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Subject: What games have "volley fire" with archers? rss

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Neil Carr
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Finally got to play Battlelore last night, and while not a shock, was still annoyed that there are no rules for archers to volley their fire over friendly units.

I have yet to encounter a game where archers can be standing behind a line of friendly troops and fire at the enemy. Everyone always needs line of sight. There has to be some rules set that deals with more sophisticated ways of using bows and arrows.
 
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Philip Thomas
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Well make up some rules for it then! How about (Battlelore solution), archers can fire over intervening friendly troops (intervening enemy troops must be shot at due to the closest target rules, IIRC), but before you roll the dice you should randomise which unit each die is to affect from all available units within range.

How much historical support is there for this 'volley fire' anyway? I mean, I've seen it in LOTR, but looking at medieval battles it seems the standard practise was to put the archers in the front line, which is strange if they routinely fired over people's heads.
 
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Kristian Madsen
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I don't think there was indirect fire in the middle ages.

As for "volley fire" I know that it is a featured rule in "The Devils Horsemen", the Great Battles of History title featuring the Mongols from GMT games. It allows for some devastating results, compared with the relatively minor effect of "normal" archery in the game series. I still don't think that it allows for indirect fire, though.

/kgm

 
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Erik Tyrrell
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Well there's Diskwars,it was a little silly and it's years out of print but I do believe that archers did not need LOS to fire.
 
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Tor Iver Wilhelmsen
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DiskWars ranged fire consisted of putting some counters on a disk and unloading them onto the battle field from a height to see if anything got hit. Good chance of friendly fire if the counters bounced a bit...
 
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Richard
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The LotR battle game by Games Workshop does have rules for volley firing archers (blind fire over obstacles if you have enough bows basically).

I remembr there being rules for it way back in 3rd edition Warhammer Fantasy Battles as well.

As for non-miniature games, don't know off the top of my head. Just getting back into boardgames (Ok, mostly Fantasy Flight stuff, but I LOVE figs....)
 
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Neil Carr
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Hmm... well, I don't know how historically accurate indirect fire was with archery, but it seems like a viable way of attacking with a well disciplined unit. The commander would either be horsed or have a spotter and he'd give orders for the angle of elevation and/or the strength of the pull. The unit would have practiced in the past so that the cloud of arrows would then hit some point downrange. It's all just basic physics.

I know I did this with satisfaction back when I used to play with foam weapons in Dagorhir in Maryland. The melee would be in front of us and us archers would be behind our hand to hand troops and we'd lop arrows over the front line and take out guys further in the back. Now that probably wouldn't be practical on a realisticly leathal level of fire, but the principle would be the same, just at greater range.

For Battlelore I'd probably just say indirect can only occur over troops, not terrain, from a range of 3 or 4 hexes and that it reduces the battle dice down to 1.

But I'd like to see some medivalish/fantasy game where a core part of the rules on how to use archery is to have a wall of melee fighters in front, guarding the archers as they arch clouds of arrows down field to the enemy. They lose on accuracy, but they get to fire with impunity against direct assaults.
 
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Geoff Bohrer
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I think the problem is that it just didn't happen that way. Even in the late middle ages,you could tell a gunner "elevate five degrees" and he'd be able to. A longbowman would look at you, push you the hell out of his way, get a look at his enemies, and let fly. H would be able to get the precise elevation to hit any man he could see, at any range...but you couldn't COMMUNICATE that information to him.

Do you honestly think Edward would have put his archers forward at Crecy, protected by ditches, if he'd had a choice?
 
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Philip Thomas
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Thankyou for raising the point anyway: new insight into medieval tactics is always good.meeple
 
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The archers in diskwars don't need LOS to fire as previously stated. Volley fire armies were pretty popular, I used to surround my archers/catapults etc with big beefy infantry type units and launch away.
 
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Kent Reuber
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Battleground Fantasy Warfare allows archers to shoot at units that they don't have line of sight to. I think they carry the idea a bit too far in that there's no penalty for doing so.
 
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Jason Farris
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Warmachine/Hordes has rules for volley fire with some units.
 
