Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Hell Broke Loose play test - Sequence and Initiative

As with all Piquet style games, the basic mechanism of Hell Broke Loose is based around a sequence deck and initiative pips. 

The sequence deck is a deck of 29 or more cards, one for each side (better armies get a better deck, kinda), that forms the army's turn sequence: indeed, a game turn does not end until the decks are reshuffled. There are several different types of card in each deck. Cards allows the army to move, melee, etc. 

There are three key advantages of a sequence deck. The first is that the game sequence is not fixed; you don't know exactly when you will get to move, force melee, check for morale etc. This builds a certain tension in Piquet games. The second is that it breaks the game up into manageable chunks. The third advantage is a by-product of the first two: it makes solo play pretty good.

The number of initiative pips for each player is determined by the roll of a pre-determined army die (D8 - D12 range, see set up in an earlier post). The difference in the rolls is the number of initiative pips available to each player - these initiative pips form an initiative phase. Initiative pips are used, during the initiative phase, to turn sequence cards (one pip for each card), one by one, acting (or not) on each card as it is turned. The player rolling higher gets to use all of his pips first or second. Equal initiative rolls end the turn and all of the cards are regathered, and shuffled, in preparation for the next turn. You never know if you'll to turn all of the cards in your sequence deck until the last initiative roll is made, which adds to the aforesaid tension. 

Here is an example of play from the start of the test game. BTW, the die colours to watch for, depending on which is the 'active' side, are black for the French and blue for the Imperials. The red and white dice, where shown, are dice that have been rolled versus the active side. In Piquet games, all die friendly rolls are opposed by an enemy die roll.

Using army die (both D10s) to roll off for initiative, the French roll a 9 and the Imperials roll 8. The difference is 1. Both sides get 1 initiative pip. The Imperials, rolling higher, choose to go first.

They turn a March card. This allows all command groups (groups of units under an officer stand) to roll for movement. All units, except artillery, can move on the March card.

The left wing cavalry command rolls first. It has a D10 quality commander. It rolls a D10 and the French roll a D8 opposition die (always D8 Vs movement). The result is 10 Vs 4. The D10 result is more than the D8 result. The cavalry can move twice.

Two units of Skirmish cavalry and a unit of Archer cavalry fan out to the left wing. The cavalry is all DD: D6, so it all moves 6" a move. The Archer cavalry uses one of its moves to wheel 45 degrees because unlike skirmish cavalry it cannot oblique move.
The Imperials decide to move up most of their infantry command. Its commander is D10 quality so it is D10 Vs D8 again. This time the result of the D10 is 8, the result of the D8 is 2. The D10 is more and triple. The infantry can move three times.  

The infantry move their Defence Die (DD): D8 inches per move. They only have to move twice (16") to get into position.
The French now use their pip to turn a card. They turn Army Morale. At this point the card cannot be used. The initiative phase is over. 
Both sides roll Army Die again. Both are using D10. The result is 8 to 2 for a difference of 6. Each player will get 6 initiative pips in this phase.

The Imperials (blue die) is higher. The Imperials decide to use their initiative first.

The first Imperial card turned is a Melee card. No units are in contact so it cannot be used. The second card is another March card. 

The Imperials will have to be careful. In effect their infantry, except for manoeuvre allowed by Formation Change cards, will be stationary for the rest of the turn as there are only two March cards in their deck.

The Imperials continue to move their cavalry. Rolling 9 Vs 7 they can move twice again. They come up onto the hill. Note that the archer cavalry are lagging behind - this is because on their second move they contacted the hill (gentle gradient) and had to stop.
The next card is Command but, nothing needs to be rallied so play moves on. The next card is a Lull.

