Saturday, February 25, 2012

Rally Round the King Redux

First, let me start by welcoming new readers Shelldrake, Los, Robert Saint James, and Spacejacker (like your blogs and the Gut Check rules look interesting). Hope you enjoy the blog. Also thanks to JF for plugging my blog on his blog, Solo Nexus.

So, as you may have guessed, I have decided to give Rally Round the King (RRtK) another try. I'll be using Comic Life 2 for the graphics and narrative, only breaking out to text for discussion about mechanics. I've modified the blog to be about 900 pixels wide, so those with 1024 by 768 resolution should have no problems reading it without having to scroll back and forth. The comic panels should by 800 by 600 pixels, so it should display in reasonable chunks and again not requiring scrolling to see it full size.

Rather than going through the same exercise as last time for terrain and deployment, I will use the same rolls, events, and results. So the troops will still be set up using the same parameters as last game, but I can alter deployment as long as I stay within those parameters.

What I need to change is to ensure that I don't trap troops so that they have no room to maneuver. Primarily this was the Spanish Cavalry (with General) and to a lesser extent the Roman Cavalry (with General). To this end I found that 'missing rule': Expansion.

Assume that the unit in the rear is to close to the line in front of it. It can neither wheel left nor right, and a facing change of 90º is not allowed. So it appears that the unit is stuck, unless the line moves forward.

However, the expansion rule allows a unit from the rear ranks to move out to the flanks, so long as the distance does not exceed the unit's movement. So to solve the problem above, the unit first moves forward into contact with the body to its front.

The following turn, the body expands, allowing the unit to move out to the flank. Note that it can do this even if the body is in melee contact (and is the primary way to expand the battle line and attempt to overlap your opponent).

Another rule that will come into play is Facing the Enemy. This rule states that if a unit is facing an enemy unit and is within charge distance of that enemy unit, the unit's choices are to move forward or remain stationary. I asked on the Two Hour Wargames forum if "remaining stationary" meant that it could voluntarily halt (it is not one of the reasons that is listed on why a body halts) and the answer was yes. So that changes the possible responses in the movement decision tables that I was describing in a previous blog entry.

In gameplay I will play the missile rules as designed, no moving and firing. Also, like Drums and Shakos Large Battles (see my Dale's Wargames blog for the review and playtest of these excellent Napoleonic rules), I have to be meticulous about not being so generous with the movement. It irritates me that a 15º wheel penalizes a unit as much as a 45º wheel, but that is the way the rules are. Units basically move straight forward until they collide, unless they are skirmishers.

New Decision Charts

As I indicated in a previous blog entry you can use the same Reaction Test mechanism to make the tactical decisions that RRtK does not make, namely:
  • Was a unit to be activated?
  • Did a unit move the minimum, maximum, or some value in between?
  • Did a unit maneuver (move other than straight forward)?
It occurred to me, however, as I was drawing the tables up that I was violating my most basic rule of solo gaming, which was not to alter the game rules substantially, especially where you are messing with the math. By determining whether a unit made an optimal move or a sub-optimal one based on passing its ability score on two, one, or no dice, I was in effect making a morale check to move!

It seemed novel at the time the idea sprang upon me, and to be honest I think it would make for a fun method for programming an opponent, but I think those sort of rules would also need to be applied to the player's force in some way also. Making movement morale-based is a big change and not something you would want to apply unequally. (Of course, it really depends upon what you are looking for in your games. In this case, it was not to deviate from the Rules As Written too much. I did that last time.)

For this game I decided to go back and use Mythic for the three decisions above, however I tended to state the questions much simple, like: "Do I activate A, B, and C" this turn?" If that failed then you can always assume it was just one of those three that made it a no (unless it was exceptional, then it would be two).

On with the Battle!
[1] Rather than rely on the trick to move up to a second rank and expand on the following turn (as indicated at the beginning of the blog), I decided that the General and Cavalry bodyguard would need to be on the flank of the battle line so that when it moved straight forward it would already be in position. The Light Horse on the left, being a skirmisher, could easily maneuver to wherever it needed to go.

[2] This was due to the deployment rules stating that the unit needed to be in the left section. In the initial game I had simply placed it to the left, but not in the correct 8" wide section. This creates a sizable gap ...

[3] As with the Spanish General, the Roman Consul with his bodyguard positions itself so that a simple move forward puts in on the flank of the heavy infantry, rather than requiring an expansion to come up from the rear rank.
The exchange between the skirmishers in the woods show how important support can be. The Roman Velites both fired, but inflicted no hits on the Spanish. Nonetheless, the Spanish had to take a Received Fire test. I rolled double '6' for the check. Because the unit on the right had both rear and flank support it held (with two passes), however the unit on the left only had flank support so it had two failures and routed!

This makes me wonder about the definition of "support" and how I placed my troops. I assumed that because the scutari in the second rank was only in corner-to-corner contact that it would, at best, only provide flank support. However, you cannot support from the same flank twice. (Or am I thinking of DBA?) If I had placed my figures as shown to the right, the scutari should have been able to provide rear support for both, meaning neither would have routed in this instance.

Is RRtK more nuanced (or fiddly) than I thought or am I simply filling the holes in the rules with logical extensions?
As you play with RRtK (or other THW games) more, you realize that you really need to be careful and make sure you take all the tests necessary. Charges, for example, can go very long distances as you charge, react to received fire (allowing you to advance again), which is turn can cause another test, and so on. Charges double the distance allowed are very possible.

Another nuance to these rules to be aware of is that dual-armed troops are melee troops, thus are not subject to the Mandatory Fire rule. This effectively means that dual-armed melee troops cannot fire unless dictated by a reaction test!

It is also important that you get the unit activation sequence correct. If you don't, you can get some odd results, like this next turn ...
 If you didn't catch what was wrong, then good!
[4] Even though the Spanish General passed his reaction test, mounted that do not rout their infantry opponent must retire, taking one hit as they retreat.

The skirmish in the woods shows how successfully passing several Received Fire tests can result in units being mauled in missile exchanges. In this case the Spanish kept passing its tests despite getting hit each time. It finally had to retire. All of this is out of the hands of the gamer (solo or otherwise) of course as it is built into the reaction tables.
As you can see, a little more of my love for DBA slipped in. I cannot help but think of flanking an enemy and forcing him to react to you as 'Barkering'.
At this point I was starting to be amazed how the Spanish were standing up. Melee troops can stay in melee as long as they don't fail two dice, not one, so they have some real staying power. I was beginning to question the armor class (AC) rating I have given the Republican Romans, but as I was playing the 2nd Punic War, it is right. The reason for the pause, however is because the Spanish have to roll a '5'+ to get a single hit while the Romans get a hit on a '3' through '5' and two hits on a '6'! This makes it very hard for the Spanish to win in melee (as it should).
Now that the main battle line has routed, the end is probably near. However, as an equal number of Spanish scutari and Roman hastati have routed, it might be tough to call this one.
[5] Normally a unit firing missiles can only inflict one hit per unit firing. Further, because the 'arc' of fire is so limited (straight ahead) this picture would lead you to believe that only one unit could have fired and that the two hits are a mistake. However, I did not show each step of the process to charge, fire, and melee. When the cavalry unit charged the Spanish, it was overlapped by both units; thus both were eligible to fire. When melee came around, the cavalry unit is forced to line up on one or the other, which is what the picture shows.

[6] Yup! Both rolled a '6'. Apparently those dice needed to be switched out, however, and they kept rolling double sixes ...

