Sunday is Demon night but it didn’t look like that was happening. One player was in Santa Barbara and the other was out of commission. On the other hand we had four of our six L5R players already there so we thought we’d try to pull together an impromptu L5R game. Sadly the other two couldn’t make it, so we opted to give the Mass combat system another play-test and then play some board games.
This time we had the correct set up. With four players you can have each one command a single field. As it turns out with our placement, we ended up with no player characters in the reserves and two in the left wing, which actually was good because it forced us to elect a commander (instead of making it obvious by the fact that there was only one PC in each field). Being slightly more familiar with the system (and having a good Battle skill) I was elected general.
We played through two rounds of battle and in that time had destroyed the most of the enemy forces. Partly this was because for this battle Travis (the GM I’m always talking about) didn’t play commanders (which was intentional) and didn’t play any Battle cards or actions (which was accidental). Even with that the win wasn’t easy. We were facing really high TNs in the first rounds of combat (35-40 and add 10 to that if you want to actually destroy a unit) and had mixed results hitting them.
I get the feeling that as we progress, using card actions to destroy, bow or rout (a yet un-created mechanic that would send a front line force back to the reserves) will become much more instrumental to successfully winning the battle rolls.
It was cool to see the system in action with the right number of players. I usually think in terms of two player games and scaling up when I’m developing systems but it became very clear that Travis had designed the core of this game to support an entire table of players (a much smarter move than I would have made).
Our actions all made sense in the fiction. We saw Lion fighting Unicorn, cavalry flanking infantry, holding troops staying protected, etc.
The Battlefield resolutions affected the game much less than the player character’s heroic actions. This was built by design. If anything it’s going to be the brave actions of the heroes that win the day, not the nameless masses. I really liked this emphasis on the players as the ones who are responsible for the victories AND the losses.
What could have improved
We’re juggling a lot of systems: L5R core mechanics, card mechanics, battlefield locations, and conflict scripting. While they are instrumental, they still feel like four games mashed together rather than one cohesive whole. I’d like to work on blending this disparate mechanics together so the flow is smoother and the pieces are easier to remember.
Travis, because this was an impromptu game, didn’t have the enemy forces printed out, so he used some other cards from the CCG and told us what each of them were. It was really hard for me to keep track of which card were which. I’m sure when we actually play and the cards are prepared this won’t be a problem.