Saturday, April 25, 2015

Book of War Command & Control 0.5

As an aside to other things (have been gaming, just no blogging) I've also been trying to work out ways to speed up play. One way will be to reduce the amount of dice rolling in combat, just straight attack rolls, no defence rolls. This will be a small speed improvement. What I think MAY be a larger speed improvement is overhauling the command system. At the moment, there will be an army of about 10-12 units and then all their orders go into a cup and you draw them out. Sometimes you group them, sometimes you don't and you often have to make command rolls. I want to change this to a system where you will have a number of groups in the overall army. That's something Jason really wanted anyway as he was really keen on a fixed 'right flank', 'left flank' and so on. There will be no limit to the number of groups in an army but each will require a general. However, an army will break at 50% casualties and a group will also break at 50% casualties (so counting 100% of its size to the overall army breakpoint) so having groups of two units will be risky. The army general's group will be in reality a kind of HQ group of specialist units/reserves but most groups will want to be similar units so they can execute group orders when the order dice do not go their way. So how will this work in detail?

Units in Book of War are generally 8-24 models strong (yes I cheated with the diagrams) and need to maintain a frontage of at least 100mm. That will be 5 guys on 20mm bases, 4 on 25mm bases, and so on. Apart from that they can be arranged as wide as they choose, though they need to keep two ranks, unless this is impossible. Having a deeper unit allows it to ignore more stress when taking command tests. Units ignore one stress per rank after the first.

The above example is a unit of two Pike blocks (trained, with a Will of 3), Bravast Blackguards (Elite with will 4) and skirmishers. This group will roll four order dice when activated: 1 each for the infantry blocks and 1 for the Skirmishers. No group can have more units than the Will of its commander. Most of the time this will be 3-4.

At the start of the game, both players roll an opposed d6 roll using the will of the army commander. The highest success (ie equal or under their Will) wins and can choose to have the first or second activation. Players then take turns activating groups. The same player goes first for every turn of the game.

Basically when a player activates a group he grabs all the dice and rolls then all together. The group then gets an order for every roll equal or under the Will of its units. This means having a more elite unit in the group will let it get more out of the dice, since it can use dice that would have been a failure for another unit.

There are modifiers: Stress (though units can 'ignore' their ranks in stress) can be SPENT to lower Will by 1. Likewise, units get a +1 bonus to their Will when over 8" from the enemy. +2 if over 12" away. Units that cause Dread give a -1 penalty to units within 8" that move closer and a +1 bonus to units within 8" that move further away. Every unit in the group has to be within 8" of the commander or it gets a -1 penalty.

This system means that each group may well only get one or two orders. It may even seriously blunder and get none.

The most orders a unit can received is 3.A lot of the time, groups of units are going to be making 'group moves'. To do this, all units have to be the same type (close order foot etc), though skirmishers can group with anything. They then carry out the same order using an order dice that would have succeeded for the unit with the lowest will.  What this means is that there is often not much advantage in putting more elite units in with the rank and file. It will help sometimes but if all you were doing was a group move forward, then that Will 4 unit really hasn't added anything.

In this example the units can all group move straight forward twice as the commander's unit gets a +1 bonus. A group move either allows everyone to move in the same direction and same distance straight forward, or also allows wheels, though this requires all the units to actually be touching. What then is the point of the order dice instead of just having the units always move as a group? Well what if the battle lines are close, there are some gaps in the enemy line..... and you suddenly roll 2, 3, 3, 5 (I just rolled that while typing this)? Suddenly you don't have to blunder everyone in the same direction. One unit can pin the front, while one or more of the others nips through the gap and around the flank using all three orders. This is to model local commanders having a decisive dash of brilliance.

The system can also be seen on an army scale. The yellow boxes are the four groups in the army. The General has direct control of  a unit of four Ogres and a pair of Mortars. These units get no penalty for distance as he is the CiC. He will have four orders and generally issue a group-fire order to the Mortars so that the Ogres can use the rest. The Cavalry are arranged as a group to the army's right (our left) and the best infantry to the army's left. Most of the Cavalry are together so they can operate as a group if the order-dice are against them. The more elite group is mixed but due to being Will 4 across the board, is less vulnerable to poor dice. The other alternative would have been to put that cavalry unit in the General's group.

One reason for it to be there is that the player who is currently active may choose to try and hold on to the initiative. This may be done once for a maximum two activations in a row. Once the opponent has had a go, you could try it again. However, when you do there is a -1 penalty to your will for command tests so you will probably end up with few dice... unless you are a group of elite Will 4 troops.

Why the big change? We've done a few games now and I've witnessed the slow trickle of orders. Breaking things down into groups and effectively taking all the command tests at the frontend should naturally simplify decision making. The aim is to force players to strike a balance between simple orders, like marching everyone forward in a line, and complicated micro-positioning of individual units. The former will always work but is pretty in flexible, while the latter could pay off big time but is far from reliable.

I'll also add this simplifies the situation with 'Mindless' and 'Impetuous'. Mindless units will always make a group mindless move. Impetuous units will always have to make the one impetuous move, which could be a group impetuous move forwards, but can use any remaining orders as they choose.

What do people think?

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