I decided to call it quits at this point. The good thing about solo gaming is that it is not a competition (although it may be part of a campaign), so eking out every last victory point is not necessary. The Spanish had lost two slingers, one caetrati, and four scutari. The Romans had lost one velite, two hastati, and one equites (cavalry). The Spanish can certainly feel pretty good about how well they did in open battle. Nonetheless, I think the Romans can be declared the victors.


The best aspect of RRtK is the grinding, attritional feel of the game. (I just need to work on getting that feel without markers or rosters in my other games.) Sometimes I feel like the reaction results do not have enough granularity of result; it sometimes feel like all or nothing. Maybe I am talking heretically, but what is wrong with using three dice, or more?

Game play still feels stiff and rigid, however, because of the lack of maneuverability and fire arc. Given the small width of a base, I could see where people might argue whether a unit is within the arc or not for firing. One degree off and you get no fire.

Although I did enjoy this game, I would probably take elements from these rules and use them in another game rather than the other way around. There is some good stuff however.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Why Do This?

New reader JF asked, about my last blog entry:
Although you've laid out the case for advanced decision-making processes brilliantly, can you elaborate on whether your drive to add more layers of auto-enemy activation elements might be tied to the period in which you're playing - or if that even matters at all?
Well that is an interesting question. In the beginning of Charles Grant's book Programmed Wargame Scenarios Mr. Grant described four ways to use his scenarios:

  1. The solo gamer plays both the Red and Blue sides to the best of his ability, using the guidelines given in the scenario.
  2. The solo gamer plays the Red side (attacker) and the Blue side is programmed.
  3. The solo gamer plays the Blue side (defender) and the Red side is programmed.
  4. The solo gamer plays neither side and both the Red and Blue sides are programmed.
To be honest, this last one really shocked me. Why would you want to play neither side? Wasn't the whole point to play? Of course the solo gamer is not exactly winding up clockwork soldiers and watching them move about (like the old electric football games of my youth); he is executing the movements, rolling the dice, checking line of sight and so on. What he is not doing is "influencing" the battle, rather he is letting it play out, like a story.

Now some people may not enjoy that, but sometimes I do. But even if you don't, playing that way can lead to a better result if you like options 2 or 3. Essentially the "programming" part is what I am working on. You also said:
So far, the RRtK solo deployment and tactics rules - though broad - have been satisfactory in the very few games I've played. I've created a small enough number of bodies to make most decisions pretty straightforward, and, once embroiled, the Reaction System takes it from there. In my last two games, I had three main attack bodies and one in reserve on the enemy side (War Rating 3), so I just followed the guidelines for the particular tactics rolled on pages 52 and 53 and gave all enemy main attackers an order that was as obviously consistent with the deployment & tactics as possible. In your example above using Roman Heavy Infantry, I'd just send them up the center, full movement!
That is a decision you, the player made, not the rules. That is where the difference lies. No problem if you make those obvious decisions as you like to play using option 1 above. Same for option 2 and 3 when you make those decisions for your side, but neither the reaction system as it is, nor you making the obviously consistent choices can count as a "programmed opponent".

So that leads to the question of: why do this? Why go through all of this work when you can simply play it to the best of your ability and leave all of that paperwork behind? Part of it is a professional interest in (pseudo-)artificial intelligence, expert systems, and the like. Part of it is seeing what the system can do, what entertainment the dice can provide. And part of it is ... well, have you ever gotten stomped by an obviously superior player? Someone who pulled 'tricks' out their bag and did moves that not only did you not see it coming, but was something you flat out had not even considered as a way of approaching a tactical problem? I did, especially as a kid. I talked about some of the lessons I learned in my blog entry Tactical Exercises and Micro Games on one of my other blogs. I became interested in how we solve problems, the process our brain uses, and so on, in hopes of capturing and codifying it in some way. If I could do that – even in the simplest of terms – I would have an interesting programmed opponent. Essentially, it would have a personality of a sort.

Sounds like pie in the sky talk, so let's use concrete examples. If you refer back to the reaction chart I developed in the last blog entry you can see some of my 'personality' embedded in it. For example, I list five conditions to consider:

  1. If outside of missile range and overlapped.
  2. If overlapped.
  3. If outside of missile range and if moving slower, a unit could catch up and provide support.
  4. If moving maximum would take you into the enemy's missile range but not into contact.
  5. All other conditions.
Not only does those five factors represent my thinking process on this particular tactical situation, it lists the order of precedence for consideration. Someone else, on the other hand, might not consider the 'catch up to provide support' as a valid reason to slow down, or might alter it by adding another condition. Someone else might consider the same factors, but change their order of precedence, such as moving support up to the top. Finally, someone else might simply say "move maximum always."

Once you start documenting these factors and conditions you start to get a sense of what matters and what does not. You can also start deliberately altering what you think is the best sequence for another. Maybe you consider yourself a cautious player and you want to play someone a little bolder and aggressive. Altering these tables allows you to do that.

Strange as it may sound, if enough people would do this, solo gamers could exchange their 'patterns' with other solo gamers and play their proxies. Would it be perfect? Of course not, but it will get better over time.

Finally, no I don't think this is a period thing. I did it for my WW II game using Memoir '44 (although I took a different approach).

So, why do I do this?

Join my cause ... give me your brains!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Other Decision Making Methods

What I would like is to use another decision-making mechanism for a replay of the last battle, rather than simply repeating the use of Mythic to make decisions. Although I have no problem using Mythic, especially for the major decisions of battle tactics and troop deployments, but it gets tedious answering four or five questions each turn just to simply verify the most probable course of action. (Although it does have the interesting side effect of introducing random events into the game.) So, I started breaking out the old stand-by books, like Charles Grant's Programmed Wargame Scenarios and Donald Featherstone's Solo Wargaming looking for ideas. One thing I have found with the 'old school' authors is that, because they wrote their own rules to use, they had no problems introducing new mechanisms that completely altered what I call 'the math of the game'. Examples would be chance cards, tactical cards, regimental cards, etc., all which would modify the core rules in some regard, such as adding +1 to melee combat or subtracting -1 from a morale check.

I thought about adding some of these types of rules, but to be honest they start to get hard to remember. (I am old and forgetful, after all.) Some ideas you might want to toy with:
  • Allow a unit to be a little better or worse on this day of battle: for example, roll 1D6 and on the roll of a '1' the unit is -1 REP, while on the roll of a '6' the unit is +1 REP. This should probably only be done for a few units and not the entire force.
  • Allow the unit to adjust their AC +1 or -1 using the same method above. This adjustment to AC is only used for determining casualties in missile and melee combat; movement is not affected.
Another way is to alter the actual game mechanics in small ways.
  • Each time a body moves roll two differently colored D6, designating one as 'Fast' and one as 'Slow'. If the Fast die rolls higher than the Slow die, +1" of movement is added to the maximum. If the Slow die is higher, -1" of movement is subtracted from the maximum. (Remember, the minimum move is ½ the maximum.) If any portion of the move is in non-open terrain (or across a linear obstacle), you can change the meaning to something that makes movement even slower on average.
If you are really bold, you can alter the mechanics even more.
  • For heavy infantry movement, each turn roll 2D6 - 1 for  the maximum number of inches the body can move. For light infantry use 2D6 + 1 and for mounted use 3D6 + 1. Terrain will slow the body down by removing the lowest rolled die.
  • Set a maximum number of dice in a pool for an army. The number of represents the fatigue and 'heart' of the army; the more dice an army possesses in their pool the more heart it has and the more fatigue it can accumulate. Each time dice are rolled for any reason they are permanently removed from the army's dice pool, never to be used again (in that game). So, if an army has 100 dice in its pool, it will only roll a total of 100 dice before the army collapses in defeat.
I prefer to minimize the amount of modifications I make to the core rules, especially something that alters the math of the game, and I don't like trying to remember lots of special rules that don't apply to all of the units of the same type (or at least appear the same). There is one area where I think you can add a little interest and not throw off the game too much: re-rolls. There are times when you really want to re-roll a failed die roll at a critical point in the game. Just as the suggestion above indicates you can create a dice pool, you can create a re-roll pool. The idea is that you have a certain number of dice that can be re-rolled during the game. For example, if you have two re-rolls in your pool you can designate any die rolled to be re-rolled, discarding one die from the pool each time you use a re-roll. (You may want to place some limits, like no die can be re-rolled more than once and that the second die roll stands, even if worse ... but you may not!)

