Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Maneuver Warfare Handbook

I read most of Lind's Maneuver Warfare Handbook this evening, and as usual when reading this prompted a few thoughts relevant to gaming (although, unusually, more ideas related to my job - maneuver warfare applied to software development looks like a particularly weird, German flavor of Agile I expect).  The quick summary is that maneuver warfare is a mode of fighting which emphasizes distributed action rather then central control, and which has a few standard tools (mission orders / commander's intent, schwerpunkt, and the search for gaps in the enemy's surface) to make that organizational structure work.  When used properly, the more rapid reaction times of unit leaders closest to the action (who no longer have to wait for high command's permission to act) allow them to out-react their adversaries, forcing confusion, panic, and defeat.  Also emphasized are adaptability to circumstances and initiative by small-unit leaders.  This allows a smaller force to defeat a larger one by capitalizing on failures in enemy command and control.

Which sounds a lot like the sort of thing a human force in Domains at War could use to defeat the numerically-superior orc force in Battle of the Teeth, for example.  Create and exploit weaknesses in their formation as a result of their poor command and control, punch through, kill their commanders and force morale collapse.

Some of the small-unit fire-and-maneuver examples also had me thinking about Stargrunt again (where suppress-then-assault is king), though to some extent using ranged units to disorder troops in Domains at War is similar, and the section on never doing the same thing twice reminded me of the Starmada metagame of old (and that one time I cloaked ships but didn't move them, because my opponents were used to cloaked ships reappearing on their flanks and rear and had started turning to counter).

There was an excellent line about how attrition-warfare forces seek to engage and destroy the enemy "where and whenever" possible via superior firepower, which reminded me of 3.x gamers and how hard it is to get them to refuse a battle when they start playing ACKS.

One thing that I haven't gotten much sense for while wargaming has been friction (and in general properly confusing fog-of-war), though.  To some extent Starmada's written orders created some of this, because it was easy to goof and put your ships out of position.  Unfortunately, that's about as far as serious fog-of-war and friction can go without becoming a huge pain on the tabletop.  Computers could handle the sheer volume of chaos required better, but most computer wargames these days are not for audiences interested in unpredictability (to the point where some players argue that a good competitive RTS should have no randomness).  Perhaps I ought to write one.

In any case, pretty good book.  Very to-the-point!

Saturday, November 14, 2015

DaW: Mercenaries of the Vale of Traitors

Last session, the players in my Midnight Vikings ACKS game received a grant of (terrible, unsettled) land from the Troll Lord in exchange for having slain a dragon in his realm.  On their way out of his capital, they decided to hire more mercenaries, which left me in a bit of a quandary.  The normal mercenary availability table just doesn't quite fit a part of the world where horses are rare and most sentients-at-arms are orcs.  So I cooked up some custom setting-appropriate units using Domains at War and this very helpful post on the forums.

