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Monday, 25 April 2016

SAC! - Play-test Game 1: Mill Raid

There's been plenty of testing and run through's on the rules so far, with assorted revisions an rewrites, and now that SAC! is looking solid on combat I thought I would post the first official game report!

A few pointers and notes -

* This game is using basic combat rules only, no abilities. To keep it simple and avoid lots of photos of dice, there is no mathematical jargon. I describe only the effects of the combats, not the numbers.

* Don't forget the Archers! The defenders have 3 archers on a balcony. These guys are raining shots down on the attackers each turn. As I don't go much into the dice results, you don't get to see the archers effect, but they are trying to make a difference!

* Speaking of dice.... the top right of the photos show the Command Dice for the current turn. These determine the initiative order for the models and units. 

* Text descriptions are under the relevant photo.

* You can click on any photo for a larger image.

Right then, lets begin....


This is a test game and as such has nothing much beyond the idea of one side trying to raid the mill, and the other side defending it.

I imposed a little rule for the defenders regarding initial deployment - they could only deploy one unit a time from the barracks and then only once the alarm was raised and the raiders were sighted.

SOLO, Player vs Player, Co-op?

Eventually the scenario will be wrote up in full. This raid could be played out as a solo adventure with the player either attacking or defending, or it could be played as Player vs Player, with a player controlling either side. 

The Sides - 

The Attackers.

These guys consist of 5 small units, strong on the attack and well armoured. They have good morale and are lead by a Hero, and a Companion. A point of note: the commanders here have good leadership skills, but the nature of their force - tightly nit small units - mean a lot of effort is needing barking orders each turn.. Something just beyond this particular leaders ability.

In game terms - the force has Leadership 4, but 5 units. 
Its going to take an effort to get everybody moving together each turn

The Defenders

This force consists of a very small garrison of professional troops - 4 swordsmen and 3 archers, which can be relied on to be relatively stable. 
The 5 spearmen though, are hastily pressed conscripts. They will fight, but they aren't going to hold for long. Small units like the spearmen gain more stability through their numbers   

The Battlefield

The mill and bridge are key here. The ford can be crossed, but takes time and reduces movement.
The building to the right represents the local garrisons barracks.

The Look-out

One archer is stationed on the upper balcony of the Mill and acts as watchman. 
When he spots the attacking force, he can raise the alarm 

The Barracks

The Captain of the Guard will muster his men in this location once he hears the alarm.
The barracks houses both units - the swordmen and the spearmen - but only one unit will become readied per turn.

The Woodland

The attackers begin moving through the woodland to cover their approach.
This reduces their initial movement until they exit the cover.

Turn One - Attackers point of view

The attackers hold the 'advantage' to begin with. They will keep this until they lose more combats in a single turn than they win. Advantage means they act first in ties.
On phase 3, two units move through the woods. On phase 6, one unit moves and the companion activates, tacking personal command of the unit near him, and they move together.

Heroes always activate for free. Four orders per turn and 5 units mean already the attacker picks up a unit of stragglers. 

Turn One - Defenders point of view

The Archers are out of line of sight and so cannot be given an order. Their lookout however warns his mates, who come out onto the balcony. Units normally require orders to activate, but this scenario allows the archers to deploy for free, It still requires a phase though (phase 4).

In phase 5, the first unit emerges from the barrracks - the spearmen hastily grab their gear and rush to the Captains side.

Turn Two - 1 and 1, who is first?

Both sides have rolled '1's on their Leadership dice, so activates first?
For this we go back to who holds initiative. The scenario grants the Attacker the initiative, so they hold advantage and activate first.

Not that the archer mind much - a closer target is easier to hit!

Turn Two - Defender

Remember that a unit needs line-of-sight to a Hero or Companion to receive orders. There is a special exception to this, but that requires a visible enemy close by. As this special exception doesn't occur here, the Captain needs to ensure he can see all the units under his command.

Turn 3 - A good example

On phase 1 the Captain of the defenders, orders his swordsmen to run around the side of the building and meet him on the other side. 
The attackers advance on phase 2 and 3, the attacker companion again choosing to activate and use his own 1 point of leadership on the axemen near him. 
Phase 4 sees the defenders spear hasten to block the bridge. The archers fire on 5.

