Therefore, the terrain objective mainly determines who is obligated to attack - whoever occupies the terrain first will be able to take the defense as they'll have the objective in hand. If the only objective is to kill the enemy, one ends up needing a time limit or else players will get cagey and drag things out. Generally, I like scenarios that encourage players to fight decisively to win. While war is made up mostly of less decisive encounters, they are not usually as exciting for gaming.
Below, the board at game start. Objective is center hill with ruins. Whoever wins first Initiative roll chooses side from which to enter - the opposing side enters on the opposite side. Already an interesting decision - one side has lots of shooting, the other none.
Below, turn 1. Marauders win Initiative, choose to enter from South edge. Mounted move about 20" straight on while the foot Marauders move 12" [figs may move double movement in a straight line - no other actions permitted]. Empire concede the ruin and move 12" on together. If they lose the next Initiative roll, the Marauders could charge before any shots are fired, so a continuous line anchored on the wood is a good choice for them. note how the initiative forces players to think about the next turn - winning or losing Initiative can make a big difference for a shooty army - shots, or no shots!
Above, green dice is empire and white marauders. They lose 5 to 3, with the marauders choosing the first move and therefore their entry side, as well as moving first. Being covered by the hill and in the ruins, can gain them a 4+ cover save [CS4+], effectively halving empire hits! Each takes their turn 1 Action phase, indicated by the large dice, Marauders first. Upon reflection, should've put the arqubusiers next to the woods, followed by the spearmen, then the mounted. When the others moved forward, the arquebusiers were isolated.
Below, turn 2. Marauders win Initiative again, 5-2, and decide to dodge to the East while their foot moves up. Everyone is in cover, awaiting the moment to strike together. the foot has a 6" charge, the mounted 12". I've already learned the danger of unsupported charges!
Above, Empire shooting is disappointing. Spearmen move double straight ahead. Pistoleers move 6" and fire. Top four dice all misses for the Arquebusiers. Bottom dice are only two hits from the Pistoleers, both of which bounce off rocks thanks to a 5 and 6.
Note that I rolled one too many dice for the arqubusiers, anyway! The outrider with revolver shoots twice if he stands so I messed that up also. Everyone can move half and shoot if they are "loaded". All muskets and such take one full turn to "Reload". Thus they are best employed in pairs, one shooting while the other is reloading.
Below, turn 3. Empire wins Initiative [IN], 6-3. They choose to reload everyone. The spearmen should've repositioned, at least. The Marauders move into charge range.
Below Turn 4. Empire Action Phase Begins. Empire wins IN again, 6-4. They keep it and shoot, of course! Had they lost the Marauders would've charged in and they'd get no shot. Outrider [blue dice] gets one hit on Marauder hero, causes two wounds with a '6' one of which is saved [white 6] and one is not [white 2]. One Pistoleer hits on '6' rolls '6' to wound, and one is saved with white '5'. Two wounds marked with red dice. Three Arquebusiers miss, needing 5s and rolling 4-4-1. Disappointing considering that melee favors the marauders over the empire.
Below, Turn 4 Empire Action Phase continues. Note - the big green dice indicates Empire turn 4 Action phase, while marauders have yet to go, so the white dice is on 3.
Empire spearmen move against the marauder foot. There are 2 spearmen v. 2 marauders. I decided that the one marauder supporting but blocked by the pillars couldn't support - normally he'd contribute one dice. The Empire win both fights, 6-3 and 4-3, taking the highest single dice rolls - if tied, go to the next highest, etc. If still tied, it's a 'push'.
Above. Right spearman inflicts two wounds on a '5', the '1' is 'no wound' on the NT chart - so a glancing blow. The marauder rolls a '4' and '3' and misses both saves, needing a '6', so he's dead [note model on side]. The left spearman's dice are on the bottom. He inflicts three wounds but the marauder rolls two 6s and one 2 so survives with one wound! [red dice] Amazing blow to the Empire, b/c they need any luck they can get in melee.
Below, Turn 4, Marauder Action Phase. Unsurprisingly, the marauder force decides not to await being shot at any longer. They close into melee with everything they have. Two foot marauders attack the spearmen while two others join the hero in attacking a pistoleer. The veteran takes the hellhound and attacks the arquebusiers.
The Pistoleer has two dice and is supported by the outrider [blue dice] and has a high of '5' from the outrider. The Hero has four dice and two support dice from the foot marauders [black dice], and wins rolling a '6'. Those six dice rolled come up 6-6-5-2-1-1 for six wounds, 2 each for 6-6-5. The Pistoleer only saves three and dies three times over.
Above, below, Turn 5. Empire wins Initiative, and brings its soldiers back into the fight. If they'd lost Initiative and been badly outnumbered, they could've been encircled. As it is, they were able to gather into some sense of a battle line and face the oncoming marauders. The two marauder foot can't move fast enough to help in the fight - this turn. Looks grim! But the Empire do ok in the resulting melees, killing a dog and putting the marauders over 25%. Unfortunately, they lost the second spearmen to the supported Hero, and also have to check - and everyone who departs is gone for good!
Above, turn 5 Morale Phase. Empire lose both arqubusiers. Marauder hero and veteran rally back on the ruins with one foot marauder. With only two mounted left, can the empire beat back six marauders??
Below, the dead pile up as Turn 5 ends!
Below, Turn 6 begins with both sides four dead...but the Empire have lost two who fled!
Below, turn 6. The Marauders win IN 3-2. They take it and close in as far as they can. Note that the 1" recoil from Melee, with a full move flee for the 25% morale check failure means they can't get closer than 1" to the enemy upon moving back the full move, which is what they did. While both the Hero and the Veteran have two wounds, and one foot marauder one wound, they are all still functioning. The spreading around of wounds is making this turn look tough for the Empire - if they can only kill the mounted, they will certainly win as neither of them have any wounds. The Empire reload in their Action Phase, hoping to win IN Turn 7.
Below, Turn 7. Alas, it is not to be. The Marauders win IN and immediately close with everything they have. They kill both the pistoleer and the outrider Veteran, who die with loaded weapons. But had they closed last turn, they would've died with unloaded weapons, anyway, so I feel I made the right choice.
Conclusions.I think the rules work pretty well. This was the 4th or 5th time I played this, and maybe the only one the marauders won altho most of the games were close. My play quality had something to do with the results, of course! Don't want to blame the rules.
I think the rules could be streamlined farther. The question is will the sacrifices be worth it, or does the little detail here and there add to the game? I think there's a satisfying mechanistic feel to roll to hit - roll cover save - roll wounds - roll armor saves. It is a bit time consuming, however. Still, this isn't meant to be a large-battle game, it's for smaller skirmish forces of 10-15 figs. If you've something really crummy like Goblins, maybe 20 figures. I will need to make a playtest with the smallest and largest forces to see how they match up.
I also feel like the game needs a simply fall-back mechanism for situations with terrain and such that aren't covered in the rules. For example, rather than make lots of rules for ladders, high walls, climbing, jumping, etc, I'd rather just have a single "and all the other stuff" mechanism.
Some more playtests are in order, but I think these are 90% there and I'll have to post them this week. Open to suggestions, as always!