Friday, October 14, 2011

Mordheim: Tweaking the Parry Rules

This post may come as a bit of a surprise. Why tweak the Parry rule? It works fine as it is. Well, not exactly.

The first problem with parry is that warriors with a higher Weapon Skill are more likely to have their attacks negated. When you have a higher Weapon Skill than your opponent, you hit on a 3 making it much easier for an opponent with parry to roll a 4, 5, or 6 and parry that attack. This leads to some pretty unrealistic situations and doesn't make a lot of sense. 

Secondly, the rules for parry are really fiddly and it is one of the more complicated rules in the game. Let's look at the original rule from the Mordheim Rulebook:
Bucklers are small shields which offer no increase to the armour saving throw, but allow you to parry attacks. Swords are also used to parry enemy attacks. 
When an opponent scores a hit, warriors equipped with bucklers or swords may try to parry the blow. 
Roll a D6. If the score is higher than the number your opponent rolled to hit, the buckler or sword has parried the strike. Note that it is therefore impossible to parry a blow which scored a 6 on the roll to hit. 
A buckler or sword may only parry one blow per hand-to-hand combat phase. A parried blow is ignored and has no effect. If your opponent scored several hits, you will have to try to beat the highest score (if the highest score is a 6, you automatically lose the chance of parrying that opponent’s attacks). 
If a model is fighting against several opponents, it may only parry the strike from the enemy who makes the first hit(s) (ie, the attacking model with the highest Initiative). In the case of equal Initiative characteristics roll a dice to decide who strikes first. 
If your model is armed with a buckler and a sword, you may re-roll any failed parries once. A model armed with two swords can still only roll once. A model may not parry attacks made with twice (or more) his own basic Strength – they are simply too powerful to be stopped.
Wow. Instead of a simple rule we get one that has conditions built upon conditions and a giant wall of text. One of my other key design goals with Newheim and really any type of design work I do uses the KISS principle: "Keep it simple, Stupid!"

So how do we fix it?
Items which have the parry special rule are good at deflecting an enemy’s attacks. A successful hit against a model with the parry ability can be negated on a roll of 6. The model making the parry attempt can freely choose the hit he is attempting to parry.

When a model is armed with two items which grant parry (such as a sword and buckler), the attempt succeeds on a 5+. A model can only make one parry attempt per close combat turn and may not parry attacks made with double or more its own Strength–they are too powerful to be stopped.

Going from a rule that was 240 words to 103 words is a serious win in my book. Plus, this keeps the game flowing at a quick pace, doesn't penalize warriors with a high Weapon Skill, allows the defender to choose to attempt to parry the more dangerous weapon (as it should be), and fits more inline with the way the mechanics of Mordheim work. One thing that always bugged me about parry is that it used an opposed roll mechanic when the rest of the game uses target numbers.

Try this out in your next game and let me know what you think. I wouldn't be surprised if there is some resistance to this change. My group liked the tension of trying to beat an opponent's attack roll and they weren't thrilled with this at first. They have warmed up to it after a few games though and it has been working really well.

Next time, I'll work on jumping and climbing. This will probably be the most drastic change I intend to make to Newheim and this has been giving me some trouble so we'll try and work through it together.

Till then,
–The Harrower


  1. It's definitely simple. Am just wondering if WS should be involved in the parry attempt somehow. You would expect a hero with WS6 to be able to parry a WS2 warriors attacks pretty easily. Maybe have a "parry chart"

    WS <=4, roll req 6+
    WS 5/6, roll req 5+
    WS 7+, roll req 4+

    or similar?

  2. I totally agree about this anomaly with the Parry rule. You have definitely cut it down to a very simple rule. I am glad that playtesting at this point is showing it to be OK.

    @Tristan... A table lookup is also an interesting idea and would definitely provide benefit to warriors with a higher WS. I probably prefer the table idea over a straight 6+ roll.

    @The Harrower... You'll also need to consider how this affects the "Master of Blades" skill from the Dwarf Treasure Hunter warband (this is the only official rule that I can think of that affects Parry). I have copied the text of the rule below for easy reference.

