Tuesday, 6 June 2023

An Old Game Reprinted

Interim Post

The moving house/reenactment/sewing season and getting the decorators and the carpet men in having curtailed my gaming for a while, I have re-hashed a post from a few years back and originally put on the FB Solo Wargame Group...

My methods have changed over the years, but this may still be of interest. As usual, all queries welcomed.

The Table

The board is set up as pic. ("North" is at the far end) . What do we see?

Mixed terrain of open ground, fields, light woodland, some areas of dense, unmanaged forest (the latter being the stands of trees with thick "scrub" at the edges) and a small patch of marshland.

A small, shallow river with several crossings (a bridge, a ford and two sets of stepping stones) cuts across the scene. There is a small scatter of  isolated buildings (the two in the middle of the board are "The Bloody Boar" inn).  A wagon-road crosses from North to South. There are a number of tracks crossing the area, some of which cut through the dense forest areas.  

All the points where tracks/roads leave the board are potential Deployment Points.

There are already a scatter of "in view" potential blinds (annotated pics). No hostiles are in sight.

Most important for this scenario: the board is "live" - ie. it is not a nicely-cleared battlefield, for guys to bash each other on, which can be ignored as "just a playing field" - it is an active "living environment".  There is wildlife. There are civilians. There may be road & track traffic. All of these will/may have an effect... There may be enemy out there, in the form of outlaws, bolshie peasants. Who knows..... 

"MAY" ???!!!! I hear some folk scream (or maybe that's just me..). Yes.... "May"....... I sometimes play games where, due to the scenario and the play of the dice & cards, no enemy appear at all........  Sounds a bit weird I know, but stay with me on this.....

Some of the tokens on the "live" field. The traveller on the track (below) will move, based the turn of the cards in conjunction with a Movement Loop (see below). The inn folk are static until contacted. The building MAY contain other folk (neutral, friendly or hostile).

Inns/pubs(among other things) can also distract troops - but more of that later...

Wildlife - like other "blinds" - will be activated by cards & activities and moved based on the "Movement Loop" table. Basically the "wildlife" kinds represents "disturbed wildlife". Could just be "normal" freaky-deaky inter- animal stuff, could be a disturbance caused by a body of chaps.. Who knows.. ?

The fire in the woods could turn out to be anything, the locals (just everyday peasanty people) or hostiles. Their hut could be empty or.......?

Again, we all know that inns are notorious outlaw hang-outs.. or maybe not...

The Scenario: (As you may know, I am addicted to backstories).

Mercenary captain Ruari O'Niall of the Fiach Dubh is taking his lads to the coast - and home - after the expiry of their contract for the Bishop of Hereford.

Two years of public service, helping bring the firm smack, slash and gouge of Norman Government to the good Bishop's fief have been rewarding. Ruari and his crew of kerns and gallowglasses must make their way, along with their lawfully-gotten gains, across to the far side of the board. Shimples.......

[Technical stuff: The mercenaries' moves are controlled by me/Ruari - if still in command range of the C.O. - but activated by the card pack - as in Sharp Practice.. However, Ruari may have his own ideas..

The Movement Loop is as follows:

I use my home-designed "Shaft Practice" cards for activation of personalities, Blinds and other figures. At the start of this scenario the deck contains a card to represent Ruari, his three sergeants, a card for "scouts" (all sides - should any enemy scouts appear), two cards for the "blinds", one card for "civilians" (which may be "blinds" themselves), one "enemy" and one "friendly" Event card (which requires the picking of a card form the separate "Events Deck"), a "Table Event" card (to potentially activate Deployment Points) and two "End Turn" cards (the equivalent of the SP "Tiffin" card).

There are presently no "enemy personality" cards in the deck as there are no enemy personalities on the board. 
Cards will be added to the pack as personalities appear.

I used an Action Loop for the AI. My Loops, when I use them, are modified by scenarios etc. - and will sometimes be "tweaked" for situations. When a decision not on the Loop - or a questionable one - needs to be made I make a list of options (based on IMP), set proportionate dice targets, allocate modifiers (if any) then dice.]

The Game

First move: Ruari is activated by his card and moves. Ruari's scouts (in his command radius) do not leave the road to investigate the peasants by the hut (or the "charcoal burners?" in the woods behind the hut) , but press on down the road, followed by the rest of the party.

