Sunday, May 2, 2010

More Northampton fights & Rules

After my test-run of the rule-set 'A Coat of Steel' (ACOS) I was quite happy, and made some extra discoveries as I read more of it and grew more familiar. First up was the fact it'd sometimes be better to split up wards into several smaller companies, under various commanders, than have single massive and flankable companies - or so I thought. I had a 're-fight' of the same armies that I had just used, breaking them up from 3 companies a side to about 4 or 5 each. Here's a few snaps to give a feel for things:

Still a decent show on the tabletop, even if half are still only base-coated.

Exchanges of arrows, and Lord Grey becomes shaken pretty fast and hangs back - false friends!

The 'lets all just collide head-to-head' phase. (Tactically rubbish, but it looks good!)

Yorkists triumph on the left, as Bourchier batters back Clifford's men. Meanwhile Warwick in the centre has already put Lord Grey off by his fire, and promptly flattens Shrewsbury's company. One whole half of the Lancastrian army routs, while the remainder is stalled by Warwick's captains and Lord Fauconberg. Time for the Lancastrians to perform a "strategic retrenchment" - also known to some amateurs as running away!

There was more 'movement' in the battle, but some more features of the rules became clear. The characteristics of the leaders used by ACOS are all very good, but there were so many companies on the go it was impossible to keep track of them all - then I realised that only Ward commanders (ie, the blokes in charge of the left, centre and right 'battles' of the army) have effects that count - I was doing it for each company on the go, which is a definite error.

I think I was also a bit too eager to roll for commander casualties, with the result that in some combats practically every noble was killed or wounded. I think rolling for leader casualties should actually occur if a unit loses a base of figures, not just if it is in combat - this should improve the mortality of commanders to a decent degree, and fit in more with the rules' intention.

Problems are also becoming clear. The orders system is a bit convoluted, requiring a blizzard of counters to track what each ward is doing, and can do. I think I'll be abandoning that for a simpler system, perhaps with a small card for each ward that I can just tick off with a pencil - far neater and requires far less time to set up (I spent about as much time sorting out the stack of counters as I did playing the battle!) Also, the army morale track seems a bit redundant. An army needs to take 3 major 'disasters' to become unsteady, and a total of 5 to collapse. However by the time an army has taken 3 disasters on the tabletop it's virtually disintegrated anyway, meaning you'll probably wrap up the battle yourself before the game "makes" you do it.

I had a little experimental tinker with big-battle DBA out of curiosity, and was rapidly reminded of why I think it's good for Ancient warfare where you have lots of troop variety, but is awful for late-medieval battles. The whole game was just ineffective archery fire on near-indestructible Superior Blades, who carved a bloody path through the majority of each army. Hardly enjoyable, or particularly realistic! Anyway, the monotony of dice rolls with +2 or +5 on each and every dice quickly told on me, and I fled the DBA scene for Wars of the Roses. The only other thing I would consider is Warmaster, but I'm not even sure that'll have the character-filled flavour I like in ACOS. I need to iron out some of my own problems with the orders system to speed it up and make it more user-friendly, but the Beta version has just been made available for free download, and I may start my 'campaign' idea - playing through the scenarios as a 'linked-scenario campaign' of the Yorkist rise to power (or fall to ruin, depending on the results on the field.)

Oh, and don't worry - painting continues in the background! More posts will follow on the progress towards the first campaign scrap.

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