Wargaming Domains at War

I have a confession. Although I haven't tried it in play yet, I love Domains at War. The thing I really like about it is that tactical and strategic level decisions are fully integrated with one another, and affect one another. I salivate at the idea of playing a tactical battle, and having losses mean something more than just victory points, but meaning you don't have those troops for later. I really like the type of battle being based on disposition and intelligence-gathering. I like that you need to consider the logistics of warfare, not just tactics. And I like the tactical battles rules well enough too. They seem to be a pretty good simulation given the relative simplicity of the rules. The key tenets of ancient/medieval warfare seem to be addressed.

I'm also a fan of intrigue in games. Deals behind closed doors, characters disappearing in the dark, backstabbing. General greyness of morals, and not being confident in who can be trusted.

So it got me to thinking. What if I:

- Did up a hex-map of Calradia, the land that the computer game Mount & Blade is set in. Logic here being it's 6 somewhat even factions.

- ACKSified it. Set out domains, city and village sizes, castle values. Some liberties would be taken, it would be assumed there were other castles and towns around, but that the ones on the map were the notable ones.

- Cut out a lot of stuff. Monsters, magic, magic weapons, levelling of characters, growth of domains, etc, in order to streamline it as a wargame.

- Got 6 players, and told them to have at it. Each player controls the king, vassals are also under the control of the players as per henchmen. Each has their own stats.

Essentially it would be a somewhat more militaristic Game of Thrones. Hopefully players would start to conspire with each other.

My RPG group has rejected the concept, and fair enough, they're in it for RPGing, not wargaming. But generally speaking, could this work, or am I crazy?

It could work. I'd question why you wanted to cut out all the fun stuff though. 

Ah! Mount and Blade, otherwise known as Grand Theft Medieval. I'd gotten to the point that I started doing my own "heroic forays" during sieges - I'd stop my entire army as far out as I could, go forth with tower shield, find a good spot, and snipe the hell out of the dudes on the walls with a bow. (and I'd oblige them to reload me by taunting them into shooting back and myself picking arrows out of the wall/ground) More than a bit cheaty, taking advantage of the AI (or lack of in this case) but the occasional head shot made it satisfying.

I'd put a decent amount of time into it; and had always thought it could service as a FPS ACKS. I think the idea has merit. It'd be just as possible to have all the human PCs on the same faction working together, for that matter, if the Judge is up for it. 

I'd be curious what the scale of the map was implied to be -  I don't have it loaded right now, else I'd be puttering around in the data directories. 

Well, my reason for pulling the "fun" stuff out, to be honest, was just simplicity, but as you've asked and I've thought about it, I suppose ACKS, if any game, is set up to cope with things like magic. I do worry, though, in any game, that magic is very good at breaking things. I suppose I was trying to cut out the adventuring aspects (random encounters, random loot, etc) to make it more of a balanced wargame.

In terms of scale, I've set it up so that towns (which are spaced fairly homogenously, are approximately 6 6-mile hexes apart. I figure that will be in the order of 2-3 days march for infantry.

The other thing I was looking at doing was tweaking unit hiring probabilities to reflect the different factions' troop types in ACKS.

Regarding the suggestion of all PCs in the same faction, that would be more of an RPG style game, and basically what I'm expecting to happen in the later game that I'm running for my players at the moment.

Yeah, I really loved Mount and Blade right up until I realized that upwards of 80% of my fun was just anticipating how much fun the next phase would be. "Sure, the combat is just okay, but just a few more hours of swordfighting until I've won enough money to hire my first band of soliders!"

"Sure, the small-scale stuff is a little frustrating at times, but just a few more hours of little skirmishes before I'm ready to sweal vassalhood to a lord"

"Just a few more big battles before I get my first castle..."

My experience is that in ACKS magic is generally designed to be really impressive, but almost never cost-effective within your lifetime.  A unit of gryphon riders with wands of fireball will cost far, far more to train, acquire, and maintain than the number of longbowmen it'll take to bring one down. Generally, magic just presents an interesting wrinkle that adds one-off variety to battle most of the time. 

SilentTempest, I think D@W would work exceptionally well for what you are describing, as an old-school wargame campaign like Tony Bath might have run.

I have several times tried to get such a campaign off the ground, but have encountered the same problem of finding players.


Such a game would work very well as play-by-post, I'd think. You might find players on the Autarch forums?

Thought about this, but I’m not sure it would work very well. (Could be wrong though). The strategic level stuff could go okay, if a little slow (although that would give time for intrigue), but is there a good system for resolving battles online?

I picked up a copy of DOW and after reading it I had Mighty Empires Flashbacks. There are just fewer and fewer wargamers who are interested in this type of gaming. I started with fantast moved to historicals and now I am back to fantasy. 

I wish my current rpg group was more interested in this type of thing, I can barely get them to read the core rulebook as it is.

