Showing posts with label variants. Show all posts
Showing posts with label variants. Show all posts

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Void and Stars - An Alternative Activation System

'Void and Stars' was a playtest game of starship combat which used a version of the 'Ganesha Games' 'Songs of Blades and Heroes' system. Development activity on it fizzled out a couple of years ago, but from time to time I give it some thought, wondering if there's still a viable game to be teased out of it. After all, this is the size of starship game I want - five to eight ships a side - but with a low level of bookkeeping and technical detail, and no pre-plotted moves.

One of the problems with it was the activation system. Whilst the idea of some of your figures not doing anything during a turn kind of works for individual beings in a skirmish setting, it didn't sit quite right to an environment where your playing pieces - spaceships - are in constant motion. The problem Void and Stars had was that an entire fleet could spend a lot of the game flying around in straight lines not shooting because of a few unlucky activation rolls. Add in terrain and you had ships flying headlong into planets because one of their fellows had a bad roll when activating.

The principle was sound, but a number of games showed that it didn't quite work so well in practice.

For a while I've been mulling over a variation in the activation system, which allows all ships to act in some form of controlled manner, whilst still rewarding those ships with quality - or luck. I'm certain there's holes in it a mile wide, and I haven't crafted the wording into something consistent and logical, but for what it's worth, here it is - untried and untested.

Alternative Void and Stars Activation System

Both sides roll for initiative. The highest roll decides who activates first. In the event of a tie, reroll.

The player with initiative chooses a ship that has not attempted to activate this turn, and may attempt to activate it with 1, 2 or 3 dice. Each successful roll against Quality gives an action. A ship automatically has one action, plus however many it rolls. However at least one action must be spent to move the ship (including a turn)

If a ship fails to activate with two or more dice, the initiative passes to the other player.

Otherwise the player with initiative chooses another ship to activate.

If a player has attempted to activate all of their ship, initiative automatically passes to the other player. They may attempt to activate each of their remaining ships one after the other, with 1,2, or 3 dice as normal. However if a ship fails to activate with 2 or more dice, then subsequent ships cannot activate with more than 2 dice. If a subsequent ship fails to activate with 2 dice, then all further ships may only attempt to activate with 1 dice.

Once every ship has attempted to activate, a new turn begins.

Indirect fire markers move twice during the turn, immediately after a player activates their final ship.

Example. The Red Player and the Blue Player each have three ships, Red One to Red Three against Blue One to Blue Three.

The players roll initiative and Red wins. He chooses to go first.

He activates Red One with 3 dice, but fails two activations. Red One gets two actions, one of which must be a move.

Because Red failed two or more activations, initiative passes to Blue.

Blue actives Blue One with two dice, and both rolls succeed. Blue One gets three actions – one compulsory move and two other actions. Blue can now attempt to activate another ship, and attempts to activate Blue Two with one dice. The roll fails, so Blue Two merely gets one action, which must be a move. However because it was only a single activation roll which failed, Blue keeps the initiative. Blue has one ship left; Blue Three. He activates it with three dice, because there is no reason not to.

Blue has now attempted to activate all of his ships, so all indirect fire markers move and resolve attacks. The initiative passes to Red. Red has already attempted to activate Red One, so just has Red Two and Red Three this turn. He attempts to activate Red Two with two dice, and fails with both of them, just getting the compulsory movement action. Red Three is the only ship that has yet to activate in this turn. But because on his previous activation Red failed with two or more rolls, Red Three cannot attempt to activate with more than two dice. Once Red Three has been activated the indirect fire markers move again, and then the turn ends.

I hope that makes some sense. Comments and criticism welcome.

The other major effort I think is needed is on the damage system which, whilst workable, needs a little streamlining in my view. But I'm not sure where to start on that.

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Maurice For One

It’s probably obvious to anyone who reads this blog that I play a lot of solo games. This is mostly because, whilst I have a willing family, many of my games are spontaneous decisions, and playing solo means I don’t have to organise anyone else and teach them the rules; I can have an idea, set it up and play all in my own time and at my own pace.

The problem is, of course, that not all games suit solo play, and that includes some games I like. I prefer to play both sides, being as fair as I can (and I’m pretty good, even if I do say so myself), so don’t go for any special solo mechanisms. This means that I generally play the game ‘straight out of the box’, as it were. So games which have mechanisms where one player has information hidden from the other don’t really fare too well. Of my favourites these include Memoir ’44, Battle Cry and Maurice. Now I have played the former two games solo, trying to ‘forget’ what cards the opponent has, and it’s been useful in trying out scenarios, but I have never found it satisfying. Maurice, however, is really driven by the cards, but I’d like to find a way of playing something which captures the experience but which doesn't have a hand of cards for each player (where ‘each player’ means ‘two different versions of me’*).

I propose to try the following.

Armies will be built as normal, with National advantages. I know they are cards as well, but really they are just information. Terrain and scenario setup can be run as normal.

Neither side gets a hand of cards. Instead they get a number of Command Points. These can be tracked on paper, or with counters. The Attacker gets 8 points, the Defender 5 and a Great Captain +2. A player may never end a turn with more than 10 Command points.

The turn sequence is the same as before, but there are no modifiers and interrupts. This obviously loses a feature of the game, but I can’t really see a way around it. The basic flow of the game should be the same, which is what is important.

