Thursday, 7 May 2020

The Drake of Bonemire Howe

So, I fell in love (or in froth) with 13th Age. I was hacking the Black Hack for a more “heroic” feel, and I realised while working on it that 13th Age was doing basically everything I was trying to do. So I bought the books and got cracking. Try 13thAge!

The campaign is a weird one. Set up to be a low-maths catharsis for a friend in front-line healthcare, I’m using the clickbait system for setting up the world. Basically, you do as little prep as possible and discover the world alongside your players. Establish what you need to prep a session and leave the rest hanging. I amended the Icons to fit the world as we went along. By the time character generation was finished, there were nine new Icons and four waiting to be adapted. Not that the Prince of Shadows ever doesn’t apply.

Lantmor is said to be Father Dragon's slowly sinking corpse.

Welcome to Waageburg
It’s smoky, it’s grimy, it’s coastal, it’s gross. It’s a 1600s Baltic-style trading town on the edge of the Black Colonies, which are maintained by the Amarantine Empire for their valuable oil deposits. It’s ruled… it was ruled by Duke von Waage, the greatest general in the western empire. His power was such that he personally controlled nine drakes, a feat unmatched in the lands of men (1).

But the Duke is dead. His drakes fled before they could be sedated and reassigned to new masters, and so the Seneschal of Waageburg has hired bands of adventurers to hunt them down. They cannot be allowed to prey on the Black Colonies (2). They must be brought down. The imperial court in Jamaranz is too far away to promote a new Duke quickly, and in the meantime, order must be maintained.

The party unite in search of the missing drakes and immediately start looking for clues. With some great rolls to investigate, they discover that: drakes are born in the mountains; their scales are made of stone; the Duke might have been poisoned; the Duke definitely was poisoned; he was poisoned with a rage potion that gave him a lethal fit of apoplexy, rage and adrenaline; the Duke’s death infected the drakes; most of the drakes are injured from fighting in their roost atop Waageburg Keep.

Vik, our gnoll druid from the far lands to the east, got a crucial clue from a maid who was worried the drakes had been sent out against the Shorn Men: the drakes went north (3). Wojtek the Fightbear, an armoured bear, discovered that the Shorn Men were a radical separatist movement who cut their hair short in defiance of Imperial fashion and plot to take over the Black Colonies to form a separate nation.

The Voyage to Bonemire
They headed out into the wilderness, unerringly led by Akhyar Nassar, a former member of the Imperial Corps of Scouts. Seriously, he rolled so well they were in sight of the main part of the session within half an hour. Sorry random encounters!

Skollston the tiefling barbarian (a former Alferez in the Imperial army) suggested they rest for the night in the village of Muddlewood, where they discovered several members of the village had recently cut their hair and disappeared into the forest. And another party of adventurers (or Imperial Scouts) had ridden through grim-faced that day.

During the night, their rest was disturbed by a wilderfolk raid (4). Goatfaced beastmen burst into the village, slaughtering sleeping villagers and focussing on the inn where Vik and Wojtek slept by the fire. (4) Waking, the heroes fought hard against two groups of mooks, a great-axe wielding champion and a shaman. Bloodied – especially by the shaman’s battle curse – they eventually triumphed. Vik slew the champion and Akhyar blew the shaman’s head off with his arquebus (5). It was 2am by then, so bed it was. As they headed back to sleep, Vik’s second Icon die revealed itself as a distant cousin offered him a healing potion and rune for his spear.

They woke at dawn, learning that the wilderfolk had last been seen by colonists in their great-grandparents’ day. Heading out again, they rolled well again to make their way through the dark woods of the Muzzle. In fact, they found some semi-hidden paths through the woods and took them. Finally, a random encounter!

An armoured bear, sobbing and stinking in the woods, deprived of his armour. His name was Smirdant, and he was very upset that humans had stolen his armour because they said he’d broken his oaths. The party quickly agreed to help him and successfully intimidated the six men who had taken it. It turned out Smirdant had broken his agreement to be a guard when he realised they were travellers and not stationary miners.

Interrogation of the six quickly revealed they were Shorn Men, and that they had set up an HQ in Bonemire Howe. There were several hundred barrels of gunpowder there, scores of arquebuses, and a garrison of thirty men, their leader Custas, and their druid Yohn Bone-eye. It turned out one of the drakes they were chasing had landed on the Howe, and Yohn had commanded the earth to move to give the drake sanctuary. The Shorn Men were trying to make it serve them!

Smirdant proved himself to genuinely be a terrible person when Wojtek failed his Charisma check to convince the bear to join them in their fight. Despite owing the party big time for getting his armour back, he just sidled off saying he was going back to Karalistland and never coming back to human lands.

