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Subject: Three campaign turns with four players rss

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Kurt Weihs
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Battleground Kingdoms Session Report:

We got together last Friday afternoon to give Battleground Kingdoms a try. The original intent was to put together a campaign that we would spend a lot of time on in the future. We were also thinking we’d knock out one battle perhaps and call it good for now. We were going to have six players. Three of us had a lot of experience playing Battleground: Fantasy Warfare and two of us had a few games under our belt and one of us had never tried it before. The two players who had moderate experience didn’t show up so it was just four of us.

I briefly explained how the campaign system worked, but rather than spend a whole lot of time on rules explanation we just decided to take things as they came and work through one campaign turn together.

We started off with army selection:
I picked my traditional favorite army, Lizardmen. Regardless of game system I have always favored the cold blooded variety of warrior. I was also attracted by their special ability which gave me bonuses when attacking previously damaged units. Thus, the Republic of Hisss was born.

The other three armies that were picked were Undead, High Elves, and Dwarves Orcs! The Undead player has had really good luck with the rotting corpses and wasn’t about to change. He really liked the no morale check feature inherent with Undead and the ability to heal units. The High Elf player was convinced that ranged combat and cavalry was the perfect recipe for victory. The newbie in our group is traditionally a Dwarf player and he was going to pick these, but the High Elf player had poked a lot of fun at the slow Dwarves and how he was going to run down the Dwarves with his cavalry. This intimidated our new player so he ended up switching to Orcs, which he viewed as a more flexible force. As he became more aware of how the Battleground tactical rules worked he later said he’d have stuck with the Dwarves.

We agreed to play a conquest campaign as opposed to a team campaign that would last ten rounds (standard campaign). Every man for himself!

The beginning of war

No one recalls what diplomatic gaffe caused the Elvish ambassador to stomp out of the receiving hall of Orcish Warlord Yellowfang in disgust. Rumor had it that it involved the Warlord’s sister and the ambassador and said ambassador’s unwillingness to pursue betrothal vows. Whatever the details were, the orcs and elves were now at war. In the swamps of Hisss the ruler of the Lizardmen quietly reviewed events and in his paranoid delusion he realized that the coming war was a ruse and that he was about to be invaded by a combined orc and elf army. He quickly mustered his troops and, too, marched to war. With war comes death and carrion. Chief among those carrion was the Necromancer of the North and his Undead army. As rumors of the coming conflict grew the Necromancer began the summoning rituals to build and strengthen his army. As Orcs, Elves, and Lizardmen marched to war the Undead army also marched off intent on taking advantage of the approaching destruction.

Campaign Set Up:
The first phase of a Battleground: Kingdoms campaign round begins with set up. Each player starts with a farm which allows each player to recruit his core units. Because we start with no money there is no opportunity to build on the first turn (or, the farm is considered the first turn build).

Battle Selection:
We then begin the selection process for the first battle. Since we all begin tied in victory points the first selection of battle was random. We each rolled a die with the high roller getting to pick his battle from the three that were drawn. The High Elves won the toss and he picked card map 1A which is open terrain and the scenario is Ambush or Trap? The elves chose to defend. The Undead went second and choose to attack the High Elves. This left the Orcs who can either pick from a map with a river and a bridge or one with three hills. The scenarios are Total Warfare (bridge) or Chosen Ground (hills). He picked the river and bridge knowing that I wouldn’t have any archers and thinking he could defend the bridgehead. Total War is a standard 1500 point battle with neither side assuming a defensive role.

Muster Phase and Battle:
I’m only going to detail the army selection and battle for the first battle because this session report is more about Kingdoms than it is about Fantasy Battle.

