The Viking Legal Team in Action

The Viking Legal Team in Action
Snorri is unhappy about your bar tab - VERY unhappy...

Sunday, April 26, 2020

The Fantasy Trip: More "Melee"!

It was "clean, fast and deadly in 1980, and it still is today!
Turn 1 setup. I put the slowest guys in the forward hex, faster ones flanking them. Note at the bottom the little markers I've made with the extra cardboard bits from the counter sheets.

Turn 1. Team Right [TR] wins Initiative [IN] and forced Team Left [TL] to move first. TL advances with U moving full but A moving 1/2: they remain out of 1/2 move range of TR [you need a 1/2 move to fight].
Turn 1. TR moves to keep backs against the wall v. the fast-moving A fighter.

Turn 2, TR wins IN again, but chooses to move first and Engage BOTH fighters against the fast, lightly armored A fighter. Their heavier fighter Engages U. Tactical Note: Both sides have one fighter doubled up upon, and one facing one fighter. The fighter Engaging two can pick which one he wants to fight. The nature of hex warfare means that it is impossible to be "exactly" lined up like on a square grid [chess board] and eliminates the need for a corner to corner combat rule. 
Turn 2. The problem with moving have to be careful how you face your fighters! I should have faced F towards U. He can Shift one hex and still fight F, and is on his Side for +2 DX [+3 to hit]. 
Turn 2. I correct the Facing of F.

Turn 2 Combat. A has the highest adjDX and rolls first needing 14 or less, hits, and rolls a 5 for damage, getting 3 thru the cloth armor and small shield of P.  He then needs a 10 or less to hit with his Main Gauche, but it is -4 due to the left handed 2nd weapon. That is a 50% chance to hit and he does but doesn't get enough damage with the 1d6-1 dagger to hurt P, unfortunately.

This is followed up by P hitting easily with a '10' [needing 12 or less] and rolling well for his broadsword's damage - the '9' inflicts 7 damage, after A's cloth armor and Main Gauche each stop 1. Fighter A is -2 for taking 5 dmg, and -3 for having 3 or less total Strength left - UGH! 

Tactical Note - This could have gone the other way, with A attacking first, hitting, and inflicting 5 damage against P with his 2 weapons, but even just a couple of points of Armor protection makes a big difference against a 1d6 weapon of any kind, much less a 1d6-1.

Turn 2. F then follows up needing an 11, and hits but blows the damage roll, inflicting 1 damage when he could easily have killed him with a 5+ on 2d6. Well, A got fortunate...

Turn 2. U finally gets a chance to swing, but totally misses, needing a 10 or less and rolling a 12.

End of Turn 2. Elf has two hits left. P has 7 left. U and F are unhurt. Forgot to erase damage from the last game. Bottom line is that Team Left has one fighter almost dead.

Tactical consideration - Disengage. With his DX14, A can Disengage during his Combat round, which is first as he has the highest DX. This allows him to move one hex away from P, who would have no one to fight that round.
IF his side won the IN, P would be able to move up and Engage A again. If A again chose to Disengage, P could fight U with F, which is probably the only way they can take him out with his heavily armored front [-5 to damage between the large shield and mail armor].

Turn 3. Team L wins IN, and force TR to go first. P Shifts one hex, F can't move anywhere except straight ahead one hex, as you cannot Shift out of Engagemend from an opponent.  F stays put.

Turn 3. A should have Disengaged. I chose to have him Defend, which forces P to roll an additional dice to hit for a 12 or less...and he does, then rolls 10 damage. A  is toast. Tactical note: Had A Disengaged, P would have had no one to fight, and then A could have used his superior mobility to get away and try to re enter the fight later, perhaps against someone's rear or side. Lesson Learned!
F fails to damage U, and U inflicts a little against F. End of Turn 3 has both TR fighters down 3 points, and U down zero. With their superior numbers, they may be able to take out U.

Turn 4. TR wins IN, which they need to do if they are going to flank U. U can't Turn as F. could then get on his Side. P manages to use his MA10 to move 5 and get on U's Side, anyway. He gets +2 to his 12 DX and rolls a 13 - only hitting due to the Side Bonus. He then rolls '11' for dmg, which will get 8 through as U's shield only stops damage from a Front hex attack. He'll be getting knocked down.
With a significant hit advantage of +4 against a Prone figure, F easily hits, and quickly finishes off U despite his armor - the Broadswords 2d6 is a great weapon, averaging 7 damage, but you can roll hot and get 12!  Or roll a '2' and get nothing. But the bell curve is in your favor.