Reavers: 2/4/6 Loose Foot, AC 4, HD 1-1, UHP 6, ML -1, 3 battle-axe 11+.  Wages 12gp/mo, availability as Heavy Infantry.
Norse warriors equipped with a chainmail byrnie and a battle-axe in both hands.  Traditionally used for crewing longships and raiding coastal settlements.  They are capable sailors and possess the Seafaring proficiency.  Reavers are probably best used to chase down and kill enemy light infantry, which cannot withdraw from them (because the reavers are fast) and probably cannot match them in melee.  Reavers may also be useful for harassing slow heavy infantry like dwarves.  They don't really have the morale or AC for a slugfest with fast melee infantry like orcs or for holding the line against cavalry, though.
Veteran Reavers level into the Jutland Barbarian class.  Their stats are as follows: 2/4/6 Loose Foot, AC 4, HD 1, UHP 8, ML 0, 3 battle-axe 10+, wages 24gp/mo.  Veteran Reavers can scale walls and cliffs without siege ladders ("In your monastery, killing your monks"), and are hard to kill - after a battle, only a quarter of their casualties are killed or maimed, while the remaining three fourths are lightly injured (instead of a 50-50 split for most units).
Huskarls: 2/3/4 Formed Foot, AC 5, HD 1-1, UHP 6, ML 0, 2 spear and shield 11+ melee (with bonus damage on charge) or 2 spear 11+ ranged.  Wages 11gp/mo, availability as Heavy Infantry.Norse warriors equipped with spear, shield, and chainmail and trained for defensive and field engagements.  They also possess the Seafaring proficiency.  Pretty basic heavy infantry with accompanying tactics; form a battle line for bonus morale, advance towards the enemy in a shield wall (to avoid disruption by his ranged troops and accompanying breakdown of formation), spear-charge, and then slug it out (ideally with another element of the army turning the enemy's flank).
Veteran huskarls level into Fighter, and have the following stats: 2/3/4 FF, AC 5, HD 1, UHP 8, ML 1, 3 spear and shield 10+ melee with bonus damage on charge or 3 spear 10+ ranged, wages 23gp/mo.
Skoglanders: 2/4/6 Loose Foot, AC 2, HD 1-1, UHP 6, ML 0, 3 greataxe 11+ or 2 longbow 11+.  Wages 14gp/mo, availability as Bowmen.  Upcountry tree-cutters, hunters, and inexperienced bandits armored in leather with great timber-axes and flatbows.  Skoglanders are effective missile troops (as longbowmen), but more lightly armored, stronger in melee, faster, and cheaper.  Fairly standard archer tactics; strongest before melee is joined, deploy in front of the heavy infantry, disrupt the enemy's units to delay his advance or put holes in his line that your heavy infantry can later exploit, and withdraw through the friendly heavy infantry line if under attack.  Not sure how to best use them later in the battle.
Veteran skoglanders level into Explorer, and have the following stats: 2/4/6 LF, AC 2, HD 1, UHP 6, ML 1, 4 greataxe 10+ or 3 longbow 9+, wages 26gp/mo.  Veteran skoglanders are also difficult to spot; when in obscuring terrain, they gain an additional +2 to AC against missile attacks (for a total of +4).

Skirmishers: 2/4/6 Loose Foot, AC3, HD 1-1, UHP 6, ML -1, 2 spear 11+ or 2 javelin 11+.  Wages 6gp/mo, availability as Light Infantry.  Tribesmen from the far north practiced in hit-and-run raiding and equipped with crude ring mail, spears, and javelins.  They are trained in winter survival and the use of skis, and maintain their strategic mobility (ie, overland movement, not combat movement) in snow.  Their javelins are effective at disrupting the shield walls of enemy heavy infantry.
Veteran skirmishers level into Ivory Kingdoms Barbarians (weird, right?  But it actually makes sense with their tech level, weapon selection, and mobility focus), and have the following stats: 2/5/8 LF, AC3, HD 1, UHP 8, ML 0, 3 spear 10+ or 3 javelin 10+, wages 18gp/mo.  Veteran skirmishers are very fast for infantry (2/5/8) and hard to kill.
Hunters: 2/4/6 Loose Foot, AC1, HD 1-1, UHP 6, ML -1, 2 handaxe 11+ or 2 shortbow 11+.  Wages 8gp/mo, availability as Slingers.  Skilled hunters from the far north, proficient in the use of skis and winter survival (maybe I should make Skiing a general proficiency like Riding...).  Equipped with a shortbow, a hand-axe, and a quiver of arrows, and clad in furs.  They are effective with standard archer tactics; they're basically Bowmen with worse equipment and lower wages.
Veteran hunters level into Ivory Kingdoms Barbarians, and have the following stats: 2/5/8 LF, AC1, HD 1, UHP 8, ML 0, 3 handaxe 10+ or 3 shortbow 10+, hard to kill, wages 20gp/mo.
War Mastadons: 2/4/6 Formed Mounted, AC8, HD 19+2, UHP 6, ML +2 Unpredictable, 5 lances and tusks 6+, 6 tramples 0+ on a charge, and 2 composite bow 11+.  Wages 630GP/mo per mastadon and 6 crewmen, availability is 1d3-1 in Class I markets and 33% chance of 1 in Class II markets, with 5 mastadons per unit at company scale (only one per unit at platoon scale).  Great hairy mastadons in ring-mail barding, with an armored war-yurt containing six archers and lancers on their back.  As indicated by their unit HP, you don't have to kill the mastadon, just the guys guiding it.  Terrifying for the enemy when they charge, terrifying for their allies when they retreat.