High Elf Army:
1 High Elf Chariot
1 High Elf Battle Squad
2 High Elf Swordsmen
2 High Elf Archers

Undead Army:
2 Skeleton Horde
3 Skeleton Bowmen
5 Zombies
2 Ghoul Pack


I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to the High Elf vs. Undead battle, but I did hear a lot of smack talk going on from the elvish side. Then things got very quiet, and then there was a cry of anguish from the elves. Like most people passing a car wreck I had to see so I peaked over and saw that the Undead had almost twice the number of elvish units. One unit of High Elf Archers was in the dead pile while two of the Skeletal Archers and a Zombie unit were in the Undead ‘graveyard.’ It didn’t look that bad at first. However, the middle of the board was dominated by a routing High Elf Battle Squad and one of the two Swordsmen units were in the red. The lone remaining High Elf Archers were pinched by a pair of undamaged zombie units and also heading to the red end of its health bar. The chariot had obviously had quite an impact on a Ghoul Pack since three of the ghoul units were damaged, but he was so far ahead of the elves that they were unable to support him as he became surrounded by the remaining Undead units. The battle was over shortly after that with the Undead scoring a whopping 5 victory points and the elves scoring only 1. The High Elves had hoped to capitalize on the open ground to grind the zombie masses down with the chariot and archers. They didn’t go down quite as easily as expected. When the counterattack came the High Elves were spread across the field with no real coherent battleline. In typical Undead fashion, the High Elves were overrun and consumed.

Lizardmen Army:
2 Tyrant Warriors
1 Tyrant Spearmen
2 Trog Warriors

Orc Army:
2 Orc Swordsmen
3 Goblin Bowmen
4 Goblin Raiders

I had built my army with the express purpose of rushing the bridge. I wanted a good hardcore unit to bully its way through what I expected to be a battle of one unit frontage. Without any archers I also wanted a high armor unit to lead the charge because I fully expected to be marching through a rain of arrows as I approached the bridge. The Orc player built his army around the bridge defense (amazingly enough), but he also built in some light infantry units in hopes that he could either secure or take advantage of the right flank where he could get around the river.

The battle went a bit differently than the Undead/High Elf one. It took quite a bit longer because I was teaching the Orc player how to play throughout the game. We both made a run for the bridge with the Orcs also splitting off a contingent of 2 Goblin Raiders and a unit of Goblin Bowmen to go around the right side. Given the relative speeds of things I was pretty convinced the battle at the bridge would be decided before the flanking units became a problem. I led with one unit of Trog Warriors to soak up the arrows followed by the Tyrant Spearmen and warriors with one of the Trogs on the left flank trying to look like he was interested in contesting the river end so that it would keep the Orcs interested enough in keeping their little flanking party distracted from the bridge.

As we approached the bridge the poor Trog leading the charge got pretty chewed up by the Goblin Bowmen. He was deep in the yellow as he charged into the unit of Orc Swordsmen just over the Orc end of the bridge. The Tyrant Spearmen were immediately behind the Trogs with the back-up order in effect. The Trogs managed to get a good hit or two in but eventually succumbed to the Orcs. The Tyrant Spearmen immediately jumped into the fray and began ripping through the Orc defenders. On the flank my lone unit of Trogs decided they weren’t interested in a fight after all and started running as they went from green to yellow. The goblins sensing fresh blood pursued with all three units! This was good news for me as the Tyrant Spearmen destroyed the Orc Swordsmen unit to the last orc I was able to advance enough to get a unit of Tyrant Swordsmen all the way across the bridge also. The second unit of Orc Swordsmen broke and ran and the remaining goblin bridge defenders either died or ran. My distractionary (is that a word?) Trog unit was allowed to rout off of the board. We called the battle as the Lizards at the bridge turned to face the Goblin Raiders and Bowmen. It had taken us three hours to get that far and the Undead and High Elf players were chomping at the bit to try just one more round. The final tally for the Orcs vs. Lizardmen was 4 to 2. I probably could have managed a 5 if we had kept playing but we needed to move on.

Record Keeping Phase:
We recorded the results of the battles and rolled for gold. We let the Orcs roll the die and he came up with a 5. Not a great roll, but it could have been worse. We each received 6 gold for the coming turn.

The ranking at the end of turn one was:
Undead: 5
Lizardmen: 4
Orcs: 2
High Elves: 1

Turn 2:

Set-up:
We now all had 5 gold burning a hole in our pockets so off we headed to the resource store. Two of us bought Mines (Undead and High Elves) and the other two bought Logging Camps. Our coffers were now empty so we headed off to war again.