    **Master of Blades**
    This Dwarf's martial skills surpass those of a normal warrior; he has fought unscathed against hordes of Orcs and Goblins. When using a weapon that has a Parry special rule, this hero parries successfully if he beats or matches his opponents highest 'to hit' roll, not just if he beats the roll. In addition, if this warrior is using two weapons that have the Parry special rule, he is allowed to parry two attacks (if his two dice match or beat the two highest Attack dice against him) instead of the normal maximum of one. Note that if this Dwarf has two Dwarf axes (as detailed above) he can re-roll any failed parries.

  3. @Tristan Your suggestion does make sense and I've seen other people tinker with these types of changes before. The problem I see with this is the added complexity of introducing another chart to the game. Also, what you suggest doesn't take into account a model having a low WS trying to parry an attack from a model with a high WS. In essence, the chart only works one way and isn't a true measure of skill vs. skill.

    The only way I can see to effectively model this in the game is with an opposed roll mechanic and as I mentioned in my post, I don't think that fits in the game. Statistically, parrying on a 6 is close enough to how it worked in core Mordheim that it has the same feel and doesn't introduce additional mechanics.

    We can add a skill where a warrior with a higher WS gains a bonus to parry attempts. In this way the additional mechanic doesn't always come into play some and I'm okay with that. I hope what I'm trying to explain makes sense.

  4. @BenjaminNeale Ah, Master of Blades. I always thought that skill was a bit over the top. I'll make sure I address that. Looks like it is going to need a pretty significant overhaul which I don't want to do, but I don't see any other option.

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  6. I see your point about lower WS vs higher. The only thing I can think of involves using the difference in WS and seems really complicated. How about something simple like you can reroll if you have double their WS (or maybe more than double?)

  7. @Tristan That makes more sense, but it becomes an obscure rule that a lot of people will either forget or ignore. Having double an opponent's Weapon Skill doesn't happen very often.

    You could base it off of how the Weapon Skill chart currently works. If you have more than double an opponent's Weapon Skill, you can reroll parry attempts.

    We do run into the same problem though. If you are attacking somebody with that much more skill, you need a 5+ to hit. Do you really want the added penalty of also making an attack that goes through be more likely to be parried?

    I still think the best way to do this is with a skill, but I'm happy to keep discussing it.

  8. @Harrower, @Tristan
    I have been thinking a lot on how to fix the Parry rule. The fixed target seems to be fine but alas does not reflect anything like WS difference.
    I was thinking about using the melee to hit table.
    My first though: parry role = to hit roll -2. Sadly this improves parry vs all opponents with a lower WS to a 5+ roll, which seems over the top for a special ability on a 10gc weapon.

    The opposed roll mechanic is quite fun (although a little more complex) so I was more inclined to keep it and modify it by WS difference / 2 (round down) but introduce that the model parrying can choose which weapon to parry.

    I think the fact that WS difference is added to the equation the reverse effect of to hit rolls is mitigated.

    WS Diff -1 to 1: nothing changes form the core rule, except that you can choose which weapon you want to block.
    WS Diff -3 -2: As you are more easy to hit (3+) you receive a -1 to parry. So basically you can only parry 3's and 4's to hit.
    WS Diff 2 to 3: You will be more difficult to hit (4+) you receive a +1 to parry. This results that you can parry all hits: 4-6 values.

    Seeing these results I would not want a parry roll to be modified by more that 1. So the modifier is -1 if WS attacker >= your WS +2, modifier is +1 if WS attack <= your WS -2.

    We also rule that attacking with two weapons induces a -1 to hit, so those hits will be more difficult to parry.

    1. True it doesn't take WS into consideration, but that is something I find better to bring about with skills. Nothing wrong with what you presented and honestly we tried something similar, but the problem with parry presented like this though is it bogs down gameplay. You're constantly asking what someone WS skill is and comparing which really slows down the game. If your group is into that level of detail great, but it's not for most people.