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Fragment 1 – Tactical v0.1f
10th Nov, 2019

This is the first Fragment of the Spheres of War (SoW) ruleset, part of the Tactical Sphere which deals with tabletop wargames with miniatures. A Fragment is a bite-sized chunk of rules, usually a single sheet of A4, that is easy for new players to run through and digest. It is not a complete game, more an illustration or example of the core concepts, to ground the players. Later Fragments build upon the first. This first Fragment deals with the basic structure of the turn, movement, and combat within the Tactical Sphere. It is very simple and not a complete game!

Download now; sow-tactical-frag1-v0.1f.pdf

Aim: Introducing new Reapers to Spheres of War. Reapers is the name for SoW Players, a play on words derived from the tag line ‘as you SoW so shall your reap”. The first Fragment covers the basic structure of SoW, giving a rough overview of the system, and how it fits together. It is a foundational block, upon which all the later rules are built. Later Fragments further define the system, adding detail.

Features: a fast tactical table-top wargame based on Historical Western Martial Arts, using consecutive matches, simultaneous movement, chained combat, and single roll combat actions.

Notice: This is not a full game. This Fragment is a component part of the full rule-set. The full rule-set collects together all the component parts (Fragments) for a Sphere and compiles them into a single volume. In this case that will be the Tactical Sphere ruleset. This single volume will be offered as a Print on Demand book with explainers, and a simplified PDF. All content will be duplicated on my website, and the simplified PDF will link back to explainers on my website.

Rules beta v0.1f

The 38 rules are duplicated below for quick reference.

You’ll need;

1) 2 Players.

2) 2 six-sided dice (D6), 1 for each Player. (In a later Fragment we’ll switch to D10)

3) A gaming table with a marked play area, min 1′ x 1′ (a game mat is a good idea)

4) 5 black and 5 white chess pawns, or checkers, to represent ‘combatants’ on the gaming table

Set up

5) Players set up on opposite sides of the gaming table.

6) Set up your combatants within 6” of your side of the play area (6″ x 2 = 1′, min play area size)

7) Players take on the role of Instigator (white) or Retaliator (black). Flip a coin.

Turn Organisation;

8) The game is divided up into Turns

9) Each Turn is made up of a series of Matches.

10) Matches are between one Instigator and one Retaliator – a Matched pair of opponents.

11) All combatants on the table-top start a turn unMatched.

12) The first Match is between the closest unMatched Instigator and unMatched Retaliator.

13) If possible Matches are equidistant: Instigator picks which Match to process.

14) Only Matched opponents can perform Actions.

15) Actions are: Wait, Move, and Fight.

16) The Instigator always performs an Actions first, followed by the Retaliator’s Action in response.

17) There are five (5) Actions per Match.

18) Once all Actions in a Match are used up, the Match is ‘Resolved‘, and the participants ‘Inert‘.

19) ‘Inert’ opponents play no further part in the rest of the Turn.

20) Create the next Match between the next two closest opponents, ignoring the Inert.

21) The TURN ENDs when all Matches have been resolved, start the next Turn.

22) If a Turn starts, and only one Player has combatants on the table, that Player WINS.

Movement & Waiting;

23) Matched opponents, not in base-to-base contact can only choose ‘Wait’ or ‘Move’ Actions.

24) The Wait Action means a combatant does nothing for 1 Action.

25) The Move Action means you can move your combatant 2” on the tabletop, cost 1 Action.

26) You can move directly towards or directly away from your Matched opponent.

27) Moving off the gaming area removes that combatant from the game.

28) If Matched opponents make base-to-base contact they are in combat;

Combat;

29) The Combatant ‘A’ is the one that moved into base-to-base contact; the other is Combatant ‘Z’.

30) Once in base-to-base contact A & Z, are ‘locked in combat’ and can only choose ‘Fight’ Actions.

31) A Fight Action is made up of a ‘Move & Strike’, or a ‘Defence & Strike’, either costs 1 Action.

32) On base-to-base contact Combatant A immediately strikes Combatant Z.

33) Combatant Z must defend themselves with an Action Test using 1D6.

a) 5-6: ‘Z’ fails, is defeated, and is removed from the table-top. ‘A’ is the Winner.

b) 1-4: ‘Z’ is successful in their defence, and Strikes back at ‘A’.

34) Combatant A must now defend themselves and make an Action Test using 1D6.

a) 5-6: ‘A’ fails, is defeated, and is removed from the table-top. ‘Z’ is the Winner.

b) 1-4: ‘A’ is successful, and Strikes back at ‘Z’.

35) Repeat this process, until one is removed, or all remaining Actions have been used up.

36) When counting the 5 Actions, count moves & rolls (ignore strikes when counting)

37) The MATCH ENDs when both run out of Actions, or one is removed from combat.

38) Any Winners become unMatched, and are free to make Matches next Turn.

Current Tactical Fragment 1

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3 Responses

Hearing feedback is very important to me in developing my ideas. Much of my designs are inspired, and crafted, by chatting to fans on forums before snowballing into a full concept you'll find here. I would like to thank all those who have contributed critiques and participated in discussions over the years, and I would especially like to thank all those who commented on this specific topic. If you would like join in, you are most welcome!

