The Viking Legal Team in Action

The Viking Legal Team in Action
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Monday, February 9, 2015

"One - Hour Wargames": Dark Ages d5 Batrep, #8 Melee

Needed to do a test run with the d5 mechanism.  While the theory sounded right, had to see it in practice.  By eliminating '1' and '6', the rules help Infantry.  The least amount of damage they can do is now two Hits. But Warband if +2 only get half as many chances to do four Hits by eliminating the '6'.  They can only do so on a '5' [5+2 = 7/2 = 3.5 rounded up].   As I've made them +1 instead of +2  the chance is reduced to nil, as the highest they can roll is a '6' unless they are upgraded to Household or have a Hero attached.  In that case there's about two Units that _can_ roll a '7' total, about what NT had originally in an army, but they still have half the chances to roll up to 4 Hits.  So we'll have to see about that. Does d5 weaken them too much? Remember that all of the Units need to be useful in all the scenarios, altho they may not be _equally_ useful in every scenario.

To get to some hard fighting, I chose "Scenario #8: Melee", which seemed like it would reduce the maneuvering by having one clear objective, control of the central hill in the scenario.  Below is the board with the initial setup.  While each side has 6 Units, they come in on different schedules.  The Defenders start with two on the hill, and therefore possession of the victory condition, with two Units each arriving on  Turns 3 & 6.  The Attacker starts with three Units arrive Turn 1 and the other three on Turn 4. A nice pace, a good scenario.

Given the terrain, I chose an Infantry Unit to hold the hill [Hits against it are quartered due to the combo of shieldwall and uphill] and Skirmish bow to hold the woods as they are key to the position, actually.  If enemy Skirmishers control them they can charge out onto flanks almost certainly.  Since they get half Hits defending the woods, even the bows should be able to hold it effectively [remember, only Skirmishers may enter woods].  The Attackers having 5 Warband and 1 Skirmisher javelin my only choice was bringing in the Skirmishers on T1 or T4.  As I felt the Warband assault on the hill would take time to effectively set up before the Defender's reinforcements arrived, I opted to bring in the Skirmishers on T4. 
Turn 1, the Stratchclyde Infantry occupy the hill [1/4 casualties while on it!] and their Skirmish bow occupy the woods.  As none of the approaching Warband may enter the woods, they are effectively in a fort.  Two Warband break left including the lead one which is +2 Household with a Hero and Banner [net d5+3].  Warbands 2 & 3 following and going up the road are regular +1 Warbands.  The road Wb is trying to intercept the reinforcements or outflank the hill/woods.  We'll see... 

End of Turn 2.  The Household Unit manage to - barely - get out of the 45 degree charge arc of the Skirmish bow.  The following Warband are ready if they charge out, but are also positioned to turn hard left and try to outflank the Infantry on the hill.  Warband 3 is dashing up the road.  The bowmen shot a '4' [-2] and did 2 Hits to the Household Warband.

End of Turn 3, things get interesting.  Reinforcements arrive for Strathclyde, a Cavalry and another Infantry.  The former dash in onto the flank of the Warband an throw javelins for two points of damage.  The Infantry added a couple more, both underperformed as average would be 7 total. Warband 1 charges up the hill lead by their fearless Hero.  Warband 2 works around the flank since the hill is after all the objective.  Note that the Cavalry are positioned to charge into the flank of Warband 3 or dash to help the hill.  Warband 3 clearly doesn't give a damn!  Skirmish bow 1 is out of arc to shoot.  

End of Turn 4.  The hill melee continues, with the Infantry putting the smack on the Hero and his pals, with a 4-7 Hit count respectively thus far.  The Cavalry have decided to fight for the objective and leave Infantry 2 on the road to handle Warband 3, which seems the right idea given the numbers.  Warband 4 & 5 head for the hill and up the road respectively, while Skirmisher javelins head to take on the bowmen in the woods. Note that the defending bow will halve Hits for defending the woods against the approaching javelins.  As it was my opinion that the woods represented the key support point for the position and the win, I didn't divert the bowmen towards the hill melee as it seemed to be going well.  I did turn them a bit so that the option for shot was there if needed. This will prove to be an important choice.

Top of Turn 5.  Both the Cavalry and bow shoot at Warband 1 rolling a '4' each, with the -1 and -2 respectively, that still adds 5 Hits, nothing to sneer at.  Then Infantry 1 rolled a natural '5' and the party ended up there!  Warband 1 runs with 16 Hits, the Hero and his banner falling on the field.  Still, he did fall fighting forward, so I guess he gets to go to valhalla or hel, or wherever Satan collects his killers.