Finally more attackers emerge from the woods on phase 6.

Turn 3 - Alternate angle

As well as showing the paths taken by the defenders Captain and swordsmen, an important note can be made here about the 'Reaction' rule. If a unit is within 12" and los of an enemy, they do not require orders to activate, they can 'React' instead.

Reactions are either move towards, or move directly away. Sometimes a player may still want to issue an order if they require the unit to do something other than those two options. In this case, the Captain moves to retain los, just in case he needs to micro-manage the swordsmen!

Turn 4 - Reaction vs Normal

Reaction phase does not require orders, but where more than one unit wishes to move under Reaction, who goes first is based on the Leadership roll for the round. 

Here we can see the bottom units move under Reaction (in Phase 1), but dont use the phase 1 order.
This allows the units at the top to use the order tokens as normal.

Turn 5 - COMBAT!!!!

The attackers spearmen on the bridge lose a round of combat against the numerically superior defenders group. Even though the attackers are better fighters, extra numbers give a slight advantage. extra numbers with pointy sticks give a better advantage as the reach of the weapon makes it easier to help a friend in combat.

Having already taken damage from arrows during their approach, the attackers spearmen do not fancy a prolonged combat. In SAC! the loser of a combat must decide to stay or fall back. Withdrawing is not easy and carries the risk of an orderly withdrawal turning into a rout.

The spearmen test moral - Success! They fall back in good order.

Now the attacker has an decision to make. Having won combat, and seeing the enemy retreat, makes a unit tend to fancy the pursuit. In order to stay the line and avoid running after a retreating enemy, a unit must pass a Morale test. As these spear are not professional soliders they dont have much training, which reflects in a low Morale.

On this occasion they fail their role to hold position and charge after the withdrawing spear!


Though they failed to hold themselves back, the defenders spear now find themselves in a great position. Their superior numbers and quick move speed allow them to not only pursue the attackers spear, but to wrap around the flanks.

Though the attackers spear may be superior troops, they are about to be over run!

Turn 5 - The Defenders Swordsmen Attack!

Bolstered by the Captain joining the fight, and already having a man-up on the attackers force, the defenders swordsmen beat back the attackers....

Turn 5 - Losing control!!?

In a similar fashion to the defenders spear, the defenders sword also fail their morale test to hold position, and go charging over the river after the falling back troops of the attacker.

Turn 5 - Little choice....

With both his units fighting on the wrong side of the river, the Captain has little choice but to also cross and hope the momentum continues.

Turn 5 - The counter charge

Last to act this turn, in phase 5, is the attacker.
The companion activates and charges in to support his sides sword fighting at the river. At the same time he orders the double-handed axemen to have at the Captain!

The attackers Hero chooses to help his beleaguered spear.

Despite a last minute counter strike, the attacker finds that they have lost more combat rounds than they have won this turn - Advantage changes hands! The Defender now holds the initiative!

Turn 6 - the first casualty!

Hard pressed all battle, the toil begins to take its effects on the attacker. The first casualty - one of the spearmen pushed from the bridge and overwhelmed by the defenders light spear,

Turn 6 - the bodies start to pile!

On the other side of the field, the combat goes again in favour of the defender. 
A second model of the attacker falls casualty

Turn 6 - Its not over yet!

Despite all the dice coming up in favour of the Defender acting first, the rest of the phase is entirely for the attacker, and the numbers are out of the woods.....

Turn 6 - All pile on!

Here we can see an excellent example of positioning and placement.
Models normally connect (and fight) front to front. Additional supporting - or assisting - models are first placed on the flanks/sides of an enemy model, and finally on the rear of an enemy when the flanks are connected.

Such positioning allows two bonuses - firstly automatic damage each round on the surrounded model, and secondly a bonus to resolving combat.

A strong fighter may be able to win a round of combat against a weaker mob, but with the mob doing automatic damage, and only the loser having the option to withdraw, a surrounded target best quickly dispatch  their assailants or find themselves soon dragged down by weight of numbers.

