Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Dramatis Personae, 1461

For this campaign I wanted a specific figure to represent an individual, through 'thick and thin' (or, perhaps more suitably, 'to the death').  I can't do all 25 nobles sensibly, but the six powerful lords of the '12 income' castle areas are certainly do-able.  Rather than write all at first, I intend to follow particularly one random individual, and then see where the 'narrative' leads.

Here are the six power-brokers for our northern war:

Richard Ferrier, Lord Hadley - this fellow is our initial protagonist.  A pro-Yorkist 'new man', he shall be seeking to put down all resistance in the area on behalf of King Edward IV.  He even sports his Blue & Murrey colours as his livery, to advertise his loyalty to the new regime.  His own symbol is a castle tower, which shall hopefully grace more than a few battlefield triumphs.  He is described (i.e. rolled up as described previously) as easy-going and liked, but unscrupulous.  Decently skilled at warfare, his main characteristics on-field are his experience and - above all else - his driven personality, relentlessly pursuing whatever he perceives as necessary.  Pity any servant that fails to produce the goods for the big man...

Thomas Fawcett, Lord Wolviston.  Another Yorkist man, sporting blue & white livery plus a natty 'cross' heraldic symbol, poor Lord Wolviston is a bit too dour to be popular.  Genuine in his morals and dependable as an ally, he is nonetheless a grim figure and something of a 'plodder'.  Still, he's powerful and a decent fighter, so who knows if he shall become the favoured of the crown?

John Demain, Lord Potterchester.  This fellow is a pro-Lancastrian loyalist, giving only notional - if that - loyalty to Edward IV, while his longing for a restoration for Henry VI is an open secret.  His livery is red and yellow, and an ermine symbol is used by his men.  Although of slippery loyalty to those he feels are expendable, there's no denying his formidable reputation: popular and generous with the local gentry and commons, he's well-liked and also said to be a born fighter - deadly on a battlefield, even if lacking experience (no doubt something he'll soon put right.)   

William Johnson, Lord Turstoke.  Sporting red and black livery and a Boar symbol, he is also a Lancastrian die-hard.  Far less well thought of than Potterchester, Lord Turstoke is widely experienced in wars but sadly this has given him nothing but excessive chances to prove his ineptitude and laziness.  He is said to be very charismatic and likeable in person, so clearly he's a decent enough sort - just not cut out for warfare.  More of a lover than a fighter, it seems!

Lionel Perkins, Lord Monkton.  Blue and Yellow livery, with a crossed-keys symbol.  He's a Yorkist, and the younger brother of the Lord Whitcaster (of whom more below!)  He may be a bit sluggish in action and something of a dull, bookish thinker - but when he moves, he moves!  Both skilled and experienced in arms, he is a dangerous fighter on the battlefield (when he eventually decides to get there...)

Richard Perkins, Lord Whitcaster.  With his leaf symbol and red livery, Whitcaster is a faithful Lancastrian.  His conscience has kept him true to the exiled king, even as his younger brother the Lord Monkton has treacherously aligned himself with the Yorkists and split the family apart.  Decent and experienced, he is a solid and capable opponent.

(When generating random names, I never noticed that two of the powerful lords had the same surname.  The chance for the two nobles, close by on the map and split between the two factions, for not being close relatives split by the wars was too good a dramatic fluke to pass up!)  

Monday, December 15, 2014

Personality goes a long way...

One of the more appealing features of the Wars of the Roses is that it allows very wide scope for the personalities of various lords and nobles to have a big impact.  

(Incidentally, this is not always a feature of some wargaming periods, as there seems to be some kind of unspoken convention everybody has agreed upon!  Many American Civil War rules allow for the colourful personalities in the various generals for example, but strangely the 'personal' element is largely absent from, say, WW2 games - obviously figures like Montgomery, Patton, Rommel, etc. were all quite bland and unremarkable types that just rubbed along wonderfully...)

