Thoughts on War (Anthology)

Very, very excited about the chapter on War in the anthology (I’m assuming it’s considered a subsystem, but please move if this is better suited elsewhere).

A few of the things I love:

  • I’ve been fiddling with the idea of merging a wargame with BW commanders for a long time, and just never quite made it work. The War system was what I was trying to design.
  • I love the integration of how lifepaths dictate what sort of backgrounds you can recruit from, and how that recruiting works.
  • I love the fact that no character will have the necessary skills to do everything. A war captain my have Strategy, Tactics, Command, and Logistics, but there’s plenty of space for other PCs to scout, recruit, act as the quartermaster, etc.

I have a few questions, and thoughts for things I’d love to see (and might homebrew):

  1. Can you combine 2 smaller units to create a larger unit with a higher Power? (I’m assuming you can’t, as that would be a cheap way to increase Strength and reduce the number of units you need to issue orders to)

  2. Are there rules for Volleying? It’s listed as an order and there’s information about targeting, but I don’t see any rules on how to resolve that order.

  3. Is the rule about a volleying unit only contributing 1/2 of their Strength to a combat listed anywhere besides the example of locked combat (p. 77, italics)?

  4. Does a Strength 4 melee unit Locked with a Strength 4 ranged unit really deadlock? It seems unintuitive to me that the melee unit wouldn’t have an advantage if they came into contact with a unit of archers.

  5. I’d love to see an expansion of the rules for sieges- using war machines, scaling ladders, undermining, expanded logistics for outlasting the other side, entrenching, etc. Obviously this is beyond the current scope of the rules.

  6. Do you have any thoughts on any limits as to how many units can be recruited, or what’s required to maintain them? Is it just limited by the time required (and the GM’s judgement as to what’s reasonable)?

  1. You can’t combine units on the battlefield. Units need to be recruited and trained for a purpose. I could see you merging units in the downtime between campaigns though.

  2. Volleying just adds half Strength to an engagement.

  3. Page 62 lists the volley values for units.

  4. There aren’t melee or ranged unit types in our concept of war. There are units capable of volleys of missiles and units that aren’t. Units that are capable of missile fire can participate in hand-to-hand engagements. However, if you look at their stat lines, infantry is specced to Hold and Push and not Volley. Whereas archers are specced to Hold and Volley and not Push.

  5. Siege is complicated but I’ll keep thinking on how to represent it.

  6. It depends on the means and of the protagonists. In testing, we saw engagements with two units per side, five units per side and ten units per side. Burning Wheel probably can’t handle more than that as the resolution time would be too long.

Thanks, I appreciate it!

  1. I like that. I really didn’t want it to be a cheap way for a substandard war captain to be able to issue orders to everybody. I may look at the rules for changing a unit’s Doctrine and Tradition if combining units outside of battle becomes a thing.

  2. OK, just wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing the text on volleying. Ah, the Unit Order Effects table- I kept overlooking that, but it’s pretty key to the whole system (and pretty much answers my questions 2-4). So a Strength 2 unit of Archers with a Volley order against a Strength 2 unit of Medium Infantry would be testing 1D vs. the Infantry’s 2D and could potentially cause 1 Disposition loss (if they got a success and the MI failed both their skill test and armor roll). So more units Volleying is a big advantage, because a run-of-the-mill unit of archers won’t do much on their own (they are better off Volleying into a unit Locked with another unit if possible, which makes sense).

That chart really answers a lot of questions. War machines are pretty deadly!

  1. Yeah, I don’t think I’ve seen a wargame system that really handles sieges particularly well, and I don’t know if they’re something that can be represented well. For now, skill tests, Beliefs, Instincts, etc. will suffice to set the conditions for whatever battle or test ensues!

  2. Haha, meta concerns wasn’t what I was thinking of, but it makes sense. If you’re the commander of a very large army, I might make a test to combine units to keep the unit cap down, and leave it to the GM to decide what tests might be necessary to keep an army fed and non-deserting (especially since standing armies weren’t really a thing in the European Middle Ages).

Thanks again- this really cleared up a lot!

Just a note about point 2:
Unless I’ve botched something horribly (which is possible!), units roll their skill (Ambush/Battle/Siege/Skirmish) only when they are locked in combat and there is a disparity of Strength.

If two S1 units engage, we don’t roll. They can’t master one another without outside help.

If two S1 units engage and on the next exchange one commander orders S2 archers to volley into the combat, the total Strength would shift from S1 vs S1 to S2 vs S1. Now we move the Exploitation phase (p 80) and roll the unit skills versus one another. The unit with the higher Strength receives a success bonus to tied or successful rolls (but not to rolls they’ve lost).

They both have a Battle skill of B3. If they both roll two successes, the higher Strength unit wins by one (the difference in Strength). That one point is then subtracted from disposition for that side.

I’m learning lots today- I missed “unit skill” and presumed they were testing Strength in an unequal Lock, which didn’t make much sense. Thanks!

I imagine the war captain’s skill really comes into play with more units, as skilled captains are able to issue more orders.

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