Monday, December 29, 2014

The Book of War Playtest

Andy was good enough to trust his gaming evening to my totally untested rules, and lists I made up on the day. I've been tinkering with the game for a long while. Parts of it have a lot in common with other games we play and I've put in a core mechanic and then spent the time going through to stat everything out from start to finish. Since he has HEAPS of LOTR Orcs (most recently serving in the ranks of my Nemesis Dol Goldur) I made up a Warband based Mountain Orc list for him. My guys are what they look like: late Medieval Humans with some fantastical elements. Since the game is activations based, we just deployed via moving units on to the table once an order was drawn out for them. Nominally this was about 1000pts. That gave Andy two big Mountain Trolls (175 pts each!), two big units of 32 strong warband, two 16 strong archer units, a unit of cavalry and the general with a Shaman along to provide magic support. I had two blocks of 24 Pike, a Mortar (150 pts!), Hero on Gryphon, 12 Handgunners and 12 Crossbow and the Mercenary Ogres. Did it work or did it fall to pieces?

 Units can march move in the game by using two (or more) orders and passing a command test. this gets a big bonuses if all enemy are over 12" away but you take Stress from the exertion. This could theoretically be spent to slow these in subsequent turns (though I think this may be changed to apply to monsters only)  or to make them less likely to score hits or more likely to fail toughness saves. It can also be spent on latter command tests. Given how tough Men at Arms are, I'd spend it on their toughness tests.
After realising that the trolls were the best thing in his army and that those Woods blocked all LOS from beyond 12" once the Trolls were inside, he rushed the pair of them forward so as to avoid my Mortar and hopefully hinder my missile fire. Tree didn't make him harder to hit but do improve his toughness saves. I think that needs to be reversed. Trolls may be tough but that small unit of Heavy Infantry have great-hammers and I've moved my handgunners up to face the Trolls.

I also flew my Hero on Gryphon over to do a flyby attack on Andy's cavalry. This only does 1d3 hits (and you need two to kill a cavalry model) but the beast does manage to carry one off in its claws and send it screaming back to earth. While flying, the only thing that can really hurt it is missile fire and spells. It may not do much damage and costs about as much as a Troll but is making it harder for him to march move his units.

 In this game, monsters are not slowed by terrain. They are slowed by spending the stress they incur from gunfire though. He tries to charge the Handgunners but they evade. That stresses the Handgunners too but at least they are not Troll food. Yet. Overall spending stress really slows one side's advance and my army was playing fairly defensively until I could neutralise the Trolls. I think they game will work better if most units can't be slowed by stress. Monsters still need to be as they are so difficult to kill and messing with the, via stress is often all you can hope for.
 Speaking of which, Andy did have archers in reserve, not yet on the table. So he brought them on turn two right in front of the Gryphon. Flying units force missile units to reroll hits. However, bows are weak but generally get to reroll misses. Since these cancel out they still landed a fair few hits. They were never going to cause wounds but applied three stress to me. So next turn that Gryphon had to run back to my lines to be rested. Shooting can rally pile up the stress in this game. Further, the Mortar uses a CD/DVD as a template and I landed a direct hit. It wiped out a few Orcs and applied yet more stress. .
The General is in the unit so it is actually quite likely to keep following orders but with that much stress they would be seriously hampered in melee. We didn't get to test that theory though as it seemed more fun to keep peppering them with missile fire. Sadly, the mortar misfired next turn and was out of action for another turn until cleared. I also channelled some mana to cast a spell. I shorted myself the 4 extra dice I should have got for caster level so it turned the spell from single turn to two turn. Not that it mattered, even with the stress the Troll resisted it.

We'd already started late while figuring out the lists and delays with the unfamiliar rules so we didn't play through. Some of His warband made it to my infantry line only to fail the charge by one inch. Then the Pike charged them. Not many casualties were inflicted but the Pike won and were deeper so Andy's warband were pushed back, though managed to avoid an outright rout. My heavy infantry from Bravast finished off one Troll. Andy persuaded me to charge his cav with mine to see how it would work. He gets to counter-charge as a reaction so we both got our charge bonuses. Luckily I have lances so strike first and again won the combat and again Andy held fast. So I was stuck there to be flank charged by the Troll who took out two Knights with his big Hammer.

We had to stop it there. The game definitely does everything I wanted it to do: a proper command and control system with unpredictable activations, fatigue, and reactions. The spells worked well too. They could be cool but the whole thing can often be resisted completely by the target unit. We didn't really try out the Hero rules so I'm not sure how valid my costings are at the moment. In addition to the changes above, I'll be reducing the damage potential of shooting and increasing the base chance for units to hit in melee. This should hopefully rebalance things a little and make melee a little faster though the intention is for units to hold for a few turns until something fails a panic test somewhere and things begin to crumble. It was also good to see that just using WOTR sized bases for warband (these are 115mm frontage but 'should' be 100mm for my game) caused no issues so even less rebasing required. Thanks Andy, lots of fun and good to catch up.


  1. Looks and sounds like a great game :)
    A mighty fine collection of figures too.

    1. Thanks Mike. It was really great to see Andys cool LOTR stuff on the table and even better that this way I can use my Perry historical stuff against them.

  2. Appended to the post: had a bit of an email conversation with Andy:
    Tweak to try next time will be A. You can spend stress to slow anything. You can spend as much as you like but each stress only slows the moment by 1". B. Missile fire only cause additional stress when units pass toughness saves. C. Monsters will get to keep rolling each attack die until it misses, generating multiple attacks.