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cpteveros

Mass Combat Rules

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Perusing through the Battlefleet Koronus book, I started to get interested in the mass combat rules presented at the end of it. Though quite expensive and time consuming, persecuting a war and commanding troops on a RT sense of scale sounds interesting to me. Has anyone used the rules and liked them? If not, what was the issue?

 

Like many things in RT, I'm sure it is awesome and awesomely broken at the same time. 

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I am considering using them in the context of Only War - if and when my players get to the point where they are in command of a company or greater, the focus isn't so much on their squad but their command of a unit. Only War lacks any sort of mass combat rules (which is odd, considering the point of OW) so I've been looking at the mass combat in Black Crusade and Rogue Trader. 

 

What are the issues with using it? They seem alright to me, although I see how range is pointless in cities. 

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I haven't checked out Black Crusade's rules closely.  You may find BFK to your liking as long as the players don't figure out the flaws.  It should work out fine with just the normal 40k troops types.  The flaw I pointed out only appears when feral troop types are present.  I suspect more flaws, though.

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Looking back, I see what you mean about tech not really playing a part, or even differences in units - a company of grav-chute equipped troops will operate much differently than just some skirmishers. Perhaps it would just be best to modify Power levels or Morale? 

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Yeah, as Errant pointed changing some stuff would be recommended.
Perhaps how technological levels work, add a couple more layers in the table there or a bigger difference depending on Power bonuses.

 

Black Crusade rules are much better for representing hundreds, not thousands IMO.

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The 40k genre was born in the miniatures market.  Many of the players of FFG games are from that group of people, and they want at least a semi-miniatures resolution system.  Many player, however, don't come from that background, and rare is the group where every player comes from that background.  They might want a more "soft" approach to mass combat resolution.  And then there's the whole approach to warfare resolution.  Do you want to be able to adjudicate an entire war with the set of rules and your players as commanders?  Will they be moving elements around on a map?  How much detail are you looking for?

 

I've been working, on and off, for a system suitable for my current campaign.  All the players have a wargame background, and all have a miniatures background, but few of them care to engage in miniatures in an RPG.  They just want to use their characters to answer the questions, "who wins?" and "how heavy are the casualties?"  I don't want the whole war decided in a short series of dice rolls.  I want a periodic series of dice rolls that determines the progress of the war.  I want the war to stretch out over several, or even many sessions of play.  Sometimes the war can take center stage, but often it runs in the background while the RT and his wonder-buddies adventure around the Expanse.

 

I've decided to make characters, whether PCs or NPCs, be the major vehicle to pursue the outcomes.  No matter how good those characters are at their prospective skills, though, the challenge still has to be present, but that can be a matter of normally overwhelming odds...in other words, that's my problem as the GM.  Before that, I need a system that is easily learned and easily resolved, yet provides interesting choices to make.

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None of my players have a background in wargaming, miniatures, or other traditional RPGs for that matter - but all have played a variety of strategy games on console and PC.

 

I suppose what I am looking for is a way to play the game from the Colonel/Major/Captain's position, as opposed to that of a Sergeant or squad-mate. Ideally it would be them giving orders, moving unit formations around on a "region map" with scale in km or tens of km. They would be giving orders to troops that wouldn't necessarily perform as directed unless under direct control of a player; additionally, the skills possessed by a PC would have some effect on their unit (i.e., a Medicae officer reduces the amount of casualties with Medicae rolls). 

 

So in a way, it wouldn't be too different from space combat I guess - with them being in charge of platoons, companies, and regiments as a group instead of one ship. 

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When speaking of scale, time and distance are big considerations.

 

How long do you want a "turn" to represent?  Do you want something concrete like hours, or something abstract like one firefight?

 

When speaking of distance, don't get specific, just identify if your "units" of distance represent small-arms range, heavy weapons range, artillery range, or something even greater.

 

But from what you are describing, BFK or BC might be what you are looking for.

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As in, the mass combat rules from Battlefleet Koronus? That's what I was originally referring to. They looked like what I was intending, which is to run combat from the regimental level with the PCs in charge. 

