I assembled a veritable “top team” of playtesters (well, so to speak…) for the first practical test of Oi Navarcoi: Luca, Porfo, Marco C and the ratmaul. We played a very “vanilla” game using scenario 1, the prepared battle. This scenario assumes that both fleet are looking for each other, that they find each other and that they camp overnight and formulate a battleplan, and next morning they row to offer battle. We had four squadrons per side.
One fleet was an invading imperialist fleet, and had two squadrons with well trained crews, one of which also had fast ships. The other fleet was defending its homeland. They were not as good, indeed two squadrons were poorly trained, but most of them were determined to defend their homes, wives and especially the olive trees and goats, so they had a morale bonus. Here are the fleet lists:
Focione Well trained, fast ships
Protomaco Well trained
Mindaro Poorly motivated
Antioco Determined, green
As for terrain, they fought with a land side perpendicular to the fleet lines, and an island towards the middle of the table, but a little closer to the imperialist fleet.
I am glad to report that the rules’ main engine ran very smoothly overall. The different phases – movements, melees, morale – unfolded almost exactly as I hoped they would. Players caught up very quickly. So I had to make no major revision on the rules’ basics. You can see all changes in the revision version here:
And the clean, revised version of the rules is here:
The only area where some substantial changes were discussed is movement. A single major change was adopted: that all formation changes take one full turn. The only serious hic-ups during the game were in fact the formation changes, when players had to calculate how much they would cost for them, and if the cost was to be detracted from the movement allowance of the formation they had at the beginning of the turn or from the movement allowance of the formation they were changing into, and issues came out because of the need to subtract formation changes costs from the randomic movement allowance of a squadron in line (1 average dice)…
It quickly became apparent that it was too complex, so Luca came out with the drastic solution, that either you move or you change formation. I was not convinced at the beginning. While I agreed to the need to simplify, I felt this was a little too restrictive for players, and also irrealistic because triereis could change formation very fast (check out Andrew’s paper for that!). However, the advantage in terms of gameplay clarity is significant. And I rationalised that, while indeed theorically formations could be changed in a matter of minutes, it would take much more to perform an unexpected formation change during the heat of battle. So there you go.
Note that, as a consequence of that change, it is now possible to change from column/double column to line facing the same direction. This change implies several different movements, and that's why in the previous version you could not do it in one turn. Since now you have to spend one full turn changing formation, it make sense that you can also do more complex manouvers all at once.
A second movement-related issue which was raised is, can a squadron in column/double column form line after it has been engaged in frontal melee by a squadron in line? Or does it have to remain in column/double column forever? Logic would suggest that ships along the column would move ahead to engage the enemy, forming a line in a more or less disordered manner. To reflect this, I added the following rule. A squadron in column/double column, engaged frontally by an enemy in line, will form line in the next movement phase and is disordered. Note that it means the squadron will still fight the first melee in column, thus rightly suffering the formation differential malus.
Cnemo's heroic manouver saves the day for the locals. He successfully executes a diekplous (1) attacking the enemy from behind (2), the enemy is also attacked from the front and destroyed (3). The red ships are in place of the flotsam marker, which was not ready yet.
Another significant change: if you roll a manouver test while too close to the enemy, you get a -2 malus. This as a result of the pressure of an enemy threat. We felt it was too easy to readjust in the face of the enemy. Plan your movements ahead! There were a few other changes (double columns turn by wheeling!), but minor stuff overall.
Melees, on the other hand, worked quite well. Granted, I had tested it extensively while writing the first version. I had simulated 60 different melees using a dice-rolling app, and got an average duration of melee of 2,7 turns, spanning from 1 to an absolute maximum of 5, which I think is fine. This also reflected well during the game. So I added no changes to melees mechanisms, even if I did clarify what happens in a flaking/rear attack situation.
The diekplous, however, did need a minor revision. I had calculated the results beforehand, and the numbers seemed good to me. An average squadron had 20% chances of diekplous success against another average unit, and an equal chance of catastrophic failure. For an average vs a green squadron these chances became 30 and 16%, while a veteran vs a green enjoyed a 35% of success and only 10% chances of katastrophe. These numbers seemed reasonable on paper, but on table we felt they were a little too good! Also, the penalty you risked for failing the diekplous was bland – you only got to melee in disorder. So in the end the players started diekploussing around all the time! Fun, but not very realistic. So we changed a little bit.
First of all, we made the diekplous a little more difficult: instead of giving fast ships a +1 in performing a diekplous, now all non-fast ships performing a diekplous get a -1. Note that only the squadron performing the diekplous gets this malus, not the unit defending from it. Also note that this malus is cumulative, so heavy ships actually get a -2…
Also, we made failure at diekplous more costly. Before, in case of a failed diekplous the attacker would melee in line and disordered: now, instead of forming line immediately, a unit failing a diekplous must melee in the formation it used for the diekplous (which must be either column or double column), thus also getting a malus for formation differential. Along with the disorder, that’s a cumulative malus of either a -2 or -3, depending if the squadron attempted diekplous in double column or column, raising the risk of routing during this melee from 8,3% (the chance of rolling 2 in the battle test with a 2d6 -1) to either 17 or 28% (the chance of rolling 2 with a -2 or -3).
And that’s it really. More tuning than rewriting. I frankly expected more stuff needing changes. However, we did not used signals. I think players just wanted to get on with it. Clearly they did not feel signal could be of much use... Next time I’d really insist with them and see if they are worth it! We also did not use the rules for pursuing, for the very simple reason that in the heat of battle we forgot about them! Shame, because I gave them a land side to the table precisely so that the locals could try to exploit the pursuit rules to fully destroy the enemy fleet by forcing them to beach on hostile land. I really do need to prepare a Quick Reference Sheet, otherwise I forget about stuff!