Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Battle Report: March 25th

Whew, had some technical difficulties with blogger this week. Please pardon the tardiness. 

The warhorns sound again in Minaria. This week there were two games again but, due some technical issues I am just going to go ahead and focus on the latter one. Which is a continuation of last week's game between Jared(as the Dwarven Kingdom), team coder Were-puppy(as Hothior), and yours truly(as Zorn).

At the end of the last game, Zorn was able to ally with both, Pon and Muetar. Whereas Hothior only had Rombune to call upon and the Dwarves only Immer. The war continues, what follows are the highlights.




Hothior continued it's campaign against Mivior. Who was driven into the Dwarven alliance by the Hothorian surprise attack on Colist. 


Meanwhile in the east, the siege of Alzak continues to tie down the majority of the Goblin aligned forces. This time joined by reinforcements from Basimar in Muetar. 


In the north, the move counter-move of the Immerian royal army and Goblin reserve forces reaches a head in a series of clashes in the cursed forest. The first of which ended in a slight loss for Zorn. 


Before the next clash however, hastily recruited mercenaries join the Zorn defense forces. Both sides fight to a standstill with heavy losses. 


In the end, Immerian reinforcements combine to eliminate the last defenders. Unfortunately heavy losses to the Immer royal army in the fighting render them unable to siege the Goblin capital. 


 Back at Alzak, a deft diplomatic strike by the Dwarves convinces Pon to drop from the Zorn alliance. The resultant gap in the besieging forces allows for much needed supplies to refresh the defenders of the castle, breaking the siege.


Over in Hothior, the armies of Muetar have begun their siege of Tadafat on the River. The surprised Hothiorians are quick to recover however, planning a daring raid on the weaker half of the besieging forces. Unfortunately the attack fails but, this allows the relieving forces to make their way into the castle. 


Meanwhile the Dwarves attempt another relief of the beleaguered Alzak castle. Attacking the weaker Muetarian stack which, suffers some losses, despite the defensive advantage of the Barriorr Mountains. These losses however are not enough to break the siege....

...and Alzak falls on the next assault. 


In a major coup for Zorn, Tadafat falls that very same fortnight. It's garrison put to the sword and it's treasure's plundered and brought to the Goblin Sirdar's treasury.


The Minarian campaigning season is close to half over and, the current alliances stand as follows.  Zorn is ahead in allies but, has a lot of ground to cover. Hothior has both Pon and Rombune to call upon and is using them to good effect attacking the Goblin alliance at it's undefended allied hinterlands. The Dwarves have had several setbacks this game but, they have proven themselves prudent. Despite the winds of fortune blowing against them, they remain a potent force in Minaria.

Notes


This was a pretty awesome game with lots of back and forth between the various kingdoms. One thing that stands out the most is how diplomatic actions by one player affected the later actions/strategy of the other players. I didn't go into detail above but, there were two cases this session where a strategic deactivation of an allied monarch allowed another player to swoop in and reactivate the ally for themselves. Shucassam was allied to the Dwarves for a short time before Hothior deactivated them, Zorn then took advantage adding them to their alliance. Also when Pon was allied to Zorn and was deactivated, Hothior swooped in and gained them as an ally.

Not only is this feature of the game only semi-predictable, it also creates a dynamic but, balanced minigame within the larger wargame. As these diplomatic reversals tend to be more noticeable with more players(in fact I don't think this sort of thing would happen in a two player DR game) but also, they allow weaker alliances to capitalize on their rival's attempts to weaken the current leader in allies/strength.

Besides the above, it is always great to be able to play with the team. You really can't learn too much playing this sort of game solitaire, particularly with regards to strategy. For instance, I tend to have a big picture kind of focus when I play the game. Whereas, Jared tends to be more detail oriented. This has tripped me up several times when his meticulous counting of the pieces ended up giving him a combat advantage that would have been unnoticeable if you had just been looking at the counters on the map. Also Were-puppy actually uses some really counter-intuitive strategies with his attacks on neutral kingdoms. You would think giving an opponent a free ally would be an adverse move to make but, this allows you to get a "Pearl Harbor"-like attack in on vulnerable castles and, helps to control the shape of an opponent's alliance. In the current game despite my two successful sieges to his one, Were-puppy is actually the overall leader in Victory points. This is because, he was able to get the drop on a royal capital without protracted battle.

