[Thousand Spears] Looking for Feedback and Testers

Started by SuperSooga, March 06, 2011, 10:44:26 AM

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Thousand Spears is my most recent game project.

The Elevator Pitch
Thousand Spears is...
Hercules and the 300 Spartans voyaging around an ancient world varying from Hyborian savagery to classical wonder. Talented Inheritors carry out great deeds only through the sacrifice of their ordinary followers.

What's this going to do that other games don't?
- "Scaling Up" the traditional RPG structure of a party of player characters and maybe some hirelings. In Thousand Spears each player has their own character but each character will have followers. They could have a dozen each or ten-thousand each and the game still works. There are still times for individual efforts but for the most part you'll want to have a bunch of followers under your command.
- "Highlight-based" combat, where individual swings of the sword and exact positions aren't tracked but units and individuals can still carry out actions to sway the battle.
- The setting is a twist on classical mythology. Spear, shield and javelin rule the battlefield but in a world without horses large hounds are used to pull chariots and more dangerous creatures are trained as war beasts or feared as monsters. Sprawling empires exist alongside ancient tribes and defiant city states. Although inspired by our own classical age the world is original and there are no direct analogs for Greece, Egypt, Persia etc.

What Stage is it at?
The game is in serious need of some editing and layout work, but I can get to that time-consuming process soon. Some testing has already taken place but I want to step up my efforts. I'm pretty sure the core of the game works and each of the side-systems seem fundamentally sound too. Now it's more about fine tuning and (urgh) balancing.

So what can I do?
The simplest way you can help is to take a look over the game and tell me what you think. If you want to be extra helpful you can hop into #rpgnet on irc.magicstar.net and help me with a playtest some time. If you want to be ultra helpful you can run a playtest yourself. Try it, I dare you!

Okay, so where do I get it?
It's HERE in Google Doc format. I'm still making tweaks and additions so don't be shocked if you see some real time updating.

Thanks in advance for any help and don't hesitate to hit me up in the irc channel if there's something that needs clarifying.

Ron Edwards

Hi there,

I greatly appreciate that you're working on your game and have told us about it, but this is a discussion forum. It's not for posting an announcement and link as if it were a bulletin board.

Please help out by discussing any of your experiences and concerns with the game, and not in a press-release way, either, but as a fellow gamer speaking to people you think might like it.

Best, Ron


Apologies if it sounded a bit like a press-release! At the moment I'd say the two areas of the game I'm looking to work on currently are:

- Scaled Battles. It currently seems like a large unit is difficult for smaller units to touch. While I feel like 1,000 Spearmen should win out against 500 Spearmen in the majority of cases I'd like to allow the 500 to at least make a dent in the larger unit before they go. I've considered lowering the Scale Bonus gap between these unit sizes to allow them to break each other's defences more easily but have the larger unit cause more of a Scale Bonus loss when they personally break the final defence of a smaller unit. In this way a number of smaller units could pick at the larger one but the large unit can take a much bigger chunk out of one of the smaller units on its own turn. Not sure how easily this could be balanced to have battles meet expectations, though. I want the results to feel right so no 50 Skirmishers getting a lucky victory over 500 Spearmen.

- Character Creation. Currently the costs of Abilities and Bonuses are little more than place holder figures, so I'd appreciate any guidance as to whether any seem over/under-priced.


Hiya.  this is obviously a battle game, and I was wondering, have you played any tabletop ancients battle games - like ones with tin soldiers?  Im not sure about the warhammer and the like, but I have played a fair bit of the former, where the emphasis is on simulation.  These games are usually designed by old geezers who have read like, a zillion research books on the subject of ancient battles, so they know a few things.  I am talking about games like Wargames Research Group (WRG) rulesets, and the currently popular Field of Glory (FOG)

Takeaways from these rulesets off the top of my head.

1)  ancient clashes werent usually battles of attrition (casualties) they were battles of cohesion and morale.   Most casualties came when one side routed and the victors were often not too badly off.  Pyhric victories were the exception rather than the rule.   Cohesion basically means breaking down your opponents system which is a mixture of their  physical structure and their morale.  Spearman for instance rely very much on structure and mutual support to be effective, and if you can break that cohesion they become very much less effective and from there rout and the  ability to inflict large numbers of casualties is not far away.

2)  These rulessets tend to concentrate on fighting style rather than actual equipment.   They classify units like 'blades, spears, bows, impact foot, impact horse, and skirmishers'  which reflects the way they fought.   There is a little bit of rock, paper, scissors about it when these groups meet - skirmishers dont do much harm to anyone, but then again they are really hard to catch.  Unless its foot skirmishers meeting mounted.  Spears are solid against all comers but unspectacular.  Impact foot and blades are vulnerable to shock mounted.  blades are reliable more flexible than spears because they rely less on physical cohesion.  Impact foot are brittle canons that can roll any opponent on a good day but are just as liable to go out with a whimper against unyielding opponents.  Rely less on physical cohesion but strongly on morale cohesion etc...

anyways, Im not suggesting that 'realism' be an end in itself by any means, but by absorbing a few of these tabletop wargames rulesets, I think you would find insights that could address any problems you come up with.

for instance  1000  vs 500.  I can think of lots of different scenarios depending on who is fighting.  Impact foot might just muster a charge through the enemy centre and destroy their opponents physical cohesion that way before the advantage in numbers can start to tell.  500 spears might set up defensively with terrain guarding their flanks and just hold fast in the hopes that their will prevails.  500 light foot might harass a larger unit of heavy foot more or less with impunity, in the absence of mounted opponents.  Same goes for light horse vs shock mounted.  loose formation foot could standoff vs spears in rough terrain, using guerrilla tactics to try to draw them into a battle on their own terms.. yada yada.