The battles drawn this turn were:
Map 2B (open field with a hedge surrounding the defender’s deployment zone) and the scenario was Ticking Clock which was prohibited because of the map so we finally drew Total Warfare (again). Straight up 1500 point battle.

Map 2E (Large woods dominating one flank in the middle and small woods across the rest of the battlefront trailing towards the defenders deployment zone). The scenario was Breaking Point which is a race to do as much damage in points value as possible.

Map 2F (low wall across the middle of the board and a hill in the middle) and the scenario was Ambush or Trap! Again.

Because the High Elves were dead last they picked Breaking Point (2E). They also picked to defend which primarily determined that they would set up closer to the woods on their left flank.
The Orcs picked second and they chose to fight the elves thinking the tree cover might give them a chance to make it across the board.
That left me to pick my battle with the Undead. I picked Ambush or Trap! and chose to defend. This left the Undead in the roll of attacker.

The Elves did much better this battle. They were able to quickly position themselves in the woods on their left flank due to Sprint. Their archers took a toll on the orc army as it approached. The orcs had completely forgotten about moving through the forest to approach the elves until turn three and by then they were pretty much committed on the edge of the woods. By the end of the battle the elves had managed to just barely miss a decisive victory by 40 points. The total points for the battle was High Elves: 4, Orcs: 2.

In my battle with the Undead we fought each other to a standstill. The Undead had bought the elite Giant Catapult and it was causing me great misery because I was pinned between two forces approaching from both sides of the board. The elevation advantage of the hill managed to give me a pretty good advantage with the melee units defending there while my archers defended the stone wall. I sent a unit of Tyrant Spearmen with two Trog escorts to take on the catapult and its guards. They were successful but were almost completely destroyed in the process. The battle went very quickly and very bloodily. Good die rolls on both my part and the Undead player meant that most of our surviving units were yellow at best. The Undead player found out that Lizardmen are particularly potent against ghouls due to bonuses the Lizards receive against units in the yellow or red. Since ghouls only have 1 green box they were torn up and spat out very quickly. By the end of the battle the Lizards had managed to achieve a marginal victory. I pulled ahead with a 4 to the Undead 2.

Record Keeping Phase:The gold total for the coming turn was much better at 8 gold. Scenario points were added up with the following results

Lizardmen 8
Undead 7
High Elves 5
Orcs 4

Turn 3:
Well, we were going to go home hours ago but the High Elves were now quite pumped and saw the possibility of beating the Undead decisively now that they were going to have the full range of units at their disposal. We all agreed to play just one more battle.

Set-up:
With 8 gold we could pretty much buy whatever we wanted as long as we met the pre-requisites. I paid the full 8 for the Market. The ability to purchase mercenary core units was huge since I had so few ranged units available (I’m only playing with the standard army pack for Lizardmen). The High Elves picked the Logging Camp (so now they could recruit any High Elf unit). The Undead built a Smelter (+1 gold per turn) while the Orcs went for the Mine and joined the High Elves in being able to use their whole force.

The battles drawn this turn were:Map 3C (flat battlefield with a river running down the middle of the board through the middle of each deployment zone. There is a ford in the middle and otherwise flat terrain on either side), and the scenario card was a special situation. The scenario drawn for the special situation was Ticking Clock.

Map 3D (Two small hills in front of the middle of each deployment zone and a large two-tier hill on the attacker’s left flank evenly positioned between the two armies), the scenario was Last Stand which can’t be played in early scenarios so we drew a special situation. The scenario was a second Ticking Clock scenario.

Map 3F (A large swamp in the middle of the board). The drawn card was a special situation that would only work mid or late game so Breaking Point was drawn.

The Orcs picked first and chose to take their chances with the Special Situation and map 3C. He had something up his sleeve because this was a very quick decision for him.
The High Elves wanted vengeance against the Undead so they went for the mudpit on 3F and the Breaking Point scenario.
The Undead agreed to the rematch with the High Elves which left me with the Orcs and Ticking Clock and the river.

