Rear support design philosophy

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Rear support design philosophy

Post by Viking » Mon Jan 02, 2017 4:15 pm

I have a question here to the designers. Seeing as rear support is an oft-debated issue and one which I have thoughts on myself, I'm interested in the design philosophy of this in Triumph. What were the major aims and which historical precedents did you consider important? Do you see any potential problems with your rules, balance-wise or promoting a non-historical style of play in some cases?
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David Kuijt
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Re: Rear support design philosophy

Post by David Kuijt » Wed Jan 04, 2017 2:08 pm

That's way more than one question!

There are a number of competing goals. Simplicity, which means keep the rules simple. Historical accuracy, which means try to represent how battles were actually fought. In this case, try to represent deeper formations when they were considered important by the people who used them. There are the usual bucketing problems -- deeper formations aren't a Boolean (True/False with no other values) variable, but we are trying to create categories where you can either do them or you cannot (2 values). In the real world deeper formations were always valuable to some extent, but the tradeoff (HOW valuable were they?) of width versus depth was such that variations from a "standard" depth were usually unexceptional. And in most cases the advantage was one of morale, not physical combat ability, which means that measuring its impact (in a world where detailed historical accounts of battles written by those who fought in them are vanishingly rare) is even more difficult than it would normally be.

Plus the usual scale issues, which distract many players. If one stand represents 6-7% of an army, then every stand already includes all the depth that medieval or ancient warriors would consider appropriate for maximizing the impact/frontage tradeoff.

Plus the fact that you do get some benefits from stacking stands in terms of having a reserve in case the front stand is destroyed -- this is a common situation with Bow Levy, for example. That isn't an explicit benefit in the rules, but it comes through in play.

Then you get situations that fight against the bucketing choices -- that defy easy categorization. We've got a bucket for "massed archers with training and zillions of arrows" (Archer) and several buckets for different types of infantry with melee weapons. Mixed formations also exist historically, both on foot and mounted. We've got only two ways of representing them -- Pavise stands for massed archers with a hard candy coating of capable armored melee fighters, and the Skirmish Screen battle card for massed melee fighters with the additional ability to gall and irritate enemy formations with a thin screen of missile troops either from right behind the formation (Assyrians) or as skirmishers in front who can fall back through the formation if pressed (many other examples).

For most of the mounted formations we have no information on at all; the exception are a very few Byzantine formations where we have too much information -- detailed information which may or may not reflect actual use in war, and where we don't know if the Byzantine choices were different from those of their opponents (Sassanids and Arabs and Avars and Bulgars and Turks and various Islamic armies through a millennium of war). We have no comparable information on formations of the Byzantine opponents, but we do know that they were at least as capable at war as Byzantium was (often better) and in many cases were as civilized, structured, and analytical -- we just don't have any comparable military manuals for mounted formations for their militarily adept cultures.

Are we worried about play balance? Yes, and no, and always -- I'm not sure what you're asking. Unlike legacy systems with fixed army size (where play balance becomes a horrible issue -- shall we pretend that a stand of Knights who can dismount mid-battle as Blades have the same effectiveness in a battle as a stand of Horde or Psiloi?) we have a simple point system. So we are not in the least worried about play balance fighting with historical use -- that's not a concern at all. We attempt to represent and refine our understanding of historical use within the competing constraints of simplicity and historicity -- trying to keep the rules simple and still have the battles look and feel historical, with rewarding historical tactics. But we don't need to worry about the third constraint (play balance), unlike older systems. Because if a particular historical tactic is simple enough to easily represent, we represent it. We don't need to worry about play balance at all -- because if the way we represent it makes one type of stand more powerful, we can (nay, we must) use the point system to correct for the additional power. So we can represent different types of dismounting (to choose an issue currently being worked on) -- dismounting for armies that did it only before the battle (deployment dismounting) and dismounting mid-battle (when the tactical situation warrants it). We don't need to worry about breaking the system with unbalancing it, we just need to worry about giving it the right point value to reflect the power of the ability.

So we're always concerned about having the point system working correctly -- about play balance. But because we have a point system, we are completely unconcerned about choices in the rules breaking the play balance in the game. We can make our rules choices based upon history and simplicity and scale without worrying about play balance. That's what the simple point system gets us.

Does that help at all?
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Re: Rear support design philosophy

Post by Snowcat » Wed Jan 04, 2017 10:36 pm

Go on Viking, I dare you to say "no".

*runs away*

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Bill Hupp
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Re: Rear support design philosophy

Post by Bill Hupp » Thu Jan 05, 2017 3:54 am


Thanks for the lengthy answer. I think fighting in depth with elements is less intuitive than outnumbering and out flanking opponent battle lines. I have some new tactics and formations I'd like to try out.

Bill Hupp
Thistle & Rose Miniatures
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