We played our first battle using the FF rules this afternoon. It was a quick, straight-up fight between goblin invaders and a band of lizardmen accompanied by a dinosaur. The table was scattered with ruins (plinths, pillars, stairways, raised walkways and a well), and also featured a largish hill down one flank and a small wood towards the other side.
The sides were as follows:
1 orc war chief (as per SOBH rulebook: Q3+, C4, Leader, Tough, plus Savage to bring him in line with his troops, as he's the most savage-looking of the lot)
1 orc hero (Q3+, C4, Hero, Savage)
5 savage orcs (Q4+, C3, Savage)
4 goblin archers (Q4+, C2, Shooter: Medium)
1 tyrannosaurus rex (Q4+, C5, Long Move, Animal, Tailslap, Huge, Savage, Tough, Terror)
1 snakeman archer (Q3+, C3, Shooter: Long, Poison)
1 lizardman mounted on a small dinosaur (Q3+, C4, Mounted, Long Move, Savage, Greedy, Tailslap)
3 lizardmen (Q3+, C4, Amphibious, Tailslap); one lizardman had a spear and thus Long Reach.
As we only had time for a quick game, the focus was on trying out reactions. We played with no range or line-of-sight restrictions on reactions, but house-ruled that there must be an action between reactions and a turnover: so, if you rolled two failures out of two or three out of three, there were no reactions and your opponent's turn began.
In the initial stages, both sides used reactions to bring powerful combatants forwards quickly. My orc hero positioned himself on a plinth to gain a +1 for higher ground on the wooded side of the table, making sure that he was screened from the snakeman's arrows by other ruins. My son advanced his dinosaur rider and also used reactions to bring up the lizardman infantry in support. The dinosaur rider and orc hero fought a couple of inconclusive rounds (higher ground negating mounted) while the orc war chief ordered the archers onto the hill; they fired a few shots at the snakeman, managing to knock him down but failing to kill him when he was vulnerable.
My son then brought his lizardmen up to add weight to the dinosaur rider's attack. My hero was knocked down, but managed to use a reaction to stand up when my son rolled failures activating his tyrannosaurus (I'd forgotten that only personalities could react to personalities, but this, serendipitously, would have been legal anyway. More on that later).
I then rolled a triple failure with my war chief, allowing my son to renew his attacks on the hero, who was knocked down again by the dinosaur rider and killed by one of the lizardmen. A couple of reaction opportunities allowed me to move two of the savage orcs up in an attempt to avenge the hero's death. My son then brought the tyrannosaurus up from the rear into the centre of the table and stood up the snakeman.
My turn. A group activation by the war chief allowed the goblins to pepper the tyrannosaur with concentrated fire. To my surprise and delight, they managed to wound it, reducing its quality to 5+. Some good rolls and the proximity of the war chief allowed me to get three orcs into combat with the dinosaur rider and one of the lizardmen, who was knocked down and killed. A failure with another orc gave the rider an opportunity, however, and he used a reaction to perform a Free Disengage and ride off.
The lizards seized the initiative after a double fail with one of the remaining orcs. The surviving foot lizardman (my son was holding a third one back out of the fray, given the tyrannosaur's Animal rule) attacked the nearest orc and the dinosaur rider wheeled and charged in. Then, on the other flank, the snakeman skewered one of the goblin archers with an aimed shot, scoring a gruesome kill. That scattered the surviving archers on the hill; more seriously, the war chief (the only one of the larger goblins within range) failed two of his three rolls and made it off the table at my baseline. That sparked more morale tests for the loss of a leader; the five orc warriors did surprisingly well, with most running just a move or two. One was cut down by the dinosaur rider, though, which sparked a second wave for a gruesome kill. My dice rolling went as well as it could in the circumstances (three successive morale checks!), but the orcs survived just long enough for the tyrannosaur to charge in. Failed terror tests and a gruesome kill on the sole orc to remain thereafter brought the curtain down on a decisive victory for the reptiles.
1. Reactions are great as written. Both my son and I loved the reactions. The game was even more involving for both players than usual, and there was much more of a sense of simultaneous movement. We liked it fine without any measuring or line-of-sight checking, as it was quick and clear. The rationale for the sudden changes in initiative may have been abstract, but the mechanism was clear.
2. Having no reactions when a player rolled a turnover with no successes also seemed clear and intuitive. When I rolled 1, 1, 2 with my war chief, my son asked if he got three reactions as well as his turn. "Not the way we're playing it today," I said, and that was accepted without grumbling: he got to go straight away, so all was well. I really think three "unanswerable" activations and then a new turn would be unbalancing. The way we played it worked well and kept up the illusion of simultaneous manoeuvring.
3. I would scrap the rule that states that only personalities can react to personalities. Why? First, it's hard to remember. I completely forgot about it the first time the tyrannosaur rolled a failure, and it was only luck that it was my hero who reacted. Second, as personalities include Tough and Terror-causing beasties as well as heroes and wizards, the rule seems a little odd. Why can't archers take advantage of a troll's ponderous movements - or shoot at a dinosaur that's suddenly turned towards them? I suppose you could rationalise this, but it also seems odd at a more abstract level. What it it about cave trolls or giants that means that their moves can never be anticipated (even by elite elven archers)? Third, one of the things I love about SOBH is that while personalities get real advantages, they're not that special. If Richard the Lionheart is caught in a crossbowman's line of sight, he can be mortally wounded. If Richard III is surrounded by Welsh halberdiers (or whatever), he gets hacked to death fairly quickly. If a wizard is foolish enough to expose himself to enemy archers, he'll become a pin cushion in short order. Not allowing ordinary troops to react to personalities seems to shift things towards the heroic excesses of Warhammer and its ilk (or towards A Fistful of Kung Fu, which is a marvellous game but evocative of a very different kind of fantasy). The more heroic personalities are less likely to roll failures anyway, given typically better quality, but when they do, I feel that they should be exposed to shooting just like anyone else.
4. When reactions unlimited by line of sight or range, they have a real value in allowing players to bring up laggards. In my experience of playing SOBH, one of its very few glitches is that lower-quality troops can sometimes be stranded near the baseline. For me, most commonly, it's been the "savage orc heavy infantry" bodyguards that I've given my orc leader. With their Short Move, they tend to get activated last if at all, and they soon drop behind the others, so that they fall outwith the leader's range. That means that activating them is risky, so they're left until the end of the turn - but the turn may end before it gets to them, via a two- or three-dice failure with more involved troops. Thus they often spend much of the game simply waiting to rout. In FF, I could use reactions to bring them into the centre of the table more rapidly (so that their higher combat values can be used to good effect). That, effectively, is what happened this afternoon. My son's tyrannosaur could well have been stranded behind the higher-quality lizardmen, but he was able to take risk-free rolls as reactions and get it moving up fairly quickly. I felt this made for an improved game - one which was less dominated by the initial melee than SOBH can occasionally be, which can mean that laggard troops - especially those with Short Move or Slow - might as well not be on the table.
5. Group activations: are we assuming a single reaction per failure in a group activation? That seems logical (and gives another reason for trying to take out leaders early on), so that's how we played it.