After the Volley Phase, the Active Player declares their action. The player may not declare an action which they could not legally order with the Command Points they currently have. They then receive new Command Points based on their choice:

Event – 0
Charge – 0
March – 1
Rally – 2
Bombard – 2
Pass - 3

Activating a group within four base widths costs 1 Command Point. For every extra four, or part of four, base widths the the General is from the group to be activated, the player must pay an extra Command Point.

At the end of the activation the general may be moved, at a cost of 1 Command Point.

Charge, March, Rally, Bombard and Pass are unchanged from the rules.

If a player chooses to declare an Event, they spend between 1 and 3 Command Points (player's choice). For each point they spend they roll 1 dice, and refer to the table below. If more than 1 dice has been rolled, the player chooses which roll they wish to have; only one roll will ever apply.

1 – Gain 4 Command Points, or take 1 Command Point from opponent and add it to your total.

2 – Enemy must discard 2 Command Points

3 – Activate any two groups within 12 of the General; each group may either March or Rally OR Activate one group (with any order) to which you have a valid command path, regardless of distance from the General.

4 – Choose one enemy unit; you can choose to have that unit either make a valid March move or Charge.

5 – Automatically remove all DISR from one friendly unit OR gain a Rally Advantage which enables you to add 1 to all Rally rolls the next time you declare a Rally action.

6 – Gain a Combat Advantage. You may hold up to three of these. If the enemy has one or more Combat Advantages, then yours is automatically expended to make them discard one of theirs (so only one player can ever hold Combat Advantages). A Combat advantage can otherwise be spent to: Gain a +1 on all Infantry firing in a particular Volley Phase, give a +1 to all Artillery firing in a Bombard action, give a +1 to all Infantry units involved in a Charge where you are the Active player or give a +2 to all Cavalry involved in a Charge in which you are the Active player.

Note: I have set up all of the events so that they either happen in the Active player's turn. If playing both sides in a solo game, it is best if only the active side is the one actually making decisions.

I have no idea if any of this will work in practice; it will certainly give a game that lacks some of the swings of fortune of the card-driven one, because of the lack of interrupts and modifiers. But it should capture the essence of the game and have the same ebb and flow. I will have to set up a game and try it out, but I can't see that happening this weekend.

Comments and criticism are welcome.

*Two different gamer versions; there are two different versions of me, but one is far too obsessed with shoes to do much in the way of wargaming ;)

Monday, 3 February 2014

Troop Quality Update

In a post yesterday I proposed an alternative way of representing troop quality in 'Battle Cry' style games. Today I played a few quick games using my Mexican Adventure armies; I tried the encounter game and the San Lorenzo scenarios, playing each a couple of times.

The Encounter scenario gave me a game with plenty of militia units. The changes gave them a little more resilience, but a bad set of rolls could cause them to collapse quickly. This was more how I want them to behave, rather than just being very brittle.

I varied the San Lorenzo scenario to include an elite infantry unit - the French Foreign Legion. Here they are advancing on the village, with their general in direct command.

The militia behaved as in previous games, but I was pleased that militia cavalry seemed to have a little more staying power. The elite infantry got a thorough testing, though. Pinned in front of the village by Mexican musketry, they resisted several rolls of '6' (crossed swords) which would otherwise have destroyed them, and survived a turn or so longer than they should have done.

Here they are being terribly elite:

Three hits on them already, and only one required to remove them. And the Republicans kept rolling sixes.

Anyway, from those few games I would conclude that the changes don't seem to have radically broken the game and certainly vary the performance of units. I'll keep trying them out.

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Troop Quality In The Battle Cry Variant

In some of the scenarios I have been playing using the Battle Cry based rules (which really need a name of their own) I have played with troop quality. Battle Cry itself doesn't really cover this; one scenario has a unit which starts with a strength of three figures instead of four, but that's about it. In the games I have played so far I have adopted this approach. So a normal unit can take four hits if it's Infantry or three hits if Cavalry or Artillery. Elite units get an extra hit, whilst Militia units have one less hit. This make Militia cavalry, particularly, very vulnerable; not necessarily a bad thing, but somewhat frustrating.

However I was pondering an alternative approach this evening, which I may try I the next game I play, but which I thought I'd throw open to the floor. This is to keep the number of hits a unit can take constant, but vary how likely they are to be inflicted.

I will use Battle Cry terminology, followed by the numbers I use in my actual games.

A normal unit is hit when its symbol comes up, or by a crossed sword (6).

An Elite unit is only hit if its symbol comes up. It can ignore the first crossed sword (6) rolled against it by a particular firing unit.

A Militia unit is hit if its symbol comes up, by a crossed sword (6). In addition the first flag (5) which actually causes the unit to retreat also inflicts one hit on it.

How does that sound?

And, like I say, I need a name for these rules; they're acquiring a life of their own.

Sunday, 22 December 2013

HOTT 2.0 - My House Rules

I have a reputation for being a bit of a HOTT purist. And it's true; I like HOTT 2.0 pretty much as it is. I don't advocate for adding new troop types and I don't really feel that it needs new mechanisms to make it work. I'm generally happy to play it as it's written. No set of rules is perfect, after all, and if they work, and give sensible results and an entertaining game, 95% of the time, I'm happy. There are no perfect rules, after all.

However I have tried out fixes and variants, and over time some of them have become more or less permanent features of my games, or at least the ones I play in the comfort of my own home. You could call them House Rules ...

