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Mass Combat, and using the Wisdom of "The Other Game" (Warhammer Fantasy)


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#1 Doc, the Weasel

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Posted 16 February 2014 - 02:36 AM

I keep seeing all the calls for mass combat, and I realized that we have already seen a way to do this with the narrative dice from some of the hacks and advanced rules of Warhammer Fantasy. Over the course of that line there have been some really creative uses for the narrative dice, and I think it is a great place to look for a mass combat mechanic.

 

Here's how it could work:

 

The Dice Pool

 

Each side starts with the Commander's Leadership pool (or Knowledge[Warfare], whatever floats your boat). From there you add dice based on the units you are fielding.

 

For this example I'll use space combat.

  • Squadron of fighters – Boost die
  • Squadron (2–3) of Corvettes or single Light Frigate – Ability die
  • Capital Ship – Proficiency die

For each of those add a die. 4 Squadrons of Fighters, 2 Squadrons of Corvettes, and 3 Capital Ships would be 4 Boost, 2 Ability, and 3 Proficiency dice added to the roll.

 

Note: This can be done as an competitive roll of all positive dice or one side can use negative dice and make it an opposed roll. It works either way. 

 

The Results

 

Tally the net results. For a Competitive check, cancel out like results from each side (so 4 advantage vs 3 advantage is 1 net advantage for the former side). 

 

Note

  1. If you are making an Opposed roll, count the net failures! They are applied as successes for the side using the negative dice.
  2. Treat Triumphs and Despairs as opposed symbols that cancel each other out, and don't give them their free success/failure.

Advantages (Threats) – Each destroys a squadron of fighters. If there are no fighters left, then every 2 advantage/threat destroys a squadron of corvettes/light frigate. If there are no fighters or corvette/frigates, then every 3 advantage/threat destroys a capital ship.

 

Successes (Failures) – Each destroys a squadron of corvettes/light frigate, or a squadron of fighters.  If there are no fighters or corvette/frigates, then every 2 successes/failures destroys a capital ship.

 

Triumphs (Despairs) – Each destroys any one unit, including a capital ship. 

 

Units that are destroyed are removed from the next pool.

 

Involving the Players

 

Whatever the players are doing is removed from the pool. So, if they are flying x-wings and engage a light frigate and squadron of ties, then take the dice for their squadron, the tie squadron, and the frigate out of the pool. Resolve their fight as normal. 

 

Roll the big pool every 3rd or 4th player round. It should move more slowly than the players. 

 

This way, the players can make a big impact in the fight by locking up dangerous dice/units in the opposing force. Of course, they have to actually survive everything they try to take on, even if it's just to occupy them for a few rounds while the rest of the force engages the others. 

 

———

 

This could be adapted to all kinds of situations. The ground battle on Endor could be Boost dice for squads of troops, and ability dice for AT-STs (maybe one-shot ability dice for traps). Hoth could use proficiency dice for AT-ATs, ability dice for speeder squadrons, and boost dice for troops (or maybe just boost dice for the individual speeders and don't count the troops, based on how it actually went down). 

 

What do you all think? If anyone uses it, I'd love to hear any feedback about what works and what doesn't.


Edited by Doc, the Weasel, 16 February 2014 - 02:36 AM.

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#2 GmMichael

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Posted 16 February 2014 - 09:06 AM

I'm also a WFRP GM and this is siimilar to what I'll be doing with AoR. Haven't quite made up my mind on a few items yet. Hero's Call and Omen's of War have all kinds of great ideas on how to run larger encounters with the narrative dice. This is what I was attempting to explain to people in the other threads but it was clear that they either weren't open to it or simply didn't want it in their games. Whatevs. :)

 

I'll be happy to share what I come up with once I've tried a few things at the table and see what works.

 

It's a WAAAAGH! with starships. 


Edited by GmMichael, 16 February 2014 - 09:34 AM.

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#3 Liloki

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Posted 16 February 2014 - 10:46 AM

I have been testing large scale combat with some of my group lately using the minion rules to group squadrons and platoons. Playing it out this way the mass battles are pretty conclusive in 3-6 turns (which is also about as long as any individual scale fights have lasted in my game sessions)... and far more lethal than what you have set up (where only the losing side of the opposed roll is losing units/dice).

