Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Tintin Two!

Introduction

It wasn't so long ago that I finally made a start on collecting some figures for a Tintin league, probably for use with the Pulp Alley rules:
At the time of the latter, I bemoaned the fact that 1st Corps had hinted they would release some "not Tintin" figures in the near future - just after I'd gone to a certain amount of effort to find a suitable figure to represent Captain Haddock!  Well, for completeness (and because they have produced a lovely model of Professor Calculus) I just had to have some...

1st Corps Nosey Youth and Companions


For the very reasonable price of £5 (plus postage, of course), 1st Corps now produce this set of 4 models.  I'm not going to pretend: they do look a great deal like Professor Calculus, Captain Haddock, Tintin and Snowy to me.  However, they are listed in the catalogue as "nosey youth and companions", so if you want to find them then search for that instead.



I'm not very familiar with 1st Corps as a manufacturer and so I have no idea if these are representative of their sculpts or not.  Overall, I'd rate this set as "good" rather than "excellent", I think.
  • Professor Calculus: This is easily my favourite figure from this batch.  He has a goatee & glasses and is wearing his trademark coat and hat.  One hand is holding an umbrella and the other is reaching for his fob watch; quite the absent-minded academic!  If I had any criticism at all, I'd say that I always thought of the professor as a rather small man, whereas this miniature is of average height.
  • Captain Haddock: A perfectly acceptable figure; the captain is slouched and listless with his recognisable large, flat nose and slightly shapeless clothing.  Possibly the trousers have too sharp a crease for the not-exactly-elegant Haddock, but that's a bit nit-picking, really.  I'd have preferred the model to be carrying a bottle rather than a gun, mind.
  • Tintin: Of the three humans, I think that this is the least successful sculpt.  Whilst it's immediately identifiable as the boy reporter, the head is a bit too much egg-shaped for my taste.  Also, Tintin's ears are overlarge and his eyes too high to be believable.  Mind you, I'll still use the figure; he's good enough for my games!
  • Snowy: Finally, we come to the dog.  Snowy is a Fox Terrier; this model is usable as such, but it isn't brilliant.  In fact, it's a bit of a blob.  I'll use it anyway - I'm not over-fussy - but purists might seek elsewhere.

Conclusion

For the record, here are the earlier figures that I painted:


This previous Tintin is from Copplestone Castings (now sold through North Star) and my Captain Haddock is a converted fisherman from Black Cat Bases.


So, now I really need Thomson and Thompson - but models of bowler-hatted, moustached city gents seem very hard to find...

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Batrep(Congo): The Last Queen

Introduction

At last, we played a game of Congo!  In a sense, this is something that I've wanted to do for several decades, ever since I discovered a large cache of books by H. Rider Haggard at Newington library in Edinburgh, when I was a student there.  Those tales sparked an interest in the exploration of Africa by Europeans that has abided to this day.  However, Congo was only available to the general public some 5 months ago.

Since August 2016, I've built enough forces for a small game, but didn't have an opportunity to use them for real - until about 2 weeks ago.  After playing the game, I've been putting off this report for a variety of reasons.  Until now, that is (obviously!)...

The Scenario

Scenario 1 for Congo is entitled "The Last Queen of Aksoum".  A White Man Expedition has discovered an archaeological treasure (the ancient crown of the monarch from a long lost realm), but they may have overstretched themselves.  Tired and exhausted, their camp is attacked by another force who do not want to see the crown carried off.

Note that in the scenario as written, the attackers are Zanzibari slavers.  Since I don't have such a force (yet), we used my Forest Tribes band instead.  We also changed the setting from savannah to jungle.


In the middle of the night, Professor Forester's exhausted expedition was awakened rudely.  The two sentries were shouting loudly and excitedly.  Everyone piled out of their tents or open-air sleeping places; white men, Sikh soldiers, ascaris and native auxiliaries - all chattering and confused.  It took Major Forbes' bellow of "SILENCE!" to restore some level of order.  The retired officer then called to the sentries "You!  Report!".  Abashed at the chaos they had caused, the shorter of the lookouts answered "Voices, sir.  We heard voices and movement all around.  There are men in the jungle, close, very close"...

As the White Men, I would score a lot of victory points for carrying the crown off the table in a nominated direction.  Steve (the Tribal leader) would score quite a few points if he could capture the artifact.  Either of us could also gain a few points for each enemy unit eliminated or for finding loot.

The Game


With a shrieking of war cries, tribal warriors broke through the undergrowth and charged the encampment.  They were also having a hard time of it in the dark; several units had taken small amounts of stress tokens and one unfortunate warrior vanished before the game had even started.  Nevertheless, they made a brave showing and the initial shooting from the camp's defenders was completely ineffectual.