For this game, no Missile weapons, and no Hand-to-Hand rules were used. I just wanted to concentrate on learning the hand weapon combat tactics and rules.

I hope this gives you and idea of the tactical granularity of Melee. Figure Option selection is important, along with winning the IN and making good choices of moving first or second. Sometimes you need to move first and Engage your opponents before they can move. Sometimes you need them to move first so you can move second and flank them. 

This is a very tactical wargame of man-to-man combat, and should be satisfying to any wargamer, even if you haven't a bit interest in Skirmish or medieval / archaic periods. Remember, these rules are FREE, with plenty of links in my previous post which is here [CLICK]

Next, time to add missile weapons!

Friday, April 17, 2020

The Fantasy Trip: Melee pocket game

The Box is Bigger - is the Game Better?
Only time will tell - but it'll be a GOOD time!

Back cover shows it all quite nicely. It's an arena game, with historical / realism goals for man to man combat. Or...for the fantasy inclined Woman or Man or gargoyle or Giant combat!
The map is larger if not more substantial [unmounted heavy paper] but the counters are 1" and the thicker cardboard type instead of the heavy paper of the original - much easier to pick up.

My son and I put together some figures. We both picked ones we thought looked cool, then created a stat line and armed them - only hand weapons, shields and armor, no missiles. Harnulf on the right does have a Javelin that counts as a Pole Arm and can be thrown, which seems pretty versatile. Mr. Winkie picked "C" on left, thought of his name and armed hime with Rapier and Cloth Armor. 

Overall, Yun can inflict a bit more damage and hit more often, while Harnulf should last longer due to both his Strength and his Large Shield. The Elf is 2 hexes faster, which translates to 1 hex for the 1/2 Move you can use and still fight in Combat: move farther and you can't Attack.

Turn 1.
Each fighter starts in his 4-hex "corner".

Turn 1. Elf wins Initiative [IN] and has Harnulf go first. He move 5 hexes out, a 1/2 Move, and can fight. This is stupid b/c he is fighting someone who moves faster and has the counter-move, but the repurcussions will be small...this time.
The Elf just goes straight at him [Mr. Winkie is feeling pretty blood-thirsty]. If he ran behind him, he would be on his Rear, BUT would have moved too far to fight. Both are now Engaged and are limited to a 0-1 Hex Shift each Turn unless they Disengage from the fight. They fight inconclusively.
I'm going to focus on IN and Movement to show the movement mechanics.

Turn 2. Elf wins and chooses to Move second so he can react to Harnulf's move. This is called a "Counter-Move" in some wargames.
 Harnulf Shifts left, hoping to get onto Yun's Side later.
 Yun isn't falling for that, and Shifts over to compensate.

Turn 3. Harnulf wins and has Yun move first.
Yun shifts onto Harnulf's left Side, a +2 to his adjusted Dexterity [DX]. Dexterity is adjusted down for Armor, Shields, and as a result of Combat. You must roll it or less to Hit in Combat, so it is the most important stat, IMHO.
Harnulf responds by a Shift left. Clearly, IN isn't going to make much of a difference with only two fighters involved, especially when you are Engaged with less Move options.
In Combat Yun goes first due to higher DX. Both hit but roll low on damage, so the Turn 3 state of things is that Yun has lost 3/9 Hits, and Harnulf 5/12. Still quite close!

Turn 4. Harnulf wins IN, but it's not going to matter much. They square off and have at it!

Turn 5, they are at 6/9 and 8/12 for Hits - identical 2/3 losses! As neither weapon does a lot of damage [1d6 for Rapier, 1d6-1 for Javelin] it's been a fight of attrition in which Harnulf has a slight edge with a few more Hits than Yun.

Turn 6 - 7. They peck away at each other, getting hits but low Damage rolls. Looks like 6/9 and 9/12. With 3 Hits left each, they are both -3 DX. A single lucky roll on either's part will end it, most likely. Odds are probably with Yun since he always strikes first with the higher adjusted DX of 11 v. 8.