Some of them have been described elsewhere on this blog, but I thought that it would be interesting to put them all in one place for other people to see.

So, here they are:

(i) Sneaker. There are probably as many Sneaker fixes as there are people thinking that a fix for Sneakers is needed. Mine simply adjusts existing rules, rather than adding anything new. Put simply, a Sneaker is allowed to break off from an enemy element by moving forward through it, and the restriction on which elements they can 'friction kill' is lifted. In rules terms this translates to:

Page 24, under 'Recoiling'
2nd paragraph, 1st bullet point - delete last sentence
"If all such enemy are sneakers .... if it is a general"

Page 18, under 'Breaking Off From Close Combat'
1st paragraph - amend from
"A single element can use a tactical move to break off from enemy in contactwith its front, but only if all of the following apply:"
"A single element can use a tactical move to break off from enemy in contact with its front, but only if it is a Sneaker or if all of the following apply:"

2nd paragraph - amend start from
"An element breaking off must move at least 200p ... "
"Unless a sneaker, an element breaking off must move at least 200p ..."

(ii) Water Lurkers. Essentially, I don't use them any more. THIS POST describes how this change works.

(iii) Random Terrain Positioning. The first thing I latched onto when I saw DBA 3.0 was the way terrain was positioned. It has been said by a few players that terrain placement in HOTT can be  little samey after a while, as well as being open to abuse, and I wondered if the DBA system could help alleviate this. Eventually I came up with THIS.

(iv) Clerics. A simple addition. Clerics are the only element that can force a God to flee the field, but who cannot actually contact the God in the first place. So, I allow Clerics to move into contact with Gods. This gives them a little more value for their 3AP. Games show that, despite the disparity between the movement and manoeuvrability of a God and a Cleric, they can use, or threaten to use, this ability more than you might think.

(v) Paladins. Heroes and Paladins can both contact aerials But, for some reason, only a Hero can destroy a Flier in close combat; even if doubled by a Paladin, a Flier only flees. I suspect that this is an omission (rather like the one which, in HOTT 10, meant that Beasts got a -2 fighting an enemy element that was in bad going). So - a Flier is destroyed by a Paladin if doubled.

(vi) Big Battles. In big battles we have found that a victorious flank command can't really move quickly enough to exploit its success and support the rest of the army. So in big battles elements we allow elements to  march move. That is, and element, or group of elements, can make multiple moves, so long as no move after the first starts, ends or goes within 600p of an enemy element. Normal PIP costs apply for each move.

As you can see, there are few genuine additions, and only one section which is radically changed (Terrain). They all need more testing and play, although so far I've not detected any major flaws. And no new troop types - indeed I effectively drop one ...

Saturday, 23 June 2012


Although I've been playing HOTT regularly for more than 15 years now, until the other day I don't think I've ever played a game using 36AP. Rather than a 'big battle' it's really a 'normal' sized game, but with more elements.

The book doesn't have any special rules for how it should be set up and played; you only get one general, because you only have one full, 24AP multiple, and there's no additional PIPs. So strictly your PIPs have to stretch further, encouraging more reliance on group moves.

I know that one of the games played on Thursday used a slightly wider board - 3000p wide rather than 2400p. I played my game on a normal 2400p square board, and it didn't seem too cramped. In some ways it encouraged the use of a second line of troops - that great bugbear of many wargamers; a reserve. A large Hordes based army may find things tight, though, especially if they have a Stronghold too.

One thing we did do was allow a the general's element (or group) a free movement PIP, as with the CinC in a big battle.  This certainly helped me, with a Magician general, especially as my early PIP rolls were abysmal.

So, have you played 36AP HOTT? What changes or additions did you put in place?

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

HOTT - Water Lurkers

Hawaiian Were-Shark Attacks!
Do you want the truth? I think they're broken.

Normal Lurkers can be deployed against an enemy that enters bad going. As the rules currently stand, every battlefield has to have a couple of pieces of bad going (and even my alternative system for random terrain makes it probable that there will be some bad going in play), so there's a chance that the Lurkers can see some action.

Water Lurkers have a bit of a problem, in that they can only deploy in water. If there are no aquatic features on the board, they will never appear.

The problem is, that if they do appear then they are better than normal Lurkers. Much better. And, if their player is defending, by making every piece of bad going a water feature such as a marsh or swamp, you can prepare plenty of territory for them to operate in.

Better than normal Lurkers? Well, yes. Elements that don't normally take a -2 for fighting in bad going (Beasts, Warband, Shooters and other Lurkers), and who therefore fight normally against conventional Lurkers, still take a -2 if fighting Water Lurkers.

So, whilst potentially useless if you are the attacker, they are worth more than 1AP if you are the defender. They also create the odd situation where if an army has but one Water Lurker in it, its home terrain seems to be a network of marshes, swamps, rivers and similar terrain. There's no reason for it not to be.

So here's a proposal.

Scrap Water Lurkers totally.

Treat them just  like any other Lurker. And vice versa. That is, they can appear in any bad going, not just water, and that ordinary Lurkers can be deployed in rivers. Allow them the 200p move in water that Water Lurkers currently get.

Lurkers are deployed exactly as currently described in the rules, with the addition that they can be deployed against an element which has just entered a river or lake.

