Monday, February 8, 2016

Playtest of fantasy skirmish rules: Empire vs Undead

I'm continuing to refine my set of simple rules for large skirmish fantasy wargames. I was pretty happy with the combat mechanics after my last playtest, but I made some changes to the morale and unit activation rules. I am also continuing to make small adjustments to unit stats and modifiers. As before, I don't yet have rules for magic, and special rules for things like the undead need to be ironed out. In both previous games the defender won my sample scenario, but it's hard to say if that was due to imbalanced forces or an imbalanced scenario, and it is way too early to start balancing those things. I'm still just just working out mechanics and characteristic values for the units I want to use.

I decided to play the same scenario again with the same units, but swap the forces. So this time, the undead warband would be escorting Princess Wutzernäm though the forest, when the Empire army suddenly ambushes them, trying to steal the princess away from her rightful owner. But the powerful vampire (whose bride she is intended to be) is approaching swiftly with reinforcements, so the Empire force will have to hurry to make off with her.
The necromancer escorts the princess, along with a unit of ghouls, as they march through the clearing toward their castle. They are flanked by two units of skeletons.

Over by the ruins off to the right of the necromancer lurk an Empire captain with some militia, a unit of 10 handgunners, and five Knights of Sigmar's Blood.

In a forest to the left are 10 more handgunners, four more knights, and a warrior priest of Sigmar (leading the knights).

The stage is set for the battle over the fate of princess Wutzernäm.

Spotting the ambush, the necromancer directs the skeletons in yellow towards the ruins, and follows with his ghouls. He hopes to hide among the debris of the ruins, which will slow down his attackers and provide some protection from their guns. He knows he only needs to stall a short time until reinforcements arrive. Unfortunately in his rush he fails to will the skeletons in blue to follow after him.

On the left, the handgunners move up to the stone wall, ready to fire. The priest and knights move into the clearing to pursue the fleeing necromancer.

On the other side of the battlefield, the captain leads his militia into the ruins, with the handgunners following closely behind.

With the entrance to the ruins clogged up with the militia and handgunners, the other knights move out into the clearing.

In a desperate attempt to buy time, the skeletons in blue are sent after a unit of knights. The knights cut down three of the skeletons, who are now too far from the necromancer to benefit from his commanding will. Left to their own dim instincts, they fall back in confusion.

The rest of the undead force moves into the ruins to seek safety in the fallen rubble.

Both units of knights gallop toward the ruins. The handgunners move to the other side of the wall near the skeletons in blue, but hold their fire, waiting for a juicier target. In the ruins, the milita move up and fire pistols at the nearby skeletons, who due to the protection of the rubble only lose one of their number. Seeing the huge enemy force swarming the ruins, the unit of handgunners on that side of the battle hesitate and remain outside.

The skeletons in the ruins charge the militia and kill three of them, but suffer two casualties of their own (though I apparently forgot to remove the skeleton casualties...) The captain and militia fall back, picking their way through the rubble.

The skeletons in blue, being too far from the necromancer to be commanded by his magic, fail to rally. However, some reinforcements turn up for the undead in the form of the vampire knight, and two units of ten grave guard each.

The hangunners on the left spot the arrival of the grave guard, and open fire. Their excellent shooting brings down five of the elite skeletons in the unit containing the vampire.

The knights with the warrior priest charge the vampire and his depleted unit of grave guard, destroying two more of them.

The other unit of knights charges the ghouls. Even with the protection of the ruins, the valiant knights fight ferociously and kill six of the vile creatures. The survivors, including the necromancer, flee for their lives further into the ruins, leaving the princess in the hands of the knights.

The other unit of handgunners fires through a gap in the wall at the skeletons in yellow, destroying four of them. The captain rallies his militia and they regroup near the edge of the ruins.

The vampire kills the warrior priest, and the display of savagery causes the knights to flee. While focuses on his opponent, the vampire neglects to order the other grave guard unit into action.