Lull cards are an interesting card first developed by Brent Oman of Piquet. They are one of his very best ideas, IMHO. They allow the enemy a chance of stealing an extra initiative pip for immediate use. Each side rolls Army Die. French die beats Imperial die. The French have stolen the initiative.
With their 'stolen' intiative pip the French turn a March card.
First the French roll for the cavalry command on their right wing. They roll command die (D10) Vs D8. They score 6. The D8 score is 8. The D10 is less than the D8. The cavalry can move its Defence Die in inches once.
The French roll for the mixed Italian command on their left. They roll D10 Vs D8 and score more (6 Vs 5). The units in the command can move twice.
The French roll for their mixed command in the centre. They roll D10 Vs D8 - Cor blimey governor! - they roll a 1. Results of 1 are generally bad in any game. This game is no different. The units of this command will not activate on this card, this time around.
Lastly the French try to activate their Gascons and their small Landsknecht pike block (not all of my pike units are big ones). They roll 7 Vs 4. They can move twice. During the second move (these are tardy French with a D4 Defence Die for 4" moves only) they contact the bottom of the hill and must stop for new terrain: the line staggers.

The won Lull is over. Play now transfers back to the Imperials.
The Imperials turn a Cavalry March. Any commands with cavalry that manoeuvre at the trot and canter can roll to activate them. 
Whoops, there goes another 1 result. No move for these guys.
Over on the other side of the field, with the enemy having advanced into strike range, Genitors can sense their chance. The command rolls 8 Vs 3 for two moves. This would bring them to contact.

Now, Genitors and Stradiots are treated somewhat differently to other cavalry. These boys were masters of close skirmishing, hit and run style, tactics. This was a difficult thing to find mechanics for, but after a lot of trial and effort we came up with this. I quote:

"Skirmish cavalry includes cavalry such as Stradiotti and Genitors. These cavalry rely on their speed and agility to hit heavier and slower troops without becoming embroiled. To replicate this, Stradiotti and Genitors have a special ability; they can ‘close skirmish’: Genitors and Stradiots choosing to close skirmish can move (in type I terrain only) to contact and initiate a ‘close skirmish’ melee without recourse to a melee card. Following a round of close skirmishing. 
  • Any melee resolution win on an even roll is treated normally but the melee ends with the units separated by a 1” gap.
  • Any melee resolution loss on an even roll is treated as an ‘equal, hard fought with no advantage’ result and the melee ends with the units separated by a 1” gap.
  • Losses and draws on an odd roll are treated normally – the unit became embroiled and the melee becomes ongoing." 
In they go. The first unit to fight is the one pictured on the right. 

The Genitors are C class. Their base Combat Die (CD) is a D8. They get an Up 1 die type for initiating, which would take them to D10. But they get a Down 1 type for fighting Vs fully armoured. So back to D8. 

The French cavalry (Borgia's Gendarmes) are A class elites. Their base Combat Die is a D12. They get an Up1 for being formed in open terrain (type I). They get an Up 1 for being better armoured. They get an Up 1 for having superior weapon. They are D12 + 3.

The Genitors roll 8. The Gendarmes roll 8+3 for 11. Normally that would be a difference of 4, which would throw back the Genitors in disorder (we call it 'Vexed') with a stand lost. But these are Genitors, crafty devils, and because they rolled an even roll (an 8 as opposed to a 3) they claim a draw. Both sides take 1 Unit Integrity (UI) loss and the Genitors pull back 1". The melee is over. Each side loses 1 morale chip.

Note: Ups and Downs effect die in the range D4 to D12. 
You can't ever go lower than D4: So a D6 Down 5 will be D4. 
You can't go higher than a D12; any additional Ups add to the D12 result; 12 is the maximum result (you can't score 14).
Odd and even results should always be noted. It is the result on the die, not the result total, that counts.

Next up, the other unit of Genitors has a go. The factor for the Genitors is the same as the other one - D8. The Gendarmes are one factor worse - they took a Unit Integrity point loss. Both sides score 7. This is a draw with both sides rolling odd. Both sides take a UI loss. Both sides lose 1 morale chip. There is no follow up awarded. 

The Genitors have done, considering the power of their opponent,  O.K. 
After the combat this is the situation. Note the coins with stones (UI loss) and the follow up marker showing no advantage  (sword point shows direction of any follow up).
The next card is a Group Melee. 

The Imperials do not want to resolve the ongoing Genitor combat, they might yet get the Genitors out of it, so they nominate another command with no units in contact. 

This ends the 6 pip initiative phase for the Imperials. 

Time for the French response.
The first card is a Lull (the March, if you remember, was won on the Lull - it's just a bad photo). 