[quote="SilentTempest"] Thought about this, but I'm not sure it would work very well. (Could be wrong though). The strategic level stuff could go okay, if a little slow (although that would give time for intrigue), but is there a good system for resolving battles online? [/quote]

I imagine the best approach would be to execute strategic turns PbP but play out battles with Roll20 or another VTT.

I love the idea.

Some time back "VASSAL" had come up - it's an OSS game-playing app that was originally developed to play Adv. Squad Leader. (http://www.vassalengine.org/). I think the "basic" D@W would be pretty easy to implement; some of the spells and such may involve a bit of work. It can do live play and play-by-email, and has the concept of a "referee", though I'm not sure quite yet what all that enables.

susan_brindle and bobloblah were playing D@W over Roll20, she can speak to that. I've got a set of templates for Roll20 you can use to set up the map - http://crowbarandbrick.blogspot.com/p/domains-at-war-roll20.html.

I'm...like a quarter of the way through on being able to programatically generate D@W:B army tokens based on a text list of units available to a side for images to use in Roll20.


The campaigning itself, though, that's easily done PBP or PBE, I'd presume.

Roll20 works... okay. It's a huge nuisance to set up initially (the DM has to upload icons for every unit, and then input information for every unit, and then populate the battlefield and assign ownership appropriately.) but the ingame functionality is perfectly servicible. You can move units around, roll dice, draw on the map, etc. 


Hardraradarada nailed it, I think. PbP for strategic turns, Roll20 for battles. Except that strategic turns are secret, so it'd probably actually be play-by-email until fights broke out, with the DM just posting a weekly/monthly update in the main thread of common knowledge and rumors. Something like:

Player 1 emails DM: I begin recruiting my army. 10,000 heavy cavalry. I'll hire any experienced mercs, plus buy up horses and anyone with the aptitude to learn to ride and fight. 
DM: You're able to buy 4,000 cavalry and 2000 horses this month. 
Player 2 emails DM: I start work on my wizard's tower. 
Player 3 emails DM: I raise luxury spending. 

DM posts in thread: This month, there are reports that Radagast began construction of a new stronghold of some kind. Blargho's domain rejoices as new festivals are announced. The price of horses doubles. 

Sorry for the threadomancy, but I wanted to explore this a bit further.

Imagine a game where strategic moves are decided over email/forum, with a referee managing them. Battles are played out in people's own time, or perhaps everyone gets together on a Friday night to play any battles that have come up.

Rules as written, they're really intended for a referee playing one faction and PCs playing the other. That is, 2 factions tic-tacing. But what if one wanted to make a game of Total War with many factions all vying for supremacy. What rules need to change to allow for a manageable game, and how?

The one that springs to my mind is that you would really need a system of simultaneous turns in order to get everyone's moves resolved inside a week. Tell the referee your move, or you just sit there. That will mess a little with the strategic moves where you finish moving then do your scouting rolls, although I don't think tweaks are unachievable. I just haven't yet worked out exactly what the tweaked rules would look like.

FWIW, we actually switched *from* simultaneous turns to ordered turns based on multi-player strategic playtests. Simultaneous turns caused enormous problems and imposed a huge amount of discretionary necessity onto the Judge.

Well, that’s not what I wanted to hear. I’m not sure how else one would run a forum/email game in reasonable time, though. Alex, are you able to elaborate on the issues you experienced when using simultaneous turns?

It just resulted in all sorts of complexities regarding who was doing what when, as encounters would occur *during* turns, triggering recon rolls, etc.

What I would recommend is that you have all players submit orders simultaneously but you resolve orders in initiative order. Roll recon before initiative and after initiative. 

Using the initiative system does mean that sometimes the enemy force marches to your stronghold before you travel one hex, but the annals of military history are absolutely filled with such incidents occurring, despite the intentions of commanders. 


Round 1. Alexander (SA+6) versus Darius (SA+3). Alexander is west of the River Issus, Darius is east of it. Alexander does not know Darius's position, but Darius knows Alexander's position. Simultaneously and in secret, Alexander orders his army to advance east over the river to a point 24 miles from Darius' army (which he is unaware of). Meanwhile Darius orders his army to advance west over the river to Alexander's army's current location. Alexander wins the initiative. His army marches east over the river to a point about 24 miles from Darius's army. No battle occurs. Then Darius's army marches west over the river to Alexander's former location. Recon rolls occur, and both sides know where the other is. Each is in the other's rear. 

Had Darius won the initiative in Round 1, a battle would have occured as Darius's army reached Alexander's army.

Round 2. Alexander orders his army to march across River Issues towards Darius with offensive posture. Darius orders his army to march to near side of River Issus, defensive posture. Darius wins the initiative. His army gets to Issus and takes position. Alexander's turn arrives, and his army advances to the River Issues and fights Darius. 

Had Alexander won the initiative in Round 2, his army would have crossed the river and attacked Darius at Alexander's old encampment. Instead the fight occurs AT the river - suckage. Parmenion advises against the attack, but Alexander wins anyway.