pondělí 10. října 2016

[Bladestorm] Well, that was a disaster...


Recently, I got an opportunity to organise a skirmish game after a long time. With the same players as usual, I decided for something new - a system that offered interesting decisions even with low model count. At first I had thought of Open Combat, but considering all its paperwork I picked Bladestorm instead. Why? It offered more weapons, interesting turn structure, single combat roll for both hit and wound, more choices for the player (which attack to block, whether to put one's skill to attack or defence,...) - and I wanted to try it for almost a year. It looked like a solid plan. How could anything go wrong?

I have read the rules there and back. I knew there are point values for everything, but I decided that we all roll our characters and minions, with the dwarves being slower and more cumbersome, but also tougher and more disciplined, goblins being rather a small and nimble nuisance and orcs rather average. So far, so good.
 
Quite a long trek for short legs...

But, I set the limits and averages not having played at least a small solo demo. And, which was worse, in my pride (and ignorance of the flow of the game due to the sin above) I decided not to use one of the rules - the "death die" (it is not used in the intermediate rules anyway).  As a result, it was difficult to hit anyone, but a hit that succeeded was likely to kill a character, or at least take more than half of HPs, calling for a morale check - thus the game was dull, until the moment someone felt extremely unlucky.

...let's do it again.


So, have I learnt from my mistakes? I believe so: Two weeks later, the dwarves (in teams of 2 and 3) had to escape with a secret map of the underground tunnels stolen from the orcs. How-ever, many things changed...

Having pity with their short legs (and considering the time limitations) I used only a single map. In best case, the dwarves had to break through a week and negligent garrison of the fort (an orc archer and three night goblins) - quickly, because on their heels were another three orcs, and the pursuit was closed by black orc boss with another two goblins.

My opponents made a tactically sound decision to let the map-bearer run for it, using the rest of their force to tie the garrison and get in the way of the pursuers. And, with a bit of luck, escape too.

The archer took a key position.

Things went more or less just as planned - one of the three goblins from the garrison was mown down, orc archer took a position of such strategic importance that he wasn't able to participate in combat and the key dwarf, heading round the fort, was tied by a single goblin.

That brown bead means a failed morale check. At least his shame didn't last long.

The goblin didn't last long, but kept alive and stabbing long enough for the first pursuers to arrive, and suddenly, there was enough greenskins for everyone. Except the Axe-dwarf, who obeyed his orders and ran.


Almost there. Note the massacre in the background.

The rest of the dwarves put up a resolute defense, with their leader even showing his back to the orc boss only to stop possible pursuers. The only one who could do anything to cross the dwarves was the dumb archer, so he charged the escaping longbeard, hitting him hard - being hit even harder in return. By then we had ran out of time, so we decided that the dwarves eventually succeeded, though at a cost.


Summary: Bladestorm is a fine game. Its RPG roots are quite apparent, as it offers enough granularity to distinguish fighters of the same race, of the same type, from each other. I can well imagine awarding them experience and improving their stats - assuming they survive the deadly encounters, because not even the steel clad knight nor the nimblest of elves is safe from a random hit getting through. I also like the turn structure, although the "move or shoot" rule is a bit harsh on ranged attack types. Having played SoBH and Open Combat I also miss any kind of push-back. The reception in our group, however, is rather a mixed one. One guy likes it (used to be GM, so he's open to new ideas and he's not afraid of stats and modifiers), the not so much (in the late evening, after work). Well, gone are the days of our youth... With second edition is on its way, I hope that the issues can be amended with some training, because Bladestorm deserves it.

P.S.: Regarding the turn structure, I'm coming to like the one used in BattleTech, LotR or Blood Eagle (there may be a difference, but the gist is the same) - Everyone moves (alternating or player by player), then, everyone fights. Maybe next time? Or maybe I'll go wild and try the reactive nature of Rogue Planet... (Just to see their heads pop, muhahaha)

středa 23. března 2016

Open Combat - AAR&R

Report and Review Mixed Together

Bad form, I know. Anyway, here goes: Saturday night, when all the household was silent and peacefull, I decided to finally try (and even play!) Open Combat. Not eager to set up the terrain  I opened the Melee Box, set up the Goblin Slayer Dungeon, decided on a simple treasure hunt scenario, picked the core of warbands and got to the first plus of Open Combat:

Statting up

In some skirmish games, you are just given fixed values and point costs. In some, you have the freedom to make up your own stats, but use of calculator or even a spreadsheet or app is necessary - there's nothing wrong with that approach, especially when you can see the underlying formula, but Open Combat has another one: Each point of a characteristic, each weapon (except fists and nails), each special ability costs exactly one point. Quite refreshing, isn't it?

There are five basic stats in OC:
  • Speed (needs no explanation)
  • Attack and Defence - their comparison gives the number of dice the attacker rolls (capped at three)
  • Fortitude - HP, can be regained through resting
  • Mind - seemingly useless, but there are mental abilities using and affecting this stat - and the first three stats are halved when the Mind reaches 0.
In addition to the stats there are rules for equipment covering most of pre-gunpowder weapons, and twenty special abilities, divided between combat skills, physical and mental abilities. Note that there is no magic - that's right, no list of spells. You can always proxy some of them by combination of weapons and abilities, but still, no fireball. Twenty abilities can seem as too few, however, along with open-ended stat system they cater for most needs. On the plus side, it's less rules to keep in mind - and if you really want more rules, you can always make them up : )

There are no hard and fast rules for any stats (the system is supposed to balance itself), but you can find many sample characters in the 2016 edition. At least similar mindset is required during warband creation though, if you don't want to meet opponent's skaven slave as strong and tough as your ogre (although you can explain it by suitable narrative). Fortunately, I got to create both warbands so I made my own rules. 