Bonemire Howe
The party took one of their Shorn Men prisoners as a guide and tied the rest up in the woods (6). He guided them not to the top of the Howe, but the main gate, which Yohn had opened to let the dragon in. Skollston lit a torch to light the way and its smoke triggered a trap! A hail of stakes came flying out of the ceiling and only Skollston failed his PD save. Of the party, at least. Their guide also lost half his HP to a stake, and Skollston took the chance to use his injury as a motivational tool… the party soon knew everything about the Howe’s layout.

It was decided that Yohn Bone-eye was the key, because only he could move the earth to let the dragon out. So he had to be eliminated. They “snuck” down towards his room in the belly of the Howe. “Snuck”. Skollston and Wojtek attracted the drake’s attention as they passed it on the stairs and took fire damage.

Then the labyrinth. This was a group skill check with two halves; finding their way through, and surviving the mind-rending geometry of this ancient place. They broadly succeeded. They found their way through and only took 1 psychic damage each.

The battle against Yohn was brutal (7). The party almost slew him in turn one, aided by Akhyar’s incredible stacking critical hit ability, but he survived long enough to call a clayguard forth from the ground. Yohn called the very clay in their bones to rebel, and everyone took serious damage. The clayguard was almost impervious to damage, and took a long time to slay, even after Yohn was slain. Vik cut his head off and put it on his spear to intimidate any survivors.

Wearily, they re-ascended. I gave them an offer: sacrifice a recovery and beat the remainder of the Shorn Men. They agreed, and didn’t have to try and stop Custas Yolvus escaping. Lucky them.

Vik wanted to talk to the drake instead of killing it. He rolled 29 in the end, and learned that while drakes have a heartfelt genetic need to be psychically bonded to a partner, it did not want to go back to being mentally dominated as it was under the Duke’s command. A slight swamp of moral quandary briefly enveloped the party before Akhyar once again led them past my random encounters and back to Waageburg.

Session Conclusion
There the seneschal refused to pay them properly for the dragon, since while it was contained, it wasn’t exactly returned dead or alive to Waageburg. However, the party were rewarded for their slaughter of various Shorn Men and the noted renegade Yohn Bone-Eye. The party wanted to keep Bonemire Howe for themselves, but the Seneschal derisively denied them a huge prehistoric fort and a drake because they were four randoms who had just come together that morning.

Real life intervened and the session ended right on schedule, 3.5 hours after it started. The campaign to discover where the Duke’s drakes went shall continue. Especially since the players want to try and bond with drakes themselves. DC35… Pre-requisites not yet established!

Campaign Notes
  • The wilderfolk have returned to attack human lands after three generations of peace.
  • Drakes are born of the mountains and return there half on auto.
  • The Shorn Men are a real and growing force in the Black Colonies, and they are well-armed.
  • Custas Yolvus escaped from Bonemire and may now have a grudge against the characters. (I mean, he definitely does – they killed his druid!)
  • Drakes want to be bonded, but they don’t want to be dominated.
  • Four of the nine drakes are now accounted for; one is trapped in Bonemire Howe, and three others were slain by other parties of adventurers (d3 roll).

(1) The Cid caste of the Amarantine Empire are founded on the notion that they are dragonblooded, and thus the only people in the world who can bind drakes to their will. The great warriors of the empire control one or more drakes each. Mechanically, they can dominate 1 drake per level.
(2) A drake is like a warplane; expensive, ultimately expendable, and not to be left in the wrong hands.
(3) This was the info his Icon die (Ashen Empress) won him.
(4) I used goblin and orc stats to represent different sizes of beastfolk in classic GW style.
(5) Arquebus: A home-brewed weapon. D10 damage, reload requires a move and a quick action consecutively.
(6) When they got back to Waageburg they realised they had forgotten the other nationalists that they’d tied up in the woods. No-one seemed too bothered.
(7) Yohn was a Derro Sage, and the clayguard was a Derro Maniac. I reskinned all abilities to be earth-based. This was two level 4 monsters vs one party of four level one characters… they survived – without the Escalation Die! That’s on me.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Battle of Benjamin Bridge

With its release just a cover design away, I decided to play a game of Tree of Liberty with a friend after our Sunday lunch last week. The game is specifically designed for the mid-range battles of the American War of Independence, so we quickly threw some terrain on a 4'x4' table and dug out some units

British Order of Battle
General Brassick: Status 2
Brigader Suttle: Status 3
Muttoncuffs, 5 bases: Regulars, muskets, colonel, Cohesion 4
Fusiliers, 6 bases: Regulars, muskets, colonel, Cohesion 5
Canadian Highland Volunteers, 9 bases: Regulars, muskets, colonel, Cohesion 3
Queen's Rangers, 6 bases: Regulars, muskets, Cohesion 3
Hessian Jagers, 4 bases: Regulars, muskets, light infantry, Cohesion 4
Dragoons, 6 bases: Regulars, cavalry, colonel, Cohesion 3

Command Initiative: 4 dice, 9 orders
Breakpoint: 17 bases

American Order of Battle
Brigadier-General Horeson: Status 3
Brigadier Grimley: Status 3
3rd Maryland, 10 bases: Regulars, muskets, colonel, Cohesion 3
1st New Yorkers, 10 bases: Regulars, muskets, colonel, Cohesion 3
9th Connecticut, 10 bases: Regulars, muskets, colonel, Cohesion 4
Riflemen, 12 bases: Irregulars, rifles, Cohesion 3
Benjamin's Hollow Militia, 3 bases: Militia, muskets, Cohesion 2

Command Initiative: 4 dice, 9 orders
Breakpoint: 15 bases

The Game
Both armies were divided by the Sackahominy River, only crossable at the rickety Benjamin's Bridge. Defending both sides of the road, the Patriots lined the fences and waited for the British to advance; which they did in short order.