Consider this; there are already Lurkers who, conceptually, are tied to a particular terrain type - woodland Dryads, for example - but who can appear in any area of bad going. The game quite happily allows woodland Dryads to pop out of an area of soft-sand in their opponent's desert home, for example. So adding water to the possible terrain in which things can appear isn't too much of a stretch. Ordinary Lurkers can already appear in marshes and swamps anyway, so in most games it's only rivers we're adding as possible ambush locations. And rivers often have tree-lined banks, rocks or other concealment; a Dryad capable of operating in an area of soft sand isn't going to find a river much of a challenge.

Conversely, it can be assumed that most areas of bad going will have some water associated with them even if it isn't depicted. That soft sand may have a hidden oasis, for example, or a steep hill a network of small streams and pools; insignificant in game terms, but each capable of housing a Lurker with an aquatic theme. The Watcher In The Water lurked in a mountainside lake; a steep hill, maybe.

In terms of combat factors, the automatic -2 for being in contact with a Water Lurker should be removed. However the following change should be included:

"An element crossing a river, and which has a Lurker, which is also in the river, in combat contact with any of its edges, counts as being in bad going."

So if you're an element type unaffected by bad going, such as Warband or Shooters, then this has no effect on your combat factors. Effectively being in contact with a Lurker in a river makes the river count as normal bad going for combat purposes.

It has been argued that this change removes a certain amount of flavour from the game, but really it just removes a fiddly and slightly fudged troop type, capable of being over-exploited by canny players, whilst still allowing the lovely elements people have created to be used. And, because the former Water Lurkers can now appear on any battlefield with any bad going, they will get used more often.

Comments welcome.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The Campaign For Alto Peru - Rules

I have tidied up the South American Liberation campaign rules that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, and made them available on my Free Stuff page. You can also get v1.0 here:

The Campaign For Alto Peru

Although they are designed for use with my Liberated HOTT variant, they should be easy enough to adapt for standard HOTT, DBA or other sets. If the Political Tokens are removed then they would work for a linear or ladder campaign with very little alteration.

If you give them a try I'd love to hear about it.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Nelson vs Godzilla

Kaiju in ‘Form Line of Battle’

Kaiju are giant Japanese monsters. And it is a little-known fact that navies of the age of sail were in constant danger from them. Those that were around in late 18th and early 19th century were not, perhaps, as large as their counterparts from the Atomic Era, but were still a formidable opponent.

This article looks at incorporating Kaiju into 'Form Line of Battle', as this happens to be my favourite set of rules for this period. You can purchase them from A&A Game Engineering. They offer quick games, limited book-keeping and an unusual sailing system based around random movement distances. It was inspired by the waterline not-Godzilla figure, Torgon, made by Khurasan Miniatures.

For the purposes of these rules the Kaiju is assumed to be a bipedal, semi-aquatic dinosaur-like creature, 2-300 feet in height and capable of breathing fire. Adjust the rules accordingly for variations on this theme.

A Kaiju is controlled by the game system rather than a player. This makes it an ideal opponent for a particularly masochistic solo gamer.


A Kaiju has its own set of three cards in the deck. As with ships the first is for Command and Repair and the other two allow it to move and attack.

Each Kaiju starts with three tokens representing its flame-breath. It can never have more than three of these flame tokens at any one time. In its Command and Repair phase it automatically gains one flame token if it currently has less than three. It also gains additional tokens by eating ships; Kaiju of this period could metabolise gunpowder. Well-known fact.

A Kaiju has 10 hull factors. When they are all lost it sinks beneath the waves, maybe dead, maybe not. Who can tell?


A Kaiju moves 3D6 regardless of wind direction. If there are ships within an arc 180 degrees to its front then it will turn to face the nearest and move directly towards it. If no such ship is present it will expend the highest movement dice roll and turn until it is facing a ship, then move towards it with the remainder of the roll. If it contacts a ship it will stop moving whilst it attempts to eat it.


A Kaiju not in contact with a ship will attempt to engage the nearest ship in its frontal arc with its flame-breath. It must, however, have sufficient charge available to do this.

Flame-breath has a maximum range of 30cm:

Up to 10cm is Point Blank range.
Up to 20cm is Short range
Up to 30cm is Long range.

The number of fire tokens needed to make the attack depends on the range.




Two rolls are made. First roll a D6 to see if the attack hits:


Hit Roll


If the target is a 4th or 5th rate deduct one from the roll.
If the target is 6th rate or smaller deduct two from the roll.
An unmodified roll of ‘6’ always hits.

If the attack hits roll a red D6 and a white D6. The red D6 determines how many ‘r’ hits are scored. Adjust the roll for the range:


Hit Roll


Modified rolls of less than zero are treated as zero.

Apply the damage to the target ship normally. In addition one fire is automatically started on the target. If the white D6 scores ‘6’ a critical hit should be rolled (which may start another fire, of course).

If a Kaiju is in contact with a ship it will attempt to crush and eat it rather than use its fire-breath. Roll 1D6 and add one to the roll – this is the number of ‘r’ hits scored on the vessel. In addition a critical hit is automatically scored. The ship is considered grappled and unable to move until the Kaiju is forced to retreat or the ship is eaten. It may fire, however.

A ship in contact with a Kaiju that has no broadside factors remaining, is struck or is sinking is automatically eaten.