But the Imperials roll lower so fail to steal it. They must beat the French roll.
The next card is a Melee. The French must fight any ongoing melees.

Back to the Gendarme Vs Genitor combat.
The Gendarmes are CD 12, Up 1 for formed in type I terrain, Up 1 for superior armour class, Up 1 for superior weapon, Down 2 for 2 UI loss. They are D12+1. 

The Genitors have become embroiled in a melee they don't want - they are CD 8, Down 1 for facing fully armoured, Down 1 for a stand loss. A D8 Down 2 is a D4.

The result is 4 Vs 2. This is a marginal win for the Gendarmes. Normally this result would cause a stand loss to each and, though no visible movement would be detected, the follow up marker would turn in favour of the French. But these are Fierce cavalry: marginal wins cause push backs. The Stradiots are pushed back going vexed in the process. The Gendarmes rolled odd and must follow up. 

They contact the other enemy Genitors. Both combats are ended.

The French turn their next card. Cavalry March.
The French move their light cavalry on their right wing. They get 3 moves! Only the hill slows them down.
The French bring mounted arquebus up in support of Borgias Gendarmes. They to get three moves. They use one to turn onto the enemy flank.
There is no 'shoot card' in the game. Units can shoot at any point - sometimes, even in the enemy's initiative phase - but one they have fired they can't resolve shooting again until they have 'reloaded'. Reload is a bad term. It first appeared in 'Classic Piquet' and has stuck. In effect, think of the shooters as blasting away throughout the game; shooting resolves all of the unit's fire effect to that point.

It is generally, but not always, best to keep units loaded and resolve shooting when reload cards are turned. When factors can be maximised it is best to shoot, reload and shoot again, leaving the unit unloaded. We mark unloaded units with a small 'flatly terrained' marker.

Anyway, the artillery will resolve shooting and then 'reload'. The artillery is 'D' class and has a CD: D6.

Vs Colunela: D6: Down 1 for shooting at long range, Up 1 for firing at a Colonela (depth): so no change, D6. The Colonela is a veteran 'C' class unit: it has a D8 defence die.

Result 2 Vs 1. The Colonela has rolled less and odd: the Colonela is vexed (tuft counter) The difference in the die rolls was less than 3 pips: no UI loss. on the die
Same factors and same overall result.
Versus pike block. D6, Down 1 for long range, Up 2 versus pike square.

The artillery's roll is less. No effect.

The artillery has spoken - softly.
The next French card: Command. This is a rally card.
The only unit in the French army that needs to rally is Borgia's Gendarmes. The commanders quality is D10. The unit is in contact with the enemy for Down 1, the unit has a D8 defence die for Up 1: No change D10.

The roll is 7 Vs 3 for a difference of 4. For every three pips difference, the unit can rally back 1 UI. The unit had 3 UI loss - now it only has 2.  Note that, if the unit had been vexed, vexation would cease on the same roll - you don't roll to rally things seperately, and why would you want to.

The French turn their last card of the initiative phase. The card is Army Morale. It is not relevent to any units this time around.

The players roll off Army Die to discover the number of pips in the next initiative phase.......

That in essence, is the basic move sequence mechanic of the game.

To make you think a bit, I'll mention a rather odd thing about Piquet games. Cue spooky music. Seven cards have been played by both sides, about a quarter of the first turn has been played out. But time in the turn is not a quarter way through. Time is 'flexible'. The turn represents about an hour. Until the turn ends, time can be different in different parts of the field. Only at the end of the turn, does time becomes constant at all points. Look up, yes, you are very small. 

What I will attempt to do next is follow of a few units through the game to illustrate some rules more thoroughly.


Milo Burgh said...

I like the close skirmish rule. Useful for other troops too (numidians, tarentines...)

pancerni said...

Well done report with some excellent toys to view as well! Nice walk through on the rules, sort of FoB meets BoB. The 'close skirmish' idea is wonderful, I am going to 'borrow it' for my 16th-17th C games with the Ottomans and Poles and Cossacks.

Steve h said...

looks great! and some interesting rules ideas

Sgt Steiner said...

Great figures and terrain as always.
And another nice Piquet variant