Monday, October 13, 2014

Minis Workshop – Can They Retreat? Part 1

Below you'll see a series of cases from a miniature mass wargame. Each figure represents 10 or 20 actual creatures. In each case, the Orcs in the center have been Routed, which ordinarily indicates a must-retreat situation. The question is: in which of these cases, if any, would you expect that the Orc unit is blocked from retreating?

Case 1: Contact on one side.



Case 2: Contact on two sides.



Case 3: Contact on three sides.



Case 4: Contact on four sides, with a fairly large gap in the back.



Case 5: Contact on four sides, with a gap slightly larger than one figure in the back.



Case 6: Contact on four sides, completely surrounded.



In which of these cases does it seem that Orcs should not be able to run away or escape? And can you think of any other situations that might be tough or close judgement calls?

26 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Is routing an all or nothing event? Do they all get away scot-free if they rout that is. What happens afterwards?

    In Kings of War any unit that routs is removed from the battlefield as their effectiveness is reduced to zero. It doesn't matter if some die and some live.

    In Warhammer routing units retain the ability to reform and re-enter the fight. Effectiveness returns.

    To answer your question I would say that in all of these situations the orcs cannot escape without taking some casualties. The degree to which they suffer casualties would be a result of how surrounded they are. Easiest to say that as a result of a rout they no longer participate in the battle.

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    1. That's a great point and intuitively I agree. None of the games I've played to date have a partial-casualty-while-routing rule (Chainmail, Swords & Spells, Battlesystem, Warhammer). I briefly considered what it would take to add that to my own game, but it quickly seemed like a lot of complication and many side-cases to cover. So to date for me (and both the cases you mention) it's all-or-nothing, which makes sense from a simplification concern.

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  3. Depending on what exactly you're doing, I'd say that Rando has the right of it. Otherwise:

    Cases 1-2: retreat with some casualties
    Cases 3-4: retreat with major casualties
    Cases 5-6: orcs eliminated or surrender

    Some other edge cases to consider include being hemmed in by difficult or impassable terrain, retreating into missile fire, or "retreating" into a manned enemy fortification (for example, from a flank or rear attack while standing in a breached castle wall).

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    1. My instinct is also in the same place. Although I haven't seen any games to date with a casualties-while-retreating-rule, and it does seem like that would expand in complexity quickly. But realistically: you're right, I agree.

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    2. Hm, writing it as a rule, perhaps something like "if at least 1/4 of the figures in the unit have a side of their base not in contact, then the unit routs immediately taking one free attack from each of the opposing figures in contact; if less than 1/4 of the figures have a free base side, the unit gets the number of figures with a free base side out each round, the rest taking free attacks from the opponents in contact; figures in rout cannot attack"?

      That probably needs to be refined, of course, but maybe you can see where I'm going with that.

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    3. Another thing to keep in mind is that, e.g. in my Book of War rules, I've got the movement intentionally set up so that you can only get a half-move away on a rout... and that way if the enemy wants it they can (almost) always hit the rear in the next round for more attacks. So my thinking might be: They just took attacks to cause the rout, they'll take attacks again if the enemy pursues, so perhaps interrupting attacks on the rout itself is too much?

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    4. Maybe, but if a rout is just a kill (if there's no rally), then it's even worse, no?

      If you'll forgive the brief digression, in Tactica, they decided that a flank attack was devastating, so they simply disallowed a unit hit in flank from attacking (or moving) at all. It just sat there taking casualties until it was wiped out. I don't much like that sort of absolute abstraction, and think that routing could be handled in a way that makes it clearly a loss (which it is), but still giving it a chance at rallying. Hitting them, hitting them again when they turn, and hitting them on the follow-up seems appropriate to me!

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    5. Yipe! That's super hard-core (in Tactica). I assume the same thing happened in a rear attack? Wowzers.

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    6. Yeah, rear attacks too. Their justification was that in nearly every case historically, a flank or rear attack resulted in the attacked unit being wiped out. Me, I think that may be true, but I don't know that it justifies such an extreme of an abstracted result. Personally, I liked the way that WRG rules handled it, even if it did require a bit more complexity (and sometimes adjudication, but then I am told that British miniatures gamers have always been a little more freeform and easygoing about such things than American ones).

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    7. I agree with wanting to play it out more than that. One thing you have to be careful about is, in the fantasy game, what if that flank-attacked unit is some superhumanly powerful type: like trolls or treants or lycanthropes? Even if mundane men are usually wiped out, you still need some mechanic to handle these cases where the entity is so strong they might shrug off even this.

      This is actually something I had to deal with regarding pikes: in EGG's Chainmail they simply cannot be attacked by non-pikes. Which might make sense for men but not so much for ogres, giants, elephants, dragons, who at least conceivably might wade through a thicket of pikes and make attacks.