Eating a ship takes a full Movement or Command and Repair phase, during which the Kaiju remains in place. The ship model is removed, and the Kaiju gains fire tokens based on the size of its meal:

Ship Size

Tokens Gained

1st or 2nd Rate
3rd or 4th Rate

Attacking The Kaiju

Resolve firing on a Kaiju exactly as if it were a ship. However only damage to hull factors and critical hits have any relevance; other damage effects are ignored. Thus a hit that scores ‘r’ will have no effect, unless a double was rolled in which case a critical hit is scored. A hit that scored ‘2r’ will score one point of ‘hull’ damage. And so on.

A ship which is in contact with a Kaiju gets a +1 to its broadside roll for each remaining crew factor. This represents the effect of marines firing at the Kaju and is, quite frankly, a bonus any ship in the grip of a Kaiju desperately needs.

A Kaiju which has taken at least half of its Hull hits loses 1D6 from its movement.

A Kaiju has a special critical hit table. Roll 1D6:



+2 ‘Hull’
+1 ‘Hull’

Submerge – The Kaiju lets go of any ship it is trying to eat and is removed from the table, its position being marked. In each subsequent Kaiju Movement phase roll a D6 – on a 5+ the Kaiju reappears. Roll 1D6 for each Movement phase it has remained submerged (including the current one); it appears that many cm away from the point at which it originally went under the water in a randomly determined direction. It may not move or attack in the phase it reappears. A submerged Kaiju does regenerate fire tokens during its Command and Repair phase.

Retreat – The Kaiju immediately releases any ship it is trying to eat and is moved 1D6cm away from the firing vessel. A Kaiju can retreat any number of times.

Kaiju vs. Kaiju

The rules above should work with multiple Kaiju. Give each one its own set of cards and flame tokens, and treat them as a 1st Rate for target purposes.

To see pictures of an actual game CLICK HERE.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Commander Quality In HOTT

San Martin is a Good general
I'm currently playing around with some ideas for a simple campaign using my HOTT variant for the South American Wars of Liberation, and one subject that has come up is the idea of differing general abilities. To some extent I don't necessarily think this is an issue for normal HOTT games, as the player represents the general, and can be an inspired genius or a hesitant incompetent all by themselves. You can even have off days when that extra beer the night before clouds your judgement (anyone who's played Day Two at Berkeley will know about that). However for set-piece games, or a solo campaign it adds an extra wrinkle if the generals aren't always as good as they could be.

Traditional ways of showing good or bad generals are to use different dice - a D4 for a poor general, or a D8 for a good one - or a simple +1 or -1 to the roll. This isn't always viable for HOTT, where some actions cost 6 PIPs (although you could change it to All PIPs and get much the same effect).

My view is that whatever system you use any general should always roll between 1 and 6 PIPs, and their quality determines what happens at the extremes.

So, for example, you could change things so that a poor general rolls two dice for PIPs, and must take the score of the lowest, whilst a good general rolls two dice and selects the best. This would give a consistently good or bad performance throughout the game, but with no general able to roll lower than 1 or more than 6 PIPs.

However another approach is to assume that battles often hinge on one or two key moments, and the quality of the general often determines whether they are able to exploit those moments. On this basis I would have all generals behave the same for PIP rolls, but their quality coming into play just once per game - the key moment.

For instance, a good general can, once per game, reroll his PIP score if he doesn't like it. He must keep the score he gets. Conversely, once per game, the opponent of a poor general can demand that he reroll his PIP score, using whatever he then rolls as his PIPs for that turn. This means a good general can maybe avoid those critical turns where you don't want to roll a '1', whereas the opponent of a poor general can maybe see him freeze into indecision just as his army is about to perform a cunning series of manoeuvres.

One idea I quite like is to allow fixed PIPs on one turn; this is viable for the South American variant where there are no Heroes or Magicians to desorcell, or Dragons to deploy. A good general can, once per game, opt not to roll for PIPs and instead take an automatic score of 5.That is, you risk losing a possible 6 for the assurance of a decent number of PIPs on a turn when you may need them. As above, the opponent of a poor general can, once per game, prevent them from rolling PIPs, instead giving them an automatic score of 2.

So what are your favourite ways of representing different qualities of HOTT generals?

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Random Terrain For HOTT


Basic ideas for this variant are freely nicked from the 5th December draft of DBA 3.0. They allow variation in terrain which helps prevent the defender from laying cheesy or 'perfect' terrain. I say 'helps prevent' because no mechanism is perfect and I'm sure there are ways to break the system.

Using these rules adds no more than a couple of minutes to the set-up time for the game.

The Mechanism

The defender may choose up to five pieces of terrain. These may be area features, roads, rivers or a waterway. No more than one waterway may be chosen, and at least two bad going area features must be chosen.

Or you could use a board
with pre-set terrain. 
Area features are any bad going (including steep/rough hills and marshes) and gentle hills. They must be at least 200 paces across in all directions, and cannot be more than 800 paces across in any direction. If fields or other cultivation they should be rectangular, otherwise they should be roughly oval. BUAs can be either. Unless gentle hills they must be placed entirely within a given battlefield quarter. No area feature can be placed closer than one element base width from another area feature or the edge of the playing area.

Roads are as described on Page 12 of HOTT. Roads may cross any terrain. They must start at a board edge, and end either at a board edge in a different quarter or at another road, or at a BUA.

Rivers are no more than 200 paces wide. They must run from one board edge to a different board edge (or to another river or to a waterway), and cannot go closer than 400p to another board edge. They must flow through at least two battlefield quarters and cannot be more than 1 ½ times longer than the distance between their start and end point. A river may run through any area feature except a hill.