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I haven't paged through it well enough to sound like an expert, but you might also check out The Frozen Reaches. The second chunk of that is a sort of mass combat set-up, while the Orks attempt to bumrush the planet Damaris, and you try to prevent it, then mop up the Orks that got through, anyway, because of numbers. I like it also because, from a Rogue Trader POV, it gives you something spelled out to do in SPACE, where your ship is, as opposed to JUST focusing on the ground, where your (do you have an) army is deployed. It also takes into account some Fortifications, and your ability to dump money, and your crew, into the fighting, if you feel the expense worth the risk. I'm not particularly sure how great they are, but if you flip through them, see what you think, and maybe house rule a snippet, here of there, which you might need to do with BFK, too, you might like it. Other folks here have actually PLAYED it, though, so they might have better intel on FR's invasion-combat system, even if it's just "don't listen to him; he's VERY wrong, and they were sort of terrible." Most of these games aren't particularly tailored to mass combat, anyways, since players have trouble killing mobs, especially when they become mobs of individually-resilient Orks, or super-numerous Nids, but even lots of mook humans can be troubling, when you are NOT a mob, and don't have the weapons Deathwatch suggests for neutralizing Hordes.

 

Blah, blah, blah, I babbled, so please have a good one, and best of luck, Trader-Militant.

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I like those rules, and so did my players when I ran that campaign.  This forum seems about 50/50 when it comes to them.  I didn't mention them because they simulate the weekly attrition rate approach.  But yeah, if you have them, read them.

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For regiment scale, I think you should build Hordes out of the Platoons (using Black Crusade).

For army scale, I'd go with BFK's system though, building the units out of the regiments or even group of regiments put together.

 

I have a new group starting a new RT campaign. From the player's mindset I think they will create an "invasion" type ship and use that for military endeavors - if that really happens I can see them using both rulesets a lot.

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Generally, having played through The Frozen Reaches, I rather liked the mass-combat approach there.  We made it work, and for the most part it did, and we took our time with this adventure, playing it over the course of four weekends, with the last two sessions being 12 hour marathons.  

 

This is a good point to make about game preparation.  Not every rule system is perfect or great, but what kills a great system is lack of preparation on the part of the GM. Rogue Trader is not a game where you can just "wing it."  That might be true for D&D, Savage Worlds, and others, but not these WH40K games, but most especially Rogue Trader.  Lack of preparation by the GM shows, and shows badly.  And when it comes down to mass combat it helps to at the least know how it works, how to quickly resolve what's happening, and how the players can influence outcomes.  

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I'd like to throw a couple qualifications at you Wayfinder, because I find that some sessions of RT can very well be winged, especially those sessions where the explorers are retreading old ground to deliver a cargo, or pick up some needed equipment for a new colony.  Exploration can also be winged, but it pays interest when you (at least while playing an online game) bother to download some good art to give the players some eye candy.

 

When it comes to running combat, whether individual or massive, space or planetside, you do really need to do some planning and forethought.  If you don't, you probably won't be challenging your players.  They should know their characters pretty well, and if you don't know the limitations and specialties of the baddies you're running, then you won't use them to their fullest capabilities.  Also, the little details are often what makes a massive combat cool.  When your ship is down to 20 hull and the captain orders ramming speed, the players should be gripping their chairs' arms.  And knowing the possibilities beforehand, and checking out the rules that govern those sitiuations saves tons of time in a session that might otherwise take up 2 or 3 sessions.

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I'd like to throw a couple qualifications at you Wayfinder, because I find that some sessions of RT can very well be winged, especially those sessions where the explorers are retreading old ground to deliver a cargo, or pick up some needed equipment for a new colony.  Exploration can also be winged, but it pays interest when you (at least while playing an online game) bother to download some good art to give the players some eye candy.

 

When it comes to running combat, whether individual or massive, space or planetside, you do really need to do some planning and forethought.  If you don't, you probably won't be challenging your players.  They should know their characters pretty well, and if you don't know the limitations and specialties of the baddies you're running, then you won't use them to their fullest capabilities.  Also, the little details are often what makes a massive combat cool.  When your ship is down to 20 hull and the captain orders ramming speed, the players should be gripping their chairs' arms.  And knowing the possibilities beforehand, and checking out the rules that govern those sitiuations saves tons of time in a session that might otherwise take up 2 or 3 sessions.

 

Well, my friend Dan and I are major geeks, and we're big on making maps and such just for odd encounters, and we're fastidiously organized because we're about to try an experiment which I won't get into yet.  We both make "battlebooks," which is now largely on our tablets and laptops (we used to do this for AD&D 2nd Edition, back when we were using binders...the horror).  In these battlebooks we've got condensed rules for combat, skills, space combat, house rules, character creation, and Campaign stuff, not to mention our Endeavours.  And we are constantly looking for minis, maps on RPGnow, and we've just started getting into card-stock stuff, because, well, they're rather cool.  So my idea of "winging it" for Rogue Trader already involves a lot of prep work prior to even starting the whole campaign.  

 

So that when we have something that happens on the fly, we have the tools at our disposal already to make things happen, and they're getting faster.  