I wanted a humanoid, no matter how tough, to go down in two attack actions when all goes wrong, possibly even in just one attack. As the maximum damage a character can inflict in single attack on open plain is 3, I choose that to be the baseline Fortitude. Weak humanoids would be For 2, tougher ones For 4, heroes anywhere between 4 and 6.

Another nice thing is that the attack and defence scores are independent of actual equipment: You can have two guys with a sword, and while one has Atk 7, Def 3, the other may be less experienced and more defensive with Atk 4 and Def 4. Hell, you can even throw in a skaven slave with Atk 6, as he can be unbelievably agile and determined - there are no limits!

In the end I came up with following two warbands - they are rather small and weak, as the recommended warband renown is 150, but this is good enough for the demo. Also, it would make the bookkeeping easier.

Dwarves
NameSpdAtkDefForMinWeaponsSpecialRenown
Leader35454AxeFocussed Blow, Exert24
Axeman36453Great AxeFocussed Blow23
Defender34543Spear, ShieldResolute22
Crossbowman33343Crossbow, AxeAim, Shooter*20
Breakpoint:16

*) Houserule: +2Atk for ranged attack.

Orcs and Goblins
NameSpdAtkDefForMinWeaponsSpecialRenown
Orc Boss46553Two CleaversIntimidate, Ambidexterous28
Orc Warrior44432Sword, ShieldShield Bash20
Orc Glaiver44332GlaiveFocussed Blow18
Red-caped Goblin42221Spear, Shield13
Blue-caped Goblin42221Spear, Shield13
Breakpoint:12

At first I intended to use Orc Bowman, but for the sake of different numbers I sent in the goblins. Yes, O&G are 2 pts stronger - however, they only need to lose 12 points of For/Min to throw in the towel.

Scenario

OC offers 5 base scenarios, further modified by variant deployment or other parameters, with ample designer comments. Most of the scenarios are supposed to take place in 2'x2' area with enough terrain, so that the action begins immediately.

I used a modular hexagonal dungeon map, and being in no mood for studying their rules (late night, remember?) I came a simple treasure hunt:
  • There were three tokens marking possible locations of the Object. 
  • Character could spend one or more actions by searching: 
    • Roll the amount of dice equivalent to actions spent, pick one. 
    • 1 - fail, lose initiative, 2-4 nothing found, 5 - seen something! remove other tokens, 6 - Got It!
  • The game is won by any warband that carries the Object off the board through its entry point.
 

Game

The dwarves, being the good guys, came in through the door (kicked in, which can be interpreted as an attempt to knock). With a speed of 3 they were in slight disadvantage, usual in this type of scenarios. The Orcs & co. sallied from the dark corridor and managed to reach the first possible location, while sending the gobbos to flank / check the other locations.

The dungeon size ensures a short game.

Dwarven crossbowman shot at the hulking orc boss, hitting its left arm. The brute only snorted, bellowed at the red caped goblin to "Get'im!" and paid no further heed. Axeman and defender rushed to form a line of defence, while their leader searched the well. With years of experience, he discovered the Object at first sight! This simplified the decision making for the orcs considerably, reducing their strategy to refined "Surround and Beat'em Up".

The Object found!
Thing did no go that smooth, however. The surrounding part was easy, beatin'up - not so much. One goblin engaged the crossbowman and the other threatened the leader, while the axeman stoically bore the brunt of the attack, knowing well that the payback comes soon. He hefted his axe and swung it hard, throwing both orcs away and biting deep into the wall.

[Actually, in this attack I rolled both Solid hit and Fail: Turn over, and because of the two handed weapon attribute had to apply them both. And I promptly forgot about the Leader special ability, granting three re-rolls per game. Oh well, live and learn.]

The goblins have their use, after all.

His heroic moment gone, the axeman was soon finished off. On the other hand, both goblins were gone - although the blue one acquited himself well, wounding the dwarven leader - and the rest of the green band had lighter or heavier wounds. Unable to help his comrade, the leader grabbed the Object and headed for exit. Seeing that, orc boss took the matter with crossbowman into his own hands, with his remaining two underlings attacking dwarven defender in vain.

[In OC, damage in combat comes from two sources: Direct hits, and being forced back with no room for retreat. (Un)fortunately, the brave dwarf was equipped with a shield (minimizing the effect of the force backs) and was Resolute (minimizing the occurence of force backs).]

The crossbowman may have been a lousy shot, but he had definitely fight in him enough to kill the annoying goblin and go toe-to-toe with orc boss. He would have succumbed, no doubt about it, but the dwarven leader hit the exposed flank of the brute, sending his opponent bleeding in front of the wall. Crossbowman took the hint, and and with one mighty strike he fell the beast. Seeing that, the remaining orcs fled in panic, leaving the dwarves victorious.

Game over for green team!

Summary

Well, that was quite an appropriate amount of fun for nine miniatures and one hour of playing.

Open Combat falls somewhere between Melee and ASoBH regarding the amount of detail, bookkeeping is probably on the same level as in Melee. I used to play Melee as overlord vs a band of four dwarves where each player controlled a pair, and I am not sure there is enough detail to use this configuration with OC. But if I tossed in more dwarves (or Elves?) and split the players into two warbands it might be worth a try. I guess I'd need a bigger dungeon though.