Next card is one of the "Blind" cards.

[Technical note: Movement of "Blinds" is based on my "Movement Loop" chart. I dice for those Blinds where dicing is appropriate.]

In this move a couple of the far-off Blinds move and the rider on the road moves (turn of the "Civilians" card). Nearer Ruari the peasants by the hut also activate, make a decision (see the "Actions Loop") - and scurry off to cross the river.

Ruari has already moved all of his men this turn, and there are no morale or other actions necessary, so no further turning of any more of his side's cards. A turn of a scout card allows his riders an extra move of 1x6d. He also gets one "Event" card (a bad one: his guys have used up all their water).

Turn ends. Had no "Blind" card been turned all Blinds which did not move during the turn could dice to activate as per the Movement Loop. 

Next move most of Ruari's guys press on - but Himself sends one of his sergeants & command to investigate the cottage and fleeing "peasants".

The scouts reach the pub. A dice check (see the "Actions Loop") to check if it is safe (i.e not harbouring hostiles) is inconclusive. His scouts also have to check to resist stopping for a drink. They succeed in this, so when a "Scout" card comes up later in the move they can move off.

Again, some Blinds get to move and the civilians get to move.

The peasants by the hut go across the river and into the trees. - and the turn ends.

Following move: cards allow the main body to move forward, the sergeant loses control of his guys at the hut - and they loot and burn the place down.

Suddenly two of the blinds in the woods to the East of the inn rush towards the scouts...... My chaps duck, as I dice on the "Actions Loop", as a huge flock of birds tear out of the woods, over their heads and away (phew)....

The scouts move off.

Ruari arrives at the inn. He fails a reaction test. Twice - presumably the ale is good there. Also, his lads can re-stock on water.

Nothing untoward so far.

[OK. Technical recap:

All blind movement was as per the Loop.

The two blinds (birds) from the woods got scores of 3-4 on their "reveal" die, were found to be neutral wildlife, and removed from the board.

The chaps looted the hut because they threw a "reaction test" of 5 on a 6d, this was higher than their sergeant's command level & die (despite modifiers of -1 for professionals).

(I have a list of incidents/potential incidents/terrain and figure/situation effects with dice throws etc etc. Some are dictated by Event Cards, some by proximity to figures of "places of interest").

Ruari (unlike his scouts) also threw two high scores (5 & 6), both above his own command level & die, when testing against the temptation of the pub. Maybe he was demob-happy? Maybe he has a drink problem? Anyhoo, he stayed put.. (and who wouldn't...?)

In the distance the scouts pass the traveller. He throws a 2. No issues there (on the Actions Loop). However, the traveller is not a "normal blind" (he is a "civilian," on a road & has a pre-set destination/target), so does not move away from the patrol, but continues on his route.

Note: had he been a "wildlife" blind, not a civilian, he would have moved away or, on a throw of 3-4 been revealed as neutral and removed from the board. As a civilian, had he thrown a 3-4, he would remain on the board, but now be neutral (no further testing). Note also; the Inn & staff all threw 3s & 4s on their "reveal" dice. Neutrals can go either way on a later test - or stay neutral..... ]

Ruari gets the drinks in. The scouts keep moving off. The traveller arrives at the inn. Off picture, at the top, three blinds ("wildlife"?) are rapidly approaching, but what the heck.. It's a pub... It might be miles till the next one..

Next move: the blinds moving in towards the inn, now in clear view, do their check - 1 neutral (4), but two hostiles (5s) - which turn out to be 40 angry, angry peasants (dice out as two stands. For this scenario the rule is throw 1x6d for each hostile blind. 1&2= one stand of troops, 3-4 =-two stands, 5-6= three stands).

They are "Bold" and under command of bold commanders.....They make for the Irish lads........

Worse - remember that neutral traveller. He checks again and turns out hostile; Sir Richard at Lee, ex crusader and all-round good guy - in disguise (scenario possibilities)...

OK... Now Friar Tuck, John Tenpenny (no relation), one of The Hood's minor henchmen and Richard at Lee's command cards are added to the pack.

