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 On the slippery slope - or: Mordheim campaigning

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PostSubject: On the slippery slope - or: Mordheim campaigning   Sun 1 Apr 2012 - 13:40

I always had in mind that Mordheim campaigning with the official rules was very much of a slippery-slope-system:
Once you get a serious beating, you will not really recover. The superior improve, while the inferior loose continuously.

I wonder how this unpleasant situation can be improved.

My warband's story is not too tragic, but it shows the flaws of the campaign system in the official Mordheim rules:


Squig wrote:

The Orkestra del Sangre is so much fun to play (especially since El Gringo rolled "Lad's got talent" in the last game and El Stompo rolled Toughness 5 as an advance Wink )

El Gringo just died in the next game when he and 7 other members of my warband (including the Boss and a Big'Un) were totally shredded by two Possessed.

Yes, you read it correctly: By two Possessed, not by an entire Posseseed warband.

The Orkestra had a warband rating of 142 after 3 games, 12 members (including El Trollo, one Gobo, one Squig, the standard heroes and El Gringo as a lad with talent - the rest were orc warriors).
The Possessed rating was only slightly higher, 170-ish, but they had played a lot more games and had a whole lot more gold crowns, skills and equipment.

Unfortunately I got to know the stats of the Possessed just when close-combat started.

The first Possessed had 6(!) attacks with strength 6(!) and an additional scorpion tail. He had frenzy, but I got to know that when melee began.

The second Possessed had 3 or 4 attacks with strength 5 and a scorpion tail.

Even though El Stompo and Machete heroically dive-charged the Possessed and were supported by 2 of their loyal orcs, all of them failed to wound.

El Trollo got beaten up in an instant, when he suffered 3 wounds from one opponent and failed all 3 regeneration rolls at once...

In the end I lost 8 out of 12 members in 2 rounds. I couldn't voluntarily rout because the second round was my opponent's turn...

Had I known how bad-ass THOSE two Possessed were, I wouldn't have send my green gringos to their doom.

What struck me: I think that this is one of the major problems of Mordheim campaigning:
The "wisest" thing to do for me would have been to hide the heroes in the back and to sacrifice the goblin, the squig and one orc to the Possessed warband, so that I could voluntarily rout and roll on the exploration chart with 5 heroes and collect experience for surviving. The scenario had no wyrdstone in it and my warband was in desperate need for money anyways.

Shouting Waaaagh, wanting to play the scenario, hoping for good fun and running (tactically) into the fray gave my warband a serious beatup, permanent casualties and no money left to replace the casualties despite having found 3 wyrdstone shards due to a good dice roll.


Let's take a look at this from the game-designer's perspective:

Situation: Two warbands face each other. One is (statwise) clearly superior, one is inferior.

1. Playing the scenario (and the game) the way it is intended punsihes the player of the inferior warband with a serious setback, that will make the already inferior warband even more inferior, since the superior warband earned a lot of rewards.

2. Ignoring the scenario and denying the other player and yourself a lot of fun by just sacrificing your cheapest henchmen, until you can rout voluntarily, and hiding your heroes rewards you as the player of the inferior warband, because you have minimal casualties and maximal experience and income.

What kind of game is it, that rewards players for not actually playing the game?
You could simply add experience points to your roster and roll the exploration dice after agreeing that the player of the inferior warband has to roll on the injury table for some of his cheapest henchmen instead.

And: Whiping out 3 cheap henchmen without real resistence while the rest of their warband hides far away cannot be considered great fun and gameplay for both players, can it?
But if you want to loose the least, the game forces you to play like this, if you control the inferior warband.

This is so "slippery slope", especially when a newer warband joins an ongoing campaign with very experienced and well-equipped other warbands.

I hope, I could explain my point here.

Any ideas on how to establish a relatively fair campaign system?

My ideas are:
1. tweaking the injury tables
2. changing the calculation of the warband rating
3. giving special bonuses (like re-rolls) to underdog warbands
4. changing the calculation of exploration dice


Best regards,
Squig
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PostSubject: Re: On the slippery slope - or: Mordheim campaigning   Sun 1 Apr 2012 - 14:20

If there's one thing about dice based games, it's this:

The designers can try to balance as much as they like, but they can't do anything about a series of bad rolls.

While Mordheim isn't perfect, it does try to makes things balanced by allowing voluntary routs in the rules. Therefore, this is a valid tactic to be used if you feel like it. If you don't take advantage of this, then you can expect the worst.