Turn 6 - the worm turns!

Now it is time for the defender to lose combat. The Captain tries desperately to impose an orderly retreat on his men. Both the Captain and the sword pass their moral - the fall back is at least not a rout

Turn 6 - Press on

A tough decision is made by the attacker. Do they press the advantage, or try to hold? What if one unit fails to hold, but the other succeeds? Weight of numbers would go back in favour of the defender.

Its a tough call, but the attacker cant let the Captain go so easily, even if it means their sword must battle hard to hold off the defenders still superior numbers.

Turn 6 - Meanwhile on the bridge...

With the attackers warlord joining the fray, and the sword surrounding one poor spearmen, the lightly armoured spear of the defender take their first casualty.
Now they are in real danger of being killed to the man!

Turn 6 - ROUT!!

The defenders light spear try to fall back from the attackers weight. The trouble is, they are not the best trained soldiers. It takes only seconds for the fall back to turn into a free-for-all rout.

The attack pursues and now the real carnage begins. Another spearmen goes down, stabbed in the back as he tries to run!

Turn 7 - Bye Bye!

Before any reaction moves take effect, models routing are moved first.
The defenders spear men make a break for their lives.

Turn 7 - Pursuing in armour is hard

Though the attacker now holds advantage, meaning they resolve tied orders first, the extra armour of the attackers spear means they are just a touch slower than the lighter troops of the defender.

There is a option available to them though - the PRESS.
SAC! allows orders to be spent on units which have already activated once, in order for them to take an extra action in the turn (a unit can only ever be pressed once per round).

To succeed in a 'Press' requires the unit receiving the order to pass a morale test. If they succeed they can act again this turn, but if they fail the order is lost and wasted!

The attacking spear could be pressed in phase 3, but before then, 
the defender has an action in Phase 2....

Turn 7 - Rein of Arrows!

The attackers spear are already close to exhaustion. They have taken a real kicking so far this battle.
The defenders archers take advantage of this, and use their elevated position to shoot down on the attackers spear. A decisive move to save their friends.

And a successful one! Another attacker spear goes down!

Turn 7 - No friends? No rally!

When a unit takes a high degree of casualties and falls a Moral test, it routs and cannot be rallied.
 It has simply had enough. The casualty from the archers fire forces such a reaction on the spearman. 
With his friends down, this guy has had enough and is leaving!

Turn 7 - One last attempt....

The Captain of the defenders is about to fall. There is hope however and it lies with his swordsmen. Their weight of number and ability to hit flanks and rear of the 2-handed axemen could save the Captains life. There is hope, but it lies on a great dice roll next turn....

Turn 8 - Alas, it is not to be!

The attackers score better on the roll of initiative! This means they can react move into combat before the defender can. All the attacker needs to do is charge the defenders sword and pin them so they cannot help the Captain. Meanwhile the attacker can surround the Captain, and no matter his resolve, it is a fight he just cannot win.

Raid successful!

Thanks for reading. I hoped you enjoyed the commentary.

As SAC! is a campaign game as well as a skirmish, there would be the usual loot rewards as well as experience for the combatants involved. These rules are still far off from completion though, but stay tuned - more SAC! real soon!

If you would like more information on SAC!, have any comments, suggestions, questions, or feedback (please!) - do get in touch, I would love to hear from you.


Sunday, 24 April 2016

SAC! - Combat and the Rule of '6'

Every game of conflict requires a good basing in maths. You want the better party to come out on top naturally, for at least the majority of the time. This seems only fair, but you also want a little element of surprise, of the unknown, the chance to beat the odds.

How and where to draw the line between the predictable outcome and the totally random, can make or break a game. With SAC! I decided to ask what I wanted from combat, then to take that idea and create a mathematical formula to achieve it.

The answer was rather simple. I wanted combat to have a purpose, something beyond the simple 'smash the enemy'.

My trouble with most other systems is that combat is swift and brutal. Its often resolved in one single round, with a single winner/loser, and routs and retreats. This is fair enough, but it rarely allows for tactical maneuvers of a grander scale.

Consider a basic 'flanking maneuver'.

