It has begun. 'It' being the three battle narrative campaign I am attempting to run for the guys at my local club. On Thursday the 6th, we were fortunate to have seven out of eight participants able to attend, and so we got right into game one - Meeting Engagement!
Fickle creatures that they are, the armies that we have ended up fielding in the campaign are not necessarily the same as the ones that were first put forward. In the end, we have the following forces represented:
The Vampire Counts of the Schwarzeschloss (my army)
The Skaven of Grey Seer Scuttle
The Skaven of Clan Sneekit
The Lizardmen of Georgapottle
An Empire force from Averland
The Greenskins of the Gouged Eye Tribe
The Dwarfs of Clan Rawbread
The Chaos Dwarfs of Daemon Smith Azgral.
I should mention that many of the guys didn't have names for their force or characters, so I have made some up for them.
We started off by determining which armies would face off against each other, which we did by randomly picking out two scrolls at a time from the Golden Chest of Destiny, which yielded the following match ups:
Vampire Counts vs The Skaven of Grey Seer Scuttle
The Skaven of Clan Sneekit vs The Empire
The Lizardmen vs The Chaos Dwarfs
Orcs and Goblins vs The Dwarfs
The final battle in the list is yet to be fought, as the Clan Warlord of the Dwarfs was busily engaged drinking mead and updating his almighty book of grudges, so that'll get played in my 'off week' I hope, and then we can crack on to the second game. Now, the results of the first game went as follows:
The Vampire Counts of the Schwarzeschloss were defeated by the Skaven of Grey Seer Scuttle (though this vanguard force was led by his underling, Warlock Engineer Trundle). The Skaven of Clan Sneekit routed the Empire Soldiers of Averland, and the Lustrians were defeated by the Chaos Dwarfs of Daemon Smith Azgral.
Now here is where things get interesting. The next thing that happens is that we ascertain in what order the armies arrive at the crash site, the idea being that those that won the greatest victories in game one stand the chance of getting to the Eye the quickest, having smashed aside the opposition, while armies which drew or lost lose valuable time licking wounds and regrouping after their battle.
Each army commander rolls a single D6, and applies the following modifiers depending on how their game ended:
Defeated in game one = -1 to the D6 roll
Drew game one = no modifier applied
Victory in game one = +1 to the D6 roll
Routed the enemy in game one = +2 to the D6 roll
Just to clarify, the definition of 'routed' which we are working to is an army that had no units left on the table that weren't fleeing. The army was 'fled or dead', if you like. Any players which draw their scores should roll-off between them to determine which of them arrived first, until a final order is established.
Given the modifiers, you can probably work out that even if an army was routed, it still has a chance of getting to the crash site early if by some fluke they pull their finger out and get moving, which is what I wanted really. I didn't want the result of first game to make the second game a forgone conclusion, and still give the players a feeling that they could influence the story. Plus, it's more exciting to create tension.
Now, based on the order that the armies arrived at the crash site, my original plan was to allow each player a choice which would help determine which battle scenario they played next. After playing game one and having a longer think about the different ways the players might be able to scupper my well laid plans however, the options demanded a re-think. I realised I couldn't very well give every player the same option, because to pair the armies off for game two would require an even number of players to choose each route. If we ended up with odd numbers of players choosing each option, then two players were going to end up setting their armies up opposite the invisible man, and I hear he doesn't play by the rules. Ethereal cannon balls and all sorts of weird ass stuff.
So, the decision I have had to make is as follows. Once the order that players reach the Eye has been established, the first four players to arrive get to make the choice:
1. Do they focus on securing the Eye, sending just a token messenger to their master, who will take longer to get the message through, if at all, as they try to avoid the perils of the journey and the rival forces about?
2. Do they lead their entire force to join up with their master's army, being more sure of getting to them quickly as they forge through the countryside in force, but leaving the site uncontested and having to contemplate ousting a rival force from the site on their return?
The decision that the players make in secret will result in them playing one of the following two games:
Players taking option 1 - armies that chose this option will fight a Forced March scenario using just a single objective in the centre of the table for control of the Eye. The winner will begin the final battle with a small force already on or near the objective.
Each army taking this option must also roll a D6 for their plucky messenger. If they roll a 1-2, their messenger has fallen foul of some danger and been killed. 3-6, they arrive at their master's camp/lair and report the discovery of the Eye of Morrslieb, and their master begins mustering their army to set out and claim the comet.
I got here first! - If an army taking this option arrived before their enemy according to the results of the first game, then they automatically count as arriving first for the scenario special rules. Units from both armies are only held in reserve on a roll of 4-6 on a D6. Units arriving from reserve from the army that arrived first arrive on Turn 1. Units from the army arriving second deploy on Turn 2.
Players taking option 2 - armies choosing this option will fight the Ambush scenario. The army that arrived last will be the ambushers, as their force meets the enemy coming back towards them and can set their trap, which fits the story. The winner of this battle will gain a positive modifier to their roll to see whose main army reaches the Eye first, giving them a better chance of taking control of the objective.
Once the first four players to arrive have decided in secret which option they want to go for, the remaining four players are allowed to nominate an army for them to engage in game two, starting with the player whose army arrived at the crash site fourth, through to eighth. Just to keep things interesting, players will not be allowed to nominate the army they played against in game one. I think that keeping match ups varied will not only keep it exciting, it will offer a different challenge and therefore an opportunity to further expand our knowledge of the capabilities of the various armies.
