Summary of Play
Turn 1 -- Setup. Attacking monsters in blue (setup anywhere by player choice), defending men in red (fixed start per the classic module). Ms. A has setup her monsters about how I always personally envision -- and yet, she's the first monster-player to ever do so. She's got the weaker types ringing the lower outer bailey (goblins, orcs, hobgoblins with crossbows), and the stronger types positioned against the higher inner bailey (ogres and giants; some goblins too). This is advantageous because the higher bluff at the back is harder to climb (potentially even a fatal fall), and the giant-types counteract that with their higher strength. There are also some reinforcement monsters currently left off the table (see the chair at the top).
Turn 3 -- Advance. Here, you can see two turns of monster move attempts up the bluff. On Mr. D's first turn, he made a highly unexpected move: "Is there any requirement that I keep men in the outer bailey?", he asked. Receiving an answer of "uh... no", his first move was to immediately pull every unit out of the outer bailey, consolidating them all in the higher inner bailey (as you can see below). Privately I was thinking, "Oh crap, that's broken, I'll have to institute a rule penalizing lack of defense for the civilians in the lower town..."
Turn 5 -- Insertion. So with no one defending the walls of the outer bailey, the monsters could pull up their crude ladders and scale over the perimeter freely. Below, you can them packing in as tightly as possible, having entirely taken over the outer bailey (and the main gate). Now they're starting to exchange missile fire with the men atop the inner fortress (the inner fortress gives 2 figures complete protection, but others are hittable on a "6"). Again, all of this was unprecedented action.
Turn 6 -- Giants! Don't forget that there are ogres and a squad of giants trying to climb up over the higher bluff/wall of the outer bailey. The giants were delayed for several turns as they served artillery-fire with thrown stones at anyone in sight on the rear walls. Now that red has tired of the losses and retired from the wall (those 3 figures in the keep fortress are also invulnerable from missile-fire), the giants have ascended and are about to boost each other over the wall. (In a recurring theme for me this HelgaCon, frost giants are again the featured antagonist.)
Turn 7 -- Multiple Breaches. So here you can see that giants and some ogres have both gotten into the outer bailey, and are stomping on anyone in reach. (Frost giants have taken 3-of-10 hits; there are also some unfortunate goblins who have suffered falling deaths and routed.) But here's another intriguing move by Ms. A: instead of rushing ahead helter-skelter with her big mob of monsters (which is usual thing) she's showing the utmost patience, degrading the red defenders from a distance with missile fire as much as possible before moving from her position in the outer bailey. One figure in each tower is fully protected, but there is still one figure in the inner fortress that is a valid target, and there are a lot of hobgoblin crossbows firing each turn.
Turn 10 -- Collapse. The orcs, goblins, and hobgoblins in the outer bailey are now surging forward en masse. Partly they're trying to scale over the wall of the inner fortress, and meanwhile they're attempting break down doors into the towers on either side (one unit of orcs is now in the west tower, battling with red defenders). Ogres have been mostly killed, but the giants have actually stormed the main keep fortress and cleared out all of the defenders there!
Turn 15 -- The End. The defenders actually kill quite a number of monsters as the fighting turns hand-to-hand through each tower and building. However, the jig is clearly up. Below you can see one of the last defender units in an extremely bad situation. (Hey, it's almost like I designed those tower-tops to exactly fit that figure base or something...)
So the winner in probably the most lopsided game to date: Ms. A playing the monsters in her first-ever wargame. That said, Mr. D was incredibly gracious at the end of the game, giving great compliments on how it played out, and saying how impressed he was that his pull-everyone-back move failed to break the game (among other observations). At the end we realized that there's a specific rules clause already built in naturally that made it a very bad move to vacate the lower bailey -- but no one (including me!) really understood what the ramifications of that move were until very late in the game. At some point when Book of War is released I'll link back here and see if you can spot what they key rule is. Really fascinating play and an opportunity for some emergent-behavior discoveries. I'll skip the "what went right" section (pretty much everything, so no need to pat myself on the back too much)...
What Went Wrong (Things to Fix)
- Paint in Doors. An important part of the gameplay involves the monsters reaching inward-facing doors to the castle towers, bashing them in, and then meleeing with the defenders inside (thereby accessing other walls, the inner bailey, etc.) Every time I play there are numerous question from players about exactly where the accessible doors are, where they lead, I should have a map of B2 to confirm where they are, etc. Mr. D made the point that I could just paint in those doors to visually indicate where they are. Yeah, I painted in almost everything else except the one feature that's actually critical to scenario gameplay. Big "duh" for me, and great observation from him.
- Doors should Close. On the same point, I've been playing that once a tower door gets bashed in, anyone can freely move through that access point from then on. Mr. D made the point that's not exactly realistic, that winners of the tower should probably be able to board it up again, hoist the door, block it with shields, etc., thereby forcing other attackers to break it down again. I think that's good, and it has the further advantage of not having to remember which doors are in place and which aren't. (A secondary-level priority for my game is to not have any record-keeping other than what's immediately visible on the table.) So that's what I'll do next time.
- Morale on Bluff. One thing I'm a little wiggly on is the propensity for monster units climbing the high bluff to take a loss from falling, fail a morale check, and then get committed to climbing back down the dangerous bluff (as you can see for the goblins in the photo of turn #7 above), possibly taking more falls and more deaths. That's kind of a judgment call about what seems more dangerous: the deadly precipice below, or the looming defended castle wall above? Not sure where to take that. (Suggestions?)