This will be a special post, because here will be nothing about miniatures or introduction of rules. This will be fiction of rules.
I read on Bloodbeards blog an idea: siege setting in Oathmark. I find this great, I would love it (I was always amazed by the painting: Siege of Acre)! So I started to think about possibilities, how this could be implemented in the rules. I don't know if any other fantasy rank-and-flank system has any special rules for siege (are there any?), so the following will be my personal, one man brainstorming about it (I try to write it systematic, but I can’t guarantee the solid lucidity).
The basic of siege is the unsymmetrical layout of the sides (its relatively hard to imagine a castle against castle combat, only Mortal Engines could do it). So the biggest issue to solve here is the balance. I think, there are two possible ways:
- Make fixed scenarios with pre-built terrain/castle features, where the point values (and other features like turn limit or reinforcements) of the armies are adapted.
- Give the castle features (walls, towers, gates, moats) and of course the siege engines point values, to be recruited as regular units. There are also rules needed for the castle building, not to have full tower, gate-less castles with triple moat...
Both of these options need of course careful balancing of the point values. This is less effort with the fixed scenario, but need to be made for every single on of it (because who would be satisfied with only one siege setting?). Although with the recruitable walls would it be more work, but it also would open up the game for self-made sieges. I would clearly prefer the latter, but I’m not a game designer or game tester, nor a financier of such a project.
Another, (but maybe a little) less critical question is the basic process of the siege. This problem contains a lot of detail questions too:
- Height: a range of 2-3-4 inches would be enough. Lower is only a fence (like in Battlesworn), higher would need an insane amount of terrain building.
- Material: wood (but only until limited height) and stone would be enough I think. The difference could be in the durability, and maybe fire resistance (if fire resistance would be included).
- Width and depth: the basic width should be 5 inches, like the normal unit width, but the depth? 4 inches would be clearly too much... But how many rows of defenders should fit there? Maybe maximal 1 on the wooden walls, and maximal 2 on the stone walls? Should monsters fit on the wall?
- What bonus should be given by the walls? Maybe like the rank bonus, depending on height of the walls (2 inches is +1, 3/+2, 4/+3)? That could compensate the loss of ranks, because of the depth. Maybe also a bonus for range? Maybe a handicap too? With a minimal firing range: not able to shoot at close units, for example with a wall height of 3 inches, 3 inches from the walls are protected? But without this handicap with machicolation?
- Damage and durability of walls, gates and other parts if the castle?
- What happens with damaged walls? Do they crush immediately, or they will be climbable objects?
- How could damage/repair engineers different parts of the castle?
- Material: wood, iron reinforced wood, iron grid, full iron (I know, but its a fantasy game...)? Here again could be the durability and the fire resistance the difference.
- Opening the gates for a counter attack?
- Falling traps in the gatehouse? Would be fun!
- Width: again 2-3-4 inches seems like a good range. How to bridge it? The attacking engineers must have a bad day...
- Whats in it: honestly, I don’t know what should be a difference between water, and for example spikes… Maybe it would be too much to differentiate it.
- Height: I think max 2 inches higher than the walls would be enough. But this should definitely give a bonus (+1, like rank the bonus?) to the ranged troops, and maybe 360 degrees of firing arch instead of the (more or less) 45 of normal battle.
- Everything else, as by the walls
- Combinations: 1 gate should be a must... But how many towers? 1 for every 2 sections of walls? Should the rules handle more rows of walls (that would be a little too much I think)?
- Active defensive works: Falling rocks? Boiling water? Or some greek fire (which wouldn’t be a great idea at a wooden fort…)?
And lets get to the siege weapons!
- How to handle ladders? Speed, climbing speed, push-back from walls?
- How do siege towers work? Speed, height, material, durability, how many attackers in it (1 unit in smaller ones, more units in bigger ones)? Should it compensate the bonus of wall heights? Should it simple work, like a moving wooden tower?
- How does a ram damage the gate? Durability, wall damage, gate damage? Maybe in roofed, and an open top version also?
- How do the artillery damage the castle? How to hit, damage on different parts? Maybe use different ammunition? Rocks, greek fire, cut off heads (penalty on morale), infected bodies (some illness, like the poison breath)?
- Should there be movable, wooden palisades?
- How to handle monsters as siege weapons? I want to see ogres, smashing gates to splinters, and giants climb over walls!
And because it’s a fantasy setting, don’t forget the magic! I’m afraid, my imagination is insufficient for inventing really fun new siege spells... But this part of game design is one of the biggest strengths of Joseph A. McCullough, so I wouldn’t worry: we would get fantastic magic options!
A lot of details... This could make the game difficult to use. So make them as easy as possible, like the boat rules in Battlesworn (the first Oathmark supplement)? Honestly, I love the simplicity of rules there, but I think it would take the essence out of the siege… So let it be a bit complicated!