Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Northampton in 15 minutes (2)

Last weekend saw me move into full build mode for the Northampton 1460 game.

Last Thursday I did a couple of test games with Phil which solidified some ideas. Phil has been thinking we (the Northampton Battlefields Society) need a game “product” for a while and has been feeding me hints & ideas to help me get into a place where I can get something that works on a repeatable basis. Sort of like the games I put together as the Society of Ancients incentives.
Our vision is close but not identical. I think Phil’s more wanting to produce something really close to W1815, with wooden blocks and an old looking map. I want something with more flags and a sculpted terrain board. Something smaller & more simplified than Phil’s battlefield model, that’s robust enough to be chucked in the boot of a car.

I was thinking about using 6mm figures. I had some Baccus review samples from their really nice Late Medieval range, and these painted up nicely. However as we discussed the options I started to lean heavily towards wooden blocks with removable flags to mark casualties.  Possibly on a sculpted board that uses 6mm terrain features.

L-R Some cavalry, Egremont's battle & some artillery
We played the game two or three times. After much consideration Phil went for the full historical approach as the Yorkists in his first game – negotiate, excommunicate, attack. This gave him a sweeping victory, although with heavy casualties in Fauconberg’s battle. This game featured my newly added cavalry option (you’ll recall that in the previous update on the game I wasn’t sure what to do about the cavalry) and he was able to drive off my cavalry screen and sack Northampton as we now believe happened. I have some ideas about how to represent the sacking on the game board using scans from medieval manuscripts that I think will look quite striking.

I was also trialling the Weather mechanism for the first time. This gives the Lancastrians a slim chance that the ground will dry out and increase the chance that they can fire their guns effectively. It’s a fairly thin chance, but I think it is important to give them hope and to cast some doubt into the Yorkist minds about what happens if the guns do fire as they attack the defences. In this case we got close to the sun coming out, but never quite got there. Bit like our summer so far.

We had a quick discussion before resetting the game. Phil thinks we need to have a surrender/quarter phase. I had some ideas at the time and have developed them since. Clearly for the Nevilles if they round up any Percy present he’s going to have a short life expectancy and the same for other political opponents too. If the boot is on the other foot there aren’t many Percies who would baulk at lopping the heads off a few Nevilles. Of course, if March gets to the Neville’s enemies first and offers them quarter it would then be a serious matter to have them killed.

This means what I probably need is a scale of wins to see if players can do better than their historical predecessors. We did this very successfully with “Call it Qids”. In this case if the Lancastrians don’t get beaten they’ve done better, but the scale of their win will be greater if the Yorkist Lords can’t escape. For the Yorkists if they capture Queen Margaret and Prince Edward as well as King Henry then it’s a really big win.

For the next game Phil went for the full-on wargamer solution, dispensing with all that shilly-shallying around associated with negotiations and so on. He just charged forwards with everything. On this occasion he got a couple of lucky die rolls (whilst I under performed on this front), Grey flipped sides and the Lancastrians collapsed. Again.

The game seems to favour the Yorkists as long as they can get Grey to switch sides. If he doesn’t then it becomes more attritional and the Lancastrians have a better chance to get something out of it.
Of course for the players to win the game they have to do better than their historical antecedents. That’s actually not difficult for the Lancastrians. If Henry VI escapes together with any of the major anti-Yorkist/Neville lords then they’ve done better and sort of win the game, even if they’ve got hordes of followers streaming off the battlefield to a bloody death at Sandyford Mill.

So I have some work to do there as well calibrating the possible outcomes and ranking them. The important thing, however, is not to stray too far from the historical narrative. I want there to be distinct branches where the narrative can go in a different direction but it needs to be clear which is the real history and which is the alternative.

In any event I have enough of a working prototype, and I hope to finish the blocks in the next couple of evenings. If I can then mock up a map and tidy up the play cards I’ll have something I can take to the Battlefields Society committee meeting on Thursday where I can playtest it with people who know the battle but don’t do wargaming.

That should be interesting.

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