Tomorrow Rob is going to do the Wizardy sort of thing and appear magically at my wargames table while his body remains 100's of km away. In preparation I have not only been painting and basing troops and selecting a scenario but also reviewing the test games so far. By and large I am happy with the direction the rules are going but I want to add a bit more "flavour" and distinction to various troop types without getting more complicated, or much more. This means as much as possible playing with unit stats and capabilities rather than new general rules. There are also one or two disconcerting things about multi-unit combat that have had me pondering since May.
The issues are threefold but related. It seems to be too easy to gang up on 1 enemy unit, too easy to flank it and it is often too easy to ignore supporting troops thus robbing formations of some of their value. This latter point particularly bothers me trying to maintain battle lines seems to have been a major feature of ancient warfare. No doubt to avoid the easy flanking mentioned above.
Since I want to stay as close to the original as I can while developing a game I like better, I went back for a look. The issues are dealt with in the original in 3 ways. First, for a flanking attack, every part of the attacker's base must be behind the enemy's front. Secondly a unit may not pass within 3" of 1 unit to attack a different unit and lastly melees are fought 1 unit vs 1 unit so if you gang up 2 on 1 the melees are fought sequentially not simultaneously. There is a fourth rule that sort of affects the sort of overwhelming attack I have had problems with, in the original the attacks are carried out 1 die at a time until 1 side is eliminated. So if a 1 SP unit is attacked by a 4SP unit, it doesn't roll 1 die vs 4 hoping to survive as the best possible outcome, instead it fights a series of 1 vs 1 fights and if tough, might win all of the fights and wipe out the enemy. A unit may also fight back as often as it is attacked and if an attacker wins it may initiate melee against anther unit which is in range It is a less deterministic, more heroic approach.
It occurred to me today that the abbreviated QRS version of the Engagement zone is rather less explicit one than the unwritten full one from HofT that I have been applying direct from memory and that the squares make this sort of thing Soooooo much easier. But I'm not going there yet so I'll just flush it out a bit while referring back to Joe.
Beyond that, I am going to try 2 tweaks for melee. Instead of every one rolling at once I am going to try having 2 pairs of units resolve combat, if they survive the next attacking unit will get a go and the defender will get to fight back again. I thought about trying the pushback rule in melee again but I'll let it slide for now.
Now on to more differentiation between troop types and tactics.
Skirmishers. I'm still not happy with the difference between massed archers and skirmishers and horse archers. In the last game Rob fielded some skirmish units on each side that only had 2SP each. That's close to what I had been thinking about the first time I limited shooting and movement but really just makes them a weaker archer unit since otherwise they are the same, What I am going to try is to put massed archers back to shoot OR move but with 4SP while skirmishers and horse archers may shoot AND move but with a shorter range and only 2SP per unit. To avoid having them too vulnerable I will compensate by giving them an evade rule in melee.
Armour and Cover. During the last game Rob reversed the armour saves so that low is good. I grumbled but went along and in truth it does not make any difference (unless you are using loaded dice!). However it does make sense to save a benefit increases your saving throw number. More importantly, he gave troops in cover a saving throw bonus rather than a modifier on their "to hit" throw and in retrospect that is simpler and more consistent. I'll leave it to any bored statisticians to work out the difference in final probability.
Unit Type Tactics. One of the things I have been most unhappy with is that in the original Morschauser rules all troops are essentially the same in melee apart from some being stronger or faster. I have started introducing some differentiation and I want to go farther.
Cavalry. Even medieval knights, are known more for repeated charges than for prolonged rugby scrum type melees so I will add a charge bonus hopefully encouraging them to occasionally rally back.
Massed Infantry. I have been struggling to come up with a way to represent the solidity of massed infantry. A line of units should help protect individuals from being flanked thus providing a purpose for a phalanx but what about a deep phalanx or a pike square? If I had a retreat result for melee then a second rank could counter it, or the rear rank they could maybe add 1 die to the unit in front? or soak up hits? I haven't stumbled on just the right rule yet.
Rather than hide yet another quick reference sheet here, I have added a page containing the short version of the rules and will correct it and slowly bulk it up as I go from here, including tips for playing it on a grid.