Friday, April 30, 2010

Play testing

As part of the tournament we are planning, for the fall, we are developing new scenarios and testing table layouts.  Wednesday night, my wife being out of town, Kieth came down and we played in my basement.

I laid the table out in the Bree layout that I had come up with.  The table was laid out with a village in the center.  There was a large village square with a fountain.  Surrounding the square were houses, two per side.  There was a road, lined with walls running out of the east side (north being Keith's side of the table - to the right in the picture below).  There were some fences and trees in various places around the town.

(The sunken road is nearest the viewer in this picture.)

The effect of this layout was that there was a good sized area in the center to fight in, divided in two by the fountain.  The road turned out to be a pivotal location, allowing flank charges into the village and a defended wall on each side.

(The sunken road is top right in this picture).

The scenario we came up with is a combination of several others.  Each player divides their army in half.  We are still trying to decide if we want to have the opponent choose the force that will be deployed forward or the player, though we went with the player choosing their army last night.

Half of the army deploys between 18" and 24" in, on the table.  This means that the two armies start with half of their troops right in each others faces.  The other half of the army deploys three inches in from the table edge.

Night fight rules are in play, meaning that bows can only shoot 12 inches but they get plus one strength.  This had the effect of forcing players to close on each other and, theoretically, it shortens the time they have to shoot.  It also makes the shooting much more dangerous than normal.

The other scenario element that we added in was a modified contest of champions.  Normally in that scenario it is decided by the champion who kills the most enemy models.  A lot of people (including me) really dislike this scenario.  In our scenario a major victory means that you have reduced your opponent to 25% but you are not broken.  A minor victory is achieved by reducing your opponent to 25%, but you are broken.  The kills of your champion add bonus points.  In our game Faramir ended up killing eight dwarfs while Dain only got three kills.  That gave me five bonus points for my minor victory.  We liked this because it makes the scenario about more than just what two models do, and it also has the potential to really get some spread on the player's points in the tournament.

Keith deployed first.  He had Dain with half of his force, divided equally by type (Khazad Guard, ranger, etc), in the village square.  Half of this company was on each side of the fountain.  The other half of his army was set up in the center of the table in his rear deployment zone.
(Dain is the red beared fellow, second from the right in the left hand company.  The shield bearer is the unpainted mini to the left).

I also divided my army in half by type, except that all three of my knights were in the rear deployment zone.  Faramir and Cirion were both forward with their half of the army.  Faramir, a bunch of WoMT and three rangers were set up in the road, just outside the square.  Cirion and the rest of the forward WoMT were in the east corner of the square, as far back as I could get them.  There were five rangers to the west of the village.  The rear deployment zone had knights, the horn blower and six rangers, off to the west.  The WoMT were in the center and five rangers were in the east.

(Faramir and his company along with the three rangers who are bait for the trap.)

I got priority first turn and moved Fararmir, in the second rank, and his band so that they were across the road, right on the edge of the square, with both flanks secured by buildings.  The rangers in the road moved up to the wall.  Cirion's lads backed up so that they had their flanks held by buildings, but they bulged out into the square.  Another part of his force moved up to fill the gap between two buildings, to the west of Cirion.  All of the rear troops moved forward at full speed.

Cirion's troops were setting up a trap for Keith.  By bulging out into the square they gave the Dwarfs an opportunity to have more Dwarfs fighting than humans.  If they moved forward to engage these troops then they would have to ensure that they split off enough troops to keep Faramir and his company locked up in  the street.  Once the Dwarfs had committed to this course of action, Cirion and his lads would fall back, past the houses, so that the situation was reversed and fewer Dwarfs would be forced to fight against more humans, who would have both flanks protected by houses.

(Cirion and his boys move back to increase their odds.  The Dwarfs have bounced off of the wall after their first attack, top right.)

The second part of my trap was based on Faramir, and was, by far, the riskiest part of my plan.  If Faramir and his lads got locked in combat to the front then they would not be in a position to react if the Dwarfs could get over the wall and into the sunken road, from behind.  It appeared that the only thing keeping this from happening was three rangers along the wall.  No problem, thinks the Dwarfs, we can take some D4 rangers.

In Keith's first turn he pushed forward on both sides of the fountain.  The eastern block pushed up so that their flank was on the house, with Faramir's lads just around the corner.  Dain's lads moved forward, trying to minimize how much shooting they would take from my rangers on the west side of the village.

My shooting was completely useless.  Keith managed to kill a couple of WoMT.  The additional strength from the scenario rules made the bows much more deadly.  I, again, won priority in turn two.  I used the opportunity to move the rear half of my army forward, running everyone as fast as they could go.  The knights moved up the western board edge.

Keith moved Dain's forces forward, leaving the other half of his force in the square in place.  He split his rear force in two, half heading directly towards the square and half heading towards the sunken road, which was still only guarded by my three rangers.  Shooting was, again, inconclusive.

