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The Battle for Craghold


An entry for the 2018 Wargame Print and Play Contest

Players: 2
Playing time: Approx. 60 minutes

The Necromancer's campaign to conquer the Free People has reached a key point. If they can overrun the citadel of Craghold, they will be able to sweep into the plains in the south. On the other hand, if Lady Gallavor's forces can hold their stronghold for a few days, her allies may be able to muster their armies and strike back.

The Battle for Craghold is a game based on those few critical days. If, at the end of three days, Craghold still stands unoccupied, and the magical balance of the land has not fully swung to the dark side, the Free People will be able to begin their fight back. Otherwise, the Necromancer will be unstoppable.


Print and play components:
1 board
24 action cards
16 unit tokens for the Necromancer's army
16 unit tokens for Lady Gallavor's army

Components for you to supply:
1 power track marker: a cube, disk, or similar would be ideal.
1 time track marker: a cube, disk, or similar would be ideal.
6 sided dice: ideally 5 per player.
Wire paper clips: 10 should be plenty.
Optional: plastic (or other) stands to support the unit tokens.
Wall damage tokens: small wooden cubes or similar would be fine, 10 is more than enough.

Contest categories:
Best p&p Wargame
Best Rules
Best 2+ player
Best short/quick/small
Best game with this year's theme

Rules document: Version 4a rules

PnP components:
E Unit tokens (v4) - 2 A4 pages to print.
E Cards (v4) - 3 A4 pages to print.
E Full colour board (WIP) - 4 A4 pages to print.
E Lower ink board (WIP) - 4 A4 pages to print, low ink alternative to above.


Edits to this post:
2018-05-06 Changed title from Craggy City to Craghold and added banner images.
2018-05-07 Added v3 unit tokens.
2018-06-29 Added links to board PDFs.
2018-07-01 Updated unit tokens to v4.
2018-07-02 Added v4 cards and changed unit file to a smaller one with better compression.
2018-07-03 Updated cards due to a formatting error, now fixed.
2018-08-14 Added v4 rules draft. Now components ready.
2018-08-14 Added some intro text.
2018-09-01 Made contest ready, updated rules, added entry categories, pic, etc.
2018-09-02 Forgot overall prize category!
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Re: [WIP] Battle for Craggy City (2018 Wargame Print and Play Contest) [IDEA PHASE]
The basic idea is that I would like to create a fantasy battle game with asymmetric sides: one is effectively defending a city until reinforcements arrive, while the other is a horde trying to destroy said city. The inspiration here comes from the Lord of the Rings and the Battle of the Pelennor fields, where the forces of Sauron are assaulting Minas Tirith.

I am avoiding making this a LotR game partly because I prefer to avoid getting entangled in intellectual properties, and partly because the source material relies so heavily on the actions of individual characters, and I want to make this game focusing more on supply and manoeuvre, but mostly because I don't want to feel tied down to a particular world or narrative. This is my first proper attempt at designing a wargame, so the challenge will be hard enough anyway.

I've been toying with some ideas over the last couple of days and have got as far as a very basic prototype, so over the coming days I am planning to fill out more detail in this thread. Please bear with me.

If you have read this far, thank you!
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adam wilson

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Re: [WIP] Battle for Craggy City (2018 Wargame Print and Play Contest) [IDEA PHASE]
Since you didn't ask, I will provide some name ideas ;

The Defense of Cragdor

Battle of Cragtop Keep

Craggleton's last stand

Siege of Craghold



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Re: [WIP] Battle for Craggy City (2018 Wargame Print and Play Contest) [IDEA PHASE]
adam wilson wrote:
Since you didn't ask, I will provide some name ideas ;
The Defense of Cragdor
Battle of Cragtop Keep
Craggleton's last stand
Siege of Craghold


The craggy thing seems to have taken hold!

Thanks for posting, Adam, and thanks for the suggestions. I actually like "Craghold" as a name. We'll see how things go...
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Re: [WIP] Battle for Craggy City (2018 Wargame Print and Play Contest) [IDEA PHASE]

OK, in an attempt to keep the momentum going, such as is it, here is a list of some of the things I am currently planning on putting in the game.

The board is so far an area based map, with areas of different shapes and sizes.

Units on the board represent fairly large troop formations, which can be either at full strength, shaken, or destroyed (as an effective unit).

Actions/moves are triggered by flipping a deck of cards, each of which indicates what group of units get a move. Faster moving units can have more cards in the deck. (Idea ripped off from Assault on Hoth.)

Units can stack in the areas, and opposing units can share locations.

Most combat is triggered by cards in the action deck so you can be trying to mass a large force in a location before the combat is triggered.

Combat can also be triggered when a unit tries to move out of a location containing enemy units (attack of opportunity on a retreating force).

...And separate ranged attacks are triggered by the action deck.