One concept that I liked from the game Memoir '44 was that there are these cards called Combat Cards which make small modifications to the combat when the player uses the card (for example, adding one die to combat or reducing the opponent's attack by one die). This alleviates the need to remember which unit has this modifier; it is assigned when the card is played. The interesting part was that theses cards were accumulated primarily by playing cards that are generally considered the worst cards. So basically, if you got dealt a bad hand of cards you could offset your luck by accumulating Combat Cards. You can use the same concept for re-rolls. Each time a player fails both dice in a reaction test and does not use a re-roll he gains a free re-roll to use later. Simple to keep track of and not very over-powering.

In the end, however, most of these methods simply add a chaos factor to the game and make it less predictable, which is interesting for the gamer. But rarely do they add to the type or number of decisions that the solo gamer has to make, nor does it help him to objectively make that decision as if an opponent had made it. So far, the only two decision making mechanisms this blog has explored are rule-based and probability-based. These two methods have several factors in common:
  1. They use logic as their basis.
  2. They take into account all of the current factors in play.
  3. There is a degree of interpretation of the results.
Generally these are all good points to a system - one doesn't want to play again dim-witted or irrational opponents, for example - but sometimes they can lead to predictable play. What would be ideal is to find a tactical decision making method that meets the following criteria:
  1. Very quick resolution.
  2. Little is left to the interpretation of the player.
  3. Some element of surprise is introduced.
Decisions, decisions ...

First, let's start by examining the decisions that needed to be made in the last game.
  • Was a unit to be activated?
  • Did a unit move the minimum, maximum, or some value in between?
  • Did a unit maneuver (move other than straight forward)?
These three decisions encompassed all those made post-deployment. The rules took care of the rest (who to fire at, the effects of fire, who to charge, the effects of melee, etc.).

Was a Unit to be Activated?

This decision is one of the tougher ones in that it is a 'decision bundle', or a group of decisions, and each combination of decisions can produce a different result. For example, if you have units A, B, and C but can only activate two units in a turn, your choices are: none; only A; only B; only C; A and B; A and C; or B and C. Seven different choices. The combinations get even more complex when you have 12 units and three activations.

Did a Unit Move the Minimum, Maximum, or Some Value in Between?

How much a unit moves is largely governed by its intent. A unit of heavy infantry intending to close into melee would rarely want to move less than maximum speed. Moving less potentially puts the unit under more missile fire while it closes and  allows the enemy more time to react to the attack, bringing up supports.

A unit providing flank support, however, may want to move less than maximum movement, especially if moving faster will cause it move past the position of support (i.e. get ahead of the unit being supported). This is especially true of light infantry or cavalry, supporting the flank of heavy infantry, which move much slower.

Another reason for moving slower is to delay melee combat, allowing the unit to fire missile weapons more often. Generally speaking, however, if you are moving the minimum, you are probably trying to delay impact. This is useful even for troops without missile weapons, if your troops are heading towards an impact you are likely to lose.

Did a Unit Maneuver?

Generally speaking, this is not much of a problem for armies with lots of non-skirmishing units. Maneuvering is a good way of 'bleeding off speed', but that seems like a cheesy reason to do it. More likely you are reacting to a unit that advanced too far and got flanked. Cavalry, however, does has a modicum of maneuverability.

With skirmishers, however, this is a big decision. Generally it is easier to ask the question in terms of "where on the board (and facing which direction) do I want my skirmisher to end up at?"

Charts, charts, and more charts ...

If you don't like charts, don't play Two Hour Wargames rules. They love charts. The reaction system is essentially programming a unit's set of possible responses, assigning probabilities, and codifying it in a chart. Mythic uses charts. One thing that kept leaping out at me while reviewing the old masters (and 12 issues of Lone Warrior) is that solo gamers seem to love charts! So maybe our mechanism should be chart-based!

So, what are charts? As I said, they are a codified set of possible responses with assigned probabilities. If 'X' happens on the roll of a '1' and 'Y' happens on the roll of '2' through '6' you have defined two possible responses to whatever the chart represents, and assigned the probability of each response. As long as there are not a lot of modifiers to the die roll, charts meets the first criteria of 'very quick resolution'. Unless you have done a poor job of defining terms, charts also meet the criteria of 'little left to the interpretation of the player'. Whether or not the criteria of 'some element of surprise is introduced' is met all depends upon whether you allow for a response that is generally outside of the norm (but still possible).

Let take a concrete example. The Roman heavy infantry (Principes) were assigned to advance directly towards the enemy in the center and attempt to penetrate their line. As they have no missile weapons, and the enemy do, there is little reason for them to delay (i.e. move less than a full move each turn). So, given an enemy unit straight ahead of the unit, the range of their responses is:
  • Move the maximum movement allowed straight ahead.
  • Move the minimum movement allowed straight ahead.
  • Move some distance between minimum and the maximum allowed straight ahead.
Note that there is no option to not move at all; halting is not a voluntary option, save if the original activation order specified a point on the board where the unit was to stop 1. Again, if you think of moving maximum as the default choice, what would the exceptions to moving maximum be?
  • When facing a missile unit and the maximum move would not take you into contact, but would take you into its missile range, you want to stop outside of missile range, if possible (i.e. it is still within your minimum move distance).
  • When moving less than the maximum move (but at least the minimum move) distance would allow a friendly unit to catch up and provide support.
  • To expand the formation to avoid overlaps in an upcoming melee combat.
Of course, if the unit no longer has an enemy directly ahead, the options change. But for now, let's consider this simple case. How best to represent the decision making process for which option to use? Interestingly, Rally Round the King (RRtK) provides a good one: the reaction check. Think about it. How I move in relation to the enemy is a reaction. So why not use the reaction check mechanism for making this decision. In fact, basing it on REP (with attendant pluses and minuses due to hits and support) makes sense in this context and is something we have probably already memorized. So, you might have the following for the Roman heavy infantry:

ReasonPass 2D6Pass 1D6Pass 0D6
Center Battle Line MovesIf outside of missile range and overlapped, expand.If overlapped, expand.
If outside of missile range, a unit that can provide support needs to catch up to provide it, and a minimum move will allow that unit to catch up, move the maximum distance that will still allow the unit to catch up.If outside of missile range, a unit that can provide support needs to catch up to provide it, and a minimum move will allow that unit to catch up, move the minimum move allowed.
If moving the maximum distance allowed takes you into enemy missile range, but not into contact, move just outside of missile range if legal.If moving the maximum distance allowed takes you into enemy missile range, but not into contact, move the minimum distance allowed.
Move the maximum distance allowed.Move the maximum distance allowed.Move the minimum distance allowed.

There is really no limit to the number of tables that you can do like this; just keep them separate from the normal reaction tables so you don't end up flipping around too much.

Mind you this takes some work beforehand, but all good things typically do. This falls in line with my idea of writing out a detailed battle plan and then writing a decision-making process to go with it. I think that for the most part, however, this can be reused quite a bit. The result will likely be the Typical Army Behavior Jay referred to in his blog entry and the Enemy Behavior in Action article referred to in issue LW 166 of Lone Warrior.