Knowing the full extent of strategic options available to the players of DIVINE RIGHT will definitely help when it comes time to work on the AI for the game.

Overall, this game is halfway done. Despite being the strongest alliance-wise, Zorn is only second in plunder. Hothior and the Dwarven Kingdom maintain potent forces, who are posed to make gains in the coming months. Ten turns remain and, it's not over yet. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Battle Report: March 18th

Welcome to the aftermath of another weekend VASSAL game of DIVINE RIGHT. We actually had two games this Saturday but, I am only going to be reporting on one. This is because I ended up goofing up and overwriting the save game for the other. Otherwise what follows are the highlights of a game between an anonymous teammate(as Hothior), Jared(as the Dwarves) and, yours truly(as the Zorn Goblins). 

As a side note: I ended up focusing more on strategy(wanna do a little better this week) than on notes this week so my chronology might be a little off. 

The session this week covered a little over two months of in game time or about 6 turns. In that time, anonymous' Hothior managed to gain the Kingdom of Rombune as an ally; Jared's Dwarve's managed to join forces with Immer's domain and; Zorn managed to add both Muetar and Pon to it's alliance. 
   


The combined Hothior-Rombune alliance decided to attack the capital of the neutral kingdom of Mivior. 


Their sheer numerical advantage made short work of the surprised garrison, plundering the castle. 


Meanwhile in the east, Immer and Zorn play a maneuver game in the Nithmere mountains. Zorn has the advantage due to the difficult terrain of the kingdom but, Immer has the numerical edge on the local Goblin defenders. 


To the south, the Dwarven royal army make a raid on the royal Goblin forces near the siege of Alzak. The goblins end up taking casualties but, the attempt on the life of Zorn's king fails. Fortune favors the Dwaven retreat in the face of counterattack from the allied forces and the Goblin army joins the siege of Alzak. 


Out west in Hothior, Muetarian regular's are slowly making their way to potential targets in the kingdom. As the Goblin's allies lack any form of navy, they are presently unable to beseige either of Hothior's ports meaning Tadafat is their only possible target. 


At the end of the session Minaria stands at the beginning of struggle. The respective Dwarven and Goblin alliances fight across the east and north. Hothior is fresh from it's campaign against Mivior and will likely be able to marshal it's forces against the Muetarian invaders. Things are just starting out, no telling how they will end up. 

Notes


Alright another week, another game of Divine Right. This is likely shaping up to be the best game so far, as we're really starting to get the rules down pat. One of the major reasons we play this every week is not just so we can learn how to play the game but also, so we can improve on our understanding of the rules with each game. Making mistakes and fixing them is an effective way to learn. Although even with this game I've certainly noticed a few mistakes on my part. 

These mistakes are instructive though, when we start following a rule we had previously forgotten it changes the strategies necessary for play. In doing so, we gain a better understanding of the design and the assumptions behind it. Rules like the one against stacking allied armies(which had been largely forgotten in previous games, which explains our "doomstacks"), which necessitated careful attention to how the now differentiated armies could move and attack. Not all of the kingdoms have the same or even similar military power. So this rule actually enhances the movement and positioning based mechanics that have been discussed before, and adds more depth to the strategic thought the game requires.

Otherwise though, things here are just getting started. Hopefully we'll be able to continue this one next week. In any case, I can say for sure, it's not over yet.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Battle Report: March 11th

This week's game was short but, climactic. It was a continuation of the previous week's game between Jfburrell and me.


Last Session in DR my side, the player-named "Trollish Khaganate," was smarting from a few one-sided battles in Northern Pon and the plunder of its capital to the west. Jared has the advantage in troop strength but, the "Dwarven Clearwater Revival" and the Khaganate are about even in number of allies. At the start of this session, the positions were the same as in the above image, what follows are the highlights. 


The Trollish royal Army makes it's way west to unite with the Rombuni fleet and perhaps take some targets of opportunity. However, the Revival had just finished consolidating their forces on the plains of Muetar. so any such plans had to be put on hold. As the newly formed "doom" stack was too strong for the Khaganate at present.


