Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Playtest Battle of Blue Gully II - The battle

The mist faded and revealed the two small armies facing each other. On the right flank, Twohorns could see the dwarven blunderbuss regiment under Thorin Crooked move forward, probably hoping to flank the skirmishers. The remainder of the dwarven army so far held still.


Not one to be distracted by such a ploy, Twohorns ordered the advance of all troops under his command. Simple plans are always best, and attacking suits orc nature. Defending certainly did not suit Yellowcrest and Akz, both noted for their Rash character. Indeed, Akz was already wading through the mud of Blue Gully. Which turned out to be more of an obstacle than expected - maybe Twohorns should have checked the ground first, but too late for that now.


Besides, his attention was on the big green thing, with a small castle on top. Manned with more dwarves. Curious, and possibly a bit of a concern. And what's that, dwarves with pikes? What is the world coming to?


Ah, Bigears has finally advanced as well. Trust that idiot to not manage more than send his skirmishers forward. Does a good orc have to do everything himself? Twohorns decided he would stay close to Bigears, in case he would falter at a critical moment.


Swarming ahead of the dwarven army came a cloud of bats. And from the looks of it, particularly vicious ones, too. Splitting in three smaller clouds, one dove down onto a unit of skirmishers, covering them in biting, gnawing, vicious bats, thousands of them. Against all odds, these bats would over the coming turns gnaw away and break up the skirmishers. Further back, the remaining bats threw themselves on the orcish front line. They would severely delay and hinder the orcish formation, without inflicting casualties.

Just behind the lines, both Addertongue and the opposing mage were tapping the ether for their magical powers. Sensing a local surge, Addertongue grabbed the initiative, and cast "Despair" on the closest dwarven leader, Balin Digger. Surely he would break down in tears soon enough now.

Unfortunately, fate was not with the orcish shaman. Almost as soon as the corrupting effect of the magic set in, did the dwarf manage to shrug it off again, with no noticeable effect. Much to Addertongue's shagrin, he had to stand and watch while the dwarven Element-mage Mug threw a massive explosion at the front rank of orcs, inflicting serious casualties on two units. And to top it off, Twohorns was glowering at him too, now.


On the left flank, meanwhile, Bigteeth's wolf riders waded across the muddy stream. Only to be greeted by a metal and particularly wicked grins. on the far side. Still clawing up the banks, trying to get close to the Shock regiment facing them, the wolf riders were practically scythed down.


Three units routed straight away, with only the troops directly under Bigteeth's command able to fight to a standstill. So much for Bigteeth's chance of some good looting, the bastard Twohorns would keep it all to himself now. It almost smelled like a setup. Bigteeth did not get much of a chance to care about it, though, as both Bigteeth and Thorin the Bold fell somewhere in the slaughter, never to be heard of again.


With the bat swarms finally dealt with, and fed up with taking more artillery fire, Yellowcrest kicked screamed and threatened his troops forward. On his left flank Akz's ogres were advancing as well, but unfortunately the defeat of the wolf riders left the dwarven shock regiment without opposition and free to move. Little did Yellowcrest know that due to the defeat of their commander, it would take a while for the dwarf flank to get moving. Nobody was surprised to see Bigears lagging behind on the right flank...


On the left flank, Akz eyed the big green thing. If anyone would be able to cut that down to size, it would be his ogres. And it would probably make a fine meal, too. Leaving the remnant of the wolf riders and one unit of ogres facing the shock regiments, Akz took one of his ogre units forward and charged the behemoth.


A bloody struggle followed, with the ogres smashing into the behemoth and pikemen, and throwing them back in some disarray. Unfortunately the losses suffered by the ogres, and the much more serious losses suffered facing the shock regiments, left the ogres still standing but too fragile to do anything much. Akz having the poor grace to die in the combat did not help much either.

In the centre, a very bloody fight was fought, with the orcs looking about to break through. Another explosion thrown by the dwarven mage, and the combined artillery fire throughout the day, were however starting tot take their toll. Exhausted, Yellowcrest and his orcs glowered at the dwarves facing them.

Balin Digger stared back at the orcs facing him. A quick survey of his troops reinforced his determination. With a loud bellow he ordered his militia forward, into the orc ranks - clearing them off the ground they had just conquered, and sending them running back to where they came from. One of the victims of the vengeful access was Yellowcrest, yet another orc commander to die on that day.

Twohorns saw only one opportunity left in his reach. Taking personal command of some spears, he motioned to his shaman to 'do something'. Only to realize that Addertongue probably was not clutching at his head and screaming because he was doing well. In fact, the shaman had just overreached himself and tapped into more energy than he could handle, leaving him unable to play a further role, and suffering a splitting headache.

Twohorns charged forward, pleased to see that finally it had dawned on Bigears to join in the effort, too. A pleasure that would be rudely interrupted by a descending dwarven axe. Leaving Bigears as the most senior orcish commander on the field.

By this point, the orcish center had disintegrated, with a stretched, battered and exhausted dwarven line holding, and the flanking attack by the orcs too late to turn the tide. Seeing the dwarf with the demon pet (Thorin Crooked) fall boosted Bigears's spirits, but would not turn the battle.


Overall summary
* Combat mechanisms seemed to work as expected
* Swarms worked well - basically they act as mobile difficult terrain that latches on to a target unit. Every turn thereafter there is a chance of the swarm dispersing, and a smaller one of the unit suffering a hit.
* Pinning/Zone of Control was kept at 4". This feels as too long for fantasy games, and has since been reduced to 2".
* Melee casualties for continued melee and fall back were too heavy, and will be halved.
* Magic worked well, and added fun & atmosphere. The 'flux' card may be a bit too much though, to be reviewed. Spell costs definitely need more reviewing.
* Even with the significant disparity in numbers and troop types, the battle could have gone both ways and hung in the balance for a good while. (The orcs suffered from really good luck when rolling for troop ratings. They would normally have had more 'D' and much less 'B' class troops)
* We're on way to having a playable system in time for Rheindahlen!

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