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Almoravid: a Levy and Campaign System Review

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06 Mar 2023 00:00 #338558 by Gary Sax
The core flow of the system is highly structured: levy,...

Over the last year or so I have been learning Volko Ruhnke’s Levy and Campaign wargame series by GMT Games, specifically his 2022 release, Almoravid. Almoravid covers a particularly intense high middle age period of struggles between Muslim and Christian forces in Spain, with the conquest of several cosmopolitan Muslim provinces/lords by the Christian king followed by a fierce counter invasion with powerful Muslim forces from North Africa attempting to push back the Christian gains. I have been surprised how much I enjoyed the series, after a rocky start, and I reckon the game/series ended up being my new game of the year for 2022.

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06 Mar 2023 09:22 #338559 by Jackwraith
That's interesting. A wargame system where battles are not interesting seems counterintuitive on its face, but if said battles are just details mostly played out within the system that occur because of choices in the levy phase and the results of the event deck, that sounds like a great idea to skirt the problem areas that keep a lot of people out of the wargame sphere. Personally, I'm all about scenarios that radically change the status/strength of your forces, so I'd have no problem with that aspect of it.
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06 Mar 2023 11:29 #338562 by Msample
Great review; I agree that the Levy phase is really the heart of the game. To a small extent it involves a small amount of deck building; each capability card you play on a Lord means that corresponding event won't happen.

A friend of mine often says re: field battles - if you are fighting them, you probably did something wrong. Which means that one side is often at a disadvantage from the outset barring an event card they are holding and should have gone to lengths to avoid it in the first place.
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06 Mar 2023 11:37 #338564 by sornars
Nice review!

There's a cool tension between capabilities and events being on the same card because powerful events are often paired with an equally strong capability. The deck is small enough that by the end of a year when your Lords and the board are loaded up with capabilities, you feel the power level of the events drop if you've levied all of the good capabilities.

re: combat - I also wish it was simpler but I think that has been exacerbated by us playing PBEM. In person it'd be a quick ask but waiting for feedback means it's much more convenient to trust your opponent to make good decisions on your behalf. I think the most frustrating thing is that in 80+% of cases the decisions have mathematically correct choices that aren't worth calculating so they may as well not exist.
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06 Mar 2023 21:37 #338580 by Gary Sax

Jackwraith wrote: That's interesting. A wargame system where battles are not interesting seems counterintuitive on its face, but if said battles are just details mostly played out within the system that occur because of choices in the levy phase and the results of the event deck, that sounds like a great idea to skirt the problem areas that keep a lot of people out of the wargame sphere.


Thanks, all.

Yeah, to be clear, there is solid decisionmaking that happens out in the field post-levy (moving armies and such), which is facilitated by the activation order deck you and your opponent create separately. It's just that battle resolution is just kind of a thing that happens and has a lot of detail.

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07 Mar 2023 07:35 - 07 Mar 2023 08:43 #338586 by sornars

Gary Sax wrote:

Jackwraith wrote: That's interesting. A wargame system where battles are not interesting seems counterintuitive on its face, but if said battles are just details mostly played out within the system that occur because of choices in the levy phase and the results of the event deck, that sounds like a great idea to skirt the problem areas that keep a lot of people out of the wargame sphere.


Thanks, all.

Yeah, to be clear, there is solid decision making that happens out in the field post-levy (moving armies and such), which is facilitated by the activation order deck you and your opponent create separately. It's just that battle resolution is just kind of a thing that happens and has a lot of detail.


I think it models how I imagine (with limited subject matter expertise on the topic) medieval warfare would've gone. The king would send his letters and align on high level objectives but you'd expect your lords be flexible in pursuing those and you'd need to trust them to pivot should the enemy do something that warrants a change in plans.
Last edit: 07 Mar 2023 08:43 by sornars.

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13 May 2023 14:08 #339326 by Gary Sax
As a form of update, Sornars and I continue to drag out our Almoravid campaign game in the slowest possible way, in probably the least flattering game pace for any type of game, and this game remains sick as fuck.

Often our like one week pauses are during the levy phase, which says a lot about how we're agonizing about our choices.
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23 May 2023 20:57 #339426 by Gary Sax
I tried out another volume of this solo, Inferno, which is Italian medieval warfare. It's the same system with the same friction and focii, but it's really different. Italy is like much richer, many more troops that are easier to raise and supply, with a lot more missile units.

It's always fascinating to see how different situations and designers can change a core system.
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