(Crosspost from my blog)
The action in Kings of War: Vanguard kicks off when both sides have become aware of each other, and the Lightning Bolts and arrows start flying quick. But there’s something to be said about the build-up to these firefights, the calm before the storm, where the tension ratchets up as your scout inches forward towards the unwitting guard, hoping to slit another throat before the alarm is raised. That sort of experience really drives home the elite, small unit action – fantasy special operations, if you will – that Vanguard sells itself on.
AMBUSH BY JUNLING WANG – HTTPS://WWW.ARTSTATION.COM/ARTWORK/D0NL3
Vanguard: Stealth is me trying to add that feeling into the Kings of War: Vanguard game. Where Vanguard focuses on elite, small unit warbands in fierce head-to-head skirmishes, this variant introduces stealth and infiltration mechanics, adding to the variety of exciting missions you can play.
These rules are ALPHA. They are completely untested. More of a brainstorm, really.
This variant adapts some of the core mechanics from a fun board game, Nuns on the Run, and is heavily indebted to the creator.
Each scenario specifies the components needed, but in general you will need:
- Alarm Track: Use a die
- Patrol Markers: Markers numbered 1-3, in several different colors
- Suspicious & Alarmed Tokens
- Casualty Markers
And lots of terrain. In general, most Vanguard: Stealth missions should have even more terrain than usual. Aim for at least 33% coverage.
PATROL MARKERS DICTATE THE PATHS THAT DEFENDERS FOLLOW UNTIL ALERTED.
In Vanguard: Stealth, the Attackers are able to act normally, but the Defender’s models are much more limited in their actions until they are Suspicious to the presence of enemies, or a general alarm has been raised.
When deployed, Patrol models are placed on a Patrol Marker, facing directly towards the next Patrol Marker in their path. Unless Suspicious or Alarmed, when activated Patrol models may only be given a Walk, Run, or Search actions and must be moved as close as possible towards the next Patrol Marker of that color, in ascending order. When the last Patrol Marker in a sequence is reached, the model turns around and backtracks in reverse order. Patrol models may not take Fatigue or Force Fatigue actions unless Suspicious or Alarmed.
Unless Suspicious or Alarmed, when activated Sentries may rotate in place and take Search actions. Sentry models may not take Fatigue or Force Fatigue actions unless Suspicious or Alarmed.
Attacker models are activated as per normal Vanguard rules. However, Attackers may choose to take fewer actions during their turn to minimize Noise risk.
Models that have been killed are replaced with a Casualty Marker.
If a Defender model is Suspicious at the start of its activation, remove the Suspicious token and then activate the model as per normal Vanguard rules – the Defender may move in any direction, Brace, etc.
If a Defender model is Alarmed, then it may be activated as per normal Vanguard rules. (Unlike Suspicious, Alarmed tokens do not get removed. Once Alarmed, models tend to stay Alarmed!)
Returning to Position
If not Suspicious or Alarmed, when activated, Defender models that have left their Sentry positions or Patrol paths must Walk or Run (player’s choice) as close towards their Sentry position or next Patrol Marker as they can with that action.
Defenders can become Suspicious or Alarmed in five ways: Visually at any time, Searching with a Defender model, Noise after moving an Attacker model, being attacked, and the Alarm Track.
If at any time during an Attacker’s turn an attacking model enters a Defender model’s line-of-sight, mark that Defender as Suspicious.
If at any time during the Defender’s turn, if an Attacker’s model, a Casualty Marker, or an Alarmed model is within the Defender’s line-of-sight, mark that Defender as Alarmed.
The Defender may take a Short Action to search. Roll 2D8, modified as follows, and keep the lowest. If any Attacker model is within that many inches of the Defender, mark that Defender as Suspicious.
- -1 per terrain feature between the Defender and Attacker
- -2 if the Attacker has Stealthy
- +Attacker Height
At the end of an Attacker’s activation, roll 2D8, modified as below, and keep the lowest. If a Defender model is with that many inches of the Attacker, mark that Defender as Suspicious.
- -2 if the Attacker was stationary
- +2 for a Run, Melee or Ranged Attack action
- Note this stacks to +4 for a Charge + Melee Attack!
- +1 per other action
- +1 per obstacle or difficult terrain moved through, unless the Attacking model has Pathfinder
- -2 if the Attacker has Stealthy
- +Attacker Height
Example: A Nightstalker Reaper bursts out from its hiding place behind a low wall and tackles a guard, rending him to pieces. The Reaper then makes a Fatigue action to walk into a new hiding place. At the end of the activation, the Reaper player rolls 2D8 and keeps the lowest. The Reaper Ran (+2), Attacked (+2), and Walked (+1), crossed an Obstacle (+1), and is Height 2 (+2). With all those penalties, the ambush is unlikely to be very quiet, but the Reaper does have Stealthy (-2), so who knows!
