Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Porting Defender of the Crown over to Warhammer Fantasy Battle

How's this for a bit of 1980s wargaming? Nothing says "conquest and adventure" to me as much as Defender of the Crown.

ahhhh just hearing the music for this takes me back. So much of my interest in history and the art of battle stems from an early exposure to this game (I think around the age of 7?) on the Commodore 64.

Very very loosely based on characters and themes Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe, in Defender of the Crown you take on the role of a Saxon noble fighting to unite England in the face of wicked Norman oppression.

Here's the background, as it's presented in the intro to the game:
In the year of our Lord 1149 when the King returned from the Holy Land, he knighted six great warriors who had carried him to victory over the infidels. The King's subjects crowded into the palace to see him grand power, wealth, and vast dominions to each of the heroes. When the knights departed from the palace, five rode to their new lands. One of the knights, a Saxon, turned his horse toward Sherwood forest...

Here you visit your old friend Robin of Locksley. Many years have passed since you served with Robin and his men - but disasterous news curtails the reunion. During your journey, an assassin took the King's life. The kingdom is in chaos because there is no heir to the throne. Worse still, the crown itself has disappeared.

Normans are assembling armies, and Saxons will fight them. Each side accuses the other of killing the king and stealing the crown.

Robin tells you the struggle ahead is a task for younger men. "Men like you," he says. "Only you can save England."

Well alright then Robin lad, I'll give it a shot.

So you ride around England's green and pleasant land, conquering territories, raiding castles, jousting in tourments and - if you can build up a substantial enough army - laying siege to other people's castles. Most often, though, I just got trounced. I was only little at the time, remember!

Sounds fun, right? Come on, lots of must must have played the game yourselves, and some of you surely have to have fond memories of it like I do. But over and beyond 80s nostalgia, what's this got to do with Oldhammer?

Well, the thing that started me on this train of thought was reading Orlyggs posts on a lost GW game called Chivalry that never quite made it out of the studio, except for a couple of small elements; a card moderated combat game for battling knights in White Dwarf 130, and then the "Full Tilt" jousting rules from White Dwarf 215 (which we can guess might also have been part of the same project, though this was never stated). As Orlygg has suggested elsewhere, this image from White Dwarf 136 is a good candidate for the intended cover illustration for the Chivalry game:

Anyway, two lines of thought converged in my mind: 1) How would one go about turning Defender of the Crown into a tabletop wargame? and 2) What would the lost "Chivalry" game have looked like? Trying to put together a Warhammer hack of Defenders of the Crown, using the elements of the Chivalry game that we have, seemed to kill two birds with the one stone.

So what actually happens in Defender of the Crown, and might this convert over into tabletop wargaming?

Well, you start in a castle on a map like this. (So if we were doing a straight port of this over to Warhammer, you'd have 6 players each starting from castles in 6 different starting positions somewhere in Albion)

As you can see, you're asked for your orders and given a set of options:

Seek Conquest
This is the most fundamental option, and it involves you moving your campaign army into a territory. If the territory is unclaimed, and yours is the only campaign army moving into that territory, it's yours. If another campaign army is trying to move into the territory, the two campaign armies fight it out. If the territory is already claimed by another Lord, you may elect to pass through it peacefully (maintaining good diplomatic relations) or to sieze it for yourself. If you choose to try and take the land, then again, if there is another army in that location you fight them for it; if that land is undefended, it goes to you. Here, movement is best if each player declares their turn in secret (perhaps to a GM, or through written instructions revealed at the same time), that way you only find out whether or not you will encounter opposition AFTER declaring the move.
It's also worth pointing out that if one or other side feels they're going to lose heavily, they can always try and mount a retreat rather than fight to the death!

Each territory gives you a certain income, ranging from (if I recall correctly) 2 to 9 gold per turn in the game. In DotC itself, this is weighted to the south, placing the saxons (who start in the north) at a material disadvantage, but there's no reason to replicate that if you want to try and keep things more even for a multiplayer campaign. When a territory is claimed for the first time, it also grants you vassals (i.e. soldiers you can automatically add to your army).

