The basic flow went like this:
- I drew the map out on a square grid (24 squares by 24 squares), indicating all of the grid coordinates, terrain, and deployment zones.
- As the Red player Shaun rolled in a private dice room on Rolz what his Red force composition was.
- I rolled for the Blue force composition in the same dice room. (This allowed us to both see each other's die rolls.)
- Shaun then deployed his forces and indicated their location and direction on the map.
- I deployed my forces on the map and published it.
- As Blue is the first player, I used the dice room's chat to indicate everything that was done. I would step through the phases and indicate which unit was moving, from where to where, and how they ended up facing. If a unit charged I would indicate 'charge to' instead of 'move to' so that it was clear that it would act in the Hand-to-Hand Phase also. As I never had any Archers, I never had any shooting. When it came to hand-to-hand combat I would indicate the unit by its location, state it was attacking, state the unit being attacked by its location, indicate the dice and modifiers, and virtually roll the dice. An example entry might be:
- Blue Knights in C7 attacks Red Knights in C6 inflicting [(D6+2)/2] hits.
- The formula in the '[ ]' told the dice room to roll the virtual dice and print the results.
- After I had done each attack in turn I would update the number of hits on each enemy unit on the map, end the turn, and then publish the map.
- I would then send an email to Shaun with a copy of the map so that he could verify the positions of the units and their hits matched the commentary and die rolls in the dice room.
- Shaun would then take his turn, repeating steps 6-9.
- Shaun and I would then repeat steps 6-10 for each of the 15 turns. (Well, given that we had Knights, it did not last that long.)
Note: this is the second game, in progress, which uses a 6 square by 6 square board. But you get the idea.
Was the creation and updating of graphics tedious? Not at all (for me). I simply made a copy of the previous turn's map and then moved the pieces around. Vectr is a very easy program to use. Sure, I could have made it prettier by coloring the board a grass green and using contours for the hills, but initially the map was just supposed to be used as a visual check on our moves and not to be the whole game.
If anything was a snag, it was the use of a grid where a unit straddles multiple squares. In the past I have always played OHW as "one square holds one unit and one unit resides in one square", so I was set mentally on how things worked. By changing the grid size it opened a lot of exceptions that complicated the mechanics. We have since switched to a 6" square grid for this game. The medieval variant has no units with 9" of movement and this scenario has no roads, so no +3" movement bonus occurs, so 6" measurement increments work fine. If I had to handle 3" increments, I would use a marker that grants an extra 6" square of movement the second time a unit gets 9" of movement (a carryover of sorts). Most units using road movement won't be moving on a road a second turn, so effectively you can ignore it. However, for periods that have units with 9" of movement, they will be able to get a burst of movement every other turn, as if they are alternately sprinting and resting.
Before I start please note that both Shaun and I wrote 'programs' to control the behavior of our forces' units. So if they seem to have acted strangely at times, it is probably a rough spot that needed to be smoothed over. Also, we allowed ourselves to add to the program during play to cover situations that we had not accounted for – writing a programmed opponent is not trivial – but hopefully nothing changed drastically. I don't think Shaun took advantage of that rule, but I did as I struck upon a concept that I had been trying to mentally describe for a while now. So, I was happy with finding a breakthrough. I will be covering that in more depth on my Solo Battles blog.
The scenario we played was number 7, Flank Attack 2. In this scenario the attacker, Blue, has crept up on the flank of Red, presumably under the cover of a fog because they get close and get to attack first. Blue's forces are split, 2 units to the South on a small hill, and 4 units to the East. Red's forces are all on a large hill to the North. Blue must end turn 15 with no Red units on the large hill. Anything else results in a Red victory. Because Blue moves first and Red last, Blue must pretty much eliminate all 6 Red units in 15 turns.
As indicated above, we are playing the medieval variant of OHW.
As you can see in the image above, Red (Shaun) has four Knights, one Levy, and one Archers unit. I have three Knights, two Men-at-Arms, and one Levy unit. I feel like I drew the better lot as Men-at-Arms have more staying power (they take one-half casualties) and I think this game is going to be about grinding attrition.
Because the Blue units are poised to the attack, they are going to start by inflicting double casualties on their charge. Fortunately, because they are on the hill they will only take one-half casualties. Still, this is what it looks like after the initial attack by Blue.
The Red Knights at the North end of the hill took the brunt of damage, taking six hits.
In hindsight I think I might have preferred having a Knights unit attacking, at the very least at the Red Levy, so they could gain the hill faster.One of the great things about playing other people outside of your normal gaming group (or people in general, if you play solo a lot) is that you can check your assumptions about your rules interpretations, especially with rules like OHW where Neil Thomas leaves a lot of details to the players to figure out based on their "normal" gaming conventions. If you read some of the comments to the posts about OHW you can see a lot of different ideas about how others handle things differently than I. For example, when Shaun attacked one of my units later in the game, he halved the casualties against me because my unit was on the hill (as was his). I had always read the rule as "uphill", i.e. the unit higher up the hill gets the defensive bonus, thus only one unit would get the bonus (or neither), but never both. Looking at the rules I found that it indeed did not specify that, but rather that if you were on the hill, you got a defensive bonus. (I know I got that "uphill" concept from DBA.) Always check your assumptions!
