Thursday, 3 April 2014

Didn't spot that

Did a play test of "To Ur is Human" last night. Richard and Phil turned up in good order so I was able to have two players run over my latest thinking.

I made quite a few changes from the last game. In particular I halved the size of the Battle Cart units and doubled the dice they rolled. This enabled me to use the number of dice rolled per base in a unit in combat as a proxy for how scary a unit is to its opponents when combined with the morale quality. Other factors are taken into account as well, such as whether you just got beaten in combat, but this is looking like a core mechanism.

The Fear Test had a slight overhaul following the last game, mainly to deal with rallying, but I'm afraid it let me down a bit in this game.

This game was played on a completely open table, and halving the Battle Cart unit size meant I could have more of that type of unit in the game. This opened the game up quite a bit, and I got a lot of good playtest events. Most unit types got involved with most other unit types to give me a good feel for how the unit interaction will work. It was all going swimmingly until one of Phil's trained heavy infantry units charged into Richard's elite Royal Guards. Despite getting a good margin in his favour on the fear test the status of the Guards would not drop to "fright". They resolutely held their ground in "fight" mode. As I looked at the table in the rules I could see where the problem was, but changing that meant that everything else in the table would have to be adjusted too. Next we had another test with an extreme die rolling event of 6 v 1, and the side with the higher score still lost. Not what was intended.

I'm sure this shouldn't happen, and I had spent sometime Monday evening running the various numbers and percentages through a spreadsheet. Obviously I had made a mistake or possibly I've saved the wrong version of the Fear Table. Either way, I have a real problem with what is the central part of the game mechanism/philosophy. The point of the game is to model the effects of fear on the various sides as they approach and enter into combat. If  that bit doesn't work then I might as well just go back to basic AMW.

Of course none of these issues is insurmountable, I think. I just sketched out on a desk pad over lunch how a revised table might look having concluded it isn't simply a matter of tweaking the numbers. Hopefully in the next few days I can work it up into a proper table and look at the effect of the die roll modifiers.

The game gave a lot of cause for optimism. The sequence of how it hangs together and the "Fear Test" concept seems to create an enjoyable game. Phil spent most of the evening with a big grin on his face, even when complaining about how bits of the game weren't working for him. Richard went through the different options available to him in forensic detail and it was clear the game gives a good level of decision making to the players.

Some of the processes worked well. Phil lost a Battle Cart unit as a direct result of it failing a Fear Test when it tried to charge.This temporary delay gave his opponent another round of archery which weakened him for the eventual charge.

Other elements of the game performed well, and we had an excellent incident where evading light troops were unable to retire quickly enough and got run down by Battle Carts.

In summary, I have some surgery to do on the rules as they did get a major work out in pretty much all areas. It's looking good for CoW I would say.

Post Script: Phil was just back from his success at the SoA Montaperti Battle Day, where he won the "Best Game" prize. A couple of the playtests have been covered in this blog, so congratulations to him. Next year is going to be Hydaspes. Now, who do I know with a massive collection of classical period Indians?

Oh, that would be me.

Final PS: No pictures this week. I got so involved in what was going on that my few pictures do not really tell the story of the game. You'll all just have to marvel at the beauty of my prose instead.

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