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Thread: Battle rules

  1. #1
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    Battle rules

    I know that this has been addressed before but rather than resurrect an age old post I’ll start a new one.

    These are the changes I would make to the Battle rules for Birthright.
    1. Expensive units are just not worth the gold you pay for them. Granted most of the higher end gold bar units have a movement of two that allows them to be more effective on and of f the battle board but that advantage is small when compared to having a less well equipped but more numerous army. Also the more gold a unit costs the harder the unit is to muster due to holding requirements.
    You can make your own comparison or tests on this but for the most part as an example a unit of knights will almost always lose to an equal number of gold bar units of all or mixed archers, infantry and pike-men.
    What I think should be implemented is units that have a melee or missile higher then six should than get an extra attack using the base attack chart of a fighter. Thus a knight would have a melee of +6/1 an elven archer a missile +6/1, dwarves guards a melee of +6/1 etc. This evens up gold bar value and effectiveness of units and from my tests seem to give the results I was looking for, a more even battle based on gold bar value while the more expensive unit keeps there advantage of extra movement or terrain bonus.
    2. I would have the charge attack deal double dmg on a successful hit. A charging unit of Vos Berserkers or Anuirean knights would be one of the most destructive and powerful attacks done on a battle field. I would than add to the pike-men that they do not take double dmg from a charge.
    3 I would bring back the original rule regarding Calvary from second edition, that after a battle is over for each unit of Calvary the victory has he can destroy a retreating unit (the one losing the unit chooses which unit if its an option), for each unit of Calvary in the retreating army screens or basically neutralize the Victors Calvary. I would exclude heavy Calvary from this rule, ie Knights and Varsk Riders as they were excluded in the original rule. I always liked this rule and I am not sure why it wasn’t included in the play-test.
    4 Strategic Warfare. To make good generals good, before the first strategic move both opposing leaders make a war-craft check to determine who has the best battle plan. If one general has bested the other by more than five he has the advantage. Once and for one round per battle the general with the higher score applies a +1 to each units melee or missile for every 5 points above the others score. This rule is to represent the foresight and wisdom of the General when his battle plan takes form.
    5. The hero unit, I do not think that the rules for a hero unit represents just how powerful and destructive high level characters would have on a battle field. Actually I feel very confident in saying that the hero unit is way off on the effects leveled chars would have on a battle. If any of you have played Dynasty Warriors that’s about what a 10 level char would look like fighting in a battle. The ideas I have come up with so far for changing the hero unit I’m not happy with but I do remember seeing posts about this before and I will see if I can find them and look what was said.
    I look forward to any comments and if any one still uses the battle board and tries out these changes let me know how it went and what you thought.

  2. #2
    Site Moderator kgauck's Avatar
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    As a general principle I don't think that units should have the same ratio of combat power to cost. Generally the extra cost achieves something unusual that no other unit can do.

  3. #3
    We had the that same problem in our game. After a while when it became evident that to win a battle you need just numbers our armies were entirely archers and infantry with a sprinkling of a few other units for show. What we did to solve this is for each hit a unit has they get 8hp and when the hit they do d8 dmg. It made it worth buying other units again.
    Like you idea for warcraft not sure about your calvary rule.

  4. #4
    I have never like the battle system and seek ways to improve it. I agree there is no way for individuals to make a difference on the battlefield. Of course this is realistic, but I like the fantasy idea that a single man might be able to change of the course of a battle.

    I will keeping thinking about this and hopefully come up with an improved system for my players. I want a system that is a bit more dynamic, more options during the battle, and all around more fun to play. Battles right now are like a tooth being pulled. It needs to happen, but the process is a bit painful.

    -BB

  5. #5
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    I like your suggestions 3 and 4, 2 with reservations (need to test the idea a bit more).

