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Author Topic: Fighting retreats in skirmish games (specifically Song of Blades and Mordheim)  (Read 2924 times)

Offline Aethelflaeda was framed

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I have spent a bit of time in mail.  Just walking up a staircase is fatiguing.  There is a reason armoured troops were mostly mounted.  I couldnít last 10 minutes in real fighting even if i wasnít doing anything but running.  Fit men at arms?  Soldiers of the day were ill fed, housed poorly and probably didnít drill diligently to the point of athleticism.  The majority would be average clods just hoping to avoid having to make a swipe and avoid an arrow while they look menacing in the line.  Advance?  feck that!

Our Ďheroicí games almost always discount the effects of fatigue but most actual hand to hand fighting is usually over in seconds and often doesnít come to that as the buggers all run before contact is made when charged.  Combat is 90% psychology, not fencing, most kills are in the pursuit of a fleeing enemy.  even if  they stand a charge, watch a modern fencing matchÖthey are over in seconds. No time to get tired.  Run away and your bulky shields and breastplates are quickly tossed lest they impede your retrograde!


That said, the shock result or even a wound in FFOL acts pretty well as fatigue if we donít worry about literal meanings.  sprinkle a few more into the results in if they wear heavy crap, even if they win and the victor better take a rest (recovery roll) before he charges into the next fight.
Mick

aka Mick the Metalsmith
www.michaelhaymanjewelry.com

Margate and New Orleans

Offline Skaville

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Realism aside, i like this a lot for Song.

Since attacking can get you killed, rank and file troops tend to just stay put when in contact, as doing nothing is safer than taking an action, and moving away triggers the dreaded Free Hack. The option to retreat out adds a layer of tactical opportunities.
Will be testing this!

Offline Hobgoblin

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I suppose, in wargaming, base contact leaves no room for argument.  Being within 1 or 2 inches could potentially see arguments about whether a figure is at 2 inches or 2.5 inches.  I have gamed with people like that.

Yes, that's all too true. If one were designing a (non-unit) skirmish game from the ground up, the best thing to do would be to use measuring sticks so that a character can attack anyone within a given range.

Actually, I think some relatively modern unit-based skirmish games (Saga and Dragon Rampant) get a lot right in resolving fights through 'clashes' with the units withdrawing from each other after each exchange. That approach could work for individual-centred games too and might lead to a more dynamic game, especially if combined with retreat and advance/pushback options.



Mobility in armour:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qzTwBQniLSc

Yes, that makes a very good case.

That said, it probably still got HOT in there, much as it does in say, hockey goalie equipment, and it's still 30-40 pounds more than someone in much lighter armour, so endurance in armour still matters even if it's not a significant burden over shorter time frames. But for short skirmish scenarios it probably doesn't matter much.

Agreed - and the hockey analogy is a good one.

Fit men at arms?  Soldiers of the day were ill fed, housed poorly and probably didnít drill diligently to the point of athleticism.  The majority would be average clods just hoping to avoid having to make a swipe and avoid an arrow while they look menacing in the line.  Advance?  feck that!

I don't think that's true. Soldiers - especially levies - might be in poor condition (though not always by any means - skeletons of medieval longbowmen show extraordinary muscular development). But men-at-arms - the gentry, aristocracy and senior retainers - were people who had trained with weapons and associated physical pursuits since childhood. And anyone who fought as a man-at-arms would be well fed.

I once had dinner with the archaeologists that led the excavations at Repton. A point they made was that the Viking skeletons found there had spurs on the bones that matched those that modern power lifters have. There was also tremendous physical development from rowing (I recall they said that you could tell the side of the longship from the shoulder and back development) and popped ear bones (or something like that) from deep diving. Essentially, they said, these people had lived exactly the sort of robustly physical lives you would expect from the sagas.

I have spent a bit of time in mail.  Just walking up a staircase is fatiguing. There is a reason armoured troops were mostly mounted. 

But they very often weren't - especially when plate armour was at its height: see the Wars of the Roses passim! And in the earlier Middle Ages, hauberk-sporting huscarls fought on foot even if they rode to battle.

The fighting at Towton lasted for hours. It most certainly would have been fatiguing, but the men who did it must have been fit and strong enough to keep going with 25kg of battle dress each.


Our Ďheroicí games almost always discount the effects of fatigue but most actual hand to hand fighting is usually over in seconds and often doesnít come to that as the buggers all run before contact is made when charged.

Both good points - but again, most skirmish games cover such a short period (a few minutes, even if it takes an hour or more to play out) that fatigue is probably hardly worth modelling.

