Saturday, May 11, 2013

Playing "The Domains at War" - Subtitled: How to Fuck Up a Playtest

Last night I participated in a playtest of Autarch's Domains at War. It shows much promise but we did our very best to prevent any actual testing of the rules in question.

Let me explain. We were divided into two groups or armies. Each group of 3 to 4 players sat on opposite sides of a nice size conference room. The set up rocked. Each side had it's own map and it's own referee. Yep, we were playing a multiplayer double blind wargame. I was having flashbacks to my own college days.

The goal was to get to Dwimmermount while securing your supply lines and gaining allies while preventing our opponents from doing the same. We went with light and fast troops and no siege engines to slow us down. We quickly made an ally of Muttontown or Nutterburg or whatever it is right outside of Dwimmermount. All the while using our skills and spells to spy out our enemy.

When we found them, they were seeking allies in a fortress full of undead. The thing is, at that point we had found Dwimmermount and proceeded to loot the first level before encountering some difficulties in the second level. Never did see the rats with their stacks of coppers damn it!

The funny thing is, both sides were working off an overall strategy of securing one's positions and the two armies never did engage, which is a shame. We almost attacked our enemy in the last turn played, but they were secure behind their fortress walls and undead allies. So, we never actually tested the combat rules, but we did get to try out the double blind system, which I suspect will work much better in cons and less so at the kitchen table, but your mileage may vary and the rules are still under revision.

I had a blast, even without getting into mass combat. I explored part of the second level of Dwimmermount and lost a level to a wight. Yes, Virginia, there are wights in Dwimmermount. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

I'm happy I'm a backer of this kickstarter, but I'll be using the mass combat rules on a smaller scale I suspect, and the double blind won't be needed as it will be the PCs against the world ;)


  1. That sounds like it was a lot of fun! Too bad you didn't get to smash it out in open battle.

    (I believe I recognize Tavis' interlocking whiteboards in the photo).

    1. Who do you think was running the event? ;)

    2. I thought the same thing as soon as I saw that picture: "Hey, I know that whiteboard."

  2. You know Erik, fucking up a play test is kinda the point of playtesting after all :D?

    I'm fascinated by all this by the way. Looks like it's going to be a classic.

  3. We did something like that when we used to play a lot of ancients (DBM). A one day map movement campaign meant to generate "interesting" battles. But the rules had larger forces moving slower than small ones (realism, y'know) so one side scattered into small units and went a'raiding. The larger forces couldn't catch them, so it was similar to your experience. I think we gave up and just played a regular game after a while..

  4. The reconnaisance rules meant that a larger force could have avoided detection by the smaller, faster one - for example, by having a lot of cavalry or fliers devoted to screening, or by using magic - which would allow it to bring the enemy to battle, maybe even in an ambush. Resolving the double-blind movement was a lot of fun for Miguel and I, but at the kitchen table you'd probably be running the player characters' army vs. a NPC commander.

    I think the reason we didn't have a battle was in part that I was prepared for twice as many players, in which case I would have been so busy running around teaching the rules that I would have had to rely on PvP to drive the action. I didn't expect to have the leisure to run a NPC commander that could have tried to force a fight!

    Also I think y'all's pacifism had something to do with the RPG layer of the game. I was pleased to see a lot of the imagine-the-hell-out-of-it creative problemsolving I associate with a RPG rather than a boardgame, so I shouldn't be disappointed to see the "let's cooperatively pursue different goals" attitude that also characterizes RPG groups.

    1. Tavis, I really appreciate the invite. It was a very good time.

      Yeah, I think folks got into roleplay mode pretty fast, which does show the flexibility of the system.

      Oh, put me in for a vote for LotFP WF Firearms rules. That would rock! :)


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