Friday, 15 April 2011

Dux Bellorum: Dark Ages troop quality

In a previous post I outlined the different troop types I’m including in Dux Bellorum. There are actually a couple of other types who crop up as special units for some armies, but these mostly represent troop types that gamers are used to seeing in Dark Ages armies without there being much positive evidence of them actually existing: fanatics/beserkers, monks, war dogs, and levy (the latter come into their own in later Dark Age armies, but I don’t think we’d have seen many in the Arthurian period). However, that’s not what I was going to focus on today!

Instead, let’s look at the different quality of units on offer (aside from your top notch Companions and lowly Skirmishers). For Riders, Shieldwall and Warriors there’s an option to recruit Ordinary or Noble units. Nobles represent the superior fighters of an army, usually better equipped and more skilled in close combat than Ordinary troops. These have enhanced unit stats, but cost 5 Army Points instead of 3 Army Points. Ordinary Warriors are still useful on the battlefield, but Noble units generally have a higher Aggression (more attack dice) and a much better Bravery (meaning they’re more likely to do what you want, when you want). The one downside of Noble units is that they cost more Army Points, so if you want a more professional, higher quality army, it’s going to be quite small. Oh, one other thing to consider with Noble Warriors is that they’re more likely to get a rush of blood and make an Uncontrolled Charge at their nearest enemy whether you want them to or not. That’s toffs for you!

Given the number of dice being rolled in the game, you shouldn’t rely on Nobles being supertroops . . . a few good or bad rolls could see them crumbling just like anyone else. Their main advantage, as mentioned above, is that they’re better motivated so you’ll be able to move them around more. They’ve turned up to the battle with a sense of pride in themselves, confidence in their ability, and more than enough experiencing of shaking spears at dead rats. I'm pleased with the way Nobles work in DB - when I designed Glutter of Ravens: Warfare in the Age of Arthur I differentiated more by using unique stats ... something I've learned over time is to minimise the stats and go for distinctions in the names of playing pieces as it seems more intuitive for most players. Honestly not sure why this works, but look at a game like De Bellis Antiquitatis compared to, say, Armati. Words versus numbers ... for me words will win out.

Oh, and while I’m talking about units (the basic playing pieces of the game), one unit represents roughly 50 fighting men, less for skirmishers: I view Dark Ages battles in the Arthurian period to have been pretty small scale affairs with a few hundred warriors on each side. If your own take on these battles involves a cast of thousands, the game is completely scaleable and you can say that one stand equals however many hundreds of fighting men as you wish.