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    8. Exactly so.

      I can understand streamlining the rout rules since a unit only routs when it is losing to begin with. If you want to include the possibility of a rally, though, it seems like it would be worthwhile, at least as an optional advanced rule.

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    9. Right, that's exactly where I am right now with that.

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    10. One thing that you might consider is the WRG tactic (deliberately built in, based on history) of throwing a weak unit at a strong one in hopes of forcing it to rashly follow up the rout and fall into an ambush by more deadly units (flank attack!) That usually works best against a unit with high morale but low discipline, if there is any good way to simulate that.

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    11. That I probably wouldn't do because I don't have either a distinguished discipline stat or forced moves in my game (other than routing away). That's 80% for game rule simplicity, but 20% because that's not a mechanic in classic D&D (whereas morale is).

      On the other hand, I've had that action happen anyway just due to player decisions.

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    12. Yeah, good point. D&D sort of assumes maximum control. I think Battlesystem does the same. Plus, you can get some of the same effect with hidden setup for some units (the only off-board anything in WRG is flanking units, which is a big risk anyway in that system, since the flanking unit might get lost or delayed on the way there).

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    13. Interesting you say that because in BOW just a few units have a special ability of hidden setup: invisible elite elves anywhere; elves and halflings in woods; and just yesterday I made a decision to give bugbears the same ability in woods (the only way I could think to model their "stealth"/surprise bonus).

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  4. IIRC your BoW rules, there is a (fairly difficult) roll allowed to rally units before they rout off the board. You could just consider units that fail to rally as being those that suffered higher casualties in the retreat/rout. For some additional complexity in record-keeping or memory, units forced to rout from a partly- or completely-surrounded situation might have additional penalties to their rally attempts.

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    1. Interesting, although that might require some record-keeping between turns which is something I tried to avoid.

      Side note: We've actually been playing lately with no recovery from rout allowed. This popped up once when I was trying to run a bunch of games within a 4-hour block, and I liked how it streamlined the play so much that when I do a revision it (recovery from rout) will get moved to an "optional" rule.

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    2. A rout is as good as a kill, then -- nasty, but maybe not that unrealistic.

      The record-keeping could be pretty simple, though -- you already have little flags or markers for "Routed," right? If you had some that said "Routed -1" or "Routed -2" or whatever you could choose the appropriate one to fly over the affected unit.

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  5. Hmm:

    My own wargaming has mostly been of the WH40K variety, so my perspective is informed by that.

    With this in mind, I'd consider models in contact to be involved in melee, but not actually "standing" where their models indicate (seeing as how the melee is supposed to be a dynamic affair and the models, in real life, are static pieces of plastic). When a unit is forced to retreat, it falls back from where it is (regardless of the placement of engaged enemy models). Whether or not it is destroyed in the process is dependent on:

    A) if the unit that broke the retreaters are allowed a follow-up/pursuit/mop-up move, and/or
    B) if the retreating unit is forced to fall back through a NON-engaged enemy unit (behind them/flanking them) that can destroy the retreaters prior to a rally.

    [the difference between routing and destroying units is only of concern if we're talking multi-battle, campaign play]

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    1. (As I said in your part 2 comment): So do you have votes for which cases above the orcs can retreat? (Regarding A, assume no immediate interrupting move by the attacker.)

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    2. @ Delta:

      In EVERY instance, the orcs would be allowed to retreat from the formations.

      The humans engage the enemy (by moving into base contact with the orc unit), they fight (roll dice), the orcs break (because they fail morale or take too many casualties or whatever).

      The orcs THEN fall back towards their nearest "safe zone" (table edge, whatever) by making whatever is their "retreat move" (a number of inches) away from the human figures.

      The placement of the engaged humans doesn't interfere with the retreat. The only thing that cuts off the retreat is an additional UN-engaged (non-contacting) unit between the melee "zone" and the "safe area," or some sort of terrain considerations (a mountain range, impassable forest/jungle, swamp, etc.). Barring these barriers, the orcs retreat unimpeded.

      NOW, sometimes the victorious group (in this case the humans who were engaged in melee) are able to follow-up and pursue/destroy the orcs. In some games, pursuit only occurs with a "route" result, instead of a "retreat" result. In some games, NO pursuit takes place (because the victorious unit takes some time milling about, high-fiving each other, or whatnot). Pursuit (or lack of pursuit) is an important consideration to whether or not retreat is possible...points of contact are not.

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    3. Wow, okay, thanks for clarifying that.

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    4. You're welcome!

      [hope it wasn't too wordy!]

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    5. It was all illuminating. :-)

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