A waterway represents the sea or a great river. It extends 200-600 paces inwards from an entire battlefield edge and no more than half its length can be over 300 paces wide. It can be bordered by a beach or flood plain extending up to 200 paces wide, which is good going. It may include one island no more than 300p across in any direction, which must be placed at least 100 paces from the shore.

To place terrain, divide the battlefield into quarters, numbered 1 to 4. The defender selects each piece of terrain in turn and rolls a die. On a roll of 1-4 the terrain is placed, or starts, in the corresponding quarter. On a 5 the defender chooses in which quarter the piece is placed. On a 6 the attacker chooses in which quarter the piece is to be placed. The defender always chooses where in the selected quarter the piece is placed. It must be placed if it is legally possible to do so, but if it cannot be placed then it is discarded.

(The rules in HOTT for a legal terrain - pieces within 600p of the centre and so forth - are ignored.)

Once all terrain has been placed or discarded, the attacker decides their set-up edge according to the normal HOTT rules.

Big Battles

The battlefield should still be divided into four quarters for placement. The defender chooses a minimum number of bad going area features equal to half of the number of 1200p squares covered by the battlefield, and the maximum number of terrain features which can be picked is one for each such square, plus one. Waterways may only be placed along a short edge.

Example: For a 48AP game the board is made up of six 1200p squares. The defender must choose at least three bad-going area features, and cannot choose more than seven terrain pieces in total.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

The Battle Of Huaqui

A Scenario For Liberated HOTT

Patriots and Royalists
6mm figures from Irregular Miniatures

This scenario is designed to be played with Liberated HOTT, my HOTT variant for fighting battles of the South American Wars of Liberation. It is not a balanced scenario; the Royalists have a definite advantage. But it can be played quickly enough that the players should be able to swap sides and try it again; see if you can do better than your opponent.

The map and OOB were adapted from those in John Fletcher's 'Liberators! Volume 1: The War In The South'. I cannot stress what a marvellous source of information this book, and its supplement, are for wargamers wishing to play this fascinating series of conflicts.


The Battle of Huaqui was fought on June 20th 1811 on the shores of Lake Titicaca in what is now Bolivia, but was then the province of Upper Peru. A Patriot army of about 5,000 men organised by the Buenos Aires junta under General Antonio Balcarce was surprised by a larger Royalist army under Brigadier General Manuel Goyenche.


The battle is fought on a standard HOTT board 2400p square:

Lake Titicaca extends 300p onto the board, and runs along 600p of the edge. It is impassable.

The hills run along the centre of the table from the north-west edge to the south east edge, and are 600p wide. There is a single 200p wide gap between them exactly halfway across the table. the hills are bad going, and an element on them cannot see, or be seen by, an element on lower ground unless it is right on the edge.

The rest of the battlefield is flat good going.

The Forces

Both armies deploy anywhere within 600p of their board edge. The Patriots deploy first.


West of the hill:

4 x Regular Infantry
2 x Militia Infantry
1 x Militia Cavalry
1 x Regular Artillery

East of the hill:

1 x General (Balcarce)
2 x Militia Infantry
1 x Militia Artillery
1 x Mob

Reinforcements (placed on the Patriot board edge on their first PIP roll of '6')

1 x Mob

Total - 24AP


West of the hill:

2 x Regular Infantry
4 x Militia Infantry
1 x Militia Cavalry
1 x Militia Artillery

On the hill:

3 x Militia Infantry

East of the hill:

4 x Militia Infantry
1 x Militia Artillery

1 x General (Goyenche) - Deploy anywhere within 600p of the Royalist edge.

Total - 32AP

Playing The Game

The Royalists take first bound.

An army is defeated if it either loses its general or if it loses half of its AP, and it has lost more AP than the enemy.

Historical Results

The Royalists advanced across the hills to seize the pass, and the Patriot left attempted to intercept them. They didn't make it, and the Royalist centre and left combined to rout the Patriot right. They then turned through the pass and attacked the Patriot left, supported by their right wing. The Patriots fled the field, and only 800 of their 5,000 troops survived the battle.

Game Results

I played this through twice in just under two hours, and the Royalists won both games. In both the Patriots were able to block the Royalists' advance into the pass, but this distracted them from vigorous attacks elsewhere. The Patriots have it tough, with their best troops pretty much out of command at the start of the game, whereas the free deployment of the Royalist general allows them to choose where they want to attack.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

HOTT Tournament Scoring

Over the years there have been a healthy number of HOTT tournaments and competitions. All of them use some sort of scoring system to determine the overall winner, and this post is an attempt to outline some of the systems which have been used.

Note that in all cases losses include not just elements that have been destroyed, but those that have been lost for any reason, including moving off the table, being ensorcelled or fleeing the field. Elements such as lurkers which have fled the field, destroyed hordes and ensorcelled heroes or magicians count as lost until they are brought back. Once brought back they no longer count as lost.

Berkeley Scoring

A player's army is worth 24 points (AP). Each player scores points equal to:

Enemy AP Lost + Own original AP - Own AP losses

A player that has lost the game is assumed to have lost all 24AP, regardless of actual casualties. If the scores are calculated correctly then they should add up to 48.