Anyway, the wargaming gods have decreed that WotR games should allow for personalities to have an impact, as this opens up all sorts of intriguing possibilities for backstabbing, betrayal, or just good old-fashioned incompetence.  The original Miniature Wargames article outlines a system, which is actually attributed to Tony Bath's famous work on 'Setting up a Wargames Campaign.'  Bath however set out the basics, and never tried to explain how the idea could be applied in practical terms.  Jim Webster in Miniature Wargames sets out a method of putting it into practice for determining how people act.  

For each area we have a lord in charge, and his personality is summed up in seven categories.  Each category is a simple 1 to 6 scale, with the opposite extremes at either end.  For example a roll for morality would be 'paragon' for a 6 (kind, generous, friendly- basically doomed in a WotR setting) going down through an unremarkable person around 4 or 3, then descending down to 'depraved' on a 1 (uses phone in cinema, cracks knuckles, etc.)  

The categories are as follows, along with an explanation of their effect:

This has no direct game effect, beyond being a handy mental 'hook' to hang your notional person on, so they stick in your mind.  In more practical terms, it also provides another dice-roll to use when averaging out your 'popularity' category (see below).

As with the above, the combination of Disposition & Morals is just to make the character recognizable as a personality.  It could also be used if necessary to see how two figures cooperate, I suppose - after all, a paragon is hardly going to be close to some depraved monster, is he?

The first real game-centric trait: how skilled is he as as a tabletop commander?  It's a straight 1-to-6 rating, but of course this can easily be tailored to pretty much any rule-set you care to use.  It also lets us settle off-table matters like sieges by rating his competence.  A lord with a '6' will be certain to topple any castle within a turn, but a level '1' incompetent could well be there until doomsday.  

This rating is again very similar to the above, rating how much of a rookie our man is.  In the Webster rules many rolls for checking military competence allow you to use "either his aptitude or experience" - so this is effectively a "do over" roll, to stop you getting saddled with a dead-beat.  Interestingly, I notice that Tony Bath's original system allowed the characters' experience to be raised with time over various battles, so a character - providing they stayed alive - would steadily improve their rating.  Webster ditches this for simplicity, and probably wisely: say what you like about Tony Bath, the man wasn't afraid of complex and detailed book-keeping!

Basically, how swift in action is he?  If the lord commands a section of your army and you need him to bring it to the battlefield, he needs to roll against his activity level to see if he does it promptly.  A level '6' lord will clearly be bounding to your aid with Tigger-ish enthusiasm, while a lazy '1' lord may well only be out of bed before your crisis has come and gone!

Things don't always go well, and when you get beaten in a battle, those lords that had been submitting to you might take new ideas into their heads!  A roll against loyalty decides if your followers stick with you after a setback, or ditch you.  It would be a calculated risk to accept help from a highly skilled and powerful lord if he turns out to be as treacherous as an icy step...

Sometimes lords can submit without fighting doomed battles, if you're stronger than them or also if you're more popular than them.  Popularity is dependent on other personality features, so instead of being a dice-roll, the Popularity number is an average of the six previous rolls.  Unless you've rolled for the reincarnation of Alexander the Great, it very frequently comes out as being a 3 or 4, for generally liked/disliked.  One notable feature - a character with loyalty of 1 or 2 is rated as a '6' for calculating the average, as he is taken as a shameless dissembler - presumably channeling Richard III from Shakespeare!  

In addition to the above I have added in a few tweaks based on the characters' pro-Yorkist/Lancastrian bias.  When checking against a test for a similarly pro-'X' lord, I usually allow a pass when 'either' rather than 'both' conditions are met.  For example, a pro-Yorkist lord seeking to take over another pro-Yorkist will get a fight-free submission if he is either stronger or more popular, while a pro-Lancastrian target would fight unless he was both weaker and less popular.  Likewise, a lord on the tabletop who has an independent command may fail you if he is pro-Lancastrian and you are pro-Yorkist, just to keep that prospect of treachery alive and well...

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Setting up the Wargames Campaign

To continue with my adaptation of the campaign system discussed previously: not everybody will have a Miniature Wargames with Battlegames (MWwBG?) copy handy, and although I'm adapting it and shall explain a bit of my thinking - I still strongly advise anybody interested to get a back-copy online!  

