Author Topic: Count Ralf rides again  (Read 120 times)

Erpingham

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Count Ralf rides again
« on: July 23, 2020, 05:54:54 PM »
The discussion elsewhere on the forum on representing Viking archery has sent ripples through my early Medieval armies.  The Vikings have set out to the West for a little light devastation.  Initially, they easily brushed aside a Carolingian local force in a small test skirmish.  A few rule tweaks later and, with the new shieldwall plus archer bases completed, they faced a tougher challenge - a full skirmish against the Normans.

8 units of Vikings faced 9 units of Normans. 

The Vikings had 6 shiploads of common warriors plus two of elite, one of which was Jarl Ragnar's hird.  They mustered under the Red Raven banner, not the white one which had led them to victory over the Carolingians.  Was this tempting fate?

Count Ralf had four conrois of knights, three units of common foot, some archers and some crossbows.

Terrain was non-descript - two small hills in opposite quarters, one small wood in another, nothing in the fourth.

Ragnar, anticipating a routine Norman deployment, had anchored his line with his two elite units, the leftmost against the wood for good measure.

Both sides advanced - the Vikings to gain the advantage of a small hill, the Normans to bring their superior firepower to bear (their archers and crossbows had a three to one range advantage over the Viking shieldwall archers and more hit power at short ranges).  predictably, the Normans launched cavalry attacks on both flanks.  Ragnar's trick with the elite warriors seemed to have worked - there were casualties on both sides but Ralf cannily rallied back most of his force, leaving just one conroi which seemed to be having some success.  Good call, as, having pushed back its opponent in the first round, it delivered an automatic rout on the second (1 in 6 chance).  Luck continued with the shortest possible compulsory pursuit.

In the centre, the two main lines seemed very reluctant to engage but had reached shooting distance for all concerned, so there was a trickle of casualties.

On the Viking right, freed up by the rallying back of the cavalry, Ragnar himself surged forward to deliver a flanking blow.  His inner unit clipped the Norman centre, carrying away the flanking archers but made a long pursuit move preventing them exploiting.  The Norman cavalry on this wing charged again to stem Ragnar's advance .  Ragnar was descending the hill .  Disaster for the Normans as one unit was routed (1 in 6 chance with the hill advantage - these automatic routs hardly ever happen but two in two moves).  The other Norman unit was luckier, pushed back one Viking unit and succeeded in breaking off again - it was all quite Hastings like.

Around move 4, the centres clashed - except for the left flank Viking unit which seemed particularly frightened by the crossbows and chose the  tactic of standing in effective range to get shot at over closing (the crossbow hit it received meant it couldn't group advance with the rest but had to test to close)

The Viking left was becoming interesting.  The elite warriors were now isolated with cavalry in front and to the flank and couldn't wheel toward the wood as this would leave them  with cavalry to flank and rear.  The flank cavalry charged there was a move of heroic resistance when they nearly held their ground but the odds were inevitable and two moves on they were gone.

So, both right flanks were pushing heroically ahead.  It was one conroi of cavalry v. 3 Viking units on the Viking right.  One unit was out of position but all the other two had to do was wheel toward the open flank of the Norman centre.  But Ragnar had lost control and his men drove forward (I really didn't expect this - it was an effect of a rule change after another discussion on the forum about making wheeling harder).  Another unexpected effect was the pursuing unit had rallied and had set off to attack the rear of the Norman centre (moved it assuming Ragnar would wheel in) which left it within reach of the sole cavalry unit.

Come move 6 and the fight in the centre was evenly balanced, with one infantry unit down on each side.  The Vikings needed to avoid losing one unit, the Normans had the luxury of being able to lose one more without effect on army morale.  The Norman cavalry unit from the Norman left wing  caught one of the pursuing Viking units in the rear.  Cavalry charging into the rear has a much higher chance of instant death and so it proved - the third instant rout of the game.  An army morale test was in order but three out of the four Viking units passed

Move 7 was a strange one in that there was almost no fighting.  The Viking units on their far right reorganised a front while the scattered Norman cavalry and pursuing infantry units rallied and reorganised.  Count Ralf even threatened to charge something (he'd fought precisely one round of combat this far). A single combat continued in the centre.  The Vikings again passed their army morale and the same continued into move 8.  The Normans just couldn't get an angle to attack into the last combat or against Ragnar.  Finally, though, the last combat resolved in favour of the Normans.  With three quarters of the army gone, Ragnar was forced to call it quits.