We played a campaign with Night Goblins against Dark Elves, and the DE's got slaughtered by being mobbed and Trolled in every game, then underdog xp kicked in, and they trounced the Gobbos every game.
So the game does try, but even so, sometimes warbands have to be abandoned and re-rolled if they have a run of unlucky dice rolls.
It sounds like your tactics worked well enough but the dice gods spat on you, and there's not much you can do about that.
The only thing you can do is vary your warband composition so that you are equipped to deal with as much as possible, maybe some two handers etc for trying to deal with high toughness multi wound models.







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PostSubject: Re: On the slippery slope - or: Mordheim campaigning   Sun 1 Apr 2012 - 15:48

The last campaign I played was about 30-40 games deep and saw everyone in the campaign hit rock bottom and stand on top laughing. I noticed that some warbands start slow, and then pick up crazy momentum (Possessed), while others start strong and level out (witch hunters, undead). And we got one guy, who I swear to god, has tragically upset the dice gods for life and will never ever even have 'okay' luck (poor beastmen... minotaur? dead first game, centigor? stupid every time in charge range, shaman? only the injure yourself spell for 5 months, heroes? nah, those are future zombie heroes)

Some warbands are quite unfair at the beginning in terms of fun. Pit fighters, Possessed, and a couple others just become a nightmare of decisions to start a warband, as you end up with 5-6 models that are only half of what you wanted, and force you to save loads of money game after game to feel like you really have a starting warband. Human warbands, on the other hand, usually let you fill out your heroes, equip them all with at least basic equipment, and let you buy 1-3 cool things on top of that. Rieklanders can easily start with a 4 man crossbow league of death. Witch hunters can easily have 4 crossbow heroes of death, dogs of routing, and flagellants of 1/4 chances of becoming heroes. Ostanders can afford an Ogre without sacrificing equipment or heores. But pit-fighter with an Ogre give you a warband full of the lowest style of play heroes and dread that any one of them gets taken out of action.

The game design balance is off for this. Watching witch hunters hide behind dogs and pump thier warband full of goodies isn't fun while you are making the choice of 'should I buy a 5th member to replace my dead one or save up for some heavy armour so I have a chance of surviving a crossbow to the face', but at the start of the campaign, you just don't have options.

One fix I did was to have 1000gc minicampaigns of 3-5 games. With 1000gc, you get enough cash in every warband to front a real starting force. Your only change to postgame is to allow EVERY eperience point an increase. This allows you to get a decent taste for your warband, but not get stuck in a long campaign of sucking, and the bonus 500gc at the start means that unless you don't know what you are doing, you should have some options to deal with most problems.
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PostSubject: Re: On the slippery slope - or: Mordheim campaigning   Sun 1 Apr 2012 - 16:48

I've been playing pretty non-stop once a week for the last 10 yrs and started playing when the game was released, so I think I've seen a lot of different situations arise. I admit people still come up with surprises, but that's what makes it interesting.

I have found that having a dominant warband is less of a problem with more players. Unless the group always plays multi-player games, only one or two players have to deal with the juggernaught of an evening. So we take turns.

I personally have devestated warbands in mid-campaign that came back to whip me in the final games and I have enjoyed countless campaigns where the dominance shifted from week to week or month to month. And I have been the guy who started poorly and finished worse.

I've gotten discouraged a few times, but I really like the campaign system, the hobby and writing stories about the heroic and the absurd.

Rules--I'm not sure which rules you are playing with but the Living Rulebook from 05 changed voluntary rout to 25% of your warband strength instead of the old equivalent of 2 models.

Now do we play straight up vanilla Mordheim? I'm not sure I ever have. When we started one guy read the rulebook and interpreted for the rest of us. As an example of our play when I started: if you could parry, you rolled a number of dice equal to the number of hits the attacker had made. And if you had a buckler you re-rolled any that failed. We thought sword and bucklers ruled for a year or so.

When I took over running campaigns for the local store I re-read the rule book, but I really liked the campaigns of Lustria: Cities of Gold and Khemri: Land of the Dead, so we started playing with campaign rules and Warhammer rules and all sorts of stuff.

So propose fixes, talk things out and have fun.
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PostSubject: Re: On the slippery slope - or: Mordheim campaigning   Sun 1 Apr 2012 - 17:11

It's cases like this (read as "Extreme bad luck and or crazy imbalance") that begin to highlight the benefits of a campaign organiser or Games Master of sorts.

I am normally allocated as the GM in our gaming group, and the way I see it, we are not playing some super serious tournament game here. The only real way you can "fail" at this game is if you are not having fun. So I make it my job to ensure as many folk are having as much fun as possible.

