual contents encourages creative players to come up with good ways to make the battle more interesting.  Throw the villain into the power plant.  Drop the girders on top of them.  Lure them into the wet cement, etc.

 

Second, give them battles where a straight up "hit them in the face til they drop" isn't a realistic or rewarding option.  I had a bunch of PCs faced with a necromancer who was holding a young prince hostage.  He cast a spell where any damage done to him was instead done to the prince.  They had to figure out how to defeat him while he cast necromantic spells at them, without harming the hostage too badly.  Making the bad guy so powerful they have to try something new or so unusual the old tactics don't work can force people to become creative.

 

But as always it takes a team of players who are willing to be creative to work that out and make it happen.  If they aren't all they will do is be frustrated and angry at you for kicking their ass with a bad guy that was "too powerful"  Remember a lot of younger players today are only used to computer games where everything is tuned exactly to your level and equipment and its just a matter of either beating them down or finding the One Amazing Trick That Your Ranger Doesn't Want You To Know.

 

And sometimes I've found that even a good group can get kind of hynotized and lose their ability to analyze sometimes.  Example: I visited some college buddies playing Champions.  The GM threw a powerful enemy at them they couldn't' seem to harm.  Every time they hit him the GM went out of his way to point out that the talisman around his neck glowed brightly.  When the GM went to a bio break I suggested someone attack that talisman, take it, try to break it because its, you know, pretty obviously a focus.  It just hadn't occurred to them because they were so focused heads down on their character sheet instead of what was going on in front of their characters.

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One older (pre-Fourth Edition) book was very useful to me in providing specific examples of tactics superheroes might use: Strike Force by the late great Aaron Allston, detailing his extensive personal campaign. They were inspiration for developing special maneuvers and code words for teams in my own campaigns. The team would practice strategies and maneuvers for particular situations or to maximize their collective strengths. Let me just transcribe the examples Allston gave in his book (occasionally paraphrased for clarity):

 

Air-Lift: Emergency evacuation. Fliers, teleporters, speedsters, grab everyone you can and get out of here!

Blind Swing: A brick not engaged with a villain begins a Pushed Haymaker. A teleporter sneaks up on the villain and teleports him right into the path of the swinging fist at the precise moment the Haymaker is supposed to land.

Blue Dot: Warning you're about to use a Flash attack.

Delta Vee: A teleporter or flier with Martial Arts waits until a fast-moving villain is passing near a hard surface. The hero moves into his path and Martial Throws him into the surface.

Express Train: For exceptionally tough non-flying villains. A teleporter and a flier grab an enemy. The teleporter 'ports as high up as possible. The flyer then dives straight down at maximum velocity with the other two. Just before impact the teleporter 'ports himself and the flyer back up where the flyer will have space to decelerate.

High Guard: Take an aerial position for reconnaissance or sniping.

Jackhammer: At a signal from the team leader, everyone (who can afford to) ignores his current opponent and uses a ranged attack on the opponent selected by the leader.

Mustard: Warning you're about to use a gas attack, or gas is being used against us.

Napalm: Use an explosive attack.

Nuke Him: The kid gloves are off -- use your nastiest attack.

Peeping Tom: Scan the target with all your sensors.

Pigeon: The opponent is a weakling -- restrain yourself.

Pop-Tart: Evacuate civilians from the area.

Ripoff: Steal Accessible Foci.

Sandwich: Two bricks with fast movement converge on the same target from opposite sides to perform a Move-Through.

Shield: Someone with high Defenses, stand in front of the designated person.

Tangler: Used on high-DCV targets. At a signal, everyone who can Holds their Action. A hero with an Area Of Effect Entangle throws it on a target, who is momentarily at 0 DCV even if he could normally shrug out of the Entangle. The other heroes then blast the target.

 

Some other tactical examples appear in other Champions books, which I'll post here as I have time. :)

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18 hours ago, Lord Liaden said:

One older (pre-Fourth Edition) book was very useful to me in providing specific examples of tactics superheroes might use: Strike Force by the late great Aaron Allston, detailing his extensive personal campaign. They were inspiration for developing special maneuvers and code words for teams in my own campaigns. The team would practice strategies and maneuvers for particular situations or to maximize their collective strengths. Let me just transcribe the examples Allston gave in his book (occasionally paraphrased for clarity):

 

Air-Lift: Emergency evacuation. Fliers, teleporters, speedsters, grab everyone you can and get out of here!

Blind Swing: A brick not engaged with a villain begins a Pushed Haymaker. A teleporter sneaks up on the villain and teleports him right into the path of the swinging fist at the precise moment the Haymaker is supposed to land.

Blue Dot: Warning you're about to use a Flash attack.