Combat results usually result in a forced retreat; sometimes the retreating unit is shaken. Units are destroyed either when they are forced to retreat but can't, or a shaken unit is shaken again.

This game will use fistfuls of dice; I like dice but don't often design with them. The main mechanism is roll dice (the number depending on situation) and count the number of 5s and 6s (probably -- I may change that), and compare the result with your opponent's roll.

Some of the combat factors will depend on support (in same and adjacent areas) and supply (if a unit gets isolated from their base, they are at a disadvantage). OK, so supply lines are probably not really necessary to worry about in a single tactical battle, but I'll see how things look in play and decide if I'll keep this.

There will also be an event deck, with some events benefiting each side. This will be handled by giving each player a handful of cards, and when an event is triggered (by the action deck), one of the players will have to choose and play one of their events, which may benefit themselves or their opponent, so choosing the order of these will be important.

That's my fairly high-level points at the moment. I have a load of finer detail too, but will get into those bits later.
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adam wilson

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Re: [WIP] Battle for Craggy City (2018 Wargame Print and Play Contest) [IDEA PHASE]
polyobsessive wrote:
This game will use fistfuls of dice; I like dice but don't often design with them. The main mechanism is roll dice (the number depending on situation) and count the number of 5s and 6s (probably -- I may change that), and compare the result with your opponent's roll.


I don't know if this would help or not but you could also tie the die # to a specific result. 1-2 could be hits, 3-4 could be retreats, 5-6 command opportunities or whatever. Different units could have different values based on their abilities. This would also greatly speed up combat. 1775 Rebellion has a similar system.
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Re: [WIP] Battle for Craggy City (2018 Wargame Print and Play Contest) [IDEA PHASE]
adam wilson wrote:
I don't know if this would help or not but you could also tie the die # to a specific result. 1-2 could be hits, 3-4 could be retreats, 5-6 command opportunities or whatever. Different units could have different values based on their abilities. This would also greatly speed up combat. 1775 Rebellion has a similar system.


Good thinking, thanks. The details of target numbers and results is one of the "knobs" I can twiddle to adjust balance, pacing, and so on when we get to serious playtesting, so it's useful to think about some of the options I can use.
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Re: [WIP] Battle for Craggy City (2018 Wargame Print and Play Contest) [IDEA PHASE]
One nice feature I've seen in some minis games is re-rolling of dice in certain situations. e.g. troops in fortification force the enemy to re-roll their hits.
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Re: [WIP] Battle for Craggy City (2018 Wargame Print and Play Contest) [IDEA PHASE]
kerpob2 wrote:
One nice feature I've seen in some minis games is re-rolling of dice in certain situations. e.g. troops in fortification force the enemy to re-roll their hits.


Another good one, thanks. There is a lot that can be taken from all sorts of sources that might help improve this game.

One think I think I would like though is to have "many dice rolled few times" rather than vice-versa (which works very well in a lot of wargames), so I think I'll probably keep rerolling up the sleeve for now. Mind you, the way probabilities work out, it may be that my preferred approach works out too swingy. When I get a bit more structure to the game I'll look into that, probably doing some Monte-Carlo simulations as well as doing the raw maths.
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Re: [WIP] Battle for Craggy City (2018 Wargame Print and Play Contest) [IDEA PHASE]

And just to show I am not all talk and no action, here's a picture of a first play...


Basically, it's rubbish! But I knew it would be. The general mechanics are probably not too far off the mark, but the key thing is that there is no real driver for the action, particularly on the part of the defender player (yellow bases) who have no incentive to do anything but dig in.

An events deck will help on this if I do it right (I hadn't made one for this first try), but also I figure that a good element to add would be to make the defender have to move supply wagons from the port (at the top of the pic) to the main city (at the bottom). There could be a cool bonus for getting a supply wagon to its destination as well as it being a requirement for victory/survival.
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Re: [WIP] Battle for Craggy City (2018 Wargame Print and Play Contest) [IDEA PHASE]
It has been longer than I was hoping for, but I have finally got a prototype to the table for a playtest with an actual other human who wasn't me. Good times.

We actually tried two (incomplete) playthroughs, using the cards in two different ways. The first was flipping over a card, which indicated who would act and what units they could move or attack with, etc, pretty much in the style of Assault on Hoth. This play revealed a few issues (like woolly combat results) and some vagiaries that needed clarifying, so I made a few tweaks right away and got to the second play.

The second run gave each of us a hand of cards to play through, some of which were activating our own units and some for the other player, distributed at random. We played through the entire hand, ensuring all of them were used, before getting dealt the next handful. While this was still quite a lot of randomness, it felt like there were more interesting decisions to make, and we definitely liked this style more. So it looks like I'm moving away from the original inspiration, which is no bad thing.


There's not a lot of new information you can glean from this new pic, but I figured I'd add it as a little evidence of work!