 

If you can manage to build in an attrition factor where both sides steadily lose some fighting strength each turn it would better reflect what happens when the whole battle is actually played out. Just that the winner will lose significantly less.

 

Perhaps as a proportion of the forces involved being rendered "out of the fight" each turn and the winner of the opposed check can choose to apply the net results to preserving some units from attrition or hastening the attrition of the opponent. I would also suggest increasing the frequency of this check to every turn or every other turn.

 

This will allow battles to resolve about the same rate as when played out using normal rules but take much less real life time to do so. Also, most forces will withdraw once the winner of the individual battle becomes clear between turns 3-6. I imagine a game session involving a war zone would include 2-3 scenes with this system with narrative RP scenes in-between as the forces regroup and maneuver forces for the next battle.


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#4 Sturn

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Posted 16 February 2014 - 11:02 AM

I also liked the idea of using the minion rules as a base for mass combat. It would be nice to incorporate Leadership and Knowledge (Warfare) into it somehow. I had thought to use Leadership somehow as a limit to how large of a minion group a leader could form. I also have pondered Knowledge (warfare) of the commander's used for initiative checks. Just thoughts, never put anything down on paper nor used it in a game yet.


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#5 Liloki

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Posted 16 February 2014 - 11:24 AM

I also liked the idea of using the minion rules as a base for mass combat. It would be nice to incorporate Leadership and Knowledge (Warfare) into it somehow. I had thought to use Leadership somehow as a limit to how large of a minion group a leader could form. I also have pondered Knowledge (warfare) of the commander's used for initiative checks. Just thoughts, never put anything down on paper nor used it in a game yet.

I like the idea of involving Leadership / Knowledge(Warfare) into the Initiative somehow. Either replacing the usual Cool / Vigilance checks by the command ability of their unit leaders or perhaps giving the overall field commander a check at the start which enhance (good results) or degrade (bad results) the Initiative checks of the units under their command.

 

There are already some Talents that provide commanders some influence actions in the battle, but maybe adding the option to take a generic Command Action where they make a Leadership / Knowledge (Warfare) check to give boost dice to a chosen unit or two to reflect their ability to direct those under their command to be more effective (as opposed to the Talents which mainly reduce setback and provide bonus maneuvers, etc.).


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#6 Doc, the Weasel

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Posted 16 February 2014 - 11:28 AM

My concern with using the minion rules is speed of play, especially with larger fights. I would use them at the tactical level (PCs leading squads), but not give each group in a large battle a separate attack roll, damage vs soak, loss of individual units, etc.

 

This way is super fast and keeps the focus on both the narrative and what the characters are doing. 


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#7 Doc, the Weasel

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Posted 16 February 2014 - 11:30 AM

 

If you can manage to build in an attrition factor where both sides steadily lose some fighting strength each turn it would better reflect what happens when the whole battle is actually played out. Just that the winner will lose significantly less.

 

 

Some of that is just narrative. A squadron not being eliminated doesn't mean every ship in it survived. 


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#8 Liloki

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Posted 16 February 2014 - 11:36 AM

 

 

If you can manage to build in an attrition factor where both sides steadily lose some fighting strength each turn it would better reflect what happens when the whole battle is actually played out. Just that the winner will lose significantly less.

 

 

Some of that is just narrative. A squadron not being eliminated doesn't mean every ship in it survived. 

 

I meant for the attrition to reflect in dice being removed from later rolls. To reflect their impact on the ongoing battle diminishing. Their actual status at the end of the battle is left to narrative.

 

Both sides should be losing some dice each turn, not just the loser of the opposed check.


Edited by Liloki, 16 February 2014 - 11:37 AM.

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#9 Liloki

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Posted 16 February 2014 - 11:41 AM

My concern with using the minion rules is speed of play, especially with larger fights. I would use them at the tactical level (PCs leading squads), but not give each group in a large battle a separate attack roll, damage vs soak, loss of individual units, etc.

 

This way is super fast and keeps the focus on both the narrative and what the characters are doing. 

Agreed. With the tests my group has been running using the minion rules, playing a massive battle where everything is minion grouped up still takes 2-3 hours... which is unacceptable to me from a GM perspective since I want time for the story to be most of the session rather than the battle mini-wargame dominating the time.

