Saturday, November 8, 2014

Dwarven Scouts

Today I played my first game of Warrior Heroes - Warbands. This is the Two Hour Wargames title that bridges the gap between Warrior Heroes and Rally Round the King. You control one or more units (of about 10 soldiers each) in the fantasy land of Talomir, and the book includes different ways of playing. There is a campaign system where you start as the leader of a single unit and try to rise in the ranks to become a warlord or king. Two other campaigns have you as a warlord, holding your territory between the borders of other nations, or defending from an invasion of evil forces. There are also rules for sieges (which are a part of the basic campaign.)

For my first game, I chose the simple "Scout" scenario, in which your leader must go through all sectors of the table to map out a region of enemy territory. I decided to play a dwarven unit, and rolled a group of nine dwarves with crossbows, plus my leader. The enemy would be orcs. I set up a board in MapTool, sketched some impassable mountains and wooded areas and spread the Possible Enemy Forces (PEFs) around. Narrative bits in italics, [game-related comments in brackets.]

Debrok was one of the four sons of a dwarven master smith, and that gave him some benefits that other young dwarves didn't have. Like leading his own unit of hunters, despite his lacking martial skills. However, Debrok was still stubborn and proud as any dwarf, and thus eager to prove himself. As rumors of orc raiding parties in the southeast border started to arise, he ordered his men to prepare for a scouting mission.

The group arrived at the Gordar mountain pass and started looking for signs of orc incursion. This would be an obvious route to reach some of the more distant (and less guarded) dwarven villages. As they approached the woods that grew across the pass, a group of orc archers tried to ambush them. Disorganized and using rough short bows, they were met with a shower of bolts from the dwarves, and quickly scattered.
[As my unit maneuvered around the wooded area, the first PEF was resolved as a single unit of seven orc archers. The orcs' smaller numbers and the dwarves' better armor (and some lucky rolls, too) resulted in a victory for the small guys, with the orcs routing in a couple of turns.]

Some of the dwarves expressed concern about further ambushes. After all, the orcs were known for preferring close combat, which made a single band of orc archers seem very suspicious. Debrok laughed loudly, trying to sound brave, and commanded his men to keep moving, as he wanted to inspect something in the mountain face.
Minutes later, the dwarves heard rustling from the woods, which grew to broken twigs and finally, heavy stomping. More orcs, and they were charging!
[Afterwards, I kept moving to the left side of the map, while the PEFs advanced through the woods. The second PEF turned out to be nothing but the third one was resolved as one unit of dire wolf riders followed by a unit of orc warriors.]

Surprised, Debrok ordere the dwarves to form up in two rows and prepare. As they rushed around, they didn't even have time to fire at the charging orcs, mounted on dire wolves that now barked and howled as they approached. It is a testament to dwarven stubborness that the unit held their ground while the orcs and beasts charged, and even managed to kill some of them. Still, their losses were many and, as the fight continued, one of the soldiers decided to call for a retreat. Two others pulled Debrok by his arms and beard, and they fled while the wolves and orcs hacked their companions to bits.
[Luckily, I won the initiative on the following turn, which allowed me to at least set my unit in a better formation (to at least try to avoid being charged by both units.) Still, the riders charged, and the following melee was a massacre. Even before the other orcs could reach them, the dwarves had routed.]

Debrok's defeat was much criticized by some dwarves, back at their citadel. However, others mentioned that his initiative confirmed the rumors of trespassing orc warbands. As a result, he was kept in command of his crossbow unit.

This was a quick battle, lost in part due to my overconfidence after defeating the orc archers. I added the narrative elements after the battle was done, just to make some sense of my mistake :)

Regarding my first impressions about the game: it feels fast and simple. Units have some flexibility to move but still must keep in formation. The rules for melee and ranged combat do not bog down due to the amount of figures, and the morale rules embedded in the reaction tables mean that units will seldom fight to the last man.

It is interesting to note that the "in sight" reaction is not included in this game. This makes sense (to me) for two reasons: first, because of the scale of the game, and second because ancient ranged weapons (bows, javelins) are not so quick to shoot as modern weapons. Therefore "shooting from the hip" and ducking for cover would feel silly. Besides, there are other reaction tests that will make units behave in unexpected ways (so this does not turn into classic IGO-UGO.) Not to mention that units that are not under direct control of the player act on their own...

That is it for now. I still have to try games with more units, wizards, heroes and demons, to get a true "high fantasy" feel. Also, it is possible that this will be used for my next campaign...

1 comment:

Fitz-Badger said...

Nice report! (and even better that it was dwarves)