The Canadians were slow enough to ruin any chance of success on their flank. Their reluctance to get to handstrokes meant that despite their stellar success breaking three units of Americans with fire and bayonet, the Muttoncuffs were abandoned in a cauldron of musketry and eventually annihilated in a counter-charge. The Canucks eventually made it almost the whole way to the bridge before being similarly surrounded and shot to pieces. Brigadier Suttle was the only British piece remaining on the left bank of the Sackahominy by the time the game ended.

In part, that was due to General Brassick destroying his army's command and control by sacrificing himself in a successful charge alongside the Fusiliers on the other side of the river. After a few sharp exchanges of fire with the Patriots in the hills and woods opposite, they routed New Yorkers off the road fences, but like the Muttoncuffs were caught without support and squashed flat.

On the British right flank, the skirmishing Rangers and Jagers were quickly bogged down in ineffectual firefights against Connecticut line infantry and swarms of riflemen. By the time the Dragoons moved up in support, any attempt to charge the American lines would have been a waste.

The battered British right withdrew having watched everyone to their left flee the field in poor condition. No Loyalists would be passing by Benjamin's Bridge any time soon...

The Fusiliers exchange fire with continental infantry.

The Muttonchops crest the hill and take a volley.

The lane fills with powdersmoke and bullets.

The rest of the Patriot flank opens fire, ineffectively.

With zeal and bayonets, the Muttoncuffs charge home!

The die roll that sealed the Fusiliers' fate!

The Canadian Highlanders stand firm until the last.

Butcher's Bill
British: Almost 900 casualties; Americans about 600

Man of the Match
The Fusiliers provided two perfect lessons in how to conduct a bayonet charge, both giving and receiving perfect set-piece shock attacks preceded by heavy musketry. For their foreshadowing of Pickett's charge, I name them the Men of the Match.

The British were attacking against greater numbers, and trusted too much to their superior quality – which wasn't actually much greater overall, despite the presence of the Fusiliers and Muttoncuffs. Their arrogance met with an almost Hollywood end – riflemen in the woods and Continentals at the fences shooting down men who stayed shoulder-to-shoulder far too much. It is telling, I think, that all the bases lost to shooting were lost from units in Ordered Line, and none from those who took just as much fire but were in Open Order. Good units caught alone were crumpled and I often regretted a lack of second and third lines – it all felt very historically accurate!

Ben enjoyed the game, which since it was his first for years and years was very gratifying. It is interesting that while another playtester called it really fun “micro-management”, Ben said it was “kind of abstract and simplified” but really fun – it just goes to show how different two people can find the same game while still enjoying it! Tree of Liberty should hopefully be available for purchase from the Wargame Vault in the next few weeks as the next installment in the Tactical Two Pager series.

Monday, 28 December 2015

2015 Round-Up

Well that was a long and occasionally difficult year. Returning to full-time, non-hobby work; moving in with my lovely girlfriend; a bout of injury and another of illness. Exhaustion about covers it, frankly.

Because of that, I have written very little this year, whether on this blog, for magazines or completed games. I have gamed at least semi-regularly though, and can only thank the players who have put up with my snoozy attempts at tactics. Over these twelve months however, it turns out I have done a lot more work on models and terrain than I realised. Hurrah for Netflix and its continuous play function!

Using my usual 15mm equivalents, I ended up finishing 1480 infantry, 88 cavalry, 2 guns, 67 vehicles, 16 jump-off points, and 217 terrain pieces. Most productive year on record! Of course with them being a series of small projects that could be completed before my patience and energy collapsed, they haven't added up to as many game-able additions to my collection as you might have expected. A little Post-Apocalypse or sci-fi Foreign Legion here, some more Dark Ages there, an extra bit of ACW, AWI or Bush Wars there - even some modern civilians and soldiers for Fighting Season, which I hope to playtest properly in the New Year.

Genuine and total thanks to everyone who I know through the hobby who has kept playing with, chatting to, following and inspiring me. I have been silently appreciative this whole time, and it does mean a lot. Season's greetings to you all, and the best of wishes for 2016.

