Saturday, October 22, 2011

Book of War: "They've got a cave troll"

Tonight we played another round of Book of War, Delta's excellent D&D mass combat game.

DW invested in two units of light infantry fodder, a unit of elite elf archers (invisble), a unit of dwarf heavy crossbows, and finally, some regular elf archers.

I built my 200-point army around one figure of trolls. In addition to the trolls, I had a unit of bugbears, a unit of worg riders, two units of cheap light infantry fodder and two units of cheap shortbowmen.

The map was full of rivers: we had at least two streams that needed to be crossed at any time. I rolled one square of woods, which I used to my advantage by placing on my side of the map. I figured all those nasty elves-es and hobbits would have lots of missile weapons and I needed terrain to hide in.

When the fight began, all I could observe were the dwarves. I rushed half of my fodder and bugbears into the woods and immediately encountered DW's light infantry, concealed in the treeline. I kept half the archers in reserve. The other units began to creep along hte edge of the woods, approaching the first river barrier.

DW's first turn was ugly. A unit of elvish archers popped out of the far side of the woods and another unit of invisible elf archers popped into being on the far side of the first river barrier. My lead units started taking heavy archery fire. My archers in the open were all killed in the first volley, while a column of light infantry somehow survived and kept morale. The troll was wounded.

I had my column of light infantry immediately charge, getting one figure into melee. The wounded troll sprinted for the treeline to regenerate under cover of the woods. The worg riders also moved into the woods. My remaining archers headed for cover in the treeline as well.

Meanwhile, in the woods, the fight turned my way. Between my rabble, the goblin archers (joining the fight in the woods as melee troops), my bugbears, and the newly arrived worg riders, I was able to surround and destroy the remaining light infantry over a few turns. Still, DW was able to decimate my light infantry and rout the archers.

In the open, DW had her elf archers in melee with the light infantry column flee and then killed all of the remaining troops in the open. Still -- those 12 points of light orcs bought valuable time for my valuable units and took one of her archery units out of the fight for a round while they fled.

The situation stabilized with my troll (all healed up) figure, and wounded worgs with bugbears in the woodline facing off against elf archers and dwarves. Rather than waiting for the bugbears -- trailing behind after finishing off the last of the halfling light foot -- I immediately charged the dwarves with my worgs and the non-elite elfs with the troll. The troll could get into melee, but the worgs were not due needing to ford a stream. Still, the worgs were able to get within 3" of the dwarves which meant that my opponent had to deal with friendly fire concerns.

The troll -- as can be expected -- started to tear through the elf archers in the open once in melee. Likewise, the worg riders took some hits but were able to pin the dwarves in melee. The bugbears started a long flanking march to spread out the field of fire, forcing the unengaged elite elf longbowmen to waste moves pivoting around to engage different enemies, which halved their fields of fire.

Things rapidly moved in my favor. The troll finished off the non-elite elf archers then moved to help the worgs with the dwarves, flanking them. The bugbears were able to force the stream and engage the elite archers in melee, and then the worgs and eventually troll surrounded the elite elves and cut them to pieces.


This was our most uneven fight. At the end of the battle, I still had over half of my original force (measured in points) left on the table. We spent a few minutes thinking about why and came up with a few answers.

First, my opponent didn't really realize the import of higher HD forces of woe. This was our first fight with elite units. In our past fights, if you hit a chaotic unit with a casualty they would probably fail their morale check (-1 chaotic, -1 for daylight for most units) and rout immediately. The units with more HD often lack the daylight weakness, get inherent bonuses from HD to their checks, and are harder to inflict casualties on in the first place. That makes them much stiffer than the usual rabble of goblins and orcs.

Next, the terrain really helped me out. I was able to strategically place woods as cover within one move on my side of the board as well as covering one of the key stream fords. I then piled more than 80% of my forces (measured by points) into the woods, quickly clearing out her light infantry and shielding me from her archer-heavy force. All of my units which survived to the end used the woods as cover to advance.