 

Once we get in a few more tests with full on rules to have solid benchmarks I'll want to start running tests with the one die per unit rules you proposed. With whatever attrition mods I figure out to work in.


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#10 Doc, the Weasel

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Posted 16 February 2014 - 12:18 PM

 

 

 

If you can manage to build in an attrition factor where both sides steadily lose some fighting strength each turn it would better reflect what happens when the whole battle is actually played out. Just that the winner will lose significantly less.

 

 

Some of that is just narrative. A squadron not being eliminated doesn't mean every ship in it survived. 

 

I meant for the attrition to reflect in dice being removed from later rolls. To reflect their impact on the ongoing battle diminishing. Their actual status at the end of the battle is left to narrative.

 

Both sides should be losing some dice each turn, not just the loser of the opposed check.

 

 

I get what you are saying here. I originally had it where you wouldn't cancel out results, but realized it would make things go too fast. I also like the story potential of "taking the advantage" for the round. It gels with how the films portray battles going back and forth.

 

The compromise was to have 3 axis, so you could lose a few squadrons, but take out some corvettes and a capital ship. You don't get results like having both sides lose fighters, but both sides can take losses each roll. 

 

Maybe in the event of a tie, both sides lose 1 unit in that axis.

 

All that said, it hasn't been tested. I could be totally off base for how fast an unopposed roll would go. 


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#11 Liloki

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Posted 16 February 2014 - 12:47 PM

I would leave the opposed roll cancelling the same. Just build in an attrition factor based on how long you want the battle to go.

 

As mentioned before all the personal level combats in my ongoing game have resolved in under 6 turns. All the massive scale battle tests we've been running also resolve around that same number of turns. 

 

So for my game if I wanted to keep it consistent with length of combat turns I would do something like a 1/10th (mainly for the easier math of factor 10) automatic attrition rate each turn. The winner of each opposed mass combat check could then choose to apply results towards eliminating enemy units and/or saving their own units from the auto-attrition using the same values you proposed for eliminating units.

 

This would go a couple turns longer than the full blown simulations my group has run, but still take far less real time to resolve. Also would keep PCs impact significant to the battle (flying around in their modified YT-1300 the group manages to take out an enemy starfighter squadron about every 1-2 turns - so they would definitely still impact the fight ahead of the auto-attrition of the things around them).


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#12 Liloki

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Posted 18 February 2014 - 02:02 AM

So did some repeated tests using both a ground combat scenario and a space combat scenario. Auto-attrition isn't needed as written since things kill off quickly enough just comparing on the 3 result axes.

 

Unfortunately, the results don't at all model the interaction of starfighters versus corvettes and capital ships accurately, nor the effects of infantry versus heavy combat walkers. Specifically, as written these rules make smaller units way more effective at eliminating the larger units than they actually are when you play it out the long way.

 

Would need to tweak the result values against smaller units being able to take out larger scale units.

 

As written it works fine within discreet unit classes. In other words it models fighters against themselves fine and infantry against infantry fine. Just makes starfighters and infantry way overpowered versus corvettes, capital ships and heavy walkers.


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#13 New Zombie

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Posted 18 February 2014 - 01:39 PM

i am by no means an expert in the tactics and strategies of WW2 era naval combat, which i'm assuming star wars is modelled on.

 

but isn't the purpose of fighters in these kinds of combats to:

intercept the opponents bombers

defend allied bombers

 

basically fighters (x-wing, a-wings, tie fighters etc) are ineffective at destroying the larger vessels but bombers (tie bombers, y wings even perhaps x-wings with proton torpedos) are.

 

if the boost dice represent an abstraction of fighters and bombers then wouldn't the rules doc weasel presents be reasonably representative?



#14 Liloki

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Posted 18 February 2014 - 06:57 PM

It's not scaling the relative strength of starfighters versus capital ships anything remotely similar to if played out the long way. The gulf of power between the two classes is more significant than accurately abstracted by these rules.

 

We ran three different space tests and two ground tests so far. As mentioned, the system gives the smaller units a more inordinate amount of killing power versus the massive units than they otherwise would have versus the played out in full versions.

 

I want to run another round of testing to get more data before trying to work out a solution but just wanted to get it in the discussion now rather than a week from now that there are some clear issues with the one-die system as currently presented. That way anyone else actively interested in testing can help come up with the tweaks.