Coming up Next: Hopefully a lot more games on the blog as I try to carve more playtesting time for a few upcoming titles, both Tactical Two Pagers and more traditionally sized rules. In the painting queue are Communists for modern Africa, a Battle of the Marne project, a whole extra bag of post-apocalyptic miniatures, a Clone army for Star Wars, and air support for my Rebel, Imperial, Clone and not-Tau armies. Terrain-wise, I hope to add to my space terrain, and the ruined city I am slowly putting together for sci-fi/Frostgrave/Post-Apocalypse/maybe-WW2.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

A Snowy Scramble

Both the cultic Czernovoyksa and the idealistic Rangers have come to an abandoned intersection in search of loot – bullets, tinned goods, fuel, batteries, anything that will soften the hardship of life after the Fall. Without satellite support, they do not know that the woods are crawling with rad-spiders, or that some aggressive locals have expanded their network of fortified farms toward the roadways.

The table before the models showed up.

Rangers: Kane, Pointman, Thumper – Quality 4 Lone Wolves; 3x3 Rangers – Quality 4 Squads
Czernovoyka: Strelok, Blazheny, Posvyashchat – Quality 4 Lone Wolves; 3x3 Upyr – Quality 4 Squads
Kane technically had the Inspiration Leader trait, but I forgot to use it. Thumper had Lethal, but missed every shot. Strelok and Pointman both had Shadow, making them effectively invulnerable to long range fire.

The Game
Both sides entered the board from near the road. Pointman and the Rangers with assault rifles quickly seized a hill to use as a base of fire. The Voyska spread out to search the nearest woods and building, while Blazheny led a fireteam to the crumpled cars at the intersection. They struck gold immediately, but came under punishing fire from the hill. All three Upyr perished before Blazheny could duck back out of sight with the case and then unceremoniously flee for his life (1 VP).

The Upyr in the woods disturbed the rad spiders almost immediately, and it took several turns of desperate AK74 and RPG fire to silence the chittering monstrosities. At that point Posvyashchat (the first to fall) and one other were dead. The survivors made their way to a wrecked car and did find a Loot marker, before Kane and his colleagues took them out.

Slowed by the ubiquitous wire fences, the lead Ranger team took a while to reach the woods, but once there managed to silence the Upyr opposite before waking the spiders. While in desperate hand-to-hand, the Upyr in the abandoned building savaged them with RPGs and rifle-fire, adding to their woes. Eventually one man was dead and two more injured. When they finally escaped, they at least had the satisfaction of knowing that their struggle had not been in vain (2VP).

The men – if they were still men – in that abandoned house had struggled to get in past the boards and corrugated iron in the windows, but once upstairs quickly found a Loot marker. Their RPG gunner was hit by a lucky round, and their retreat with the goods was slow (1VP). Strelok, also wounded in the final seconds of the battle, stumbled across more goods by sheer chance in the dark downstairs (4VP). It really was luck – I forgot I'd even placed the marker there, and wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't lifted the first floor to allow for his injured slowness.

First across the motorway, the rangers who reached the farm found a Loot marker easily enough, but were chased away by locals when their gunfire (vs the Upyr) awakened them. Hopping back over the fence, their skill (Q4 to Q1) was enough to save them from serious harm and spell the doom of the four foolish farmers who had fired on them. It was one of these men who shot the RPG gunner before heading away down the road (4VP).

A discreditable mention goes to Thumper, the Ranger sniper who was very calm and professional in his sneaky approach to the Voyska stronghold, up until it counted. He missed a shot – with scoped rifle! – at close range and was unceremoniously finished off by Blazheny's SMG.

The Rangers advance and spread out.
The Czernovoyska stick a little closer together.

Rad-spiders surround their prey!
Ranger firepower forces them to hunker down in the road.

Final Tally
Czernovoyska: 6 Victory points from 3 Loot markers, -8 from casualties (7 dead, 2 wounded). Total -2VP
Rangers: 6 Victory points from 2 Loot markers, -5 from casualties (3 dead, 4 wounded). Total +1VP

Man of the Match: Strelok, the Czerno' sniper, who pinned down the Ranger base of fire very effectively and caused most of the Ranger's casualties and Fear markers. His Shadow ability means that any successful hit from within cover at Long range adds 2 Fear instead of 1, so he is ideally suited to trapping the enemy in place.

Ranger fire support group takes its position.

Captain Kane and his team advance. Loot found in background.

Metkiy'Strelok takes aim at distant foes...
...while a much closer one sneaks up on him.

Once again, THREAT ran smoothly, even with a three-sided game (Czernovoyska, Rangers, Nuisances). The number of times where spraying ammo wildly led to an awkward need to reload seemed about right, as did the times when men froze up in Fear. The Rangers, bless them, actually had three turns where their entire force was Frozen due to poor rolls at the start of the turn. That said, I forgot to use "blips" and Kane's special rule, so maybe it ran quickly because I wasn't paying attention! It was still fun enough to play merry havoc with my picture-taking, so there's that. Adding Wits checks to navigate obstacles added a pleasant uncertainty to difficult terrain.

