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  #11  
Old 09-30-2015, 04:14 PM
El' Jocko El' Jocko is offline
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Originally Posted by Redwilde View Post
Actually, we're in agreement that the original rules for pool-tableness were not the ideal balance for game play. The question now is one of degree, are the current amendments the best balance, or could they be refined better?
So I have this working theory about terrain. We start with the idea that ancient and medieval battles fell into two broad categories:
  • Open Battle. Your standard set piece battle with both armies lining up to face one another.
  • Ambushes. Where one army lies in wait and surprises the other army.

I don't think there's anything controversial with that breakdown. But I'll further assert that the vast majority of battles were Open Battle with no notable terrain in the center of the battlefield. Any terrain that might give trouble to cavalry or close order foot was limited to the flanks.

The exceptions to this come in three distinct situations:
  • Ambushes
  • Open Battles where one side prepared the field.
  • Open Battles where one side deployed to take advantage of an existing feature.

These kinds of battles only occurred under very specific circumstances. Ambushes assume that one army is able to gain complete tactical surprise over the enemy. And these kinds of Open Battles assume that one army chooses to be primarily on the defensive and that the other army is willing to fight at the defender's chosen place.

It doesn't seem to me that DBA (any version) does a very good job of generating terrain to match these historical situations. And it doesn't seem that tweaking the rules will help. A completely different way of generating terrain is necessary.

- Jack
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Last edited by El' Jocko; 09-30-2015 at 04:18 PM.
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  #12  
Old 10-04-2015, 07:12 AM
Dangun Dangun is offline
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Originally Posted by El' Jocko View Post
But I'll further assert that the vast majority of battles were Open Battle with no notable terrain in the center of the battlefield. Any terrain that might give trouble to cavalry or close order foot was limited to the flanks.
I am certain the historical sources agree with you.
DBA produces more terrain than you will find in history.
I assumed though it was by design, because having fixed the element count at 12 a side, terrain works like a balancing factor to offer hope to the weaker elements.

But I also think its interesting to ask: why is this the case? Why did almost all historical armies choose to fight on the proverbial pool table?

I'd suggest it is for reasons of command and control. The historical general wants to be able to see the battle, and have his maneuvering ability not limited by terrain.

So when a rules system produces too much terrain, it might also suggest faults with the command and control rules.

As others have suggested, none of this would necessarily produce a "better" game, but maybe more historical.
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Last edited by Dangun; 10-04-2015 at 07:14 AM.
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  #13  
Old 10-04-2015, 11:55 PM
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Battle Cry Bill Battle Cry Bill is offline
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This is a very interesting exchange and highly relevant to my current obsession with doing more historically based games with DBA. The terrain rules themselves are interesting (in all the DBA versions) but I am struggling accepting the results, so I appreciate the further delineation of typical historical battlefields.
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  #14  
Old 10-05-2015, 11:24 AM
El' Jocko El' Jocko is offline
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Originally Posted by Dangun View Post
But I also think its interesting to ask: why is this the case? Why did almost all historical armies choose to fight on the proverbial pool table?

I'd suggest it is for reasons of command and control. The historical general wants to be able to see the battle, and have his maneuvering ability not limited by terrain.

So when a rules system produces too much terrain, it might also suggest faults with the command and control rules.
I think that you're right about the motivations for fighting in open terrain. It's hard enough to control troops on open ground. Woods and hills must have made it almost impossible to maintain any kind of central control.

But I don't know if DBA's command and control rules contribute to having too much terrain on the table. The PIP system puts a pretty heavy penalty on maneuvering troops through bad going. As well as a penalty for troops that are out-of-sight of the general. I suppose that many players look at the PIP costs and figure that both sides suffer from the same penalties, so why not add a lot of terrain?

If I was going to change one thing to get better terrain, I think it would be to change the way that you determine the orientation of the board. Because any edge can become the player's base edge, it's hard to place terrain in a logical way.

For example, a large woods placed in the center of one edge, maybe 4 base widths in from that edge, works nicely if it ends up on a flank. Very playable, very historical. But if that edge turns out to be a player's base edge, then that player has a real problem trying to deploy and move his or her troops. And on top of that, it doesn't seem like a very historical problem to have.

It's probably worth noting that BBDBA doesn't suffer from this issue. It's easy to put down terrain that looks like a historical battlefield--and without the danger of a bunch of bad going unexpectantly ending up in your deployment zone.

- Jack
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  #15  
Old 10-05-2015, 12:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Dangun View Post
But I also think its interesting to ask: why is this the case? Why did almost all historical armies choose to fight on the proverbial pool table?
I think you (and Jack, to whom you were responding) overstate the case. DBA may create battles with too much terrain. But "almost all" on a pool table (above) and "vast majority" (Jack) doesn't seem to be an accurate portrayal of the situation. I can name dozens and dozens of battles that had significant non-pool-table terrain, whether flooded fields (Catalan Co. and Battle of the Golden Spurs) or gentle slopes (Cressy) or steep slopes (various Greek battles including Phokians vs. Philip of Macedon) or rivers (three of Big Al's battles, at least; Mohi between Mongols and Hungary; Kalka river, Stirling Brig, Bannockburn (with marsh as well), Orewin Bridge (the death of Llewellyn Gruffudd), and on and on. And that's ignoring all the battles between Rome and Spain, Rome and Thrace, Greece and Thrace, and others where the wild natives spent an enormous amount of time and effort on making the Civilized dudes miserable through ambushes and fighting in terrain. Flaming logs rolled downhill figure in some army lists -- and I can tell you that nobody lights logs on fire to get a surprise impact on a pool table. Dozens of Italian Condotta battles had terrain. One Byzantine emperor was very successful at hiding troops in ambush to come popping out at an unexpected moment during a battle -- and we must assume that they popped out of terrain, not an inter-dimensional portal. A significant number of Meso-American battles had terrain, and the Cuachic were described as being used as ambush-troops (popping out of ... terrain!) in several Aztec engagements. Assyrians slaughtered Elamites in marshes and crossing rivers. All three of the major victories of the English over the French in the HYW had noticeable, significant, important terrain. The battle of Lincoln in the War of the Roses was fought through and over the town of Lincoln, which would be best described as being right in the center of the battlefield for that fight (and should be BGo, not a walled BUA).