For example when I have found ourselves in similar situations (where one or two characters in the campaign leagues ahead of anything else) so I open up "Bountys" on specific characters. Each warband can pitch some gold into the pot and then depending on how much is in it certain things happen to that character, some examples I've used

The hero cannot help in the exploration phase.
The leaders of all warbands that have added money to the bounty gain +1 to hit the target of the bounty
If the target is taken OOA they do not roll on the injury chart and are instead automatically "Captured"
etc etc

Similar ideas can be applied to whole warbands and weaker/really struggling warbands can be buffed in a similar fashion.

Another thing I recommend is running your campaign in what I call "Seasons" Each season can last as long as you want (depending on how long you want the whole campaign to last). I tend to have between 4-6seasons in any campaign. The seasons act as milestones in the campaign and are usually bookended with multiplayer/big story driven games.

But one of the key features of the seasons is that if anybody is finding their warband just not working out at all, they can start a new warband at the beginning of a new season but gain a gold boost depending on what season they start in (that can be used to purchase xp and level up rolls but not specific skils).

Ofc this needs to be closely monitored and balanced (hence the need for a GM of sorts) but I have found that it really helps when people are having a hard time to give them a chance to start again on an even playing field. This normally works well for everybody, since the people who are winning big style get some more challenges and potentially new warbands to fight.

TLDR?: Mordheim is a great game, but nothing kills a game faster than people not having fun, my suggestion is to entrust somebody with making this fun possible! ^^
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PostSubject: Re: On the slippery slope - or: Mordheim campaigning   Sun 1 Apr 2012 - 23:10

I think you have a valid point, which is why the writers of Mordheim put this quote in the rulebook:

"One thing we discovered during playtesting Mordheim was that after a while very experienced warbands became virtually unbeatable when fighting against novice warbands."

p121 Rulebook

I don't know that your situation applies exactly, because you were more evenly matched, but as said above, a few bad dice rolls and suddenly you are a significant underdog.
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PostSubject: Re: On the slippery slope - or: Mordheim campaigning   Mon 2 Apr 2012 - 0:07

This is a problem that has been around since the days of Necromunda, and it has to do with that GW never added a balancing system except for the cop-out of "underdogs".

I am trying to remedy this in my Dark Age Mordheim rules found in the Pigs and gold forum thread.

http://boringmordheimforum.forumieren.com/t6365-gold-and-pigs

My goal is to change the calculation of the warband rating to truthfully represent the worth of the warband in gold.

And then forcing the player with higher warband rating to cut out parts of his warband to fit the warband rating of the underdog.

The Underdog system of the basic mordheim/necromunda game might balance things out in the long run of a campaign (although i have never experienced it as such).

It does make alot of battles pretty boring with one side being immensely powerful and the other side just hoping to rout with as few casualties as possible.
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PostSubject: Re: On the slippery slope - or: Mordheim campaigning   Mon 2 Apr 2012 - 2:54

Thank you all for the fruitful discussion and your good suggestions. Smile

Yep, I think FUN is the dominant factor a game should rely on. Very Happy
If a game system coerces you to play in a way that doesn't grant fun for the players, there is something wrong.
I don't have a problem taking a serious beating with my warband but I want to have choices and I want the game to be fun and I want to be sure, that the players' choices (and dice-rolls) affect the outcome of the game. The game becomes rather boring, when you and the other players know beforehand, that YOU will AGAIN be the one to get stomped, no matter what you do and how tactical you play.
The game becomes especially boring, when the player of the inferior warband succumbs to the "system" and changes his playing style to just prevent heavy losses by sacrificing the cheapest henchmen and voluntarily routing until his warband can keep up with the superior warbands... which would be a whole lot of boring and unfunny games in my case.

The GM idea is not bad, but the players' community has to have an eye on the GM as well, so that benefits and setbacks won't become purely arbitrary. But that won't be a problem in our group.

I took a look at "Gold and Pigs" and I liked your approach to the rules in many ways, Botjer. Wink


Stronzo wrote:
I my group we agreed that two warbands can only fight if they have the same number of battles under their belt (+1/-1'ish) That helps alot, though some warband will still get ahead, it balances it out a lot. Smile

Nice idea. Thank you. I'll keep that in mind.