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Richard H. Berg
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"I have yet to encounter a game where archers can be standing behind a line of friendly troops and fire at the enemy. Everyone always needs line of sight. There has to be some rules set that deals with more sophisticated ways of using bows and arrows."

If you truly want to see historically accurate portrayals (simulations) of how archers were used - and they were used in many, various ways, I suggest you take a look at the "Great Battles of History" series of games from GMT (yes, my designs), particularly the missile-oriented design, THE DEVIL'S HORSEMEN. TheSteppe Tribes - here the Mongols, as well as the mamluks, turned archery into a true art form.

The GMT game MEN OF IRON (14th century medieval warfare)also shows how archers could be most effecitve when used well. MEN is somewhat less detailed, and easier to play, than any of the GBoH games.

If you want to see what some of these look like, check out the GMT website:


www.gmtgames.com

Hope you find something you enjoy.

RHB
 
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Alex Henderson
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The Cry Havoc / Siege / Outremer games, using the French rules, allow archers to fire when they do not have a line of sight.
 
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Dale Holmstrom
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Mr. Berg's games have excellent mechanics to represent Archer fire---especially the simple, yet challenging "Men of Iron". I highly suggest them---great games.
As far as reality goes, as a bowyer, student of history, and archer for over 15 years, Medieval archers did use "Arced" fire. Have any of you actually shot a real bow and arrow? If you did, you would know that at longer ranges you have to adjust your aim because the trajectory of an arrow is not flat "Line of sight".
English archers had games to practise at firing over units/walls and arcing long-range shots. One was the Clout shoot in which a target was laid out on the ground at extreme range(over 180 yards). It was scored much like archery events today, but the ground target was much larger. Turtleback shooting involves shooting over a wall at a target on the other side! I believe it has Eastern and European roots.
 
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Philip Thomas
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Yes, I expect archers do use arched fire, I wouldn't imagine one could shoot in a straight line. But the issue is arched fire when the archer cannot see the target. More difficult, yes? Was it practised? Possibly, but as I said it was medieval practise to put the archers in the front line...
 
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Carl Forhan
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echoota wrote:
I have yet to encounter a game where archers can be standing behind a line of friendly troops and fire at the enemy. Everyone always needs line of sight. There has to be some rules set that deals with more sophisticated ways of using bows and arrows.

Well, this won't win any realism awards, but Heroscape does allow archers to fire over/through friendly units as long as they have LOS to the target. And some squads - such as Roman archers - can combine their individual attacks into a single volley!
 
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Andy Daglish
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Dale of the Bow wrote:
at longer ranges you have to adjust your aim because the trajectory of an arrow is not flat "Line of sight".


Effectively trajectory may as well be considered flat at the shortest range, where arrow strikes have a not-very-good fighting chance of penetrating plate armour of the weakest manufacture under optimal conditions. Thus it is the front rank who would be the only attainable target, but its likely they would be protected by armour of better quality. At Flodden the arrows bounced off the gentlemen in the front rank, and at Agincourt the French nobles were not carrying shields [mistakenly, IMO], because their armour was harder to defeat. Longbow arrowheads generally arrived at the target with less energy than any other medieval weapon [a sword can develop energies outside the maximum for an arrow], but the shape of a weapon hitting armour will determine how much energy it needs to penetrate. Thus the well-known "bodkin-point" arrrowhead penetrates better because it requires less energy due to its shape, and indeed it was used at short range where it would arrive at the target with more-than-average energy. A musketball represents the other extreme, having a shape that penetrates least effectively, which therefore requires approximately ten or 15 times more energy than an arrow. Of course gunpowder could impart more than 15 times the energy of a bow to its projectiles, and the extra energy would also overcome the disadvantage of a strike at a less-than-perfect angle. A poor angle-of-incidence would render any arrowstrike harmless. Therefore a gunpowder-powered bodkin penetrates best of all, and anti-tank armour-piercing solid shot represents this, along with methods of approaching a perfect strike every time.