Here the Blue unit on the right is about to clash with the Red unit. Blue also has a supporting unit on the left. Arrows indicate movement.

If combat resolves in one round, where will the units on the right be?

Combat in SAC! poses a unique question to the loser of the combat - do you want to stay or do you want to withdraw?

Looking at our example. Assuming Red won the charge. Does the Blue unit in combat want to stay?
They could. Though they are losing currently, they know next turn they will get the assist from the friendly unit hitting Red in the flank.

If the loser stands, then the winner must also. 
Sticking with Red having won the last round, they better press home their advantage, and soon!

In the reverse situation - Red loses - do they stay under threat of being flanked, or do they break, turn tail and run? SAC! throws in a nasty mechanic for those that run from combat.... more on that in a bit! For now lets look at how to resolve winner/loser.

Predictable outcomes?

There is no avoiding the fact that when you use numbers, you can predict an outcome. The less variables and the more results, the closer to an 'average' you will get.

When you deal with opposing numbers (to determine winners and losers) another factor has to be taken into account. Where the variables are high enough, one side not only has to roll 'above average', but they require their opponent to simultaneously roll 'below average', in order for them to win.

To illustrate the fact, lets compare 2d6 with 3d6
The Red 2d6 are capable of beating the Blue 3d6, but to do so Red needs to roll well above average, while hoping Blue rolls well below.

SAC! to stick with the mmo/campaign feel, uses 'levels' to determine troops abilities. In this example 2d6 is equivalent to level 3, while 3d6 is equivalent to level 6. It is possible for the level 3 to beat the level 6, but the sound bet would be on the level 6 to win!

So, why would the level 3 unit clash with the level 6 unit?

Loser chooses

Losing a round of combat in SAC! is not the end of the unit or model. Remember the idea of pinning and continuing combat to allow the grand maneuvers? SAC! gives the loosing unit the option to stay in combat, effectively pinning the winning unit in place. 

But how can a losing unit stay?

Well, Two reasons. Firstly they may not be convinced (yet) that they are actually loosing. SAC! has a morale system, but before that is has a damage/armour system. As long as the units armour is holding - they are blocking with their shields, turning the odd blow with their chain mail -  in the heat of battle do they care if they are not making much headway at the moment?

That soon changes when bodies start hitting the deck.

Secondly, if you are loosing because your opponent has a bigger shield, a longer sword, is clearly a better fighter than you, then the thought of turning your back on such a fellow is dangerous. 

Serious damage - in the clash or in the route?

It is said that the majority of casualties are not inflicted in the actual combat, but when one side breaks. SAC! uses such an approach. Giving the loser the option to stand is giving them the chance to get lucky in a round of combat, or, as in the majority of cases - the option to get injured!

Giving them the option to turn and run, gives them a chance to save their hides, but risk getting stabbed, quite literally - in the back!

Hail the Campaign!

SAC! is 'Skirmish and Campaign', and there are no truer words for battle than 'He who fights and runs away... lives to fight another day'. It is in many cases cheaper and easier to patch up a few injured fighters than to replace and rehire an entire new lot.

The idea of combat in SAC! is - get in there, do some damage, if you find yourself outclassed, get out sooner than later.

In this way SAC! also overcomes the 'my precious' feel associated with extended campaign games - you never want to use your expensive units because if they die you will be very sad. 

What about damage in the combat? The Rule of the '6'!

Combat uses the sum of Xd6 to determine winner/loser. Whoever rolls the highest is technically the winner, and inflicts damage based on weaponry vs armour. There is another little rule of note, something of a Golden Rule in SAC! that adds a further encouragement to both sides to fight, and importantly adds the needed 'Random Element' to the game.

The Rule of 6.

Anytime when rolling for combat, a die or dice score a '6' this does an automatic point of damage, regardless of winner/loser.

The benefit here is that while one side may win combat, the other side may score '6's and do damage.

This bonus damage also favours more skilled warriors - the more dice a unit rolls, the more chances at rolling '6's. As all damage is primarily inflicted on armour (shields being a great example), all this means is a lot more hits landing on target!

Elites vs the Mob - who fairs better?