    I agree with Kgauck that combat effectiveness should not be related directly to GB cost. Greater numbers of troops should almost always overwhelm smaller numbers of better equipped or skilled troops as long as terrain, morale, or tactics don't limit the advantage of the greater numbers. Even NATO troops tend to go into battle with superior numbers in any localized conflict. They try to harness every advantage they can to go along with the vastly superior equipment and skill that the individual troops have.

    I also agree with Beau that individuals cannot influence combat greatly; I actually like the Hero unit modifications. Maybe they could be increased or adjusted a little to emphasize the hero aspect of the game, but basically powerful individuals mainly serve to bolster the morale and discipline of the unit, inspiring them to fight better. So maybe they could add a Hit, add more to Morale, maybe a little more to Defense. By the way, I don't think a Battle Magic system is needed at all. I think you just factor spellcasters into the hero unit, perhaps giving them an additional bonus to EL equal to the highest level spell they can cast, since wizards are essentially walking artillery pieces.

    I agree with you guys that the system is limited and rather broken. For instance, since it is based on small modifiers (+1 to +2 at a time) to a d20, it is inherently a very random and swingy system--particularly in small skirmishes, which is most of D&D and BR battles (battles with dozens of units will statistically even out better than ones with only a few). WotC has FINALLY recognized this in 4th edition. There are two ways to correct this with minimal changes. The 4e route is to adjust the curve upwards but keep the swingy d20. If you, for instance, double or triple all of the modifiers for units and terrain and warcraft and so forth, battles will become a little more stable and approach the statistical Normal distribution better.

    The other method would be to remove the wild variability of the d20 and replace it with 2d10 or (like the defunct but quite interesting Shards of the Stone game) 3d6. These, again, approach Normal distribution much better, allowing a Knight unit to more reliably overrun an Infantry unit in a charge (because lets face it, on an open plain, if a Knight unit gets up to a full charge against an unprotected Infantry unit, that Infantry is toast almost 100% of the time with very little chance of injury to the Knights).

    The other things that the current battle system doesn't quite take into account well enough are the major tactical factors of battle.

    1. Terrain and weather are given a minimal impact, with no bonus for units fighting on known or home terrain.
    2. Warcraft--the strategic and tactical skill of commanders--gets some impact, but again it is very swingy because of the d20, and it is still a little weak, I think.
    3. Information availability and communication are almost completely ignored on the tactical level
    4. Unit fatigue is underrated
    5. Fortifications are underrated--without towers, rams, ladders, grappels, or artillery, assaulting a walled fortification is virtually impossible. Low level fortifications give very little bonus to defense or Warcraft in this game; they should give probably at least a +4 on top of the fortification level, an advantage negated only by engineers.
    6. Attack is more difficult than defense

    That list seems shorter than what I had intended. Suffice to say that if you hold more of these advantages than your opponent, they would make a big difference in the battle. If you control your home terrain, have more skilled commanders, have scouts/information and communication methods, command any sort of fortification, and outmatch your enemy in unit skill and composition and numbers, it should be all but impossible for him to even do significant damage to you, let alone defeat you in battle.

    Unfortunately, I have seen several instances where one side controlled almost all of these advantages and yet, due to the inaccuracies in current battle resolution systems, suffered staggering damage and even defeat from a comparatively unharmed attacker (one in unfamiliar terrain, with fewer and weaker units not optimized against the defenders while the defenders were optimized against the attackers, lower morale than the defenders, attacking into fortifications on the defenders' home turf without any engineers, with poorer information).

  6. #6
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    Just thought of something. Perhaps one way to improve the system and even out the elite units a little is to recognize Hits as having mostly to do with unit cohesion, and the fact that casualties, even in melee warfare, were far fewer than this system seems to assume. Not a lot of people died unless they were trapped or cut down when routed, and most defeated soldiers were captured or scattered as deserters.

    So, figure that units can recover 1 hit automatically given two days of rest or a war move if they are marching (not needing to be in garrison for a month). Even "destroyed" units down to 0 hits should be able to recover, since most of the individuals are still alive and not seriously injured.

