Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Checking Out Chainmail, Part 9

This time we are going to look at the catapult rules. Prior installments in this series can be found with the links in the left sidebar.

Catapults in Chainmail are divided between light and heavy types. Light catapults have a range of between 15 and 30 inches and affect an area 2 inches in diameter. They can fire every other turn if fully crewed. Heavy catapults can hit a range between 24 and 48 inches and affect an area 3 1/2 inches in diameter. Heavy catapults can be fired every third turn.

Both kinds of catapults cannot be fired unless they were stationary for the prior two or three turns before the firing turn. They both also require crews of four to operate. If a catapult has less than four crew, it takes an additional turn to fire for each crew less than four.

Catapults can be fired in a 90 degree arc, 45 degrees each left and right. To fire, you state the distance forward and the distance left or right of center that you want to fire the missile. These distances form two sides of a right triangle, with the flight arc of the missile forming the longest side of the triangle. The appropriate hit template is centered on the end of the flight arc. Any model completely or partially under the hit template is a casualty.

As an optional rule, you can roll two different-colored dice, one for overshooting and one for undershooting. If the dice are equal, the missile lands at the estimated point. Otherwise, you deviate the missile by the higher of the two.

The requirements that catapults be basically static emplacements and that they be crewed by trained soldiers make sense historically and allow the machines to be effective in the game without allowing them to become modern mobile field artillery. These rules require you to consider how you will place your catapults and how you will defend them if you want them to be effective. From an opposing view, you need to consider where your enemy's catapults are placed so that you can best maneuver through or around their field of fire.

Triangulating the shots requires that players develop a good eye for the board and terrain and become skilled at estimating distances. This is similar to the old "guess" rules for Warhammer. If you have a player that is exceptionally good at guessing distances, they can almost always land a catapult shot where they want. Chainmail takes care of some of that by requiring the player to estimate the length of the shorter two sides of the triangle rather than the longest one, but it can still be easy for someone with an accurate eye and good geometric and spatial skills to abuse.

One rule I am particularly fond of here is the rules for overshooting and undershooting. They put a little variability into the mix and help account for some of the range-guessing issues. You could also introduce a variant of the variant for expert crews: If your catapult is crewed by an expert crew, their shots deviate by the lesser of the mismatched deviation dice.

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