If a Defender is attacked and survives, mark it as Alarmed.
Some scenarios call for an Alarm Track. When certain conditions are met, the track is adjusted and particular events may trigger at particular thresholds, including marking Defenders as Alarmed.
Additional Considerations / Next Steps
The above core rules set out the basic dynamics, but it’s important to note there are a few key features not included here:
Deck of Powers
It might seem like the Defender player is pretty passive – until a model is Suspicious or Alarmed, all they can do is Walk or Run their models on defined paths. However, the intention is to have a deck of Powers and a card drawn every turn that would allow them to change paths, give Suspicious tokens, or otherwise present complications for the Attacker. (And a few of those cards, like “False Alarm” and “Call of Nature” will help the Attacker.)
Chameleon Cloak, Potion of Invisibility, Illusion Scroll, Boots of No Trace, Lanterns… Equipment, particular Unique Equipment in campaign play, is meant to play an integral part.
Defenders might also be able to purchase Obstacles, Caltrops, Tripwires, and other terrain features.
Regular Vanguard is 5-6 Rounds, but Vanguard: Stealth scenarios may modify that a bit.
SO MANY EXPLODING BRIDGES!
Blow the Bridge
Clutching vials of alchemist fire, the saboteurs slip through the forest, avoiding pickets. The dark silhouette of their target, a large wooden bridge, is outlined against the glimmering river below, illuminated by a bright full moon. A voice shouts out a challenge from the bridge: “Halt! Who goes there?”
The Attacker warband chooses a 125 pt warband as normal. Designate two of the models to carry Alchemist Fire Satchels.
The Defender warband chooses a 200 pt warband as normal. 5 models are designated as Sentries/Patrols – at least 3 must be Grunts, the remainder can be Grunts, Warriors, or Supports. The rest of the warband are set aside as Reinforcements.
10” from the Defender player’s edge, place a 6” wide river running across the width of the table with a bridge at the center. The river is difficult terrain for movement purposes. A road leading two and from the bridge across the table should be clear of area terrain, but otherwise the table should have about 33% coverage.
The Defender then places 3 sets of Patrol Markers on the table. Each Patrol Marker must be more than 6” from the bridge, the Attacker deployment zone, or a Patrol Marker of another set.
Beginning with the Attacker, players alternate deployment.
The Attacker deployment zone extends 4 inches from their table edge.
The Defender may deploy two Sentries on or within 3” of the bridge and, for each Patrol Marker set, a single Patrol model on the Marker of their choice.
Scout: Do not use the Scout rule in this scenario. Instead Attacking (only) models with Scout may make a free Walk or Run action after deployment, testing for Noise as normal, but may not Engage enemy models.
5 full Rounds after the Alarm Track reaches 3, roll a D8. On 1-5, the game ends. On a 6+, one more Round is played and then the game ends.
If the Attacker blows up the bridge, they score 5 VPs. Attackers earn 1 VP for every full 10 points of models they kill, Defenders earn 1 VP for every full 5 points of kills.
Whenever a Defender becomes Suspicious or Alarmed, increase the Alarm Track by 1. If the Alarm Track reaches 3, all the Defenders are Alarmed. If the attackers blow the bridge, set the Alarm Track to 3 automatically.
The Round after the Alarm Track reaches 3 the Defender may start bringing their Reinforcements onto the table. On their turn the Defender may Run a model onto the table, entering from any point along the Defender’s table edge.
Alchemist Fire Satchels
A model with the Alchemist Fire Satchel must be in contact with the Bridge, not Engaged, and use a long action to set the charges. At the end of that model’s next activation, the bridge is blown – deal 1D6 automatic hits with Piercing (1) to any model in contact with it and then remove the bridge from the table.
If a model carrying a Satchel is killed, place a marker on that spot. A friendly model in contact with that marker, not Engaged, may spend a short action to pick up the Satchel.
Thoughts? Or even better, playtesting feedback? So far it feels a bit fiddly, but that also might be OK if it allows for more narrative and immersive gameplay. And by keeping both sides very small until the alarm is raised, I hope to keep the game shorter.
Have you seen other stealth/infiltration mechanics that seem fun? Maybe replace the Alarm Track with a Jenga tower? Or use a battle board and dice pool mechanic? Let me know! I’m definitely looking for ideas.