Hopefully I will get the mental space to touch up the rules soon, but I accidentally wrote the bones of a new set of space opera skirmish rules during my lunch break on Thursday, so I may end up getting distracted again...

Sunday, 7 June 2015

A Desert T.H.R.E.A.T.

A band of fearless law officers have pursued a gang of merciless thieves to this desolate outpost in the Bone Counties (called the Home Counties before the Fall). Little do they know that these vicious “scavengers” have managed to reactivate a Fallen artifact – a battle tank!

Whitecliff City Law Officers
Captain Ana Kane, Quality 4 Lone Wolf
Two Light Support Vehicles with machine guns, Quality 4 Vehicles
2x 3 Officers, Quality 3 Squads

Bone County Burglars
5 Lone Wolves: Colonel Slaughter, Lucy Thorn, Wolf Arson, Jackson Claw and Madjack “Crazy” Loon, Q3.
13 goons in three Gangs (4, 4, 5), Quality 2.
Fallen battle tank, Q2

Victory Conditions
1pt per dead Law Officer
3pts per Law vehicle destroyed

1pt per scavenger gang dispersed or Lone Wolf killed
2pts per scavenger Lone Wolf seized in CQB
10pts if Fallen tank seized in CQB

Recon Phase & Deployment
The scouting duel ended up giving both sides a sort of “chevron” for their deployment zones. Captain Kane stayed with one of her patrols, and the scavenger heroes also bolstered their gangs – except the Colonel and Madjack. With blips and vehicles deployed, it was time to play!
Infantry are just blips on the radar until they're spotted.

The Game
Yells sounded across the rockfield as the first law officers were spotted. The LSVs roared to life and chugged forward as scavengers – or civilians – ran here and there. The first exchange of fire saw two scavvies go down,

As the two sides began to advance in earnest, the LSVs showed their worth, scything through scavvies with their heavy machine guns – but they couldn't kill Lucy Thorn! With blood on her teeth she laughed as her men died around her, and limped away into the desert. Return fire from heavy rifles in the fort immobilised one of them too. And at the far end of the field, an ominous rumble spurted into life...
An LSV assaults on the Law's left flank.

Lucy Thorn's lucky escape.

The tank appears at the end of the highway.

Accurate rifle fire forced the crew of the immobilised LSV to bail out, halving the patrol's heavy firepower in one fell swoop. Lucky for them – the awakened battle tank's main gun blew it up not ten seconds later. Captain Kane and the other LSV caught Wolf Arson and his men in a deadly crossfire and sent them all to Kingdom Gone.
The first LSV takes a main gun shell straight on.

Jackson Claw and his men fled their little fort, leaving Colonel Slaughter to rage impotently behind them. The surviving LSV dashed into cover, while Captain Kane plotted her next move. The gang they had been sent to catch were dispersed – but now there was a tank to deal with – a tank which had just blown up her second LSV! Things were desperate now. Her patrol was stranded in the Bone Counties with no transport home, and a clearly lethal Fallen artifact in the hands of villains. It was time for an all-or-nothing attempt to seize the tank!

Her decision to be heroic was interrupted by the frothing appearance of Madjack “Crazy” Loon, swinging a serrated knife in her face! Forgotten in the horror of the tank's appearance, this melty-faced madman had been psyching himself up watching his friends die, and was determined to wreak revenge! Although the Captain injured him with her nightstick, he still gutted two officers in the time it takes to draw breath!
Although outnumbered, Madjack is VERY dangerous!

Noticing that Jackson and his men were loitering behind him at the foot of the wall, Colonel Slaughter ran down with his trusty dog to scare them into shape. The tank trundled towards Captain Kane as she and Madjack continued their deadly dance of death. Neither of them could get the upper hand until Kane's surviving bodyguard came up behind him and broke his neck. No arrest was worth the lives of two officers, not out here.

Kane and her bloody-visored officer looked at each other, at the bodies of their comrades, at each other once again, and charged the tank.
We are the Law!
The captain leapt up the titan's armour, ignoring the scream behind her. She unlocked the turret hatch and threw her whole grenade pouch inside. A shot from her peacefinder pistol, a jump to cover, and a super-heated whoosh! blew up through the air behind her. The tank was neutralised.

Things went back to SOP after that. The delta team came in from the right and supported Kane's peacefinder volleys against Colonel Slaughter's counter-attack. Jackson Claw and several known associates perished in a hail of bolts, and Colonel Slaughter fled into the wastes to avoid lawful custody. All that remained was to wait in the hot sun for a helicopter to come and collect the four surviving law officers, and hope that this wouldn't look too bad in her report...

Final Tally
Law Officers: 15 Victory Points. Casualties: six law officers, two Light Support Vehicles.
Scavengers: 9 Victory Points. Casualties: 13 scum, Jackson Claw, Wolf Arson and Madjack “Crazy” Loon (or is he really dead..?). Escapees: Colonel Slaughter and Lucy Thorn.