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  1. Philip S says:

    I had a chat with Brother Tyler over on Bolter & Chainsword, about creating a thread over there for a 40K mod of Spheres of War. This lead to a re-draft of Fragment 1 to v0.2 (link at the end), and he agreed to me sharing the relevant parts of our PMs here. Moving forward, I’d like keep a record of why things have been changed. So, without further ado, lets get into part 1;

    Quote: Brother TylerI’m going to limit my feedback (for now) to the format – nothing about game play.

    My assumption going in was that this is going to be a tabletop miniature wargame. However, the fragment doesn’t mention miniatures anywhere. The instruction that players will need chess pawns or checkers to represent the combatants leads to the possible (mis)interpretation that the game might be an abstract wargame. Whether the game will include miniatures or be abstract, the fragment needs to be very clear. It’s okay to say that the playtest will use abstract markers, but the final game will use miniatures and that provisions for miniatures will be included in later fragments.

    I’ll remove all confusion and make it clear that this is for miniatures, and shift the talk of alternative markers to the website explantation page. I think this is a leftover from me explaining the rules where there are no miniatures about, and I’ll use anything to hand. Hell, I’ve used beer bottles as markers, and condiment bottles, coins, etc. :P

    Quote: Brother TylerThe scale of the game also comes into question. The direction to use a 1’x1′ playing area is fine, but chess pawns and checkers come in various sizes. This won’t matter if the game is abstract, but the distances and sizes of the miniatures (or their bases) probably needs to be more clear. It might be nothing more than saying markers that are about 1″ in diameter.

    The idea was that any small object would do, as the scale is not that important yet. However, taking on your advice I’m putting in the miniatures at 28mm. Nice and clear.

    Quote: Brother TylerDoes the “Instigator”/”Retaliator” language have some meaning in terms of the setting/theme? These terms seem counterintuitive when there is a possibility that a “Retaliator” can initiate a match later.

    The Instigator always initiates, and the Retaliator can only react to the Instigator. Action and Reaction (in another version of the rules, an earlier draft I abandoned, I divided them up into ‘Action’ and ‘Reaction’). The Retaliator cannot initiate a Match. Even in later rules (though it gets muddy with ‘chained-reactions’, where an ally of a Matched Retaliator could interfere and join the Match, which is part of the ganging up rules, and ‘plays’.).]

    Aside from that: Rule 16, the Instigator always goes first in a Match. In the first Fragment, neither the Instigator or Retaliator can instigate a Match. Matches are automatically the two closest opposed combatants. Rule 13, if several possible Matches are equidistant, the Instigator decides.

    Quote: Brother TylerWhy not just use an initiative coin flip/die roll to determine the role without associating it with a specific color? Players can sometimes be iffy when it comes to other players using their minis, but instruction 7 sets up that potential. What happens if players use checker/drafts pieces (usually red and black) or uses pawns of different colors? It seems to me that the “Instigator” and “Retaliator” terms and the pre-defined colors paint things into a corner. It would be easier to just say that there should be two sets of five pawns/tokens/pieces, with each set being a different color, and each player chooses one of the sets. Then later instructions simply refer to them as enemies or something.

    Perfectly reasonable. Added. I’m not sure how I missed that. I suppose at the time, I had chess pieces on my mind, as I was using my board to run through things.

    Quote: Brother TylerTurn Organisation should really start at step 12. The description/definition of Matches should be a general instruction.

    I see your point. One of the constraints of the Fragment format is that it has to fit onto a single sheet of A4. Another header may take me over one side of A4; I want to keep it as compact as possible. If some rules are taken out, I’ll revisit this, and if it’s a deal-breaker, I’ll shrink the text. If I can avoid that, I will.

    Quote: Brother TylerInstruction 11 should be that all tokens are deployed unMatched; then add a step saying that at the end of the turn, all tokens that aren’t in base-to-base contact with an enemy token are unMatched, and tokens that are in base-to-base contact with an enemy token are Matched.

    Added to v0.2

    Quote: Brother TylerLastly, unless there’s some sort of recovery/end of turn phase that isn’t mentioned in this fragment, I’d change the wording of step 22 to say that a player wins if there are no enemy tokens on the table.

    Added to v0.2

    Quote: Brother TylerInstruction 12 is confusing in that the “first Match” is between two unMatched enemies. It seems that there should be an intermediary step where Matches are declared. I envision it looking something like:

    Your instincts are correct, and if it’s triggering your instincts, it might trigger others. This ‘missing’ step is redundant dues to the limited nature of Fragment 1. To explain;

    Technically it’s the Instigator that forms the matches and moves first. However, in the basic game, the Instigator’s choice is limited to their combatant that is closest to an unMatched enemy. That (Instigator’s) combatant is further limited, as the only target they can pick to form a Match is the nearest unMatched enemy.

    So we end up with an automatic match up of the two closest unMatched opponents.

    At the time of writing, it seemed redundant to include the extra mechanics as it appeared to contribute little other than crunch, which I thought I could deal with later. However, your bringing it up has given me pause for thought as new players do not know all the other aspects of SoW. I’ll have a crack as rewording it as it may be handy to remove that feeling of something missing, and foreshadow of what is to come (archery and firearms spring to mind)?