The answer here is... lots of men with pointy sticks!

While elite fighters - those who roll more d6 - have a better chance of winning the combat through a high roll, and inflicting more damage through the chance to roll more '6's, you cannot underestimate the other mechanic in SAC! that helps with combat - the assist from friends.

SAC! being a skirmish game, means it deals with combat on a more personal scale. The facing of a model is important. When  models manage to surround a single model, they pick up couple of nice bonuses - automatic damage, and extra points added to the d6 used to determine winner/loser.

The most able of fighters can hold their own, and even win rounds of combat against multiple opponents, but they better come up with a plan, and fast - as they cant block/parry/avoid EVERY blow, and remember... looser chooses if they want to withdraw! (And risk being stabbed in the back as they run away...), likewise, with the more skilled combatant favoured to win combat, inflicting damage from that, and having more chances to roll a 6, it often becomes a bitter race to see who can kill the other first. But isn't that what combat is really all about?

Our friend in the middle better be the worlds best swordsmen, else he is about to be cleaved in half by those 3 big axes.....

Saturday, 23 April 2016

SAC! - Commanding forces - The Turn Order

Where large scale battles tend to favour 'You-Go-Me-Go' systems - where one player completes all of their sides actions, then the next player - skirmish games work best with a more fluid system of activation.

In SAC! I wanted to create a system that added a random element to who moves and when, but also allowed a player to plan ahead, to strategize, and to seize opportunities as were presented.

Players forces have a total 'leadership' value, which is the sum of the Hero's leadership as well as that of any supporting Companions. This total is the number of d6 a player rolls to see when his models can activate in a turn. Each number on the d6 represents the phase 1 through 6, and duplicate or multiple rolls of the same number allow multiple orders to resolve in that phase.

In the example below, from a recent play-test, the Red player has rolled 1, 3, 5, 5, and the White player 2, 2, 3, 6. The Red player has activated a unit of Spearmen in Phase 1, using the red die with the corresponding '1' roll.

The rest of the turn will play out with White taking two action (the White d6's 2 and 2), before Red takes an action in Phase 3 (the Red 3), then White. After that Red will get two actions in Phase 5, before the final action of the turn will go to White (with the roll of 6).

This generates a dramatic and dynamic turn. Red seizes the initiative, while knowing that White can immediately counter with two units. The middle phase - 3 - sees both players activating, while Red knows he can muster two units for effect in turn 5, with White having the last say this turn in phase 6.

The importance of multiple activation's is shown in the photo below.

The Red player has managed to roll two '4's. This allows them to move two units at the same time. In this example they use one order to move the left unit of spear in to combat, while moving the right unit also in to combat.

By pinning both units at the same time Red makes sure that White cant counter charge, or hit the flank of one unit if it charged alone.

That's how the Turn Order works in SAC!

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

SAC! - Heroes, Companions, and Units! The Skirmish Game

A players forces in SAC! consist of three types of model.

The first and primary model is the 'Hero'.

The Hero represents the players 'Chief', or  King, Duke, Captain, General, Warlord - whatever title the player chooses to give. SAC! is totally flexible in design. The Hero can as likely be a hero from mythology - like a Jason (of the Argonauts), or a 'King Arthur', or the player can start them off as a Mercenary Captain, leading a band of sell-swords.

'Hero' is a also a term used very lightly. The player can just as easily create an evil warlord, hell bent on domination and destruction!

Next up is the 'Companion'.

Companions come mainly in two forms. One type of Companion is the minor champion who fights alongside the Hero.  If our Hero is Jason, then the Companion is an Argonaut. If its King Arthur, the Companion is one of his knights.

The other type of Companion is a specialist.

Specialists are types like blacksmiths, armourers, scholars, senators, priests, paymasters etc. Companions like these have different effects depending on the stage of the game, if its 'Skirmish' or 'Campaign'. Some Specialists even have dual effects - they can act in both the Skirmish and the Campaign.

One example of this is the 'Armourer'.
In the Skirmish game, prior to the battle, the Armourer can make last minute repairs to armour, ensuring the player's models begin with a bonus. There is no reason why an Armourer companion cannot also be a minor hero type, a fighter who takes to the battle as much as they take to their work!