We rolled for the special situations and the Elves/Undead battle received Night Action. The Orcs/Lizardmen received Assassin’s War which results in a small amount of random damage being dealt to units each turn.

The High Elves stubbornly stuck with an emphasis on ranged units despite the fact that the night rules really hampered range and skill. He was hoping to dig in on the edge of the mudpit and rain arrows down on the approaching units. Each side deployed secretly with the Undead revealing a cavalry heavy army of Death Knights and a huge horde of zombies. The Undead deployed on either side of the Mud-pit and ended up with his huge zombie horde opposite the High Elf infantry. The Undead moved across the table quickly using a combination of cavalry and command cards to make the trek quicker. He held off the Death Knights one turn so that the zombies were able to contact first. The High Elf archers targeted the Death Knights as they came in but were unable to score many hits. The resulting melee turned into a total High Elf rout. The high elves surrendered and the undead walked away with another 5 point victory to the High Elf 1.

In my battle opposite the Orcs I got to face some units I hadn’t played against before, Goblin Wolf Riders. He positioned all of his wolf riders on one side of the river and left his catapult and main line units on the other side. I had built a mixture of Lizardmen and mercenary archers and had deployed them equally on each side of the river which was probably my biggest mistake. We had eight turns to do as much damage as possible. The Assassin’s War turned out to also be the bane of my existence as I couldn’t roll to save my life. I was routinely rolling 1’s and 2’s which meant that I’d do a single point a turn. I was lumping these on the catapult. The Orc, on the other hand managed 3 straight turns of rolling 5’s and 6’s which meant he could do 3 points spread out over 3 units. Couple that with his wolves moving very fast and my Wildmen Archers unable to do much damage to them. When the wolves charged in they routed the archers forcing me to spend my command points to rally them instead of getting the desperately needed cards. My archers weren’t bad but they just couldn’t keep up with all the targets. The Tyrant Spearmen did their usual great job but they were on the wrong side of the river and could do little to stop the massacre over there. When we hit our eighth turn I was way behind in points. Most of my losses were light troops and if I had had the time I am pretty sure I could have come back for a win, but the 8 turn limit really stopped me cold. I’m not quite sure what possessed me to set up on both sides of the river, but that won’t be a mistake that gets repeated again. Final score Orcs 4, Lizards 2.

Record Keeping Phase:
I had the honor of rolling the gold this time and my dice continued to be very cold for me. Fortunately, we all share the same gold dice roll. I rolled snake-eyes giving us each 5 gold again. The Undead then proceeded to rub it in that he had 6 gold.

The standing now was:
Undead: 12
Lizardmen: 10
Orcs: 8
High Elves: 6

We finally called it after this. We had been at it since 1pm and it was now 11pm and some of us had lives to get back to. We all agreed that it had been a lot of fun. The elves were a little upset at the randomness of the Special Situation card and placed the blame for his last loss on the single roll of a die. I tend to take the opposite perspective. Army commanders are always faced with surprises. It’s how they deal with these that makes them successful or not so much so. I don’t believe the results of that battle had so much to do with luck as it had to do with how the commanders responded to a difficult situation with their army builds and deployments. If I have any quibble with the game it’s the fact that there weren’t enough scenario cards. We had to do a lot of re-drawing of scenario cards so that we could get something that was compatible with our stage in the campaign and the maps that were drawn with them. This isn’t a bad thing, but I would definitely like to see more scenario cards.
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Keith Higdon
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Great session report. I'd been teetering on the edge about Kingdoms, but you have officially sold me on it.
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Chad Ellis
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Great report! I wish I had something better to add, but I don't so I'm just going to give you geekgold.
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Graham Smallwood
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This system sounds so incredibly hot. I can see adapting it for any wargame. I thought Apotheosis was cool but its map was clunky and the first place player got to make the matchup decisions. This two card scenario generator and last-place-picks-first is awesome. But a tech tree on top of that... If this doesn't make shelves for XMas I'm going to drive to Chad's house to beg for a copy.
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Andrew Gross
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Sturmkraehe wrote:
The elves were a little upset at the randomness of the Special Situation card and placed the blame for his last loss on the single roll of a die.


