Monday, January 31, 2011

Thoughts on spicing up the pre-battle (setup) sequence for medieval/ancient games

We've all done it many times before (especially in Ancients/Medievals)- both sides setup their army on their side of the board (usually the longest side) and have at it with one another over the course of the battle in a meeting engagement. But, other than specialist scenarios (like an ambush), this is the commonest way to setup a battlefield.

But what if there were pre-battle turns that could influence the setup process or modify some of the command rules (assuming you do use some sort of command and control rules) ? As an extra bonus, this could be a good way to vary campaign battles between 2 armies.

I've used a number of systems to create "friction" in command and control, so maybe it is time to for me to use a system whereby setup "friction" can be modeled after. All of the ideas here are not original, I'm sure, but sometimes the best ideas are almost univeral. So if I am just re-inventing the wheel (or seem to be plagarizing) I am sorry.

I've decided to call the system Pre-Battle Stress. Without getting into the specifics of how it influences my minaiture rules (a home-brew set called "DSR Mass Battle"), I'll try to keep the descriptions as general as possible so you can apply it to your own ruleset.

In general, each army has a pool of 6 Army Initiative Cards. They consist of various amounts of Observe(O), Advance (A), Defend (D), and Flank (F) cards. Each side also has a Re-Organize (R) card.

A Byzantine army, for example might consist of 2 Observe, 1 Advance, 1 Defend and 1 Flank Card. A Seljuk Turkish army might consist of 2 Observe, 1 Advance, 0 Defend and 3 Flank Cards.

At the start of the campaign turn (or turn where 2 armies are fighting for an area) they each secretly pick one card and reveal it. Based on what they have chosen, the result may be no battle, one side with a setup advantage, command advantage, terrain advantage or some combination of these three.

If after 3 "No Battle" results, the campaign turn ends as both sides have successfully growled at each other but never came to blows. This may allow a side that was awaiting reinforcement to be able to recieve them.

Once a card is played, it cannot be used again. A Reorganize(R) card returns all the cards to a player's hand after the current battle (if any) is fought. This can result in something VERY bad if the other side elects to do something other than Reorganize (R) or Observe (O).. Or, in other words the more cards that are played without an (R), the less flexibility a side has.

Here's the chart that applies to my rules and includes all the armies I have:

The Chart (click to enlarge)
 The end result is create some interesting "at start" and setup conditions outside the normal. It also works well to vary up quick area campaign games (Armies fight over an area or zone, and if the winner gains that zone).

Of course, you will have to modify the results based on the ruleset you use. I'm thinking of expanding upon this more to include even more options.

As always, let me know what you think  !

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