Domains at War Intro Battle: Or, The Stand of the Light Brigade

The sun rises over the field as the opposing armies array themselves in their battle lines. Gleaming metal shines on the Auran side, while dull grey halberds and dirty furs are shown among the orcs. Palatine Komnaurius’ command tent opens a flap as he steps out and surveys the forces arrayed against him. On the other side, Warchief Khazay stomps back and forth as he waits for his troops to wake up, occasionally running to cuff a slow one on the side of the head.

With the battle lines drawn up, the force arrayed against the Aurans seems almost overwhelming. 240 cavalrymen (half cataphracts, half light cavalry), 240 bowmen, and 720 heavy infantry stand to defend civilization against 1200 orcish heavy infantry, 480 orcish crossbowmen, and 120 ogres. However, as will be seen most visibly later, the Aurans are less disadvantaged than it would seem; their discipline, organization, and officers provide them with not only the ability to fight on even ground, but even an advantage.

The horns are blown, and the advance sounded. The Auran heavy infantry, led by Legate Damanos, stomp their way foward with a hustle. Palatine Komnaurius’ cavalry swing around the right side in preparation to outflank the orcs when they advance. However, one unit of light cavalry moves too close! Warchief Khazay notes their overeagerness and orders a unit of crossbowmen to fire upon them! The cavalry see the orcs firing upon them and vacate their position, withdrawing to avoid damage, although they become disordered in the process.

Groups of orcs and ogres advance. Chief Awitar and Chief Zraqua’s heavy infantry hustle foward, while Warchief Khazay brings up both units of ogres in addition to a unit of heavy infantry and his crossbowmen. The main forces remain out of range of each other.

The next round begins with Palatine Komnarius’ cataphracts volleying arrows onto the orcs. His own unit of cataphracts strikes a unit of heavy infantry, inflicting a hit. The other cataphract unit finds out that they were under-supplied for this battle; not only do they fail to deal any damage, but their ammunition is depleted. The light cavalry, ably commanded by Tribunes Narmir and Ionic, continue to carry out their previous orders and move around to be in flanking position.

Legate Damanos orders Tribune Ellus’ bowmen foward as they send arrows at the injured orcish unit of heavy infantry (the enemy closest to them). More orcs fall as they suffer another hit. He also moves his heavy infantry foward, approaching closer to the orcish battle lines.

Warchief Khazar orders his injured infantry unit to charge the bowmen, who foolishly came too close! Orcs cleave through bowmen like water, inflicting three hits, and immediately triggering a shock roll. The bowmen do not hold their ground; instead, they flee at top speed towards the edge of the battlefield. They do not, however, reach it, and so they will be able to recover later if necessary.

Chief Awitar leads the charge with his heavy infantry, colliding with a group of the Auran heavy infantry (led by Legate Damanos) and one of the cataphracts. They make attacks, but only Chief Awitar’s unit is able to deal any damage, inflicting 2 hits to them. The cataphracts reel, but a shock roll is not yet necessary.

Chief Zraqua and his infantry charge the other group of heavy infantry, led by Legate Ulrand! However, the three units of infantry are forced to spread out their attacks against Ulrand’s three infantry, and only one manages to score even a single hit as the Aurans stand strong.

Legate Damanos leads off the next round of battle by ordering his bowmen to fire at another group of orcs in the back, volleying overhead the friendly units. However, they fail to deal any damage. His infantry fight back; one of them, who was further back and not yet engaged in combat, charges! The charger manages to hit twice, dealing 3 points of damage to the injured orcish infantry unit! A shock roll is forced, and the remaining orcs throw down their weapons as they rout. Now that his other units are no longer actively fighting, but can see other orcs (and ogres) merely a stone’s throw away, they prepare a hedge of spear-points to impale any foe who comes near.

Palatine Komnarius sees that Legate Damanos has those orcs contained, and leaving the battle there in his capable hands, leads his cataphracts to charge the orcish crossbowmen in the back line. They hit 4 times, dealing 5 damage, and forcing a shock roll from the crossbowmen, who join their infantry friends in throwing down their weapons and routing off the battlefield. His other unit of cataphracts, stuck in melee with orcish infantry, attack them, but fail to inflict any harm. Tribunes Narmir and Ionnic see their opportunity, wheel around, and attack the orcish infantry (engaged with their heavy infantry) from behind; however, they fail to inflict any damage.