Overall, it was a fun game.  Quite an intense hour, involving quite a bit of thinking about control tests (when could a group move happen and when not, for example) which clarified my thinking on some of this.  The "shooty" Vikings did a little more shooting than I expected because of the strange pause where no-one could contact and, for the same reason, the crossbows had one of their best games, losing no-one but causing at least two hits.

Overall, then, a Norman success story.  Doubtless the minstrels will cover up Ralf's lacklustre personal performance :)



  • Anthony Clipsom

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Re: Count Ralf rides again
« Reply #1 on: July 24, 2020, 09:59:35 AM »
Ahh, reading George Theotokis’ new book on the Normans in the Mediterranean and Emily Albu’s work I would suggest that Ralf would be praised for his fox like craftiness and cunning, qualities much admired in Norman circles.  However, if an heroic episode were needed then one would simply be worked up from his one combat...but basically he was a winner against a dangerous enemy.
Roy
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Re: Count Ralf rides again
« Reply #2 on: July 31, 2020, 01:53:05 PM »
Interesting, especially seeing morale affecting both individual and group activities.

Are they your own rules Anthony?
  • David Kay
David

Erpingham

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Re: Count Ralf rides again
« Reply #3 on: July 31, 2020, 02:55:13 PM »
Interesting, especially seeing morale affecting both individual and group activities.

Are they your own rules Anthony?

Yes, they are my Dux Bellorum derived ones, though as is the way of these things they have evolved quite a way from their start point.

What you are seeing in terms of morale test are two types - bravery and army morale.  They are simple 2d6 throws against a base figure with no factors, but have different results.  Bravery results depend on test circumstances.  So above, you will see a Viking unit refuse to advance to contact because it had taken a hit - that was a contact bravery test.  There were also casualty-induced bravery tests which don't show up in the narrative as they simply modify the combat result and loss of nearby friends tests, which weaken units but not dramatically, so you don't see them in the narrative either.  Army morale tests are triggered by loss of units - 50% is the threshold - and are sudden death - fail one and the unit runs away. 

Finally, one test which makes a dramatic appearance is a control test, which is the same as a bravery test except against control factor.  Leaders can override these except in a small number of compulsory circumstances.  One of these is wheeling and turning.  Ragnar needed the inside unit of his pair to wheel toward the Norman open flank, while he marched pass and wheeled next turn.  Complex.  The inner unit failed a control test and had to repeat last action - advance straight ahead - blocking Ragnar, who also advanced (he could have halted).  The wheel would then have to be attempted the next move, with R and his companion unit getting further from the centre.  The unfortunate consequence was it hung the returning pursuers out to dry - unafraid of any intervention, the cavalry could mount a full blooded charge into their rear.  They didn't need a contact test but, as they were halted, they needed a control test to change action to move, which they passed, and it was Valhalla express for the Vikings.

Sorry to those who don't like blow-by-blow dissections but in this case, I thought it necessary to show how all the tests play their parts.



  • Anthony Clipsom

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Re: Count Ralf rides again
« Reply #4 on: August 05, 2020, 08:42:45 AM »
I assume the unit bravery and control tests takes into account some sort of morale classification for the troop type taking it, e.g. type xyz need to throw 5 or more, but type abc need 8 or more.
But what does the army level test consider?
  • David Kay
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Re: Count Ralf rides again
« Reply #5 on: August 05, 2020, 09:49:47 AM »
I assume the unit bravery and control tests takes into account some sort of morale classification for the troop type taking it, e.g. type xyz need to throw 5 or more, but type abc need 8 or more.
But what does the army level test consider?

You assume correctly (except it is throw equal or lower than a number).  Army test is the same - test against bravery for all remaining units in army (or division - if the army is in divisions the 50% test applies to a division).  No modifiers (there are very few anyway).  In games terms, this is there to create uncertainty about the end point, especially if things are tight.  You can rationalise as represent the army's morale waivering as units are lost (in truth, I think how an army's morale collapses is a bit of a grey area, so this is as good as any).

At present, I operate the rule as taken from Dux Bellorum - test every move when 50% has been lost.  This gives a fairly quick end.  But you could apply the army test only when additional units lost, which would extend things, I would think.  Off the top of my head, it may be worth doing this in a multiplayer game where each player has a division. 

Imagine this scenario.  An army has eight units in two divisions of four.  Division A engages and loses two units, while B loses none.  A takes a divisional morale check at move end and one unit fails.  The division has now reached 75% losses - automatic break point.  The army has now suffered 50% losses, so Division B has to test each move, and is essentially doomed to wither away, as it won't pass every test and two losses will break it on the 75% army casualty rule.  If you were the player commanding B, you might feel a bit short changed.   But playing solo, I could be more relaxed, because I've won with the other side :)

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