15XX Playtest Battle Report – the Vale of Ancient Castles

Playtest 03 has been in the hands of closed playtesters for blind reviews since January. I’ve gotten some helpful feedback, but – because of COVID-19 – haven’t had a responsible chance to get a game in with another player until this past week.

I’ve got most of Playtest 04’s updates ready to go. I’ve got both my COVID shots. Time for a game.

I was back in Oklahoma for personal, family affairs and brought three boxes of figs and terrain plus the roll-up mat with me to get a game in with my no-vaccinated frequent collaborator Eric.

Alex the dog wondering if he’s going to get packed up, as well.

Setup

I ran Eric through the key changes to the setup phase, namely more clearly defined terrain rules and a more compact 6×6 grid, and we went for a casual scene setup – no rolling for terrain density for this game.

We ended up with what could be described as a little river valley, surrounded by the crumbling remains of medieval castles – monuments of ancient power and glory now in ruins.

Terrain Category key – E: elevation, F: feature, MF: major feature, O: obstacle, MO: major obstacle, BG: bloodied ground, and R: road

The Two Parties

Instead of coming to the table with two pregen parties, I wanted to walk through party creation with Eric. We ended up with two very different looking parties.

Eric went with a smaller Base count Party of stronger Groups: representing a group of marauding mercenaries, potentially mutineers.

  1. Impact Horse, one base, lance and plate
  2. Impact Horse, one base, lance and plate
  3. Foot, two bases, pikes and polearms
  4. Artillery & Crew, one base, field mortar or petard

On the other hand, I went with a larger Party to try out different tactics – something more akin to a gaggle of refugees or pillagers driven by desperation:

  1. Rabble, three bases, armed mob (the almost-veering-into-fantasy Catholic priests and penitents)
  2. Dogs, three bases, hunting hounds
  3. Transport, two bases, wagons,
  4. Shot, two bases, heavy muskets (clearly hired for protection)

Fog of War & Initial Contact

Rolling for deployment, we ended up with the corners. The following roll had Eric, as player one, choosing and deploying first. By the time we maneuvered our bases into “being spotted” by our opponent, we ended up with the following by the end of the Fog of War and Contact phases:

I am currently working through the list of initial encounter scenario goals that will be replacing the catch-all “table your enemy or secure plunder” victory conditions. But as they aren’t ready just yet, we kept with the previous approach.

Six rounds. Whoever ends with more Groups (of four) still in the Scene or more plunder tokens having been secured wins.

The Encounter Begins!

Eric’s two Groups of Impact Horse were scary – especially threatening my poor dogs and defenseless wagons. The bridge was easy to cross, so I soon fell back into a defensive posture after making an initial feint up the bridge.

On the other end of the Scene, the river ford, already bordering the unsettling, bloody scene of carnage from an earlier confrontation, would prove to be a tarpit of action.

My penitent Rabble tried to push through the ford, but Eric’s pikemen (at that time we decided clearly his force were Protestants!) were not to let that key point pass without challenge. They marched up, undaunted by the bloodied grounds of the terrain (of which I have yet to model, so the single casualty token counted as such), and challenged the rabble to make their attempt.

The fighting was brutal and lasted over three turns. Bases were successfully attacking and often successfully defending! But it was only a matter of time until the more powerful pikemen got the upper hand.

All the while, the mortar was dropping improbably accurate, devastating fire onto my Rabble and the Shot I had sequestered in one of the ruined towers. Eric took out a Base four turns in a row with that damn thing! Such is my luck – and by the end of the game, the tower was a bloody, even more ruined mess with THREE casualty tokens to mark the devestation.

Back on the other end of the Scene, Eric’s gendarmes continue to be a danger. In truth, they were even more effective as a threat I had to respond to that the damage they did (that said, RIP dogs).

I hauled one of my wagons into the rough ground of the woods in a search for plunder – and in the hopes that Eric wouldn’t follow. He did, but improbably failed in his attack!

The remaining dogs and their huntsmen took to the tower in refuge, where – in the funniest moment of the game – they proceeded to heckle the knights like the Frenchmen in Monthy Python and the Holy Grail.

“Go away or we shall taunt you a second time!”

In a remarkable show of “never tell me the odds” the dogs in the tower managed to successfully Parlay the gendarmes off the table – surely shaming them in French for killing their friends the whole time.

Back at the river ford, the other Group of Eric’ gendarmes got mired in the ford, which bought me just enough time to try and make my escape with my remaining two bases of the Rabble.

The chase was on with the Pikemen in hot pursuit – and they caught the rabble on the path heading up the cliffside. The rabble managed to take out one of the pikemen, but this was a doomed fight given enough time.

By this time, the week night was getting late, but Eric and I were both encouraged by the gameplay and the time. A significant part of our night was spent in catching up and, once the game had begun and parties been created, introducing and discussing rules and potential rule changes.

If this was “just” a normal game without the burden of playtesting, we’re both convinced these will be 60-90 minutes games, easy. Which is just the idea.

Takeaways

  • The 6×6 grid with slightly reduced movement worked well and didn’t feel confining or too small at all.
  • Relatedly, a 2x2ft grid in 15mm is awesome: plenty of terrain in a small footprint.
  • The new terrain, line of sight, and base positioning rules were a lot clearer – both in there text and in play. Neither of us were bothered by the abstraction once we got into play, and it sped things up A LOT.
  • Using Sprint as the action to get out of Limited Movement zones has some interesting corner cases with the Ponderous trait (Transport and Artillery) which needs to get ironed out.
  • Artillery needs to be separated from small arms shooting. This is particularly to give the +1 bonus to both that is more appropriate for each and not a compromise for both together.✔ Reactions continue to be rarely remembered or used.
  • Character sheets and the stat blocks in the rulebook should be more similar than what they are now in layout and number order.

All In all, this went very well, and I am pleased the big changes to the terrain worked as intended. I’m looking forward to finishing my edits and sharing the latest playtest rules with my playtesters.

If you’re interested in the closed playtest – and will be able to provide feedback – let me know via the sign-up form!

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