Warchief Khazar leads his forces into the hedge of spearpoints! But thanks to their tough skin and bits and pieces of armor, none of the Auran infantry can do any damage. The ogres lay about with their greataxes, but surprisingly, manage only a single hit; no orcs manage to deal any damage to the Aurans.

Another unit of crossbowmen fires at the Palatine’s cataphracts, taking a few down; one hit is inflicted. Orcish infantry attack the other cataphracts, but fail to inflict any harm. Finally, Chief Zraqua’s orcs continue in their brawl with Legate Ulrand’s infantry, scoring another hit on the injured infantry.

Legate Damanos seizes the initiative and begins the brawl next round with an assault on Warchief Khazar’s forces. One hit is scored on the orcish unit; the ogres are unhurt.

Tribunes Narmir and Ionnic assault the orcs from behind once again; three hits are scored on Chief Awitar’s orcs, who decide that they are no longer ok with being surrounded and flee. However, they flee directly into the teeth of Palatine Komnarius and his unit of cataphracts, who assault them again and send them into even further flight, routing them off the map! The orcs are now down to only two officers, a loss which will devastate their ability to utilize their already unwieldy numbers.

The other unit of cataphracts moves up and attacks a unit of orcish infantry; inflicting two hits, which is insufficient to shake the orcish morale.

Warchief Khazar’s forces roar and leap to the attack, with two units of ogres and a unit of orcs all assaulting the Auran infantry that they are engaged with. However, the Aurans are clearly being watched over by their gods; two different units of heavy infantry suffer a single hit each.

Legate Ulrand’s infantry continue in their brawl with Chief Zraqua’s forces. Each of them inflicts a hit upon the unit they are facing (the second hit total on one of the orcish units), which is insufficient to shake them.

Chief Zraqua’s forces counterattack the heavy infantry of Legate Ulrand, scoring two hits on one unit, but finding their other attacks deflected by the shields and armor.

Legate Damanos seizes the initiative once again, but this assault will prove to be vastly more effective than his last one. His three units of heavy infantry assault the forces of Warchief Khazar; first, landing a hit on the Warchief’s unit of ogres. The second unit lands a pair of hit on a unit of orcs, forcing a shock roll; the orcs, demoralized by the loss of one of their chiefs, decide this is no longer worth fighting, throw down their weapons, and rout, chased off the battlefield by the curses of Warchief Khazar. The third unit, now facing only a single unit, is able to attack the Warchief’s ogres again, and lands two hits! While the Warchief’s unit stands strong, they are being worn down by the Aurans.

Legate Ulrand continues to brawl, inflicting hits here and there, but not yet sufficient to force a shock roll. However, Chief Zraqua’s orcs are now all hovering on the thresholds; another hit or two on any one of them, and a shock roll will be forced.

Warchief Khazar’s assault proves that the Aurans are truly favored by the gods to win this battle. First, his ogres assault the heavy infantry, inflicting a pair of hits and forcing a shock roll. However, the infantry stands fast (with a natural roll of 12). Enraged, the other unit of ogres also tears into the wounded infantry (who is on the side of the formation, and thus, the only unit that the outer ogres can reach), inflcting another pair of hits and leaving the unit with a single UHP. This, of course, forces a second shock roll. But battle-brothers do not desert and do not leave their lines; the Aurans hold with a second natural 12. Finally, his orcish unit attacks a (different) unit of heavy infantry, but fails to inflict any damage.

Palatine Komnarius, having already slain one orcish chief today, decides that he has not yet gathered sufficient glory as he leads his cataphracts to assault Warchief Khazar’s ogres from behind. However, they fail to inflict any damage. His other unit of cataphracts engages an orcish unit of crossbowmen in the back lines, to ensure that they do not attempt to alter the course of the battle, inflicting a single hit.

Chief Zraqua’s orcs once again assault the infantry of Legate Ulrand. One unit of heavy infantry takes a pair of hits; their shock roll is insufficient to stand fast, and they recoil. Another unit takes three hits, leaving them also with a single UHP; but inspired by their brothers on the other side of the battle lines, they also stand fast.

Palatine Komnarius leads off the next round with a savage assault by his cataphracts, and also the cavalry of Tribunes Ionnic and Narmir, on the ogres of Warchief Khazar, inflicting a total of three hits. The ogres roar but are not yet injured enough to break.

Legate Ulrand’s brawl continues! In retaliation for forcing shock rolls on his units last round, he manages to score a hit on each of two different orcish units, forcing shock rolls on them. One of them routs, but the other merely recoils.