Delta Vee: A teleporter or flier with Martial Arts waits until a fast-moving villain is passing near a hard surface. The hero moves into his path and Martial Throws him into the surface.

Express Train: For exceptionally tough non-flying villains. A teleporter and a flier grab an enemy. The teleporter 'ports as high up as possible. The flyer then dives straight down at maximum velocity with the other two. Just before impact the teleporter 'ports himself and the flyer back up where the flyer will have space to decelerate.

High Guard: Take an aerial position for reconnaissance or sniping.

Jackhammer: At a signal from the team leader, everyone (who can afford to) ignores his current opponent and uses a ranged attack on the opponent selected by the leader.

Mustard: Warning you're about to use a gas attack, or gas is being used against us.

Napalm: Use an explosive attack.

Nuke Him: The kid gloves are off -- use your nastiest attack.

Peeping Tom: Scan the target with all your sensors.

Pigeon: The opponent is a weakling -- restrain yourself.

Pop-Tart: Evacuate civilians from the area.

Ripoff: Steal Accessible Foci.

Sandwich: Two bricks with fast movement converge on the same target from opposite sides to perform a Move-Through.

Shield: Someone with high Defenses, stand in front of the designated person.

Tangler: Used on high-DCV targets. At a signal, everyone who can Holds their Action. A hero with an Area Of Effect Entangle throws it on a target, who is momentarily at 0 DCV even if he could normally shrug out of the Entangle. The other heroes then blast the target.

 

Some other tactical examples appear in other Champions books, which I'll post here as I have time. :)

 

These don't really seem like "tactics" to me. They are code words for certain generalized moves. Which could be used tactically.

But most of them can just be called what they are. Like, "They are using a gas attack!", or, conversely, "I'm going to use my gas attack now, you guys!".

Might be useful (and I think Allston did this) if your GM is very cagey about in-game dialog or something.

 

Like if I'm saying, "Hey, Speedster! Ripoff! RIPOFF!!!", and pointing madly at an enemy with a focus...can't I just say, "Hey, Speedster, get that gadget!"?

 

Is the target likely to be surprised by the first one, "Sure, they were pointing at me and saying "Ripoff!" but how was I to know he meant grab the thingie and runwith it"???

 

I'd say, "Having a speedster\teleporter grab a focus and then run\port away with it so they can't get it back during the battle", is a valid tactic.

But having a bunch of code words is not, to me, "tactics".

 

 

 

 

 

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On 7/27/2019 at 11:53 PM, Gnome BODY (important!) said:

I've seen a number of people talking about tactics on these forums.  About properly timing haymakers, when to abort (and to what), where to move to, which enemy to attack, etc. 

But the last tactics thread seemed to just be a dumping ground for abusive power constructs or abusive power combinations.  Which was a shame, since my current group's tactics are basically "move to closest enemy and use attack power" and I was really hoping to see examples of how canny play can get an edge. 

So I want to know, how does a better player go about getting better results during play?  Not during chargen, not during VPP reassignment, but when the pencils are down and your team is facing their evil superclones. 

 

Thanks for posting! The last one got sidetracked but I didn't want to complain too much that builds != tactics.

 

I mostly agree with Christopher R Taylor that tactics depend on specifics and so making generalized tactics, particularly for a system as flexible as Hero, is hard to do.

 

I think there might be meta-game considerations as well.

 

Like in-game focusing fire on one enemy at a time seems questionable. Wouldn't you fight the guy you square up with like in every superhero fight in the comics?

But meta-game focus fire one one enemy at a time seems quite legit and useful.

 

Do PCs in-game know about Teamwork attacks and if they are totally plinking off the guys armor? Or is that meta-game awareness?

Do PCs in-game know about the Speed Chart and how saving phases works? Even to the extent of, "He's faster than us, we'll have to wait and strike at the same time...."?

 

Definitely combo attacks to reduce DCV followed by Haymaker\Extra Time\whatever the thing is are valid particularly in combo with saved phases.

Guy1 = entangle, Guy2 = haymaker the 1/2DCV guy before his breakout.

 

I also agree with Christopher R Taylor that a lot of the tactical complexity is probably going to come from the scenario itself.

 

If there are no civilians to rescue or falling Heli-carrier rotors to fix then...no need for tactics to address that. Just smash the enemy.

If there's nothing on the battlefield to interact with, or no reason to interact with it, same kinda thing, no need for tactics besides ganging up and picking the right attack\defense.

 

And then of course figuring out the abilities of your enemies in combat (because their abilities will influence your tactics to counter them, right) is a potentially valid tactic, but only if you gain actionable intel from it. If you scan them with your scanners but they don't have any Vulnerabilities or Susceptibilities or anything like that...not much to evolve a tactic to counter.

