Tuesday 6 April 2021

Project 10 - Commanders

This part of Project 10 has been tricky to get right.

Originally, I gave Commanders all sorts of wacky abilities to represent the armies they were leading, but they felt a bit too incoherent. 

Then I standardised them pretty heavily, with every command either granting a 1 point Trait to the entire army or a 2 point Trait to a single unit. Just regular stuff straight off the unit trait list. It's fine, but lacks a bit of the excitement of the weird stuff.

Revisiting them really got me thinking about what I wanted these Commands to achieve. I want them to give each army some character, even if their units are similar, and give the Commander themselves some presence on the battlefield. 

Equally important is what I really want these Commands to not do.

In some early playtests, I'd have a Command like "Ignore enemy Shields", which is very useful against that shield wall army, but if your enemy doesn't have any Shield units then it's just wasted space. Here I'm not concerned about balance, but I want to avoid anything getting totally neutralised. Similar to the thoughts I had on units.

Stripping things back to the skeleton, I looked at all of the elements that I could reasonably expect to feature in every battle, regardless of army composition.

I got the following ingredients list: Damage, Move, Pivot, Charge, Flank, Shoot, Melee Attack, Disengage, Engaged, Initiative, Support, Broken, Regroup, Commander, Rough, Cover.

There are some edge cases in there, like some armies just won't have Shooting, and some battlefields will lack Rough terrain, but you've got to draw the line somewhere. They just made the cut, but I can't guarantee their long-term safety.

I'm hoping that by sticking to those core ingredients I can get as weird as I want with the actual effects. The latest revision walks the line between order and chaos. I'm aiming for easily understandable, but having that feel of breaking the rules and creating dramatic flourishes, regardless of the army composition. 

1: General

Barrage: Any units that do not move can Shoot twice.

Reinforcements: Supported units recover 2CD of damage.

Exploit: Flank and Rear attacks roll triple CDs instead of double.

Charge: Units can move an extra Measure when they Charge over Open Ground. 

2: Champion

Slayer: If your unit damages an undamaged unit they take double damage, after all other modifiers.

Behead: Your unit causes double damage on any 3s rolled.

Crush: If you charge a damaged unit they double their existing damage.

Rouse: When your unit causes damage they recover that much damage. 

3: Raider

Burst: Shooting attacks within 1 Measure roll twice as many CDs after all other modifiers.

Keen Eyes: Your Units ignore Cover and Concealment.

Manoeuvres: All units make a Free Pivot at the start of the Turn.

Missiles: One unit gains Short 2.

4: Engineer

Explosives: One of your units and all enemies engaged with them suffer 3CD of damage.

Smoke: Your units may disengage in any direction, even through enemy units, as long as they end in Open ground.

Surge: Supported and Supporting units make a Free Move of 1 Measure.

Bane: Enemies cannot reduce Damage taken from Shooting this turn.

5: Warlock

Wings: Your unit gets Fly.

Flames: All enemies within 1 Measure of one of your units suffers 1CD of damage.

Curse: The enemy commander’s unit suffers 2CD of damage.

Shadows: Swap the position of any two of your units. 

6: Sage

Battle Prayer: All units roll +2CD on Regroup actions.

Glory of Battle: Units with 4 or more Damage roll +2CD in melee.

Visions: You decide who wins the next Initiative roll.

Fate: Roll 3CD and keep them aside. You can swap each of these in place of any CD you roll this turn. 

Balance is much wonkier than it was before, but they feel way more fun, which is more important for this design. 

They're also tied to Commander types now, as I continue to hammer out a broad idea of what this setting is meant to be. As always, I'm looking for a setting to serve the game, not vice versa. In that post I just linked I talk about how the old Realm of Chaos books let you add all sorts of weird units to your warbands. You might have a Khornate champion leading a warband of Chaos Dwarfs and Beastmen, or a Tzeentchian Dark Elf Champion with a pack of hydras and gorgons and a few skeleton henchmen. 

I like this approach, where the boundaries between the different factions are a lot less distinct. Both sides in a scenario might have elves and dwarfs, but I've got centaurs and you've got vampires. It feels a bit silly and freewheeling, but I still like it. Feels like something that gets me inspired to model up a unit of wraiths without having to worry about where they fit into some grand plan. 

