Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Furious Din of Battle

A battle royale raged over my kitchen table yesterday.

Fear not, it wasn't a domestic squabble, but the first large-scale, non-solo playtest of By This Axe. Two longstanding pillars from the eponymous HC campaign, Desert Scribe and Brad, locked forces to the furious din of clashing lead.

Much was learned and I stayed up to the wee hours cranking out version 0.5. A mini-game for dueling sprang out of it and a general overhaul seemed to fix a number of rough patches (if you ask real nice like and will actually use them drop me an email and I will send you a copy).

Here's the blow by blow of the battle proper.

The action opens with a gratuitous scenario backstory. Pierre and Gaston, lowly miserable extras from Beau Geste, find themselves lost in the whirling Algerian sands outside Fort Zinderneuf. Stumbling through a mysterious bronze gate in the ruins of a cyclopean temple, they find themselves surrounded by untold riches—in another world.

Little do they know, but ranging scouts from two warring lands have noticed the sudden flash of light—and mountain of treasure--in the Temple of Radagast lying in no-man's land. Arriving at dawn to claim the swag, two armies face each other across the field: the fearsome Knights of Bradd and the scurrilous Scarlet Scribes of Set.

Knights of Bradd roster
2 Knight Hero/Leaders
1 Amazon Superhero with Were-Leopard Hero
2 Priests (who add to saves and morale of units from a dice pool)
1 Mage (who use a dice pool to shoot offensive and defensive spells)
1 unit of Knights
1 unit of Squires
2 units of Longbowmen
1 unit of Heavy Infantry
I unit of Medium Hobbit Infantry

Scarlet Scribes of Set roster
3 Hero/Leaders
2 Imams (Priests)
1 Sorcerer (Mage)
1 unit of Giant Snakes (fight as heroes with Tough Hides special ability)
1 unit of Noble Medium Cavalry
1 unit of Nomad Light Cavalry
2 units of Light Spearmen
1 unit of Heavy Crossbowmen
1 unit of Gladiators

The opening moves seem almost decisive, the knights impetuously ride forward and are met by a hail of crossbow bolts. The Scribe rolls extraordinarily well making hits with the entire unit, the Knights roll phenomenally low and they losing a whopping five figures (from a unit of eight). 

Javelins hurled by the nomad light cav further takes half of the squires. (Missile combat is simple, range is checked and a d6 rolled for each shooter. Hits are made on rolls under the figure's fighting capacity number and hit figures roll saves by armor.)

The opening rounds look grim for the knights. Fortunately for Brad, both units survive morale checks (a streak of luck that keeps both decimated units on the table until its bitter end).

Meanwhile on the left flank the amazon and were-leopard supported by the hobbits advance through the tree-chocked ruins. The giant snakes and sorcerer move to stop them.

In subsequent turns, the sorcerer dumps 10 of his available 12 dice from his spell dice pool on the head of the superhero, killing that mighty figure instantly. The snakes (backed by the last two-die spell) make short order of the were-leopard. A few gobbled up hobbits force a morale check, sending the luckless halflings fleeing off the map. The flank side show though does keep the Scribe's most powerful unit out of the main action for the rest of the game.

Back in the center, the remaining knights and squires bravely (perhaps foolhardily) charge into the untouched ranks of the opposing cavalry. (Melee is conducted much in the same way as missile combat with longer weapons striking first in the opening round.)

The swirling melee there will last the entirety of the game costing all but one knight figure. The stubborn squires manage to take no other losses. The Scribe's light nomads flee in terror from the fight leading the nobles to deal with.

That knockdown fight eventually costs the knights all of their priests and two leaders through duels and melee as they keep shoveling in forces to the fight.

Slowly the tide of battle—which was looking like a drubbing for the knights—starts to turn as the longbowmen and heavy infantry come to bear on the Scribe's infantry. As the desertmen's weaker infantry begins to rout it begins to cascade over into other units (units within 6” of a routing unit must make morale checks).
Though their leaders keep riding over and rallying them (you roll under a leader's value), the knights exploit the breakdown in the lines and start making a number of flank attacks. Though it's touch and go for a few turns, inexorably they start to break most of the units on the board.

With more than half of his units, routed the Scribe's is forced to flee the field, leaving the victorious knights to finish off the legionaries and grab the loot. With most of it's elite forces and heroes slain though it is a bitter, pyrrhic victory.

Special thanks to Scottsz for his gifts of statuary and leopards that supplemented my 28mm mixed armies of El Cid-era Andalusians, Hundred Year War medievals, and fantasy flotsam and jetsom.


  1. Very cool to see that great cat stalking on a battlefield...

  2. I saw the report over on Desert Scribe blog,
    and came here to see more, looks like allot of fun. I have VAST Armies in 25/28mm Medieval, Orc,Dwarfs, etc most mounted individually.I would love to give these rules a try, after that I'd enjoy putting them in the ye ole transport and invading your Hill Cantons at
    some point! (I live north of Austin)

  3. @Don
    You are in the Kileen area? Definitely come down some time or we should meet up somewhere northward. I have a fairly big collection too, so we could really mix it up big! I'd love to give the rules a real mammoth send-up playtest.

  4. Yes I live in Copperas Cove just the other side of Fort Hood from Killeen. I've several hundred troops mounted individually more on unit bases
    but we can work around that I'm sure, also have fortifications town building and other terrain.