Charles here, reporting at the scene for Wicked Wargames News.
After much work on the current rulebook, we’ve completed our latest playtest. In this battle we tested our revision of the specials rules, the effects of a terrain-heavy board and tweaking of dinosaur points values, all of which we’ll cover in the battle report below.
We switched around this time, with Arthur taking the predator side and me taking the herbivores. Arthur chose a carcharodontosaurus and a suchomimus. I went with a parasaurolophus, an edmontosaurus and a triceratops.
As you’ll see above, we decided that a dinosaur’s base can be no further than 5” from a board edge. If we were playing with large bases for large dinosaurs (note, we’re not talking about the size class here) then just place the base against the table edge. In general we’re going for simple rules to facilitate a quick, easy, fun game.
The first turn started with the carcharodontosaurus passing the smell check and speeding half-way across the board. I initially thought this was a lot, but, considering the 4-turn limit, it does bring about combat faster. I’ve also wondered if this turn limit is too low, and I’ll return to that at the end of the report.
With terrain-heavy boards it’s important to agree on the nature of the terrain: what’s difficult terrain and what blocks line of sight. A rule book might say “If a tree is 5” high etc” but we thought “This is a game, how about, just maybe, we make the game fun? Let players use whatever terrain they have and decide for themselves.”
Consequently, in the picture above, the suchomimus is crossing a hill – difficult terrain – but later we backtracked and decided that only the grey outcrops should be difficult terrain. We decided this at a later stage of the game, however this kind of decision making in the playtest period means that players of the finished game shan’t be presented with such confusions, and we were happy with our change.
Meanwhile, on the herbivore side, I got unlucky with rolls. I managed one graze with the triceratops, whereas my edmontosaurus and parasaurolophus meandered about. Neither of them found space to graze in the terrain-heavy board. My victory condition was to graze eight times, which is much easier on a plains map, or to survive the predator attack. I banked on the latter and decided to avoid combat.
We tend to find that on a terrain-heavy board, spot checks are hard! A few times we put our digital eyes to the board edge and asked ourselves “Can they see each other?” Again, it’s simply a matter of player decision. As clear line of sight was not possible during a lot of the game, due to basic concealment on the board (as per basic concealment rules), dinosaurs tended to have to be within 10” of each other during this game to enable the spot check.
At the end of turn two, the carcharodontosaurus got close and we did a spot check: a 1D6 + a spot-modifier for the individual dinosaur. Arthur rolled a 1 (on the dice) +2 against the edmontosaurus, who has a spot check modifier of +3, so I automatically won, making the edmontosaurus alert.
A favourite rule of mine is that if an alerted herbivore flees from a predator after spotting them then they also alert any other herbivores who see them fleeing. We see this in the animal kingdom: a gazelle doesn’t suddenly change position without the other herd members being alerted to potential danger.
I decided this game to play a skittish herd of herbivores, and avoid combat for as long as possible. It had a tactical consideration, but largely I just enjoyed the narrative of herbivores fleeing at the sight of a predator rather than charging it. Both are playable, but don’t worry: in case you prefer a smash-‘em-up gameplay style – that’s included that in the rule set.
Above is from turn three. The herbivores have moved but the predators have not. Here is where we realised that the hill the suchomimus was climbing shouldn’t count as difficult terrain (which halves movement). It’s too much terrain and nullifies any chance of that predator seeing combat. We backtracked our previous decision and gave the suchomimus its full movement. It’s just not fun if a player can’t actually do much with their dinosaur.
That’s right. The suchomimus likes Blondie.
By the end of turn three I managed to avoid combat, but my dinosaurs were chased to the corner, and one of them was getting charged on the next turn. Since all the herbivores have a medium size class, meaning that their, smaller, nimbler bodies can fully rotate on the spot without sacrificing their movement, and I could use that in this position for a tactical advantage.
Arthur charged with the carcharodontosaurus and had the suchomimus make a bolstering roar, and now we finally got to use our special attack rules.
The charcarodontosaurus has a bite attack of 1D6 +3 and Vicious Teeth, meaning that it gets a +1 modifier when attacking dinosaurs at least one size class smaller. Alongside other modifiers, charging (+1), a bolstering roar from a large dinosaur (+2), attacking a trapped dinosaur (one that doesn’t have space to flee, if it wanted) (+1), and a roll of a 6, it got an attack roll of 11.
The parasaurolophus head hide has a defence of four, so that’s only one point short of triple damage!
It is worth noting that a base attack of 4 (even on a roll of 1) might seem overpowered but as mentioned many time in the book the game is not generally intended to be a hack and slash battle. Alongside that, a pending “standing ground” rule and the existing intimidating roar (that could be conducted by an ally or even the attacked dinosaur toward it’s attacker) can bring down an attackers base values.
Needless to say, Cretacea is basic and streamlined, yet it boasts a thorough and clever system of moves, actions and behaviour mechanics that enable players (especially as they become more familiar with it over time) to really grow into it tactically and become masters of their dinosaurs.
My tactic of having them all turn and face their attacker simultaneously paid off: the edmontosaurus and parasaurolophus have the Herd Animal special, meaning that they get a +1 modifier on attacks if they’re within 10” of another dinosaur with that ability, and they both get that bonus. Between them they managed two points of damage.
The triceratops moved around the tree and made a perfect attack roll, and with its specials of both Horned Beast and Heavy Header got an attack roll of 13, making triple damage!
By the time combat was done, the carcharodontosaurus was badly beaten and the turn limit was over. The herbivores had won, but the turn limit victory didn’t feel completely satisfying for either of us; what if the suchomimus didn’t struggle with the hill and had reached combat in time? We decided to add the rule that if players want to, they can extend the turn limit by two turns. In this case however, it was clear the herbivores had won, and we decided to call it, excited to get to updating the rules!
It was a productive playtest, and the rebalancing of the stat cards meant that we could field more and larger dinosaurs in a scenario with 100 points-worth each of dinosaurs. Next up we’re planning on a gang of deinonychus versus the giant saltasaurus or the gargantuan argentinosaurus on a plains or desert map.
In this blog you can find regular updates regarding the development and playing of Wicked Wargames systems.