Man of the Match: Fallen Artifact Battle Tank. It killed two LSVs and a law officer with three shots, and scared the hell out of the Law until Captain Kane took it out with a heroic assault on the hatch.

Once again, T.H.R.E.A.T. played very smoothly. It was the first playtest of the recon phase, which went very well (I think!) and gave a slightly less than conventional deployment zone, which is what it was designed for. The Law's softskins went up in flames before the Fallen tank's B.F.G., which was also appropriate (if gutting). Madjack's monstrously high Vitality, which turned far too many kills into injury over the course of the game, made him quite the serial-killer scaremonger. The great white hunter Colonel Slaughter rolled nothing but 1s all game, so clearly he has an ironic title!

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Helo Chase - Weird Modern Dust Up

In a first proper playtest of my new T.H.R.E.A.T.* rules for post-apocalypse and weird modern gaming, the disciples of the dark gods known as the Cziernovoyska came up against the professional scavengers the world calls the Yellowcakers. The Cziernovoyska are better trained and more numerous – but the Yellowcakers came with Jack and Jean, their machine-gun toting MRAPs. In the fight to secure the mysterious contents of a crashed helicopter, who will win out? Sorry about the pictures, I got a bit too caught up in the game to keep taking them methodically.

* If anyone has a good backronym, please post it in the comments! 

Cziernovoyska/Dark Force
3x 3 Upyr (Squads) with assault rifles or special weapons
Metkiy'Strelok, Lone Wolf sniper
Blazheny, Lone Wolf commander
Posvyashchat, Lone Wolf second in command

Captain Reathe, Sergeant Smojke, Ukufa, Qishi & Burne – Lone Wolf characters
Jack and Jean – vehicles

The Dark Force left, with Strelok the sniper in the road.

The right - Blazheny & his team, and the SMAW on the wing.

Main Yellowcaker advance, hooded Qishi in foreground.

Jack the MRAP "sneaking" up the flank...

The game started with cautious advances by both sides. The cream-coloured Jean went on Overwatch, aiming down the road with the GPMG installed up top. The first shot was taken by the Dark Force fireteam with a shoulder-mounted AT, firing at Jack, who was trundling through the woods. The missile sailed past, but unnerved the gunner enough for all his shots to go wide.
The SMAW misses, but barely.

As the sound of gunfire tore through the woods, both sides began advancing in earnest. Qishi, the Yellowcakers' resident mystic, began marshalling his powers for the fight ahead. The SMAW fired again, barely missing Jack and sending the driver into conniptions. Jean opened fire on the sniper who had aimed at Ukufa with her GPMG, and severely injured him, riddling him and the rusty wreck he was using as cover with holes. Jack opened up with his .50 cal, injuring one Upyr and blasting the head clean off another.
Posvyashchat leads his men forward as Strelok bleeds.

A new turn started with Strelok the sniper Frozen in pain. As the firing sounded out once more through the forest, Posvyashchat's team missed Jean with their RPG and took two casualties for their pains. The SMAW gunner finally got his round on target, blowing off Jack's front right wheel and shredding the rear tyre. It was not enough to save them from the Browning's revenge.

Blazheny's bodyguards moved up through the woods to cover his advance on the helicopter. Seeing them, Captain Reathe moved back – so they opened fire on Ukufa instead, emptying their clips at him with fierce abandon. The brave South African slumped dead in the treeline, the Yellowcakers' first casualty of the battle. From his position at the crossroads, Sergeant Smojke opened up at the RPG team with his sub-machine-gun, injuring the gunner with a full clip. This was apparently not a battle for fire control. When Posvyashchat fired back and hit him in the chest, the Dutchman just bared his bloody teeth in a barbaric snarl.
The table, mid game. Lots of wound and ammo markers.

As his men reloaded, Blazheny approached the helicopter's wreckage. Qishi finally got his Oriental sorcery under control, and flooded the minds of Posvyashchat and his injured gunner with primal terror. They would no longer be a threat to his comrades. Even as he did so, Burne – trusting more to steel than sorcery – crept around the rusted out truck to open up on them with his trusty Sterling. Still holding the crossroads, Smojke laughed manically as Strelok sent a bullet crashing through his ribs. By pure chance his return fire caught the Russian killer just above his eye socket, killing him too. Jean's gunner cursed the fact that his guntruck was boxed in by walls and wrecks.

At the end of the fourth turn, Blazheny was in a difficult position. Six of his men were dead and two had fled, leaving just him and his four bodyguards to claim the helicopter's riches for Cthulhu. The Yellowcakers had lost Ukufa and Jack's mobility, but the survivors were closing in (except Smojke, who was too injured to move). Luckily for him, the fifth turn started with Smojke and Jack Frozen and unable to act, cutting down the odds considerably. For his first activation, he used There's No Time!, rushing his investigation to (hopefully) get away faster. The dark gods were smiling on him as his gambit paid off – he found the suitcase that so many of his men had died to protect.