One of the reasons I like this method is because it is so THW-like.

1 Update: I posed a question to the Two Hour Wargame forum and there is another way to voluntarily halt. As I am only presenting ideas here and not complete solutions, I am choosing to ignore this other option for now.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Solo Gaming and Reaction Systems Test (5)

I decided to continue on a little more. It appears that I made two (more) mistakes, one of which were some missing pages.

Roman Turn 2

The Roman Velites were a little beat up (two hits each) in the initial skirmish, having lost in an exchange and been forced to retire. Everything else had not moved.

The basic idea was to advance with the main battle line full speed and have the two wing groups advance, echeloned slightly back. However, the Balearic slingers were in a vulnerable position, with the flank facing the Roman cavalry on the other side of the hill and already having accumulated two hits. So I decided to see if the Roman commander would launch the cavalry for a quick kill.

Given that the Velites retired and no other Roman troops advanced the previous turn, the Roman commander would have to use his three activation points to order the advance of the main battle line and wing supports, so a cavalry attack would mean something else would not activate. Further, due to the position of the Roman commander with relation to the enemy slingers, he was not really in a position to see the vulnerability, nor were the Roman cavalry (due to the intervening hill), so I rated the chance for this cavalry attack to be low. The roll was not sufficiently low enough so the same choices as last turn were presented and accepted (only without an event interrupting the battle plan).

First to advance were the Velites, who made the edge of the woods. In visibility of the enemy skirmishers, but out of missile range. Next was the main battle line. This advanced at full speed, causing the Spanish on the left flank to make a Threat check, but it was passed without a problem. (Had the Romans advanced to within 3" missile range the Spanish would have been able to fire. Note that had the Romans has sufficient movement to either move within threat range but out of skirmish fire range, that would have been an additional decision to be adjudicated. As it was, they were just in Threat range and sufficiently out of javelin range.)

Spanish Turn 2

With all of the Romans so far away, the only logical move was for the slingers and caetrai to get back in action. No exceptional rolls indicated that any other unit would be brought forward yet.

First the slingers moved back into position in front of the Roman Principes. (Still playing the move and fire rules.) The slingers let loose on the Principes, missing them by a hair, but close enough to irritate them.

The Principes rolled an Advance ½ Move result which would have put them past the slingers, so this requires an additional Want to Charge check, which they pass with ease.

The slingers pass partially and fire their slings one last time and head for home. At least they inflicted a hit first!

The Spanish caetrati move against the Roman velites and chuck their javelins, inflicting a single hit. This is enough for the Romans, who roll badly and rout off of the board.

Meanwhile, the scutari chuck their javelins at the flank of the Roman battle line and get suitable attention.

The Romans turn to flank and get an Advance ½ Move result, but fail their Want to Charge test. Here is the situation at the end of the turn.

The Spanish battle line must definitely advance next turn, assuming their reaction to the Roman advance doesn't spoil their plans.

Roman Turn 3

With one wing gone and the main battle line out-pacing their supports, it is time to throw the cavalry forward, before they get far behind. The main Roman battle line is already in motion, so it does not need to be activated; nor does the Hastati on the hill. However, the Principes that turned to flank halted when attempting to charge, so it needs to be activated, as do the two cavalry units. As the Roman commander can activate three bodies, he can activate all of the halted bodies if he wants to. So, is there any reason why he should not activate anyone? A roll of the dice indicate all are going in, however both cavalry units are to merge at the top of the hill on the (Roman) left flank. Note that this "condition" means the body will halt upon reaching its destination, so is akin to moving the reserve.

The poor hapless Romans on the right have heard stories about what happens to soldiers in the woods! They refuse to charge once again.

In the center the Roman line charges and the Spanish stand and fire. The javelin fire is murderous, inflicting one hit on each Principes unit.

The Spanish take the worst of the clash, receiving more hits than taken, but they hold. The Romans left-center, however, has taken too much and gives ground.

Meanwhile, on the Roman left flank the Hastati advance, threatening the scutari guarding the flank, but not in range of being fired upon. (The Romans had a choice here and Mythic indicated that it made no sense to expose the troops to fire.) The Spanish morale held in the Threat check, however.

On the hill, the first of the Roman cavalry units arrives, with the General still out of view of much of the battle.

Spanish Turn 3

The situation for the Spanish actually looks pretty good. Although both sides have lost two skirmishing units, the Romans have been hurt a bit by javelin fire from the Spanish scutari. It will be interesting to see how the Spanish commander acts.
Let me apologize right now for the total screw-up of this game. Thank goodness I was not reviewing and playtesting these rules! Also, I am experimenting with some new software, hence the sudden change in appearance of the graphics. I use a Macintosh, but own some graphics software for Windows which I am very comfortable with, so I tend to use them using Windows 7 under VMware. I finally decided to bite the bullet and search out some graphic software for the Macintosh to replace my beloved copy of Macromedia (yeah, it is that old!) Fireworks so I could do everything in the Macintosh environment. I used Preview to crop pictures and lower the resolution, then used Comic Life 2 to assemble it into a "comic". I think I like the effect, but I am not sure yet. I still need to tweak the page size and resolution so it is not so large. But, you tell me what you think. I think that the comic can provide the visuals and the narrative, while the surrounding text provides the dry descriptions of the solo mechanics.

I think, in hindsight, it was a mistake to allow missile units to move and fire, but only another game will tell, and to be honest, I am not so sure I am fond of these rules. I think I am just too used to DBA and how they play that it is hard to wrap my mind around how these should work.

Clearly I made mistakes in decisions.  Units move much more quickly in these rules, so you cannot afford to dawdle. The key is to put units in motion, but not too soon. You can always slow a unit down to ½ speed if they are outpacing supporting units.

The biggest problem (but I am sure is a design decision) is that units are not maneuverable. I noticed this when I was considering what to do with the Spanish General. It could not wheel left or right 90º (it was trapped by the Spanish scutari line in front) and a 90º face, lateral move, oblique move, and pivot are all not allowed by any troops. I was too bunched up on the Spanish baseline (which was also a function of the smaller board size). Very different from DBA, of course, which allows a single element to move freely. I am not sure which is more realistic.

The Romans lost because the battle line did not expand frontage after they passed through the pass between the woods and the hill. This meant that in the first round of melee it was two units facing three and in the second round, three units facing one. The Romans simply got crushed at those odds.

On a side note, Ed from Two Hour Wargames just announced a new, free addition for Rally Round the King. Here was his press release.
Dave Gray, the co-author of RRtK is working on 120 historical armies spread over four periods. The RRtK Historical Sampler (see the picture on the [THW Yahoo] group home page) should be released within the week. It has 12 historical armies and a new campaign system called the Local Campaign.

Look for it as a free PDF.
This may be just the impetus I need to give these rules another go. That and reading the rules a little closer. All in all, I would probably have to tweak these rules so much that they would not look like the originals. At that point it would only be confusing to someone who uses the Rules As Written.

Looking Forward

I need to find another mechanism to study. There are few rules out there that claim to be solo friendly. As I have been delving deeper into solo gaming I am finding more mechanisms that are solo unfriendly than the opposite. Suggestions are always welcome.

At some point I need to tackle a mainstream game and do something more than simply "play both sides to the best of my ability". That works, but not for long.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Solo Gaming and Reaction Systems Test (4)

New Readers Welcome

Welcome to new readers JF and Jacko. Hope you like the blog.


Shaun brought up some great points in the comments on the last blog entry, mainly that I was playing the rules wrong! Using the provenance of Rally Round the King (Warrior Heroes before it and Warrior Kings before that) he showed that there is no concept of moving and firing and therefore no concept of voluntary fire.