 

And then the last thing I think is that...tactics might be too successful in some cases and create a GM need\want to nerf them.

 

The Entangle Guy and the Drain vs Strength Guy or whatever.

 

In the last thread this is why I had been asking for specific examples from specific players in specific games rather than generalized Hero tactics.

 

What have players and GMs actually done that is "tactical" exactly?

 

I played in a game where the bad guys often had teleport-back-to-base belts\items. So then countering that by disabling them, breaking them, grabbing them of their belt was a valid tactic.

But it wouldn't be universal.

 

Those are some example from play though:

 

Targeting enemies escape route\devices.

Focus fire on one target at a time.

Getting somebody to half DCV (throw, Flash, Entangle) so the others can hit them with bigger attacks more easily. Particularly if you've got a cheap 1 Hex AoE to go against Speedsters\Martial Artists.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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3 hours ago, TranquiloUno said:

These don't really seem like "tactics" to me. They are code words for certain generalized moves. Which could be used tactically.

But most of them can just be called what they are. Like, "They are using a gas attack!", or, conversely, "I'm going to use my gas attack now, you guys!".

Might be useful (and I think Allston did this) if your GM is very cagey about in-game dialog or something.

 

Like if I'm saying, "Hey, Speedster! Ripoff! RIPOFF!!!", and pointing madly at an enemy with a focus...can't I just say, "Hey, Speedster, get that gadget!"?

 

Is the target likely to be surprised by the first one, "Sure, they were pointing at me and saying "Ripoff!" but how was I to know he meant grab the thingie and runwith it"???

 

I'd say, "Having a speedster\teleporter grab a focus and then run\port away with it so they can't get it back during the battle", is a valid tactic.

But having a bunch of code words is not, to me, "tactics".

 

Well, disregarding for the moment that several of the examples I cited are sophisticated combination moves that are specific to characters' strengths, rather than "general," and reduced to brief expressions for ease of recognition and efficiency of execution... the example you gave, of someone yelling, "Hey, Speedster! Ripoff! RIPOFF!!" while "pointing madly at an enemy with a focus" strikes me as extremely amateurish execution. The character is warning the opponent exactly what is about to happen, so he/she has a chance to prepare for it. OTOH if the team leader identifies that the opponent is using an Accessible Focus, points to him once and calls "Ripoff!" which the speedster already knows is his cue to go in for a Grab, the heroes can get the benefit of Surprise. Yelling, "I'm going to use my gas attack now, you guys!" would be the same kind of advance telegraphing.

 

Perhaps you, or your GM if it's not you, runs the villains in your games as too dumb to recognize those signals. But Aaron Allston wrote that he noticed his players weren't using the kind of trademark teamwork moves that supers in the comics do -- no Fastball Specials, no hammer-and-shield combos. So he pitted them against a team of villains of equal number, but built on significantly fewer Character Points than the heroes, but using rehearsed maneuvers and code words. The heroes got their butts kicked, which humiliation prompted them to develop their own codes.

 

If you don't consider such things "tactics," I'm afraid I'm not clear on what kind of examples you're looking for, and I doubt I can offer anything to benefit you.

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The main part of tactics in HERO to me is for everyone on the team to hold his action so you can take advantage of whatever opportunities present themselves. If the enemy forces are clumping up or splitting up, hit them with an AoE. When a tough enemy is flashed or knocked down/back, pile on.

 

Communicate so you aren't working at cross-purposes with your teammates and so your powers can set up advantageous situations for your teammates. There's no attacks-of-opportunity so be ready to disengage from one foe to come to the rescue of a teammate who is low on STUN.

 

Sweep the leg literally but not figuratively. Know whether you're in a fight to the death or a normal superhero battle so you don't escalate things accidentally by seriously ticking off a bad guy who is in it for only the normal level of fun and games. If the bad guy has the perception that you are playing dirty, it'll encourage him to play dirtier. Sometimes that'll mean one of your teammates has to take a beating in a stand-up fight rather than taking advantage of an "honorable" foe by using superior tactics against him.

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1 hour ago, archer said:

Sweep the leg literally but not figuratively. Know whether you're in a fight to the death or a normal superhero battle so you don't escalate things accidentally by seriously ticking off a bad guy who is in it for only the normal level of fun and games. If the bad guy has the perception that you are playing dirty, it'll encourage him to play dirtier. Sometimes that'll mean one of your teammates has to take a beating in a stand-up fight rather than taking advantage of an "honorable" foe by using superior tactics against him.

 

Good point. (Now, who wants to volunteer to take the beating?...)

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4 hours ago, Lord Liaden said:

But Aaron Allston wrote that he noticed his players weren't using the kind of trademark teamwork moves that supers in the comics do -- no Fastball Specials, no hammer-and-shield combos. So he pitted them against a team of villains of equal number, but built on significantly fewer Character Points than the heroes, but using rehearsed maneuvers and code words. The heroes got their butts kicked, which humiliation prompted them to develop their own codes.