Turn 8. With hitting getting pretty unlikely, and a desire to start again fresh, we call it a draw. They can shake hands and go have a brew in the pub where they'll be interviewed.

When interviewed after the bout by The Town Crier, Harnulf said: "Hey Yun's a great guy, and I really respect his race and his abilities. He may be a poncy, pointy-eared green-blooded creep in tight pants, but he's OUR poncy creep! He used his speed with that rapier to good effect, but had trouble getting past my large shield, a family heirloom with fortune in it. I see us being back in the Arena with some new tricks soon."

When similarly interviewed, Yun stated, "Harnulf has a savage energy, just what you'd expect from a human. He's a good fighter, but could use a bath."

Well, there you have it folks!  Some lessons learned:
- with 2 fighters, maneuvering isn't that important.
- light weapons make for good training and low-risk bouts.
- I dislike a weapon with a d6-1 penalty. I'll be shifting soon to at least a 1d6+1 or so unless the Pole Arm or throwing rules make a difference. With a 2 weapon restriction and a shield counting as a weapon, throwing one weapon doesn't seem like a great idea.

This was a good start to the game in our house. Mr. Winkie and I awarded some experience for the bout to each fighter, and I scribbled down a few ideas for our family pit-fighting league. Would like to see some of the locals try this game out soon!  It is sort of addictive to keep trying out different builds with your figures - different stats for Strength and Dexterity, trying to get the best level of damage and survivability, but you also need to hit so a low DX isn't that great.

The pdf is now FREE from Drive-thru RPG [CLICK]
or from SJG's Warehouse 23 [CLICK] and if you don't download it, I'd have to say "I pity the fool!"  At $15, the game is still a great deal with tons and tons of replay. I think to get proficient and deadly you'd have to play it 10-20 times at least.

Lots of info at BoardgameGeek [CLICK]

Overall, this is a 2-Thumbs Up reissue!

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The Fantasy Trip: Then and Now - Legacy Edition

Sometimes old stuff is really great stuff!
TFT Rulebooks
 from a great tribute site:

...but, it can always use good editing and updating!

All I can find of my Melee / Wizard original and replacement items.
Had all of it at one point, including most of the "Microquests" as well.

Great fantasy system, precursor to GURPS. The "archaic combat" pocket game Melee started it all and in quite historical combat wargame fashion. This was quickly followed by Wizard which added magic. Both are "arena combat" games built off a gladiator premise in a modest game board with hexes and "megahexes" of 7 hexes; so yes, this is a gridded game system for all you fans. If you no like grids, it is pretty easy to plop it onto an open table.

Melee is a medium-complexity combat system that intends to be historical in its approach, and highly tactical in its mechanics, just what you would expect from a wargame developed into an RPG system. Should be highly appealing to any historical wargamer who appreciates tactical skirmish combat. 

A similar approach is used for magic - of course the historicity of magic is quite limited, BUT a real attempt is made to make it logical and orient it to the real world. After that, you can go on a full-fledged Fantasy Trip with the additional material, which can have as much or as little magic as you want.

The beauty of this approach is that it has enough specificity that the GM always has something to fall back on - if it is not identical, it is at least similar. So perhaps you have a player who wants to fight with the classic rapier / main-gauche Three Musketeer style.  It's in there, just like that. But if someone wants to try out two short swords or use a small spiked target as an attack weapon, you can make a reasonable decision on it from the mechanics at hand.

As character builds, weapons, magic and fighting tactics have a trade off, player have to make real decisions. So one player may want a big brawny fellow with a shield so he can  shield-rush opponents and knock them down. Totally different combat style from the Athos and Porthos style fellow above, but it is a real choice. This eliminates many of the arguments and exceptions that imaginative gamers want to use 'cause they saw it in a movie. 

I hemmed and hawed, but in the end bought the Legacy Edition First Printing as A Nostalgia Trip as well as for ease of play. Hopefully, all the products will be edited and updated, and it will be easier than trying to cobble together 40 years of updates both official and un-official.  Plus, I knew if I didn't get it, the price would double on the aftermarket!
 Fun new art - I kinda like the original better, but, "A crusader, wizard and a Roman legionnaire enter a battle..."

