Monday, February 3, 2014

The First Crusade Campaign at CanCon, My impression of Deus Vult

As seen from the last post my annual pilgrimage with my sons to CanCon saw me playing in a Crusades Campaign that used the Deus Vult rules from Fireforge games. I was asked to give my impression and rather than a true review or an AAR I thought this might work.

The short version, I like them, yes a little bias here as I had a great three days gaming with some rather good folk from the Peninsular Praetorians from Victoria. That said, your troops have qualities and faults with much character based on the individual unit. Movement was fast and long much like Hail Caesar, shooting causes disruption more than death and melee can be either fast and deadly with those troops capable of such or could be a slogging match when the troops are evenly matched. Commanders add character and flavour and much needed ability to get units caring out actions. There is a small element of role play with commanders having characteristics and the ability to duel as champions with the opponent’s leaders. But for those of you that want more depth please read on.

Me with my back to you hmmm.

Crusaders arrayed
It is important to realise that the group campaign had altered the game in minor ways to suit complete novices to the rules like me, and to ensure the campaign aspect was an integral part. I am not sure if there are campaign rules in the volume as, well, I don’t have it yet, please note yet as I will shortly be purchasing said rules. The first thing changed was basing. To suit as many collections of figures as possible units were based on 55mm X 55mm resin movement trays. They held 3 infantry or 1 Mounted figure. Units tended to be 2 or 4 or 6 bases strong on average. I think that the bases are more like 60mm X 40mm and hold 5 infantry and 2-3 mounted?? The visual appeal of the smaller amounts of miniatures did not seem to lose anything by the group’s decision to go with the altered size. So this was our starting point.


Pilgrims, not as bad in a scrap as one would think!

Templars about to cause hurt on some Saracens
The initial dice mechanic is roll a die and if it is 4 or above you have success, generally you are rolling a few dice at a time even in moral style rolls. Nice and easy to get your head around, any adds generally added dice.

When disordered you tend to not fight as effectively, you don't say

Big Battle with 4 armies.

 Units in the game have characteristics reminiscent of WAB or other similar games, defence values, melee values, discipline, courage and so on even a victory point characteristic. The real clever aspect is in the special rules. For example the Islamic forces have many rules that allow feigned flight, fanatical melee abilities, and martial prowess and so on. But their courage and discipline was a bit lower than the crusader forces. This meant they could manoeuvre well do a bit of damage in shooting, charge in and hopefully bounce off to do it all over again but if damaged they could be a little flighty and more likely to retreat and fight another day. Quite historical if I read my history right. Your crusader forces lacked the finesse of the Islamic forces. They had less special rules to remember but had some nifty ones to help hit really hard in combat. The ability to charge through your own troops and throw a lot of dice in combat was what you really wanted to try and do with your knights mounted or dismounted.

Beautiful Resin siege tower, sold part way through the convention

You can fill 'er up with minis!

The Saracens had to get to the gates to relieve the siege
The commanders are integral. They have a command ability of 1-4 this means that they can move 1-4 units at a time! Within their command range (generally 8 inches) This of course is randomly rolled up prior to the game. During our efforts most of the crusader forces were 2-3 command and Islamic forces tended to be 3-4, now we rolled this prior to the game but I see no reason why you would not want to do this if you were playing a particular scenario or historical refight. The Islamic forces moved around a lot more. The command ability allows units to do actions 4 per period, move, shoot, charge, but also more specialised manoeuvres, move and shoot, reform, move wheel move again that sort of stuff. Some actions cost 2 or more point to do so it forces you to think what it is you want to achieve with the unit. I really liked this and it took only a little time to sink in. Mind you no doubt I forgot many aspects as we played. It looks like you could move forward throw javelins and potentially do it again? Certainly some stationary troops shot more than once in a turn.

Now the Saracens have the tower

Small easily defeated force? (Forgot there was stuff behind the gates to the left.)

As said above, movement was quite long, 8-9 inches for cavalry and then a dice throw to move forward a little more or to charge. Shooting also long 6-9 for javelins?, 15-30 bows and crossbows etc. and across a 4 foot wide board it is not long until you are in the thick of it. Failed charges were common for some of us that had forgotten how to approximate measurements in our heads and sadly left your troops disordered. (Disorder is not deadly but leaves you vulnerable)

We did not use the pregame scouting and table set up aspect as this was really part of our campaign so I will not comment.

And so they Sally Forth, ouch.

Please tilt head for better view
Shooting was good from my view. I tended to play the Muslim forces so had more choice of shooty types but they did not dominate the battle at all. Really they disordered and took a few minor casualties off the opponents unit but rarely caused unit shattering damage unless the unit was very small. What you need to remember with the Islamic forces is all the special rules. We were lucky the guys had put the unit stats and rules on cards, hence the plethora of cards scattered over the tables in the pictures. Still I did forget many rules in most games when I played the Syrians/Saracens but without doubt when it is your army and you’ve played Deus Vult a few times you will quickly remember them. Miniatures are removed when dead but if you have your miniatures based other than individually it would work equally as well with dice until a base was removed. (We had to do this with the cavalry as each individual miniatures was actually meant to be 2)

My Syrians about to make short work of Crusaders

Love the Trebuchet

Melee as with all ancient medieval wargames is the crux of it. Again the system is good in my view. It is not always buckets of dice but it did come close. A unit of 6 knights or 6 bases of knights in the real game, in two lines (front get 6 dice each back rank 5 dice each) getting everything right, had the chance to generate 33 dice. This rarely occurred. If it did it would vaporise just about everything. Yet in the actual games we played it almost never occurred. The bonuses never all stacked as you came up against melee troops or had been disordered as you charged in. But don’t get hit in the flank, first you are automatically disordered therefore no rear rank bonus dice, then you have to test to see if you become…..forgot the  term but virtually shattered. Then well you took a beating. When testing to finally hold on, you could use the leader’s moral dice but flank or rear attacks just plain hurt, so they should.

At the Gates of Antioch, Homs, Hammah, or most any Levant City in Canberra

Please note Holy Grail in which to cleanse thine dodgy dice.
The duel, last battle of the last day my Syrians were in a commanding spot. I was just about to slam into 3 units and fight it out with numerical advantage for the Syrians when I thought oh I have not seen how the duel system works. So a challenge took place, you have 3 dice possibly D12, D8, D4 you secretly elect one of them and roll off. Repeat with the other dice and then tally up the results. In my case let’s just say I fluffed it. My leader goes down, is captured, all three nearby units fluff their rolls and well it’s all over bar the victory celebrations for the crusaders in Antioch!
Overall would I play it again? Yep no problem, would I buy it, yep going to as soon as I sell something not my Syrians though! Does it have the flavour of the Crusades, even though we used it to support a campaign already with great characterisation I feel there is enough here to say hearty yes too. Much more characterful than FOG or hail Caesar even WAB. The challenge aspect for leaders gives you more of a role play feeling and well you don’t have to use it but it was fun. So if you have read thus far well done and do yourself a favour, play Deus Vult with some fellow Crusading or Islamic types. I am going to.

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