Orc Pikemen: Straight from the book.  Wages 9gp/mo, availability as Slingers.
Orc Crossbowmen: Straight from the book.  Wages 6gp/mo, availability as Slingers.
Orc Boar Riders: Straight from the book.  Wages 33gp/mo, availability as Light Cavalry.

Iron Faces:
Iron Face Glaives: 2/3/4 Formed Foot, AC5, HD 1+1, UHP 10, ML 0, 3 polearm 9+.  Wages 17gp/mo, availability as Longbowmen.  The Iron Faces are disciplined, veteran orcs from the East.  They served the Great Dragon in his wars against the Wolf Khans for many years, but fell out of favor after a defeat and fled to the Troll Lord's lands, where they serve as mercenaries.  Their heavy infantry are equipped with standardized glaives, banded mail, and fearsome helmets that cover most of their faces (hence Iron Faces).
Iron Face Archers: 2/3/4 Loose Foot, AC5, HD 1+1, UHP 10, ML 0, 2 scimitar 9+ or 2 composite bow 9+.  Wages 27gp/mo, availability as Horse Archers.  The Iron Faces adopted the composite bow from their Wolf Khan opponents, and their archers, equipped with banded mail, composite bow, and scimitar, are rightly feared for their range and accuracy.
The Iron Faces do have boar cavalry (porcelry?) units, but they are typically not for hire, being the personal guards of Iron Face leaders.

Dwarven Spearmen: 1/2/3 FF, AC7, HD 1, UHP 8, ML 0, 3 spear and shield 10+ (with bonus damage on charge) or 3 spear ranged 10+.  Wages 30gp/mo, availability as Heavy Cavalry (for the time being, as Gnupur the Shaven has been hiring as many dwarves as he can for his crusade to reclaim the mountainhome.  Their base wages without competition are 20gp/mo and their availability would be as Longbowmen).  Dwarven heavy infantry with plate, shield, and spear.  Slooow but hard to kill, excellent for holding a fixed position or fortification.
Dwarven Crossbowmen: 1/2/3 FF, AC6, HD 1, UHP 8, ML 0, 3 hand-axe 10+ or 3 arbalest ranged 10+.  Wages 39gp/mo, availability as Cataphracts (again, their base wages are only 26gp/mo and their base availability is as Medium Cavalry, but Gnupur is hiring aggressively).  The dwarves take an unorthodox approach to ranged combat, with their plate-armored arbalestiers holding their own in the main battle line.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Variant Legates - Scholastics

It only makes sense that if there are legates with different doctrines, they ought to be at least a little different mechanically.  My biggest concern here is obviously the Scholastic Legates, because they are probably least intolerable to the existing PCs and so might make acceptable henchmen.  Unfortunately, it turns out that getting a decent mix of Divine, Thief, and/or Arcane values with no fighting produces some very anemic classes.  Divine 3 / Thief 1 leveled even faster than thief, but was horrifically bad at low levels, while Arcane 3 / Divine 1 didn't get 3rd-level arcane spells until ~70kXP (whereas normal wizards get them at 20kXP).  I considered Arcane 4 / Divine 2 with lowered maximum level and telling the rules where to shove it, and that might still be an option, but managing such a character sounds like a pain in the ass.


The simple option is to bring it back in and get something closer to cleric.  Divine 2 / HD 1 / Fighting 1 is a workable basis for a class.  If we trade armor down to leather, we can get two custom powers.  Probably want to keep weapons at Narrow, which lets us get wizard weapons (darts, slings, staves, clubs, saps) and swords and daggers (because if you're in leather with 2-per-4 to-hit, you probably should be able to use all those magic swords that get found, and also daggers are traditional for blood sacrifice).  Plus, this gives another reason the rest of the legates think they're heretics - they use blood-spilling weapons (instead of trying to save that blood for sacrifice)!  I guess they can keep shields; two-weapon fighting doesn't make much sense either, and shields are nice.

