Saturday, April 14, 2012

Hostile Realms: Battle of Bone Pass

The Realm's pikemen march out of Bone Pass under the watchful eye of Archduke Gregor II.
 This is going to be a battle report of our most recent Hostile Realms game.  Hostile Realms is the fantasy miniature ruleset produced by Piquet.  It has many of the card-driven features of Piquet, but it uses the balanced impetus system of Field of Battle, Piquet's more recent rule system.

Each army list has a card deck of 28 different cards that reflect that army's capabilities .  3 optional cards are then added to the deck for a total of 31.  Examples of cards are Move, Melee, Army Morale, Courage!, Missile Reload, Move 1 Command, Leader Check, Manna Reload, etc.  The cards dictate the actions the player's army may perform.  The optional cards tend to represent unforeseen events or impetuous troop movements that can't be controlled by the player.

During the game, each player rolls for Initiative and each rolls the leadership die of their commander-in-chief.  This die varies from a D6 (Abysmal) to a d12+1 (Superior).  The difference in the die rolls is how many cards each side will play from their deck for the phase.  The die roll winner gets to choose which side goes first for the phase.  Once both sides have played their cards for the phase, the players roll for Initiative again.  This continues until the turn ends when a player runs out of cards in his deck or they tie on an Initiative roll.

I'm not going to write a lot of background fluff and fiction about how this battle came to occur.  Suffice it to say that Archduke Gregor of Ostmark decided to invade the borders of Gondor with an army of his medieval vassals and mercenaries.  He was met on the Gondorian side of Bone Pass by an army led by the local Gondorian governor.

Greg used the army list of The Realm to build his army.  I used the army list for the Kingdom of Gonfor.  My army card deck is a pretty reliable deck.  According to the list instructions, I had to add the Uncontrolled Charge card for the Rohan units and the Berzerk Action card for the Hillmen.  I then selected randomly for my third and final optional card.  It was an Undisciplined Advance card.  Hmmm.  It looked like my army was going to be a little hard to control.

My army consisted of:

  • 4 spearman units
  • 2 archer units
  • 1 Ranger unit (elite border skirmishers)
  • 1 Citadel Guard unit (elite polearm-armed infantry)
  • 1 Gondorian Knights of the Swan unit (Mounted XH cavalry)
  • 2 Rohan heavy cavalry lancer units
  • 1 Rohan heavy cavalry archer unit
  • 1 Axemen of Lossnatch unit (axe-armed hillmen prone to berzerker outbursts)

Hostile Realms rates each character for their leadership qualities and their abilities.  The values are determined randomly.  Players can spend their ability points on Strength (good for melee), Dexterity (good for missile attacks and spell casting), Constitution (harder to kill, better magic resistance), Charisma (better morale), Renown (fierce reputation causes fear and can scare enemies) and Magical Talent (Wizards only).  Abilities are rated as Impaired, Basic, Advanced and Expert.  All of my characters were rated as Average leaders, but I did poorly on their Ability rolls.

My characters were:

  • Governor Davimor, an adequate general with mediocre combat skills.  His incredibly charming personality and good looks help to motivate his troops and obviously secured him the governorship.  UP2 to the Morale of a unit he is attached to.  Causes Fear.
  • Commander Lux, a good handler of bowmen who is otherwise unremarkable.  UP1 to Fire and Morale of any unit he attaches to.  He also carries the Horn of Boromir which improves the morale of Gondorian troops when it is sounded.
  • Earl Thresh, the Rohan leader commanding the Rohan horse.  While an excellent warrior and archer, Thresh is not well-known, was never mentioned in any Tolkien books, and he seeks to make a reputation for himself.  UP1 Fire and Melee to any unit he attaches to.
  • Gandalf the Grey, a powerful Class IV wizard.  While not physically strong or interested in inspiring the units of the army, Gandalf's magical talent, dextrous spell casting, and fierce reputation make him formidable on the battle field.  UP 1 spell casting die, UP 2 on magical attacks, causes fear, and can challenge the morale of enemy units with a D4.