    Recovering more than 1 hit requires additional recruitment to reform the full unit formation (though recovering 1 hit might only mean you need to recruit 10-20 more individuals to fill out the unit's ranks) and requires you to be garrisoned in your home province for a month.

    What this means for the winner of a battle is that his own units recover quite a bit, "destroyed" units can be recombined with other "destroyed" units after they each recover 1 hit to restore a unit to full hits. Enemy units that were destroyed are considered captured, and can either be slaughtered, ransomed (probably for near to the muster cost of the unit), or exchanged.

    The loser of a battle has to deal with the fact that his destroyed units are unrecoverable unless they are ransomed back to him. Injured or routed units can live to fight another day. This new reality makes retreat more attractive, rather than fighting it out to the bitter end every time.

    The main thing that I think is still missing from this variant unit damage/healing system is taking desertion into account. This could perhaps be done by having units make a morale check like the Forced March check: DC 10, +2 in home territories, suffer 1 hit (subdual or actual?) if they fail. A penalty to the check should apply for the loser of a battle (perhaps -2 and -2 more for each 10% of the army lost), and a bonus for the winner (+4?).

    The explanation seems long, but in brief, the rules are just:
    Units recover 1 hit for 2 days of rest or 1 week on the march. Additional hits must be recovered in garrison at the rate of 1 per month. Units reduced to 0 hits are eligible to recover hits, as well, but destroyed units on the loser side are considered captured by the winner and can be executed, ransomed, or exchanged. At the end of a battle, each sides units must each make a morale check DC 10 or suffer 1 hit from desertion that can only be recovered in garrison. Modifiers are +2 in home provinces, -2 for losing the battle and -2 for each 10% of the army lost, +4 for winning the battle.
    Last edited by Rowan; 05-01-2008 at 03:32 PM.

  7. #7
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    I think the battle resolution can be fixed or at least be much better with a few changes. I disagree with you Rowan that numbers will always over run better armed and equipped troops, throughout history you can find countless examples of just the opposite, I could give a list if you want. I do agree that there is power in numbers and it is an advantage but there is equal power in training and equipment, obliviously yes if it is within your means to do so you would want to have as many advantages as you can.
    As for can an individual greatly effect the out come of a battle. It has been done… but is rare. The question I think would be are the battles more fantasy based or grounded more to reality. If they question is can a 12th level character greatly effect the out come of a battle the answer would be yes without a doubt in the world of dungeons and dragons, but if your personally flavor is that you want to have more realistic battles than the hero unit doesn’t need to be changed or used at all.
    As for your 6 points Rowan I agree with them and I think everyone else would agree with them as well, and I addressed #2 as a big flaw in my first post. However I’m looking at trying to make small changes with out having to change the whole system, can it not be salvaged. Basically I think the biggest flaws are the issues I posted.
    For those that do use the Battle resolution do you not agree that the shock and awe that big name units like knights, Varsk riders and Berserks should possess are just not there. I have tested my suggestion out in about 10 mock battles and am happy with the results, numbers keep an advantage but its possible for small elite armies to win against large poorly equipped and trained armies. Granted my changes are small ones but I think it balances out and makes for a more fun battle, where is the fun if you don‘t recruit knights and cavalry because they limit your ability to win wars. I welcome any one to test the changes and post there thoughts.

  8. #8
    I have found the birthright mass battle system to be fine really, except for how the PC's become involved in the fight.

    What I do in my games (I use Savage Worlds as a ruleset) is plug in a battle table that I found in the Legend of the Five Rings RPG 3rd edition book. Basically, if the PC wants to add a bonus to a unit (represented by the Adventurers card) they have to roll on the table (a strategy or warfare roll) and complete the challenge successfully for the unit to gain a bonus. This makes it a tough choice sometimes as PC's can split up to give bonuses to multiple units, but have to complete all the challenges by themselves usually, or can team up to give the bonus to one unit.