I'll be honest, that rule is bad design and now reminds me of why I set these rules aside.
  1. It does not model skirmishers very well, which generally use movement as a defense mechanism.
  2. It does not model mounted skirmishers at all.
  3. It creates a reverse Gotcha'! with skirmishing against heavy infantry.
What the Heck is a Reverse Gotcha'!?

The first time I heard the term "Gotcha'! Gaming" was from Wally Simon in the old PW Review gaming journal. It basically describes the effect of the worst type of IGO-UGO games (which Two Hour Wargames professes to cure with their reaction system). Take a certain space fantasy miniatures game that is tremendously popular. Their rules allow side A to move up into weapons range of their opponent, fire to full effect, remove casualties from side B, all before side B can do anything. Gotcha'!

A reverse Gotcha'! comes about when you change the action allowance from move and fire to move or fire. Side B gets to yell Gotcha'! when side A moves into range. In RRtK this happens with missile troops if they cannot move and fire. They are forced to stop when within missile range (3" for skirmishers), but if they cannot fire they will get charged by the enemy. So they will have to pass a Being Charged test, which is pretty hard for a thin line of skirmishers. Even if they succeed in the test is it not possible to fire in defense (they are not Dual Armed). Essentially this means that there is no offensive missile fire unless the enemy chooses to stand there in front of you and take it and no defensive fire for skirmishers. Found a missing page!

I think I have shown the concepts that I want to with these rules, which is primarily how to use Mythic to make major decisions like deployment, battle tactics, and precedence for receiving activation (PIPs in DBx parlance).

Given that these rules are broken, I will pass on completing the game. I know that NUTS! is not broken, and I do want to do a skirmish game, so I may pick up the reaction system banner on them soon.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Solo Gaming and Reaction Systems Test (3)

Welcome to new reader 'Lone Wolf Warrior' (aka THAT Graham Empson). Hope you enjoy the blog.

With deployment out of the way it is finally time to get stuck in. As the Romans are attacking, they get to move first. Here is the troop disposition at the start. The Romans are at the top and look "blue".

The turn sequence in Rally Round the King (RRtK) is basically:
  1. Indicate the body (group of units that are touching) that is rightmost and in the front.
  2. If it is not active, the player may spend a point of War Rating to activate it.
  3. If activated, move the body.
  4. If within missile range of an enemy, it will fire.
  5. If currently in melee, it will resolve that melee.
  6. If any movement, charge, melee, or fire causes Reaction Tests, these tests are taken.
  7. After all actions and reactions are resolved, move to the next body. Activation moves from right to left; front to back where two bodies are equally distant from the right flank.
  8. When all bodies are complete, the players turn is complete and play passes to the opposing player.
So, one less decision to make (which unit to think about activating next), as it is governed by the rules.

Roman Turn 1

As the Roman NPG has a War Rating of '3' and there are five separate bodies, only three will be able to activate. As the Roman battle tactics (determined last episode) was that the wings would hold back, while the center attempted to penetrate the enemy battle line, they seem most likely to move forward. The wings are to guard against the main battle line being encircled, so they are next most likely, with the cavalry on the wide flank and in reserve the least likely to advance at this point. So I start asking questions and rolling dice.

The main battle line (Near Sure Thing), Velites (Near Sure Thing), and Hastati (Very Likely) are all selected to be activated.

 Every time a body moves it can elect to go from 50% of the slowest unit's maximum movement to its full movement. For the Romans, there is really little reason to go less than full speed, so the odds will be high. Starting with the right flank, the Velites roll first (Near Sure Thing) and get an Exceptional Yes (taken to mean that there is no cause to roll again until circumstances change), but also getting an even-causing doubles ('NPC Negative', 'Trick', 'Failure', roll indicated it was the Roman NPG that something negative happened to). I roll another die ('76') to determine how "negative" the result is (the higher the more negative) and come to a conclusion that the Romans were trying to pull a stratagem to steal a march on the Spanish (i.e. one free turn of movement) and it failed, back-firing on them. The signal was given and the Velites moved forward, but the remaining troops forfeit their activation.
Generally speaking, I don't like to 'break the rules' as they are given in a game, but I feel this result is justified. The RRtK rules say you can activate up to your War Rating, but it never states you have to use all of the points. In fact, as the battle goes on and all units are in motion, the Commanding General has little to do until he commits himself and his bodyguard to the fray.

Spanish Turn 1

Reviewing the battle plan, the left wing is to advance into the woods and secure it, then harass the Roman battle line from the flank while the slingers harass them from the front. When the Roman line is weakened, the Spanish Scutari and cavalry will counter-attack and sweep away the weakened units. The Scutari on the right are to fend off any opposition that attempts to flank the main Spanish battle line. This makes the three bodies to activate the left flank and the slingers. All others need not activate.

I ask the questions and get that the left flank will advance (Sure Thing), as will the slingers (Near Sure Thing). However, when asking whether everyone else would stand their positions (Likely), I got a No, so I followed up by asking if the Light Cavalry was to swing out to the right flank of the Scutari on the right, in order to guard against the flanking Roman Cavalry and received a Yes.

I follow these up with questions about moving maximum and receive Yes to the Light Cavalry and the left flank. The slingers in the center have two factors to consider:

  1. Moving maximum puts them within charge range of the enemy battle line (6"), but not within missile range (3"), so it makes sense to move only 1/2.
  2. Moving up will put them within missile range of the Velites in the woods, so they will have to stop and fire anyway.
As the Velites were within 1/2 move of the slingers, they could not stay out of their range, so there was no reason to ask a question about their move.

The Light Cavalry, being the rightmost to activate, moved to the right of the Scutari line and formed up as part of that body. (As they are skirmishers, they can move and face in any direction freely, so getting to that position is relatively easy.) At this point I consider the unit Halted and no longer active. Although you automatically halt when you reach a terrain piece designated in your orders, I have always interpreted this to also mean when you reach a designated station (such as at the end of a line).

The slingers move forward until they come within the 45º angle to fire and with only 1" of woods to pass through and then halt. Only the left unit can fire and it inflicts a hit on the leftmost Velite.
This is where the THW reaction system comes into play. The Velites have to take a Received Fire test to see how they react to being under fire. Their result was to return fire on the slingers.
The Velites return fire, inflicting a hit in turn on the leftmost slinger. The slingers now react passing once for the unit hit and passing twice for the unit on the right. The left slinger retires one move, unfortunately carrying it through the right slinger unit, which is a skirmisher, resulting in it routing (and being removed from the board). You can see it in the picture with two green dots (hit markers) at the foot of the hill.

The Caetrati and Scutari on the left flank advance into the woods, spotting the Velites – that clearly ambushed the slingers – toss their javelins and in the ensuing exchange, drive the Velites out of the woods (they retire, each with two hits).

This is not at all how I expected the game would go, at this point, but it is interesting. Results in RRtK tend to be very harsh and decisive. Just as small units don't survive well in some games, small bodies don't in RRtK because you receive a modifier to your reaction test for each supporting unit in contact with you, up to three. That effectively turns a REP 4 unit into a REP 7 unit.
Just a note about the Spanish turn. Let me say in my own defense that the bone-headed move by the slingers was largely due to my unfamiliarity with the rules. I view it as similar to when you learn in DBA that a unit recoiling into another friendly unit that is not lined up 'just so' results in the recoiler being destroyed. (By the way, that is not true in the new beta DBA3.0.)

Had I been more familiar with the rules I would have not tried to get fancy and have the slingers facing the Roman battle line while still firing at a flanking Velite; I would have faced both slingers at the Velites flank and been done with it. Not only would it have doubled the firepower, but the failed roll would not have routed the second slinger unit as the first would not have retired through it.

