Saturday, 21 April 2012

Commander Quality In HOTT

San Martin is a Good general
I'm currently playing around with some ideas for a simple campaign using my HOTT variant for the South American Wars of Liberation, and one subject that has come up is the idea of differing general abilities. To some extent I don't necessarily think this is an issue for normal HOTT games, as the player represents the general, and can be an inspired genius or a hesitant incompetent all by themselves. You can even have off days when that extra beer the night before clouds your judgement (anyone who's played Day Two at Berkeley will know about that). However for set-piece games, or a solo campaign it adds an extra wrinkle if the generals aren't always as good as they could be.

Traditional ways of showing good or bad generals are to use different dice - a D4 for a poor general, or a D8 for a good one - or a simple +1 or -1 to the roll. This isn't always viable for HOTT, where some actions cost 6 PIPs (although you could change it to All PIPs and get much the same effect).

My view is that whatever system you use any general should always roll between 1 and 6 PIPs, and their quality determines what happens at the extremes.

So, for example, you could change things so that a poor general rolls two dice for PIPs, and must take the score of the lowest, whilst a good general rolls two dice and selects the best. This would give a consistently good or bad performance throughout the game, but with no general able to roll lower than 1 or more than 6 PIPs.

However another approach is to assume that battles often hinge on one or two key moments, and the quality of the general often determines whether they are able to exploit those moments. On this basis I would have all generals behave the same for PIP rolls, but their quality coming into play just once per game - the key moment.

For instance, a good general can, once per game, reroll his PIP score if he doesn't like it. He must keep the score he gets. Conversely, once per game, the opponent of a poor general can demand that he reroll his PIP score, using whatever he then rolls as his PIPs for that turn. This means a good general can maybe avoid those critical turns where you don't want to roll a '1', whereas the opponent of a poor general can maybe see him freeze into indecision just as his army is about to perform a cunning series of manoeuvres.

One idea I quite like is to allow fixed PIPs on one turn; this is viable for the South American variant where there are no Heroes or Magicians to desorcell, or Dragons to deploy. A good general can, once per game, opt not to roll for PIPs and instead take an automatic score of 5.That is, you risk losing a possible 6 for the assurance of a decent number of PIPs on a turn when you may need them. As above, the opponent of a poor general can, once per game, prevent them from rolling PIPs, instead giving them an automatic score of 2.

So what are your favourite ways of representing different qualities of HOTT generals?


  1. Another approach would be to alter the 12" command radius of the general. Good generals could have 15" (or more?), while poor generals have 9" (or less?). This forces some tough decisions of manoeuvre on the poor general, who will tend to clump forces and pay more to move flanking forces, while presenting to the good general out-flanking opportunities and the option to closer support troops on the fringe. This will automatically confer PIP advantages without actually tampering with the dice roll. It also allows many grades of "good" and "bad" just by varying the command radius by an inch or two, without boxing all generals into exactly three categories. Cz

  2. In standard HOTT I like to think that the general's qualities are shown by the troop type. Cautious, scheming general - magician. Courageous, inspiring general - hero. Competent general - something fast (like riders). Rash general - something impetuous (like knights). Cautious, average general - something slow (like blades). Incompetent general - hordes. This doesn't translate so well to Liberated HOTT were these troop types don't exist though.

  3. Perhaps roll a red & white die, using the lower/higher score unless the red is a 6 and you use it for something which requires a 6. This allows for bad/good generals without changing the odds of getting a required 6.


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