Over the past few weeks, while nippy has been hard at work constructing a framework for some linked battles on Thorkinson’s island, I’ve been trying to add a bit of flavour to the old pitched battle. In my experience, despite the availability of scenarios (e.g. in the 6th ed rulebook), most players, most of the time opt for the vanilla version. The pitched battle. Set up some terrain, add a convenient hill for your artillery. Perhaps a wood so that your knights can advance without getting skewered by a giant crossbow bolt. I’ve always found this a little uninspiring, and I don’t think I’m alone in this.
So then, why do we opt for pitched battles? Well, probably because true narrative gaming, or coming up with scenarios is really difficult. It requires imagination, creativity, and possibly an independent GM. You also run the risk of coming up with a situation that doesn’t quite work. I’d still love to play more narrative based games, but it’s tough!
Our group has mainly been playing 6th ed, which although it has a couple of irritations (which I’ll try to bore you about another time), is a pretty solid ruleset. The scenarios in the book are a good attempt, but can feel a little contrived, e.g. breakthrough, capture. Moreover, they sometimes require uneven forces, which in my experience is something that players aren’t too keen on. Possibly because of the hassle of dropping stuff from the list you’ve just laminated.
The main method used here to spice up the pitched battle, are hidden objectives. A pretty common concept in board gaming. The core idea here though, is that as well as giving players objectives to complete for VPs*, we can also give players a strategic advantage in exchange for a VP penalty, or a handicap in exchange for a VP bonus. I’ve “borrowed” some ideas from other games. In Blood Bowl, when you set up, you have to be mindful of the possibility of a Blitz!, a free turn for your opponent. Here, you have to think about your deployment, in case your opponent holds “flank attack”. Although I haven’t played Age of Sigmar, I really like the idea of receiving bonuses from terrain, it seems it could add structure and narrative to battles, so I threw in a couple of small terrain bonuses.
HERE are the rules
A first playtest will happen at Bring Out Your Lead this year. Beyond this, I’d like to add a few more strategic elements, both positive and negative. I think finding a mountain road, allowing an additional 100pts, in exchange for 100VPs might be an interesting one. Perhaps your general is a drunkard (-1 Ld), but he is an inspired strategist (gain 100VPs)? I’d love to hear some more ideas- although, be warned- they might get misappropriated.
* Victory points. But you knew that, right?
PS Points values are based on battle sizes of 1000pts a side, but can be scaled up/down accordingly.