Overall, the game still has a very long way to go, but it was a really useful playtesting session. The dice rolling seems OK, and the support rules not bad, but there are a lot of things we identified that need improvement, like being able to rally troops more, adding mitigation for card supply problems (each card triggering something for both sides, for example), making coherent manoeuvre a bit more achievable, and so on.

For the next iteration I think there will be a new board, and a revised set of action cards, and a little more tightening up of the rules, then we'll see how things go. I'd also like to add some more exciting fantasy elements, but that will come a bit further down the line.

Watch this space...
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Re: [WIP] Battle for Craggy City (2018 Wargame Print and Play Contest) [IDEA PHASE]
So I know I said it was the board and the action cards to get revised first, and I have actually updated the action cards (I have 24 cards, with 2 actions on each, one for each side), but I couldn't help myself having a go at the unit pieces too...



I've made units for one side so far, but have a nanDECK script to build them from data in a Google Sheet, so it'll be quick and easy to do the other side and to do updates later on. I also still have plenty of space to add extra information if I need to -- and I think I will add something to represent special capabilities for the units.

At the moment I'm using images for the units based on game-icons.net assets, which does the job nicely, but I may find something better later. The "Y" in the corner is for the army (its Yellow versus Black for the moment), but I intend to introduce some sort of heraldic device instead later.

(Incidentally, the line at the bottom of the units is where you can fold and glue to make the units into triangular, self-standing pieces, if you don't have stands to attach them to.)
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Prototype version 2 gets to the table
I've completed construction of my version 2 prototype, with printed cards and unit tokens, and a hand-made board. I've also started work on a printable version of the board, but that's a little way off being ready. Anyway, I have had a solo play-through of the game.

Initial set-up:


Probably not how it'll be in the end, but you have to start somewhere.

After once through the action deck:


It takes a while for the attackers (black) to close the distance from their marshaling point.

The deck is 24 cards, by the way, with each card having an action for both players, a stronger action for one player, followed by a (usually) less strong one for the other, though there will be situations where a player cannot actually use their action. The cards are played in a series of rounds, where each player is dealt four cards, and then alternately choose one to play.

After twice through the action deck:


We've had some fighting, and the paper clips attached to some of the units indicate that the unit is shaken, and is weakened in combat.

After three times through the action deck:


At this point, the battle line is fairly stable, though there is a little to-ing and fro-ing as mounted units harass the opposition. Archers currently have little impact on play, but I like the trundling threat that is the attacker's catapult -- I think I'll give them a second one of those in their reserve and see what that does.

It does look, though, like the attackers will eventually wear the defenders down, thanks to their easier reinforcements and rallying of shaken units. I don't want the game to be a long one, though, so I need to improve the forward momentum of the attackers and give them a clear objective, as well as give the defenders an achievable win condition. I have a system at the moment where bringing supply wagons to the city scores "points", as also happens when the placeholder "special power" actions come up on the cards, but this doesn't actually do anything right now. I think I know what I will be doing with that now, and how it can improve both ends of the game, and I'll post about that soon.
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Re: [WIP] Battle for Craggy City (2018 Wargame Print and Play Contest) [IDEA PHASE]
I've been away from this project for a while, but I have managed to do a little more work and get a playtest with another human player.



Changes since my last report have been minor, but this test did reinforce my observations from last time. My plan for the next iteration is to increase the mobility of the attacking side, meaning that they should be able to engage with the defenders more quickly, and to work with the dice probabilities and results to see if I can increase the likelihood that units get shaken or destroyed.

I'm also working on a printable board -- the one in the picture above is a step along the way.
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Re: [WIP] Battle for Craggy City (2018 Wargame Print and Play Contest) [IDEA PHASE]
As always playtesting time is a challenge, but with this game I can actually do some of the work using simulations. I have thrown together a short Python script to generate numbers and fed the output into a spreadsheet to visualise the results.

The game as it stands has battles by each player rolling a fistful of 6-sided dice, the number of dice being based on various factors, largely how well supported the unit in combat is by other units. These dice are rolled, and whichever player has the most numbers at or above a set target number wins the engagement, and the loser takes damage based on the difference in scores.

Originally the target number was 5 (you hit on a 5 or 6), but playtesting revealed this to result in very unpredictable combat results, but where there is rarely much damage done. Changing to a 4 seemed to improve things, but I wanted to explore the options some more. OK, it might be that the basic mechanic is flawed, but before I totally rethink things on minimal evidence, I thought I would investigate more. I could probably do some statistical calculations, but I'm (marginally) better at writing code than stats...

So, I set up various battle situations with different amounts of dice for each player, and then simulated rolling dice for each battle against various different target numbers, and I did each simulation 1000 times so I could have quite a bit of data.

By way of example, here's one of the charts I got when I plugged my generated data into a spreadsheet...