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#15 New Zombie

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Posted 18 February 2014 - 07:54 PM

i wonder if breaking mass combat into a few quick rolls will improve the accuracy (not as elegant as a single dice roll)

 

initiative based off of knowledge warfare or leadership skill check (however combat is simultaneous see below)

 

first roll represent fighters and bombers (not thought about representative dice yet)

whomever has initiative chooses casualties from fighters and bombers

 

second roll represents corvettes, light frigate, capital class ships and any surviving bombers (capitals = proficiency, light frigates and corvettes = ability, bombers = boost) the results at this stage can use those outlined by doc. 

 

perhaps opponents surviving fighters can be represented as setback dice as they confuse/impede the fire solutions of the big boys and bombers


Edited by New Zombie, 18 February 2014 - 07:54 PM.


#16 Doc, the Weasel

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Posted 18 February 2014 - 08:52 PM

Thanks for testing. I want to do some heavier work with it, but this week is nuts.

 

I wonder how it would be if the results for Successes and Advantages were swapped.

 

The other clean fix is to increase the number of participants in a unit at the small end (troops, or fighters). If the baseline is 5, maybe it could be 10 instead.


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#17 aramis

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Posted 18 February 2014 - 11:07 PM

For ground combats, using units of 5 to 10 minion-level men each works fine. But the combat rules really bog at about 20 active units, and the lack of tabletop-movement rules makes it even worse. It makes maneuver entirely narrative, and that's actually NOT good when things get hairy.

 

But one could use the old minis dodge - 5, 10 or even 20 men per "figure." 



#18 Keeop

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Posted 19 February 2014 - 08:17 AM

For ground combats, using units of 5 to 10 minion-level men each works fine. But the combat rules really bog at about 20 active units, and the lack of tabletop-movement rules makes it even worse. It makes maneuver entirely narrative, and that's actually NOT good when things get hairy.

 

But one could use the old minis dodge - 5, 10 or even 20 men per "figure." 

Range band management is definitely key. Easier said than done depending on the situation.



#19 New Zombie

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Posted 19 February 2014 - 12:42 PM

For ground combats, using units of 5 to 10 minion-level men each works fine. But the combat rules really bog at about 20 active units, and the lack of tabletop-movement rules makes it even worse. It makes maneuver entirely narrative, and that's actually NOT good when things get hairy.

 

But one could use the old minis dodge - 5, 10 or even 20 men per "figure." 

if this is modelled on the rules discussed in WFRP3 i imagine the intent of the house rule is to abstract the combat such that there is no consideration for range bands. if one side has a situational advantage (say they have better cover in general) then additional advantageous dice are added to their pool. (forgive me doc if i'm referring to the wrong set of rules from the wfrp3 forums)



#20 aramis

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Posted 19 February 2014 - 02:42 PM

 

For ground combats, using units of 5 to 10 minion-level men each works fine. But the combat rules really bog at about 20 active units, and the lack of tabletop-movement rules makes it even worse. It makes maneuver entirely narrative, and that's actually NOT good when things get hairy.

 

But one could use the old minis dodge - 5, 10 or even 20 men per "figure." 

if this is modelled on the rules discussed in WFRP3 i imagine the intent of the house rule is to abstract the combat such that there is no consideration for range bands. if one side has a situational advantage (say they have better cover in general) then additional advantageous dice are added to their pool. (forgive me doc if i'm referring to the wrong set of rules from the wfrp3 forums)

 

It's not referring to them at all - it's a counterpoint to them. As in, for company vs company, you don't need an abstraction.

 

A company, typically 12 squads of 10-15 men, can be readily represented by 12 minion groups - essentially, "12 figures" in wargame speak. Company vs Company, you can use standard rules as is, adding the Company CO, XO, and SNCO, and the 3 or 4 platoon officers and SNCOs, and play it out in full RPG mode rules as written.

 

Yeah, the leadership pushes it to about 20 per side, and yes, that's slow. But it works.

Well, it works except for the movement mechanics; which said, if everyone's staying together, work ok, but the moment you start having both sides trying to flank each other, the movement mechanics in the book become utter crap, and need to be replaced with actual movement rules.

 

Now, to go to battalion scale, the same process, but now each "character" is 10 men, the officers are ignored, and a platoon is now 3-5 "characters" strong, as a single "figure".






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