Friday, 1 April 2016

Playtest, Playtest, Playtest

March was a month to forget and so I've hit the ground running in April – I've spent the morning doing the first serious playtest of my Project Hood game (no joke!).

Writing (and re-writing) these rules is what has got me through the last few months with my marbles still intact. Having this one project to focus on allowed me to drum up positive energy whilst the hurricane of the day to day swirled around me. These rules may not be any good but it's already been a very worthwhile project.

Things had reached a point where I needed to test the basic ruleset and game concepts. It's all well and good writing it all out nicely but if it plays like crap then you've wasted a lot of time. Like all battle plans, things tend to go awry when contact is made with the enemy.

I have been collating ideas since 2012, when the game took the form of a historical skirmish game, and even since January this year things have changed dramatically. These rules are currently in their third incarnation (that's Jon Pertwee by my recollection) and have moved on from their Dark Crucible heritage.

As I have already discussed in an older post, each character in the game has a Hero Level and this dictates their quality and importance in-game. Level 4 characters are the Legends and one of these will usually lead your warband. Next we have Champions who are Level 3, Elite Troops are Level 2 then the Level 1 Followers. There is a Level Zero and that is reserved for non-combatants.

Today's game was a fairly large event. Both sides consisted of a Level 4 leader, two Level 3 Champions and six Level 2 Troops. Obviously playing both sides creates a rather unrealistic game as there are no surprises but today's playtest was about some of the key mechanics.

For the Sherwood side we had Robert Loxley 'The Hood', John Lyttle 'The Giant', Marian Fitzwalter 'The Maiden' and six Sherwood Rangers.

The Nottingham side consisted of Guy de Gisburne 'The Raven', Phillip Mark 'The Sheriff', Simeon Carfax 'The Captain', three Soldiers with swords and shields plus three Soldiers with crossbows.

The table was set up in a balanced way, although there was a lot of open space, giving Sherwood an advantage with their bows. In addition, according to my Excel spreadsheet that calculates points values, Sherwood also had an advantage fielding more expensive Rangers over Nottingham Soldiers. Would it really make a difference?

Both sides were dealt their Hero Cards and immediately red flags were raised about some of the opening rules. I carried on, making notes as I went.

Nottingham plodded across the table to the edge of the village (the basic objective being a King of the Hill type event around the Hay cart in the middle). Sherwood divided into three groups, going right, left and down the middle. They managed to get off a few bow shots early on, but the cover given by the village walls was proving to be an issue (or maybe the dice were cold).

Shots were exchanged and the odd wound inflicted. Not wanting the game to descend into a shootout across the town square I started to be a little rash with my movement actions, throwing people into no-mans land to reach the objective.

The Giant (left), The Maiden (right) and The Hood (bottom) surround the hapless Captain Carfax (centre)

Marian was the first to the centre of the table, but was quickly charged by Captain Carfax. He managed to inflict a couple of wounds but then the big boys jumped in. The Giant and The Hood leaped over the wall and surrounded Carfax. He was now in a world of hurt and support couldn't get to him in time. He managed to parry a lot of the damage but still took 12 wounds – he should only have in the region of 6 but I kept rolling anyway to see how it panned out!

The superior strength of Carfax's opponents and the additional support models were having a massive effect on the number of dice being rolled against him. It was an unstoppable tide of hurtiness!

Before long, models from both sides were jumping in to support and the game descended into a large melee in the middle of the table. This was great for working out some of the melee issues and how someone like The Raven, who should be the master of everything melee orientated, was unable to hit a thing! He made up for it later by almost killing a Ranger outright in a single round of combat – devastating, and not a re-roll in sight.

John 'The Giant' takes on Gisburne with his (rather short) quarterstaff

At the beginning of a turn, Gisburne played one of his Hero Cards, switching places with a Soldier nearby. This brought him into melee with The Giant and oh boy did they go at it!

As much as The Raven lay down the Hits, The Giant was batting them away. When it came time for John to retaliate he managed to roll big and inflicted 4 wounds on the Nottingham legend – even a supporting Ranger managed to sneak in a cheeky Hit.

By the end of Turn 4 things were pretty much over. Nottingham had lost their leader, one of the champions and three soldiers. Sherwood had taken a few wounds but were still at full numbers and this was starting to have a massive effect on the Initiative phase of the game.

The now defunct character cards – everything is a changin'!

So a great game in all. Lots learned about the rules (lots forgotten too but that's the nature of first games). A few things need to change regarding modifiers in combat and individual character special rules. I love the initiative phase of the game, not seen or heard of anything like it, but am concerned it's a bit clunky and heavy going. The character cards (above) will need to change significantly again in order to accommodate the rule revisions but that's fun too.

Two things top the list of things discovered today – I probably started too big for my opening game and I got myself and bit confused and bogged down with 18 characters to look after… but OMG do you get to roll a lot of dice!!


  1. Glad it's moving along and going well Mike!

  2. Good to hear April is off to a flying start!

  3. Looks and sounds a great set of rules.

    1. Early days yet, but lots of fun putting it together so far!

  4. Sounds like a lot of fun, care to share the PDF? Perhaps some of us might provide useful insights.

    1. I have no doubts you could provide some great perspective Wouter. I'll be putting a PDF up as soon as it is in legible English, rather than scrawly notes and bullet points, lol.

  5. Sounds like a great project - good luck!

    1. Indeed sir – your suggestion last year referencing the Age of Blood campaign system influenced my thinking a lot. Once I get this skirmish version boxed off a bit more I will be doing a Mordheim-style interpretation of the rules with character progression.

    2. I'm glad that you found it useful, I suspected that you might. I really like your plan to mix a re-interpretation of the 'legend' while incorporating a colourful campaign system.

  6. Sounds like my kind of game :-)

  7. Hi Mike,
    Just wondering, how the Hood rules are getting on. Looks very impressive. Keep up the good work.



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