Ah well. It is one of those lessons you only have to learn once!
At this point I am stopping for the evening. I would like some feedback on whether it is better to get these 'episodes' in more frequent, but smaller chunks or just get it over with even if it takes a week (or more) to get it done. Let me know, either through email or a comment on the blog.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Solo Gaming and Reaction Systems Test (2)

Welcome to new reader "Lentulus". You may have to read back a few entries as I am going to jump straight into where I left off last time.

Troop Deployment

After terrain is decided and baselines indicated, each player starts placing troops. As neither side has significantly out-scouted the other each side places three units at a time, starting with the defender. On page 52 of the Rally Round the King (RRtK) rules, in the Solo Gaming section, there are recommendations on how to use "game driven forces" (i.e. programmed opponents) in deciding the battle tactics, troop deployments (in general terms, see below), and a basic narrative on how the battle should proceed.

The Spanish are rated Battle Tactics "C", which is an army defensive in nature that tries to weaken the enemy with missile fire. They tend to go for the flanks (which was established during our Q&A when the Spanish NPG was determining which baseline to take). A D6 is rolled and compared to a chart to find that the battle plan is 'Counterattack', or a defensive posture to absorb the enemy attack, then countering with a substantial reserve. The troop allocation is 60% of the troops to the center (of which up to 30% can be held in reserve), and 20% on each flank. As the Spanish have 12 units that is 2.4 – 7.2 (3.6) – 2.4 bases per section (from left to right).

The first task is to apportion the troops to each sector, then determine the order that they be placed. Note that the Commanding General must be placed in the first round. So, might as well figure out where the NPG goes first. Points to consider:
  • Loss of the Commanding General causes a reaction check with the entire army, so do not commit him lightly.
  • The stand with the Commanding General gets a large boost in REP (+2), so the unit will generally do what you want it to do (i.e. it will pass most reactions tests).
  • The Spanish Commanding General is attached to the Heavy Cavalry, which is the most powerful unit on the Spanish side, so not committing the unit is a waste.
  • Heavy Cavalry moved poorly through woods
  • The Spanish Commanding General can activate up to three units each turn.
  • The Reserve is the best place for a unit that can react well and can hit hard when it arrives.
  • The battle plan calls for a counterattack once the enemy is worn down.
All of these factors point heavily to the Spanish Commanding General being allocated to the reserve, so there is little reason to ask anything other than the most direct question: Will the Spanish General be placed in the Reserve? (A Sure Thing 90%) Yes (rolled '74').

The next group to consider are the Balearic Slingers. This is a powerful missile unit (although rated as skirmishers) and their placement is considered of prime importance. Here are some points to consider:
  • Skirmisher range is 3", so there will be no long range fire.
  • You want to ensure that these skirmishers stay out of melee for as long as possible.
  • Being uphill not only gives you a melee benefit, but a reaction check benefit as well; woods and open terrain do not.
  • You cannot see out of a woods unless within 1" of the edge. Within a woods you can see up to 6".
  • The javelin-armed Scutari have the same range as the slingers and both are +1 to the die roll, so they effectively have the same firepower.
The issue here is really one of whether you should send the slingers to the woods, to the hill, or in front of the battle line in the center. Given the short range, moving through the woods will not restrict the number of turns they can fire, but will likely restrict them to what they can fire at, given the visibility restrictions. Being in the open in the center gives no advantage compared to being on the hill, but units in the center will more than likely be facing off against the Roman Hastati, which needs to be worn down. On the hill, they would likely face the Roman cavalry and/or the Velites.

Question: Will the Scutari be used to secure the hill? (Likely 75%) Exceptional No (rolled '100').
So, what exactly does an 'exceptional yes' or 'exceptional no' mean? Generally, it means an emphatic answer. How that is interpreted is up to the player. In this case I interpret it to mean that not only will the Scutari not be used to secure the hill, but their reserve will not reinforce it if it is secured by other troops. The problem here is figuring out why they won't do this.

In addition to the 'exceptional no' answer, doubles were rolled. In
Mythic this represents a chance that an event may occur. In our case, it has. A D100 is roll and looked up on the Event Focus table, another D100 is looked up on the Event Meaning: Action table, and a final D100 is looked up on the Event Meaning: Subject table. These three tables produce a phrase which must be interpreted and given meaning in context of the story. (Remember, Mythic is primarily a tool for narrative game play, so the story element is important.)
The phrase rolled for the Spanish: 'Move Away from a [Story] Thread', 'Neglect', and 'Goals'. (Okay, hang on a minute while I put on my tap dancing shoes. Time to get creative!)

So, the first part is to interpret what a 'story thread' means in the context of using Mythic as decision-making tool for miniature wargaming. Up to this point the narrative for the Spanish has been to meet three goals (story threads):

  1. Secure the hill on the right flank and use it as a platform for launching missile attacks on the enemy battle line.
  2. Secure the woods on the left flank and use it as a platform for launching missile attacks on the enemy battle line.
  3. When the enemy battle is sufficiently weakened, counterattack using the reserve.
'Moving away from a story thread' is to de-emphasize one of those threads (but not to end it, that is another entry on the Event Focus table). In this case, one of the goals will be neglected. Put another way, a little bit of error, fog of war, commander incompetence, or what have you, has crept into the battle plan. So, which goal? Given that this whole mess started with an 'exceptional no' when referring to the hill on the right flank, it appears that the 'exceptional' part is that not only will the hill not be secured by the Scutari, it will not be secured at all. A question remains as to what 'secured' means, so we need to sort that out.

Question: Does 'not secured' mean that insufficient troops will be ordered to occupy it? (Likely 75%) Yes (rolled '28')

We already know that Scutari will not be used to secure the hill, nor the Heavy Cavalry, as it is already committed to the reserve, so that leaves the Light Cavalry and the skirmishers. As only 20% or 2 units can be committed to this flank, and that the two Caetrati units are the weaker of the skirmishers, it makes sense that they are the ones committed. Are the two Caetrati units to be committed to the hill? (Very Likely 85%) Exceptional No (rolled '99')!
Note that although doubles are rolled, this does not generate an event as the number in the one's column has to be equal or less than the Chaos Factor (which we have still to discuss), which is currently at '5'.

With two 'exceptional no' results, this is starting to sound very likely that no troops will be sent to this flank.
We have the answer from the RRtK rules that 20% of the force will be allocated to the right flank. We also have the answer that 'not secured' means 'insufficient troops', but I think it is safe to say that no troops qualifies as insufficient. We really only have three units left, the Light Cavalry and the two slinger units. Normally, as you keep asking questions like "is it this unit?", you increase the odds that it is the next most logical unit. However, that would be the process if the answers were simply "no". In this case, both answers were "exceptional no", so rather than choosing the next most logical unit, I think "no troops" jumps to the head of the line. So, I have to ask the question: Are there to be no troops sent to occupy the hill? (Likely 75%) Yes (rolled '31').

At this point it would be the responsibility of the battle report narrative to explain why this is going to occur. But the good thing is, we have something additional in our rule base to work with, for good or ill.