    Tangent: Later fragments give the Instigator choices, but the Retaliator always has to react to what the Instigator has chosen. The Retaliator never chooses. In later Fragments, the roles can swap over, using the ‘tides of war’ rules, where you can win momentum. For example;

    Example of my thinking behind this;
    Getting all medieval. If an aggressor is attacking a fortified position, then they are the Instigator as they are bringing the fight to the entrenched. Those within the fortifications are the Retaliators as all they can do is react to the Instigator. A Retaliator is situated and cannot fire on the Instigator unless the Instigator moves within range. However, if the fortified Retaliator can force back a wave: they can claim the initiative in the next turn. The Retaliator becomes the Instigator by implementing a strong defence and through decisive action, such as riding out to meet the pushed back enemy. Charging the stalled assault. The Instigator is forced to become the Retaliator by their enemies aggressive action. Getting all meta, this mirrors the change over in the combat loop of the defender becoming the attacker on a successful defence.

    This really comes to the fore in the Strategy Sphere, where we are moving armies about to arrange the battles. If you combined the Tactical Sphere with Strategy Sphere in a club to manage the battle for players, the brief for the resulting battles might include who has the initiative, and therefore who is the Instigator.

    Thinking ahead, about this changeover of the initiative, or Instigatorship could be accompanied with a fun symbol to exchange. A token, hat, staff, or imperial eagle etc. I keep thinking of Sharpe’s Eagle from the tv, perhaps a little model of an eagle standard would do? Or the ‘hat of Initiative’ where you can each have your hat, but only wear it if the Instigator.

    Quote: Brother Tyler“The Instigator chooses one of their unMatched tokens and identifies the closest unMatched Retaliator token. The two enemy tokens are now Matched.

    This is closer to what I am thinking. To reference the previous comment, the Instigator can only choose their one combatant who is closest to the enemy. The reason to not allow the Instigator to chose from any of their other unMatched combatants is that it can create a mess with the serial ordering. The serial ordering is central to SoW.

    You can skip this next bit as I may need some diagrams to explain it adequately, but I’ll give it a go!
    Down the rabbit hole: to use an extreme example: if there are four combatants on the board, two from each side. At the centre of the board there are two opposing combatants close together, and another two opposing combatants out on their respective Player edges. Then the Instigator could choose their combatant on their edge line and Match it to the enemy in the middle, which seems odd. It seems more reasonable (or intuitive) to assume the two in the middle will Match and possibly end up in a fight, and then the two who are out on the edges Match and move towards each other.

    Thinking about the first part, and trying to rationalise it, as soon as the Retaliator in the middle becomes active, they should automatically target the closest enemy: which would be the Instigator in the middle, not the one out on the edge-line. This is down to survival instinct; they cannot ignore the enemy at hand (not yet, in this Fragment as least). This need to switch to the closest unMatched enemy overrides everything and snaps the Match back to the two opposing combatants in the middle.

    This snapping is in the background, and why I designed the rules are the way they are. It seems to work even if we try to be tricky and pick enemies that are furthermost away to try and force the middle to attack an edge. Using the same set up as before, the Instigator could choose their combatant on their edge, and try to Match with the (unMatched) enemy on the other Player’s edge. However, when that Retaliator combatant becomes active, they would instantly switch to the closest enemy. That would be the Instigator combatant in the middle. This would be consistent the same snap rationalisation above. We now have the Retaliator on their Player’s edge line Matched to the Instigator in the middle. Which seems to get around the rule above. However, we apply the rule again, closest first, and this means that once that Instigator in the middle is active, they would snap to the closest enemy, which is the middle Retaliator, not the active Realtiator combatant out over on the edge. This would override any other Match, and we are back in the middle once more.

    In this way, the choices collapse back to the two closest opponents.

    The unwritten rule is simple enough, Collapse-o-Snap;

    • Active combatants always snap to the closest unMatched enemy to form a Match, and this snap overrides any Match attempt that caused their Activation.

    This is also why those in base-to-base combat are ‘locked in combat’ because you cannot get closer than touching. If we allowed the Instigator or Retaliator to chose, then they could have one of their combatants in combat; target an enemy who is not so as to break out of the combat lock (in later Fragments you can break free by making a successful defend roll).

    I think the above all works – perhaps I should write an article on how this collapsing of choice works? To double-check what I am thinking.

    Either way, I thought it was best to avoid all this, yet here I am talking about it :P This is all very meta, as it’s rules about rules, and how I construct the rules. Is this of interest?

    Is should mention this goes out of the window when missile troops turn up with indirect fire! The only reason they can override their instincts (to go for the closest, usually) is that they are far enough away. Ground troops do not directly threaten them. Perhaps there is a range to the Collapse-o-Snap rule. But that’s all for another time.

    Quote: Brother TylerThe Retaliator then chooses one of their unMatched tokens and identifies the closest unMatched Instigator token. The two enemy tokens are now Matched.
    Match declarations continue in this manner until no more Matches can be declared.”

    An unMatched Retaliator never gets to chose; they always react to the closest unMatched enemy that automatically forms a match with them.

    Quote: Brother Tyler(I’m using the “Instigator”/”Retaliator” language because that is what you currently use. If you change it and decide to incorporate some sort of Match declaration method, whether what I’ve described or something different, the language will need to be changed.)

    I wish to keep ‘Instigator’ and ‘Retaliator’ as it is part of the flavour, and how I see combat. Idiosyncratic? I’ll consider a change it hinders explanation or interferes with a solution.