The pub is also re-checked at this change of situation - but proves to be just a pub (throw 1: phew - nobody hiding in the cellar then). The inn-keeping staff run off while Sir Richard (somewhat unchivalrously) gets a free hack at Ruari - who goes down.

Now things start to kick off. Another blind, spotted by the scouts, North of the inn turns out to be another hostile - 20 peasants, with Little John (his card now added to the command pack)....

The cards are really against me today.... Next move Sir Richard get first go, and plays a couple of accrued "Event"cards... One enemy unit gets an extra move and Sir Richard can "hold" one of my units in place...... He does so. My attempts to form a line against the incoming peasants are hampered....

My only "lucky" Event card so far; a wild boar emerges from a thicket & (by chance) charges Little John's guys..... Takes out one of them & inflicts some shock, but then scampers ( Runs? Trots?) off and away (eventually vanishing into cover.

When not being actively hunted wildlife will run for the nearest cover to where they ended in their first rush (itself controlled by directional & movement dice).

If actually being hunted (yes - I do do tiny "pig-sticking games") movement is more random.... Boars turn on a groat... Excited knights can take waay longer to turn....

The outlaws charge home. My guys' dice are rubbish, and (despite the enemy accumulating shock) I take casualties - must be those scythes & flails.. Or that beer..... Combat is (basically) adapted Dux Britanniarum rules.. The mercenaries get pushed back...

My Irish lads are beaten back to the river. Meanwhile the scouts have run into more peasants right by the far board edge, have got freaked and will sit this out on a hill, close to the board edge....... Morale is going, casualties mounting.
Meanwhile, cards and dice force Two Deployment Points on my flank and one at my rear to spawn more blinds.... Lady Luck is acting like a woman scorned. Have I forgotten an anniversary..?...

The situation really got messy quickly..

Sir Richard got into some cut & thrust with Ruari's bodyguards, taking down one before being forced back towards the North.

The cards dictate the next sequence of actions: moral checks by the mercenary sergeants are not good - they are shaken, but form up to face the nearest bunch of peasants. - who charge home to meet the galloglasses, while the kerns skip out of the way.

There is a round of hand-to-hand, but it seems that the dice are against the Fiach Dubh today, and the gallowglasses are forced to fall back towards the bridge - while the kerns form up behind and along the Southern river bank.

Cards move the blinds - and the dice are really "unfair": one blind appears in the woods to the East of the Irish, one behind them on their line of retreat, and another comes on at the North edge - only for the scouts to spot it as being Robin Hood himself (dice & cared controlled) , and another 60 peasants & outlaws - some with bows this time......

Next move, and it looks like a stand-off at the bridge - but oh, the Blinds... The one at the Irish rear on the road reveals itself as just another traveller (at the moment) - but one in the woods on their flank manifests itself (Action Loop) as another body of bows & peasants (1 stand ordinary, one stand bows.... Oh, dear.... Right on my right flank....)....

Next activation cards and the situation prompt morale checks for the senior sarge. and one of the junior sergeants. They fail.

Luckily for all concerned the next personality activation is Sir Richard - senior man in this part of the field AND of "Nobility Status" (a kind of "trump" when dealing with commanders - friendly or otherwise - of equal command value but lower social status)....

One of his special characteristics is the ability to force a "Parley" without an Event "Parley Card" - and he is a trustworthy egg (well, apart from being in disguise immediately before cutting down Ruari, but we'll draw a veil over that...). A quick check (dice) on his attitude and he offers terms, which are accepted by the pragmatic mercenaries (me - but morale is shot to ribbons and my senior sergeant & one of the others have already lost their bottle....). Game over.....

Who knows, my guys might even get SOME of their cash back..... 

Technical points/Summary:

Hopefully the charts should be self explanatory. 

The cards are an activation deck (like SP) plus an "Events Deck" (a bit like SP 1) both of which I got made up online, but SP type cards, playing cards or event tables work just as well (that's how I started this project).

Casualty markers are prettied-up Warbases dials and the bodies are Ykreol (1 body =10SP). Twigs work just as well.

Well, there we are. A short, but eventful, skirmish. I was kept guessing all the time - at first I really did think my guys would just walk across the board and I'd have to go again to demonstrate things. Instead, my guys got well and truly bashed.. I blame the drink m'self.... And the dice, obviously..

Once again, all queries welcome...

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