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Subject: Seizing the High Ground: the Skirmish Game rss

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Wilhelm Fitzpatrick
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This post is a continuation of the review/session report that I posted last week.

This week, my usual opponent and I stepped up to the Skirmish game. This game introduces the element of maneuver, being played out across multiple Terrain cards, but de-emphasizes the role of unit composition, since in this game each Troop card stands in for an entire Unit. It also brings in the element of Wildmen (scouts), which allow players to exercise influence over the field of battle.

The game builds on the same basic structure I discussed in my previously. Three rounds of combat make up a duration, followed by a housekeeping segment in which the result of gradual damage accumulation is assessed and victory conditions are checked. Durations are repeated until somebody wins, by loss of morale, loss of energy, total loss of troops, or in the case of the Skirmish game, by controlling 3 of the available 5 terrain cards.

In the Skirmish game, the first duration is given over to Wilding, in which scouts compete, and the result of combat is less often damage, but more likely limiting of the opponent's future maneuvering potential, and the chances to influence the exact terrain over which the main battle will be fought. And between durations, there is a new Army Movement phase in which Troop cards may be moved between terrain cards to various effect.

A new resource is also introduced, Battle points, which upon inspection, might more accurately be considered movement points. They are expended when Troops move between card, at a rate determined by the Battle Master in charge of the army. When these battle points are exhausted, future maneuvering is constrained to a single unit move per turn. In having this common pool of movement points, I believe that WfE becomes the first wargame I have played to depart from the famous universal rule, "movement points cannot be saved from turn to turn, nor may they be transferred between units". New horizons indeed!

Of course to start you need armies, and so we began by each building up an army from the troops available to us. I again took the Dzaa, and my opponent was Ang. The book suggests 80 points worth of troops and support material (combat master, battle master, and standards). The construction of armies is also governed by troops quality, with higher quality elements not having a higher point cost, but simply being limited to a certain proportional representation within the army. Finally there is also a rarity component that influences selection, but none of the troops available in the starter set are rare, so that was not an issue for us.

The terrain that was dealt out was formidable, which heavy marsh on my left, grasslands in the center, a hill to the right (with me at the bottom), and another marsh closing off the right flank. The game opens with players simultaneously placing scouts on the three center cards, with the flanks left open. My opponent, put off by the high cost of scouts, had purchased only one, while I had three, so two of my scouts were unopposed, while the third scout faced his Ang counterpart at the hill.

During the first (deployment) duration, my unopposed scouts were free to act and so sought high ground for their armies to face the enemy. This is reflected in the game by the ability to combine terrain cards on the table with unused ones, thus creating more complex terrain. In my case, I combined hill cards with marsh. I was also able to use my scouts to force my opponent to deploy his forces for those terrain positions, so I could see what I was facing there before making the choice myself. In the final position, I managed to win the mastery card selection, and thus was able to rotate and lock down the hill terrain, thus securing my full dominance of the high group. Thus my opponent was faced with significant terrain penalties in nearly all positions, while I was much less affected.

At the end of the scouting duration, all remaining troops are committed. At this point we discovered that I was overbudget due to my inability to multiply correctly, but I was able to fix it by deleting a cavalry and demoting one of my swords from level 2 to level 1 (or veteran to green if you prefer). The wildmen also either retired behind their advancing armies, or peeled off to the flanks to attempt encirclement. Then we were ready for the main battle to commence.

The first round of the battle went poorly for me. My opponent managed to outfox me on all three rounds, winning every one, and the last with the 12 value mastery card, which delivers a significant damage bonus. As a result, despite my good terrain position, my front line of troops was blasted away as hails of Ang arrows blotted out the sun. I made feeble jokes about fighting in the shade.

As a result, my army became shaken, and my opponent was in control of the Army Maneuver segment. He dispatched troops to cover the (my left) flank, and his sole scout on the right, having dispatched my one veteran scout, advanced across the field to attempt an encirclement. I hastily peeled off a troop to drive him back.

Things looked grim but my opponent had sacrificed considerable energy in his smashing opening, and as he drove his troops forward with no respite (no troops retired) this began to tell. In the second round of main battle, I did better at anticipating his mastery card selections. As we came into the third round, we noted that his MP counter hovered only 4 over his Damage counter, meaning he was in dangerous territory. With his options limited, I was able to predict his choice, and achieved the practically perfect mastery card trump of a 7 to his 1. Choosing one my advancing Spear because they would inflict morale hits instead of damage at range, I was able to drive his Damage counter below his MP, and since we were now in End of Duration, he lost. Quick reflection on his part realized that he should have retired at least one troop at the end of the previous round so as to alleviate his mastery point deficit.

