Sunday, October 19, 2014

Book of War: Command and Control

I love Fantasy gaming but I love none of the current rule-sets out there. It is a little bit of Goldilocks syndrome, but I think we can do better than them. Since the only 'mainstream' set is WHFB, there is no established player base to consider anyway, so why not have our own rules? It turns out the answer to that question is ""because it takes ages" and "because you still wont be totally happy with them." Still I have some ideas I like enough to try, and it wont be the first time I radically revise some rules right in the middle of us playing. I have always been attracted to the  style of game where a single models are represented in the rules, it just seems to fit heroic fantasy so well. I also really like D6s for Ancients/Fantasy - so many good games have been made using these. Sometimes the argument gets made that they don't allow a wide enough range of differences to be represented. I don't think this holds any water at all, all the D6 does is provide a range of outcomes. Granted, sometimes you may want more than 6 outcomes on a roll, but then you can always use another D6... So that's where I started: Fantasy game based on individual models and D6s. Where did I end up? Here is part one for Adam, Jason, Andy (and anyone else) to have a look at.

"—an axe age, a sword age —shields are riven— a wind age, a wolf age— before the world goes headlong."  -Völuspá (Prose Edda)

The starting point for my game is that the battlefield is a bad place. It is governed by a fickle goddess, who sends her children (Dread and Panic) to sow mayhem at the worst possible point. They stalk warriors, causing commander's voices to be drowned in the din of battle, weighing down shields at the worst moment and guiding an enemy's spear to chinks in a hero's armour. In game terms: this is "stress".  Stress is represented by markers. In the place of Dread, your opponent will get to make the choice of how these markers are spent. He or she gets to apply them to modify target numbers when it will hurt you most. Each stress token can be spent once. Aside from a command test, each particular test can usually only be modified once (unless a sorcery or special ability allows more...) to apply a -1 penalty to a target number or a bonus to the target number of troops fighting that unit. If both sides have stress to spend, both can freely spend it, though the outcome may be that effects cancel each other out. Stress can also be applied to enemy movement. It halves the distance travelled for the rest of the turn. Generally, dice rolls cannot be modified in this way, though there are exceptions like the 'Catastrophe' table. In these cases, the rule will specifically state this.

At this point, the game probably bears a little more explanation. The core mechanic is to roll equal to or under a target number on a D6. If your target number is a '0', then you succeed on a 1, followed by a 1-3 on a 1d6. If your target number is -1, then you succeed on a 1, followed by another 1 on a 1d6. Any lower target number, and success is not possible.

For example, here is a human Pikeman (modelled on 20mm square bases):

Armoured (1). Pike. Hedgehog. Drilled.
Since this post is about command and control, I will focus on this and explain the other mechanics in another post.

The game is token/card based for orders. Units also get to react to enemies who come within their reaction zone (I'll do that in another post). You get a number of orders to issue based on one token per unit (including heroes). A skilled general would have Will 6 and Command rating 2 and so could have up to 12 orders in his or her group. Heroes with the command ability add additional orders. Sometimes, there will be two colours of tokens (one for each side) but here may be more for a game with 3+ players or where there are multiple/allied commands. You put all the tokens in a bag and them draw one out without looking. It can be issued to a unit within the command the order belongs to. If in the course of the activation, more orders need to be issued to that unit, they will be taken from the bag (you can look in this case, of course) to do so.

Allied units only follow the orders of the CiC or their own commanders. (Each army gets a CiC and 2iC command ability to allocate for free to their heroes. Allied commands come with their own free command ability. More can be purchased for other heroes). Most units will attempt to carry out the orders they are given. Some will be impetuous (cannibalistic Ghouls after their meal, rash Knights, units with a grudge) and will have no choice but to move/charge/shoot the closest enemy. You can have them 'stop' by not applying orders to them. However, your opponent can spend an order to 'Taunt', which activates them.

You may issue orders to groups of units as long as A. They are the same type (eg Close Infantry, Loose Missile) and B. Every model in the group is within 8" of a hero with the command trait. Skirmishers can be part of any group.

Each unit (or group) can carry out three commands per turn. You pick a unit (or group) and start issuing commands to it. Once you stop issuing a set of orders, you can't come back to it later that turn. Being in a melee before you act takes your order out of the order pool and means you can’t act further this turn. Doing something (resting or failing to carry out a command is not doing something) means that the second and third successful command will each add a stress to the unit.
Commands are treated as either simple or risky. If it is risky, you need to pass a command test to do it. Impetuous troops do not need to take command tests.  

