Too Little Terrain

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RogerCooper
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Too Little Terrain

Post by RogerCooper » Sat Nov 20, 2021 12:57 am

The terrain placement rules in practice result a patch of bad going here and there but the center of the map is almost always open. I find this unrealistic.

Terrain generally played an important role in Ancient & Medieval battles. 3 out of 4 of the major battles of Alexander the Great involved a river crossing (which is not even a possibility with terrain cards). Major battles such as Hastings & Crecy involved an army deployed on a hill. I don't have a formal survey but I think a majority of battles involved significant terrain.

The result of this lack of terrain is that tournaments are oriented towards Knight-heavy armies well suited for fighting in the open.

Is some modification of the terrain cards desirable?
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Rod
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Re: Too Little Terrain

Post by Rod » Sat Nov 20, 2021 3:41 am

First I would have to disagree with the fact that you think most historical battles had significant terrain in the middle of the battle lines.

Even the ones you cite, Alexander's battles do not involve "river" crossing where he fought while crossing except Issus which was by many accounts more of a small stream with hardly any hinderance to his troops. His other battles he crossed the river first then fought.

Hastings was a "gentle" slope with the real advantage being the anchoring of the ends of the line in rough wooded terrain. The Saxon position was strong and if William had the luxury of differing battle maybe he would have.

Many times in Ancient history when two armies found themselves on opposite sides of a river or other formidable terrain obstacle, the result was no battle. Asculum is an interesting one in that Pyrrhus actually backed up to allow the Romans to cross otherwise they would not have given battle which he wanted to have. Plus the area by the river was rough terrain unsuited to his phalanx.

That said Triumph terrain system can generate terrain in the center but for the most part you are correct it will leave some portion of the center open by design because ancient battles usually took place when two armies lined up in what would usually be open ground. Anchoring on a woods, rough or village might be typical, but not many of the battles took place with two large armies lined up with a large woods or major water way directly between them.

In a tournament it is true that armies with mixed units or combined arms are going to be more competitive. Just having knights will not be enough to assure victory. Two armies that won over the weekend, one had no knights and the other had one knight general. There are armies that will not be competitive against certain other armies even with terrain. For example an all light foot army even with a lot of woods, can hide in the woods but will have trouble going after mounted in the open. An all mounted army cannot go into the rough terrain to deal with light troops. So if these two face off and the light troops hide in the woods and the mounted stay in the open you have a stand off. Much like you would have had in an ancient battle. Only way the disadvantage player goes in is if they did not see it coming (ambush or outmaneuvered) or they have no choice (starve on the beach which is what would have happened to Duke William if he had not fought and won at Hastings.

For Historical battles feel free to do the terrain per the battlefield, I do this for Hastings, which is creatable within the Triumph battle cards by using the large edge piece selection also.
Last edited by David Kuijt on Sat Nov 20, 2021 6:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: "cite" was misspelled as "sight" and it was making me twitchy
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David Kuijt
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Re: Too Little Terrain

Post by David Kuijt » Sat Nov 20, 2021 3:46 am

RogerCooper wrote:
Sat Nov 20, 2021 12:57 am
The terrain placement rules in practice result a patch of bad going here and there but the center of the map is almost always open. I find this unrealistic.
We did a LOT of work surveying battlefields before making up the terrain cards. And I regret to inform you, we don't agree with your assessments below.
RogerCooper wrote:
Sat Nov 20, 2021 12:57 am
Terrain generally played an important role in Ancient & Medieval battles.
Nope. Frankly, more battles than not had no terrain mentioned at all in the battle descriptions. That doesn't mean no terrain -- it means that terrain had a small enough impact on the battle that the people writing it up didn't mention it. But it certainly means no terrain at all in the center.

More than that, almost NO battles had any terrain in the center of the board.

There were some battles where one side deployed with a major terrain feature and didn't move off it. The only times this ever resulted in a battle was when the "forted up" side was majorly outnumbered (as at Crecy) and the attacking side was sure of victory -- in other words, asymmetric battles. Asymmetric battles are very interesting -- but appear in Triumph only in scenarios, not in random battles using battle cards -- those are built for symmetric battles, where both sides have 48 pts.
RogerCooper wrote:
Sat Nov 20, 2021 12:57 am
3 out of 4 of the major battles of Alexander the Great involved a river crossing (which is not even a possibility with terrain cards).
That isn't really an accurate summation. Hydaspes the river crossing was before the actual battle, and the battle didn't get fought until both sides were on the same side of the river. Issus (across the Pinarus river) seems likely to be a case where the Pinarus was a seasonal creek -- both sides (Darius and Big Al) put mounted (not foot) down at the lowest part of the "river", nearest the sea, and those cavalry had no trouble fighting and moving back and forth during the battle, even as close as they could get to the sea (and therefore where the "river" would be at its widest). At the Granicus whether the river is involved depends upon which source you use.

