I was going to post this on BGG, but the great feedback from Russ has suggested posting here first, with hope of more intercourse before posting on the Geek (which is difficult to update.) Also, I've been working on this for about 24 hours, so it could be considered a rough draft... Warlords of Europe: The Feudal System
This is a variant of WOE for people looking for a more authentic historical game using the broad mechanics of the original.
This is not intended as a criticism of WOE, but as a development of it as suggested by my interest in history, which has always run side-by-side with board games, in my case with the history just being the more important, hence me being a stickler for historical accuracy over game balance.
It requires more pieces, approximately 2 times the original, the addition of a “King” piece for each player, and a moderate degree of artistic ability.
The basic premise is for the recruitment of fighting units to be based on the feudal system of the early Middle Ages, rather than the players simply buying units with cash.
I’ll probably draw my own version of the map at some stage, but for now I’ll work on the assumption of using the original, with the sole exception that each fief has an appropriate coat of arms added to it on the board.
Set aside original rules on Warlords, Knights and Swordsmen; these all work here in a very different way.
Each player will have:
One “King” piece; this is his most important piece, since if a player has no King on the board he cannot win the game, however many fiefs he controls. The King can give a player’s armies a huge boost in battle, but the price you pay for him being captured is high.
A “Noble” piece for every fief he owns. There will be one noble piece for each fief on the board, which should be marked with the identical coat of arms illustrated on the fief itself. The Knight pieces from the game would be ideal for this, though something more easily identifiable for small figures may be preferred, such as the “Banner” pieces from Mighty Empires with their large flags.
Each of these nobles can be considered the equivalent of a Count (an Earl in Britain), however if his fief contains a castle he can be regarded as a Duke and has extra abilities commensurate with his rank, e.g. an extra movement point. So if a castle is built in a particular fief its Lord is promoted to Duke, with the extra powers.
These nobles units are not nation specific, they can change allegiance from player to player depending on who controls their fief. Perhaps a coloured chip under each to indicate control?
Fiefs which begin as neutral, or become neutral for some reason, also have their own noble Lord who will defend his fief with his knights. There are therefore no peasant controlled fiefs and no easy conquests.
Combat units can now move only when under the command of a noble; otherwise they merely remain where they are and can only defend themselves, never attack.
A player does not pay for nobles with money; they will fight for him under the terms of feudal vassalage; that is in return for occupying their fief*, granted to them by the King. If a noble dies he is replaced by his son and heir who will continue feudal service under the same terms (unless there is no heir, but more of that later).
*He does not have to physically remain in the fief, though he may have a combat bonus when defending it.
Continuing the chain of feudal vassalage, each noble will have a number of knights in his service, equivalent to the value (in gold or towns) of his fief. The swordsmen figures would be ideal to represent these.
Archers and spearmen (levies) would be recruited differently, perhaps a number related to the number of knights in a fief? Players will still collect taxes, but costs of other units may have to be adjusted, and spending on new units such as ships or siege machines considered.
Nobles can be captured in battle, held in castles, ransomed for cash/cards etc, exchanged, or sold to other players as per Warlords in the original rules.
Capturing a noble does not mean taking control of his fief, though it does prevent him from fighting and recruiting other units. However capturing an enemy held fief does mean that you get control of the relevant noble, or rather you gain the right to grant the fief to a noble of your own (use the same piece, but replace it in its home fief which you have just taken over.) Knights in his retinue may also defect; their loyalty is to their immediate Lord, not to his Lord (The King). If you take over a fief whose Lord is the captive of a third player you must now negotiate with that player for the noble’s release.
A King is the most lucrative capture of all, since a winning player needs his King to be free to receive coronation as Emperor. Therefore, since it becomes possible to effectively eliminate a player by refusing to accept ransom for his king, a mandatory maximum must be set which, if paid, automatically results in the Royal person being released. This set amount can be accurately defined therefore as a “King’s Ransom”. It should mean that players will be likely to cash in their crowned captives with negotiated exchange of prisoners, cards etc, rather than hold out for the flat cash payment.
Perhaps a going rate for a “Duke’s Ransom” and “Count’s Ransom” will need to be set, but these should be negotiable between players, as losing the odd noble is not the disaster of losing your king.
Note that with nobles commanding nearly all armies, noble captures will be commonplace, and prisoner exchanges/ransoms a more regular feature.
Those, then, are the bare bones of my Feudal System. There’s more to come, including the introduction of Fief Cards, and the many uses of them; and how a noble controlled by one player may be a vassal of another, and how a King might choose to keep some fiefs in Royal demesne, and how you can decide to reduce a castle to halve the cost of building another… but this all needs another sleepless night.
I’ll also study the fief names…
Is Garth Celyn one of your playtesters?
London's in Wessex, now?
Italian names: why Roma and not Milano?
Kyle is Kiel, right?
Not keen on “Low Counties”, would be tempted to divide into Brabant & Oldenburg.
P.S. I’m also hopelessly colour blind.
Definition (outdated?) of feudalism:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feudalism
Nice site to get you going on heraldry:http://www.earlyblazon.com/