I think it solves a lot of issues, especially equipment-wise and experience-wise.
It encourages players not to just play one high-ranking warband, but maybe to start a new warband when new players join, which is cool. Very Happy


In the campaign that I joined the situation is as follows:

- My warband always has no money left, no wyrdstone shards left and just basic equipment (i.e. 1 club per fighter, 3 missile weapons total (1 short bow, 2 bows), rope & hook + 1 or 2 weapons for heroes, no armor, no shields, nothing else).
- the other warbands have about 4 to 10 wyrdstone shards left, money left, are all pretty well equipped (heavy armor, a lucky charm, nice gimmicks and a huge arsenal of weapons (within the limitations of carrying, but not limited financially) on each hero, henchmen with very expensive equipment etc.)
- My warband has played 4 games now, got beaten up seriously in 3 games against the superior warbands and won its first game, when it faced a new starting Ostlander warband.
- The other warbands have played a looot more games. Heroes with over 6 or more different skills are not a rare sight - you can estimate that they have had some stat increases as well.
- All the other warbands have 6 heroes - there is maybe one, that only has 5 heroes.
- Most henchmen of the other warbands are mostly at full or very high experience I guess... because there were often situations, when I was very happy, that my orcs inflicted a wound on someone and then the other player said: "Well, 1 wound left. He has 2 wounds." Very Happy

---> Now I understand, what I read in an Orcs & Goblins tactica for Mordheim: Buy crossbows for all your heroes and orcs, let them hold a fortified position with the troll and send squigs and goblins after the enemy. This may be a very effective and sound tactic, but it sounds awful to me gameplay-wise and fun-wise. Evil or Very Mad

Well, we'll see how it develops. Keep smiling. Very Happy
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PostSubject: Re: On the slippery slope - or: Mordheim campaigning   Mon 2 Apr 2012 - 5:37

TheEnemyWithin and Stronzo both make excellent suggestions.

In my experience, my gaming group always played narrative campaigns so tending to avoid players restarting with new warbands - the only novice bands that joined were new players, as such excluding these new guys everyone had played the same number of games, which helped with the overall equality.

GM is a good idea, my friend Andy and I, though playing in our campaign tended to act as de facto GMs to oversee game balance. We did various things, for instance we include a relatively abitrary 'vice' system for the uber powerful warband which included things like overconfidence which boiled down to players deploying ratings equal warbands against the novices evening the balance, as well as organising alliances amongst the weaker players to raid the bigger bands hold.

We had a Skaven player who stumbled early on in a campaign and never really recovered. Narrative being key to our campaigns we sat down and decided his band would realise their weakness and adopt a more 'guerilla' style so we organised several scenarios where his warband set up ambushes and launched night attacks against other players, giving him a tactical advantage.

In one campaign I myself ran a runaway success Orc band that mid campaign had become a small army of 20 tough, well armed tanks. However it got dull as I blitzed all opponents though sheer brute force. We decided my Boss would become cocky and decide to march on the humie stronghold of Sigmarhaven to prove his might. This was played out on semi open terrain (representing the outskirts of the city), and my opponent's Reiklanders were supplemented by 'militia' effectively just vanilla Warriors to top up for his warband for that one game so we had equal ratings, we also chucked in barricades and an ancient cannon loaded with grapeshot that would fire once and possibly blow up. It didn't. My warband was brutally cut down as they stormed across no man's land. Poor post-battle rolls saw two heroes, my troll and a handful of goblins all permanently dead. I was briefly devastated but from a GM point of view it was a very fun (if brutal) way to cut the alpha warband down to size.
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PostSubject: Re: On the slippery slope - or: Mordheim campaigning   Mon 2 Apr 2012 - 5:58

This is also one of the reasons we have had discussions here about campaign victory conditions that don't rely on warband rating, or battle victories etc.
Essentially, you want to design victory conditions in the campaign that are random, have nothing to do with who wins and who loses, and any warband of any strength can achieve.
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PostSubject: Re: On the slippery slope - or: Mordheim campaigning   Mon 2 Apr 2012 - 6:01

qboid wrote:
This is also one of the reasons we have had discussions here about campaign victory conditions that don't rely on warband rating, or battle victories etc.
Essentially, you want to design victory conditions in the campaign that are random, have nothing to do with who wins and who loses, and any warband of any strength can achieve.

Yes - forgot to say that, clear, specific campaign objectives give weaker warbands something to aim for rather than losing interest due to poor ratings, plus it stops the campaign just bleeding out
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PostSubject: Re: On the slippery slope - or: Mordheim campaigning   Mon 2 Apr 2012 - 6:02

Hrmm I hope the crappiness of my Peasant rules will compensate for them only counting half towards routing... dammit i need to start playtesting it
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PostSubject: Re: On the slippery slope - or: Mordheim campaigning   Mon 2 Apr 2012 - 6:04

Botjer wrote:
Hrmm I hope the crappiness of my Peasant rules will compensate for them only counting half towards routing... dammit i need to start playtesting it

Works for Goblins...
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PostSubject: Re: On the slippery slope - or: Mordheim campaigning   Mon 2 Apr 2012 - 7:52

The narrative campaign approach sounds reasonable and fun.

