Chestnut Lodge Wargames Group

Everyone Must Die – offside from Bernie

Everyone Must Die was a playtest for Becky’s forthcoming megagame set in the Game of Thrones universe. It followed on from her Big Chairs game in June. She ran Everyone Must Die at the Chestnut Lodge Wargames Group September 2015 meeting. Here is Bernie’s offside report.

“Everyone Must Die” by Becky Ladley-Jones

Fire and Blood (Game of Thrones)

Fire and Blood (Game of Thrones) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Everyone Must Die” is Becky’s prequel to the Game of Thrones (GofT) / Song of Fire & Ice world. Everyone Must Die deals with the rebellion of Robert Baratheon against Mad King Aerys and other despicable events. If you don’t know the books or TV series, think Wars of the Roses coupled with Byzantium politics crossed with Hunnic invasions, Viking Raiders and Moorish Spain. (oh! and sex – lots of sex!)

Like Tolkien, GRR Martin is not that interested in military operations. Like Tolkien, “the fighting was so fierce that even the poets ran away” type of military writing occurs. Just when a campaign begins or a battle commences it is over and the dead are counted, so there is relatively little meat to hang Becky’s design for Everyone Must Die on. This can be a good or bad thing. Becky was also very open-minded as to the direction the discussion took record as military ops leave her a bit cold, being more interested in the characters, their motivation etc. Luckily(?) she had to hand the designer of the only Wars of the Roses Megagame, author of the splendid “Funeral Games”, keen player of the excellent little board game “Empires of the Ancient World”, Jaap about to do his high medieval Megagame and me. Years ago I had helped a mate of mine to finish his “To-morrow is a Busy Day” War of the Roses figure and campaign rules. So all in all a goodly lot of ancient and medievalist wargamers. (What should such a group be called?)

This is a mixture of what was discussed in the Everyone Must Die session, and what I thought about on the way home (sad I know).

  1. Numbers of troops. Armies could be 40,000 foot and 5,000 horse for say the North, one of the largest in size, but least populous zones. The other 5(?) zones would have similar numbers, except for the sea-raiders of the iron islands who would be well under 10,000? The logistical problem of collecting and keeping that number together for any length of time historically would be vast and Westeros is much longer in length than the British Isles, so there is a lot of travel time. In the Wars of Roses (WofR) armies would be rapidly collected from personal estates and commissions of array from the county troops (if you had legitimacy to call such troops out) rapidly march on the enemy – fight a battle and go home (fleeing and pleading for mercy if losers, looting and butchering if winners). The Westeros armies seem slightly different in that they are able to fight a number of battles (are they being paid after the first fight?) before returning home. If they are beaten the infantry seem to take most of the losses, while the cavalry run away and regroup. The winners take some losses, but don’t remember any Pyrrhic victories. If you lose – you always seem to lose big-time!

  2. Movement mechanisms on the map were discussed. I always like Brian’s campaign card of three phases with locations moving to written on as it was quick and could be resolved all at same time. Others were not so sure wanting a more flexible approach of doing it only for next phase. We all thought sequential was out. Much to discuss further….

  3. While horse only account for a small part of the numbers they are the decisive arm. I get the impression the cavalry operate in a sophisticated manner of squadrons of horse, flexibly handled. More than a frontal Frankish cavalry charge, more Italian condottiere perhaps or at least later Norman/3rd Crusade etc. This is reinforced in the CGI stuff in the TV series that at least covers mil ops. As we are only dealing with Westeros we do not have to deal with the Dothraki horse armies of tens of thousands of “screamers” with a mix of bow and terrifying cavalry. While cavalry seem to vary from heavily armoured cavalry in the centre and west of Westeros to lighter horse in the north and far south (think Northumberland border reivers and Moorish horse) they seems to operate in squadrons as well. The cavalry are far more sophisticated than those available in the wars of the Roses in that available in bigger numbers and seem to have been trained to operate in squadron formations.

  4. Foot is mainly described as spear or pike, but almost interchangeably in the books. There is some shot – short bow and crossbow, but not decisive as far as I can remember. They are not highly valued – so why have them? Perhaps a numbers game to cower the opposition, needed for sieges and seem to have a role as protector of the mounted arm in their nightly camps. Rob was on the case of using the poker chips as stacks a la Funeral games – perhaps sticking some together for the large blobs of infantry that give imposing stacks. There are times in Rob Stark’s campaigns (in a later period) when the infantry and a small contingent of horse are used to distract the enemy while most of the horse thump the Lannister army in a ferocious night attack. Likewise we do not have to deal with the unbeatable “Unsullied” eunuch soldiers which are not available (any gamers wants to be castrated by Igor can play Unsullied? – you can tell when this article was finished!)

  5. To add to these are sell-swords and hedge-knights, foot and mounted mercenaries that seem to be valued as they have military experience and their captains are often skilful with lots of stratagems. They can probably kept in the field as long as the money lasts – “no money, no Swiss”. Again Everyone Must Die seems similar to the historical “free companies” that made the 100 Years War so brutal. Also a bit of John Hawkwood and the Italian Condottiere about them in that they can usurp and place themselves as lords if they have a sponsor.