Hearing his savage shout of triumph, the surviving Yellowcakers surged forward, desperate for Ukufa's sacrifice to not be in vain. He emptied his clip at Burne, winging the young Irishman, only for the favour to be returned in brutal style. The suitcase dropped from his limp fingers as a hail of bullets severed his spinal cord. Reathe fired his hand cannon from the woods, felling one of his bodyguards. In the luckiest event in a day of lucky happenings, the return fire from the Cziernovoyska's machine gun got wedged in his armour, his cigarette case, his beret, even his Bible – but nowhere in his flesh.

At the start of the next turn, Qishi proved his worth in grand style. The bodyguards were retreating with the suitcase when he unleashed a psychic assault of terrible power, stopping both their hearts dead in their chests. They fell down, and the suitcase was Reathe's...

Butcher's Bill
Cziernovoyska: Everyone except Posvyashchat and his RPG gunner. Looks like he'll be the new Blazheny if he survives his superiors' displeasure...
Yellocakers: Ukufa dead, Sergeant Smojke severely injured (one point away from death), Jack badly damaged.

Man of the Match
Despite his lame showing in the first few turns, Qishi and his psychic powers were a real game winner. Honorable runner-ups are Blazheny and Smojke for their fearless attempts to further their missions.

The game ran smoothly and quickly, which is the main thing I wanted. I may have to tweak the initiative system however – granted, I rolled high all through the game, but the accumulation of Fear markers slowed very few people down at all, except in the literal sense of their movement. Since the game is based on survival horror video games as much as post-apocalyptic or weird horror movies, I wanted to give Fear a central role in the mechanics, along with rules for ammo shortages &c. It's a pulpy game, but lethal – no human tanks here, just good old-fashioned gritting of teeth and bullet fragments.

As a first outing for the post-apocalyptic scenery and miniatures I've been working on recently, it was good fun. I look forward to honing the rules over the next few months, as well as finishing other gangs of scavengers, veterans, police and mad cultists. Since I'm starting a new job soon, who knows – I may even add in a Reaper Bones Cthulhu at some point...
Quite proud of these, despite the poor calligraphy.

Monday, 25 August 2014

The West Rises Midst Battle's Din

Almost two years on, I reprised my The West Rises campaign on a bank holiday afternoon – this time with my newly released Midst Battle's Din rules instead of Sharp Practice or Muskets & Tomahawks.

Setting the Scene
The crossroad hamlet of Kirk's Cross is a quiet one, but one which hides a secret – hiding in the ruined tower just outside the settlement are a group of Jacobites! But that is no longer a secret. Now the vicious Captain Castagne and his men have come to bring fire and sword to Kirk's Cross in the name of the king, and the villagers will have to decide whether to swear fealty to far-off King George or the hidden Prince Charlie. Of course really, it's no choice at all...

Govt. coming from the bottom, Jacobites hiding & top.

The Hanoverians: 35 men, Inspiration 3
Captain Castagne: Toughness 3, Fight +1, Regular, Inspiration 0, Luck 7, sword & pistol, mounted
Sergeant Frost: Toughness 3, Fight +1, Regular, Inspiration +2, Luck 6, halberd & pistol
Captain Macguire: Toughness 2, Fight +2, Regular, Inspiration +1, Luck 8, sword & pistol
16 British Infantry: Toughness 2, Great Aim, Fight 0, Regular, muskets & bayonets
16 Black Watch: Toughness 2, Good Aim, Fight +1, Regular, muskets & bayonets

Victory Conditions: 4pts for each house burned or Jacobite character killed (max 40pts)

The Jacobites: 46 men, Inspiration 3
Laird Micawber: Toughness 2, Fight +1, Irregular, Inspiration +1, Luck 9, sword & pistol, mounted
Father McCruil: Toughness 2, Fight -1, Irregular, Inspiration +2, Luck 6, musket
The Micawber Twins: Toughness 3, Fight +1, Irregular, Inspiration 0, Luck 7, sword & pistol
26 Highlanders: Toughness 2, Good Aim, Fight +1, Irregular, mix of weapons
16 Jacobite Milita: Toughness 2, Good Aim, Fight 0, Militia, muskets & bayonets

Victory Conditions: 1pt per dead king's man or house unburned (max 41pts).

The Start of the Game
The British set up with a three-pronged approach, coming on from three lanes of the crossroads. Castagne & Frost led the King's Own Royal Borderers in the centre, and Macguire's Black Watch took a flank each.

The Jacobites mostly set up Hidden, except for Laird Micawber, who was leading the militia on from the other board edge. Having won the initiative, they were unwilling to do much with it. One house opened fire on the group led by Macguire, killing a man. Micawber's militia advanced a little, and then the Hanoverians reacted.
Macguire's men receive the first volley of the game.