Also thinking about victory conditions that are achievable even for underdogs is a good thing.

Thanks for your suggestions. Wink
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PostSubject: Re: On the slippery slope - or: Mordheim campaigning   Thu 5 Apr 2012 - 14:43

@Jape

"Poor post-battle rolls saw two heroes, my troll and a handful of goblins all permanently dead."

You're troll shouldn't have died unless you have house ruled something.
It says in both the Orc and Goblins rules that "Trolls never roll for injury after a battle".
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PostSubject: Re: On the slippery slope - or: Mordheim campaigning   Fri 6 Apr 2012 - 5:55

I just remembered another mechanic I used a few years ago that might help.

We had a mechanic where the GM could allocate "Fate Points" to players for doing certain awesome things in a campaign or given to a warband was struggling.

They essentially worked like the fate points in LoTR, in that each point allowed you to re-roll one dice, either inside a game or during the injury/exploration/level up etc phases. Once you used the point it was gone, but we were continually adding points here and there.

It gave people a bit more control over some of the random aspects of the game that can really cripple a warband (a 200gc Minotaur dying in the first game could be re-rolled, or a random youngblood managing to OOA a far superior warrior due to a re-rolled injury etc are all possible).

One thing I did stipulate though was that to use a fate point the players had to pray/invoke/shout to their chosen Patron God before using it. It made it feel like a bigger deal than a simple re-roll and it was always hilarious to see the sigmar worshippers kneeling in prayer before re-rolling or hearing the orc players give out a great big "WAAAAAARGH!" xD

Might help in your situation as you could give any struggling warbands additional fate points?
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PostSubject: Re: On the slippery slope - or: Mordheim campaigning   Fri 6 Apr 2012 - 11:17

One other thing the designers did to try to help out the underdog, is to give them a chance of choosing the scenario. When this happens you should ask for your opponent's warband roster, study it, and pick something that restricts their available models or gives you some other advantage. Necromunda had more loop-sided scenarios to choose from though, i can't think of any off the top of my head for Mordheim...

Fate points are a great idea, but how do you keep the highest rating from getting the most since their heroes are more... er, heroic?

My group plays a lot of multi-player games so whoever is perceived as the most powerful is usually ganged up on, which can go one of two ways:
1) they get their arse handed to them
2) they take on one opponents henchmen, gain easy experience until that player routes, then repeat on the remaining player. Either way we have a good time though!

When a warband gets too powerful we tend to just start a new campaign b/c chances are we've been playing for 6 months or so and it's time a for a refresh anyway.

My group made the mistake of starting a three player campaign with no determined goal... I am possessed, figgy is orcs and goblins, and a third player who is not on these forums battle monks. I had an underdog the first game and rolled 4 skill advances for my heroes... I made poor choices which have yet to help me out or have any effect after 2 more games... I sent 2 heroes to the shadowlord with no reward, I have 6 heroes and can't afford henchmen. Yes i am starting to loose hope in this warband! I am now at that razors edge where i can start over without too much difficulty or stick with it, still undecided...

We will have a 4th player join a couple of months with a dwarf guildsmen warband (from karak azgal). In order to get him up to our level i plan on running his warband through a solo dungeon crawl with me as GM, possibly using the old AHQ quest, A Trollslayers Oath, obviously altered to fit mordheim rules a little. Should be fun.
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PostSubject: Re: On the slippery slope - or: Mordheim campaigning   Sat 7 Apr 2012 - 4:19

I have found that since vanilla Mordheim itself is more weighted to the survivors that it is to the winners then something like 'Glory Points' for winning and losing them for losing is a simple, but very effective managing warband progress.

With something like gaining one for a win, losing one for a loss, and losing two for voluntarily fleeing you are encouraging warbands to stay longer than they should and fleeing to preserve your strength at every available opportunity may very well mean you finish the campaign with the highest rating and possibly even the most wins, but almost certainly not the most glory.

On top of that, if you allow multi-player games then alliances can bring back break-away leaders in fairly short order. If they are good enough that they can retain the lead with everyone ganging up on them *and* their enemies picking the scenario (which the enemies should be doing if they are clever/prepared enough) then frankly they probably *deserve* to win the campaign.
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