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Friday, 29 March 2013

LoM Part 3 - Early game, deployment and opening moves

Every game has to start somewhere, so in this update I want to look at the start of LoM, at how units are deployed, initiative determined and in what order troops move.
I will explain a few concepts as we go, and to keep you entertained there is a very real dilemma at the end of this article. I pose the question - what would you do?
Before we start, all units in this example are marked 1-10, and consist of Infantry or Cavalry. It isn't all that important at the moment to know the stats or type of each unit, except to know that Blue's Cavalry numbered 1 and 2 are Heavy Cavalry, and Red's Cavalry numbered 1 is Heavy, and numbers 2 and 3 are Light.
Deployment and Pre Battle Manoeuvers
In LoM the game starts before the models make it onto the table. The Generals bring their armies close to each other and make camp. Scouts from both sides attempt to gather information, and command elements study maps and charts.
Each Commander has a limited supply of 'Command Points', which represent his leadership qualities both tactically on the field, and strategically pre battle. It is with these points players now bid, in secret, to help them gain an early advantage.
In this case the Blue Player losses by 2pts, and must deploy 2 units to the battlefield first. 
 Play then continues with each player taking a turn to deploy one unit. As we can see, this gives Red a slight advantage in that he knows some infomation about his opponents deployment, and would also be the last to deploy, giving him an additional position advantage.

Deployment continues until both sides have placed all units. At this point comes the battle for Initiative. Both armies now face each other, likely hurling insults, while Officers give morale boosting speeches.
The job of the Commander is now to pick the ideal moment to launch the attack.
This is where Command Points again come in to focus.
Both Commanders choose one of two options - to force an opening, an advantage, something they can use to gain the upper hand, maybe a unit out of place, a gap in a shieldwall etc or to wait to see if an opportunity presents itself.
Taking direct action costs Command Points, which if the enemy player is also burning Command Points looking for an opportunity to take the Initiative, would cost both players but grant neither of them any benefit.
This period continues until one player gives up, but for each round that the players attempt to out smart each other, the troops grow impatient. Those with low morale look to leave the battle field, while those with high morale look to get the battle started. If the player is not careful he runs the risk of losing a portion of his army, or that the units themselves start the fight!

Once Initiative is won by one player, the battle will begin.
Both players issue 'Order Tokens', face down to each of their units.
The player who holds the initiative, in this case Red (shown by the i in the top right corner) may reveal his first order. There is a set routine to this, with troops issued 'Double Speed' orders moving before those with slower orders.
Red reveals his Cavalry are under Double Speed orders, and takes his first move.
Although Red holds the initiative, it is assumed that movement happens almost simultaneous, so Blue does have the option to respond, but this direct intervention would cost him valuable Command Points. He choses to pass.
Rather than move each unit individually, there are times when a player may want to mobilise groups of units. This can be achieved by activating units, but having them 'hold' till other units are ready. This procedure follows the same initiative order, and Blue is able to react as normal at anytime by paying Command Points. Here Red gets ready to mobilise his main body, and reveals number 7's orders, but has them wait.
One by one Red reveals numbers 4,5,6 and 8, and gets ready to move them. This is a large mobilization that the Blue General would see. He could order his own units to react at anytime, but chooses not to, happy to keep his Command Points.
Play continues until Red has resolved all his Double Speed, first move, orders. Note in this example all of Red's units have the same order token, but there is also a slower 'Single Triangle' order token, which means slower move, or no move.
Play then passes to Blue who follows the same routine, with one exception - Red cannot react to any of Blues moves. As it happens, Blue has all the same order tokens and takes all his moves.
A Turn in LoM has 3 movement phases - Double Order First Move, Single Triangle Moves, Double Order Second Moves. There are some minor rules attached, for instance Double Speed means very fast move, so units under Double Speed second must move a minimum distance to account for momentum. The Initiative order is the same - Red plays first, Blue may pay to react. This time, order tokens are removed from the table to show the unit has completed its order.
Lets move the game forward an extra turn...
Now we reach the 'What would you do?' dilemma.
Red has the initiative, and his Light Cavalry are within charge (Double Triangle) order distance of Blue's Heavy Cavalry.
LoM uses a chart for combat, rather than dice, so you can check the possible result ahead of it happening. A quick look at the chart shows that the Light Cavalry would do 2pts of damage each, while the Heavy would inflict 3. At first glance it seems Red is fine and will win the combat. But...
Blue's Heavy Cavalry have a better charge bonus. As we know the reacting player may pay Command Points to respond to enemy moves, so its very likely Blue would respond with a counter charge, which would tip the combat in the favour of Blue and his Heavy Cavalry.
There is an option to use Command Points to issue what is known as a 'Decisive Charge', where a General waits for the exact moment to issue orders for his troops to engage. The trouble here is that the option is open to both players, and would result in an expensive bidding war.
Red could try to hold Blue's Heavy cavalry with one unit of Light, he holds the initiative and would move first, this would give his 2nd unit the time it needs to get behind the enemy line. The trouble here though is the main way to lose initiative, and all the bonus it provides, is to lose a round of combat - the enemy sees this as a chance to turn the tide!
What would you do?
Its all about the Command Points. They can buy you the charge, buy you the combat boost, buy you the boost to morale to hold the charge. They could buy you time to react. They could buy you a chance to flip the initiative. They can do lots of things, but this is only one engagement on one flank, in the first couple of turns of the battle. And remember, Command Points are limited.
Now, that's a lot better than rolling 20 D6 don't you think?
Thanks for reading! I hope you found this first look at LoM interesting. I am looking for play testers to help out with the game, if you are interested you can email me direct at ''
Thanks again

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