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Learning Chainmail

I have begun the arduous task of learning Chainmail (3rd Edition). And what better for a father and daughter to do on a Sunday, but murder hundreds of guys on the battlefield?

Our first bout was clumsy. She opted to keep her troops near the castle and fire with her trebuchet on round one. Praise Mizraim it missed because a 3-inch circle of destruction is a terrifying thing to brace against----mentally.

Ella, shortly after she destroyed me

We used turn trackers that I made for the occasion (which I immediately realized lacked a field for the unit's charge distance)----doh!

She came timidly down the hill with light horse, armed w/ shortbows, moving only one inch on her first turn.

My catapult missed but, on round two, my crossbowmen took out a few of her horse with pass-through fire.

I attempted to wheel my heavy horse into position against her advancing horse but she charged my footmen. Even though her charge brought her horse into range of my longbows, all my foot units failed their morale check against the cavalry charge...they fired pass-through and then retreated with their backs to the mounted men.

Unfortunately, since light horse have a charge range of 30-effing-inches that meant that she drove her horses into my footmen's backs, decimated their numbers and didn't take any casualties in return. My guys failed morale so badly that they all immediately surrendered.

My long bows fired again and took out quite a few of her horse and my catapult fired again (on round 4) blowing away an additional 2 units...but now things were looking grim.

I wanted to drive my heavy horse into her light horse from the rear charge (and was in a position to do so) but lost initiative. She did an about face (only half a move for mounted men) and shot my guys while a small unit of light horse that she had in reserve charged downhill from the castle into my heavy horse's rear. Ok. Learning experience.

It was at this point when we called the game and went to make lunch.

There is a significant amount of record-keeping for each unit on each round, which would be made a bunch easier by additional hands and heads. Still, we managed.

Basically, we went for a reasonable battle, where Ella and I both had about 1,500 men; some foot; some horse; some missile and one siege engine apiece.

Not beginner level exactly, but we also weren't playing with heroes/superheroes & dragons on the battlefield. I think our game lasted about 40 minutes.

Why am I doing this?

Because my AD&D players are now at a level where they are building a stronghold and are about to attract real followers. Castle defense comes into play at these levels. The characters are prominent personalities and often targeted directly by their enemies. We won't be doing a TON of Chainmail, but it will now become a regular item on the menu, an occasional break from more standard AD&D games.

It's obvious to me that Chainmail can work great in the context of AD&D. Some translation and tweaks are necessary to account for a few D&D mechanics that hadn't been invented when Chainmail was published. But discrete stats like horse movement rates, catapult ranges, crossbow and long bow ranges and fire rates are all exactly the same as they are in AD&D. You can easily transition to a state of mine where you see Chainmail as higher-level abstraction of many AD&D systems, streamlined for the big battles.

I was prepared to tweak the rules in significant ways but there's really no need. They are solid, with the notable exception of an overwrought morale system. I translated the morale charts into AD&D percentages and streamlined them with AD&D modifiers that also take into account leader CHR scores. Now, all you need to do is roll a d100 and make a series of subtractions/additions to that roll. Final tally tells you immediately whether your troops hold their ground or run screaming for the edge of the table.

Whereas the original book of Chainmail forces players to cross-reference and search blindly in order to customize their own units and look up the stats for weapons, I expanded the charts so that all that information is visible in a larger menu.

I also simplified other charts, like melee resolution (AKA Combat Tables):

If that doesn't LOOK simple, compare it with page 40 of the rule book.

Since the rules in the book are "organized" more or less in random access nightmare mode, I opted to lower barrier of entry by re-organizing and formating the rules one page at a time.

My hope is to post this more-friendly version here at the Blue Bard so that all of you can try this old classic without the attending headache.

I'll provide an update when I finalize my notes and fine tune the tracker (which currently looks like this):

As you can see, I also simplified the method of tallying Fatigue by turning Move/Charge/Melee into values. Once you reach 100, your unit is fatigued.

Ella has agreed to run additional battles with me so I can become even more fluent before I have to run it with my regular group of players.

That's it for now.

Happy Gaming!

Looking south over the Marches

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