04 May 2013

Mayhem: Mass battle edition (rules review)

This is another set of rules by Brent Spivey, some of you may remember the name since I reviewed his modern warfare rules ”The Battlefield” while back. Mayhem is surprisingly enough not an expansion to those rules or even anything within that genre but instead this is a fantasy warfare game mainly written for 6-15mm scale engagements but which can be played up to 28mm as well. The rules have units based on squares and rectangles of various size depending on scale, the playing area  also ranges from a 24” square for 6-10mm miniatures, 24”-48” square for 15mm and at the very least an 36” square for 28mm miniatures. The playing area can be expanded as desired and by as much as players see fit.

I instantly, at the very first page of the rules in fact, noticed the “overdrive” mechanic that was part of the core rules in The Battlefield. Mayhem, just like The Battlefield uses a command point system. Units cost 1 CP to activate and they are allowed to perform 1 action doing so. What overdrive does is to allow a unit to perform multiple actions, but at an ever increasing cost of command points. Activating the same units starts out costing 1x CP (1 command point) and following activations of the same unit would begin to pile up to 2x, 3x, 4x, etc the amount of command points, each increasing upon the previous cost so it will be very hard or very expensive to activate a unit too many times.

So far the game is similar to The Battlefield, however where The Battlefield only used D6 dice, Mayhem uses D4, D6, D8, D10, D12 and D20! (Don't worry you will not be rolling buckets of dice so a couple of each will be more than enough).

All units don’t have regular stat numbers as such, but instead you will find their profiles to contain information on which dice they are using for their attacks, movements etc. The dice of each stat are then used to generate a result such as moving X-number of inches, or hitting someone in the face with a club.
The core dice rolling mechanic in the game is split into two terms “Default” and “Danger”. When performing an action the player is given the option whether he want to get a more controlled but limited result, or take a chance at getting above average (but at the risk of getting much lower result as well). The Default allows the player to do something at half the rate of his current Dice value. If a unit has Move D10 he does not roll the dice but instead moves half the potential range which is 5”. If the player is not satisfied with that possibility, then he may use the Danger, in which case the die is rolled and he can get a result ranging from 1-10 on his D10 stat.

Ranged attacks work in a similar way, but may due to range modifiers and distance to the enemy prevent the player from using Default to score auto hits and more often require use of Danger. Cover also works a bit differently in Mayhem compared to other games, instead of increasing durability of a unit each terrain type decrease the  “effective range” of enemy ranged weapons. This can prevent the enemy from using Default to auto hit you and force them to move closer to your positions and may have them end up being within your effective range much sooner than you being in theirs.

Very simple and streamlined system, but it doesn’t erase the difference between unit types and unit stats.

Units may also end up rolling more than 1 die per attack or action in some cases, if so happens only the best result is taken into account from each players roll. Dealing damage in the game requires the player to roll as low as possible, 1’s are “Critical hits” and kill enemy units outright. Anything above 1, if rolled lower than the enemy would force the enemy to become disordered and fall back. A unit that is already disordered can be wiped out if defeated once again – even if no 1 was rolled. So it’s quick and easy. There are some units that have special rules that allow them to soak up damage instead of being instantly killed/routed but these are few.

Command of armies is left to characters such as generals and banner men. Their leadership value is also given as a specific die, such as D10. You may opt to roll or make a Default with your commanders at the start of each turn to get your pool of command points which are then distributed to units during the turn.
Interestingly enough, if these characters move on their own they are treated more or less like markers, while they are able to attack and be attacked only once they join up and lead a friendly unit. Command ranges are fixed depending on whether the hero is on foot, mounted, flying or has a monstrous mount. The main role of these characters on the battlefield is however to be the location on the table from which command points are distributed. Wherever there is a hero, you can measure the distance to nearby units and activate them with available command points. Units outside of command distance from a hero must pay additional points to activate and perform actions. As the game uses alternate activation you may want to keep your comadners within range and not stray too far with your soldiers!

Joining a unit is a permanent decision lasting the remainder of the battle, the risk of getting oneself killed is weighed up by the ability to use the hero’s own stats in combat over the stats of the unit he has joined.

Army morale is the number of units in the army divided by two, so 14 units equals a breaking point of 7. When 7 units have been destroyed the rest of the army withdraws from the table. There are two alternative variants to this end game mechanic. The first alternative is to roll to check whether the army breaks immediately or stays in the fight, this is done by the general of the badly battered army rolling his leadership die (such as a D10), on a 1 the army breaks and flees, any other result and the army is fine. Each subsequent turn the player has to add one additional die to the roll, if any of those dice end up being a 1 then the army breaks. The second alternative is a fight to the death, in which case the battle isn’t over until all enemy units are killed or routed.

The rules include a detailed army building segment which tells the player the cost of various troop types, weapons, addon and really anything that could be included in an army. The points in hits game are called crowns, and a starting game is recommended to be 200 crowns. Units are built by taking characteristics, traits and weapons and combine them into a single profile – which yields a unit cost. This way you can tailor your own units. With the download of the rules you also get something called “Generals compendium” which has a lot of ready to play unit profiles for classic fantasy races and units along with explanations on how they were built to help you understand the army building mechanics.

I mentioned earlier that all units are based on fixed measurements, this also means that there are no restrictions to the number of miniatures of a certain type you have on a single base, as long as you can see what type of unit it is and the base size is correct. The game also agrees to allow other base dimensions as long as both player have the same basing system.

All in all I think Mayhem looks to be an interesting and very open ended game for massed battles, I also don’t see anything that would prevent the player to drop the fantasy elements and play it as a straight medieval game. There is promise of an expansion to be released soon, which will include siege machines, rules for Magic, strongholds and additional unit profiles and traits.

You can check these rules out by buying them over at Wargames Vault HERE
At just $8 they are well worth considering!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for taking the time to do a great review!


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