Based on this and the other results I have seen, it looks to me that a target number of 3 might be about what I am looking for: the stronger unit usually wins, but unless there is a huge discrepancy, there is always a decent amount of risk, and there is a good chance of multiple hits coming out of the engagement, which means more exciting combat results.

So I now know what I will be doing on my next playtest...
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Garry Hoddinott
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Re: [WIP] Battle for Craggy City (2018 Wargame Print and Play Contest) [IDEA PHASE]
This attention to detail has me wanting to play your game. Thanks for taking us into the "design decisions" you need to make.
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Re: [WIP] Battle for Craggy City (2018 Wargame Print and Play Contest) [IDEA PHASE]
GarryHoddinott wrote:
This attention to detail has me wanting to play your game. Thanks for taking us into the "design decisions" you need to make.


Thanks, Gary. I hope it ends up being at least playable.

Hopefully I'll have things stable enough to be able to share an initial PnP version very soon (i.e. within very few weeks).
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Re: [WIP] Battle for Craggy City (2018 Wargame Print and Play Contest) [IDEA PHASE]
Maybe look at Gondor too, its a Minus Tirith game that might give you some inspiration.

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Re: [WIP] Battle for Craggy City (2018 Wargame Print and Play Contest) [IDEA PHASE]
MeteorBear wrote:
Maybe look at Gondor too, its a Minus Tirith game that might give you some inspiration.


Hi Evan,

Awesome, thanks for the suggestion. Looks like a good example of the old, SPI/AH type games. I'll see if I can find a set of rules to see what its special twists are.

I'm aiming for something much lighter and quicker here, but having a more detailed game to look at can be a big help in distilling the essences.
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Re: [WIP] Battle for Craggy City (2018 Wargame Print and Play Contest) [IDEA PHASE]
Oh dear, this game got dropped in favour of other projects lately, but I'm back onto it. I've been doing a little work on a printable map, and learning just how terrible my digital art skills are. Still, it's more or less functional, so I'll probably throw this together as a PnP test board soon before I fuss over it too much. I do need to add a "balance of power" track to it though...

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Re: [WIP] Battle for Craggy City (2018 Wargame Print and Play Contest) [IDEA PHASE]
Would be nice for some terrain - such as a wood for infantry to hide in.
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Re: [WIP] Battle for Craggy City (2018 Wargame Print and Play Contest) [IDEA PHASE]
kerpob2 wrote:
Would be nice for some terrain - such as a wood for infantry to hide in.


Yes, very true. At the moment the only terrain effects are related to the fortifications, but it would be good to add at least a little more, to add more tactical choices and also to make the map look more interesting. Thanks for the input.
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Re: [WIP] Battle for Craggy City (2018 Wargame Print and Play Contest) [IDEA PHASE]
polyobsessive wrote:
kerpob2 wrote:
Would be nice for some terrain - such as a wood for infantry to hide in.


Yes, very true. At the moment the only terrain effects are related to the fortifications, but it would be good to add at least a little more, to add more tactical choices and also to make the map look more interesting. Thanks for the input.


Maybe as an optional piece that can be placed, rather than a permanent map fixture - increases replayability.
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Re: [WIP] Battle for Craggy City (2018 Wargame Print and Play Contest) [IDEA PHASE]
kerpob2 wrote:
polyobsessive wrote:
kerpob2 wrote:
Would be nice for some terrain - such as a wood for infantry to hide in.


Yes, very true. At the moment the only terrain effects are related to the fortifications, but it would be good to add at least a little more, to add more tactical choices and also to make the map look more interesting. Thanks for the input.


Maybe as an optional piece that can be placed, rather than a permanent map fixture - increases replayability.


Wow, excellent idea! Actually, even if it was destined to be a permanent fixture, it would be good for playtesting to try different configurations for a satisfying game. But I do really like the idea of having a terrain tile or two to add to the board to mix things up. Maybe each player could have the option of placing one of these features at the start of play...
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Re: [WIP] Battle for Craggy City (2018 Wargame Print and Play Contest) [IDEA PHASE]
polyobsessive wrote:
kerpob2 wrote:
polyobsessive wrote:
kerpob2 wrote:
Would be nice for some terrain - such as a wood for infantry to hide in.


Yes, very true. At the moment the only terrain effects are related to the fortifications, but it would be good to add at least a little more, to add more tactical choices and also to make the map look more interesting. Thanks for the input.


Maybe as an optional piece that can be placed, rather than a permanent map fixture - increases replayability.


Wow, excellent idea! Actually, even if it was destined to be a permanent fixture, it would be good for playtesting to try different configurations for a satisfying game. But I do really like the idea of having a terrain tile or two to add to the board to mix things up. Maybe each player could have the option of placing one of these features at the start of play...


This is common in miniatures gaming!
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