Designer notes query on several different things

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MarkusB
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Designer notes query on several different things

Postby MarkusB » Sat Dec 17, 2016 10:14 pm

Another old grognard from Italy here... I downloaded the current version of the rules from WG vault a few days ago and I must say I'm impressed: everything is so logical and clean, and every small moving part seems to interact with everything else in very interesting ways. There are several non-standard interpretation of classic themes, and I'd really like to learn the design philosophy behind some of those choiches... So I'll list the main topics here, in hope that the authors find the patience to cope with my numerous queries. Without further ado:

1) Troop types. There are several surprising and interesting choices (low quality troops look more fun than ever on paper), but I can't easily visualize the differences between the plain old 'cavalry' (non-knight, non-cataphract, non-horse bow) types. I'm talking about Javelin Cavalry, Bad Horse and Elite Cavalry in particular. Bad Horse and Elite Cavalry seem to be the two opposite ends of the competence spectrum, other factors being constant (i.e. fighting style and troop density). However, the vast majority of effective cavalry troops, at least in the classical era, seems to be represented by Jav Cav, which is somewhere between bad and elite. Jav Cav is not just "average cavalry" however- its movement rate and combat results makes it the 'lightest' and fastest cavalry available, on par with Horse Bow. This has the surprising effect that e.g. Equites Romani fight the same as Numidian horsemen or Gallic nobles. So my question is just this - what does exactly Jav Cav represent? Does it fight in looser formation than Bad and Elite horse? Is its troop density lower? Do they rely more on missiles than close combat?

2)Troop types again: is the difference between Rabble and Horde just 'formation' density or is it something else? Is Rabble just bad skirmishers or there's more to them?

3) More and more troop types: what does exactly qualify as a Spear element? I couldn't find any example in the classical era of this troop type, which surprised me a lot. Hoplites are almost universally Heavy Foot in hoplite era lists, and even the archetypical Spartiates are Elite Foot...

4) Troop types again... Light Spear elements are as good as Light Infantry versus infantry despite lacking shields, and they can also benefit from rear support. I can't visualize their fighting style exactly - are they denser/fiercer than Light Foot?

5) Troop types (the last one, I promise): Warriors in 2 ranks fight at +5 vs foot and shatter most heavy foot types on outscoring. This seems quite powerful at first glance- unless elements of this troop type represent many more fighting men wrt close order heavy infantry types?

6) I noticed that several troop types have low combat modifiers, with many +2's and a few +1's, certainly much more than, uh, a certain other game I played in the past. This makes combat involving these elements quite random and quite decisive, much more than those involving '+4 and more' guys. Was this done on purpose and why?

7) What does exactly base depth represent? Mobility under pressure? Pursuit boldness? Just plain old occupied space? How important is to use elements of exactly those depths instead of, say, "legacy depth" cataphracts?

8) Coast terrain feature. Since it can only extend 1-3 MU into the board, it seems to be more a cosmetic effect than a maneuver constraint- except for prohibiting flank marches. What am I missing?

9) If I read the rules correctly, the only restrictions on deployment position are the battleline VS non-battleline classification and the 8 MU depth limit. So it's possible to deploy non-battleline troops, say, even touching the side edge of the board?

I'm afraid I wrote a monster post- sorry for the verbosity! And many thanks in advance for your answers, I'm very curious!

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David Kuijt
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Re: Designer notes query on several different things

Postby David Kuijt » Sat Dec 17, 2016 11:35 pm

Thanks for the good word.

Too many questions to answer in one (or maybe several) sittings; I'll just start at the beginning.

Javelin Cavalry represent good horse who are armed with a poky thing and do not psycho charge. Not being armed with a bow, they don't have the option of being really irritating at 30m (at or beyond the limit of thrown weapons), so when they are in combat they are doing some combination of poking, throwing, threatening, and turning around to pull back and do some more of the same. They are a little vulnerable to enemy mounted equipped with bows. Their results against foot are what you might expect -- outmatched by bows but can sweep them away if they get in on them; not too effective against rigid shieldwalls but not much in danger from them either. The combat results against Knights (Shattering them) might be a little surprising for players who are primarily focused on the Classical period, but remember that the same troops fighting the same way are the jinetes and stradiotii of the 12th-15th centuries, where lots of Knights existed. Few Knights exist in the Greek/Roman classical period (Sarmatians are about it) and the results give good realism for the Macedonian/Alexander/Diadachoii period.

Elite Cavalry in a perfect world are troops like the Mamlukes, Persians, Ottomans, and others who had lance, bow, horse armor. If you've got lance, bow, horse armor you are almost always Elite Cavalry. (a few exceptions for Chinese troops who were reviled as really really sucky by contemporaries). There are cases where a few stands of a mostly Javelin Cavalry army are upgraded to Elite Cavalry without having bows because the troops under consideration were clearly better than most Javelin Cavalry in that army -- Ghulams in some armies like the Fatimids do not have horse armor, and fight with lance, but are better armed and better trained and more feared than the Javelin Cavalry. Those cases are exceptions, though.