  Combat is 90% psychology, not fencing, most kills are in the pursuit of a fleeing enemy.  even if  they stand a charge, watch a modern fencing matchÖthey are over in seconds. No time to get tired.  Run away and your bulky shields and breastplates are quickly tossed lest they impede your retrograde!

In a Mordheim or SoBH-style skirmish, though, we're talking about something more like a street fight or a duel rather than a pitched battle. So, yes, the fighting would be fast if it played out in real life, but we are dealing with something more like a (lethal) fencing match than a proper battle.


That said, the shock result or even a wound in FFOL acts pretty well as fatigue if we donít worry about literal meanings.  sprinkle a few more into the results in if they wear heavy crap, even if they win and the victor better take a rest (recovery roll) before he charges into the next fight.

Yes, 'temporary' or 'recoverable' wounds are probably among the best ways of modelling fatigue when it's needed.

FramFramson's point about heat is a great one too: there are accounts of various prominent and well-armoured fighters being injured because they'd taken their helmets off or raised their visors - presumably, to cool off.

Realism aside, i like this a lot for Song.

Since attacking can get you killed, rank and file troops tend to just stay put when in contact, as doing nothing is safer than taking an action, and moving away triggers the dreaded Free Hack. The option to retreat out adds a layer of tactical opportunities.
Will be testing this!


Let us know how you get on! Yes, that can be a problem in SoBH - or characters only activating if they can perform a power blow because they don't stand a chance otherwise.

Offline Aethelflaeda was framed

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Itís hard to garner how many minutes of continuous hand to hand combat there was  for a single soldier to endure, no matter how long the battle overall.  The majority of troops might only march or stand around for very long portions of the fray and never cross a sword certainly there would be pauses.  We have to be careful about inflating what the average soldier did or could do based on some huskarl or practiced men at arms. The fatigue of weeks or months on campaign with indifferent food, dirty water, bad weather with poor shelter would be trying even for the most physically fit who would not be typical.  Throw in some long marching with little sleep and men canít find the energy to charge into a fight or stick around for one if they can find a way to avoid it. 

Offline Hobgoblin

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Itís hard to garner how many minutes of continuous hand to hand combat there was  for a single soldier to endure, no matter how long the battle overall.  The majority of troops might only march or stand around for very long portions of the fray and never cross a sword certainly there would be pauses.

Yes, absolutely. The hours of 'fighting' at Towton wouldn't have been hours of continuous hand-to-hand fighting or anything like it; I think we don't really know how the 'press' of a medieval battle played out (repeated clashes? lots of standing around and threatening? advances and retreats turning into routs? etc.). But it can't have been continuous melee for the whole lines.

We have to be careful about inflating what the average soldier did or could do based on some huskarl or practiced men at arms.

Yes - my point is just that the guys who wore heavy armour - the huscarls or men-at-arms or whatever - were the guys who'd trained to fight from childhood. These would be the fittest and strongest soldiers, for the most part, and the best fed. There was a recent archaeological find at Stirling Castle that included the skeleton of a knight described by the lead archaeologist as a "very strong and fit nobleman, with the physique of a professional rugby player".

One point I'd make about the bones of this guy and many of those found at Towton is that they had a lot of healed-up serious injuries (there's a famous reconstructed face of a Towton man-at-arms with a very nasty scar on his jaw). So a lot of medieval warriors had been involved in some pretty horrific hand-to-hand fighting and had healed up to fight again.

The fatigue of weeks or months on campaign with indifferent food, dirty water, bad weather with poor shelter would be trying even for the most physically fit who would not be typical.  Throw in some long marching with little sleep and men canít find the energy to charge into a fight or stick around for one if they can find a way to avoid it.

Good points; but while the men-at-arms would be the fittest/strongest/best fed, etc., I think there's plenty of evidence of humbler soldiers often being in good shape. Longbowmen weren't men-at-arms, but they were typically very strong guys (you'd have to be to use a war bow repeatedly), and their skeletons show that (greatly thickened arm bones on the left and heavy development of the back and shoulders).

Now, that sort of strength could only be developed and maintained by regular practice. So it's interesting that both Scottish and English kings made efforts to promote archery practice by banning football.

But that tells another story too: the kind of football that was distracting Scottish and English men from their archery was a very rough game - more like unregulated rugby than modern association football. So these common people were engaging in very robust physical activities one way or another. All in all, I think the average medieval man was almost certainly fitter, stronger and more active than his equivalent in developed countries in the 21st century. Of course, there was a lot of wear and tear along the way too - as we know from archaeology.

I think both SoBH and Mordheim actually model morale quite well: they're both games in which victory is usually decided by routing the enemy rather than killing them all. SoBH's cascading morale tests and Mordheim's 25%-down psychology tests give both games a healthy degree of realism - and dynamism into the bargain. My proposed 'fighting retreat' rules would add to that dynamism a bit, I think.