In the Campaign section of SAC! having an Armourer allows a player to make repairs on his own forces, without paying gold to a nameless NPC. An Armourer can also produce armour, which the player can give to whomever they please. In this way a player can upgrade his own forces for free.

Once a player builds (or buys, or captures by conquest) a 'Smithy' - the armourers output can increase even further!

Finally, the other type of model used in SAC! are 'Units'

Units represent bodies of men, women, or even beasts and are usually between 2 and 5 in number. These are all associated models, who move and fight together in the Skirmish game.

Units can be soldiers - swordsmen, spearmen, knights, Roman Legions, Viking hirdmen - whatever period and style you have chosen to play.
They can also be rangers, archers, brigands or bandits, peasants or warhounds.

The number of models usually hints towards their use, and some units have special abilities.

Spearmen for example might form in groups of 5 (the maximum size for a unit). If they have shields, they could have a special 'Shieldwall' ability.

Rangers, woodsmen, hunters, and poacher types tend to operate in smaller groups. Special abilities for these could include a variety of effects - even generating food for your forces!

This is just a brief example of what is available in SAC! There are many more types of style, troops and abilities. If you can imagine it - there is probably a rule for it!

Introduction to SAC!

What is 'SAC!' ?

SAC! stands for 'Skirmish and Campaign' and is a table-top game that brings together elements of wargaming, board gaming, roleplaying, and computer game style MMO's.

Why 'SAC!' ?

I have been a fan of all those types of games for many years. Gaming is my number 1 hobby. I have never though found a gaming system that brings the best elements of all those styles together, and rolls them into one, so I thought - why not design one!

How 'SAC!' works

SAC! plays out on two main levels, firstly the 'Skirmish'. Players use models to represent their forces - a mixed collection consisting of a main 'Hero', the heroes 'Companions', and various small  military groups called 'Units'.

These forces engage in table-top battles and scenarios just like in a regular wargame or boardgame.

The other half of SAC! is the 'Campaign'. This section deals in part with the results of the Skirmish element of the game - models gain 'experience' and level-up their abilities and skills, as well as collect loot, glory, and gold.

But there is more... the Campaign builds up the players influence in an imaginary world - as well as controlling the soldiers and heroes in the Skirmish game, the player can build, own, and run structures and buildings, from camps and tents, armourers and blacksmiths, through to Merchant Houses, Guild Halls, and all the way up to Forts and Castles!

Co-Op, Verses, and Solo Play

SAC! is scenario driven. Each skirmish game has roleplay elements to it, even if that is just a straight-up grudge fight between two (or more) players forces.

Scenarios have objectives, victory conditions, and ways for the players models to earn experience  and loot. Scenarios can be 'Co-Operative', where two or more players join forces to fight a larger, more dangerous NPC faction, or otherwise attempt to achieve a goal that requires more than one player.

Scenarios can also be games of Player vs Player, with or without specific objectives. Maybe its a clash for influence, perhaps its a raid - one player may have a Viking style faction bent on pillage. That pillage may be against an NPC faction that hires the other player to defend it, or it maybe a pillage against the other players own town!

Solo Play is also possible in SAC! Scenarios focus heavily on NPC encounters or factions. With a few simple rules and steps to follow, you can lead your forces in a Skirmish and play-out your own Campaign.

SAC! - Main Page

Below is a list of all articles relating to SAC!

Fancy play testing the Game? Then please try this basic scenario using SAC! 'light' rules -
Test the 'Bandit Camp' Scenario

Developer's Blog

Introduction to SAC! - The concept and idea of the game.

Heroes, Companions, and Units - The three types of models that make up the game of SAC!

Commanding Forces - The Turn Order - How forces move and resolve orders, and in which order.

Combat and the Rule of '6' - looking at the mathematical and technical side of combat in SAC!

Play Test Games

Game One - Mill Raid - An attacking warband prepares a raid against a Mill. Can the garrisoned                                                defenders repel the action?

Game Two - The Bandit Camp - One inexperienced commander must lead a small force to rid the                                                            local area of bandits