    Quote: Brother TylerAlternately, instead of all Matches being declared at once as I’ve described above, it might be a process where a token that is not Inert is activated and Matched with the nearest unMatched enemy model.

    This is getting closer to what imagine.

    Quote: Brother TylerIs there some method for identifying inert combatants? In an abstract, flipping a checker/counter over might suffice (assuming you’re using a flat marker). With miniatures or other game pawns, though, you’ll need some other marker. If there are plans, you might have some substitute method for now.

    I considered it, but a small game seems manageable through memory, and with larger battles, using units, I thought of simply resolving the series of Matches left-to-right. You’d know where you are in the resolution of the turn, based on the current Match: that everything to the left of the current Match is done, and everything to the right is waiting. So the focus is always concentrated on the task at hand, and organised. You can reverse this and go right-to-left, but the principle is the same. If this becomes an issue, we can add in some tokens, perhaps more little tokens of eagle standards?

    I wanted to avoid tokens, and as much bookkeeping as possible, as I want SoW to be fast. Very fast.

    Quote: Brother TylerLines 33 and 34 are a bit confusing, though overall terminology goes back to line 29.

    Corrected in the new draft, I’ll get into this below.

    Quote: Brother TylerAlso, line 31 mentions ‘Move & Strike’ and ‘Defence & Strike’ but no distinction is made between the two choices. Also, there is an inconsistency in that you have a verb (Move), a verb twice (Strike), and a noun (Defence) – I would replace “defence” with “defend” to get ‘Defend & Strike’ in order to get consistency. If there is no distinction between ‘Move/Movement & Strike’ and ‘Defence/Defend & Strike’, I would remove the terms. If there is some distinction and rules effect, the rules need to be expanded to include them. If the defending model has the option to expend 1 Action in a ‘Defence & Strike’ choice, it would seem to confer some benefit of some sort (perhaps adjusting the odds of the die roll in the defender’s favor).

    I’ll use Defend & Strike from now on [edit: I change this later on]. Move & Strike does not require a roll, while Defend & Strike does. Move & Strike means you move into an opponent and Strike for free, automatic, and it’s up to their opponent to do something about it. Defend & Strike means you are already in base-to-base contact and have to make a successful martial arts test to override an incoming Strike and then make a Strike of your own. Strikes are always automatic unless overridden.

    Quote: Brother TylerAlso, it seems counterintuitive that the model that is defending is the one rolling the dice and the instructions are written from the perspective of the defence succeeding. Is there some aspect of the rules/setting that isn’t covered in this fragment that drives that perspective?

    It comes from martial arts. One of the reasons behind my writing SoW is to describe the core concepts of combat. Striking a non-moving object is easy, like belting a heavy bag down the gym. Striking a human that stands there like a lemon is easy (ignoring psychology for a second). What makes a strike difficult to land is when the target moves and defends themselves. From this perspective, it seems reasonable the onus is on the defender. This is why martial arts are often considered to be a defensive art, as they concentrate on defence, as defending yourself is the tricky bit. That bit needs the most skill. In sparing or combat, if I take a hit, I view it as my fault. To get this idea across, to take ownership of your skills, SoW places all the emphasis on the defender, not the attacker. So all strikes are automatic unless overridden with a successful defence roll. I used to call the strike an auto-hit. To make it really clear that you will get hit if you do not move! Perhaps I should bring that back?

    I’ll add the above, or a version of it, to the explanation page when I post up v0.2 (when done).

    Quote: Brother TylerMy suggestion (and I’m assuming there’s a reason for the perspective, so I’m not providing an alternate wording for the D6 results).

    29) The model that moved into base-to-base contact is the Attacker and the other model is the Defender.

    Originally, I used attacker and defender, but it seemed confusing when dealing with the combat loop. However, looking at your example below, it doesn’t seem such a big issue.

    Quote: Brother Tyler30) Once in base-to-base contact, the two models are ‘locked in combat’ and can only choose ‘Fight’ Actions.
    31) A Fight Action is made up of a ‘Move & Strike’ or ‘Defend & Strike’. Either costs 1 Action.
    a- Define ‘Move & Strike’
    b- Define ‘Defend & Strike’
    32) On reaching base-to-base contact, the Attacker immediately strikes the Defender.
    33) The Defender rolls a D6:
    a- 5-6: The Defender fails, is defeated, and is removed from the table-top. The Attacker is the Winner.
    b- 1-4: The Defender succeeds. The two models reverse roles.
    34) Repeat step 33 until one model is removed or all remaining Actions have been used up.

    I see where you are going with this. It seems Rule31a, the ‘Move & Strike’ is basically Rule 32. At first blush, I thought we’d have a minor clarity issue in the reverse of roles (33b and 34) as it would imply another ‘Move & Strike Action, but you jumped to 33, not 32, which resolves this. This gives me an idea of how to proceed. For something like this;
    (note: in the following, I changed ‘strike’ back to the old Auto-hit)

    • Any combatants in base-to-base at the beginning of a turn are automatically Matched.
    • Once in base-to-base contact, both are ‘locked in combat’ and can only choose ‘Fight’ Actions.
    • The first Fight Action is always ‘Move & Auto-hit’, to get into contact, and costs 1 Action.
    • Subsequent Fight Actions are ‘Defend & Auto-hit’, while in contact, and also costs 1 Action.
    • When counting Actions, count on the ‘Moves’ and ‘Defence Rolls’ (ignore Auto-Strikes)
    • The Combatant that moves into base-to-base contact with their opponent is the Attacker
    • The other Combatant that the Attacker moves into base-to-base contact with is the Defender
    • Combat loop start: the Attacker Auto-Strikes the Defender.
    • The only way to override the Auto-hit is with a Martial Art Test, roll 1D6;
      a) 5-6: Defender fails, is defeated, and is removed from the table-top. The Attacker wins.
      b) 1-4: Defender is successful in their defence, and strikes back!
      The Defender becomes the Attacker, and this forces the Attacker to become the Defender.
      The roles are reversed. Return to Rule 37
    • Keep repeating this process, until one is removed, or all remaining Actions have been used up.

