Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Does This Look Appealing For Close Combat?

Still From "The Hunt For Gollum", a LoTR Fan Film
A few weeks ago when CaulynDarr and I were testing the game, he suggested that we do something to make Close Combat more interesting and dynamic. He remembered watching a demo game of GW's first 'Lord of The Rings' game and being impressed with how models knocked others back. He didn't know the actual rules, but that visual and the sense of excitement it gave him, stuck.

So I found a copy of the LoTR rules and had a look...

LoTR is basically a simplified version of Warhammer Fantasy/40K's familiar mechanics. It's not a mass-battle game (that would be 'War of The Ring'), but rather a small-scale encounter game on the scale of Necromunda.

What's interesting about the combat is that both sides roll their attacks, and compare their rolls in a similar way to the board game Risk. The winner then (if they don't kill it) pushes back the loser an inch. Walls and cliffs stop them from falling back, though you can choose to fall off of an edge if you like and risk a wound. If a model can't fall back, or is surrounded by 3 or more relatively equally-spaced enemies (typical GW rules-vagueness here), then they are locked in combat and both sides' attack dice are immediately doubled. Bloody!

Adapting These Ideas

Comparative rolling wouldn't really work for our game. We'll simply have too many models, and it would force us to roll combats one model at a time. Which is my least-favorite thing about Flames of War. But we can do something similar to the knock-back idea.

We need a non-vague way though, to represent a model's ability to push through a group or block an opponent's path. So I've come up with the idea of a 'Push' (Ps) stat for combat. A LaansGuard grunt might have a Ps of 1. While a Knight would have a 2, and a Paladin with a sword and shield a 4. A particularly big monster like the GW Hellbrute might have a 6 or 8.

I also want to have models able to shoot in close-combat. Since real close-combats aren't just about hand-to-hand fighting. In reality they're a mixture of close-in shooting, tossed grenades, and bayonets. So I think that there's an opportunity to make a more dynamic close-combat system out of these pieces.

A Sample Sequence

Here's a pictorial example of what I'm thinking. It may not hold up exactly this way in testing, but it represents a goal for us to think about.

Action Phase: A lone Knight decides to charge a line of LaansGuard with shotguns. He wants to kill that mortar team real bad. Or maybe the MT is actually an artifact he needs to grab. Whatever. He has to get through the LG squad to get to it.

So he pops off 2 shots with his pistol (pistols would get full RoF on the move), and kills an LG trooper. This gives the LG one suppression marker and 2 hits.

He then moves into contact with the LG squad. At this point we're done with the Knight and this squad until the reaction phase begins. The Knight player then finishes his other unit activations.

Reaction Phase: The squad gets it's defensive fire. If there was another friendly unit within Awareness range (12"), they would get to fire too on a Ld check. For this scenario, the squad is alone and the mortar isn't allowed to fire directly in order to help.

The Knight is hit 4 times by shotguns, but is undamaged. The hits are still tracked though.

Assault Phase: The Knight doesn't need a Ld check first round to fight (No Suppression Markers).

He swings and hits the trooper in front of him, but doesn't kill him. Since he's at least hit, he'll be able to push the trooper back. The 'Push' stat of the Trooper and the Knight are compared. The Knight has a Ps of 2, while the trooper has a Ps of 1. So the Knight gets to knock back the trooper 1" for every point of difference. Which is 1".

If the Knight was a monster with a Push of say... 4, then he could push (more like throw) the Ps1 trooper 3" away. Or 2 troopers 2" away. Or with 3 troopers, he could push two of them 1" away and one of them 2". Or just one 3" (the hero probably) and let the other two stay on him.

The LG squad moves to block the Knight. Three troopers attempt to intercept him while the other 2 stand back and shoot. They're allowed to shoot because their shotguns are assault weapons and the Knight's base isn't touching a friendly model's base. But they don't get to shoot AND move up, because they're not carrying pistols.

The shooting troopers get 2 hits, and the 3 swinging troopers manage one more. None of them penetrates the Knight's armor, but the hits are enough to push his total to 7. Giving him a suppression marker.

The Knight takes a shot with his pistol and kills a trooper right in front of him. Note that I should have added another suppression marker to the LG squad in addition to the hit. I'd like to keep the shooting and combat suppression mechanics as identical as possible.

The Knight decides not to consolidate into combat however. He decides to use his 4"  (1/2 rounded down of his normal 9" move) consolidation move to get closer to the mortar team that he wants to kill.

The LG squad passes it's Ld check and the fight continues.

They move 2 troopers up to intercept and the other 2 shoot. The Knight gets one more hit, but no penetrations.

But... There's no push-back. Because the combined Push of the 2 Ps1 troopers equals the Ps2 of the Knight. So they're locked in combat where they are.

The Knight passes it's Ld check and the fight continues.

The Knight and the 2 troopers are now locked in combat, so the Knight's attacks are doubled from a 1 to a 2. He kills both troopers.

Since the Knight's opponents are both dead, he gets to use his push of 2 to move 2" towards the Mortar team. He decides to contact them, as he prefers getting swung at to getting shot.

The LG pass their Ld check (-1 Nv currently) and the combat continues. They move up. Even the leader, who normally wouldn't want to get swung at unless he had to.

No hits, but the combined push from the Mortar team, the trooper, and the leader, force the Knight back 1".

The Knight fails his Ld check! The combat is now over and he must fall back. He moves 4" as directly away as he can.

But that's not far enough. Any model within 6" of the winner after the fall back move is destroyed.

So the Knight is run down and is extracted from his armor like a lobster from it's shell. :)

That's the rough idea of what I have in mind. A system that much more back-and-forth and tactical than either 40K or Flames. Where models can try and run towards a preferred target (and shoot while doing so), but will get overrun and captured/destroyed if their luck doesn't hold. Hopefully it's just complex enough to be engaging, without being too game-slowing.

Obviously, the consolidation move amounts and the auto-dead range on victory will have to be tweaked and tested properly. Maybe even standardized. We'll also need to decide at what distance between models the combat automatically ends and the fun has to continue in the next action phase.

One thing I like about this set of ideas is that it makes LaansGuard fairly useful in combat. They might not hit very hard, but there's a lot of them, and they can use their numbers to tie up elite models and swamp them if the foe can be outlasted. Particularly if there's a hero around to boost their Ld.

The last thing a Knight wants to do is get stuck in the middle of an LG/Gruin/Turid blob. Where failing that Ld check means death. Knights will be much more comfortable moving along the outside of a combat. Where they can contact single models, kill them (hopefully), and then push closer to where they want to go. Using them defensively would be a pretty desperate move against anything but other Knights.

Knight on Knight should be interesting too if the unit numbers are similar. Lots of single-combats, or ganging 2-3 on one while the ignored models get to run past.

This system would also provide a reason for leaders to take pistols. So that they can stand back (where it's safe) and snipe. Or dive in with pistol and sword at a critical moment.


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