The next volleys from the expedition were more effective, however.  Professor Forester's group of ascaris were trying to reposition when they heard sounds from behind the camp.  Fearing a flank attack, they turned around and fired with devastating effect, killing four of the five warriors who were creeping up on them.

Around the camp perimeter, rifle fire from the adventurers killed one attacker and (more importantly!) inflicted a red "need to rally" stress token on the native unit.  However, the Sikh soldiers still failed to do much - and the tribal champion continued to urge his followers on at speed.

Although in theory the crown of Aksoum could have been held by any one of four figures in the Expedition side (Professor Forester, Major Forbes or either of the 2 bearers), the tribal leader had quickly pinpointed it with Major Forbes.  It barely seemed worth the effort of hiding it...



Now it was the forest tribe's turn, as they streamed through the tents and attacked the intruders.
  • A last minute volley from the Sikhs devastated one unit of warriors, but the chieftain himself led another group of warriors into melee with the stalwart soldiers.
  • The champion's unit attacked the native auxiliaries, killed one and forced the rest back.
  • Finally, another group of young warriors attacked the adventurers.  They killed the attached bearer (a classic "Look out, sir!" moment, if ever there was one), but failed to do more than scare the white men into retreating.



The expedition went backwards, but it was a fighting retreat: more musket & rifle fire devastated the forest tribes' forces.  Only the champion's group still had enough power to assault Professor Forester's ascaris, killing two.

By this time, most of the tribal groups were looking much reduced in numbers; there weren't nearly as many warriors now as there had been.  Although the expedition forces had taken some casualties, these weren't particularly numerous.



In a slightly surreal moment, a sleepy gorilla charged from the nearest patch of thick trees.  The creature made a beeline for the tribal chieftain and his remaining retinue (they had been hanging back from the assault on the campsite after being targeted early on).

On paper, the gorilla looked to have a good chance of killing the men, or at least some of them.  However, this chieftain obviously didn't achieve his position solely for his good looks; he and his bodyguard made short work of the ape and took enough trophies from it to score 2 victory points!

In the foreground, one of the tribal warriors tried (several times) to loot a tent.  His efforts were not only unsuccessful in finding loot, but actually angered the white men enough to give them extra Totem cards each time!



Sensing that the end was near, the expedition's native warriors and ascaris charged forwards to drive the tribesmen from the camp.  They were successful in this, but not before a few thrown spears had killed one of the white adventurers and another of the Sikh soldiers.

Meanwhile, small elements of the expedition's forces took pot shots at the sole survivor from the tribe's flank attack unit.  After all, if he could be downed then the expedition would score 2 victory points!  He proved surprisingly elusive, however.



Suddenly, everything went quiet as the remaining tribesmen disengaged and took to their heels.  The campsite was a litter of bodies, broken tents and drifting smoke.

At this point, Terror attacks were used in earnest.  The expedition managed to kill the last figure remaining in each of 2 separate tribal units (so that's 4VP to the white men), but the tribe's response managed to terrify only one of the remaining two native auxiliaries.



Sensing that the game was all but over, Major Forbes and his surviving soldiers started to run for the edge of the table.  If he could escape with the crown then this would be a stunning victory.



He hadn't calculated correctly, however.  The tribal champion looked to be too far away to interfere, but a melee card backed up by a giraffe (extra movement) totem card allowed the last tribal unit of any significance to catch up with the soldiers.




The ensuing melee was very one-sided; the tribesmen inflicted two casualties on the defender's three models.  Now here's a thing about Congo: a character must remain attached to a unit; he cannot operate independently.  Since there were only two soldiers left, if they had both died then Major Forbes would also have been lost.  Instead, I had to take Forbes as one of the casualties, thus leaving the last soldier to hold on to the crown.  They killed the Major!



In a moment of light relief, the tribal chieftain tried to sneak away through a thicket of trees.  One of his entourage stepped on a sleeping warthog and even though the animal fought fiercely, it was swiftly dispatched.  So, as well as gorilla bits, this guy will be bringing home the bacon tonight...


Some further skirmishing carried on in the last turn as the Professor's ascaris tried to drive off the champion's warriors for good, but this was all inconclusive (apart from protecting the last Sikh soldier who was carrying the artifact, of course).


Conclusion

That was a fascinating game and very enjoyable to play!  The tribesmen's initial charge was frightening, but didn't have quite enough oomf to destroy the camp, helped to no small extent by the devastating volley against their surprise flank attack.

For most of the game, we were very wary of doing anything which would attract stress tokens.  However, these are all removed at the end of each turn, so in hindsight I think that we were a bit too cautious about this.

Neither of us realised until very late in the game how hard it was to kill off the last figure of a unit (and thus score points for it) if that unit just went into hiding.  In the end, terror attacks seemed to be much more successful than shooting though even these were a bit unpredictable.