With those two custom powers, we can get Arcane Dabbling and Loremastery, which both seem appropriate.  Those two are both weak at low levels, though, which isn't great.  Black Lore (swapping the turning bonus for a bonus to blood sacrifice rolls, maybe), Familiar, Prophecy, and Contemplation would also be defensible choices.

The rest of the customization we can do on the spell list and the class proficiencies.  They get 28 class proficiencies, which are sort of a mix of cleric, thief, and wizard: Alchemy, Ambushing, Apostasy, Battle Magic, Black Lore (replace control undead with +2 bonus to Blood Sacrifice research throws), Collegiate Wizardry, Contemplation, Disguise, Divine Blessing, Divine Health, Eavesdropping, Engineering, Familiar, Healing, Knowledge, Language, Magical Engineering, Military Strategy, Mystic Aura, Naturalism, Navigation, Prophecy, Quiet Magic, Righteous Turning, Sensing Power, Swashbuckling, Theology, Unflappable Casting.

The spell list is sort of similar; a little cleric, a little wizard (via the witch spell list), emphasis on detection, curses, and concealment.

  1. Cause Fear *
  2. Command Word
  3. Darkness *
  4. Detect Danger
  5. Detect Magic
  6. Inflict Light Wounds *
  7. Protection from...  Evil?
  8. Read Magic
  9. Resist Cold
  10. Sanctuary
  1. Augury
  2. Bane *
  3. Cloak in Shadow (as Shimmer)
  4. Delay Poison
  5. Find Traps
  6. Hold Person
  7. Locate Object
  8. Resist Fire
  9. Silence 15' radius
  10. Sleep
  1. Bestow Curse *
  2. Cure Blindness
  3. Cause Disease *
  4. Continual Darkness *
  5. Detect Invisible 
  6. ESP
  7. Feign Death
  8. Glyph of Warding
  9. Invisibility 
  10. Speak with Dead
  1. Clairvoyance
  2. Control Undead
  3. Dispel Magic 
  4. Divination
  5. Inflict Serious Wounds *
  6. Nondetection
  7. Poison * 
  8. Protection from...  Evil?, sustained
  9. Speak with Plants
  10. Tongues
  1. Atonement
  2. Commune
  3. Dispel...  Evil?
  4. Fear
  5. Finger of Death *
  6. Insect Plague
  7. Quest
  8. Scry
  9. Strength of Mind *
  10. True Seeing
I think this variant would work out OK.  They would be strictly better with spears/polearms instead of either of their weapon choices, but less sensible for their background I think.  At low levels they turn, do knowledge things, and heal OK.  At high levels, I'm not sure straight caster-offense is as viable as for most divine casters; most of their offensive spells are save-or-suck, a lot of it at touch range, and no Flame Strike or Spiritual Weapon.  They should be fairly viable in melee with magic gear, Shimmer, and Swashbuckling, and once they're in close they can deliver those touch spells.  Taking Apostasy for Chameleon, Silent Step, Swift Sword, and Striking or Sword of Fire combos pretty well with Ambushing and Swashbuckling.  Could also use Apostasy to pick up some decent direct-fire support capabilities or a top-tier healing (Cure Moderate, Cure Major, Spirit of Healing, Salving Rest or Cure Critical).  Man, Apostasy is just really good with the Player's Companion spells, especially in combination with other casting-support profs like Battle Magic, Contemplation, and Black Lore, and it's even better on a Divine 4 class like Priestess or Witch than it is on this guy.

Anyway, I will probably do a variant Skami legate next.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Wigle Whiskey Tasting Notes

Totally unrelated to gaming, except inasmuch as it has become traditional for certain of my players to show up to ACKS hungover.

Wigle Whiskey (not to be confused with WiGLE) is a Pittsburgh distillery named after Phillip Wigle, a local hero(?) of the Whiskey Rebellion.  Anything having to do with liquor is a bureaucratic nightmare in Pennsylvania these days (what with the state Liquor Control Board's monopoly), so Wigle is one of just a handful of distilleries (well, legal ones) in what used to be a very still-heavy part of the country.  They had a free tasting last night, so being a whiskey drinker of unsophisticated palate, I decided to go try their goods.