At this point, the orcish army is one unit away from its break point. Their morale wavers as they begin to throw sidelong glances at each other, wondering who will be the first to break and run. Warchief Khazar, however, has other plans, as he once again assaults the injured heroes of Damanos’ infantry. Inflicting the final hit on them; they fought to the last man, but in the end, they simply ran out of men and were no longer able to keep fighting. Their loss allows his ogres and orcs to flank another unit of heavy infantry; inflicting two hits on them and forcing a shock roll, they rout! In one devastating assault, Legate Damanos lost two thirds of his heavy infantry, and it seems that Khazar might be turning this battle around.

Damanos, attempting to gain something from his losses, brings up his archers to assault an orcish unit of infantry who is no longer engaged. However, the orcs raise their shields and block the rain of arrows. His final unit of infantry, enraged at the loss of their brothers, attack Warchief Khazar’s ogres and inflict a hit.

Chief Zraqua, off on the side, manages to inflict a hit on a unit of heavy infantry, but unfortunately for him, it was a unit with sufficient UHP left that this did not force a shock roll.

Legate Damanos, enraged at the loss of his men, leads the assault on Warchief Khazar at the beginning of the next round. A pair of hits are inflicted, which is sufficient to trigger a shock roll! Warchief Khazar’s unit attempts to flee, despite him screaming rage at them. However, they are flanked by not only Palatine Komnarius, but also Tribunes Ionnic and Narmir; their path is blocked, and instead they rout, leaving the Warchief to be slain. (Legate Damanos walks up to the orc. “My name is Legate Damanos. You killed my heavy infantry. Prepare to die.” and stabs him in the heart with his spear.)

Without their warchief, the only officer remaining for the orcs, who is thrust into overall command, is Chief Zraqua. His position can best be described as ‘the middle of nowhere’, as the (still fairly large) force of orcs and ogres mills around helplessly waiting for orders. Legate Ulrand solves that problem for Zraqua, however; as he attempts to process the fact that he is suddenly in command of the overall force, he is attacked and suffers a pair of hits, forcing a shock roll, to which he flees. The flight almost places him in a better place when he finishes it, or so he thinks, taking a breather to assess the shape of the army that is suddenly his. He begins to realize that if he can just survive this and get out, he will be the Warchief, and all of the luxury available to an orc can belong to him.

And then he hears the pounding of hooves as Palatine Komnarius and his cataphracts charge directly at him, riding over his unit, and his dreams of glory end before they began.

With no officers remaining, and having passed their break point this round, the remaining units of the orcish army do their best to flee. The horrific losses inflicted on the army as they attempt to straggle back to their own lands reminds the beastmen why they do not do this more often than every few generations.

Thanks for posting this actual play report! That sounds like a great, well-fought battle. Did you fight it solo, 1 on 1, or with multiple commanders?

It seems like the Auran player(s?) did a great job figuring out how to use their superior mobility and command/control.

The heroic stand of Legate Ulrand’s infantry was inspiring. I love those emergent moments of play.

Solo; I played both sides. A lot of my friends hate learning new rules, so if I want to get them to try something, I need to know it forwards and backwards first :wink:

I think a lot of it was as much me having trouble using the orcish numbers, but part of it was also me sort of roleplaying their commanders, assuming they’d want to charge. I think the battle could have gone very differently if I had kept the chiefs in the second rank, sending their forces forward and keeping themselves out of danger for as long as possible. That would have allowed them to actually utilize their greater numbers; the orcish army had roughly half of their units just sitting in the back waiting to be routed because once their units started taking damage (and getting disordered), the chiefs couldn’t control a significant fraction of their forces.

APM: I love those emergent moments of play.

I do too, but, I’ve never had dice try so hard to tell a story as I have when rolling them for D@W. I feel like I’m tossing frustrated novelists across the table - here’s a reversal, here’s some false hope, here, have a doomed last stand.

One of these days one side or another will get steamrolled and I’ll feel cheated.

We have had the exact same experience in all of our games. I think that emergent moments are themselves an emergent element of the design. I did not set out to have things like that occur, but I think the combination of the mechanics creates them.

In the climactic battle of our Opelenean Nights campaign, we had a unit of light infantry manning the walls hold off and then kill a dragon. It was incredible. I arbitrarily ruled that they all became veterans and the unit became known as the Drakomorn (dragon-death).

The fact that the beastmen cannot ready (because they are irregulars) is very crippling. If they don’t charge, they get charged; if they do charge, they run into a hedgerow of spears. If they hang back to exchange missile fire, their low AC takes its toll.