  6. In the books for the non-gamed period the continuous nature of war comes out with society broken apart and anarchy reigning be it in the North or the Riverlands in the centre. Think 30 Years War and might be useful to have devastation markers if warfare becomes endemic – no economy, no resources, not even an inn!

  7. This brings us onto Stratagems. I think we all came round to the importance of Stratagem Cards to give colour to the campaign and to battle resolution. Without these the junior lords and sellswords are there just to take losses and have little decision-making to do. I always fear players not being involved.

  8. The battle resolution will I hope be described from the notes that Becky made. In summary it is 2 wings of cavalry and the infantry in the centre. Teams deploy in secret then bring two deployments together. The cavalry wings fight first. If 2 nil the enemy Rout before the infantry fight is resolved (also speeds up play) if one win each then the infantry fight is resolved to give a result of 2:1. If 2:1 win then it is a partial victory (count up cavalry strength and halve it for losses on enemy) If 2 nil win then a total victory then cavalry strength = losses inflicted on the enemy. Each of the three sectors is allowed to have a commander who can play a stratagem card (and also take the chance of being wounded and for the loser captured). Stratagem cards would be things like ferocious cavalry charge (throw 2d6 and pick best) / hidden ditch (preventing a fight in that sector) / hidden forces (strike first on the enemy) / redeploy forces (move some cavalry from one sector to the other) / infantry attacks early – resolve infantry fight first / night fight (high risk for both 2d6? Thrown instead) etc. etc.

  9. Ludlow Castle, South Shropshire

    Ludlow Castle, South Shropshire (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    Battles tend to be fought near places of importance – fords or major towns/fortresses. There are not that many of them, so we need a mechanism that an “army in being” gains something, while a routed force needs a few turns to recover. You should always be able to withdraw and concede the area, maybe a Rearguard gets beaten up or something.

  10. If you are beaten what happens? Losses heavy (especially in the infantry) and fall back a long, long way to lick your wounds. Fortresses sometimes abandoned as well (that was a common occurrence in medieval period that a defeat in the field led to fortresses falling easily, as probably they were denuded for the field army). If win tend to sit on the battlefield, carouse and care for the wounded of all sides (gain something) or butcher them (gain a fearsome reputation). To get a pursuit probably need a stratagem card with the ARMY leader or only a wing of the army if he has the pursuit card.

  11. Sieges. Westeros is full of small “holdfasts” where wayfarers stay overnight. We can ignore them. Fortresses could vary from the mighty Harenhall, Kings landing, The Twins and the home of the Iron islanders to quite weak ones (Winterfell for example). Sieges as ever resolved by assault or by starvation (which is costly in money and time, slow and often costly due to disease). From the nature of their heroic societies I would imagine assault would be the preferred option.

  12. The Nights Watch is non-played. For non-Throners they protect the great ice wall in the north from the wildlings, giants, mammoths etc. north of the wall. Only function in this period is recruit criminals and those that have lost in the game of thrones and send food and gold resources to man and keep the wall up to scratch. Most of the walls forts are unmanned and crumbling. They are much neglected by everyone except those who claim some form of legitimacy in Westeros. Probably a neat mechanism to show this legitimacy is of how many resources (including named prisoners – death or the wall?) your faction has sent to the wall this turn.

  13. Final thing was communications & team-time. Communication in Westeros was by raven to next major town. Thus information in the field was often lacking and out of date. Leaders in the field did not know their base had been lost, that alliances had been changed, that armies had been destroyed, that the Ironbank of Bravos has stopped your credit for your side (tempted by the way of getting an Iron Bank of Bravos Visa Card – how cool is that!!). Communications was run by the Maesters (for non-G of T – mixture of Druids and Japanese Bakufu) They promise to stay out of mere party politics(?) and act for good of Westeros in general. If communication is by note then it needs a postal service which is a pain to run as control. “Has my message arrived?” “I sent that ages ago!” “Not had a reply!” etc. We have never really cracked this and as 70+ players all with own objectives this I think is going to be difficult to run. For the past few years we have had a “Team Time” phase in the turn in many of our Megagames, when all players could go in group huddle no matter where they were, to pass on information, take new orders etc. etc. I think Becky does not want this as it is a-historical for Westeros but we need to design a means by which the many new players can remain focussed and not left out of the entire experience. Perhaps no communication at the map and everyone else is free to talk?

Well what a session! Everyone Must Die probably raised more questions than answers at the moment. Becky has however got over a year and as it is such a fascinating subject I am sure we can support her (I know I will) in making it all fall into place.

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2 Comments
  1. Thank you Bernard! This will be super helpful as I continue to work on the game 😀

  2. Pingback: Tides of Winter by R.T. Lowe [Book Review] - Themself

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