Offline Hobgoblin

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Another, complementary, way to make Mordheim melee more dynamic occurred to me over the weekend: allowing the 'winner' of a round of combat to push back his opponent. (Song of Blades already has knockbacks, so this doesn't apply to that game)

In Mordheim, it would work like this: when one fighter scores a hit and the other does not, the successful fighter can, in the absence of a wound (i.e. following a failed 'to wound' roll or a parry or armour save) OR instead of a wound, choose to push his opponent back 2" and follow up. If there is more than one combatant on either side, the winner(s) must beat all opponents (e.g. an ogre scores two hits on his two goblin antagonists while they fail to hit, allowing him to push them both back).

As with the fighting retreat, it's not a big change, but it would allow a bit of dynamism, create some tactical opportunities (third-party line of sight, pushing a foe over a ledge or onto a bridge, etc) and generally reward higher-WS fighters, who are more likely to avoid being hit.

It would also allow skilled fighters to overcome tougher but less skilful foes through clever use of terrain: manoeuvring an ogre or orc onto a ledge and then pushing them over, for example, when wounding's proving difficult.

As a supplemental rule, I'm considering an optional initiative check to allow the 'winner' to change positions with the loser or rotate anything up to 180 degrees around the opponent's base instead of a pushback (if there are no other figures in the way). Again, this would allow the better fighters (higher WS) to control the combat a little more, even if they're up against physically tough opponents.

Offline Belligerentparrot

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I like this pushback rule. Someone somewhere on this site (it might have been you, honestly can't remember) once made the point that the WS and SvT rolls taken together have a flattening effect: what looks like variation in unit ability on the stat line actually plays out much the same. (Sorry, not explaining that very well).

Your rule allows WS to come into its own, which I like: I've always thought in GW games skill is supposed to have an edge (but not much of an edge) over strength.

Offline Hobgoblin

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I like this pushback rule. Someone somewhere on this site (it might have been you, honestly can't remember) once made the point that the WS and SvT rolls taken together have a flattening effect: what looks like variation in unit ability on the stat line actually plays out much the same. (Sorry, not explaining that very well).

I've certainly parroted that here, though it wasn't an original view!

Yes: one thing that Mordheim does really well is to utilise the Warhammer statline in the RPGish way for which it was originally created; Mordheim and WFB 1st edition have a fair bit in common. So by adding this rule in, I hope to extend that a little bit.

Your rule allows WS to come into its own, which I like: I've always thought in GW games skill is supposed to have an edge (but not much of an edge) over strength.

Yeah, I can't see a disadvantage to using it, unless it's simply remembering who has and who hasn't scored a hit.

I'm somewhat tempted to make fighting retreats and pushbacks a full move rather than a half-move, for even more dynamism. That might work well, I think - but you get a slight logical inconsistency if dwarfs can keep up with Skaven, etc. A half-move irons out the anomaly.

Offline tikitang

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Interesting discussion!

Some of the points that have been touched on I recall discussing in this thread!
https://a-descent-into-the-maelstrom.blogspot.com/


"The things you own end up owning you. It's only after you lose everything that you're free to do anything."

- Chuck Palahniuk

Offline Patrice

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Pushing back an enemy in a skirmish certainly may have two or three consequences:
1) If the fighter who pushes them back does not decide to follow, the enemy is no more in contact at the beginning of the next game turn.
2) If the enemy who recoils was defending an obstacle (wall or door or barricade etc.) the other fighter, if following, may enter the place; that's probably the more interesting tactical point?
3) Also it could break a shieldwall or other closed formation.

Offline Hobgoblin

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Interesting discussion!

Some of the points that have been touched on I recall discussing in this thread!

Have just given that a reread - thanks!

Pushing back an enemy in a skirmish certainly may have two or three consequences:
1) If the fighter who pushes them back does not decide to follow, the enemy is no more in contact at the beginning of the next game turn.
2) If the enemy who recoils was defending an obstacle (wall or door or barricade etc.) the other fighter, if following, may enter the place; that's probably the more interesting tactical point?
3) Also it could break a shieldwall or other closed formation.

Good points all - plus pushing (or, with a fighting retreat, pulling) the opponent into line of sight for charges by friends; and pushing people off the edges of buildings and walkways.

With regard to 1), in Mordheim I'd envisaged the follow-up to the pushback being automatic: so it's an advance with successful hits that causes the pushback. That's unlike Song of Blades, of course, but it's very common in fighting sports and martial arts that an aggressive advance causes a retreat simply because the attacker occupies the space.

 

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