Macguire rallied his men and led them forward to let off a volley in fine style against the smoke-wreathed house. The Black Watch on the other flank tried and failed to set the first house alight – clearly they had not lit their torches for fear of alerting the highlanders to their arrival. Castagne and his men had clearly had no such qualms, and their target hovel whooshed into flame as they hurled torches through the windows and the holes they beat in its wattle walls. Frost was rather more circumspect, and led his men into the bushes to observe the village in case a reserve was needed.
The first house goes up in flames.

Macguire's men were cruelly served on the second volley from the house – two more men were blown away by heavy homemade musket balls. The village filled with warcries as highlanders and militiamen moved to stop Castagne's arson.

Ignoring the inflammable house for now, the Black Watch charged their recidivist brethren with drawn bayonets. Men screamed and died on both sides, a pyrrhic victory for the government men. The highland survivors were shot down almost to a man by Castagne's firing line, and the last man fled into the hills. Sickened by his men's deaths, Macguire led his group in setting fire to the house with the Jacobites still inside. Shocked, Frost led his men forward to remonstrate with him.
Fighting breaks out in the streets.

One more quick burst of fire came from the house, and then from the door burst a flood of bellowing clansmen, attacking Englishman and Scotsman alike. Any redcoat was to be stained crimson today. Met by a hedge of bayonet points, they were backed back toward the burning building. From behind them, at the call of a Micawber twin, a new pack of highlanders burst out of hiding and fired a volley at Macguire and his men that left him and another Black Watchman dead on the ground. On the other side of the village, two other Watchmen died to Jacobite bullets too.
The end of the beginning, with fire & Disorder markers.

The Midpoint: British Inspiration 2, 8VPs | Jacobite Inspiration 3, 14VPs
Aware of Micawber's militia advancing towards him, Castagne bellowed to his men. Ree-load! Wheeel-right! Aim... Fire! Fully half the Scots before them fell, and the rest thrown into disarray. Frost and his men countercharged the highlanders who had fled the burning building, cutting most of them down. On the other flank, the survivors of the Black Watch shamefully fled the board. Smirking, the Jacobites repositioned themselves, advancing toward the ever-weaker British lines.
Reinforcements in the distance as Jacobites round the house.

Macguire's survivors recovered their nerve and gallantly charged the foe. It did not go well for them. Nor did Frost and his men succeed in their own charges against the kilted men before them. Only Castagne's masterful move-and-fire gave a glimmer of hope to the government men, smashing as it did the Jacobite centre.
The lone survivor of the Black Watch's charge.
Two clansmen beat four soldiers - and kill one!
Firing lines face off in the centre of the village.

Seeing his men fall all around him, Laird Micawber began shuffling to safety on his old nag, abandoning the grey-coated survivor to his fate. Rushing past him in the other direction came Father McCruil and the other men from the tower, desperate to join the fight before it was over. On one flank, a Micawber roused his men to finish off the Black Watch, and on the other flank the other twin directed a volley into Castagne's men that left five dead.

The Endgame: British Inspiration 2, 12VPs | Jacobite Inspiration 3, 24VPs
Desperate to salvage some shred of success from the expedition, Castagne led the ruins of his firing line to burn another house. On the other side of the village, Frost's men kept the highlanders at bay with disciplined fire.
The highlanders circle the survivors warily.

Castagne's punishment was swift. Another Scottish volley rang out, and he fell dying beneath his horse, the last of his men falling around him. His last moments on earth were spent laughing at the burning thatch above him, which says more honest words about his character than he ever would. Highlanders charged home all across the rest of the village, slaying with every stroke. Jacobite victory was at hand.

Seeing a Micawber gesturing his men on, Frost signalled to his two companions and fired with them. They were rewarded with a gout of arterial blood beneath the burning eaves. They quickly moved away, recognising that the battle was lost. Hacking down most of his retinue, the rest of his platoon followed, eager to get away from the mayhem and bloodshed.

The battle was over. Long Live Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Butcher's Bill
25 Hanoverians (4 routed), 23 Jacobites (1 routed).

Victory Conditions
16VPs to the Hanoverians, 28VPs to the Jacobites – Jacobite Victory

A fun and fast game, exactly what I wanted of an afternoon. The whole thing took about an hour with almost eighty figures starting on the table - not bad for a skirmish game! I meant to take more photos, but I got distracted playing the game...

The scenario was perhaps a little unbalanced – I should have made the highlanders poor shots to stop them standing off and shooting quite so much. Overall though, it seemed to begin with like anyone's game – some damn fine rolls by the Jacobites saw them take an early lead though. Needing to burn the buildings meant that the government men could never quite co-ordinate their killing potential to the same degree.

So Castagne is finally dead. Frost retreats in ignominy, and Father McCruil has something to crow about. I wonder what will happen next in Western Scotland, 1745..?

Midst Battle's Din is available exclusively here.

N.B. The flames stay on the roof because they are just cotton wool on 20mm bases (and therefore light), and the roofs have not been brushed with PVA, so they have a little grip, especially if you manage to get a little friction going between them and the wool.