My blog about my wargaming activities. I collect a lot of 15mm miniatures for the American War of Independence and so collect a lot of rules for this period. I started miniatures with Napoleonics, so I have a number of armies in 6mm and 15mm figures for skirmishing. I have15mm WW II figures that I use for Flames of War, Memoir '44, and someday, Poor Bloody Infantry. Finally there is my on-again, off-again relationship with paper soldiers that I sometimes write about.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Cold Wars Report (2)

Game 2 - Fantasy Mass Battle (Pride of Lions)

I was never really sure whether Ganesha Games published Pride of Lions or not, as it announced these rules when they came out, and sold them on their web site, but it was made clear that: a) they were not based on the Song of Blades and Heroes engine, and b) Ganesha Games was working on its own mass fantasy battle rules, Song of Armies and Hordes. Well, I am pretty sure that Ganesha Games is just a distributor, given the relationship between them and the author, who is also author of Song of the Splintered Lands.

Pride of Lions is a mass fantasy rules set that uses units consisting of multiple figures on bases, several bases per unit. Battles can be quite large and use lots of figures. Combat is unit to unit, but bases represent a combat step loss system. Attributes, like melee, ranged combat, and morale, is expressed in terms of a die type (e.g. D4, D6, D8, D10, etc.) and modifiers carry the die type up or down (for example a positive modifier changes a D6 to a D8). Most magic is handled by rolling the die and beating a target number. Most combat is handled by opposed die rolls between the two sides, looking at the difference between the rolls to determine the combat result. Morale consists of rolling the die type and comparing the result to a chart, with low numbers producing bad results. So, the smaller the die type, the more likely a bad morale test results.

Magic is rather involved, and to be honest, I am not quite sure that I got all of the subtleties straight. Essentially at the beginning of each turn the mages/shamans/[whatever] select a spell from their spell deck (which is set by race and mage type). When all players reveal their spells, you resolve those that affect other spells first (like blocking spells), then all the other spells.

Each mage has a die type and is the type rolled for the first spell cast per turn. A typical mage had a D20. Each spell has a difficulty factor, which is the number to be beaten on the die roll. So if the spell was Difficulty 8, a roll of 9+ would mean that the spell was successfully cast. Once the mage fails a roll, he can cast no more spells that turn.

The kicker is that a mage can cast as many spells as he dares every turn, until he fails. But, after each successful spell cast the mage drops one die type for the next spell cast. Thus, the first spell is a D20, the second a D16, the third a D12, etc. Now, if all you had to worry about was failing then no one would ever forego casting every spell they could, so the author put in a backlash effect – the "Brain Burn" – so that when you rolled the maximum number of the die the mage would permanently drop one die type. (Normally a mage starts at D20 and drops for every spell cast that turn, but starts back at D20 the following turn. A Brain Burn drops the mage one level permanently.)

The scenario was pretty simple: the Evil Horde is attacking the Allied Forces of Good (Dwarves, Elves, and Halflings), who are defending their woods, sacred groves, magical springs, and the like. Pretty much wall-to-wall troops with a fair reserve. The goal: crush the other side.

Overall Battlefield at Start
I took command of the Elves, with the Spear units, Swords, numerous Archer units, Dryads, Treemen, and even cavalry mounted on elk. With no real reason to come to grips quickly (archery range was long) I, along with the rest of the Forces of Good, stood our ground and fired away at anything that moved.

My Elven Command
The  Evil Horde had nothing to do save charge forward. However, three factors came into our favor: a) beer made our opponents overly aggressive; b) we got a slow start with stragglers coming into the game late, commands needing to be adjusted, and long times spent on the magic phase; and c) their cavalry moved much faster than their infantry, so both would not strike our line at the same time unless the enemy slowed their cavalry down (see above comments about beer and a slow start to figure out where this is going).

The Evil Horde Advances
 At first, things looked grim for the Halflings. The Evil Hordes, being natural bullies (and filled with beer no less) asked where the weakest morale troops were and both the Dwarven player and I obliged by pointing to the Halfling player. (This, by the way, was the origin of the great Halfling-Elven Rift of 1029.) The Evil Hordes' magic started flowing towards the Halfling player and units started routing. Eventually we got the hang of defensive magic and the enemy's dice started getting cold, so the right flank held.

The Halflings on the Right Flank Hold On
The Orc and  Goblin cavalry charged my Elven command and was promptly skewered. With crossfire coming from a Dwarven catapult on a hill, the Evil Hordes' charge broke on the wall of missiles and faded away. Although the infantry was now within two or three turns of striking, time was called as players needed to get to their next scheduled game.

The Elven Command at the Battle's End
The game was called a clear victory for the Forces of Good. Our missiles had bested them and our magic had checked theirs. With no more patience, and full of beer, the Evil Hordes called it quits and left, after lighting a few fires in the woods.

Summary

A classic convention problem where the game started with the forces too far apart, leaving most of the action and excitement in the magic and movement phases (and the latter was not exciting). I think that the stand-out problem was that magic took too much time, especially in the first few turns. The more I thought about it, however, the more I agreed that there should be more magic early on, where the mages are fresh and prepared, than later, when they are fatigued and trying to quickly react to events. But, from a convention gaming point, there is no reason for the game not to start with the two forces 1" farther than missile range apart.

There were a few things blurry with me regarding the rules, but nothing major. Apparently the order system and turn sequence is similar to Johnny Reb III. Each player places an order chit by each unit – Advance, Rush, Charge, Stand and Shoot, etc. – and the turn sequence dictates who moves and fires in which order. For example, Chargers move before Advancers and Stand and Shooters fire before Advancers.

Maneuvering was very rigid – move or wheel, but not both – which I am seeing more and more of in rules. Being a DBA admirer, I find this very difficult to deal with unless I play a steady dose of it.

So, did I buy the rules? No. I liked the order concept as a way of making movement and firing semi-simultaneous, but in the end I like Hordes of the Things and Warhammer (older editions; I have not tried the latest) for mass fantasy battles. A big factor in not buying them, simply for ideas or a magic system, was that the author indicated that the second edition would be coming out and that it would have an upgrade cost of about 80% (if I understood him correctly) the current first edition cost. I can wait.

More pictures while I wandered around.

Very nice terrainAnother shot of the grassy fields
Nice crops and fencesEventually became a World War Two skirmish game
Nice "Green Army Men" lookImpressive modern scenario with Hind
Large World War One aircraft in this aerial duelNapoleonics on hexes using Commit the Garde!
Lots of impressive games that I did not get to snap pictures of. As this year is supposed to be "The Year of Terrain" for me, I was really looking more at the boards than at the miniatures on them. That is why so many of my pictures are of the boards before any miniatures are on them.

Next up was Bob Beattie's War of the Worlds using the rules Hordes of the Things. I'll post that over on the Dale's DBA blog when I have written it.

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Huachuca City, Arizona, United States
I am 50 yrs old now. I bought a house in Huachuca City, AZ (although I have a townhouse in Houston, TX and a small home in Tucson, AZ) working on a contract for "the next two years" that is going on five years now. To while away the hours I like to wargame -- with wooden, lead, and sometimes paper miniatures -- usually solo. Although I am a 'rules junkie', I almost always use rules of my own (I like to build upon others' ideas, but it seems like there is always something "missing" or "wrong").