You asked for it and you got it. The question on so many of your lips is this: WHEN IS ULTIMATE WAR COMING? Your answer: GENCON 2014!!! The PDF definitely will be available for a GenCon release. I am hopeful we will also have print copies available there, but that’s dependent on shipping and layout times and not a lead-pipe cinch guarantee.
So what’s the big deal about Ultimate War anyway? What does it deliver that the excellent Ultimate Battledoes not already handle? One of those things is integrating standard mass combat with a world that exists in three dimensions and is not tied to a map. Look up! There’s a whole world up there that fantasy campaigns can deal with that fundamentally changes how the battlefield operates and how tactics evolve to compensate. Tactics like dogfighting, bombing, strafing, and flak are all covered in detail, but how it really integrates with forces on the ground is key to making it all work. Check out the excerpt below to take a look at how it works.
WAR IN THE AIR
In a fantasy campaign, war takes on an entirely new dimension that breaks far away from the traditional tropes of ancient and medieval Earth. The introduction of magic itself lends a much more modern tactical feel to mass combat in a fantasy campaign, with magic substituting for command, control, artillery, and unconventional weapons, but even in a low-magic campaign the existence of flying foes introduces an entirely different set of circumstances that the Greek phalanx, the Roman legion, the Turkish janissaries, and the knights of the Crusades never had to worry about.
Strictly speaking, combat in the air is not terribly different from combat on the ground, as it uses the same concept of battlefield zones introduced in Ultimate Battle from Legendary Games. However, instead of the Melee, Ranged, Camp, and Command Zones used in that product, aerial armies use zones based on their altitude.
Altitude Levels: Aerial combat involves movement in three dimensions in a way that is hard to model in the same kind of spatial concepts that operate on a conventional land battlefield. Flying enemies just a few paces overhead are outside the effective reach of land-bound melee weapons, and even ranged attacks are at somewhat of a disadvantage being launched against the force of gravity. At the same time, creatures in the air not only have mobility on their side but also have a commanding vantage point over the battle, using raining deadly missiles (whether launched or merely dropped) from above on units below. Much like the Battle Zone rules in Ultimate Battle, these altitude levels are abstract and do not represent specific physical distance. Instead, they provide a convenient shorthand for determining the relative position of flying creatures in and around a battlefield.
Ground Level: Many if not most flying creatures use their flight to move swiftly from place to place and to obtain an advantageous view of the surround, but to actually engage in combat they must descend near enough to ground level to make use of their natural or manufactured weapon attacks. An aerial unit must move at ground level in order to attack or be attacked in melee.
Low Altitude: Units in this altitude zone are well out of range of melee attacks but can attack with (and be attacked by) ordinary ranged attacks. Aerial units can attack at this range with dropped items with reasonable accuracy.
Medium Altitude: Units in this altitude zone fly on the fringes of the battle zone, able to attack with (and be attacked by) siege weapons and other effects with very long range but otherwise out of reach of standard ranged attacks. Aerial units at this altitude can attack with dropped items but with little accuracy.
High Altitude: Units in this altitude zone are too far away to effectively attack units on the ground or be attacked by them.
Aerial Reconnaissance: In Earth’s history, the first military application of airborne units was in the form of observation balloons, allowing commanders to get a good look at enemy troop dispositions from high above. If one army has aerial units and the other does not, all armies on its side gain a +1 bonus to their OM and DV.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at another theater of operations that takes the “field” out of the battlefield, but meanwhile take a look at Tim Kings-Lynne’s delightful artwork illustrating the glorious mayhem of a war in the sky!