So, we are still left with determining which additional two units to place in the defender's first round. Also, two units must be allocated to the right flank, if we are to fulfill the indicated battle tactics roll made earlier. If we are not making an attempt to seize the hill we are presumably going to have a defensive line facing off against it, probably refused to the rear to avoid contact as long as possible. As skirmishers cannot hold against the Roman cavalry that is likely to attack on the flanks, it needs to be something more substantial. Again, the Scutari make the most sense. Will two Scutari face the hill in defense? (A Near Sure Thing 90%) Exceptional Yes (rolled a '6') I will take the exception to indicate that not only am I right about the two Scutari being in this position, but I have already assessed the plan with them; they are to refuse the right flank and ensure that the center is not attacked in flank.
At this point you might be thinking that this is way too much work, but it actually goes fast. The work is in writing this down for you and vocalizing my thought process. Mind you, that doesn't mean that nothing gets written down. Mythic includes some nice worksheets to help you remember plot lines, decisions, odds that you have set, and so on. I find them handy, even for miniatures play, but especially for a campaign, where the character of the NPG starts to come about.
We now have the right flank set, along with one of the reserve units. Unit placement rules in RRtK help me in some regards, as there is a minimum distance it can be from the sideline. Given the small deployment area, I will simply place the troops as close to the baseline as reasonable (1") and with a 1" gap between the troops and the line that divides the center and right sections.
Let's look at the Romans' battle tactics. They are type A and their roll indicates that the plan is to 'Penetrate the Center' or have the heaviest melee units in the center with a skirmish screen. The wings serve to ensure that the center does not get encircled. 60% of the units are in the center with only 10% in reserve, and 20% on each flank. That is 2.4 - 7.2 (1.2) - 2.4 in unit distribution, from left to right.
At this point I will only point out exceptional events and die rolls.
Again, as the Commanding General must be placed in the first round, I determine if he is in the Reserve (to me, the most logical place) and find that he is. When it comes to deploying troops, I will save the flanks for last. I place some heavy infantry in the center and the board now looks like so.
As we place three units each round, there will be a total of four rounds of placement. The idea is to keep building off of the previous decisions and in response to the enemy's deployment, if appropriate.

Rather than drag this out, the Spanish decided to attack a little more strongly on the left, sending their Caetrati and one Scutari as far forward as possible, to capture the woods and harass the Romans as they pass between the hill and the woods. The Romans countered with their Velites opposing them. Hopefully they will be able to occupy the Spanish sufficiently that the Roman line will pass through unscathed.

On the Roman left they opposed the refused flank of the Spanish with two heavy infantry and the Roman cavalry. The cavalry will attempt to occupy the Scutari while the Hastati flank the Spanish battle line.

In the center the Principes and Triarii (dark red) will march quickly forward and smash into the Spanish line. No real finesse needed here.
Deployment is finally done and the battle plans laid out. The Romans will move first as they are the attacker.

Shaun (of the Shaun's Wargaming with Miniatures blog fame) made an interesting comment in that it does take time to blog out your games, especially when you are trying to put your thought process down too. I point this out not for sympathy or plaudits, but to assure those that read this that it really doesn't take that much additional time and effort to do something like this. In fact, if I gained anything from Bob's articles in Lone Warrior on NW frontier gaming using The Sword and the Flame and Mythic it was that over time you build up a "catalog" of sorts of tables, tips, tricks, and techniques all that build towards a richer gaming experience. I game solo not because I have no face-to-face opponents – I am blessed to have quite a few clubs and hobby shops within easy travel and can find more games to join in any given weekend than I can actually play – but rather that this is the only way I can get such a rich and detailed game that really only I seem to enjoy (around here). Like this blog, I do it for me!

See you next time. I have to carve some wood (see the Wooden Warriors blog) and sling some paint (see the Dale's Wargames blog). I hope to get another game of DBA 3.0 (the latest beta) and post that on the Dale's DBA blog. (Okay, I'm done plugging my blogs now...)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Solo Gaming and Reaction Systems Test (1)

So, we've looked at the basics of the reaction system, such as found in Two Hour Wargames' rules Rally Round the King (RRtK) and NUTS!, but also in Ambush Alley (apparently), and discussed using a Game Master emulator called Mythic to help us make decisions for the Non-Player General (NPG) using logic to set probabilities then dice to determine the actual course of action selected. Let's get a game on and work through some of the issues!

Rules Changes

For this battle report I am going to use RRtK because it is a bit more manageable to start and I have a number of 15mm DBA armies that I can us to play out the game. However, the one problem to sort out is the scale. Like my internet buddy Shaun (who also has a blog about solo gaming and ancients), I prefer to play on a 2' by 2' table with 15mm armies, especially when they are DBA-sized (12 bases or so), but RRtK specifies a 4' by 3' table for the same figure scale and fewer units. This is largely because the movement scale is about triple that of DBA. (DBA's heavy infantry moves 200 paces or 2" per turn for a unit with 40mm frontage while RRtK moves about 6" per turn for a unit with the same 40mm frontage.) Shaun's solution was to reduce the movement in RRtK by about a third, which slows unit movement in relation to their width. I think I am simply going to play it straight.

This change can be offset partially by reducing the deployment area. In the standard rules, a player can deploy in a 24" wide by 9" deep box. By allowing no unit to deploy within 3" of either sideline (rather than within 12") and no farther than 6" from their baseline, the deployment area is reduced to 18" wide by 6" deep. However, the separation between forces remains at least 12".

Given a smaller deployment area, I should think about using fewer units, but as RRtK is a fantasy game, there are no historical army lists (only equivalents of a sort), so I really only have DBA and DBMM to go on. That said, I really want to get the game going, so straight DBA lists it is. I'll actually have a reserve to work with!

The Forces

I decide to play the old stand-by: Republican (Polybian) Romans (DBA list II/33) versus Ancient Spanish (DBA list II/39(a)). The stats I will use for the troops are as follows:

Cavalry w/General x 1Mounted Melee54312"Dual, WR=3
Cavalry x 1Mounted Melee42312"Dual
Hastati/Principes x 6Foot Melee4446"CW
Triarii x 2Foot Melee5446"ET Me
Velites x 2Foot Skirmisher4228"None
Cavalry w/General x 1Mounted Melee54312"Dual, WR=3
Light Cavalry x 1Mounted Skirmisher42212"None
Scutari x 6Foot Melee4238"Dual
Caetrati x 2Foot Skirmisher4228"None
Balearic Slingers x 2Foot Skirmisher4228"ET Mi

I will be honest, a lot of the ratings above have to do with personal prejudices. I am listening to an audio book about Hannibal and the Second Punic War, so I cannot rate the Romans as REP 5 for the base troops and REP 6 for the Triarii; they just were not that good, in my mind. Of course, as the war wore on, they certainly got better.

I was also unsure of whether to rate the Spanish scutari as having a Combi-Weapon or Dual. The former simply gives a +1 to the first round of melee combat while the latter allows the unit to fire missiles. I believe it is the latter as it would allow them to rain down missiles on the Romans from difficult terrain whereas the former would not.

Battle Setup

Following the instructions on page 27 of the rules, I follow the battle setup procedure.
  1. Determine the scouting value of each army. Romans = 5, Spanish = 7
  2. Determine who is attacking. Romans = 3 + 5 (on 1D6) = 8, Spanish = 3 + 3 (on 1D6) = 6. The Romans are attacking.
  3. Divide the table into nine sections and dice for each.
    1. Rough - Hill
    2. Hilly - Clear
    3. Rough - Clear
    4. Hilly - Woods
    5. Hilly - Clear
    6. Hilly - Hill
    7. Open - Clear
    8. Rough - Clear
    9. Hilly - Clear
  4. Defender chooses a baseline.
  5. Right of refusal. Attacker declares whether he accepts the board configuration.
Up through step 3 there are no real decisions to make. It is once we get to step 4, defender selects his baseline, that we have to start making some decisions for the NPG.

Terrain Placement

Using the rolls from above, we have a basic picture of the terrain. (Sections are numbered from top to bottom, left to right.)

As this is a 2' by 2' board, each section is 8" by 8". Note that the rules state that each section is filled with the terrain indicated, either one large piece or several small pieces. "The important thing is to understand that the whole section is composed of that type of terrain."