Thanks for the reply stefoid, some really useful food for thought in there.

I'm quite familiar with wargame systems and have specifically looked at ancient-era games in researching this project, FOG amongst them. While I want to keep this firmly as an RPG with some light wargame elements there's definitely a lot of good to take from there.

1) Regarding morale there is currently a mechanic for whole-army morale, but individual units will not be routed through their own losses. This is something I've been considering changing for some time, with a few possible ideas. I'm considering giving a damaged unit's player the choice between taking normal losses or having the unit break, fleeing away from the action, unable to attack and at the risk of being cut down on their next turn, but being able to regroup if they have the chance. The problem would be weighting the choice correctly so there are times to fight and times to flee, whilst still allowing an opponent to force one of your units to break if they really put their mind to it. Allowing for feigned retreats and similar manoeuvres would be an additional benefit.

2) I did consider having "classes" of unit as you mentioned (spears, impact foot, skirmishers etc.) but decided against it in favour of a more indirect rock-paper-scissors mechanic that arises through the Abilities typical to each type of unit. At the moment this isn't nearly as pronounced as I'd like it to be so it's something I'm keen to work on.

With both of these choices I want to avoid making the game any more complex than it needs to be, as one of the main aims is to make this a fast, abstract battle system, not something where you hunker down for hours to play out a battle. A battle may be the highlight of a gaming session but it isn't the whole gaming session.


Regarding removing the war of attrition element in favour of a more morale and manoeuvre based battle I've added the following to the game doc.

Damaging Units, Holding and Breaking
A Unit is not destroyed when their last Defence is broken but is usually just thinned out and may be able to hold formation.

When a Unit's last Defence is broken the player that owns the Unit then has a choice. The unit can Hold or Break.

If the Unit Holds they subtract the enemy that broke their defence's Prowess from their Scale Bonus. If they have the Armoured quality they always treat the opponent's Prowess as 1 for this purpose. If the Defence was not broken by a specific enemy, but was broken through a normal attack die, treat their Prowess as 1. The unit that lead the attack always counts as breaking the defence, even if they gained the attack through an Ability used by an attached individual.

If the Unit Breaks they do not reduce their Scale Bonus, but they gain the Broken quality. Broken units cannot use abilities or lead attacks and count as having a Prowess of 0. A unit that has its last defence broken is always treated as if it had decided to Hold. Broken Units that are Mobile or Fast may immediately move to the Reserves if they wish. If a Unit is Broken any individuals attached to them also count as Broken.

A Unit has already lost Scale Bonus equal or higher than their Prowess score on this turn has no choice but to Break if their defences are broken again this turn. Units with the Hardened quality double their Prowess score for this purpose.

An Attack Die of at least 3 may be spent to remove the Broken quality from any Unit on your turn and you can repeat this any number of times per turn. For units with the Hardened quality this is reduced to 1 and for units with the Green quality it is increased to 6. This act of spending dice is identical to how attack dice are spent on Attacks and Abilities but the Broken quality is always removed at the end of your turn, after any attacks and abilities have been used.

When a Unit's Scale Bonus is reduced below 0 the unit is wiped out to the last man, otherwise the unit remains at its new Scale Bonus, adjusting its Defence accordingly. Looking at the Scale Bonus chart this can give an idea of how many individuals remain in the unit.


Hoping this gives units a motivation to break when they're being overwhelmed, especially in the case of skirmishers (allowing them to move into reserve and protect themselves) but also allows Spearmen and the like to hold their ground effectively. At the moment I'm not sure if it makes Mobile and Fast units too hard to touch, but the trick is probably to break the other units and then force the Skirmishers to break alongside them and rout the whole army. I've just thrown this together quickly so will try to refine this area tomorrow.


Added an element of risk to having your units break and added a play example.

Routing the Enemy
If a unit ends its own turn with the Broken quality they are driven from the battlefield. They may be able to regroup with the rest of the force at a later point but take no further part in today's battle. Units with the Hardened quality are not subject to this rule.

A unit of 500 Swordsmen have had their Defence broken by a unit of enemy Spearmen. As the Spearmen only have a Prowess of 1 the Swordsmen decide to hold and reduce their Scale Bonus from 12 to 11. A unit of elite Bursen Champions attacks the same Swordsmen and breaks their Defence, and facing a potential Scale Bonus loss of 2 from their Prowess score the Swordsmen decide to break instead.

The Swordsmen do not reduce their Scale Bonus further but gain the Broken quality. They will not be able to take further part in the battle unless the player spends an attack die of at least 3 to remove the Broken quality on their next turn. If the Spearmen end their next turn Broken they will be driven from the battlefield.