    The challenges have different tables for certain foes, if you're fighting a naval battle, use the naval tables, if its against humanoids on land use the humanoids tables, if its against monsters or undead etc. use the monstrous tables. They needed a very small amount of tweaking to work with Birthright which was super easy.

    Some examples of challenges were capture the enemy banner, hold the line, attack the archers, attack the spellcasters, duel vs. enemy general, and the list goes on. Lots of flavor for the PC's, simple to use rules, and it plugs in seamlessly with the battle cards.

  9. #9
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    Midnight, in your tests, did you find battles still to be swingy when still using the d20? Particularly in battles with fewer than 10 or 20 units total?

    As for the shock and awe of the elite units, applied in the right situations, I think they truly are devastating. They can and should indeed run down non-elite or normally-armored units with impunity (and very little risk of taking a hit themselves). Double damage on the charge helps represent that nicely. The concern I have is with double damage AND the Charge bonus to attack, and also the inability to do it to Pike. Pike should have a significant advantage against charges, but historically there still are many instances of charges against Pikemen. If there is no benefit to charging Pike, it wouldn't be done. I think the reason it still is seen occasionally is that desperate or perhaps foolhardy men take the risk of great cavalry losses, but recognize that the armored tanks charging even a Pike unit can be so terrifying and have such momentum that they can still shatter and run down a pike unit--though at great personal loss.

    I haven't run the skirmishes, but I tend not to think that the additional attacks you outline in your point #1 are necessary, partly because I philosophically disagree that a single unit of knights should be able to take on an infantry, a pike, and an archer. In that engagement, unless the commander of the knights can make better use of surprise, terrain, and break the opponents' morale, those knights are and should be toast unless they're truly legendary (big heroes unit, Toughness and Melee+ training, etc.). By the way, I'm not convinced Archers should get a +2 bonus versus mounted units.

    Hiru, I like the Challenges idea for engaging PCs. Where would I find this oft-referred-to "Savage Worlds" rules set? I have never seen it.

    ____________________-

    I know that small, better equipped and trained units can take on larger numbers, but usually they benefit from some other force multiplier as well--like the aforementioned terrain, better tactics, routing an enemy unit early on, etc. The two classic examples I can think of, the Alexander's victory at Gaugemela and Henry's at Agincourt, involved the smaller forces making much better tactical choices. Alexander didn't allow Darius's overwhelming numbers to engage and tie down his mobile army, nullified his elite charioteers by avoiding their paved attack runway (good recon on his part), and then took a classic Chess move and made an opportunity to charge hard at the King himself and rout the and capture the King's unit--causing the whole army to fall into disarray and breaking morale. Alexander was regularly successful at bringing his elite forces to bear at opportune times against the right enemy companies; had he slugged it out, all things (tactically) being equal, he would have suffered tremendous losses fighting when he was outnumbered. He may still have gained victory primarily through the better morale of his troops, but that is and should be the main pivotal point of battle--whoever routs first and can't recover loses. Sun Tzu observes this when he recognizes that you don't want to trap an enemy, because desperate men with no chance to break and run away will fight desperately for survival--in other words, you want to give them a chance to rout so you can destroy them more easily.

    At Agincourt, the English channeled the enemy through a funnel that not only nullified the French numbers, but actually made the French bunch up so ridiculously that they couldn't even fight, crushed in on each other as they were. Plus, the superior skill and range of the English longbowmen on the flanking hills was quite effective. Ultimately, it was mastery of terrain that one that battle, plus French overconfidence and lack of discipline. After witnessing the slaughter of the front lines, the remaining French army broke morale.
    Last edited by Rowan; 05-01-2008 at 05:33 PM.

  10. #10
    We had the same problem what we did was add 8hp per hit a unit has and have stronger units deal d8 dmg and and the weaker ones deal d6 dmg. combat take longer but if you didn't have an army of mass archers or inf you would lose to the army that was before we changed how we deal dmg.

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