Further, the terrain rules are meant to get playable battles. We deliberately did not create a pre-game (meta-game) where both sides maneuver each other trying to force the other side into a disadvantageous position. In almost every case where a river was between two armies, the armies did not fight each other, they continued the pre-battle maneuvering that occupied weeks and months at a time. So yes, we can point to a couple of battles (Granicus, possibly; Fornovo 1495, certainly) where a "blocking" river was involved -- and we deliberately did not include a card with that situation. Because if you include that sort of terrain, then one side turtles up. It doesn't get a battle.
RogerCooper wrote:
Sat Nov 20, 2021 12:57 am
Major battles such as Hastings & Crecy involved an army deployed on a hill.
Crecy one army deployed on a gentle hill, yes. And the other army attacked it uphill. And the English knights all dismounted. Why? Because they were so terribly outnumbered that they were willing to try anything. And the French attacked anyway. Why? Because they outnumbered the English so severely that they could not even conceive of the possibility of losing.

Crecy is a great battle, if you play it as an asymmetric battle -- one side having massive numbers, and the other side having a hill. And if you have special rules to force the French to attack (they lose if they don't).

Hastings same thing -- if you play Hastings on a flat field, the Normans win every single time. The English knew this. They also knew that they would win if the Normans didn't attack -- they had more forces coming, and the Normans had no allies and no supply train and couldn't disperse to ravage the countryside for forage. Rod Cain has a great Hastings scenario set up with Triumph -- a very interesting asymmetric battle.

But standard Triumph is not about asymmetric battles -- those are special scenarios, not pick-up games.
RogerCooper wrote:
Sat Nov 20, 2021 12:57 am
I don't have a formal survey but I think a majority of battles involved significant terrain.
We did a formal survey; our results were not what you believe.
RogerCooper wrote:
Sat Nov 20, 2021 12:57 am
The result of this lack of terrain is that tournaments are oriented towards Knight-heavy armies well suited for fighting in the open.
It depends upon how good a player you are. Beginning players certainly do best with that sort of army -- doesn't require any skill at maneuver, for example.

But you will find that good players win tournaments with all sorts of armies. To give you one example, I won a tournament with Neo Babylonians, with 14 or 16 Bow Levy. How did I win it? The most critical part of my army was my Light Foot. Another example -- playing an experienced player on Thursday I took the Marian Romans on the Epic Conflicts terrain board (a bog-standard terrain card without any terrain in the middle) and won twice, once against his Avars (Knights, Elite Cavalry, Horsebow) and once against his Early Russians (Knight General, Elite Cavalry, Horsebow).
RogerCooper wrote:
Sat Nov 20, 2021 12:57 am
Is some modification of the terrain cards desirable?
Not in my opinion.
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Re: Too Little Terrain

Post by RogerCooper » Mon Nov 22, 2021 3:36 am

There is a distinction to be made between tournament terrain deployment (where fairness is the highest objective) and scenario generation (where realism is more important). But the lack of significant terrain has an effect on the game. Triumph actually handles terrain pretty well, so I would like to see more use of it

How prevalent was terrain on the middle of battlefields. For an unbiased sample, I pulled out this battle list from the game Ancients by William Banks

Kadesh - River Crossing
Karkar - Unknown
Granicus - River Crossing
Raphia - Open field
Cynoscephalae - Hills
Sambre - River Crossing & Hills
Pharsalus - Open field
Adrianople - Hill
Tricamarum - Open field
Ashdown - Hill
Hastings - Hill
Arsouf - Open field
Bouvines - Open field
Liegnitz - Open field
Bannockburn - River Crossing
Agincourt - Open field

So of the 15 battles where the terrain was known, only 7 were open field. About half, as I suggested.
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Rod
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Re: Too Little Terrain

Post by Rod » Mon Nov 22, 2021 1:59 pm

Roger,
First of all I disagree on classifying Kadesh as a river crossing, I have studied and presented that battle. The river plays no part in the battle. Granicus was a steep sided stream, but still not the most common battlefield and arguably not a very big obstacle. So on the river crossing I think the logic of keeping those out of the center still holds for randomly generated tournaments. Plus they make for sucky games in a tournament.

Most of the rest of the battles you are referencing with terrain have what would amount to a gentle hill in Triumph and or hills on the flanks. This is very possible to get that in the random terrain deployment if you get enough terrain in the terrain roll and win maneuver.