Equally, the attackers might have scored a few points for looting the camp.  They had the opportunity and did try to pillage one tent (this is potentially a very useful job for units that have been reduced too much to be risked in fighting any more), but were very unlucky in the results.

Neither side scored many victory points; the major goals relating to the crown of Aksoum were not achieved by either force.  Instead, what few points we made came from loot and destruction of enemy units:
  • Forest Tribes: 2VP (for killing a gorilla and taking the impressive bits as trophies)
  • White Man Expedition: 4VP (for destroying 2 opposing units).
Even though the White Men technically scored more than the Forest Tribe, the points achieved were so low that I don't think they're worth counting.  In my mind, the loss of Major Forbes redresses the balance anyway, so I think that overall I would consider the game to be a no-score draw.

Will we play Congo again?  You can bet we will!

Monday, 9 January 2017

SDE: The Witch Queen

Introduction

I'm supposed to be writing up a battle report for my first game of Congo, but it's taking too long.  Battle reports are a lot more work to prepare than other types of blog article!

In the meantime, here's a model for Super Dungeon Explore that I completed a few weeks ago.  I've been meaning to show it ever since then, but just haven't got round to it.  Oh, well, this one won't take long to publish...

Beatrix, The Witch Queen


Beatrix the Witch Queen is a boss-level villain, sold as a separate expansion for the Super Dungeon Explore board game.  She comes with 6 little ghosts that are used in the game as a form of Creep; they're not deployed alongside her and consequently I've not bothered to show them this time.



Beatrix rides on top of a wheeled pumpkin that is drawn by two black cats.  I think that the camera flash has picked up something strange in the cats' paint, because they appear to be medium grey in some of these pictures.  In real life, they are much darker than that.



This is quite a large model; it's a puzzle to me how the designer managed to fit so much onto a standard, large-sized SDE base.  Some of the nooks and crannies were quite hard to reach with a paintbrush, especially around the underside of the pumpkin.



I would prefer my models to come unassembled, but these more recent SDE pieces are glued together and "ready to play" out of the packet.  That can lead to some strangeness, such as the cats' feet not touching the ground.  I did consider trying to glue them down (using clamps), but in the end I decided that the tension on the model would be too great and something would probably break if I did that.  in the end, I decided that the witch's magic probably allows the cats to fly through the air!


So, Congo next time, OK?

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

HotT: Night of the Bats!

Introduction

We've played more games than usual recently.  Indeed, this last Christmas/New Year holiday period has been quite busy in that respect.  The practical consequence of this is that I'm falling behind in writing my reports!

Maybe you're thinking "Why does it matter?  Does every game need to be written down for posterity?"  Well, I do wonder this myself sometimes.  Here's my thinking: I wish to describe what happened as a (hopefully) entertaining tale, but I'm also recording the scenario used, the figures available to each side and the way the terrain was set up.

These data enable me to decide what worked well, what needs improvement for the future and so on.  In addition, the historical record permits me to calculate how long it has been since we played a particular set of rules.  Finally, if such tales of glory and woe are appealing to you (the readers) as well then that's a very welcome bonus!

What I've described in the paragraph above is (I think) part of the creative process.  For miniatures-based games, that is a large part of the hobby, for me at least.  This introspection helps me to understand what I'm doing and why I'm doing it.

Note that I do not attempt to document board or card games such as "Race for the Galaxy", "Cluedo" or the like.  These aren't in the same category as miniatures; board & card games are fully-formed in themselves and have no creative input from me.

On with tonight's report!


Night of the Bats!

Our visitors (Steve and his son) had enjoyed our last game of Hordes of the Things so much that we decided to play another.  This was a straight-up fight between the Knights of Lyonesse and the Cabal of the Black Hand - Necromancers and their undead servants.  Each side had 3 x 24AP "armies", so this was definitely a big battle variant of HotT.

The Knights of Lyonesse

All 3 brigades were very similar in composition, dominated by Knights (strangely enough) and with a significant scattering of Heroes, Paladins and the like.  Oh, and a few yeomen as well (Shooters, Spears or Riders), just to cheer on the better sort of people!

The Cabal of the Black Hand

The Cabal's 3 forces were quite different from each other, though all included magicians and at least a few hordes of zombies or skeletons.
  • Aerials: The northernmost force had large numbers of bats (Flyers), plus a Lurker and a Dragon.  Note that these latter two elements aren't deployed on the table initially, but instead require some occurrence to trigger their appearance.
  • Infantry: A huge number of Horde elements!
  • Cavalry: This command was a mixture of (anti-)Knights, Riders, an evil Hero, Sneakers and the like.

How It Played


From the very beginning, the knights charged forwards, mostly leaving their infantry and lesser cavalry behind (wow - who saw that coming?).  Some sparks of evil magic disrupted their lines slightly, but this was not much of a hindrance to the impetuous chivalry.