The maps are really nice! 

 List of extra goodies come with 1st print Legacy edition!

Heck, even the box lid has something useful in it!

The Legacy 1st Print came with the new Melee & Wizard pocket games, the solo adventures Tollenkar's Lair, Death Test and Death Test 2, a 176p. In the Labyrinth GM and world guide, GM aid and reference booklet, GM screen, Character Cards, megahex tiles, and other useful stuff.
 Heck, it's so much, they had to give you instructions on what to do when you open it!

As a system that's been around for 40+ years, it involves a bit of math [don't panic - adding and subtracting] and scratch paper. But it has aged well due to the strength of the original design concept and execution. The new release, known as the "Legacy Edition" has been updated. Still, as with any highly tactical game, players can find themselves in situations where they either confuse themselves or feel the rules are unclear. There are tons of resources to help out, or get one into the game, but some of the best I've found are below:

Boardgame Geek on the system:
The Fantasy Trip [CLICK]
Melee and Wizard [CLICK]

Tutorial Videos by James Eisert are here [CLICK]. These are great, and will save you boodles of time learning just how very tactical but simple this system is!

Then and now sort of comparison review [CLICK].

Intro vids with the designer, Steve Jackson [CLICK].

Anyway, thrilled to get my copy. My 10yo son and I have started with Melee. I pitched it to him as a general premise, we designed our first characters and had at it.

Next post: the first melee with Melee!

Friday, June 7, 2019

Grid Game AAR: OHW scenarios #23 & 30

Coedysbys 1094.  A battle of the Welsh uprising against the Normans. 

great looking table, nice figs, nice guys - what it's all about!

The concept of the scenario is that an overwhelming Welsh attack has fallen upon and surrounded a small Norman force which has built an improvised hilltop redoubt and sent for help. The message does get thru and a strong Norman force is on its way. Unfortunately, the Welsh have surrounded them and are occupying all the fords between the Norman relief force and the encircled Normans. The Norman relief force must break thru the Welsh "Defense in Depth" before their comrades are wiped out in a "Last Stand".

This is another combination game of two "One-Hour Wargames" scenarios, #23 "Defense in Depth" and #30 "Last Stand". The scenarios work very well in pairs or more, and I've used as many as 3 together previously. 

Scenario #23 Defense in Depth [the right card]
The attacking Normans arrive from "card North" and have a bridge and two fords to cross over. The Welsh occupy the "town" which is acting as a fortified camp in this instance. The distant ford to right is clear but the center one is obstructed on one side by woods, and therefore only usable by skirmishers [Brigans, as called in this game]. 

The Normans have a strong force of three Knights [one may dismount as Serjeants] two Bowmen [one may be switched for Brigans] and a Serjeant [heavy infantry, basically]. These enter anywhere on the North table edge turn 1.

Facing them, the Welsh have only a portion of their total force, 4 Units: a Serjeant [representing dismounted Welsh Cavalry, or Teulu], a Bowmen, a Brigans, and a Freemen Unit. They may set up anywhere South of the river, with one Unit North of the river.

Scenario #30 Last Stand [the left card, turned 90 clockwise].
Here, the Normans are hard-pressed with only 3 Units, but have a redoubt on a hill which provides protection from Shooting and an advantage in Melee and slows Melee attackers. Their Units are a Serjeant, a Bowmen [mercenary crossbows], and a Freemen.

The Welsh are making their main effort here to wipe out the hated Norman invaders and erstwhile overlords. They have a full 6 Unit force, and each Unit is replaced if destroyed - it reappears next turn at the left or "table West" edge from where the Welsh are deploying. The friction point is a 15-turn time limit, the success or failure of the Norman relief force, and the time delay for the "infinite" Welsh hordes as they re-enter the game. This would also make a great Gondor v. the Orcs scenario, wouldn't it? 

The players were a very experienced game designer, publisher and retired infantry LTC as the Norman [with a Welsh wife...we probably shouldn't state his choice] opposed by a retired USAF pilot who was very comfortable with the gridded aspects of the game since he had just played some "To the Strongest" at a convention. Both are experienced wargamers, so things moved along quickly with only the occasional question / clarification.