Bottom of Turn 5. With few options, Warbands 2 and 4 head for the hill, while the Skirmishers charge the woods doing a mighty one Hit.  The Cavalry defend the hill crest getting half casualties at '3' Hits, and the Infantry are not worried.  The road melee is going poorly but Warband 5 decides to cut left and stay focused on the victory hill.

End of Turn 6. Slow progress against the hill and woods doesn't discourage the Warband. Skirmishers and Cavalry are not strong Units in a stand-up fight, but the defensive positions are helping a lot.  While the Skirmishers bow have missed every time, they have only taken 3 Hits.  Also, approaching from the top left are the last two reinforcements, a Skirmishers bow Unit and Infantry 3, with their hard-praying monastic hurrying with them.  The Christian Priest can serve a critical role here by rallying Hits off friendly Units that can get out of melee and rest. Even saving a couple of Hits and one Unit can mean the difference between victory and defeat.

End of Turn 7.  This is a tense moment on a critical Turn.  The Skirmishers bow 2 have nicked the flank of Warband 2 and could hurt it if they roll up.  Altho Warband 4 broke Infantry 1 with a flank attack from Warband 5, Infantry 3 is Household, fresh and in a good position to fight for the hill.  Warband 5 is in a position to challenge them, while Warband 4 threatens the Cavalry with a flank attack.  The woods is still bogged down with little progress altho the javelins are clearly winning.  On the road, Infantry 2 has defeated Warband 3 and is now a flanking threat despite the 10 Hits it's carrying.  Who will win??

End of Turn 8.  Critical decisions made, the Strathclyde pull back the Cavalry to save them. The Skirmishers bow 2 manage to barely break Warband 2.  Warband 4 advances onto the hill to threaten the flank of Infantry 3 as well as threaten the Cavalry with their speed.  With Infantry 2 approaching and nothing to intervene, it's a tense moment.

 Turn 9 end.  The Warband try to break Infantry 3 risking their own flank.  Infantry 2 closes in...slowly.  The Christian Priest rallies off 3 Hits from the resting Cavalry.  The Skirmishers 2 turn to face and threaten the hill Units.  The javelins continue to beat up the bowmen in the woods, who've only managed to do a single Hit on them so far!

Turn 10 end.  The flank charge of Infantry 2, along with the desperate attack by the Cavalry and Skirmish bow 2 have locked down the hill and broken Warband 4.  The end is in sight!

And the last Warband breaks upon Turn 11 with 19 Hits.  The Skirmishers bow 2 manage to not roll junk and even a couple hits a turn adds up.  With all the Warband broken, the javelins are in no place to contest anything, plus with a second Skirmisher Unit at hand in good shape, relief for the woods is in sight!

A few lessons learned with this playtest.  First, with the d5 Warband are too weak at +1, so will have to be returned to d5+2.  This leads me to the desire to differentiate between close and loose-order warbands as in other rules.  I'm thinking that d5+1 should move as Skirmishers but have no shooting ability, while d5+2 Warband should remain as they are - open terrain troops.  Only question is should they slow down to d5+2" of movement, same as the Infantry.  It's true they aren't using shieldwall, but they must be moving more deliberately?  Or not.  Have to think about it.  Perhaps the terrain restrictions are enough there.

Second, the d5 works really well with the movement rates.  There's still the occasional difficulty of not rolling high enough, yet with an everage of 3-4 rolled it helps make a fatter bell curve rather than the extremes.  I think most leaders have some idea how fast their men move, and can roughly judge it.  The friction of some uncertainty is enough.

Third, Skirmish bow should at least be able to Turn freely and not have it count as movement.  As this also works with the "Archers" Unit type in the Ancient rules of this book, and melds well into the rules as I've been working with them, this'll be a change, also. Skirmish bow will be able to Turn and shoot while Ancient Archers will not due to their larger, closer formation.  One question still remaining is should they be able to shoot in the movement phase like javelins?

I've been working with two armies for a while to get a feel for them.  The only change this time was replacing the Skirmish bow with javelins on the barbarian force.  They certainly seem like the right choice for an Attacker with their better shooting on the move, and not really needing the extra distance for the shooting.  After all, they're moving in close, anyway.

The mechanic of Turns is working perfectly.  Restricting formed Units to one Turn at the start or end of move and giving two Turns to Skirmish and Cavalry has just the right feel. For better trained Units that we will see with the continental version of these rules, all I need to do is add one Turn to each type and suddenly they'll be Roman or Byzantine trained troops.

So time to make these changes and update the rules again!  As I've also made some more corrections to them, it is time to do it anyway.

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