    I’ve added this new loop to v0.2a.

    Quote: Brother TylerI would move step 36 up to right after 31 (this pushes the current steps 32-34 up one – 33-35).

    Added to v0.2, also see above

    Quote: Brother TylerAlso, is there some mechanic for keeping track of the Actions used? Relying on players’ memories doesn’t always work. You might use some sort of action marker (glass beads, chits, whatever) or you might change the “You’ll Need” to require 5 six-sided dice per player, with players taking all of their D6 when a fight takes place and returning them to the kitty as they use them. Or you could do something else.

    Yep, I was relying on memory. As each Match is resolved in isolation, one after the other, and there are only five combatants, there is not much to keep track of. There are no saved points to carry over to the next turn or anything, and moves and defences can be counted out allowed, with the Retaliator matching the Instigator Action for Action: 1-1, 2-2, 3-3, 4-4, 5-5.

    Example:

    • The Instigator moves towards the Retaliator, for Instigator Action 1.
    • The Retaliator does likewise, moving towards the Instigator for Retaliator Action 1.
    • The Instigator moves into the Retaliator and Auto-hits the Retaliator, for Instigator Action 2.
    • The Retaliator rolls are martial arts test and passes, and Auto-hits back at the Instigator, for Retaliator Action 2.
    • The Instigator rolls their marital arts test and fails, and is removed on Instigator Action 3.
    • The Retaliator wins.
    • All left over Actions are lost/ ignored.

    When doing this, only one Player has to count out the actions.

    Quote: Brother TylerOverall, the numbering becomes problematic in that it looks like everything follows the number sequence you’ve given. However, the Movement & Waiting and Combat sections are actually covered within steps in the Turn Organisation section above. I would move the later sections up into the larger section, making them sub-sections so that the overall sequence is more clear.

    My aim with the ‘Turn Organisation’ section was to give an overview of the whole turn and Match system. It’s similar to having a diagram of the turn listing each of the steps. Then bolt everything else onto that. In Fragment 2, we get into ‘Ganging Up’, which relies on all that has gone before. Ganging Up is appended to the end of Fragment 1, after combat, and is an extension of both movement and combat. I do not want to bring that into one main section.

    I’d like to keep the rule numbers for easy reference. Like a URL for game rules. Every rule gets one. Along with keeping the rules short for easy quoting. If the numbering is an issue, perhaps I should create a new number sequence for each section, so ‘Turn Organisation’ rules could be prefixed with a ‘T’ for T1, T2, etc. ?

    Quote: Brother TylerYou’ll need:
    Setup:
    Basic Guidelines: (things like 5 Actions per match, how to track Action usage, how to identify Matched models, how to identify Inert models, etc.)
    Turn Organisation:
    – Declare Matches
    – Resolve Matches (currently “Combat”)
    – Wait/Move
    – Recovery (this is just removing any markers that might be used and which aren’t relevant; includes check for Victory Conditions)

    I think I have everything. Here is a new draft (dropbox link): sow-tactical-frag1-v0.2a.pdf. Modifications marked in red.

    Thank you for taking the time to give feedback. It has been invigorating to get fresh eyes on it and see where the rules are falling down.

  2. Philip S says:

    Part 2;

    Quote: Brother TylerFor the most part, your responses seem reasonable. The one area where I still have issues is the “Instigator” and “Retaliator” nomenclature. The fragment sets it up so that these names (roles) apply throughout the entire game, and that certain actions/choices are limited as a result throughout the game.

    Instigator and Retaliator apply at a team level, and all it really means is ‘the team with the initiative’ (I could add that into the rules to define the term?). It’s laying the groundwork for what will be my attempt to put the momentum into the flow of battle.

    I mentioned the ‘tides of war’ in my last reply, and in a later Fragment, if the Instigator fails to act on their initiative, i.e. they have all their combatants stand their ground, the Retaliator can claim the initiative simply by advanced on their enemy. The Retaliator instantly becomes the Instigator, and the Instigator the Retaliator. They swap roles (which mirrors the swapping of roles in combat, when a Defender makes a successful Action test and becomes the Attacker).

    Getting ahead of myself: I want to move the game away from the idea of using a die roll to set initiative order, despite that being the case in Fragment 1 (part of the setup when designating roles). Later we can swap roles through Action, but that still leaves the setup-roll for determining roles. This changes when we couple the Tactical and Strategical Spheres together. Then the strategical Sphere will set the initial roles. This will be done through gameplay in Strategical Sphere, the results of which would determine the Instigator for any battles handed off to other Tactical Players. It would be built into the Tactical scenario.

