Thursday, September 29, 2011

Mordheim: Revisiting two weapon fighting

Want to start an incredibly long and heated debate? Go to any group of Mordheim players and bring up using two close combat weapons. Back in the day on the Specialist Games Forums this generated a ton of debate and pages upon pages of posts with varied solutions. Looks like this hasn't changed as there is a stickied thread on Tom's Boring Mordheim Forum that has 7 pages and 161 replies. The only topic I recall generating more conversation was Elves, and as the original designer on the Dark Elf Warband, that is definitely something I'll be revisiting in the future.

So what's the problem?
It's a few problems actually and one of the main issues with the game. Armor in Mordheim is too expensive and doesn't offer enough protection. This causes two weapons to become the de facto standard in Mordheim and choices which were better from a historical perspective, like sword and shield, are invalidated.

In order to fix this, we need to do a few different things and this is where this gets really tricky. First, we need to make armour better so its a more enticing choice. Second, we need to make using the classic sword and shield combination better. Third, we need to lessen the effectiveness of using two weapons. There are a lot of options out there and one thing that came up during the rules review was having both attacks at -1. Not a bad idea, but this swings the pendulum in the other direction and penalizes warriors when they get more attacks.

So how do we fix it?
Before we get into that, I just want to mention that my philosophy with doing Newheim isn't to rewrite the ruleset and spin this off into another game. I'd like to keep the changes as simple as possible and use fixes that are either recognizable or keep the game flowing smoothly. So while some of these rule changes won't be statistically perfect, they'll make for a better and more familiar game.

First, let's fix the sword and shield combination. A shield grants a +1 to a warrior's armour save vs. ranged attacks. When used in conjunction with a hand weapon (sword, hammer, mace, club, spear, or axe) the save improves to +2 against attacks in close combat. A buckler used in conjunction with a hand weapon grants a +1 save vs attacks in close combat. These saves stack with armour. Nothing new here.

Second, let's fix armour. In addition to the armour save bonus, a warrior with heavy armour can make a 5+ save against any injury suffered in the post battle sequence. Warriors with light armour can save against injury on a 6+. In addition, there are no longer any movement penalties for using armour with a shield (this will make more sense in a future post on jumping and climbing). Aside from the bit on no penalties to movement, nothing new here either.

Finally, to the task at hand. When fighting with two weapons, a warrior suffers a -1 penalty to hit with the off hand weapon. In addition, the off hand weapon will always strike last. A new skill will be created were a warrior can ignore these penalties.

Why did I go with this?
A -1 penalty to hit with both weapons is too harsh. You shouldn't be penalized for using both weapons as it's the additional attack that causes problems. Rolling at the end of the phase speeds up dice rolling as you are looking for the same number to hit and don't need to use different colored dice to differentiate a sword from an axe. Plus, it makes it less effective and more balanced with sword and shield.

I have been toying around with creating a new weapon property called Off Hand and letting those weapons strike in regular initiative order. This would primarily be for the dagger, but I'm not sure if that would make sword and dagger the preferred combo. Thoughts?

This definitely requires additional playtesting, but I am happy with the results so far. Speaking of playtesting, below are a few pics I took from the Mordheim set up we were using this past weekend to try out some of the new rules I've been working on. Click for a larger image. This scenery is probably over 10 years old and something I plan on replacing in the future, but it serves its purpose.

For the next Mordheim post, I'll talk about the problems associated with climbing and parry and describe how I intend to tackle those.

Till then,
–The Harrower

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Blood Angels and all things... Mordheim?

In the coming weeks, you are going to see a bit of a shift to what I'm covering with the blog. Previously, I've been exclusively doing Warhammer 40K, but I'll be expanding to start covering Mordheim. Don't worry, if you read the blog because of the Blood Angels and like the tutorials and 40K material, none of that is going away. I'm just going to be sprinkling in some Mordheim now and then. 

Why are you covering Mordheim? That game is like 100 years old.
Very true, but of all the Games Workshop games I've played, Mordheim is one of my favorites. It's easy to get into as you need a small model count and the integrated campaign system makes for some really memorable games.

I have a bit of history with Mordheim as well as I was one of the original designers on Lustria, Cities of Gold and I wrote the Dark Elves and a lot of other Warbands. I hear the collective groan, Dark Elves were so overpowered. Well, that is the type of stuff I aim to fix and really not that overpowered (unless you power game). Truth is I worked on Lustria with a great group of enthusiastic people, but they weren't game designers and most of the decisions that were made were done by consensus which is the wrong way to approach such things and resulted in decisions that I wasn't proud of. Here's a picture from Town Cryer of the first event for Lustria we ran back at Gamesday.

