I agree with this point and this was one of my major frustrations in regards to the online games I played, especially as HQ:G shifts the marginal success to the HIGHEST successful role, as opposed to the lowest, meaning that unless the opponent with a higher skill fails, you will almost always suffer a marginal defeat...2. On engaging with the world
I'm specifically talking about a feedback loop between what's been established in the fiction of the game and what the dice and scores at the table indicate.
Now Heroquest does have a form of this effect in the way that benefits of victory from one contest are applicable as bonuses to later relevant contests. But.
- But #1: By my reading of the text, Heroquest doesn't encourage chaining contests together in quite the way that many of these other games do. If you want to seize the high ground or put the sun behind you or take any other small, advantageous action, that should typically be inside the scope of the contest, rather than a precursor contest of its own. (Again, by my reading of the texts -- this may not be how you play in which case I'm eager to hear about it). Is there some mechanism that I am missing for assigning bonuses and penalties based on circumstance and tactical play? Again, the text doesn't seem to address it.
- But #2: I find it very confusing that extended contests seem to just use the initially established value in every round and not to shift from round to round as the participants adjust to each other. It means if I go into a contest where I am the underdog I am massively more likely to lose (due to compounded probabilities) and there is no real tactical move I can make that will alter the situation.
In regards to modifiers, there's a statement in HQG (p.102) that "Modifiers should only be used to alter a hero’s target number to reflect unusual circumstances he helped to create, or has some control over. [...] If an unusual situation applies to an obstacle, change the difficulty number. (As you’ll see in the section on assigning difficulty levels on page 113, the best practice is to decide how difficult a task ought to be dramatically, choose a difficulty, and then, if necessary, invent modifying circumstances to account for any unusual or changed degree of difficulty). As modifiers complicate bookkeeping, it’s always preferable to fold them into a difficulty whenever you can." But no guidance on the size of said modifiers. The implication is that ideally you should use augments for this: if you want to be able to make use of the high ground, attempt an augment with your "Master Tactician" or "Guerrilla tactics" breakouts. Want to crash a tree (Giant Redwood 5W2) into an opponent? Use an unrelated action to use your "Fell it with a Blow 3W" magical feat (from the Avatar of Paul Bunyan keyword), attack its 14 resistance and then use the 5W2 to attack the opponent.
A fun way to do things might be to sketch battle zones like in Fate and give them abilities: "Giant Redwood 5W", "Dark & Dingy 17", "On fire 5W, increases by +2 per exchange, spreads to nearby tiles when it reaches a new mastery level" which the contestants can then use, fight against or take unrelated actions to push or propel opponents into. But this is not directly supported or encouraged in the system.
So I agree that as written HQG's conflict resolution system left me feeling confused, dissatified and it needs some GM flexibility and support to become more interesting. I think more guidance on framing, less lengthy and more interesting examples (I tuned out of the big battle example), and a clearer panel of actions and aims like Fate Core's (Attack, Defend, Overcome, Create an advantage) core actions. I'd need to look into it again to give a more cogent critique and suggestions though.