After a bit of a wait in the cold, I tried the following things (in roughly the following order, so it might be expected that things I tried later have slightly less accurate reviews):
  • Landlocked Spiced: Landlocked is a honey spirit that has been compared to rum.  I rather like honey spirits (eg Bushmill's Honey Whiskey, with Barenjager on my to-try list), and this one was OK but not amazing.  Tasted a bit flowery almost?  From their notes, I was probably getting too much vanilla over the honey, which is not what I was hoping for.
  • Small-Batch Maple Wheat Whiskey (which I'm not seeing on their online store, curiously): Wheat whiskey aged in charred oak barrels with maple staves, if I recall correctly.  I went through an "mmm, tastes like drinking a tree" phase a year or two ago, and this is representative of that style in the best possible way.  Not to my current tastes, but if that's what you're into, probably pretty good.
  • Walkabout Apple Whiskey: Wheat and rye whiskeys, barrel-aged, blended, and cut from cask strength using local cider rather than water.  A promising premise, but there was definitely a discordant note that threw things off for me; I'm not sure if it was the rye or the woodiness from the barrel aging or something else, but something did not combine well with the apple flavor.  Not a fan, but it's an experimental on their parts so I think we'll see further refinements in future.
  • Landlocked Clear: I know, you're supposed to mix clear spirits, but this was pretty good.  An unapologetic, uncomplicated honey spirit, would probably blend well with apple flavors.
  • Straight Wheat Whiskey: One of their flagship whiskeys, and quite good - not as sweet as a corny bourbon, not as woody as a Tree In A Barrel, nicely balanced, tasty.
On my way out I ran into some friends in line who decided that the wait wasn't worth it, and we went and got thai food while I metabolized before driving home.  So that all worked out rather well.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Theological Disputes and Legate Factions of Midnight ACKS

I've commented previously on how Midnight benefits from heretical legates.  Since this is rapidly becoming relevant to my current game, and one of my PCs has Theology, here's the data dump.

Structure of the church: The church is currently fragmented and disorganized.  There used to be a Speaker for Darkness, whose word was divine law, but Naxander the Conqueror killed it and received the Dark God's blessing.  When he died, he did not leave a clear successor for the position, and now the princes each vie not only for temporal power but also the support of the church factions, hoping to be acknowledged as the Speaker.   Some legate factions support the princes, while others believe that the next Speaker must come from the ranks of the legates themselves.  A few believe that the Speakership is permanently lost.  It is commonly believed that pilgrimage to the City of Black Ice is a requirement for Speakership; currently the City is held by a militant brotherhood of legates, but should a prince take the city (despite the logistical difficulties), that would greatly contribute to the legitimacy of their claim to Speakership.

Monolithicity: The orthodox position is that the Shadow is the only Shadow and brooks the worship of no other gods.  However, many of the primitive far-northern tribes that Naxander the Conqueror led out of the north have attributed deific status to him, in their tradition of ancestor-worship.  These "dualist" sects claim witnesses to miracles surrounding Naxander's death as support for this belief.  Some trinitarian orc sects even claim there are three divinities - the Shadow, the Conqueror, and an orcish messiah yet to come.

The End of Days: Most orthodox "accelerationist" human sects hold that when the Shadow has devoured everything, it will break the interplanar veil and release the trapped souls of the dead to afterlives of its choosing.  It follows then that acts in service of the Shadow (sacrificing all the mans, absorbing all the magic items) accelerate this process, and bringing about the End as quickly as possible is a good thing because it will put the spirits of the dead at peace.  Some scholastic, gradualist sects, however, believe that intelligent life converts "potential" trapped in the land itself into harvestable energy, and question whether or not just sacrificing all life would provide enough energy to shatter the Veil.  These sects promote fertility and economic investments aimed at producing large, stable populations, with the intent of guaranteeing the End eventually after depleting all of the residual magic of the soil and sun (a process accelerated by having more people).  Many gradualist heretics have found favor with the Princes, as sacrificing all the peasants weakens the army and leads to being crushed by one's rivals.  Finally, orcish variants of the End of Days include "we kill all the humans and reign over this, our destined dominion" and "we kill all the humans and the Shadow transports us, Its chosen people, to some other world to conquer and despoil in Its name."