    I prefer the idea a person takes the initiative by their actions. There is still plenty of dice rolling to resolve Matches, so the random element is still there.

    Quote: Brother TylerIn a real fight, while one side may instigate the physical activity of fighting, the actions of initiating offensive action change throughout the fight. In a melee, one member of a side might be defending himself while another member of the same side might be on the offensive. The only times that I’ve been in a fight (training, sparring, or a real fight) where I was either “instigating” or “retaliating” throughout the entire fight was when I was either training (one person always initiating combat and the other defending and counterattacking repeatedly) or when the fight ended in the first exchange. In cases where a fight was prolonged, whether in sparring, in a tournament, or the real deal, I might vary between offense and defense.

    I share your concerns, and there is some ‘change over’ on an individual level, but that does not automatically translate up to the team level. To illustrate my point; Retaliators have some initiative, but it depends on the actions of the Instigator. If the Instigator stands their ground, and they refuse to move for an Action (wait), a Match is still formed with the nearest unMatched Retaliator. The Matched Retaliator can then react to that stationary Instigator, and move towards and engage. On an individual level that could make the Retaliation appear to be instigating (which, in a way, they are).

    Looking at it further, you could technically say this would make the Retaliator an Instigator but only on an individual level, and (hopefully) mirrors what you are describing. However, an Individual taking the initiative is not the same as the whole team taking the initiative.

    The reason I did not pull the Instigator and Retaliator language down to the individual level is that it causes confusion between the team and individual levels. This is one of the reasons why I swapped to Combatant A and Z in v0.1, which become Attacker and Defender in the 0.2 revision (after your advice).

    However, we can apply the Instigator and Retaliator terms to combat. These terms do not map directly onto the Attacker and Defender, but we can use them when exploring the logic of the combat loop.

    At an individual level, the Instigator and Retaliator give way to Attacker and Defender. Technically you could say the Instigator* is the one that moves into base-to-base contact and strike first, and the Retaliator is the Defender. However, this does not hold as the chain progresses. Once the Defender successfully defends themselves and auto-hits back, which is pure Retaliator, then their opponent is now responding to an attack, which is also Retaliator territory. In effect, after the first auto-hit both become Retaliators, as each stops an attack and attacks back. Each retaliates towards the other in a loop, until one is taken out.

    • Side note: going back to Retaliators acting like Instigators: it’s possible that the Retaliator moves into contact with the Instigator first, and get the opening Auto-hit. This can happen either through the Instigator remaining stationary, or through the fate of stepped movement that leads to contact (an Instigator could come up sort, and be in the range of a single move by the Retaliator).

    Like the concept of Yin and Yang: the Instigator has a little Retaliator in them (they can wait to be attacked), and the Retaliator has a little of the Instigator in them as they counter-attack, and advance on the stationary Instigators.

    Quote: Brother TylerThe concept that martial arts focus on defense and counterattack (i.e., “There is no first attack in karate”) is really a concept that applies in martial arts for self defense. When martial arts are looked at in the literal sense – fighting arts – significant martial arts training throughout the ages has been on attacking first. Funakoshi Sensei applied his arts in a peaceful setting where he could afford to apply them as defense/counterattack, but Miyamoto Musashi applied his art in a different way. If we look beyond Japan, numerous other martial arts demonstrate offense first, or offense in coordination with defense (the different fighting arts of the Zulu for example, or those of the Greek hoplites).

    Even Miyamoto Musashi knew how to defend himself, as the story of his first (supposed) duel with Mus? Gonnosuke shows, and the power of a good defence by his subsequent defeat to a Jo wielding Gonnosuke (or not). All martial artists, even ones that are pro-strike first, have an element of defence, and arts like Iaido use the quick strike as a defence.

    Which brings us to Hans Talhoffer, and his mastercuts with the Longsword. Mastercuts are used to defend and then cut through to the target in one strike. The defence is bound up in the attack. The easiest way to do it: is to wait to be attacked. Or goad the enemy into attacking. If you attack them directly, they still have guard and defence waiting. By attacking their attack, if done correctly, they have very little to fall back on (other than to be aware and not let it play out that way in the first place).

    Later, especially in the Technical Sphere, I’ll introduce mastercuts when we get into weapons. During a duel, the mastercuts ability acts like a trump card. They will follow the same basic rules of a defence roll then auto-hit, except if the Action Test is successful, the enemy has no defence! The only way to effectively avoid this fate is not committing to an attack in the first place, which leads to the use of feints. The only difference introducing this back into Tactical is the idea that the opening move in and Auto-hit would require an Action Test to represent the feint. Failure in the feint would mean non-engagement rather than death, and leave it open for the other to feint. Assume both have Mastercuts.

    Quote: Brother TylerAnother interesting example from the West is that of knightly jousting. That was essentially an example of simultaneous action, with both combatants exercising offense and defense (and no counterattack). In general, martial arts as war arts tended to focus on the offense with defense in coordination, training both the initiation of offensive action as well as defense and counterattack. There are always exceptions to this, of course, and no practical system could ignore defense and counterattack as a necessary skill set. Note that I’m focusing on armed/unarmed striking combat, not unarmed wrestling/grappling/throwing arts as offense and defense in the former is a bit more easy to quantify in game terms whereas the latter becomes much more abstract in trying to quantify center of gravity, balance, leverage, etc. Also, the game fragment appears to be focused on striking styles.