Build Army
Ok, so we've talked about seeking conquest. In order to do this, you obviously need to build up an army. This you do by spending gold on soldiers. Every turn, you get more income from your land (unless it's stolen, etc.), which you can spend on building up your army, or replacing those you've recently lost in combat. This seems fairly easy to port over to Warhammer: lets say each piece of gold can buy you 100 points of troops. You may also want to spend some of that money on siege equipment...
Your army is divided between your campaigning army, and your garrison in the castle. Make sure you don't leave enough troops at home to deal with the possibility of a siege.

Go Raiding
So lets say that you don't feel you're getting enough money from taxing your territories, or you feel jealous of one of the richer landowners whose income is considerably fatter than yours. What do you do? Instead of seeking conquest, you might instead choose to Go Raiding.

As you can see from this delightful gif, the raiding option involved you and a couple of your mates sneaking in under cover of darkness and trying to steal gold from the treasury of your opponent. Porting this over, it seems that for a game on this scale, it makes sense to use the Chivalry cards from White Dwarf 130 to work out an exciting blow by blow conflict - you'd probably want to find ways of weighting the combat based on troops at the disposal of the Lords, or something like that, so that it's not strictly a 50/50 chance of getting the gold every time, but the basic principle would be: Go raiding with a couple of your men, fight the castle's defenders (using the chivalry cards), get through to the coffers and steal a proportion of the income for that month (say, roll a D4: 1=70%, 2=80%, 3=90%, 4=100%). If you lose, you have to ransom a proportion of your land to go free.

Hold Tournament

(Can I just say, this jousting lark was bloody impossible in Defender of the Crown?)
Another option is to invite all the lords to your land for a jousting tournament. For this, one obviously uses the Full Tilt rules in White Dwarf 215 (I've been looking for an excuse to use these for ages!) - you can find those rules here if you're looking for them. In Defender of the Crown you can bet land against your opponents (each staking a territory; the winner of the joust takes the territory of the loser); or you can just joust for fame (so porting it over to Warhammer, some kind of morale bonus - rerolls for some leadership tests in the next battle?)

Lay Siege

When you've built up a sufficient size of army (and got yourself some siege machines), and you've got land bordering the home castle of one of your enemies, you may want to lay siege to their home base. For this, play - yep, you've guessed it - a siege scenario! Obviously, purists can insist upon using the 3rd edition siege rules; though slimline versions exist via the 5th edition siege rules, and the most simplified siege rules are probably the 2011 rules in Blood in the Badlands; as there are a potentially a good few sieges to be undertaken in the course of the campaign, be careful you don't commit yourself to the most complicated set of rules without thinking about the time involved!
In Defenders of the Crown, if the attacker wins a siege, then they take the castle of their enemy and all their lands. Presumably throwing the enemy in the dungeon to be eaten by rats.

As you can see, I've just presented outline ideas for how this could be ported over; I haven't crossed all the is and dotted the ts. Hey, why should I do all the work for you, you lazy bugger? But I hope it piques people's interest a little. There are a couple of things in the computer game I haven't worked out how to implement in this campaign idea yet; damsels in distress; and summoning the help of Robin of Locksley. Perhaps random event cards for the campaign to cover things like this?

So is this completely mad and pointless? Only of interest to those who have Defender of the Crown nostalgia? Or something that sounds like a good warhammer campaign?

Oh, and one day maybe I'll work out how to port over my all time most favourite childhood computer game: Pirates!


  1. I loved playing DoTC back in the day. Even managed to win it a few times (recruiting knights being the tactic I employed). The long rules for Mighty Empires covers a fair bit of the above - one could add in bits for tournaments, raids and unevenly based territories easily enough if one wanted to.

    1. I think you're right that Mighty Empires covers most of the bases, but my feeling is that you want something quite stripped down to capture the feel of DotC - keep the focus on the chivalric adventures, and less on the more intensive campaign management of ME.

      So many a very minimalist reading of ME, combined with the WD rules for the raiding and tournament mini-games?

      Good to meet another DotC fan!

  2. Those screenshots just brought back a flood of fond memories - I even remember a prepubescent crush on the princess

  3. Those screenshots just brought back a flood of fond memories - I even remember a prepubescent crush on the princess

    1. Yes, just hearing the music brings it all flooding back for me.

      Funnily enough, I don't really have too many recollections of the well-known risque scene with the princess. Perhaps I was just too young to pay attention to such things - though I'm sure it's lodged in my unconscious mind somewhere!