All the spells available in the game.  Level 1 (Lt green), Level 2 (yellow), Level 3 (purple), and Level 4 (orange).
The cards are not included in the game.
Once characters were determined, I rolled for Gandalf's spell ability.  I discovered he was Average on this day.  Not great, but I'll take it.  Spells are rated from Level 1 to Level 4.  The more powerful Level 3 and 4 spells are more difficult to cast and many of them take preparation to cast successfully.  Gandalf selected the following spells:
  • Call the Storm (Level 3) - Causes a blizzard to fall on the battlefield.  Missile fire is reduced, movement is halved, fliers are grounded, and gunpowder weapons can't fire.  Require preparation.
  • Dimensional Travel (Level 3) - Teleport and character or unit 48".  Requires preparation.
  • Firestorm (Level 2) - Targets units in a 6" radius with a D6 magic attack.
  • Bless/Curse (Level 1) - Improves or reduces the abilities of a unit or character by 1.
My spells

Since this was only our second game, we decided to play without relics/magic items.  

Greg brought a typical Realm army that contained a lot of longbowmen and halberdiers.  Greg decided not to spend points on a wizard and purchased more units than me:
  • 1 extra-heavy mounted knight unit
  • 2 mounted heavy knight units
  • 3 halberdier units
  • 1 foot knight unit
  • 3 lowland pike units (two of these formed a pike block)
  • 3 longbow units
  • 3 imperial longbow units (better quality)
  • 1 bombard heavy cannon

Greg's characters were an archduke and 2 master yeomen to help the archers and cannon.  The Realm army also has the advantage of using Overhead Fire for its longbowmen.  This means the longbowmen can deploy behind the infantry and fire over them at the enemy.  Greg pulled 3 cards for his optional cards in his deck: Uncontrolled Charge, Pillage and Loot, and Look to the King!

Archduke Gregor II and his command staff
We decided the battle would be a meeting engagement in a medium terrain area.  We used Theater of War (another Piquet product) to lay out the battlefield, deploy the commands, and establish victory objectives.  The battlefield had several villages interspersed between a series of small hills.

Finally, we rolled for our morale chips.  Morale chips are a measure of your army's will to continue the fight.  You lose a morale chip every time one of your unit takes a wound or routs off the table.  Once you get to 0 morale chips, you can't rally your troops anymore and you have to take an Army Morale test every time you draw that card from your deck.  We both rolled a "1" on the morale chip table, so I received 12 chips and Greg received 15.  It looked like the game would be a quick one since neither army had the stomach for a prolonged struggle.

My plan for the game was simple.  I knew I had the advantage when it came to magic.  If the Realm's army closed with me before I could damage them, their greater numbers and excellent missile capability would overwhelm me.

I wanted to lead off the battle by casting my "Call the Storm" spell.  This spell would affect the entire battlefield, reduce the power of the enemy longbowmen, make their cannon ineffective, and slow down their movement.  While they were trudging along, I could then use my wizard to bombard them with Firestorm spells and soften them up.  Any units what got too close I could teleport away from my front lines.  Sounds great, right?

Unfortunately, the Piquet gods didn't see the game the same way I did.  Despite my best efforts to prepare "Call the Storm", I was never able to cast the spell.  You can only prepare a spell on a Leader Check card.  Once you've started your preparation, the spell is then cast on the following Manna Recharge card.

As I cycled through my deck, the Leader Check card refused to appear.  We then ended the turn early on a tied Initiative die roll and the deck had to be re-shuffled.  In Turn 2, I again couldn't flip a Leader Check card to save my life and once again the turn ended prematurely while I was only halfway through my deck.  Gandalf had to settle for using his lower level spells that required no preparation, so I bombarded the enemy longbowmen and halberdiers in the Realm's center with Firestorm spells from long range.

Gandalf is a Class IV wizard and is very skilled at casting a simpler Level 2 spell like Firestorm.  This did some damage to the enemy, but they were able to advance close enough that it was no longer worth it for me to continue attempting to cast my "battle-changing" spell.

While I was cursing at Gandalf and he was cursing at his spell book, there was some significant action on the battlefield.  Gandalf was unable to cast the big spell in both games we played.  Boo hoo!

Initial deployment.  Gondor is blue.  The Realm is red.  The villages from left to right: Gravewatch, Redsister, and Swamp Rim were all victory point objectives.  The ridge held by Gondor in the center was also an objective.  
My troops were deployed defensively and I tried to avoid closing with the enemy since I was waiting for my stupid super spell to win the game for me.  My army deployed as follows:

  • Left flank command: 3 spearman units, the Citadel Guard unit, and the berzerker axemen commanded by the governor defended the village of Gravewatch.  
They were opposed by 2 longbow units, 1 halberd unit, a foot knight unit, and the cannon.
  • Center command: 2 bowman units, the Ranger unit, a spearman unit, and the Knights of the Swan were posted on a ridge along my board edge.  
They were opposed by 4 longbow units, 2 halberd units, a pike unit, and a large pike block.
  • Right flank command: 2 Rohan lancer cavalry units and a horse archer unit.  
They were opposed by the Realm's 3 heavy mounted knight units.