Another issue that we had to work through is "turning to face" when attacked in the flank or rear. Shaun was used to an Ancients set of rules that allowed units to attack to flank (without penalty!) and because the language in OHW made turning to flank optional, there was a discussion of why a unit would turn. Note that it was a quirk of our using a grid that made this a point of discussion. Because the Knights on the North end of the hill were clipped in a strange way, when they turned to flank they would displace off of the hill. We sorted it out in a few emails and it gave us both reason to get rid of the 24 by 24 grid used in this game. (But that is a future post.)
My program hit its first addition on the second Blue turn. Here is how the turn ended.
My Blue Knights to the South were facing off against units on the hill, the Red Archers and the Red Knights. My program took into account when a unit was under fire by Archers and could not return fire, thus my Blue Knights to the West charged up the hill against the Archers. But, why did my Blue Knights to the South not charge his Red Knights on the South end of the hill?
Looking at it logically, it was a losing battle. I would charge and score [(D6+2)/2) hits (halved because he was defending the hill, but his return attack was going to be [D6+2] hits. He was going to inflict twice as many hits as I could. The only way I could beat him was if he rolled a '1' (inflicting three hits) and I rolled a '5' or '6' each turn (inflicting four hits) each and every turn. I don't like those odds.
So, I needed to articulate that sort of hopeless situation in a rule to allow a unit not to charge headlong into battle like some dumb A.I. Thus was born the concept of the Average Turns to Eliminate or ATE. If you have read John Acar's blog post on how he took Kaptain Kobold's TMP post on modifying OHW's combat system then you know about the math that John goes through. Basically it boils down to this: a unit hitting with D6-2 will, on average, take about 9 turns to eliminate a fresh enemy unit. Let's call that an ATE of 9. Using that logic, a unit hitting with D6 is an ATE of 5 and D6+2 comes out to an ATE of 3. When you add in other factors, like doubling for flank attacks or halving for terrain or armor, you get ATE values as indicated in the following table.
Note that a unit's ATE can change based upon the target. Continuing on with my example above, my Blue Knights had an ATE 5 against the Red Knights on the hill, while it had an ATE of 3 in return. So now I could express the rule: if the attack would result in your unit having an equal or lower ATE that the target unit, you can charge it; otherwise find another target or stand your ground until the situation changes. The Blue Knights against the Red Archers, on the other hand, had an ATE 5 versus the Archers ATE of 9 (as Archers are D6+2 when shooting, but D6-2 when in hand-to-hand combat). As it stands, even when not writing a programmed opponent, this is a good way of looking at whether you should make an attack in OHW.
The first unit to crack was the Red Knights unit displaced off of the hill.
As you can see by the rest of my forces though, they are pretty bruised and beaten. (As this is at the end of a Blue turn, hit counters reflect one additional turn of attacks by Blue units.) The Blue Knights facing off against the Red Archers are looking particularly anemic. If the Red Archers roll a '1' or '2', they would score no hits. So far they have not rolled any, so they are due any time now...
With my Blue Knights to the North free, I need to ensure that I do not block my Blue Levy from getting into the fight. Ideally, I would like to get my Blue Levy on the flank of the Red Levy and just start rolling up the defensive line from the flank.
But, it was not to be. The Red Archers claim my weakened Blue Knights.
I have to admit, I was perplexed. I had two Blue Knights units standing off against his two Red Knights units, both of which had better ATE scores than me. I had needed those Blue Knights to eliminate the Red Archers so it could charge the Red Knights to the North and break the stalemate. Now, my other Blue Knights to the South were going to get pin-cushioned by those Red Archers!
It wasn't until Blue Turn 6 that we had another significant turn of events. Two Red units were eliminated in a single turn.
My Blue Knights had moved to the West and charged the Red Archers, weathering their fire the whole way. The Red Levy had also held up a heroic defense, staving off a full turn of attacks by two Blue units (one in the flank) before succumbing. As you can see, my Blue Men-at-Arms unit to the South of the East end of the hill has one hit left, so it will be eliminated the next turn. My attempt at rolling up the flank did not succeed. Interestingly my Blue Knights that finished off the Red Archers are in a position to charge straight into the Red Knights to the North, depending upon what the Red Knights to the South do. Their program has them just sitting there, so far...
The Red Knights, surrounded by Blue forces, circle the wagons to defend against the attacks coming from all directions now. The first of the Blue Men-at-Arms units fall.
If you do a little counting of the hits you will notice that at the bottom of turn 6, both sides have 33 hits remaining. I have the advantage of four units to three, but he has the terrain advantage. As Shaun said in email "every turn I change between thinking I am going to win to thinking you are going to win". To me, that is the mark of a good scenario design.
Without going through the blow-by-blow my Blue Men-at-Arms to the East eliminate the Red Knights on Blue Turn 8. This is followed by the Blue Knights and Blue Levy eliminating the Red Knights to the North on Blue Turn 9. Despite the equal number of hits back in Turn 7, the extra unit hitting on the flank – and my dice generally getting warmer while Shaun's get colder – is telling. On Blue Turn 10 – with only five turns remaining – the last Red unit falls.
Blue has four units and 17 hits remaining.
This seems like a really hard game for Red to win. Hit on the flank in turn one with units eventually coming in from every direction. The only problem Blue has is the initial issue of the majority of his units having to break out from a small area. They need to bring their units to bear on a relatively static defense.
Rather than us just leaving it there, Shaun and I are switching sides and replaying the scenario. I have played several of these 'King of the Hill' scenarios and it is time to try something new...
Want to try Shaun's Red or Blue programmed opponent for Scenario 7, Medieval variant of OHW? We are still working on refining and publishing them.