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 45ยบ 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.


  1. Hello Dale,

    From a purely content related perspective, I prefer longer articles, even if they are less frequent. I think readers (well, at least me) benefit from seeing a concept explored start to "finish" in one place.

    However, considering the medium, and more importantly, the method of accessing that medium, i.e. that some people (myself included) are reading this on their cell phones or small screen e-readers,the shorter more frequent posts do have some advantages.

    Honestly, I think the best location for the kind of thoughtful exploration and development of solo mechanisms that you're doing here is the pages of Lone Warrior. But, I don't think I could wait 3 months to read your next installment!



    1. Dale

      Longer is better for me - I love detail but you probably guessed that from reading my blog! So the length you have them now is fine. Don't care how long it takes between posts.

      On a rules note, I noticed something in the move sequence and then in the actual move. I do not have access to the rules right now but I am sure units cannot move and fire - they only move OR fire. Units can only fire at the start of their move. Archers and skirmishers have to fire in range, but think there is some rule about being able to charge rather than fire. Or maybe it is just that if they do not move, they have to fire in range. Thinking on it, I am fairly confident the latter. Later lookups of the rules may prove me wrong... It also gets tricky - and I don't think it has come up in my RRtK games, but it did when I was playing Warrior Kings - a unit that moved cannot fire in reaction to a reaction test is causes. This was explicitly confirmed in an example in the WK FAQ. So if a archer moved within 4" of an enemy unit, that unit performs an enemy threat test and fires on the first unit, the archer that just moved cannot fire back as it has moved. Of course, it could fire later on a different unit's activation. I am not sure if this is the same in RRtK but likely. Anyway, I will let you look it up. I'll look it up later too :-)

    2. I shall look it up too, but Threat tests in RRtK are against melee units in charge range, not any enemy unit. So, I did not take such a test with the Roman Velites as they were opposed by skirmishing slingers.

      Against the Scutari on the left flank, well that is another issue.


    3. You are right on the melee units only generating an enemy threat test. I wasn't trying to relate my example to your game, sorry if you thought I was, it was just an example.

    4. Shaun, either you are reading too much into the rules, or I am reading in too little. What the rules say are that you must fire when you start the turn within range and you don't decide to charge (and thus end up moving). I don't see where it either says: a) you cannot move and fire (voluntarily), and b) that it cannot be at the end of the turn (if voluntary). Remember that the unit is forced to halt when it hits missile range. It also is forced to fire at the start of its next turn (if it does not elect to charge). I don't see any rules about the voluntary side of missiles, to be honest.

      Good old THW. Clearly you and I are reading this differently. You that mandatory fire is the only fire and me that mandatory fire just forces a behavior pattern on skirmish and missile troops. te me know if you ask Ed and get an answer...

    5. Dale,

      I have read the rules and you are right - mandatory fire is as you say. But I do not think there is any voluntary fire in the game. Mandatory fire and firing as a result of a reaction test are in my mind the only way to shhot, but you are correct the rules are silent on moving and firing. Note that Warrior Kings has the same wording for firing but does not have the heading mandatory fire. This gives a different take on the wording. Quote of equivalent rules from Warrior Kings:

      "21.0 MISSILE COMBAT
      Missile fire is mandatory. Because of this; a
      Missile or Skirmish unit may sometimes fire several
      times in the same turn.
      “Mandatory Fire” takes place when a Missile or
      Skirmish unit begins the turn in range of an enemy but
      not in contact. In this case the unit must fire.
      Fire as the result of a reaction test is explained
      in the “Administering Reaction Tests” section. "

      The example of play (missing from RRTK) shows you cannot move and fire (Skirmishers move up to within range of an enemy unit but cannot fire). And in the FAQ for Warrior Heroes (the fantasy successor to Warrior Kings) it has this:

      Q: I'm sure its in the rules, but can missile/skirmish units
      fire after they have moved (Halted due to being in
      range of the enemy?). I did see that if they turn on a
      Halt result to face, they cannot fire, so I'm assuming
      they cannot move & fire. Is this correct?
      A:Correct, no move and fire. If they halt then they can fire
      on the next turn or in reaction to the enemy.

      (Note this means a unit that moves can fire back in reaction to enemy fire unlike what I was suggesting in my previous post.)

      There are a couple of other places in the FAQ where it indicates a moving unit cannot then shoot. So that is where I am coming from. But I agree absolutely with you, RRtK is not clear. It implies you cannot move and shoot but does not state it. WK is clear only in the example and then a subsequent FAQ that is no longer available. Just because WK is a predecessor to RRtK, does not mean things are the same. As an example, WK does not cover how an Archer or Skirmisher could ever voluntarily charge as they always must perform mandatory missile fire. This was cleared up in the FAQ where the answer what that an Archer/Skirmisher could charge in lieu of performing mandatory missile fire. And this made it into RRtK.

    6. Good enough for me ... next game.

  2. I'll put in a vote for piecemeal. Although there are advantages to having the whole battle laid out, I find that sometimes I don't have the stamina to read a long post. Especially if I'm just trying to keep up to date on the blog before doing something. Either way I eventually read it.

  3. Having just found your blog, I'm really enjoying the longer postings...

    Many thanks for all the time and effort that goes into these!

    And now I have a better idea of why I bought Mythic ages ago, and haven't yet done anything with it ;-))