Harry Golden, Derek Whitman, Jeff Visgaitis, Steve Cornette and John Herrington
That's me in the middle. I was much skinnier back then with long hair and full of hopes and dreams. I met and talked to a lot of great guys in the Games Workshop Studio including Space McQuirk, Tuomas Pirinen, Jervis Johnson, and Steve Hambrook (RIP). I got a tour of the hallowed design studio, saw the amazing work of Jes Goodwin first hand, drank at Bugman's Bar, and was the first person outside of Games Workshop to see anything for The Lord of the Rings line and the Tau.

Thanks for the history lesson, but where is this going?
Right! Mordheim is a great game, but it is definitely showing it's age. Several editions of Warhammer Fantasy Battle have come and gone and a lot of the rules are outdated and the Warbands based on fiction that has been updated. My first goal is to be rebalance the ruleset and attempt to address some of the issues such as:
  • Armor is too expensive and not worth purchasing for the benefits you receive
  • Using two close combat weapons is better than using a sword and shield
  • The weapons themselves aren't balanced with each other (i.e. slings are better than short bows, blow pipes are useless)
  • Etc.
You do realize that's what Coreheim does, right?
I do and I have taken a look at Coreheim which I think is a well done rewrite of the rules. My problem with Coreheim though is that it is a rewrite and doesn't feel like Mordheim anymore. A lot of things were changed unnecessarily in my opinion and while well balanced, it invalidates a lot of existing fan material that is already out there. My goal with Newheim (catchy, huh?) is to address issues with the current ruleset without invalidating all of the existing material out there.

At the end of this journey, I'll be leaving the community with an updated ruleset for Mordheim that presents options instead of pigeon holing your choice to taking sword and hammer and scorning armor. Of course I'll update some of my favorite Warbands along the way including Lizardmen, Dark Elves, High Elves (NOT the Shadow Warriors, mine were never printed), Norse Raiders, and maybe I'll add some new surprises. I plan to set up a website at where you will be able to download PDFs of all the rules and step back into the dangerous streets of Mordheim once again and experience something that is both familiar and new.

Till next time,
–The Harrower

Monday, September 19, 2011

Doubles Tournament Results

Long time no post. I won't go into a long winded apology about why I haven't updated in almost two months as Ron Saikowski had a good post on what not to post about and I don't want to break the Lord of the Warp's 3rd rule.

Anyway, the doubles tournament is long since over. For my first tournament experience, it went well. I paired with a friend of mine from the DED 'ARD Club that plays Imperial Guard. He brought all the big guns and I brought forth the might of Sanguinius with my Blood Angels and a deadly assault force. 

We ended up winning our first two games and playing in the third and final game for the championship which we lost to a really tough Grey Knights and Orks list. They used a Big Mek with a Kustom Force Field and a Grey Knights Librarian with The Shrouding to blanket most of their army with a 3+ cover save. It was like Episode I all over again. Unfortunately (fortunately?) our opponents were the Gungans and while I kept thinking it would get better, in the end it just sucked.

Late in the game, I made a last ditch charge with my entire army and beheld my Death Company felling an impressive 23 Ork Boyz on the charge and running down the remaining few. We had them on the ropes and nervous, but in the end, the nut was too hard to crack and some Grey Knight reinforcements arrived via deep strike and sealed their victory. One highpoint was my Reclusiarch standing toe to toe with an Ork Dreadnaught for 2 rounds and refusing to go down. I actually made four 4+ invulnerable saves in one round to stay alive at the end of the game and made the Primarch proud. I also got a good chuckle out of their Vindicare Assassin who couldn't hit the side of the barn even with an 8 Ballistic Skill.

As for my models, I never got them finished. I got the required 3 colors done for the bonus points, but I don't think they even scored painting (not that it would have mattered anyway). I'm still working on my Assault Squads, but honestly I haven't painted much since. I did pick up a Paasche Talon Dual Action Airbrush that I have been messing with, but I really haven't had a lot of time to do hobby stuff. I worked on some scenery here and there, but that's about it. I did finish up a lot of the details on my Death Company Rhino/Razorback and I'm pretty happy with how that turned out.

There's going to be a bit of a shift in what I'm covering in the blog in the coming weeks as I start doing some game design work again and focusing a little more on... Mordheim!

I'll talk a bit more about my history with Mordheim and describe the changes to the blog in my next post.

Until then,

–The Harrower