The real world ain't flat good going. Darius spent a huge amount of effort to flatten the battle field at Gaugamela (for all the good it did him), but finding a large section of flat good going to fight a battle isn't easy.

Jack may have a point about "too much terrain" in the DBA terrain generation system, but the idea that battles with significant terrain are odd or unusual (or rare!) hasn't been proven.
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  #16  
Old 10-05-2015, 12:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by El' Jocko View Post
If I was going to change one thing to get better terrain, I think it would be to change the way that you determine the orientation of the board. Because any edge can become the player's base edge, it's hard to place terrain in a logical way.

For example, a large woods placed in the center of one edge, maybe 4 base widths in from that edge, works nicely if it ends up on a flank. Very playable, very historical. But if that edge turns out to be a player's base edge, then that player has a real problem trying to deploy and move his or her troops. And on top of that, it doesn't seem like a very historical problem to have.

It's probably worth noting that BBDBA doesn't suffer from this issue. It's easy to put down terrain that looks like a historical battlefield--and without the danger of a bunch of bad going unexpectantly ending up in your deployment zone.
I would point out there are actually two major competing objectives going on. One is (as you say), wanting to have a terrain system that allows historical terrain. The other is having a terrain system that inhibits abuse by players trying for advantage without thought for history (munchkins). The dice roll for edge is aimed at the second objective, not the first. BBDBA, as you say, does allow historical terrain -- but the lack of a dice roll for edge means that BBDBA players sometimes witnessed the most bizarre atrocities against historical battlefield terrain that you can possibly imagine, especially in the old 2x4 board era. In March/April 2001, one of the first BBDBA doubles tournaments ever, our Characene with Arab Nomad and Parthian allies lost the terrain roll to a Roman army and were presented with the Great Wall of Roman Hills -- three maximum-length hills horizontally down the middle of the board, with a BUA at one end, and a gap of 1.5 base widths between each hill and the next.

Any good terrain system must support historical terrain. It must also reduce the likelihood of munchkin bizarre terrain. Tools that reduce one thing (like the "roll for edge" on a standard square-board game) can and do have an impact upon the other. And as you know, the downside of "roll for edge" is that the munchkins choose radially symmetrical terrain (an X or diagonal ridgeline) rather than horizontally symmetrical terrain. An improvement, but not a large one.
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  #17  
Old 10-05-2015, 01:20 PM
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The mother of big battles, Armeggedon itself — big impassable fortress smack in the middle of the battlefield with armies swirling around it. (And nary a denizen involved in the field battle.)

Battles tend to converge at strategic, or at least operational, place of interest. These places tend to involve terrain. Even a river in the middle of nowhere is likely to have slopes, scrub, and mucky bits of streamlets all in the vicinity.

Even in the fabled steppes of Canada, I'm sure at the places where armies are likely to meet, they will at least be trodding through deep patches of thawed moose-pies along the rivers.
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  #18  
Old 10-05-2015, 01:37 PM
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Even in the fabled steppes of Canada, I'm sure at the places where armies are likely to meet, they will at least be trodding through deep patches of thawed moose-pies along the rivers.
I grew up (mostly) in Lethbridge, Alberta, on the Canadian great plains. The city park down in the river valley is called Indian Battle Park, because it was a location for a major battle between the Blackfoot and (?Crow?), just a decade or so before settlement. It is a ford across the Oldman River with cottonwoods and aspen and alder, undergrowth and stuff, down in the coulees below the flat-as-a-board Canadian steppe. Up on the prairie you can see the Rockies a hundred miles away, that's how flat it is. But the battle was down in terrain (rivers are sunken features in the prairie).

No moose-pies, though. Only buffalo (then) and cattle (now) doing the pie thing. Grizzly bears too, although not since the buffalo got repressed. Moose do produce effluvia, but as moose often frequent marshes and lakes and dine upon watery vegetation, their plops become more moose soup than moose pies.
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Last edited by david kuijt; 10-05-2015 at 01:55 PM.
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  #19  
Old 10-05-2015, 01:42 PM
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Grizzly Bears are Bad Going too
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  #20  
Old 10-05-2015, 02:02 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by david kuijt View Post
I grew up (mostly) in Lethbridge, Alberta, on the Canadian great plains. The city park down in the river valley is called Indian Battle Park, because it was a location for a major battle between the Blackfoot and (?Crow?), just a decade or so before settlement. It is a ford across the Oldman River with cottonwoods and aspen and alder, undergrowth and stuff, down in the coulees below the flat-as-a-board Canadian steppe. Up on the prairie you can see the Rockies a hundred miles away, that's how flat it is. But the battle was down in terrain (rivers are sunken features in the prairie).
I suspect Steppe battles everywhere will likely be near rivers, except when 2 armies wandering around looking for water happen to bump into each other.

Along the Oldman River, how likely could you arrange a DBA-sized battlefield with naught but the river and a gentle hill for terrain and no other patches of scrub, wood, or rough somewhere on the field?
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