BOMBARDED (by Tom Russell)

Mary Russell

One of the big shifts in the design philosophy behind the Table Battles expansions when compared to the base game is that I've made the morale cube splits more immediately fragile and asymmetric. The base game has a lot of 2-3 splits, and with bad play that lent itself to a lot of situations where I rout one, you rout one, I rout one, you rout one, passing the same cube back and forth until neither side has enough oomph to secure a decisive victory. The expansions are more likely to use a 1-3 or 1-4 split, or to offset a 2-3 split with Formations that are either more likely to rout or that cause the loss of two morale cubes when they do. This helps protect them from devolving into back-and-forth slugfests with new and inexperienced players.

The other thing one might notice about the expansions is that the Bombard action appears a lot less frequently - only one of the fifteen scenarios in the two published expansions use it. Partially this is because of the battles and the time period being simulated; the sort of massed cannon represented by that action weren't particularly common during the Wars of the Roses, and were unheard of in Alexander's day. That was actually part of the appeal of Age of Alexander for me. Yes, I wanted to highlight the system's versatility, but I also didn't want to deal with Bombard, and choosing that subject matter allowed me to kick the problem down the road a little.

So, what is that problem? As a reminder, the Bombard action results in the removal of a morale cube from the other side - but never its last morale cube. In the base game, where there are generally between five and eight morale cubes in the system, an action that removed one provided an advantage but not an overwhelming one. And in fact a judicious use of Bombard at the right times across the course of a scenario could help break that back-and-forth routing cycle. In fact, in a certain way, those scenarios were designed with the assumption that at some point, someone would Bombard; there were more morale cubes in play because the expectation was that some of them would be removed.

But with fewer cubes and a more severe split, that assumption and that expectation no longer exist. The "economy" of morale cubes is too tight to allow a cube to disappear into the ether. Bombard, once an action that conferred a slight advantage, in this environment becomes far too decisive. Instead of chiseling away at your opponent's position, it knocks it over with a wrecking ball. In short, the morale cube splits in the expansions fill the niche that the Bombard action was designed for; the two things are mutually exclusive.

Now, here's the thing. Bombard actions are the way that the offensive capabilities of artillery are handled by the system, while their ability to serve as defense or deterrent are covered by their Screen reaction. An arty unit that just Screens only tells half of the story. I was able to sidestep this problem with Wars of the Roses and Age of Alexander because, again, there wasn't much if any artillery to simulate in those battles. But as I turn my attention back to later eras where artillery is more prevalent - yes, guys, I know you want an ECW expansion - I'm now in the position where I need to decide if and how to make Bombards compatible with a 1-3 split environment, or if I need to change that environment, putting more morale cubes into play and depending on the players to remove them.

This is usually the part of the blog-thing where I tell you what answer I came up with, but hey, I'm still trying to figure that out.

1 comment

  • Maybe counterbalance bombard in a fragile cube environment by introducing a “leadership” action allowing restoration of a lost cube (or creation of a new one)?

    Paul O'Connor

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