Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Dux Bellorum: Unit stats and a hint of mechanics

Tonight I thought I'd pull myself together to add the promised info on unit stats in Dux Bellorum. I like creating games with several stat lines for miniatures - it allows me to kneed each unit type into shape without having to resort to lots of extra rules and ifs and buts. It's pretty much the Warhammer Ancient Battles and Warmaster Ancients way of doing things (although you'll hopefully find DB playing very differently to those two), as opposed to the De Bellis Multitudinis style of troop type + superior/ordinary/inferior status, or the minimal stats from a game such as Armati.

If you've played Glutter of Ravens: Warfare in the Age of Arthur before, you'll probably be pleased to hear that the unit stats in DB remain constant throughout the game other than Cohesion, which is reduced when casualties are taken and morale drops

Each unit is classified using the following stats:

* MOVE: How far the unit may move per turn, measured in base widths (BW). Usually 2 for Foot and 4 for mounted. Mounted units move the furthest, and Foot Skirmishers outstrip other infantry.

* BRAVERY: Represents control, command and morale within the unit, either via leadership, battle rage or kinship. Used to determine if a unit may move, and also to prevent unwanted charges for some troop types. Companions and Nobles have the highest Bravery values, due to their training, leadership and battlefield experience.

* AGGRESSION (and MISSILES): Number of dice rolled when striking at an enemy. Missile fire is weaker but still of use. Companions and Warriors have the highest Aggression scores, due to their ferocious melee ability and willingness to get stuck into their enemies.

* PROTECTION: The ‘To Hit’ score for attackers in close combat, representing shields, armour where available, and general formation and training. Companions and Shieldwalls have the best Protection values, representing their fine armour and large shields. Protection for all units when defending against missile fire is always counted as 5, regardless of the unit’s true value.

* COHESION: The numerical strength, endurance and will to fight within the unit combined into a single value; Companions and Noble Warriors have very high Cohesion scores, reflecting not only their training but also their self-belief and high morale. This stat will change during the game and when reduced to zero the unit will immediately rout, with its playing piece removed from the board and taking no further part in the game. In DB, a unit’s fighting ability does not reduce as the Cohesion of the unit drops; it will keep fighting at full strength until it is destroyed. This is based on the idea that a small number of warriors did the greatest amount of fighting; Cohesion not only represents numbers of warriors but also their morale and ability to act as a unit, so Cohesion being reduced to 0 does not necessarily represent a sudden and violent wiping out of a unit, but that it’s will to fight is broken.

Cohesion is best shown by placing a very small die behind the unit and reducing it when hits are taken; I recommend using contrasting colours for Noble and ordinary units, as it’s sometimes difficult to tell these apart in Dark Ages armies. Markers other than dice can be used to represent Cohesion; some players might wish to use casualty miniatures beside their units, and numbered chits or miniature shields are equally good ideas. The advantage of dice is that you probably won’t forget mistake them for bits of scenic scatter.

That's it - five basic stats for each unit, plus their troop type and Noble/Ordinary designation. That allows a lot of different combos without drowning in numbers or paperwork, and I think it represents Dark Ages warriors really well (for the earlier, British Arthurian period at least).

So now I've covered troop types, stats, and the difference between noble and ordinary units. At some point I'll look to add more info on the mechanics of the game, but we're still in the final stages of playtesting right now.