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...)


  1. Thanks for keeping this going. Your tap dance didn't seem off the mark, but I do sympathize with being put off by the random events. I'll also have to do a better job of tracking my own mythic stuff. It can be quite interesting where it takes you.

  2. Dale,

    Keep it up, it is fascinating seeing the detailed decision-making written down. If you are ever in Oz, you might get a rich and detailed game with me (but not DBA! 'though 3.0 may get me to turn).

    1. I've been through Sydney and worked in Melbourne, but never been in Queensland. Hmmmmm...

  3. I am in Brisbane, where the weather is fantastic (OK, apparently Florida is better). No rush in coming :-) Barring accidents, we will all be around in 10-15 years which is when I plan to travel the world again. And by then the technology might allow easy remote playing of miniatures but I would miss pushing lead. I would be one of those grumpy old men - "back in MY day, we had to move the figures with our own hands, and move around the table on our own two legs."

  4. But...but....who won???? :-)

    This is a great series of articles and almost certainly a sale of Mythic for me as this is exactly the kind of story driven games that I prefer to play. (I liked your comment about why you play solo!) I'm growing increasingly dissatisfied with Two Hour Wargame rules, not least because they often fail to give adequate explanation and example of critical game concepts.

    But one thing that has worked, more or less, is the PEF system. Do you have any ideas for using Mythic in conjunction with PEFs? I can see driving the movement of PEFs using Mythic and that might be superior to the THW system which sometimes leaves PEFs "stuck" in one place due to the limited options PEFs are given in the table.

    1. The Spanish. When I stopped I had come to realize that my "move and fire" change to the rules was too deadly. The game ended with the Romans losing two Velite and two Principe units and the Spanish only losing two Balaeric slinger units. Hardly a fair exchange given that the battle was largely on open ground.

      I am preparing another article on other chance methods and will replay RRtK (or should it be Rally Round the Roman Consul?) before moving on to skirmish gaming and PEFs.