Example: A player captures the enemy stronghold to win the game, having lost 4AP of troops in the process. The winner gets 24 (Loser's full army value) + 24 (Own army value) - 4 (Own losses) = 44 points. The loser gets 4 (Killed enemy elements) + 24 (Own army value) - 24 (Own losses) = 4 points.

In the event of a drawn game scores are calculated as normal; they will be 24 - Own losses + Enemy losses.

Ties are broken by the number of enemy general's elements killed.

This system provides a good spread of scores making ties unlikely, but the arithmetic confuses some players (the idea that scores must add up to 48 helps eas this a little). It does heavily penalise losing, making cautiously not losing (even if by playing for a draw) more attractive than a win big or lose big strategy. This can have a tendency to encourage overly defensive play or agreed draws.

Burton Scoring

This is the same as Berkeley scoring, but penalises draws. A draw is only worth:

Own losses - Enemy losses.

This makes draws very unattractive, but in doing so penalises those that were due to a hard-fought game timing out. Those innocent of cautious or slow play are punished along with the guilty.

Minnesota Scoring

Both players score the value of enemy elements that are lost. The winning player also scores a 12 point bonus.

The downside of this scoring system is that it penalises those players who don't win by slaughtering the enemy army. It is possible to win by scoring low numbers of casualties on the enemy army (capturing the stronghold, for example), but the scores favour those who win by destroying half or more of the enemy army. It does not directly penalise players for their own losses, however, so encourages a more aggressive style of play.

Recon Scoring

A win scores 2 points and a draw 1 point. Record own AP lost and Enemy AP lost; ties are broken by the player who has the best AP loss differential.

This system makes ties for places more likely, especially over a small number of games. The tie-break system suffers from the same problems as the Minnesota system, in that it does not reward players who kill enemy generals or capture strongholds as highly as those who destroy enemy armies. On the plus side it is easy for players to record their scores.

Modified Recon Scoring

A win scores 2 points and a draw 1 point. Record Enemy AP destroyed; ties are broken by the player who has killed the most enemy AP.

This has the simplicity of the Recon system, but the tie-breaks reward aggressive play. Note that if you win a game your own losses are irrelevant.

New Berkeley Scoring

A win scores 3 points and a draw 1 point. Record Enemy AP destroyed; ties are broken by the player who has killed the most enemy AP.

Again this has the simplicity of the Recon system, but wins are more heavily rewarded.


It is impossible to come up with a scoring system that is fair in all circumstances, and tournament organisers must decide which kinds of behaviours they should reward. I think there is a majority who seek to 'penalise' draws, encouraging both players to play for a win in the allotted time. The problems come in using systems which score based on element kills, as these penalise players who win by killing enemy generals or capture a Stronghold. Against that are systems which don't take into account killed or lost elements; they fail to distinguish between a lucky player who wins by killing the enemy general in the first combat and one who, thorough skill and tactics destroys a high proportion of the enemy army with little loss to themselves.

And, of course, any scoring system must be easy for the players to use and for the organisers to assess.

Thoughts are welcome in the comments, as are alternative scoring systems not covered above.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Terrain In HOTT Campaigns

Not A Good Place For A Battle 
The campaign rules in the HOTT rule book offer little guide as to how terrain should be determined for each territory, but it is interesting to assume that each one has an overall type, similar to the home terrains in DBA. These rules are guidelines on how to manage terrain in campaigns in a way that is relatively simple whilst allowing the players a certain amount of choice.

Each area has three terrain types defined for it. Each of the three types had to have a unique game effect. Examples of types are: woods, river, flat bad going, marsh, BUA, gentle hill, steep hill, road and so forth. One type is defined as compulsory, the other two as optional. At least one piece of terrain on the list must be bad going.

When a battle takes place in an area it must obey the following rules:
  1. It must have at least two items of the compulsory terrain for that area, unless this is a river, BUA or waterway in which case only one is required.
  2. It may have any number of the optional items.
  3. A terrain type not on the list may only be placed if there is at least one piece each of the two optional types. In some cases I would excude certain terrain from ever being placed in certain areas.
  4. The terrain rules in the book still apply (majority flat good going, at least four items, at least two of which are bad going 200p or more across within 600p of the centre, etc).
Example - An area is forested. It has compulsory woods, with an optional river and flat bad going. Any battle in this area must have at least two woods and can also have one or more rivers and/or one or more areas of flat bad going. If you wish to include a gentle hill (an item not on the list) then the terrain must include at least two woods, a river and an area of bad going first.

Example - An area is defined with compulsory river, with optional marsh and gentle hills. A battlefield in this area is only required to have one river (although it may have more) and may have one or more marshes and one or more gentle hills. To have a wood the terrain must already consist of a river, marsh and gentle hill.

The main trick of the system is to identify all of the different possible terrain items in terms of game effect, and ensure that there is only one of each in each area. This can be quite subtle; I would class fields and rough as different terrain. Both are flat bad going, but the former is rectangular whilst the latter is irregular in shape. This affects how easy it is to line the edge, so they have a slightly different game effect. Conversely an area of brush is the same, in game terms as an area of rocks or a bog; all are irregular shaped, flat, bad going.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Some Like It Hot(t)

Adding flamethrowers and other exotica to Hordes of The Things

By Paul Grace.

This article originally appeared in issue 31 of Ragnarok, the Journal for The Society of Fantasy And Science Fiction Wargamers, and was posted on 'The Stronghold' with permission of the author.