The two most noticeable differences to the Skirmish game compared with our previous Unit conflicts, was the lack of unit interactions, and the fact that because nearly all attacks were being made with a supporting unit, which was allowed to combine with the attacking unit, it was MUCH easier to score telling damage, making the game considerably bloodier. (In the first main battle round, I lost three troops, and in the second my opponent and I each lost one). This caused me to wonder how many Skirmish games are over before the main forces actually make it to melee range.

While in my last post, I was complimentary about the rulebooks included with the game, in coming to grips with the Skirmish game I'm a bit less pleased with the Art of the Warrior. It's a bit vague in parts (particularly as regards the nitty gritty of how Support Units are handled vs Main Units) and in some cases we simply had to interpolate. Fortunately the designers are very responsive on the game's home forums (which I have been bombarding with questions) and so I'm gradually building up a picture of correctly play. Certainly those mistakes we did make in this game were not all the fault of the rulebook, in some cases we just simply forgot a rule. Overall however, I think we got a good flavor of Skirmish Game.

I continue to be impressed by WfE, although I must admit I found the Skirmish Game less interesting in some ways than the Unit Game. On the other hand the shortness of our game limited the potential effect of maneuver, so I'd be interested to try it again and see if the maneuver game develops more fully. One rule that I learned on the forums that simply isn't clearly stated in the rule book is the ability to swap Main and Supporting units on a particular terrain card, as long as the Main Unit hasn't entered melee, which definitely will have a big influence on how I approach the Skirmish game in the future.

Even more, I'd like to try the Battle game which combines both world (maneuver and unit composition). This is I think where WfE will come to its full flower. My only concern is the length of time it will take to play the game at this level, but we shall see...
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Nigel Pyne
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Hi rafial

Quote:
nearly all attacks were being made with a supporting unit, which was allowed to combine with the attacking unit


Either I've made a real blunder in the rulebook or there's a misinterpretation as you shouldn't 'Combine' Support Units with your Main Unit in the Skirmish game - but you do if the Rear Attack rules apply.
 
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Wilhelm Fitzpatrick
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Doh! I've reviewed the rulebook and in light of what I now know, I see you are right. Based on my review I see that:

a) rear attacking units combine, and unlock a supporting unit on the opposing side to combine. (Huh, that makes rear attacks a bit risky)

b) adjacent units on controlled Terrain may combine (I guess this constitutes flanking)

c) in the Deployment phase only, multiple Wildsmen in a position combine.

Have I got it now?
 
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Nigel Pyne
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Yep and I think you'll find it'll change the Skirmish game a bit

Plus you can use Unit Compositions which make the deployment of Troops and their positioning over the 5 Terrain important and add a level of strategy to the game.
 
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geoff miller
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rafial wrote:

With his options limited, I was able to predict his choice, and achieved the practically perfect mastery card trump of a 7 to his 1.


this should mean a draw - the best win would be to beat your opponent by one (ie you lay a 3 to their 2)

a 7 vs a 1 is a draw, meaning you both deal damage to each other

have i misinterpreted the play?

Great skirmish report though. weve played a few Skirmish games and they do make it to melee with outflanking and stuff going on between each Duration.

we dont spend MP quite so adventurously though!
 
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Wilhelm Fitzpatrick
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I don't follow. 7 is higher than 1, 1 only has an alternate CV vs 8-12, and 1 guards against 5-6, so 7 slips through the gap. But yes, a 2-4 would have worked as well.

Edit: Doh, I see now what you are talking about. In the Art of the Apprentice, it says that a draw occurs if you play the same card, independent of orientation. This rule is missing from Art of the Warrior, which is the main book I have been referencing...
 
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Nigel Pyne
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Quote:
This rule is missing from Art of the Warrior, which is the main book I have been referencing...


It's not actually missing from the rulebook but could have been made clearer. It's assumed that you would have got this from the Art of the Apprentice so in the Art of the Warrior it talks about 'the same Mastery Card' and assumes you know this means no matter which way around the Mastery Card is played.

Anyway it would be interesting to read another session report of a skirmish game now that you've cleared up these points.
 
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