Below, a couple turns into the game.
Table East, the Freedom-Fighting Welsh deployed with Serjeants in the camp with the Bowmen, the Brigans in the woods by the center ford, and the Freemen holding the distant Right ford. In the face of the superior Bowmen shooting, the Brigans begin to retreat across the ford next to their woods. All other Units are braced for impact!

The Norman Oppressor chose to dismount one Knight and with the Serjeants attack across the bridge against the camp, which is a tough mission. Far ford has two units of knights poised to crash across it into the unfortunate Freeman Unit. In the Center two Bowmen are poised to oppose the Brigans and offer support to the attacks on the left or right ford as necessary.

On Table West, the Norman Serjeants hold the redoubt while their archers engage in a duel with the Welsh Bowmen in the camp. A Freeman Unit holds the bridge at the town, which seems quite solid until the Welsh use support Shooting from their Bowmen. The other ford is unopposed and Welsh Cavalry and Freeman swiftly move across it.

Different angle, same turn...One Welsh freeman is attacking across the river, which is strongly held by a Norman Freeman Unit. However, they do have their archers helping out.

Several turn farther along the game. 
The Welsh made quick work of the Normans holding the town at the bridge, and then move along the road as fast as they can to help their force hold off the Norman relief force. Two Freemen and a Bowmen are at top right moving to oppose the Norman Knights that forced the far ford against the Welsh Freemen. The Welsh are holding onto their camp and inflicting as good as they are getting there. 

The Normans are also holding onto their redoubt, but are outnumbered 3-1. The Norman Bowmen on the hill were destroyed pretty quickly by a combination of Welsh shooting and a charge from the Cavalry. The last Unit surviving is the Serjeants in the redoubt - but will the relief force make it in time??

Below, same turn, different angle.  At center top, one can see that the Brigans managed to destroy one Norman Bowmen Unit, but are having a tough time with the second. The Norman knights that crossed the river have tough choices to make between spending time to rally off Hits and get stuck in to help their friends.

Conclusion. In the end, some poor dice resulted in the Norman relief force being beaten off altho they broke into and contested the camp. The Welsh only used their "horde" rule for a couple of Units that were destroyed attacking the redoubt. This fell at the end of the game, the Welsh force being strong enough to inflict damage every turn.

As both commanders were experienced, the result rested mostly on dice and a couple of tactical choices. The Normans chose to fight the Brigans in the center, who then retreated from the woods onto the ford. When the Bowmen then switch to supporting the attacks on the left and right fords, the Brigans returned and managed to destroy a Bowmen before being destroyed themselves. 

It probably would have been faster for the Normans to pick one Unit of Brigans to attack the opposing Brigans, while using one bowmen to help with the attack on the far ford, the easiest place to break thru. This would have gotten the Knights across the river faster and in better shape, which would have positioned them better to attack the camp from the flank / rear. Instead, the Welsh relieved their camp first.

There is always a tricky proposition in allowing the two scenarios to interact, or not. Generally, gamers have a larger view and more aggression than real life soldiers, so it is probably a better choice to only allow units to stay in their own game - just a little advice for those wishing to do double or treble scenario big games on their own.

An interesting alternative choice with the Norman mercenary Bowmen would be to put them in a supporting and distracting position behind the woods instead of on the hill. This would have held off at least one Unit from the attack on the redoubt as their shooting into the rear would be doubled, so they couldn't be ignored. With a little luck, they might take out a Unit and survive to keep shooting.  As it was, they were quickly destroyed by the Welsh Bowmen in the camp and were unable to keep the redoubt from being overwhelmed at 3-1 odds. Granted, it still held out a long time, but that had more to do with poor dice on the part of the Welsh!

Overall, the gridded rules worked very well. Players were confined to clear and obvious maneuvering, which speeded the game along. The tactical choices were clear and in a re-play of the scenario, I think the Normans would have won.

An interesting by-product of the gridded game is that the mechanical choices are streamlined and sublimated to the larger tactical decisions. I think this allows players to concentrate on command decisions more, learn tactics faster and understand the military side of things instead of being distracted trying to figure out how the mechanics work.

So overall, a great playtest showing many positive aspects of playing "on the Grid"!