Third, the troll figure was very effective. It absorbed around 10 points of damage over the entire battle, but due to regeneration -- as well as being able to hide in the woods to recover HP -- it was barely wounded at the end game. If those ten points had been directed elsewhere, they probably would have been enough to rout off my bugbears and worgs. The thing I realize with the troll is that it is a defensive -- not an offensive -- powerhouse. I spent a bit over 1/3 of my points on this single figure and it attacks with only two dice per turn. Had I bought a horde of light infantry or archers I would have been throwing 25 dice per turn in the attack. However, the troll is really, really hard to kill. The good AC coupled with fast move, 6 HD and regeneration make it a pretty fearsome foe capable of taking a lot of hits. In comparison, the rabble routs as soon as you deal one hit to them.

Overall, a fun -- if lopsided -- battle. THe elves seized an early initiative and had I not had woods conveniently located as cover I think things would have been much different in outcome.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Book of War: First Skirmish

DW and I just played our first skirmish of Book of War, a mass combat game that faithfully replicates D&D combat odds.

First thoughts: this game was easy to set up. DW and I learned the basic mechanics, set up our armies, built terrain, and played a skirmish in around an hour. Here's the quick AAR.

We used a 75 point buy. I purchased six medium infantry, organized into two platoons of 30 men each, three figures of medium horse (1 troop), and one figure of light infantry. DW purchased a mix of medium and light infantry, two figures of light horse and two of longbowmen.

The terrain ended up being a large open area in the center with forest along the East side and rear areas. On the opening moves, DW advanced her forces into the large open area, anchoring one flank on the woodline to the East. I moved my forces up through the trees -- except for one unit of light horse, lingering in the far south west of the battlefield among some trees. DW then waited for my attack.

I started by rushing out of the woodline with my light horse -- the horse managed to reach the longbowmen who were out on their own on DW's west flank in the open, and I lucked out, mowing down both figures with the initial attack. The longbowmen inflicted one hit as they got taken out, but I breathed a sigh of relief as I saw those highly lethal archers get taken out before they could fire.

My other forces -- slogging through the woods in the east -- were unable to support the light horse, and the poor skirmishers got mobbed and taken out by DW's own horsemen and light infantry the next turn. The light horse were able to inflict losses on the light infantry, though, routing them off the board.

We then mixed it up in the center of the field. Infantry started routing on both sides, but my medium infantry gave a good account against the light infantry before they routed. My forces fell back to the treeline as all of DW's infantry routed but recovered as her horse were preparing to ride them down. I was able to anchor the horse with one platoon of infantry then swing the second around to the flank and rear to finish them off.

At the end game, I had one figure of medium infantry tangling with DW's last figure of medium infantry. My other two figures of medium infantry were just recovering from a rout - -inflicted by the horse -- in the woods near my rear area. So, the battle was close -- 3 figures to 1.

DW and I agreed that the key factor was the fate of the longbowmen at the start of the game. If she had been able to get off one volley -- four dice -- it probably would have meant about two hits against my chain-mail clad forces. That would have brought the end game to a dead-even heat. If she'd gotten off two volleys she'd have had a slight advantage, and three would have made a decisive advantage.

Lessons learned: Horse have a significant movement advantage. More so than you're used to from playing tabletop games on smaller scales, really. My light horse burst from the treeline and ran down the longbowmen in just a single round. DW had left her longbowmen in the open so as to not take penalties for firing over the heads of her own troops, but my light horse really paid off in being able to run them down. Neither one of us really recognized just how fast they could move.

Questions to ponder:
- Just how much cover do trees give? We said that archers could not fire into the deep woods, and fire into the first 1" would incur a -1 to hit penalty from cover. Perhaps -1 to hit per inch would make sense.
- Do units get to attack on the first round they move into contact? That is, if a unit moves, ends its move next to the enemy, can it attack? We assumed yes, treating it like a charge.

Overall, we were quite intrigued. DW felt that routs occured too frequently. BTB, rabble have around a 50/50 chance to rout upon taking casualties. I felt this was ok, personally, but she didn't care for it. I think we'll be playing more!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Book of War

I have been watching the evolution of Dan Collins' "Book of War" mass-combat system quite eagerly and just purchased a PDF copy. I'm looking forward to playing it and seeing how it works out!