Playtesting Saint-Omer to Saint Crispin (SOSC): Tactical battles of the Hundred Years War
Been playtesting this game for about a month and here are some thoughts on the game.
The basic mechanics are similar to those that first appeared in Sun of York. Combat units are rated for ability and cohesion values. Troops with missile weapons have two ability values (one for missile fire and the other for close combat). A variety of different unit types are included (including mounted knights, men-at-arms, longbowmen, crossbowmen, pikemen, billmen, cavalry, levies and artillery). Specific troop types are given combat bonuses against some enemy troops (for example, longbowmen have a bonus when firing on mounted troops). Leaders have three ratings, reflecting their overall leadership value, ability in close combat (against enemy troops or leaders) and the morale bonus they provide for friendly units in their area.
Although the basic system is similar to Sun of York, the game plays very differently (and usually far more quickly). The most obvious differences in appearance are in SOSC the units are represented by pieces rather than cards and that the game comes with a map. The map is divided into three ‘battles’, each with five areas. In addition there are three flank areas on either side of the map. The object of the game is to capture the enemies centre rear area or the enemies left and right rear areas. Failing that, you win by inflicting more damage on your opponent or causing their army to rout due to losses. Different types of terrain appear in each of the battles, reflecting the historical position.
Each player has fifty-five cards. In Sun of York many of these were the actual combat units. In SOSC none are. Instead they can be used to give benefits to your own troops (for example improving the effectiveness of missile units or rallying routed troops) or create problems for your opponent (for example by causing some of their troops to advance out of control). There are also a number of ‘hesitation’ cards, that don’t actually do anything other than take up space in your (limited) hand. Effective use of the cards is crucial in game play, especially as command cards are the only way to move troops not in the same area as a leader.
In Sun of York both armies were very similar and you were unsure as to which troops you may have available as they came out through the card draw. This was not unreasonable, as our knowledge of the deployment of troops in the Wars of the Roses is sketchy at best. In SOSC the armies are very different. Note that there are eighteen battles in the game, including armies Scottish, Spanish and Flemish armies (as well as the English and French). You know what types of troops you have available and must plan your tactics accordingly. Troops will not keep appearing through card draw. What you start with is what you have to make do with. Armies are generally deployed on the battlefield at the start, although in many of the battles one or both of the armies has units starting in the reserve (off-field).
Battles do tend to be shorter than in Sun of York. Armies can quickly fall apart as the battle develops. The length is not fixed. After a number of turns, players roll to see if it has ended (assuming neither has met the victory conditions outlined above for capturing ‘battles’) and losses are calculated to determine victory. In addition, armies will need to roll to see if they rout after they have lost a set number of troops. This helps to ensure there is no ‘mad dash’ on the last known turn.
There is far more to the game than outlined above. I am a fan of Sun of York. I believe that SOSC is an improvement for a wide variety of reasons. Playtesting is raising a number of issues, but the rules are being refined to address these. I rate this game highly and am looking forward to working my way through more of the battles. Interestingly, the game comes with a mechanism enabling you to adapt Sun of York for use with these rules and a create your own battle section.