Choose a Baseline

So, now we arrive at where Mythic comes in. We have to decide which baseline the defender (the Spanish) will choose. Let's review the factors.
  1. The defender is only allowed to choose either the top or the bottom of the board as their baseline.
  2. The Spanish have more faster, lighter troops that can benefit from cover with which to fire from.
  3. The Spanish have more faster, lighter troops that can secure the terrain than the Romans.
  4. The Spanish main battle line does poorly in the open than does the Roman main battle line.
  5. The top baseline has more terrain that affects movement and defense. 
  6. The attacker moves first.
When using Mythic, I have found that you have two basic choices for using their system:
  1. Ask direct questions about which specific choice to make.
  2. Ask questions that produce facts and then derive decisions from that.
The first method simply has the player state which choice is most logical to choose and asks "Is this what the NPG does?" Although you may quickly run through in your mind why a particular choice is the best, you don't establish the reason why you make the choice, only that the choice is made. Using the second method requires you 'vocalize' your decision making process and helps you establish a 'rules base' with which to build upon later. Using these facts you then make the most logical choice. This is best illustrated with an example decision and using the two methods to arrive at a choice.

The decision to be made is: "which baseline do I choose, the top or the bottom?"

The first method asks direct questions, but we cannot ask the one above as Mythic requires you pose questions such that it can be answered with "yes" or "no". So, we have to ask either "Do I choose the top baseline?" or "Do I choose the bottom baseline?". Mythic further requires that we ask the most logical question first. If either choice is equally logical, it does not really matter this question I pose first. Each will generally have a 50% chance of being answered "yes". But, is either choice equally to the defender's advantage?

Looking at the board we see that the center row has two terrain pieces. Viewing just those two sections from either the top or bottom baseline, there is no difference; both are equi-distant from either baseline. Where the difference comes in is section 1 versus the opposite, section 9. Section 1 contains a hill whereas section 9 does not. So, is it advantageous to have a hill in your right deployment area, as opposed to it being clear? All of these thoughts about why one or the other is advantageous will give you a 'gut feel' for why one baseline is better than the other. How strongly you feel about one side over another will help you determine a ranking, which will set your probability. Here are the common odds rankings used by Mythic: Impossible, No Way, Very Unlikely, Unlikely, 50/50, Somewhat Likely, Likely, Very Likely, Near Sure Thing, Sure Thing, and Has To Be. This value is cross-referenced against the chaos factor currently in use. (I'll get into the chaos factor later. Just know that it is at '5' for now and that it, cross-referenced with a 50/50 odds rank produces a 50% chance of the question being answered "yes".)

My basic rationale for which baseline is better is that my goal would be to anchor the flanks of the Spanish battle line between the woods and the hill at the center line. Given that the Spanish have faster troops (overall), they stand a better chance of reaching the terrain sooner, plus with troops that fight better in that terrain, have a better chance of dominating in them. (This means they could 'un-anchor' the enemy's main battle line by flanking from the woods and the hill.) That all said, they would want the hill in their deployment area as it does not slow them down (seemingly) and it gives them a fall-back defensive position. So, to the question "Should the Spanish choose the top baseline?" I would rate the odds as "Has To Be", giving a 95% chance of a "yes" answer. (Note that if the hill produced a movement penalty, then I would have to weigh the advantage of the defensive fall-back position against the delay in reaching the primary position (the woods) and adjust the odds accordingly.)

For the Spanish NPG I will use the second method for all decision making. Using that method I would attempt to establish a few facts first, then draw a conclusion once I have enough facts established. Questions I would ask would be:

  • Should I attempt to seize the hill on the opposite flank from the woods in force? (Very Likely)
  • Should I attempt to seize the woods in force? (Very Likely if the previous question was "no", but only "Likely" if it were "yes" as I am now splitting my forces to two opposing flanks, which tends to be less successful.)
  • Should I move my main battle line as far forward as the center sections? (The odds rank is hard to state now, as it depends upon the answers of the first two questions. The decision tree starts getting complex...)
  • [Assuming the previous question was answered "yes"] should I anchor my main battle line back from the centerline? ('Back' meaning on the Spanish side of the centerline.)
  • Is it important to have a hill to fall back upon [assuming the Spanish attempt to seize the woods in force]?
The questions might continue on from there, depending upon the answers. Note that this is not only establishing the answer to which baseline to choose, but because it provides the basis for that decision it can be used for others, for example on how troops should be deployed.

Personally, I like using rule bases and layering decisions one on another. I think it produces a more cohesive opponent and less of an erratic one, which could happen with an unlucky roll for a particularly critical question. (Mind you, if ever I get a roll that would wreck a game, I discard it.) So, I take the second approach when it makes sense. The important thing is not to over-think it. If you are struggling to find more questions to ask, but the previous rolls don't provide an obvious path to take, just ask the question directly and move on.

So, which edge will the Spanish choose for their baseline?

  1. I think the hill in section 6 is key, as it can provide cover (reverse slope), allows me to fire missiles from it, provides an uphill advantage in melee, and does not penalize movement. Given my movement rate, I should get there first with the bulk of my troops. Should I attempt to seize and occupy the hill in section 6 in force? (Very Likely or 85% "yes") Yes (rolled a '25')
  2. I think the Romans will try and flank the hill in section 6 on the left (section 5), so the woods in section 4 would, in turn, be a good way to spoil that flanking attack. That said, 'in force' means either quantity or quality (or both). Should I attempt to seize and occupy the woods in section 4 in force? (Likely or 75% "yes") Yes (rolled a '54')
  3. At this point it indicates that I am being aggressive in trying to hold the terrain forward of my deployment area, so the emphasis is getting the troops forward, not defending back. Having the hill in my opponent's deployment zone might cause him to hesitate rushing forward to take the woods, which is now the Spanish goal. Do I believe having the hill in my opponent's deployment zone will cause him to hesitate seizing the woods? (Unlikely or 35%) Yes (rolled a '24')
At this point it is clear to me that the bottom (sections 7, 8, and 9) as their baseline.

Right of Refusal

The last pre-deployment decision to make is for the Roman to decide if this arrangement is so disadvantageous that they refuse the battle, which starts the process all over again. To highlight the differences between the two methods of Mythic decision making, I will use the first method for the Roman NPG.

Internally I would go through the same thought process, but I would have to internalize the probabilities as always take the most probable path. This reduces to a simple question which then determines whether I have found the correct path in the decision tree or have to select another.

As the two sides are nearly identical, save for the hill in the deployment area, you essentially have to weight the disadvantages of the current configuration with the odds that something worse will be rolled up the next time. Additionally, as you can refuse battle twice, how many refusals remain play a factor.

So the questions are:

  • Are the odds better or worse that more terrain will be rolled up if we start over?
  • Does the hill in the Roman deployment area create a disadvantage to them?
In the nine sections rolled, eight of them rolled a 3+, resulting in Hilly or Rough terrain; only one was Open. On average, three sections should have been Open. That said, of the eight Hilly or Rough sections, only three (less than 50%) were actually some form of terrain feature. Overall, I think the terrain is rather sparse; it is just unfortunate that the two flank sections on the centerline have terrain to anchor on. Normally that is good, except against a light force like the Spanish. If the Romans were to refuse the terrain, it would be for that reason. That just means that the Romans will probably have to refuse one flank to ensure they do not get  attacked from difficult terrain on both flanks.

So: Do the Romans refuse this battle? (Very Unlikely or 15%) No (you don't really think I rolled, do you?)
With the battlefield set and it determined that the Spanish baseline is the bottom and the Romans the top, we are ready to move on to troop deployment, next time ...