In my TTS playtests I've mainly been using Warmaster miniatures or an anachronistic mess of historical units. At home I'm building a mix of medieval and fantasy-human stuff from Pendragon. I'm keen to get a bit weirder with some skeletons and maybe some lizardmen. 

My very first attempt at painting 10mm. Even trickier than I expected!

Now, there's an obvious way to make all of this work together. Put the focus on the Commanders, rather than the armies. Your bond might be idealistic, but is more likely to be financial.

You aren't running an Elf Army. You've got an Elf Captain riding around on a stag, sure, and she's determining the Commands you can pick from based on her dual archetypes (Raider and Sage), but your army is much more fluid. 

If your army is going to be 6 units, then one of them can be your personal Retinue. Let's say some Elf Stag Riders (Fast, Impact 1, Tough 1).

The rest are going to come from Mercenaries and Levies. Typically the Mercenaries are the troops that you've hired for this particular battle, and the levies represent the support you can muster from local forces. Guidance is to take 2 Mercenaries and 3 Levies.

Mercenaries are generally more specialised. We'll take a Ballista (Long 2, Artillery 1, Rigid, Clumsy) and a pack of Beasts (Vicious 2). Let's say this part of our army is typically Elven. Maybe the beasts are those old Wood Elf beastmasters that would have hounds, boars, and bears running alongside them. 

Levies tend to be better all-rounders, but still have their focus. We'll take a unit of Riders (Short 1, Fast) to support our Stag Riders, and 2 units of Infantry (Fight 1, Long 1) to guard the Ballista. These are the local human troops. Less a grand alliance of men and elves and more a desperate rabble of locals that are forced to call on foreign help to survive, even if they can't truly afford it. 

Don't like it once it hits the table? Maybe next time your Captain employs some mercenary ogres or dabbles in the dark arts and brings those skeleton horsemen to the table.

You can see the living version of the game here. Let me know if you get it to the table, even if it's just with scraps of paper. 


  1. So it's like a fantasy world, but during the 30 years war, with the countryside ravaged by armies and local warlords fighting for land and old grudges. Would explain the large amount of mercenaries.

  2. I'm really interested by the possibilities in term of setting which could serve this game. Especially if it's go astray from the tolkienesque usual affinities between fantasy cultures!

    I also like a lot the idea of the commander and the retinues being the "mostly stable core" of the warband while the mercenaries and levies are mostly situational reinforcements. Though in your example with the Elf Captain I could see nice narratives about how the Elf Stag Riders after a rough battle lost many of their mounts and so became War Dancers, until they manage to capture some raptors and convert into Cold Knights ... I'm not really sure if it deserve some "between battles rules" (similar to GRIMLITE rules with events restricting your choices for the next battle) or if it just should stay as general narrative guidelines.

    By the way I played one game of the previous version (with the generic commanders abilities) about orcs trying to re-capture deserting goblins (who disagreed about being used as catapult ammunitions).
    I have another ongoing one about the same goblins (who recruited some vainquished orcs) ambushing a little imperial convoy escorting warmachines. Adding some asymetric objectives and reinforcements coming from random directions really add to the variety of battles, even with the same map layout.

    1. Glad you're enjoying it! I agree that because the game is so simple it really benefits a lot from those extra elements like reinforcements and interesting scenarios.

  3. Just checking, does "your unit" in Champion always refer to just the Commander?

    It's great to see threads of thought going through everything, I love posts like these

    1. "Your Unit" is the unit that the commander is currently attached to. I should make the wording on that whole section a bit more clear.

    2. Maybe 'Their Unit' is a sufficient change to make it clear that it is the unit the commander is currently attached to.

  4. I am enjoying your foray into miniture wargaming to a dangerous degree. Despite having nowhere near enough room to start painting minis, I feel very tempted to start playing because of Grimlite and now project 10 as well.

    1. It's a slippery slope to get on! Tabletop Simulator is a bit tricky to use at first, but now I use that for the majority of my playtesting.

  5. Most are fighting based thus savagery isn't totally missing. These games are not appropriate for kids. A few models are Advanced Wars I and II, Civilization V and Crusader Kings II. Apk Dyno

  6. You could perhaps use "The Black Company" for a setting.