At longer ranges arrows would have a tendency to overfly the front ranks of a target to strike behind, in other words the arrows would disperse to beat a larger area, and this would reduce their effectiveness, along with the concomitant loss of energy. A poorer aerodynamic shape would cause energy to be lost faster, and this was a disadvantage of the longbow arrow compared to its shorter brethren.

Quote:
English archers had games to practise at firing over units/walls and arcing long-range shots. One was the Clout shoot in which a target was laid out on the ground at extreme range(over 180 yards). It was scored much like archery events today, but the ground target was much larger. Turtleback shooting involves shooting over a wall at a target on the other side! I believe it has Eastern and European roots.


Archers would need some knowledge of the target's location, and presumably therefore would need a line-of-sight to it, as otherwise their accuracy might fall below an effective level. The position of an intervening obstacle in relation to the archer would tend to limit the minimum range at which he could effectively engage the target, so shooting down a slope from a position of prominence would seem to be best.
 
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Robert Wesley
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BergBROG wrote:
"I have yet to encounter a game where archers can be standing behind a line of friendly troops and fire at the enemy. Everyone always needs line of sight. There has to be some rules set that deals with more sophisticated ways of using bows and arrows."

If you truly want to see historically accurate portrayals (simulations) of how archers were used - and they were used in many, various ways, I suggest you take a look at the "Great Battles of History" series of games from GMT (yes, my designs), particularly the missile-oriented design, THE DEVIL'S HORSEMEN. TheSteppe Tribes - here the Mongols, as well as the mamluks, turned archery into a true art form.

The GMT game MEN OF IRON (14th century medieval warfare)also shows how archers could be most effecitve when used well. MEN is somewhat less detailed, and easier to play, than any of the GBoH games.

If you want to see what some of these look like, check out the GMT website:


www.gmtgames.com

Hope you find something you enjoy.

RHB
well, there could always become a 'counter' for those if they'd have 'thunk' that through really "good" for this, like tying together "skunks" and lobbing those over upon these and cause 'Khan-fusion' amongst their 'legions', & even "flaming" ones! Have some "polecat-men-at-arms" and "Porcupine-Pikemen" and wot-eh-not, yet, that's JUST 'moi' I suppose huh?
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Clinton Smith
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Would an intervening line of troops completely obscure the LOS of the archers to the rear? A line of men is not as solid as a brick wall. It seems like there would be occasional gaps, especially between the legs of horses in the case of a blocking mounted unit. Perhaps determining the distance to the target might not have been such a big problem.

 
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Geoff Bohrer
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Artaxerxes wrote:
Would an intervening line of troops completely obscure the LOS of the archers to the rear? A line of men is not as solid as a brick wall. It seems like there would be occasional gaps, especially between the legs of horses in the case of a blocking mounted unit. Perhaps determining the distance to the target might not have been such a big problem.



 
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The Roman Archers in HeroScape can volley on a target if they are at the same height and lined up.
 
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Seth Owen
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While some kind of indirect fire was possible for archery under ceratin special conditions (generally siege warfare), for the most part it wasn't done. There are several good reasons, most of which have been mentioned in one way ot the other. I'll summarize:

First: Performing indirect fire would require highly disciplined and trained troops, never common in pre-gunpowder eras.
Second: Pre gunpowder armies didn't have a system of command and control that would allow the directing and massing of fire.
Third: With the exception of English longbows and some Eastern composite bows, the weapons didn't have enough range for the tactic.
Fourth: Firing arrows at a high angle would tend to introduce a significant chance of range arror in the fire effect. The dispersed fire would be less effective beacuse of many more misses. Archery already had trouble developing a suffieicient volume of fire for decisive effect, this would just make it even less likely.
Fifth: Crossbows had a flat trajectory not suitable for indirect fire.
Sixth: Skirmish-type rules that allow firing through units are not relevant to the discussion because finding a clear shot in the conditions of a dispersed skirmish is much easier than finding the same in a massed formation.

The fact that hardly any pre-gunpowder game allows the tactic ought to be a strong indication that it just wasn't done. It's unlikely that armchair theorizing about what might be possible would find something that several thousand years of battlefield experience didn't discover.
 
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