For Historical battles I model the terrain to the historical battle, for the random ones we have 36 cards and a variation of 1-6 pieces per card and on top of that min max size for each piece.

Also, if you are running your own tournament feel free to make modifications like, "heavy terrain" - i.e. every table has a minimum of 3 or 4 pieces as a theme for the tournament. In fact I kind of like that as a theme for next years Wednesday night game. "Terrain Terror!" or "Don't go into the woods!"

It would be a fun way to get people to think more about if they brought enough light troops to support all those heavies.
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David Kuijt
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Re: Too Little Terrain

Post by David Kuijt » Mon Nov 22, 2021 5:13 pm

RogerCooper wrote:
Mon Nov 22, 2021 3:36 am
There is a distinction to be made between tournament terrain deployment (where fairness is the highest objective) and scenario generation (where realism is more important). But the lack of significant terrain has an effect on the game. Triumph actually handles terrain pretty well, so I would like to see more use of it

How prevalent was terrain on the middle of battlefields. For an unbiased sample, I pulled out this battle list from the game Ancients by William Banks

Kadesh - River Crossing
Karkar - Unknown
Granicus - River Crossing
Raphia - Open field
Cynoscephalae - Hills
Sambre - River Crossing & Hills
Pharsalus - Open field
Adrianople - Hill
Tricamarum - Open field
Ashdown - Hill
Hastings - Hill
Arsouf - Open field
Bouvines - Open field
Liegnitz - Open field
Bannockburn - River Crossing
Agincourt - Open field

So of the 15 battles where the terrain was known, only 7 were open field. About half, as I suggested.
Adrianople was a very strange battle, with late-entering mounted for the Goths, and most of the battle was not fought on the hill -- that was only the early phase, before half the Goth army arrived. Adrianople appears in DS and my "Rise and Fall of Rome" scenario set.

Granicus we've discussed -- some sources say river crossing, some do not.

Ashdown is a great battle and had a hill -- but the hill rules in Triumph are too strong (too much hill benefit) to reflect that battle. When DS and I created Ashdown as one of our scenarios in The Embattled Isle (a set of 7 or so scenarios set in the various invasions of the British Isles) we had to modify the rules for hill advantage. If you use a straight unmodified hill there, the battle is very unbalanced. As Rod and I said before -- that's an asymmetric battle.

Bannockburn wasn't a river crossing. There was a creek that didn't do much to the side, and the big river behind the Scots army, but nobody could cross that river there -- in fact, a decade earlier, the bridge farther up that same river was the site of the Battle of Stirling Bridge (which was an ambush, not a battle) and nobody could cross that river except on the bridge. So it is impassable terrain, not a terrain feature. A Waterway, in other words.

Cynoscephalae was definitely a pair of hills -- but again, asymmetric battle. DS has run that battle at conventions in the past, and I have to rework the terrain I built for that battle (the hill isn't placed quite right in the one I made him).

Hastings definitely was a hill with both flanks anchored on bad terrain -- but as discussed before, assymetric battle.

As Rod says, in the historical battle of Kadesh the river was not defended, it was significantly below the main battle -- maybe even off the map, in Triumph terms. Both Rod and I have run Kadesh many times -- it appears in the "Ruler of the Nile" scenario series DS and I are building (and have tested many times), and Rod runs it as a Grand Triumph battle at conventions. It's a wonderful and interesting battle.
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RogerCooper
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Re: Too Little Terrain

Post by RogerCooper » Tue Nov 23, 2021 12:18 am

Even a small or dry steam still would be a line of bad going, with some interesting tactical effects. Is it better to defend in the bad going, directly behind the bad going or in the clear a move away?
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David Kuijt
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Re: Too Little Terrain

Post by David Kuijt » Tue Nov 23, 2021 3:47 am

RogerCooper wrote:
Tue Nov 23, 2021 12:18 am
Even a small or dry steam still would be a line of bad going,
It depends, and sometimes not. A small stream (such as at Bannockburn) might appear on maps but not be sufficient to count as a "stream" feature on a game board. The stream to the right side of the Crusader camp at the battle of Dorylaeum, for example, is represented as a patch of marsh -- not as a stream. Because it doesn't bisect the map, and is a shallow little thing -- only where the water pools and the ground is marshy does it amount to anything sufficient to represent on a game board.
RogerCooper wrote:
Tue Nov 23, 2021 12:18 am
with some interesting tactical effects. Is it better to defend in the bad going, directly behind the bad going or in the clear a move away?
Right, exactly.
DK
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