While the Gondorians eagerly awaited the effects of their mighty magic, the Realm's forces rolled a triple move for two of their commands.  The mounted knights and center infantry command charged across the battlefield.

Since the pike block can move at double speed until it gets into combat, it managed to race across and slam into one of my Rohan lancer units.  My troops were like the nearsighted castle wedding guards in Monty Python's "Quest for the Holy Grail".  They kept waiting and waiting until the enemy was on top of them.

On the left flank, Archduke Gregor's artillery piece hammered away at my units, but my infantry grimly held their positions.

Archduke Gregor joined the pike block and personally waded into combat.  My lancers were at a severe disadvantage versus the pike block, but after some bad die-rolling, my lancers were only disordered by the pikes.  Things looked good for the Realm, but Gregor had forgotten he pulled the "Look to the King" card from his deck a few flips before.  This card decreed that if the commander in chief was involved in a melee in the same phase, we had to test to see if he was slain in combat.

Gregor failed his roll and his helmet was cleft in two by a Rohirrim battle axe.  Seeing their liege and paymaster fall, the mercenaries and vassals of the Realm's army failed their Army Morale check and retreated from the field.  Thus was victory snatched from the jaws of defeat.

The Realmish center command and cavalry (purple/red) lunge forward.

The first battle ended after only an hour or so, so we ate lunch, set it up again and played a second game.

Game 2

The second battle began only after Greg carefully read the "Look to the King!" card and promised himself that he would not commit his general to melee again when that card was in play.

On my left flank, the Realm's artillery pulverized the Gondor-held village of Gravewatch into rubble.  An Uncontrolled Charge card sent the Realm's impetuous foot knights and halberdiers advancing down the hill without orders.  The Gondorian infantry advanced to meet them and routed the invaders after a few rounds of melee combat.  As the defeated Realmers fled back up the hill, the victorious Gondorians followed hard upon their heels.  The Axemen of Lossoch chased the fleeing infantry with bone-chilling battle cries.  Everything seemed to be going well on Gondor's left flank.

The same could not be said for the center.  Once again, the Realm advanced with great speed in the center of the battlefield.  My efforts to use magic and orders to advance my forces met with failure.  The Realm's knights collided with the Rohirrim cavalry and caught them off-balance.  One Rohirrim lancer unit was successful and routed its opponent but its heedless pursuit carried it into the middle of the enemy's infantry lines where it was eventually flanked and destroyed.  The other two squadrons of Rohirrim cavalry were overwhelmed by the heavy impact of the Realm's armored knights and they fled from the battlefield.

With their heavy cavalry poised on the flank of the Gondorian army and supported by the giant pike block of veteran mercenaries, the Realm clearly had the upper hand.  Gandalf finally was able to use his magic to cast a spell that blanketed the battlefield in a freezing blizzard.  Using the storm as cover, the Gondorians withdrew from the field and conserved their strength to fight another day.  Victory belonged to the Realm.

I made a few major mistakes during the game.  The first was putting my Knights of the Swan behind my center command.  They were my best cavalry unit and I should have positioned them closer to the Rohirrim cavalry where they could support them.  Instead, they waited patiently behind my infantry lines and didn't see a minute of combat.  I also forgot to blow the Horn of Gondor which raises the morale of my troops for an entire phase.

Missing out on the spell preparation was bad luck. That's just part of Piquet, but I let the bad luck paralyze me and take me out of my game.  The cannon on the left was able to pound me without the magic blizzard blanketing the battlefield, but next time I think I'll deploy my Rangers over there and let them shoot the crap out the cannon gunners.

In the future, I'll plan my strategy to include magic, but I'll be prepared to execute a strategy that doesn't rely on it so much for victory.

The pictures are of the medieval collection Greg and I have been painting for the past 2 years.  They look great in action as the Realm's troops.  Greg has done a brilliant job on the command bases and he's even adding flowers to the static grass.  Excellent job, buddy!

Mercenary pikemen (Old Glory) of the Realm

Realm pikemen (Perry) raised by the free cities.

Gregor's cousin reviews the cavalry (Perry) as they march through the village of Redsister.

The Realm had no wizards but they brought plenty of priests!

Realm knights and men-at-arms (Perry)