Only when each of the four players arriving last have determined which rival army they are attacking do we then reveal which option they have chosen, and therefore which scenario everyone will be playing for their second game. This way, no player can really cherry pick the match up, because they don't know what scenario they will be playing, though they might be able to make a guess based on what they think the strengths of the army are. The four players arriving last may not get to choose the scenario, but they do still have a lot of influence over what kind of games will be played because they decide which armies face off against one another.
Force Restrictions and Changes
Given that this is a narrative campaign, and I would like the games to tell a story, it has been appropriate to apply restrictions to the list selection. Initially, the plan was to use the exact same list for both game one and game two, the intention being to allow us to get to know our lists and concentrate on getting the best out of them against different opponents. After playing the first game we have realised that we might get little out of game two if the armies are exactly the same, and it would be nice to step it up a gear, so for game two, I am allowing players to add an additional 250 points to the list they used for game one, which represents stragglers arriving who didn't make it in time for the first engagement, or trusted troops sent out from the main army. The game one list remains unchanged, save for adding more units to it. Players are not allowed to take anything away, because to allow that we may as well just have fresh lists.
After thinking about the restrictions used for the game one lists, I have also had a hard time justifying to myself the reason for limiting the number of war machines that can be included on the basis of the forces intended to be mobile vanguard or scouting forces, when things like Chariots are fast and move under their own steam, so I am clarifying the restriction to say 'no more than one artillery piece per army'.
Apart from that, the restrictions are as per game one. The increase in total points value will allow more flexibility to add additional units and equipment, and give the armies more depth.
There is however one additional consideration...
Injuries and Casualties!
I mean, does it really feel like your army has been fighting hard over the preceding couple of days if everyone just dusts themselves off and has another go? What do you feel like you've achieved if an army you wiped out yesterday is back at full strength today?
Now I will admit that I might be taking a bit of a risk trying this, so I have gone for a softly softly approach, and one that I hope will not cripple any of the armies, but at the same time, it will only apply to this game, because the final game will be fresh lists as the main armies arrive to battle for the prize.
BEFORE players spend their additional 250 points, they should determine whether any of their units or models will be fighting at reduced strength in this second game. First...
Any HERO model (I haven't said Lords, because there weren't any allowed in game 1) that was killed on the field in game 1, should roll a D6, with a -1 penalty if they were killed by direct damage (by which I mean they had their wounds reduced to zero by some means, which doesn't include being run down whilst fleeing), and consult the table below to see if the model has suffered any injury which they will carry through to the next game.
1 = Start game 2 with one less wound than appears on their starting profile. This character really shouldn't be out of bed.
2 = Start game 2 with -1 to their Toughness. This character took a real beating, but is determined to fight on, despite their fragile state.
3 = Start game 2 with -1 to their Strength. The character has been injured, and though the wound is not life threatening, they will not be fighting at their full strength until they have had a few days to recover.
4-6 = No penalty. The character's wounds are superficial enough that their fighting prowess has not been reduced, and though they might have picked up a good knock to the head, some livid bruising or cracked ribs, and maybe an impressive new scar or two, they are able to fight on without significant detriment to their abilities.
Now, I would also like to consider those 'heroes' who weren't killed in the fighting, but only because they ran away! Heroes that fled the field saved themselves from having to roll on the table above, but I don't think they should get away scot free. They are after all meant to be leading the warriors around them, inspiring them and giving them confidence. Legging it to save your own skin while your unit standard bearer gets hacked down defending the regimental banner doesn't exactly scream 'Chuck Norris', does it?
To represent the effect of seeing a hero of the army flee the field (the coward!), any Hero that fled the field in game 1 should roll a D6. On a roll of 1 or 2, they will fight game two at -1 to their Ld Characteristic, reducing their ability to keep their warriors fighting as their faith in their commanders courage falters.
Righty ho, now this is getting on for being a pretty long post, so well done to all of you with the constitution to have made it this far. This is the last bit.
To represent the depletion of units that have taken a real mauling, either through battlefield casualties or warriors that have 'jumped the fence' and fled rather than fight on, any unit that was wiped out/destroyed in game 1 should roll a D6. On a roll of 1 to 3, the unit should start game 2 treated as though they have suffered 10% wounds, to a minimum of 1 (in case of any rounding weirdness). The unit entry on the army list doesn't change, they simply have 10% wounds worth of casualties removed at the point of deployment, so they are still worth their full Victory Points if wiped out in game 2. Any casualties should not be taken from Command models if possible. If the unit champion was killed in game one, some lucky chap will be promoted ready for game 2.
This could mean that war machines and monsters simply start with fewer than their full wounds in game 2, which I hope will work just as well whatever the unit type is. I guess we will find out.
That's it. I hope I haven't forgotten anything. All the pre-game prep for game 2 is far more complicated than for game 1, though not that complicated if it's all done one step at a time, so it might work out great, or it might fall to pieces. I guess I'll just quote the adage 'no battle plan survives contact with the enemy'...
Fingers crossed this works out, let me know what you think of my plan so far.
Thanks for reading...