Turn three Keith finally won priority and decided to move into combat.  His eastern force swung in to engage Faramir's company and block of the road.  He split the force advancing on the sunken road, sending a third of it off towards the square and the rest towards the wall.  Dain's force advanced against Cirion's company, pushing off a force to guard against the small group of WoMT between the buildings.

My shooting, this turn, was finally decent, with a bunch of Dwarfs falling.  All of the combats were inconclusive, with losses on both sides.  At the end o this turn we had each lost seven models, meaning bad news for Keith with his smaller army.

Turn four finally saw the Dwarfs reach the sunken road.  Two Dwarfs got in to combat with three rangers.  All of the troops who were originally deployed in the square were now in combat.

I pulled Faramir away from the street fight, where he had been in the second rank, and threw him up to the wall against the Dwarfs attacking the rangers.  The WoMT in the center pulled back behind a building, leaving the alley open.  I was hoping that Kieth would try to cross the fence, allowing me to engage his force piecemeal.  He didn't fall for it.  The WoMT who were coming up the center, from the rear deployment zone, split, with half hiding behind a building and the rest moving to reinforce Cirion.  Keith ended up forgetting how many troops I had behind the building and, when they finally came out, late game, he was shocked by ten fresh troops piling in to combat.

The fight in the sunken road went against the Dwarfs, with Faramir getting his first kills.  In the square, neither battle line was moving.  Dain was not getting kills but a few models were still falling to archery.  My rangers, on the western edge of the village, kept moving forward, behind cover, and dueling with his rangers, who were in the open.  My knights were swinging around the rear of the village.  I'm sure that Keith expected them to get in to the fight in the square.  My plan was to have them hit the Dwafs at the sunken road from behind, then swing back around to the square.  Additionally, I had gotten the reserve rangers up to the road and there were now eight there instead of three, along with Faramir and a WoMT spearman supporting him.

This was the decisive turn.  Keith's force in the square was engaged all along the line.  His rangers were losing the archery duel and hid behind the fountain, short buggers.  The force at the wall had just seen its advantage in numbers disappear.  Keith pushed everything he could up against the wall and bounced, losing several dwarfs.  In the next turn he pulled back, allowing Faramir to shift back to the fight at the edge of the square and the rangers, along the wall, to shoot at will.  The dwarfs along the sunken road evaporated over the next couple of turns.

In the road, Faramir managed to turn the fight and break through the dwarf line.  The knights finally reached the fight, one being dismounted by rangers and one killed, but they killed off the last dwarf in the way and the remaining, mounted knight, charged into the combat in the square.

(The Dwarf attack on the sunken road is over.  Faramir is about to blast his way through the dwarf line and Cirion is about to eat Dain's axe.)

Dain was slowly pushing back Cirion's company, killing Cirion in the process.  The WoMT line just wouldn't break though, with the ten troops behind the house providing the numbers to hold Dain and his band.  The dwarf Shield Bearer was having no luck in killing hi opponents, even with his free Heroic combat every turn that he was within three inches of Dain.  Only once did he get into a combat that involved Dain.

(Cirion's last moments.  You can see the shield bearer off stage left, in all his mithril glory.)

My rangers moved forward to engage hand to hand, Faramir's company finally broke out of the street and the Dwarfs were steadily pushed in to a smaller and smaller corner of the square.  When Keith finally broke, the shield bearer kept all but one Dwarf in the fight with their re-rolls of failed courage tests within 12 inches.  By the time the shield bearer failed there were not enough dwarfs left to really affect him much.

(Faramir leads the breakthrough.)

Keith finally broke me but with Farmair's stand fast and the horn blower I only lost five models to failed courage tests.  (Actually that seems like a lot, looking back on it.)  We called it when Keith got to ten models.

(The final moments of Dain's warhost.)

I really enjoyed both the scenario and the table layout.  As always, Keith was a great opponent.  We made some changes to the rules and clarified some issues.  We were going to play it out to total annihilation, thinking that with the two armies starting so close together this would not be a difficult threshold to reach.  It turns out that it just takes too long to wipe out an army so we changed that to 25%.  We also decided that throwing weapons would not benefit from the additional strength, since they were unaffected by the range restrictions.

My trap worked as I hoped.  If Keith had pushed everything against the sunken road, as he started to, it might have been different, and he had me very worried until he split his force.  He underestimated the advantage that a defended obstacle gives.  Faramir was a star, killing dwarfs right and left.  I manged to limit Dain to only three kills, but I just couldn't kill him.  I put one wound on him, even when I had him trapped by three models with support.  He is a tank.

This is probably the most enjoyable game of LotR I have played, which is saying something.  I think both the table layout and the scenario will be good to go for the tournament.

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