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.

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