    I removed true simultaneous rules from Fragment 1 for brevity, in trying to keep it down to one side of A4. In later Fragments, we’ll deal with double Instigators. (Double Retaliator does not result in much! Unless we count the double ‘Retaliator’ that results from the combat loop).

    Jousting is an example of double Instigator and double Auto-hit.
    Both make a defence roll: if they fail they are unseated. This means that both can be unseated at the same time.

    This leads to the double Auto-hits issue in a low skill pub-brawl where both slug it out. A brawler’s defence is their aggression to throw out a lot of blows to keep the other under pressure, keeping their chin down, while being tough enough to take the incoming damage. Trying to model this is a bit of a mess, but it comes under simultaneous Auto-hits force simultaneous defence rolls. This defence roll is them keeping their chin down, and using a flurry of blows to disrupt the other, and therefore interfere with the power of the strikes.

    If both are forced to make defence rolls at the same time: it would be possible to get a ‘double knockout’. This seems a little odd, but it could be punching a person in the face for a KO, while breaking your own fist, popping a knuckle, or spraining your wrist. Or some other injury that inhibits your ability to fight, a technical knockout. On the table-top, a technical KO could limit a combatant’s skills, leaving them pumped up on adrenaline as they stagger about the place defenceless.

    I did think of a rule where a double fail is ignored, as each is hitting the other and taking the steam out of each other’s blows, which would work in a Technical Sphere ‘duel’ but it does not scale to Tactical very well. In Tactical, where you are rolling multiple dice at the same time for a unit, it’s tricky to match rolls between the opposing units. If you have an idea for that, I’m all ears? I thought it could be the excess, so if side A failed 3 rolls, and side B failed 4 roll, then side B would lose one combatant. This is a fudge and not a very satisfying fudge at that. No one likes bad fudge.

    Quote: Brother TylerI agree with the principle that the initiation/defense/counteraction cycle is sound, and it may actually work for the setting/theme that you’re envisioning. My only issue is in the permanent (for the duration of the game) application of the roles, especially if these rules are intended to be more generic in nature.

    I’m glad we have sorted part it out, and I hope the above convinces you that the roles will develop later, and are not as restrictive as they first appear. Having said that, it could be that Instigator and Retaliator are so laden with baggage that many more will find it equally jarring. In that case, it may be an idea to find an alternative. Originally I used the military wargames colours of red and blue, but I got rid of it because I want to offer black and white printed book, so I made the team colours black and white (I just realised that is another reason I went with chess pieces). Nonetheless, as you pointed out, hard coding the colours is not a good idea. What would be your suggestion?

    Quote: Brother TylerThis does bring up a thought, though. Are you familiar with Osprey’s Ronin game? If you aren’t, there is an offense/defense mechanic that you might look at. I don’t know if it’s something that you’d want to adapt into your system, but I found it to be a very interesting application of martial arts principles. If you’re not familiar with the game, I can provide a description.

    No, I was not familiar. I went to Amazon to grab a copy. Fortunately, the combat loop is displayed in the preview of page 15 and a summary on page 63. It seems solid, but I want more speed!

    Quote: Brother TylerI have no problem with you posting any feedback that I’ve provided, or with you attributing it to me.

    This is music to my ears.

    By the way, when you run through Fragment 1, you’ll notice there is only one tactic to stack the deck in your favour. That tactic is the first lesson to learn about combat from Fragment 1, and while a little abstract; it’s fundamental.

    I’ve updated to v0.2b (forgot to at the 28mm miniatures note, and added in a new rule; to grab a ruler!).

    Drop Box link: sow-tactical-frag1-v0.2b.pdf
    Short link: https://tinyurl.com/tp6ooxa

  3. Philip S says:

    Part 3;

    Quote: Brother TylerSome more thoughts on defense, especially taking into account the concept from Ronin that I mentioned previously.

    The way I see it, there are three basic alternatives:

    • Move (dodge, evade, whatever)
    • Block
    • Parry

    Moving is simply moving out of the way or out of range of the attack.

    Blocking is using an implement (shield, weapon) or body part (forearm, shin) to absorb the force of the attack. It might even include turning the body in such a way as to take the blow without sustaining (much) damage.

    Parrying is using an implement or body part to redirect the blow.

    Often, moving can be combined with either of the other two.

    You are correct; the big question is how we differentiate between the components skills of fighting, to separate them into dodging, blocking and deflecting, and how we then apply them.

    In Spheres of War, we use ‘Stacked Rolls’, which combine several skills and ability tests into one roll. A stacked roll is built from the ground up, with fundamental skills assigned the largest numerical value, and more advanced skill’s values housed within that fundamental skill’s value range.

    For example, footwork (dodge) is a fundamental of combat. Therefore it has the largest numerical value of all the combat skills. More advanced skills have to have a lesser value, i.e. Dodge > Block

    The value of the Dodge skill has to be greater than than the values of the Block skill.

    As Deflect is more advanced that the Block, it means that Deflect has to have a lesser value, i.e. Dodge > Block > Deflect.

    By the time we get to using Stacked Rolls, we’ll have switched to using D10, and using values 1-10 (though later they can be higher!).

    Taking the above stack, we can build a combat profile.