Bad Horse suck; their equipment is not so relevant. There are lots of very different examples -- the pethale "horse pairs" of the Middle Assyrians where one horseman had a bow and the other held the reins of his horse while he shot; the Anglo-Saxon Thegns who decided in the early 11th century to try fighting mounted and really sucked at it; Ancient British horsemen with swords and no shields; Chinese horsemen the generation after they were allocated land inappropriate for horse raising (happened several times in Chinese history); lots of other examples of poorer mounted troops.

A brief point regarding movement rates -- most mounted movement rates are frankly made up for play balance. That's true for legacy games; it's true for Triumph. There is absolutely no evidence supporting differential movement rate on the grand tactical scale for Knights v. Javelin Cavalry v. Bad Horse v. Elite Cavalry v. Horsebow v. anyone else (except perhaps Cataphracts, who fought in close order and had heavy horse armor and clearly shouldn't be dancy prancy). However, using the relative movement rates we have established creates the "who can disengage from whom" performance that we want and balances the point system a bit.
DK

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Re: Designer notes query on several different things

Postby David Kuijt » Sun Dec 18, 2016 1:09 am

MarkusB wrote:2)Troop types again: is the difference between Rabble and Horde just 'formation' density or is it something else? Is Rabble just bad skirmishers or there's more to them?

3) More and more troop types: what does exactly qualify as a Spear element? I couldn't find any example in the classical era of this troop type, which surprised me a lot. Hoplites are almost universally Heavy Foot in hoplite era lists, and even the archetypical Spartiates are Elite Foot...


2) Horde are crappy troops that huddle together and fight in close order, somewhat incompetently and often wishing they could be somewhere else. Horde (being crappy troops) sometimes have poor equipment, but their arms and armor could be quite reasonable in some cases. In one late Korean army there are two groups of pikemen with the same equipment. The good guys are rated as pike; the untrained levy are rated horde. From a distance, they'd look the same to any onlooker.

Rabble are most often willing to fight, but are poorly equipped and trained, often just with a couple of javelins and no shield. Or dudes throwing rocks, in one rare case. They are in open order, which means they are much more willing to fight than horde are -- because open order fighting requires more martial spirit and bravery than close order fighting, where the herd instinct helps.


3) we get this one a lot. Lemme see if I can give you the quick and dirty answer.
  • Spear is the troop type for close-order fighters who are trained and adept at fighting against mounted troops. Especially hard-charging mounted troops (Knights). They are the best troop type against Knights (ignoring Pike, which are a different beast fighting in deeper formations with weapons that are poor in single combat).
  • Elite Foot is the troop type for close-order fighters who are trained and adept at fighting against foot. The best troop type against foot.
  • Hoplites in general fought against Knights... essentially never. The Hoplite way of war was the pinnacle of close-order foot techniques built, trained, and refined for combat against... INFANTRY. And the very best at it, in the opinion of their contemporaries, were the Spartans (Spartiates).
  • So ask yourself: should we rate Spartiates as the very pinnacle of the best of the best at fighting the troop types they were the best of the best at fighting? Or should we make them LESS USEFUL fighting the troop types they were the best of the best against, and better against another troop type that they never ever faced in history?

If it is put that way, I hope the answer is obvious. Yes, it is true that the Hoplites were armed with spears. So were the Vikings, by and large. Spears are the most common personal weapon throughout history. But classification by weapon type is fraught with peril, and can lead to some wacky conclusions. And the way Hoplites and Spartans and Thebans were rated (in legacy systems) as the best anti-Knight infantry, but much poorer against enemy foot, when they fought Knights almost never and their whole military system was developed for centuries in an almost completely foot-dominated environment, is one of those cases.

For the rare occasion where they would meet mounted, fighting against Javelin Cavalry (almost the only type of mounted any Hoplite would ever see), rating Hoplites as Heavy Foot or Elite Foot also gives much better (more historical) results than rating them as Spear.
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Re: Designer notes query on several different things

Postby David Kuijt » Sun Dec 18, 2016 5:18 am

MarkusB wrote:7) What does exactly base depth represent? Mobility under pressure? Pursuit boldness? Just plain old occupied space? How important is to use elements of exactly those depths instead of, say, "legacy depth" cataphracts?

8) Coast terrain feature. Since it can only extend 1-3 MU into the board, it seems to be more a cosmetic effect than a maneuver constraint- except for prohibiting flank marches. What am I missing?

9) If I read the rules correctly, the only restrictions on deployment position are the battleline VS non-battleline classification and the 8 MU depth limit. So it's possible to deploy non-battleline troops, say, even touching the side edge of the board?

