Monday, February 1, 2016

Second Playtest of fantasy skirmish rules: Empire vs Undead

I'm continuing to work on some simple rules for large skirmish fantasy wargames. After my first playtest game, I made some changes to the combat mechanics and played the same scenario again. As before, I don't yet have rules for magic, and special rules for things like the undead need to be ironed out, but I want to figure out the core mechanics before I get too far into those details. Like last time, the scenario sees part of the defender's army escorting Princess Wutzernäm through some dangerous territory. They are ambushed by a powerful vampire and his undead warband. The vampire wants to kidnap the princess, but time is short because help is on the way, and the undead will have to fight their way through the reinforcements to make off with their captive.

The Empire detachment is on the march in three narrow columns. The Captain and his militia are in the center, escorting the princess. To either side is a unit of 10 handgunners.

Off to the right of the Empire detachment, a necromancer leads a unit of 12 ghouls, accompanied by an elite unit (as far as skeletons are concerned) of 10 Grave Guard.

In the woods forward and to the left of the empire column are two units of 10 skeletons each, and 10 grave guard led by the vampire general.

The Empire column moves as one, forward and to the right, away from the stronger enemy force.

The undead lose no time, and all surge straight ahead towards their prey.

The militia move up and fire their pistols at the approaching grave guard, only taking down one. The right unit of handgunners then move up to fire at the same grave guard at close range, bringing down another 5 of them.
The left handgunners fire at longer range at the unit of grave guard to their left, but several shots deflect of enemy armor and they only manage to cause a single casualty.

Led by the necromancer, the ghouls charge the right handgunners, killing three and taking two casualties. The handgunners can see how this is going to go, and flee from the ghouls in disorder, right through the militia unit.

The four remaining grave guard on this side charge the militia and only kill one.

The skeletons in blue are able to charge the handgunners as they flee in disorder from the ghouls. They kill three, and a combination of the casualties, disorder, and fear cause the handgunners to break, and they are effectively destroyed.

The grave guard led by the vampire and the skeletons in yellow advance toward their target.

In the continuing melee, the militia take down one of the armored grave guard, but lose two of their own in return. Overcome with fear, the remaining unit of handgunners freezes in panic and fails to act.

The cavalry arrives! A unit of five knights, and a warrior priest leading a unit of four more knights, move to block the potential escape route.

Staying focused on his objective, the vampire and his grave guard unit charge the militia protecting the princess. The vampire wounds the captain, and the grave guard slaughter the remaining militia. The hopelessly overwhelmed captain flees for his life, leaving Princess Wutzernäm in the icy hands of the nefarious vampire.

The ghouls charge the hangunners and kill one, but the hangunners put up a furious fight to defend their colors, killing four of the ghouls with their daggers and musket butts. The stunned ghouls fall back in disorder at the unexpected display of fury.

Both units of skeletons ignore the handgunners and move up to intercept the approaching knights.

The surrounded handgunners stoically reload their weapons. The right unit of knights moves up without hesitation, but the warrior priest pauses to assess the situation before committing to action.

The ghouls rally and shake their disorder. The three grave guard charge at and chase off the wounded captain.

The skeletons in blue attack the handgunners. Two fall on each side, but the surrounded and frightened hangunners fall back in a panic.

The vampire and his grave guard then charge the disordered hangunners, killing four. The rest rout and take no further part in the battle.

The knights on the right charge one of the skeleton units, but only manage to destroy one. The skeletons all miss, but hold their ground against the rather unimpressive charge.

The vampire orders the skeletons in blue forward to protect him from an impending charge by the knights and the warrior priest.

The charge of the priest and knights thunders down on the skeletons, but incredibly only manages to destroy one of them. Meanwhile, the other unit of knights is very slowly whittling down the other unit of skeletons.

The unit of five knights finally has a good round, taking down three of the skeletons. The remaining skeletons in yellow retreat. In the other combat, a skeleton wounds the warrior priest, who takes down one of the undead in return.

The vampire move around the continuing combat between the skeletons and knights to attempt to make his escape while he can. The necromancer and ghouls charge the knights, but fail to bring down any of their heavily armored opponents.

Seeing the vampire about to escape with the captive princess, the knights and priest redouble their efforts. The knights slaughter the six remaining ghouls, and the priest personally dispatches the necromancer with his mighty warhammer. In the face of this onslaught, the skeletons retreat in disorder. The other unit of knights charges the vampire and his grave guard unit as they try to escape, destroying one of the grave guard, but more importantly tying up the vampire in combat and preventing his escape with the princess.

The skeletons in yellow regroup. The vampire kills one of the knights. The knights fail to take down any more of the grave guard, but hold their ground.

The vampire kills another knight as the knights cut down one of his grave guard. The warrior priest charges into the fray with his knights and destroy two more grave guard, but the surrounded and now outnumbered vampire refuses to flee and abandon his prize to the enemy.

In the continued combat, another knight and grave guard are lost, but time has run out for the vampire. The knights have delayed his escape long enough for further reinforcements to close in, and there is no longer any hope of escaping with the princess. He is forces to flee and give her over to her heroic rescuers.

Well, the outcome ended up very similar to the first playtest I ran of this scenario. However, I think this version was more fun to play, and went smoother, than the previous attempt. I think these alternate combat mechanics work better and give more consistent results, though the stats of various units definitely need adjusting. The knights didn't seem to do as much damage as they should, even on the charge. But they were very durable, which is appropriate. Also, the handgunners should probably be worse in combat than I rated them. I do need to tinker more with the rules for how units roll to activate, and how they test to break when losing a combat, and how the presence of leaders affects this, to come up with something that feels right. Overall, I think these rule ideas are off to a pretty good start.

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