Tuesday, 5 November 2019

To Ur Elsewhere

It is a typical response of most wargamers when playing an new game system or coming across new toys to ask immediately "What else could I use this for?". Then there's the "I don't have any xyz so why should I buy these rules?" issue.

I'm being caught both ways with "To Ur is Human". I've never really had a problem previously as I was giving rules away, so I didn't have to bother with the first question and I didn't care about the other. Now I've got them out on the market being sold I sort of have to think about them, which is new for me.

Firstly, to state the obvious, "To Ur" was written specifically for Sumerian warfare. Having said that I wasn't writing to exclude other periods, so the honest answer to the "can I use these for other armies and periods?" is "I don't know". I mean obviously you can use them with other figures. The troop types match onto Egyptians and Hittites reasonably well, I suppose, but not having tried it I don't know if it is a good simulation of the period. You could also use them for the campaigns of Alexander, substituting heavy cavalry for battle carts, but if you did they would come with no warranty as to how much like a battle in the period it would look*.

So, given that position, what could be done to make the rules more universal? I think you need to understand some of the philosophy behind the writing of "To Ur" in order to understand why they do what they do. There are two main drivers for the system:

  1. Armies are slow moving and ponderous, except for battle carts which can be fast moving but unpredictable.
  2. How much one side frightens the other is the key determinant of victory. In this view battle carts are a psychological weapon as much as anything, - hence the Fear Test.

If you are going to map the rules on to another period then you have to address the applicability of these design aims and deal with them.

It isn't hard to sort out the first. To make the chariots more like Egyptian chariots then you can remove the wheeling restrictions and the need to roll the dice when charging. Allowing a 90 degree turn for each square moved, or permitting the 45 degree wheel in a starting square or an about face for the cost of a square's movement would probably fix this. A couple of games play testing should enable you to calibrate the changes easily enough. My best guess that allowing 45 degree turns in the first square, permitting a wheel when charging and allowing one free about face would be about right (but NB I have not playtested this idea, - it may be rubbish). You might apply the same analysis to other hard charging mounted troops like Alexander's Companions.

I think that the Fear Test will transfer okay. What needs to be thought about here is not the Fear Test factors themselves, but the hand to hand factors that determine who gets the +2 Fear Test bonus. The Fear Test table and factors had a lot of work and number crunching put into them, and the asymmetric outcomes by troop quality are at the heart of the process and took the longest to get right. There are no certain outcomes, good or bad, in the table and the extreme 1:6 result will enable levy to turn over elites or at least halt them in their tracks. You will note that battle carts are the only troop type that get a charge bonus in hand to hand. This is essential to ensure that a fresh battle cart unit always should get the +2 bonus when attacking from the front so they can hold their position as the terror weapon supreme in the period (unless their opponents have done something clever, like hide behind cover, or stand uphill).

Another thing to note with the carts is that they are half the size of all other units. This means that whilst they are devastatingly effective they are also very brittle. If they get a good Fear Test outcome and frighten their opponents off the battlefield then they can roll on and cause havoc. If they get bogged down in combat then that's less clever. If that looks like a combat outcome you want in another period, then the rules and systems will deliver that, as written. I know there is a debate as to whether later chariots were light skirmishing vehicles or bulldozers. I think with my carts that they aren't really either, and you would only ever charge home against an enemy that is already showing signs of being frightened of you.

The last point on the carts is that they have no ranged missile capability. That is something that is easily fixed by allowing them to shoot as light infantry. Sumerian carts had javelins (which in "To Ur" are only thrown at an adjacent square anyway), but if you want bows, then I'd just use the archery rules.

The last hole to think about is missing troop types. I have no concept of light cavalry in the rules, - you may consider the carts to be a proxy for heavy cavalry - no camels, no elephants. For those of you of a DBA frame of mind I don't differentiate between Blades, Spears, Pikes or Hordes or Warbands. I would say that the system is sufficiently open that it should not be hard to push the factors together to get them into the game, but again, I haven't playtested the rules for more exotic armies with a greater variety of troops. They may work just fine and dandy as written, or at least give you a fun game, but as I said above, they come with no warranty for that.