I'm afraid I wrote a monster post- sorry for the verbosity! And many thanks in advance for your answers, I'm very curious!


7) base depth is a combination of two objectives that were (and are always) in conflict. First, anyone who has a large amount of armies using any legacy system (from WRG6th onwards -- 30 years and more ago) is going to be very unhappy at doing rebasing. Rebasing is the major bugaboo of any new system, as all the old grognards piss and moan about requiring any changes. Of course, change is going to happen -- we've got different stand types, we've got different army lists. There's no way that changes can be avoided without totally pandering to the old players.

On the other hand, we are bound and determined to OPEN the market -- to bring new players in, who have never played ancients before. And new players look at the basing and they don't care about keeping legacy basing, they want the basing to make sense -- to mean something.

And our basing means something. You can look at a stand and see immediately if it is open order or close order. You can also go a long way to identifying exactly what the stand type is, just by looking at the figures, the number of figures, and the base size. Not perfectly, of course -- there are a bunch of close-order 4-per-stand types where the difference between Heavy Foot, Elite Foot, Spear, Warrior, or Pike might require talking to your opponent. But you can differentiate Raider, Light Foot, Rabble at a glance. You can differentiate Skirmisher, Bow Levy, Archer, Pavise at a glance. Given their weapon differences, you can differentiate Horsebow from Javelin Cavalry at a glance and anything with 2 horses on a stand gets 8mu movement, whereas mounted with 3 horses on a stand are 6mu movement (unless Knights, of course, but Knights are usually differentiated by the figures and the army).

Basing is still complicated. And it is still a compromise -- we didn't want to tick off every old player by putting forward a basing system that was totally completely different from the standards that most Ancients games have used for the last 30 years. But the basing we have encapsulates information in a clear way.

8) Coasts prevent flank marches on that side. Beyond that you could call it cosmetic, yes. But the idea that Waterways should significantly impinge on a battlefield is ludicrous on the face of it -- because if you're saying that, then what you're really saying is that a square window falls from space and chops out a region on which a battle must be fought, and if 1/4 or 1/3 of is occupied by impassable water, you still can't shift the square window falling from space.

The edge of the board is an artifact of the game -- not of historical battles. And having waterways (legacy term -- coasts in Triumph) that significantly reduce the width of the battlefield is a way to INCREASE the impact of the edge of the world. That is, to all reasonable people, a bad thing.

9) Yup, you can deploy your troops right on the edge of the map.

No idea why you'd want to do that. They'd be really far from the enemy camp, really far from their own camp, and really far from about half their army (the Battleline half). It doesn't just invite defeat in detail, it screams its name from the rooftops like a jilted lover. And given that your camp and half your army is over in the center of the board, it is impossible to effectively corner-sit (defend an impregnable position in a corner).

We looked at having a rule saying you couldn't start on the edge, but it was completely unneeded. With the Battleline rule, with camps having to be in the center zone, and with the wider sides (the wider-than-deep proportion of the board), we are very happy with how difficult it now is for recalcitrant players to attempt a corner-sitting strategy that uses the edge of the board as part of their defense.
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Re: Designer notes query on several different things

Postby MarkusB » Sun Dec 18, 2016 8:15 am

Hi David, I'm liking the answers so far, they make a lot of sense. I hadn't thought about the implications of different movement rates, nor about the untenability of an extreme-wing position... Thanks a lot for the effort!

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Re: Designer notes query on several different things

Postby David Kuijt » Sun Dec 18, 2016 1:36 pm

MarkusB wrote:Hi David, I'm liking the answers so far, they make a lot of sense. I hadn't thought about the implications of different movement rates, nor about the untenability of an extreme-wing position... Thanks a lot for the effort!


You're welcome.

Some of the effects are quite subtle, meaning that it takes more than a bit of play with the armies against historical opponents to really start seeing the impact. Warrior armies (your question #5) are one of those -- if you just line them up and crash in, yes, Romans or Etruscans are going to have a tough time. But they'll be using 8 pts per file there, fighting against 4 pts or 3 pts. That means the Gauls are going to be very exposed elsewhere. If you use your Leves or Velites aggressively on the flanks, or use your mounted well, or force the Gauls to come in with overlaps, you will find this is a very even matchup. Much more even in Triumph than in legacy systems, where frankly the Gauls had to get a lot of luck to have a chance. Given the fear that Gallic armies created in Roman popular culture, and the sack of Rome by a Gallic army, we like the balance better in Triumph, where the Gallic armies have as good a chance as the Romans do. With experienced players on both sides the balance might actually be a bit in the Roman's favor; if they don't get a good chance to get stuck in against something brittle with double ranks the Gallic Warriors don't have a lot of good offensive options. (With inexperienced players on both sides, I think the Gauls have the advantage)
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Re: Designer notes query on several different things

Postby David Kuijt » Sun Dec 18, 2016 2:54 pm

MarkusB wrote:4) Troop types again... Light Spear elements are as good as Light Infantry versus infantry despite lacking shields, and they can also benefit from rear support. I can't visualize their fighting style exactly - are they denser/fiercer than Light Foot?


