Monday 21 September 2015

Middlehiem Playtest #2B: Minor Tweaks

From the start of playtest #2, the activation system is a big improvement, so now is the chance to focus on minor tweaks, i.e.

(a) dodge is -2 if you have nothing to dodge behind (to avoid Matrix-esque dodges in the open)
(b) extra ranks add +1 dice to the front rank combatant, not a +1 modifier to his skill.
(c) leaders must pass a Will roll to group activate (already had issues with implementation of this)
(d) how do pikes and crossbows stack up against my original weapons?

I've noticed I seldom "reserve" actions for overwatch, which is good (I don't want powerful Infinity-esque reactions for a medieval/fantasy game) but I may want to buff them a bit.

I'm aware as sole playtester my tactical preferences may distort gameplay (I know how the game "should" logically play) compared to how the rules read to a unbiased observer.

Once I nail down a few more basics, and implement the Stamina-Mana-Wounds system, I'll do up a proper playtest rules document with more coherent illustrations and examples.

We are up to TURN 3 of what I plan to be a 5-turn playtest.  Both sides are about to engage in melee.


Red wins Momentum. The centre red MAA moved in to block the doorway.  However a failed will roll hands Momentum to Yellow.  The Yellow MAA charges supported by 2 pike (Long Reach in action) - 3 dice to 2, the both get 9s. I decide he wins the tie due to having Momentum* and he pushes back his foe into a corner.**

At the start of Turn 3 you can see the fight about to develop in the centre building.

Another Yellow MAA fails his leadership Will roll - Red gains momentum and both Red archers angle for shots.  The first misses miserably, but the second rolls a '10' and a critical - but fails to damage with both rolls. 

A Red billman sprints across the open in the back line; in LoS to a Yellow crossbowmen - he reacts with a Snap Shot (-2 to hit) but strikes a rule problem; as I discover he was out of "Snap Shot" range (12").  Does he count as having fired and wasted his shot?***  On the upside, if he had have "reserved" a token he could have successfully reacted.  The "defensive vs offensive" reaction system is working as intended. 

In the centre, the other red MAA charges with a billman in support.

Question: Does the yellow pikeman count as being supported by the MAA on his right?

He knocked down the Yellow pikeman. Upon which I realised I had no rules for how a knocked down figure gets up in combat.****

OK, he's knocked down and rolling around on the ground. So what now?

Yellow now had Momentum as Red used up all its tokens.  Most of their turns were spent re-positioning/moving up in support. 

The only other action of note was a Yellow crossbowman rounding a corner to fire at a Red bowmen. Both fired - and the Red would have won, but for the "Snap Shot" -2 penalty.  Instead the Yellow won, but as usual, the arrow failed to damage.  I'm pleased to see "Snap Shot" is working as intended - giving the ability to frantically loose off a shot, but no match for "Reserving" an action token and preparing first.  TURN 3 is over.  I'm going to wrap this up and (maybe) finish the playtest later as there's already a lot to digest.

The archery seems quite balanced.  Limiting shooting to a hard limit of 1 per turn was wise.  They use nerf arrows though... lots of hits with no damage...  I'l check the math - I might have to up the power of the bows. 

Again, you can see there is a LOT going on in a single turn. I'll summarise key concerns, questions I asked myself:

Question I:  When a Leader fails his Leadership roll before a group move, what happens?
Answers: #1. Instantly lose momentum, but no other effect  #2. Only leader activates  #3. Group can activate, but only gets one action.   I like #1 as it is in line with the Warmaster-style keep-the-momentum Will rolls.  

*Question J: If in a fight or opposed roll, both have equal rolls AND equal stats - who wins?
Answer: The side with Momentum

**Question K: If someone is pushed back into a supporting friendly, what happens?
Answers: #1: They are both moved back if possible  #2. The front model is trapped and gets 2 damage rolls against it (a bit harsh - discourages ranks?)
***Question L: Can you premeasure?
Answer: In the case of the "Snap Shot" example it makes sense to premeasure - anything outside the 12" is immune to free reactions as it is out of his immediate "notice" and he does not instinctively react to it.  Hence, he should not have wasted a shot, if he never should have noticed it in the first place.

****Question M: If you are knocked down in combat, how do you regain your feet?
Answer: It costs 1 action to get up, and 1 to fight off any enemies in contact.  If you win, you simply push them back.  You need a critical (5+) not the usual (+3) to wound or kill them.
This off-the-cuff ruling needs to be checked and tidied up. Not entirely happy with it. What do similar rules do?

At the end of TURN 3 there had been a flurry of activity but no further casualties. The pike's Long Reach (fight in 3 ranks) had already proved useful.

Random Thoughts:
The arrow damage seems a bit flukely - lots of resisted shots at point blank in this and in the last game.  I think it's the d10+stat vs d10+stat method I use - there's a wide spread of results, compared to d10+stat, vs fixed TN.  Perhaps look at how the math stacks up.

Also, once the melee got joined, I did lose track of if one pikeman had activated or not.  So maybe put the activation tokens next to minis in melee to remind yourself?   The decision to cap the model count at 8-12 looks like a good one.  There is a lot going on in the game and I want it to move along briskly (i.e. a game in 90 minutes).

There doesn't seem to be any glaring concerns about the rules. Next time I might introduce the Stamina-Magic-Wounds system and see how it goes. 

Finally, don't expect to see such thorough write-ups - it takes more time to photograph and explain than it does to play!  However, I thought it may be helpful, that my playtest notes may serve as a warning inspiration to others. 

Once again, if you have suggestions or contributions (or simply want to look at this or other homebrew rules made by a lot of creative folk who are much cleverer than me) drop by the google group. 


  1. "The first misses miserably, but the second rolls a '10' and a critical - but fails to damage with both rolls. " This is a quote from the playtest above, but isn't a success rolling TN or under? I'm not sure if this just a complete lack of understanding on my part. Oh wait, you're using the Warmaster rolld10+stat for result?

    1. Not sure, been a decade since I played Warmaster. In this playtest it was like Warmachine; only instead of 2d6 + stat it was 1d10 + stat.