Meanwhile, the Dwarves had managed to activate Elfland which would allow them to actually move their army from Aws Noir without taking a diplomatic penalty on Elfland. The Khaganate also acquired Hothior as an ally around the same time. 


The retreating Troll forces managed to catch a Miviorine Expeditionary force midway through traveling through the Shucassamite royal road in the Wastes of Vah-Ka-Ka. The army was annihilated and Archon Nualt died in Battle, throwing Mivior into confusion and dropping them from the Dwarven alliance. Not to be outdone, the Revival is able to convince Rombune to leave the Khaganate's alliance soon after.


While defeating the smaller enemy force would have been advantageous in the long run, it allowed the Dwarven doom stack plenty of time to make it's way to Shucassam. Despite the obvious disparity in strength here, Jared only had a relatively slight edge(+1 combat modifier) to the combat dice rolls. So when the Troll's human allies failed the retreat roll, the decision was made to stand and fight. As opposed to suffering a slower death waiting out a siege in a Shucassamite fortress. 

This combat actually went on for about two of the game's twenty turns about four-fifths of an in game month. Both sides took losses and then the pivotal moment came. 


One of my leader's failed a hero fate roll and died in battle against the Dwarves. This was my in-game avatar, the Troll King Skoagg. 

:(



GAME! SET! MATCH!
Jared Wins.

The final score was 100 Victory Points for the "Dwarven Clearwater Revival" and, 35VPs for the "Trollish Khaganate."


Notes


For only being a few turns, some really pivotal moments happened in this game. This includes my defeat. What I find most interesting though, was how the aforementioned defeat was never a foregone conclusion. Leaving aside the possible foolishness of bringing your PC-monarch along(~33% of adverse effects with a hero fate roll), if the turn chits had just came out in a different order that game turn, the above never would have had a chance to happen. Heck I had actually just pulled ahead in victory points before the epic battle of the Vah-Ka-ka wastes. The unpredictability that I've mentioned makes for some very entertaining tension during the game.

Besides my favorite feature(even if it works against me, alas), I think Jared's thoughts on DR strategy from the last Battle report are important to note:

"I'm still working out a strategy. At the moment I would have most of what's I'm doing tactics. But I feel reasonable certain that your most important resource is positioning. It's interesting because if you move your army towards one position, you move it away from another, so all moves are value neutral minus context. I'm not the end this means the order in which you add allies is very important because the last thing you want to do is have to backtrack your armies to cover your flanks." -Jared Burrell, Comment March 6th 2017, "Battle Report: March 3rd."
The importance of movement and positioning in game is borne out by the fact that, most if not all bonuses to units in game are based around their movement through different terrain. Having realized this vital aspect of gameplay more completely than me gave Jared a decided advantage.

My foolishly aggressive fast and loose approach to this game may have cost me victory, this time. There's a lot to improve on for next weekend's game strategy wise, because after all: it's not over yet.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Battle Report: March 3rd

Another Saturday, another game of DIVINE RIGHT. The torch has been passed this week to me, HereAndNow. I'm an artist on the development team and, hope to do these write ups for the team game from here on out. This game features Jfburrell as the "Dwarven Clearwater Revival" alliance whose mineral subterranean origins have imbued them with the power of rock. Myself, as the "Trollish Khagante" alliance, who come to bait the unfortunate inhabitants of Minaria into giving them hegemony(and lulz).  

The game turned out kind of quirky(as you can probably tell from the above) as both both kingdoms are distributed in small enclaves across the continent. This also meant that diplomatic efforts were focused on the middle kingdoms of Minaria, so as to allow distributed forces to convalesce. As well as avoiding the diplomatic penalty associated with violating the sovereign territory of neutral kingdoms. 

The first few turns were largely calm, as the Dwarven ambassador-bards sung their siren-songs and the Trollish ambassadors trolled trollingly(with sufficient diplomatic gravitas, of course), to add members to their respective alliances. Troops slowly moved and gathered based on potential targets and plans. Before the major fighting began, the Trollish Khaganate counted both Shucassam and Pon as allies. The Dwarves had only the might of Muetar to call upon.  What follows are the highlights of this Minarian war. 




With the aid of the Shucassami forces, the Trollish royal army lays siege to Beolon on the downs in southern Muetar...