Divine Revelation: Some orthodox sects accept only the recorded words of the Speakers as canon ("Canonists"), while others believe that the Shadow grants divine revelation to chosen prophets beyond the Speaker ("Revelationists") or anyone at all ("Individualists").  This leads to any number of contentious minor theological differences (whether you can eat fish on wednesdays, the type of dagger appropriate for sacrificing halflings, and so forth) depending on which version of the canon you're using.

For its part, the Shadow doesn't seem to care much about any of these matters; everyone still gets the same number of spells per day.  On the other hand, perhaps it is just testing its followers, weeding out the weak.  The joy and terror of evil gods is that sometimes they're just messing with you.

A few sample sects:

The Militant Brotherhood of the Monolith: Guardians of the City of Black Ice, super-orthodox.  Currently backing no candidate for Speaker (believe it will be obvious when the Shadow chooses, all current claimants therefore impostors), violently monotheist accelerationist canonists.

The Whisperers: Cultists who spread the worship of darkness in human lands before Naxander came.  When he did, they came out of the woodwork and set up shop in places where they already had influence.  Often cooperate with other Whisperer organizations in neighboring towns, tend to have a established political bases.  The shrine legates in Ostergot are of this faction.  Typically believe that the next Speaker must be a legate (and question Naxander's claim to Speakership), belligerently monotheist, moderate to lip-service accelerationist, and belligerently revelationist.

The Skami: A collective term for the tribes that Naxander brought south, the Skami have formed a sort of priestly class in many of the large cities that they conquered.  They are often in conflict with their local Whisperer organizations for power; while the Whisperers have economic / peasant support, the Skami can draw on their settled tribal warriors.  They usually favor either their local Prince or a powerful Skami kinsman for Speakership, are mostly dualists, lean pragmatically gradualist (gradualism offers many fruits for the decadent priest-nobility as well as the favor of the Prince, but they typically don't really grok the metaphysical arguments about gaian potential and the Veil, and sometimes it's politically useful to sacrifice a bunch of those Whisperer-loyal peasants), and are also often pragmatically revelationist.  The Skami are weak in the Vale of Traitors, as the region maintained much of its own native nobility and autonomy, but are strong in Verlath the dragon's realm, where their tribes displaced or enslaved many of the Norse natives.

The Scholastics: While the Whisperers got their start via the Shadow's whispers and messengers, the Scholastics began as wizards who experimented too greedily and too deep, and glimpsed the coming darkness with prophetic certainty.  Though few in number and often considered illegitimate by other legate branches, they do get spells and turning, and those sufficiently politically adept often hold high favor with the Princes.  No consensus on Speakership, monotheist gradualist individualists.  May warrant a custom class or something (because to be honest, these are the guys the PCs are going to want to ally with and henchrecruit, and also the ones who make the least sense in plate).

The Udareen: The orcish holy women hold beliefs just as heretical as the Scholastics, but have an army to back them up.  Believe that orcs are the Chosen People; the next Speaker will be an orc, trinitarian accelerationist (with favorable orc End of Days) individualists (but divine revelations by non-orcs are invalid).  Tolerated by non-orc Princes who value their hordes, a common enemy for the other legate factions.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

1.5 Mile Hexes

I used to think that people who did sub-6-mile hexes were lunatics!  But it turns out with the right tools, it's actually pretty satisfying to map this way.  Here's a thing I've been working on.

Vale of Traitors, 1.5mile hexes, open in new tab or window to enbiggen

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Domains at War: Another Test Battle, More Piledrivers!

We ran a test combat the other day of platoon-scale Domains at War Battles, with rough approximations of the PCs in my Midnight ACKS campaign leading a mixed force of elves, dwarves, and woodsmen against a column of orcs.  The PCs were handily victorious.