To quote Bilbo Baggins when asked if it was so difficult to give up the Ring: "No... and yes."

Light Spear are a bit of a transition type, representing infantry mostly from mountainous regions who were very adept in difficult terrain, but who also could fight in denser formations in the open. Historical examples are Mountain Indian, North Welsh, Ghurid, Chinantec, something in Asia I forget now (Dali? Nanzhou? Early versions of Qin Chinese before the main Warring States period?), and maybe Picts (I don't have my lists in front of me right now, so this is from memory). Maybe the normal foot of the swampy Dietmarschen as well.

So they fight nearly as well in difficult terrain as Light Foot do -- better against mounted, but that doesn't matter much, as any mounted who go into difficult terrain to fight either type are likely to die.

In the open they can form a denser formation that is quite capable of defending itself against Knights (Welsh are the best example here, as the other armies didn't face Knights much). The way you create that denser formation in the game is to use a second stand for rear support. That makes them the same combat factors as Spear, although Spear are more efficient (4pts for one stand, where Light Spear in double rank is 6 pts) and a bit less risky (a double rank of Light Spear has no room to fall back if it is hit in the flank and turned; Spear can survive falling back in that circumstance).

So Light Spear are nearly as good as Light Foot in difficult terrain, and (when double ranked) nearly as good as Spear in the open.

Note that first part -- one might wonder why I say "nearly as" in the comparison to Light Foot, when Light Spear has the same combat factor against foot and essentially the same combat results. Don't discount the movement difference. 4mu is not nearly as good as 5mu, but the main point on which to focus is this: from whom can you disengage? Light Foot caught in a bad situation (single or double overlap) can disengage from Light Spear, but Light Spear can't. That makes a significant difference if they are fighting each other. There are also some critical thresholds in comparison to other troop types. Light Spear can't disengage from Elephants, Cataphracts, or Raiders in open terrain; Light Foot can. Fighting against early Vikings (mostly Raiders) the Irish (wads of Light Foot) are a better bet than the North Welsh (wads of Light Spear). Although I'm not certain that last is an historical matchup, because IIRC the Welsh switch from Warband to Light Spear around 1100? Picts, then -- I think those are Light Spear as well. And the Irish vs. Imperial Roman (who have significant Raider) compared to Picts vs. Imperial Roman has a similar advantage, at least against the Raider component of the Romans.
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Re: Designer notes query on several different things

Postby David Kuijt » Sun Dec 18, 2016 2:57 pm

Just to point out that Raider is a bit of a transition type as well. Rather than being half-way between Light Foot and Spear (as Light Spear are), Raiders are half-way between Light Foot and Elite Foot. With similar issues about being almost as good as Light Foot in difficult terrain (a bit more expensive, and a bit less mobile) and being a bit better in the open.
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Re: Designer notes query on several different things

Postby David Kuijt » Sun Dec 18, 2016 3:09 pm

MarkusB wrote:7) [... base depth ...] How important is to use elements of exactly those depths instead of, say, "legacy depth" cataphracts?


I answered (7) earlier, but noticed something I didn't touch upon.

Will your game be fine if you use 30mm legacy depth cataphracts? Sure.

Will your game be slightly better if you rebase your 30mm cataphracts to 40mm? Ehn, maybe, maybe not. If you play a lot of Triumph, you'll probably rebase them eventually. And new players should definitely base to the 40mm depth. Because as many players have complained in the last decade, scale creep is killing the existing basing systems. Fitting 4 Cataphracts to a base is not easy at all with 30mm depth. It is much much easier on 40mm bases.

But if we're talking about 60mm depth bases? They're a nightmare. If you have an army with legacy 60mm deep bases for 6Cv and 6Kn (a couple of Byzantine armies and later Medieval Germans in particular), you will weep with joy when you rebase them to 4 on a stand on 40mm. I had a beautiful Maurikian Byzantine DBA army under 2.2, with the main force being a huge wad of 6Cv. I spent a huge amount of time and effort on them -- they were gorgeous, everyone said so. And every single game they totally stunk, because the long tail of the 60mm deep base was completely unmanageable if you had to turn or do almost anything. That long tail is a pure artifact of an oddity of the DBM basing system, made for some reason having to do with DBM/DBMM that had nothing to do with DBA. 60mm deep bases in legacy systems are a horror.
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Re: Designer notes query on several different things

Postby MarkusB » Sun Dec 18, 2016 3:55 pm

Brilliant answers on the whole line. Thanks again, I'm totally sold!


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