Grand River Playtest

My warriors sneak up through the woods to avoid that nasty bow fire.
We had another play test of the rules on Saturday night. This time we were in Cambridge near the Grand River which is a long time home for the natives here in Ontario. We had two games going side by side with our usual six figures on each side. Once again we were teaching new players the rules so we ran the rules as written. Not being the writers of the rules we need to get a good grasp on the rules as written before we make any changes anyway. This is because we are not changing the rules to simply make changes to something that is working. We are attempting to make a revised version of the rules that plays simply and quickly while maintaining the integrity of the game. The old adage of, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," is definitely being kept in mind during these play tests. We are also working on these play tests to create a set of rules that is readable and makes sense and plays easily as written, so it is good to have new players involved. Fortunately Howard has done a great job writing these rules which makes our job easier.

Vidal's Warband readies for the attack with the Striplings on the hill.
 For this run through we started with our six figures on each side of the board and then moved towards each other. Bow fire was exchanged with little results and then I was able to get my six warriors charged into my opponent Vidal's front four warriors. This gave me two fights out of four that I had a two to one advantage on his warriors. However, the cards were not good to me and after the fighting I was outnumbered three to two. Vidal rolled many sixes when determining damage and three of my warriors died gory deaths at the hands of the enemy.
We ran two rounds of combat in this fight, because this is the way the rules were written. The game took two hours almost right on to play. It ended when I decided to retreat off the board with my two remaining warriors.

Conclusions. We decided that two hours to play a game with only six warriors involved was too long. Even though we were taking time (once again) to learn the rules, this game time, if cut in half, would still have taken about an hour to play. Of course this is just an estimate. Once the game gets up to 12 to 15 warriors per side it could take a significantly longer period of time. So we are looking at making the combat system much more streamlined. We like the combat cards and will attempt to keep these in the game. So that leaves us with making changes to the damage system a possibility.

After we were finished playing our rules as written game we ran through three different ideas we had come up with to do the damage differently. One idea was to place the damage right on the card which means that your choice of cards, and who won the dice rolls, would determine the wounds. However, this system does not account for weapon differences or armor. A second system we tried was to use the modifiers from the rules for weapons and armor but get rid of the dice roll. In this system warriors were simply trying to roll higher than their opponents CV. If your total was one higher than the opponent it caused a fall back. Two higher than the opponents CV and a wound was inflicted with a score of three higher than the CV causing gory death. I did not like this system completely as it turned the game into a math class rather than being more game like.
The view over the shoulder of my remaining warriors right before they flee the table.
Finally we tried an alternate system which was engineered by Kurt the Strong that gets rid of the cards and just uses dice to resolve combat. This system goes against our desire to maintain the cards in the system and was simply an alternative to the combat system.

Thinking about it afterward I really like the idea of using the cards and then rolling the dice to try to score under your CV to cause a hit. Plus Howard has done a lot of work on these cards to make sure they are balanced, so they work well. My idea is to give the warriors a number of wounds equal to their CV. When dice are rolled for damage you simply minus these results from the wounded foe. Example: A Great Warrior with a spear chooses Lunge. The defender a War Bearer with a club and armor chooses Leap Aside, totally at random. The result on the chart is 1/2. Meaning the attacker gets one die and the defender gets two dice. The Great Warrior gets +1 die for having a spear and choosing Lunge. Both players roll two dice. The Great Warrior is looking for fives or less and rolls a 1 and 4 causing two wounds. The War Bearer is rolling two dice for threes and rolls a 3 and a 5. He causes one wound. The Great Warrior gets a wound marker and his new CV is four. He can take four more wounds. The War Bearer would take two hits but his armor allows him to ignore the first wound. He puts a wound marker on his War Bearer. The fight continues.

That is my idea at this point. We will be playtesting these ideas at Fall In in Lancaster, Pennsylvania on November 6 - 8th. Drop by our booth to give it a try.

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