The necromancer rallies his ghouls. The skeletons in blue, on the other side of the battlefield, continue to mill about mindlessly. The skeletons in yellow, in the ruins, move toward the knights guarding the princess, but can't quite reach them as they struggle through the rubble.

Obviously very shaken by what they witnessed, the disordered knights fail to rally. The handgunners far off to the left, perhaps concerned about the strangely inactive skeletons nearby, fail to act. The handgunners by the ruins reload their guns. The knights with the princess are quickly being surrounded, and left with no choice but to fight their way out. They charge the grave guard in their path, but only manage to take down two of them, losing one of their own in return. Due to the presence of the powerful vampire, the grave guard hold their ground to prevent the escape of the knights.

The skeletons in the ruins charge the captain and militia. The captain takes out two of the skeletons himself, but is himself killed in the process. The skeletons also kill two more of the militia, who manage to also cut down another skeleton. With their leader gone, the few remaining militia fall back in disorder. More significantly, with the loss of the captain the empire force is left leaderless.

The vampire charges at the knights and kills one in his attempt to retrieve his betrothed. The other knights take out one more grave guard, but it is starting to look unlikely they will be able to fight their way through. The necromancer and remaining ghouls advance to the edge of the ruins, ready to help retrieve the princess. Elsewhere, the skeletons in blue manage to rally and recover from their disorder, even though they are far from the influence of their leaders.

In the continuing combat, one more knight and one more grave guard fall casualty. The two remaining knights fight desperately to protect the princess, but they become more and more outnumbered as the fight drags on.

The other unit of knights rallies to the cause, but the depleted militia do not. The handgunners near the ruins move out into the clearing to provide support, but again the other unit of handgunners is paralyzed with fear in the face of the now regrouped unit of skeletons in blue.

The skeletons in the ruin again attack the militia, this time wiping them out. The other skeletons, left to their own dim instincts far from their leaders, fail to act in their continued standoff with the handgunners.

The necromancer leads his ghouls against the handgunners, and they slaughter 9 of them. The necromancer personally dispatches three of the handgunners with several swings of his two-handed sword. The murderous ghouls cut down the rest with their rusty blades, while the handgunners only manage to cause two casualties while desperately fighting back with musket butts. The lone survivor of the handgunner unit flees with the colors.

The vampire cuts down another of the knights, leaving just one desperate knight, surrounded by enemies, fighting valiantly to hold them off and protect his princess.

Just in time, the other knights charge into the fray! In an amazing feat of arms, one of them plunges his lance directly into the heart of the distracted vampire, destroying him. Without the vampire to command them, both units of grave guard fall back, leaving the princess in the hands of her rescuers.

The standoff between the handgunners and skeletons continue. Disturbed by the proximity of the oddly inactive skeletons, the handgunners are reluctant to act.

Both units of grave guard rally and reform. The necromancer tries to get his ghouls to charge the lone knight who is still holding the princess, but they are too absorbed in devouring the fresh corpses of the many handgunners they slaughtered.

With the ghouls distracted with their grisly task, the lone knight is able to make off with the princess, earning himself great glory and the favor of a prominent lady of the nobility. The knight who pierced the heart of the vampire will also no doubt be much celebrated. They have earned a glorious (and dramatic!) victory for the forces of the empire!

This playtest went really well. I like how the rules are progressing, but still have some adjustments to make. I think it might be too easy to break in combat, and maybe a little too easy to rally. I'm also thinking that failing to rally should maybe cause the unit to fall back again, or at least have the possibility of falling back. I went with a little different strategy for the defender this time, heading into the terrain to slow down the pursuit. The downside is that once the attacker has the princess, they are much closer to the board edge they need to exit.

This game did require me to refine the terrain rules, which I think worked well. One thing I think I need to add is some kind of bonus for greatly outnumbering your opponent in combat, by say at least 2:1. Overall, I think the rules are doing what I want. They seem to produce a quick, fun, and dramatic game, with some important and interesting tactical choices to make, and a compelling narrative element.

No comments:

Post a Comment