 

Personally, I'm the first to admit maybe we think Rogue Trader needs more organization than D&D 5E or our Savage Worlds exploits, and I'm starting to see maybe most of it isn't all that necessary.  For instance, I wrote a whole file on Zayth, and I put in like more than 30 city-walkers in there, with their allegiences to other city-walkers, Rogue Traders, and certain organizations and entities in the Koronus Expanse such as Karrad Vall, the Orks of the Undred-Undred Teef, and even the Eldar.  However, my players haven't been there yet, and I and my retinue have only visited the place once to drop off munitions (and losing our first Explorator in the process).  It's nice to have, but I have no comparative file for my other games I run.  I guess I was just intrigued by Zayth so much that I developed it more fully for our campaigns.  

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There is nothing wrong with that, either - I have found as a GM in Only War that most of the background information I prepare never truly makes it to the players. Either it doesn't come up, or they don't catch it. Regardless, it helps me to visualize the scenarios I want to run and informs many of the choices I make. 

 

Just because a group of players don't run across it or don't care, doesn't mean it isn't necessary!

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Let's hear it for us anal retentives!  Yeay!

 

I worked on my current campaign for what seemed like several months, laying out star systems and downloading flavor photos for amosphere before starting my current campaign.  Then I looked back and discovered I'd actually been working on the whole for 14 months.  Of course, my computer had kept track of all those date.  I sure didn't.

 

And I can't tell you the difference between doing that now in 2015 with our cloud drives, and the reams of notebook paper I abused back in the 70s and 80s.  And let's not even start on the difference in art.  Wow!  I just do me a google search and I have tons of beautifully done art to wow my players with that was never available back then.  And I present it all with 2 clicks of the mouse...much different than black and white sketches panned around the room.

 

But I digress....

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Back in the day when I was running AD&D 2E, we did an experiment where we ran the game as per the rules to see what the devs at the time were thinking.  And it was a logistical nightmare.  

 

I ran Dragon Mountain, spending over a year running that mega-dungeon.  My players were clever; they got loans from local barons and even a king for the expedition to kill this awful red dragon and his huge horde of kobolds and other nasties.  They were able to amass more than 11,000gp, and they got troops, a huge wagon train of supplies, hirelings for all kinds of things, and the trip included "camp-followers," which I will leave up to you guys to Google what those are.  A veritable town was established about a hex away from the Dragon Mountain site.  The group's mage/druid was having farms set up so that there would be a steady supply of food for the troops and hirelings, and he would cast spells to encourage rapid crop yields, using spells he'd never otherwise use in most other games.  

 

After the dragon had attacked the town roughly a month after the first disastrous foray into Dragon Mountain (those **** kobolds were devious, taking down heroes several HD higher than they individually were), they moved the town, and the "league" sent more troops and siege weapons to secure the town which was set up two hexes further away!  

 

Off the top of my head, the players ran through more than 2,000 bottles of healing potions, 6,000 arrows, more than a ton of food per month not including what was fed to the followers, troops and hirelings, Lord knows how much material components for spells (you'd be surprised how fast bat guano and sulfur dries up when your favorite spell to use against masses of kobolds is Fireball), and enough water to fill several lakes.  

 

Though the players did finally get to the dragon, he kicked their asses completely.  I mean it was a bloodbath!  And the bastard took his time, toying with them like a cat against a bunch of mice.  The only survivor was the group's lovely female elven ranger, who he turned into his personal slave.  Afterward, he swept down from his lair and enslaved the town, then went over and destroyed the king's palace.  I admit, back then, that was added insult to injury, but it seemed a logical next step for a chaotic evil red dragon to do, to revel in absolute victory!  

 

Spent a year off not playing any game after that.  

 

Edit:  I forgot about the other logistical problems.  Because the town was set up near a stream a couple of hexes away from a snow-capped mountain, the winter there was bitter.  Food became scarce, and while the "league" was trying to keep them well-supplied, there was starvation and typhoid swept through the town.  It was awful.  The expedition lasted, in game-time, more than 15 months!  

Edited by Wayfinder

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That's what most of the 40k game line is missing, in my opinion. There isn't anything truly epic to do! You are always the lackeys, the grunts, the hirelings (unless you are playing Rogue Trader) and even if you become quite experienced, there are no rules for setting up organizations or cells or leading regiments. Hell, even becoming an Inquisitor in DH Ascension is presented as Acolyte +.

 

This is why I was interested in the mass combat rules in the first place. I have a group of Guardsmen who are getting pretty high in XP, while slowly climbing the ranks. The characters will get older and take on more responsibilities, which the Only War books only mention in passing - without actually providing any sort of rules or examples for GMs to follow. 

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