One common playtester observation from the most recent round of playtests was that life's too hard for tanks built around ramming.
Now, it's true that Gravstrike is explicitly designed to avoid Car Wars–style rams that turn a pair of players' vehicles to confetti in a single, game-ending, un-fun instant. I figured it was possible I'd gone too far, though, even in this latest iteration where the fixtures and cards that support ramming are better than they've been in any past design iteration. So I played the Outworld Bulldog pre-built deck, the one from the current set whose main deal is to ram things.
I learned two things:
You have to know a lot about how the maneuver system works to make the most of ramming. It's a lot harder than shooting, and it's probably not reasonable to assume that rookie players will be successful with ram-oriented vehicles.
Ramming is a great way to optimize points, though. Success in the arena really goes to players who can figure out how to push the number of VP they can score per turn above 1. The most obvious way is to make a VP-eligible shot each and every turn, while also tagging checkpoints as quickly as possible. However, since ramming is a way to deal damage that's VP-eligible during the Maneuver Phase, it can stack with both VP from shots and VP from checkpoints.
The key with ram vehicles is probably that ramming capability should probably be a secondary concern for vehicle builds, if you're trying to maximize your chances to win.
That said, there's a certain class of player who just wants to run their tank into their enemies. And it's probably important for those folks to be satisfied.
All that consider, I'm thinking that base damage from rams probably needs to be a liiiitle bit higher, but I don't want to complicate those rules too much more.
The basic rule as it currently exists is that ram damage for both parties is equal to the rammer's speed. Super-simple, with modest complications for head-on rams (sum of speeds) and rear-end rams (difference in speeds).
However, since it takes 5+ damage to score a VP in tier 1 (and 3+ in tiers 2 and 3), and since max speed is 6, even two protect icons from the ram victim can utterly prevent VP from rams. Which is frustrating if ramming VP is a secondary consideration, but crushing if you're under the impression that it's your key route to victory.
Currently, there are five cards that interact with ramming:
The most effective way to increase damage is with the Quake Field fixture, which (as currently constituted) lets a rammer who hits with their front deal 3 extra damage. So far so good.
Gravitic Ram-Fist is a fixture that makes the floor for your damage to deal 3 damage, and the cap for your damage in a ram to suffer 3 damage. Pretty lame, although a blcker to incoming ram damage becomes relatively important to a tank that intents to ram something every second or third turn.
The third ram-related fixture of the Grav-Mag Snare, which you trigger when close to an opponent to be pulled into a collision with it. It doesn't help your damage, but prevents you from having to spend all your cards maneuvering into position.
Resilient Bracing is a turbine card that's not too bad on stats, that lets you ignore 3 damage when it maneuvers in to a ram or crash. Structural Reinforcements is a turbine card that lets you deal 2 extra damage and ignore 3 damage when you ram, or are rammed. These cards have other minor differences, but are probably too similar, and one should be eliminated from the set in favor of the other.
I've thought about three options to change up the basic ramming rules for the next iteration:
Option 1 is to make the basic ram damage = rammer's speed + 2 (instead of just rammer's speed). Still pretty simple, and increases overall damage in a way that makes VP more likely for rammers, because it's harder for the target to push damage back down below 5 or 3. This gets more complicated for the head-on and rear-end options, though. Do head-ons become (a) speed + speed + 2, or (b) speed + 2 + speed + 2, or just (c) speed + speed? If (c), then regular rams wind up with the potential to have a maximum guaranteed damage that's higher than what might come out of a slowish header, which seems weird. The biggest worry with this option is complexity creep.
Option 2 is to guarantee a floor on ram damage, and keep the rules as is, but say that a regular ram has a minimum damage of 3, headers have a minimum damage of 5, and rear-ends have a mimimum damage of 1. While simple, though, it doesn't do anything new to guarantee VP for even a top-speed ram. So this option is probably no good.
Option 3 is to continue pumping the ram-related fixtures and deck cards, on the assumption that it's fine to substantially limit VP from ramming to players who explicitly prepared for that tactical option. Which might be fine.
What do you think about the underlying assumptions I've made here? And what do you all think about which of these options is the best way forward?
I'm especially interested in hearing from those of you who've played, or face down, the vehicle(s) from the last round of testing that were optimized to ram you.