Moving when enemy over 12”away at start of move.
Enemy within 12”
Occupying a building when enemy over 8” away.
Occupying a building when enemy within 8”
Charging a frontal enemy.
Charging a non frontal enemy.
Rallying stressed troops. Each command removes one stress.
Reforming a broken unit (must be over 12” from enemy or off-table). Takes the whole turn unless drilled.
Changing formation when enemy over 12 away.
Enemy within 12” / unit has at least one stress.
Shooting enemy at least partially in front.
Changing facing to shoot / unit has at least one stress.
Moving away from a fear causing unit within 8”
(over-rides others)
Moving closer to a fear causing unit.
(over-rides others)
Simple order in most terrain.
Simple order in “treacherous” terrain.

If a general really wants a unit to carry out a command, two orders can be spent on it before the test is rolled. Then units test for a risky order as if they had Will 6 if drilled (or on Will 5 if un-drilled). Units always test using the lowest Will in the unit (or group), you generally wont substitute in the Will of the leader, that Pikeman passes 50% of the time on a Will of 3.

Remember the second child, Panic? Panic is always there when units have to carry out commands. The command test is the one case where more than one stress can be used to modify a target number. Bear in mind though, that much of the time this just means a general needs to expend more orders to get the result they want.
The test is modified but the modifiers are the same no matter whether the test is to carry out a command or avoid breaking.

¼ full casualties taken this turn. / ½ casualties taken.
-1 / -2
All enemies over 12” away
Enemy over 8” away but within 12”
Lost/Won combat last turn (count the most recent)
-1 / +1
Moving closer / away from unit that causes you fear.
-1 / +1
Each broken friendly unit within 8”
-1 per unit
Stress spent by opponent
Abilities /magic: +1 when cavalry commander commanding cavalry would be typical.
 +/ - Per their text entry.
There it is, simple eh? I'll give an example:

Jason is playing his Undead vs Andy's Holy Knights. Jason maximises his order pool at 12 orders Andy has a few units of very tough Knights and has 10 orders. All these orders go into the bag and

Andy draws the first order, which he uses to shoot a unit of crossbow at some nearby Ghouls, he hits them and they take a stress. Jason draws out the second order and uses it to activate the unit of Ghouls. Usually, this would require a Command test, but they are Impetuous. It has no choice but to move directly toward Andy's crossbow, who are within 12", using its full movement. Ghouls are light order foot and so have a speed of 6, moving 6" per order. Andy wants to make things as hard as possible for them, so spends the stress to reduce their move to 3". However Jason grabs another two tokens out of the order bag to have the Ghouls move twice and charge. It gets two stress tokens but races close to the crossbow and crashes into them. They get to react and shoot the ghouls up with crossbow bolts. Since Ghouls cause fear and they are choosing not to run, the must take a Command test. They pass, taking a stress due to fear. The reaction fire isn't enough to save the Crossbowmen, running in terror was probably the better choice.

Andy then grabs another random token from the bag without looking, sadly it is another of Jason's. He activates his wall of zombies (a group of three units) and they stumble forward. He decides he wants to order them to move two times but will not be using double-orders to make sure of it (as that would be 4!). So he looks into the bag and grabs one more order token. They started within 12" of the enemy so have to test. A Zombie's will is 2. They have a 50% chance (+1 as the enemy is over 8" when the order is given) but fail. So Jason looks into the bag and takes out another order. They pass this time, and shamble forward, moaning "braaaiins."

Constructive feedback (from anyone) more than welcome. Thanks for reading.


  1. Looks good Jamie, a great start... it looks to me as if you are using units of troops similar to Warhammer or WoTR? It would be great to see a more fluid basing system like WotR has... but more like Impetus where the unit is a unit till you remove it, instead of taking individual models off bases, which is just annoying and frustrating.
    Is this very much like Impetvs Fantasy, SAGA and WoTR merged into the best bits?
    So far I think it looks really gd

  2. And... I like the idea of having character Heroes... but that will need lots of work, but WoTR styles would be a heap of fun, using special abilities and Heroics, ''might""

  3. I think basing can be anything from singles to 4's to whatever you want really. Any ranks that fight need to be lined up right (so 2 for a normal unit, 3 for charging light foot, 4 for pike) but otherwise the spare models can just be at the back of the unit. I played my Gondor army in WoTR with fixed bases and a casualty dice to mark losses. So while nominally it is single based models, you can achieve the same effect with multi-based models. For example a unit of close order foot based 8cm x 4cm as 8 models makes a lot of sense. That's basically one of our Impetvs bases.

    I think heroes will be pretty easy. It's the magic system that is a little more challenging as I'd love to have different sources powering it and need to make that somehow balanced. Might start with something more traditional first so we can play around with the rest of the system, which is pretty much done.

    1. Sounds gd..
      Perhaps if we put magic aside for now and we can practise with ancients till we work a nice model.
      Looking forward to cranking out my high elves again... need lovely archer rules

    2. Need an Elven list, got it. Presumably it will need to work for 25mm round based troops so everyone as light order or skirmisher. They will be an interesting test of how I've got things set up actually - high speed value and shooting that actually kills things.