I wanted the campaign to be in a fictionalised region of the North of England, so I kept the basic notion of dealing out a random 5 x 5 grid of playing cards.  The result for me is in the picture below:

The numbers of the cards represent the strength or wealth of the region, the higher the better.  Court cards are naturally something special, so they are taken as a strength of 12 and represent a city, castle, or other powerful noble's personal estates. The other feature of the cards is their suit - since the Wars of the Roses is split between two factions, I took all the red-suit cards (hearts & diamonds) as nobles with a pro-Lancastrian leaning, while the black suits (clubs/spades) are taken as having pro-Yorkist sympathies.  Our protagonist lord may still have to fight in feuds with pro-Yorkists as rivals for royal favour, but they are generally more amenable to him than the Lancastrians.

From the photo above you'll see that I got a not-bad draw.  There are about 15 pro-Lancastrian regions compared to 10 pro-Yorkist ones, and an above-average six cities/castles.  I drew 4 Lancastrian strongholds against two Yorkist, but I felt this might be a bit too lop-sided and decided to switch one to make it three-each.  

Next, a bit of character to each region - which I think is an important bit of any campaign.  By looking around on Google Maps, I was able to get a quick list of appropriately 'Northern'-sounding names for each area.  I didn't want any actual places in the fictional map, so I split each name in two and randomly mixed them up.  For example, places like 'Whitbeck' or 'Cornforth' can be switched around to make 'Whitforth' or 'Cornbeck', for example - non-existent places, but they sound right.  You can do it manually, or - as I did - rig up an excel sheet to randomly generate match-ups for you.

Each area needs a lord to represent it, of course - and the names of the lards are handled in pretty much the same way as the place-names above.  A Google search for 'northern english surnames' turned up plenty of examples, and then I prepared a list of common first names - I used the character cards from 'Perfect Captain' but there's no great surprise to them: lots of Johns and Richards, etc.  Again, I randomly paired up the results.

Basically knocked up on an Excel spreadsheet - complete with clip-art for the Castle in Wolviston
Here's an example of some regions and nobles.  More on the personalities in the next post.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Wars of the Roses Northern Campaign, 1461

I have been so busy painting and gaming, I've not actually managed to update my blog for ages!  Well I thought I would hang off until I had something of interest to report back with, so here I am at long last with an update on my Wars of the Roses plans.

As some may remember, I have been re-creating the Wars of the Roses (WotR) at some length, in fits and starts, for some time.  My last big outing resulted in a climactic battle which handed victory to the Yorkists under Edward IV, and saw the Lancastrians flee to exile.  After the monster-sized battle of Baunton that concluded that one, I felt I wanted to tone things down and reduce the scale a little, to make it a bit more manageable.  

As the campaign moved into the 1461-1465 phase which saw the Yorkists trying to establish their rule and putting down rebellions across the North of England, it seemed to me like a good chance to make it more 'local'.  I also had the notion of creating a fictional lord and following his personal little 'narrative' as he fought to become a more powerful noble over his rivals - true WotR stuff, basically.

I had to leave it for a while, as I simply couldn't really work out a good campaign system to adopt.  I tinkered around with a couple, read Donald Featherstone & C S Grant, and struggled to figure out how I wanted to approach things.  Nothing was really quite how I wanted it, but then I came across something rather out of the blue - more specifically, out of 'Miniature Wargames' (with Battlegames) Issue 377, from September.  It had an article by Jim Webster which outlined a system of using playing-cards to produce a playing area of various regions, added in some character-personality profiles, and rules for how to conquer a little mini-empire.  The article specifically dealt with the fall of Late Roman Gaul, but he himself pointed out that the system he used was first thought up for Biblical warfare (back in Issue 368 of the same magazine.)  I loved the idea, and since it had proved adaptable enough to cover two periods already, I knew it could be tweaked enough to do for the WotR.  

I've played around with some medieval adaptations of the rules a little, and am now satisfied enough to give it a go.  The next while should see the blog back in use as I explain how I've set up the world, run through the game in practice, and then finally return to the tabletop.