I don't want to put people off buying "To Ur is Human". They're priced at £5 for that reason, - they're less than a glossy magazine and certainly less than a pint where we held the SOA Conference. There are ideas in them I want to share. All I'd say is that if you do work out how to play them in another period, it would be great if you didn't release them into the wild in such a way that people didn't need to have access to a copy of "To Ur..." in order to play the game.



* Bearing in mind what some people will play and believe they're getting as historical outcome then this may not be an issue.

20 comments:

  1. A really useful post from my perspective. Thank you.

    I'd hope all of us would heed your request to respect the effort that has gone into "To Ur" and not undermine sales.

    I'll let you know how I get on when my copy arrives.

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    1. Glad to be of service. There's a review over on the Pendraken Forum from someone who doesn't know me, so you might find the thread interesting. He's not a fan. I'll be responding to his concerns as soon as my membership is approved.

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  2. Reading Robert Silverberg's novel 'Gilgamesh the King' several zillion years ago, I thought that the city states of Mesopotamia would make a fine setting for a multi-player 'Diplomacy' type of game.

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  3. I've got my copy now and wanted to say congratulations. I think the game will work very nicely.

    I can also see how I can use it for Drews End of the Bronze Age type experiments.

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    1. I'll be interested to see the outcome of that on your blog. Also, feel free to write a review either on Amazon or on your blog. Sales and success is driven by word of mouth. My advertising budget is not big.

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  4. I'll do that. Currently I'm going through the latest Windows 10 update and not much is working yet.

    I've already made some notes building on your post above. I think I have the Battle Carts to Chariots cracked.

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    1. Much appreciated. I'll be interested to read that, and no doubt your advocacy will cause your avid fans to flock to purchase the rules.

      Sympathy with Windows 10. i had to renew my Office 365 subscription this week. First time I opened up Powerpoint, I was greeted by a message telling me I had "Dogfood Only". Luckily it went away.

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  5. It's a nightmare. The last one took the best part of a week.

    More positively the review is written. I'll follow up with a post on chariots with To Ur.

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    1. Yes. It can be bad. You think it's finished, then it re-starts again.

      Thanks for reviewing the rules.

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  6. No problem at all. I hope I've done you justice. Hopefully it will generate additional interest.

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    1. If you are honest then that's all I can ask.

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  7. It's up there now. So have a read and if anything is factually wrong tell me and I'll amend it.

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  8. It has generated a lot of interest. Hopefully it will be reflected in sales.

    My computer update trundles on but when it's finished I'll post a second piece with some photos.

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    1. That's good to hear. I'm also quite excited to read a battle report from someone else. Ithoriel over on the Pendraken forum has played a game or two, and whilst he describes it as a fun game he has tantalisingly not gone any further into what happened.

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  9. Great to see a ’specific’ set of rules for Sumerian Warfare.

    I’m not sure if you’ve seen the weblog Sumer2Sargon but many of the issues you talk about in the rules have been kicked about on the blog.

    For a Sumerian fan it might be worth a look. 😉


    Cheers


    Sumer2Sargon
    https://sumer2sargon.wordpress.com/

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    1. I was aware of Sumer to Sargon, in it's original incarnation, and noted your attempts to use BB for SW. I was intrigued by that, but went my own way in any case. I hope you'll pick up "To Ur" and give them a go, even if you end up reverting to BBSW.

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  10. 😎

    I re-released it on Wordpress...my preferred platform.

    There is a good article on War Chariots...which I noted you posted on before.

    Fundamentally I think you’re right to use Fear as an important factor in this period as the psychological effect of battle carts with supporting infantrymen I think significantly added to their effectiveness.

    I hope you follow up with some scenario driven ideas for your rules as my experience is that so little is known about it that those interested need a bit of help regards ideas around what the warfare was about...something I’ve delved into on Sumer2Sargon.

    Well done on “to Ur...” Anything on Sumer is tops in my book 👍🏻

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    1. Currently I'm working on my 1879 Pacific War rules. Whenever I finish a stage of a rules development project I tend to take a break and clear my head with something else. I may well be back with some battle reports and scenarios in the next 12 months. Be good to see other people have a go as well.

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