We did screw some stuff up, however!
  • No generals, just independent and interoperating commanders.  This is relevant, because generals apply half of their morale to the rolls of all units, and can force a morale check when killed.  Their leadership also limits the maximum number of divisions (independent commanders) available to each side. This mistake favored the orcs, who lost both of their commanders (which would've forced morale), and denied the PCs' units their general morale bonus.
    • James the Dwarf, having Morale +3 and Leadership 4, is probably the best choice for the PCs' general at this point.  I could see Skorn the Varangian being an excellent general in time, between her Charisma bonus, class features, and potential class proficiencies, but she is yet unlevelled. 
  • No lieutenants, but the PCs didn't really need them.  The orcs should maybe have had them at platoon scale.  Each platoon is roughly a warband of orcs (~35), which should have a subchieftain qualified to lead it.  This would've made the orcish command situation much less tenuous and enabled ready replacement of slain orcish commanders.
  • Applied commander morale bonus to all units in their division.  Again, this favored the orcs, who had more units per commander, whereas the PCs had three commanders and four units.
    • Although the only PC with a morale modifier was James; the Elder Bear inflicts a morale penalty on enemies but provides no bonus to his allies, and Scarth the wizard has excellent strategic ability / mass combat initiative but no bonus to morale (which made him a fine leader for the archers in the rear to disorder the enemy early in the turn).
  • When a commander is slain, his division's remaining units are not reassigned to other commanders until after the next morale phase.  We reassigned immediately.  Whoops.
  • We did not permit a fireball to be directed at an orc chieftain personally, even though he was within visibility range for a man-sized hero.  This one cuts both ways, of course.
  • The rules were unclear on whether or not retreating units can pass through threatened hexes; an orcish unit whose only path of retreat laid through one was ruled to be routed.  This, it turns out, is not correct.  So that one favored the PCs, and pretty handily, since that was a command unit.
  • Retreating, recoiling, and withdrawing units can be pursued, and irregular infantry like orcs must pursue.  This would've brought an orcish command squad back into melee with Scarth's longbowmen, and prevented him from firing on his next activation (granted, they're about as good in melee as at range, but that would've been a more concerning situation for the PCs).
  • Loose Foot cannot withdraw from units which have equal or greater marching speed, so actually the longbowmen couldn't've withdrawn from the orcs and should've taken the damage after all.
  • Initially we forgot that the longbowmen could withdraw, but we figured that one out and it was OK.
  • Our deployment was not doctrinaire, with the PCs coming at the orcish column from both sides and without a clear rearguard, vanguard, and main body.  On the other hand, it's platoon scale.  Meh.
  • Terrain was not handled rigorously.
We handled most of the 'core' combat mechanics of the game OK, though - movement was much more intuitive this time than last, hitting and damage are easy to start with, and shock and morale went way better than previously.  Last time we were running from a .doc draft of the Battles rules and it was cumbersome; this time I had the paper book in my hands, with bookmarks for the shock and morale modifier tables, and those went very quickly, which pleased me.  The heroes were all very effective in different ways; the Elder Bear shredded orcs with 4 attacks at 3+ while shape-strengthed, James' morale bonus kept the outnumbered dwarven infantry from breaking despite flanking attacks, and Scarth's fireballs did excellent damage on this scale, forcing shock rolls wherever they landed.  The fact that heroes engage heroes attached to their target unit instead of the unit itself did influence targeting decisions some (in that the Elder Bear really preferred to shred half a unit of orcs instead of trying to hit one chieftain once), but with generals working properly the incentive to kill enemy heroes should be stronger next time.

We also played an extra-large game of OGRE!  We had three players, so David and I each took a MkIII while Matt ran a double-strength defense.  It was a brutal game, with David stripped of all weapons but his AP guns and no movement about six hexes from the objective, while I lost all of my non-AP guns and was down to speed 1 at the end.  Matt almost stopped me one hex short of the objective, but the dice turned against him on the last turn of firing at my treads, and I succeeded in destroying the command post.  For our part, we destroyed most of his forces (of 24 armor units, he had 2 heavy tanks, a missile tank, and a howitzer out in the boonies remaining at end of game), but it was the closest game we've had yet.