 

If you don't consider such things "tactics," I'm afraid I'm not clear on what kind of examples you're looking for, and I doubt I can offer anything to benefit you.

Mainly I'm looking for actual examples and not "They used teamwork in some utterly undefined manner, and thus won". 

An actual combat example, or things like what Doc Democracy and LoneWolf posted.  The big list you posted is mostly things that aren't tactics, and I have no clue why basic maneuvers and abilities are brought up in a discussion about improving play. 

 

4 hours ago, Lord Liaden said:

f the team leader identifies that the opponent is using an Accessible Focus, points to him once and calls "Ripoff!" which the speedster already knows is his cue to go in for a Grab, the heroes can get the benefit of Surprise.

This, for example.  Why in the world would that qualify for Surprise?  It's less unexpected than the speedster just running up and doing it with no yelling or pointing, and a normal Grab doesn't qualify for Surprise. 

It feels like "Teamwork" is being used as a codeword for "GM gives bonuses".  Or was Aaron Allston running a game for a group of players who had never read the rules for Accessible foci? 

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If "Bravo, flank left and prepare enfilade. Alpha, advance to cover and engage. Charlie, set up overwatch on that ridge. Move!" qualifies to you as tactics... then Liaden's awesome list is full of equivalent tactics/tactical maneuvers/tools.

 

Just rename LoneWolf's example to the codephrase "Doubletap!" and it would fit right onto the list. Same for Doc's example.

 

The examples you cited... are basic maneuvers/abilities. They are of course brought up because they are a major part of play, and thus are relevant to discussing the "improvement" of play.

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On 7/28/2019 at 12:20 PM, LoneWolf said:

On good tactic is to hold phase until just before your next phase.  This allows you to go twice before your opponent can do anything.   If your enemy does not act in that phase it allows you to go fully offensive in the first phase and then take the appropriate strategy in the next phase.  For example you hold phase twelve and allow you opponent to act.  Just before your next phase comes up you attack all out putting all skill levels to offensive and using a maneuver that gives you a penalty to DCV.  If you manage to stun you opponent you continue attacking full out and will probably take him down.  If you did not stun him then you switch to a defensive maneuver so he does not take you down. 

 

Or your opponent can abort to dodge and get the benefits through your next phase, as well as this one.

 

Against more powerful, less numerous opponents, the team can delay.  Whoever gets attacked can abort, and those not attacked can go offesnive on the targets.  With a single Big Bad, he gets piled on after his attack.  He hits his target anyway?  He could withdraw to recover while his teammates cover for him.

 

Of course, larger enemy groups of lower power can also hold actions to cover every segment.  If LoneWolf Holds on phase 12, then  attacks  on all-out offense at the end of Phase 1 (just before his Ph 2 action), a group of opponents is ready to take advantage of his reduced DCV.

 

Generic tactics can be tough to plan because of generic countertactics. 

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The first step in any successful tactic is assessing the situation.  Part of assessing he situation is understanding your opponent, but it also includes being aware of your surroundings.  You also need to be aware of your own abilities and those of your teammates.  Once you have assessed the situation you can start looking for opportunities.

 

Hugh is right about all tactics having a counter tactic.  That is why it is so important to conceal your tactics from the enemy.  This is what Sun Tzu means when he says “All war is based on deception”.   

 

Forcing your opponent to abort his action is often a good tactic.  Not only does it prevent you opponent from attacking it can allow your teammates to take advantage of the situation.  For example if the villain aborts his 2 to dodge my attack in 1 I can move back to allow my teammate to use his area of effect attack and the villain cannot dive for cover because he has already acted.  It can also allow a teammate to get off his haymaker.  It also creates a situation where now the entire team can go all-out offensive in phase 2 because the villain cannot act.  At this point I have forced my opponent to act and have created an opportunity for my team.  Whether my team can exploit the opportunity is another thing, but at least I created the opening.

 

The large group of low powered opponents is using the same tactic against me that I used in the first example.  The first example was based on the idea that I am attacking a smaller number of more power full foes.  There defenses are higher including DCV so I have to work harder to affect them.  This is not the situation when I am facing a large group of less powerful opponents, so I will need to adjust my tactics.   I should have an easier time hitting the weaker opponents and my attacks will be more effective.  At this point I switch to a defensive stance putting more into defense while still being able to attack.  Areas of effect attacks are particularly useful in this situation.  I also use the terrain to try and limit the number of opponents that can attack me.  This will be along drawn out combat.

 

In each case I assessed the situation and adjusted my tactics appropriately. 

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