When building up a rat army for HOTT, I found that one or two of my figures seemed to defy troop classification. One figure wore a gasmask and carried a globe (containing poison gas presumably). Another pair were operating a flamethrower. I already possessed a Dwarf flamethrower team, which had given me trouble fitting into a HOTT army list, and so I decided that it was time to make the rules fit the figures. To keep disruption to a minimum, I decided to adopt a modular approach creating a new troop type.

The new category needed to represent specialist troops armed with unusual weaponry used at close to short range. It is interesting to note that De Bellis Multitudinis (Phil Barker’s ancient period wargame rules) includes a category for flamethrowers. In DBM the troop type ‘Exceptional Psiloi’ - Ps(X) is defined as: Light troops "armed with incendiaries, corrosives or biologicals such as Greek Fire siphons, hand-hurled naphtha bombs, Chinese fire lances, quick lime or hornets’ nests." They are treated as inferior psiloi (light foot) except being given the same close combat value as artillery. Yes, these were the boys for me - the trouble being that HOTT has no equivalent to Psiloi - inferior, exceptional or otherwise! Using Ps(X) as a rough guide, but giving them a bit more spice, I have added the following HOTT troop category:

Extraordinaires (Ex)

Troop Type: Foot.

Troop definition: Specialist troops armed with incendiary, chemical or explosive short range weapons such as flame throwers, gas globediers, grenade armed assault engineers or even alchemists with a penchant for creating nitro-glycerine! The weapons can have a devastating effect but their instability can cause unnerving misfires. A Paladin has little fear of fire or noxious vapours.

AP value: 3 points.

Basing: 1 - 4 figures per base.

Base size: 60mm x 40mm (25mm scale); 40mm x 30mm (15mm scale).

Movement: 300 paces off road, 400 paces on road

Close combat value: +4 against all.
Combat outcome: Defeated:
Score not doubled: Destroyed by any mounted, else recoil.
Double or greater score: Destroyed.

Successful combat but less than double:
Destroy: Hero, artillery, sneakers, behemoths, riders (in bad going), and knights (in bad going or if they have moved into contact this bound).
Flee the battlefield: Lurkers, Dragons, and Gods.
Flee 600 paces: Horde, warband, beasts, flyers, riders (in good going), knights (in good going or having not moved into contact this bound).
Recoil: Paladin, airboats, clerics, shooters, blade, spear, magicians, extraordinaire.
Stronghold captured.

Successful combat: double or greater score:

All elements destroyed.

Equal score in combat results in a dramatic misfire:
Roll d6 for each element (both friend and foe) in edge or corner contact with the extraordinaire. A roll of 1 is treated as a successful close combat result (but less than double score) against that element by the extraordinaire. The extraordinaire also rolls a d6 for itself, being destroyed on a score of 1 or 2 (‘hoist on its own petard’).

You might wish to consider adding a +1 tactical factor for Ex elements armed with incendiary weapons when fighting against highly combustible opponents such as Ents and Dryads. This must be agreed in advance by both players, making it clear which elements are considered vulnerable.

Well there you have it; an eccentric troop unit that can wreak havoc against the enemy lines and cause almost as much trouble for its friends. Needs careful handling!

(c) Paul Grace 1999

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Maipo In Miniature

San Martin leads the Patriots
to a glorious victory
(c) Kaptain Kobold 2011
Many years ago I wrote a HOTT variant for fighting battles of the South American Wars of Liberation. After a couple of outings it's been sat on my hard disk gathering virtual dust, but back in November of 2011 we dragged it out and gave it another go.

It uses the HOTT mechanisms, but has its own troop types, and uses troop gradings to create variety within and between armies.

On Friday 11th November, 2011, a couple of us refought the Battle of Maipo (5th April 1818) using it. With each element representing 200 men, we had a Royalist army of 24 elements facing a Patriot one of 31 elements. Each army had two commands. The Patriots won, but then they always tend to; his is one of those battles you play twice, swapping sides and comparing final victories to see which player did the best. Unfortunately we only had time to do it once.

The next day I tried a smaller version, scaling the Royalists down to a conventional 12 element army, which gave the Patriots 16 elements. I also switched to the conventional HOTT shooting priorities to see how it affected the game (the variant uses .. a variant of those rules). What I got was a quick game of HOTT, and in well under an hour the Patriots won again, despite losing their general.

The Patriot army is larger, but about 50% of its infantry is Militia. It has a solid strike-force of Elite cavalry, though. The Royalists have no Militia infantry, and have some Elite Peninsular veterans as well, but their cavalry is all Militia. The Patriots also have artillery superiority, although in neither game did that count for much as they tend to be on the attack.

The armies were:

Patriot  - 1 x General, 6 x Militia Infantry, 5 x Regular Infantry, 2 x Elite Cavalry, 1 x Regular Cavalry, 2 x Regular Artillery

Royalist - 1 x General, 7 x Regular Infantry, 2 x Elite Infantry, 2 x Militia Cavalry, 1 x Regular Artillery

You can download the current version of 'Liberated Hordes' here:

I also took pictures, although there's only one of the first game:

Mini and Micro Maipo

The figures are 6mm Napoleonics (mostly) from Irregular Miniatures, based for another set of rules. For HOTT I just use them on a 25mm frontage with a ground scale of 1/2" = 100p. This really makes for a small playing area.
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