...and takes it! The shear numbers of the besieging force overwhelm the fort city. Seizing the initiative, the trolls split their forces. The Shucassami royal army riding to the relief of the Troll's Ponese allies at Crow's Nest, The Trollish King himself looking to stymie the advance of the Dwarve's newly acquired Hothorian allies, heads west to the river called "the Deep". 


Unfortunately, the attempted relief of the defenders of Crow's Nest fails. The brilliant Muetarian counterattack results in the rout and annihilation of the entire Shucassami royal army, with the monarch himself narrowly escaping a similar fate. 


Another set back for the trolls! the collection of hovels surrounded by rough palisades that formed the royal capital was plundered by the Dwarve's Hothorian allies. The fortified village was too remote from the main conentration of the Khaganate's forces to be relieved in time. 


After several months of siege, Crow's Nest is plundered, with the siege being joined by the Dwarven royal army and associated mercs. The Ponese royal army that had been occupying the Dwarves in the east came just a turn too late to relieve the castle and, now has to contend with a combined Dwarf-Muetarian force.


Which utterly annihilated it, with the king as the only survivor. At the end of the game session, the Trolls have Rombune, Shucassam and Pon as allies and, the Dwarves, Immer, Mivior and Muetar. Repeated trolling diplomatic insinuation of the Hothorian king's purported ganymedean inclinations by the Trolls, combined with an offer of diplomatic marriage to prove otherwise, have convinced the Hothorians to drop from the Dwarven alliance. The trolls are on the defensive and seem to be pulling back to the south with the massive Dwaven-Muetarian doom stack bearing down on them, fresh from the siege of Crow's Nest in Pon. Although the Rombunean fleet has just begun to advance from the sea to the navigable rivers of Muetar to harry the Dwarves. Ultimately, military strength in Minaria is fragile, as diplomacy can easily hamstring any advance as well as sword and steel. So the Dwarven Clearwater Revival shouldn't break out the victory strings for their axes just yet, the game could still go either way. 

Notes

I've gotta admit, I had never heard about DIVINE RIGHT before this project but, I'm definitely a fan now. The game itself takes some getting used to and, I've been spoiled by the ease offered by computers with regards to strategy gaming but, it has a quality I happen to love in strategy games. 

It's non-deterministic, it's never over 'til it's over, despite whatever setbacks may befall you. This is in stark contrast to strategy games like Master of Orion 2 where, all else being equal, whoever has the most planets will win. Simply because when that happens, their advantage in the game starts to snowball until it is overwhelming. Comebacks from behind are rare and, the game becomes deterministic and predictable at the point someone achieves a certain level of hegemony. Beyond a certain point, you know who is going to win, even if you still have a horse in the race. Whereas in DIVINE RIGHT you have a secondary level of action beyond the combat/sieges, diplomacy, which has the potential to completely disrupt the plans and power of your opponents. Ultimately, giving you strategic openings to exploit. 

Outside of gushing about gameplay, I found this paragraph in the basic DIVINE RIGHT rules very interesting:


"DIVINE RIGHT is more than just a game. It is a work of fantasy literature, in which you, the players, control the destinies of nations. You organize the alliances, seek out the magical treasures, and lead your armies and fleets to battles, sieges, plunder, and (if you have been wise) victory." -Glenn Rahman, DIVINE RIGHT basic rules.

Like I mentioned above, the game is unpredictable. This unpredictability lends itself to some pretty interesting uses, like roleplaying. It makes a lot of sense to rationalize and explain your defeats and victories. Almost like you're playing a pen and paper RPG. This ends up giving the game a literary quality where you end up playing out a story in the midst of gathering victory points against your enemies. With the twists and turns of the plot determined by callous die rolls. This naturally lends itself to an automated chronicling system for the computer game, to help the player keep track of and retell the story that arose from their gameplay. It's on the team "wishlist", to (hopefully)be added once we finish with basics. Gotta keep the priorities straight after all.

In future write-ups, I hope to mention more of the insights the rest of team has had about the game during play. You can be sure I'm not the only one who has been inspired. Jfburrell, for one, has made a few observations about gameplay that were remarkably insightful.

As far as the game goes, Jfburrell is a pretty intense strategist and is tricky to play against. He managed to get the best of me here, despite some strong early moves on my part. However, DIVINE RIGHT is unpredictable and, it's not over yet.