The Elves have a bit of a legitimate gripe.

The intention is that you know everything about the battle before selecting which battle you want to fight. So, the special situation is rolled for during the Setup Phase, so that by the time you get to the Battle Selection phase, you know which special situation is in play. Presumably the Elves would have avoided a night battle if they had known.

That being said, the Elves can field very strong armies with no ranged units, so I agree with you that he was also punished for his lack of flexibility.

Quote:
We had to do a lot of re-drawing of scenario cards so that we could get something that was compatible with our stage in the campaign and the maps that were drawn with them.


The way we handle this is we only shuffle the scenario cards and special situation cards that are eligible for the round you're playing, so you never draw one that's ineligible. It takes about 10 seconds to select the eligible cards, so it's not really a hassle.

Quote:
This isn’t a bad thing, but I would definitely like to see more scenario cards.


Me too.

In all seriousness, we spent an awful lot of time playtesting the scenarios to get them balanced. You think you've got it right, and then someone comes along and buys a bunch of healer mages, or the Undead player spends the last 3 turns running away and reanimating his units, or whatever. While I absolutely agree that more scenarios would be better, I hope that you at least wind up believing that the scenarios that are included are reasonably balanced.

As you have pointed out on a different thread, the system is very easy to expand. I don't know if it will sell well enough to justify a printed expansion or not, but even if it doesn't, it's easy to make .pdf files of new map and scenario cards available. Just put your cards in card sleaves with opaque backs, and there's no difference between a scenario card that came with the game and one that you downloaded from a website. One way or the other, I think I can safely promise you that you'll have access to more scenario and map cards at some point-- I just can't promise when.
 
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Chad Ellis
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Dorque wrote:
If this doesn't make shelves for XMas I'm going to drive to Chad's house to beg for a copy.


Believe it or not, we missed being on shelves for Christmas by one day. If you'd like a Christmas copy, your best bet is to preorder it.
 
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Chad Ellis
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Just to echo what Andrew said about the scenario cards:

We're pretty hardcore playtest fanatics in any case, but this time we had Andrew and two independent playtest groups adding to the mix. Each scenario was played a whole bunch of times and then Darwin would sit down and try to think of a situation where it would be broken. (That is, he would pick the scenario, the map, and the two armies to create as unfair a situation as he could.) Then we would play. And play again.

Our goal wasn't to make the scenarios perfectly balanced -- that would have been both impossible and undesirable. You want modest imbalances so that players who do a better job of evaluating the opportunities will benefit. Our goal was to make sure that the imbalances were sufficiently modest that superior play could make up the difference. I hope and think that we succeeded.

Anyway, more scenario cards are likely to come in the future. Unless Kingdoms is a blowout product they are more likely to come in PDF form, but I can already smell something burning in Andrew's brain and we live on opposite ends of the continent!
 
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Kurt Weihs
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Quote:
The Elves have a bit of a legitimate gripe.


I hate it when he's right. devil I will let him know, though. We weren't quite sure when you actually rolled. The Undead player was thinking we should roll after army selection so we went for the compromise. Reading the manual now it seems pretty clear that this is done when you pull the card.

Quote:
The way we handle this is we only shuffle the scenario cards and special situation cards that are eligible for the round you're playing, so you never draw one that's ineligible. It takes about 10 seconds to select the eligible cards, so it's not really a hassle.


Yeah, this occurred to us afterwards. It wasn't THAT big of a hassle (how much of a hassle can drawing another card be?). It was just something that occurred to us at the time. I didn't even think it was worth bringing up in the review.

Quote:
I don't know if it will sell well enough to justify a printed expansion or not, but even if it doesn't, it's easy to make .pdf files of new map and scenario cards available.


We are game for anything The scenarios presented are great and the playtesting is evident with how well the scenarios came together for us in gameplay. Anytime you have to take two random features (map card and scenario card) you have to take into account all the permutations of the combinations. That could not have been a quick task.

We have a night slated for game four coming up and I'm looking forward to playing (going to get my Reinforcement pack for the Lizardmen and see if I can throw a surprise or two their way).

 
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