    Example: Fighter F:8, B:4, D:3

    A single roll of the D10 can result in the following;

    • 9-10 = fail.
    • 5-8 = Successful Footwork (maintain safe distance)
    • 4 = Block
    • 1-3 = Deflect.

    Stacked Rolls orchestrate everything, limiting the Player’s choices to the options at hand, all through a single roll. It really is ‘One roll to rule them all!’ (LotR popped into my head).

    Quote: Brother TylerDefense then sets up a possible counterattack. In a fight between skilled opponents, each fighter is balancing offense and defense, sometimes favoring one or the other, but rarely focusing on one to the exclusion of the other. A fighter might put all of his effort into an attack, only to have an opponent defend and counterattack. Sometimes two fighters will both go almost purely on the offensive, exchanging blows without giving strong defense. Other times, two opponents will square off and face each other defensively, taking each other’s measure. Most of the time, though, you’ll see some balance between offense and defense.

    There is a lot of ground for the rules to cover.

    Exchanging blows, within SoW, would be both combatants choosing auto-hits, and steam into each other; it’s base and animalistic.

    While at the high-end a fighter will move to a minimum safe distance, and edge in: provoking an attack, and if proficient, each attack is an opening and an opportunity. A moment in time when their opponent is off balance and ripe for being taken down.

    Two highly skilled combatants may take it slow, may test each other in subtle ways, but if highly skilled, it’s the first to make a mistake, and the end will be quick – especially if using weapons. At high skill levels is less winning combat, and more about not losing.

    When a Samurai gets into a conflict (off the battlefield); it’s as much about posturing and phycological warfare, as it is about swinging blows. The stand-off is to gauge their opponent’s resolve, to perceive their strength from their demeanour, where they place their feet while maintaining good balance as the edge in. To test the nerve of their other. Many buckle and submit under the pressure. A swing never made. However, is a foe persists the winning of this psychological battle may set-up a one stoke finish. To the untrained eye, it can look simple, but it’s not, and we have to delve into it all!

    All these aspects of combat have to be dealt with in SoW.

    Quote: Brother TylerIf the game were representing a one-on-one fight, you [i]might[/i] try to represent the complex decisions. That’s something I’ve seen done in RPGs. With tabletop miniature wargames, though, such complexity is rarely practical above the small warband (five or fewer models?). Any game that represents squad level or larger (including Kill Team and WH40K) would quickly get bogged down in unnecessary (and un-fun) detail if you tried to represent that level of complexity. While trying to replicate all of the complexities and nuance of a real fight is probably impractical, representing the relative balance between offense and defense can be done in the abstract.

    The D100 of the Technical Sphere is crushed down into the D10 of Tactical. If you have a skill of ’77’ in the Technical Sphere, that is rounded down to a ‘7’ in the Tactical Sphere. That’s the simple bit.

    Compressing the Technical Sphere (Duelling) down into the Tactical Sphere is going to be tricky, and one of the reasons I developed the stacked roll, and we need the speed. Then it becomes about limits.

    A warrior in a formation does not have room to dodge, so dodge is out of the window. Using the Stacked Roll, we can ignore the dodge bit.

    A Warrior fighting in a crazy melee can dodge, so we can add it back in.

    We can combine block and deflect into one. Or split the dice pool, and resolve one after the other.

    Quote: Brother TylerThere are a number of ways that the offense/defense balance might be abstracted:

    Method 1: Player identifies their focus (offense/balanced/defense) and receives bonuses and penalties as a result (offense gets a bonus to attacks and a penalty to defenses; balanced is neutral; defense gets penalty to attacks and bonus to defense).

    Method 2: (from Ronin) Actions are either Offense or Defense. Opponents match opposing actions and defender rolls. In any cases where a fighter has an Attack that is not matched by an opponent’s Defense, that Attack may either be added to another Attack for a bonus or it may be used as a free Attack (which gets interesting if both fighters chose more Attacks. In any cases where there are extra Defenses, fighters are gauging each other.

    Method 3: ??? (You probably have a vision for the overall game that might allow for this abstraction, or it might even be in your current rules.)

    Method 4: ??? (Maybe there is some other form of abstraction you can think of.)

    Method 4: Smash into one roll :P

    Method 1 – This works, but it lacks the speed I am after.

    Method 2 – Opposing actions work well for the Technical Sphere, but do scale up the Tactical Sphere as matching opponents within opposing units is tricky (how do you know, with any certainty how is hitting who?).

    Method 3 – Yep, here are some links to Project WarSpike. I imagined it as an ongoing project, used to refresh the rules continually. Now that functionality is being pulled into my main website. Please note that the rules of WarSpike are not complete.

    WarSpike Development Blog

    WarSpike Static

    Quote: Brother TylerI just watched Enter the Dragon yesterday (I haven’t watched it in at least six years – I used to watch it every year), which got me thinking about all of this more. ;)

    One of my all-time favourite films. Along with Alien/s, Terminator and Event Horizon.

    Before we get too involved with the later rules, we’d better sort out the first Fragment and get other eyes on it. If everything is okay with the updated Fragment 1 v0.2b, shall I start a new thread and see if anyone bites?

    Also some links to the 40K mod ideas from back in the day;

    Thoughts on Grimdark

    Diagram of Realities

    Psidemic (Space Hulk – Redux)

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