The men and woman of Artenay over-reached themselves, though.  The end of their first attacking line was flanked by undead cavalry and destroyed.  Following this, the evil Hero beat the Paladin in single combat, casing the latter to leave the table [Paladins are extremely powerful in HotT, but they take umbrage at being bested in a fight.  Rather than just giving ground and continuing to fight, as almost anyone else would do, they tend to stalk off the battlefield in shame, perhaps to seek penance at some remote monastery or to flagellate themselves for not being worthy enough].

The magicians were all delighted to see the Paladin go; the presence of Saint Florence of Artenay had a subduing effect on black magic.  Her absence should enable them to be a bit more destructive!



On the other flank, the Knights Errant charged forwards towards the undead Hordes.  As planned, the first line of bats leap-frogged them, thus putting themselves into position to sandwich the foolhardy men and destroy them next turn.  Still no sign of the bone dragon appearing, though.  That would have been quite useful right about now.



The power of the knights' thunderous assault caught the undead hordes completely by surprise, if indeed they were capable of feeling any such emotion.  Most of the ghouls and zombies were simply ridden down by the young knights, who pursued right into the magician general himself.

OK, that is something of a setback, but it's now the Necromancers' turn.  Time to roll for PiPs/command points: a '1'!  If ever there was a bad time to roll that low, this was it...

[For those readers who aren't familiar with Hordes of the Things, it costs 1 PiP to move a contiguous group of most types of models.  However, if the figures are flyers or magicians then it costs 2 PiPs instead.  With only 1 PiP available, almost all of this command couldn't move for the entire turn].



The Knights Errant took every advantage from this lapse of concentration by their enemies.  They couldn't touch the high-flying bats, but they carved their way through the Magician general and the last remaining ground troops in the Aerials command.  With their leader destroyed, the Cabal's right wing brigade became demoralised and started to slip away.  [I guess that the bone dragon won't be arriving after all...].



D'Alencon's forces in the centre were also making steady progress, crunching through hordes of skeletons as if they were no more than stalks of corn.  Even as they did this, a strange vortex surrounded the Red Knight.  When it ceased to shimmer, the hero had vanished, ensorcelled by the Cabalites.



The hero didn't stay captive for long, though.  As the forces of D'Alencon continued to press forwards through the disintegrating hordes, the Red Knight burst free from his prison!

He might have chosen a better time to make his escape bid, though.  As soon as he had left the Dark Tower, the necromancers raised fresh hordes of skeletons from the ground around him.  Even the mightiest hero is in danger when surrounded.



In a shattering series of combats, the brigade of D'Alencon was savaged.  Both the evil magicians zapped and obliterated their over-eager foes and the Red Knight fell beneath a mound of undead warriors.

Slightly surreal: in the centre of the battle line, the Knights couldn't beat the [supported] Ghosts.  The undead spirits couldn't affect the knights either, even though they won the fight [Sneakers cannot affect most troop types; they're really only useful against Generals].  This carried on for quite a few rounds of combat, with both sides deadlocked.  I suppose that knights just don't have enough imagination to be afraid of ghosts; they just keep on swinging their swords ineffectually at the phantasms!



By now, most of the nice, neat starting formations had disintegrated.
  • The Knights Errant were sweeping forwards towards the Dark Tower.  Although this appeared to be undefended, fresh hordes of undead were springing up constantly as the central necromancers poured most of their energies into replenishing their forces.
  • In the middle, the forces of D'Alencon were teetering on the edge of collapse; they had lost many fine nobles to the unspeakable black wizards.
  • The Cabal's cavalry wing and the army of Artenay had all but fought each other to a standstill.  Losses were heavy on both sides; it wouldn't take much to push either side into despair.
  • In a final flourish of magic, 2 necromancers co-operated to cast a black web over Roger the Castellan, D'Alencon's last hero.  He was dragged away by spectral furies, screaming all the way to the Black Tower's dungeons.



The Knights Errant charged the stronghold, but fresh skeletons clawed their way out of the ground to oppose them.  Time and time again this happened; whenever the knights retired to regroup, more enemies would appear in the spots they had just vacated.

Then, like a ray of sunshine appearing from between dark clouds, Sir Alain de Fleury swept in on his mighty winged horse.  He smote the nearest magician so hard that the necromancer was split in half down to the waist.

By now, only the only forces still fighting were the almost undamaged Knights Errant (for Lyonesse) and the very battered infantry and cavalry brigades (for the Cabal).  Either of the latter could have broken at any moment if they suffered casualties; only the continued raising of fresh skeletons - that were destroyed as fast as they came on - was keeping this force together.



Again and again, the Knights Errant surged forwards, but they were just unable to breach the tower's walls.  Every time they fell back, more defenders would arise to take the place of the fallen.  Just how long could this go on?  Quite a few turns, it seems...



In the end, it was Sir Alain de Fleury who triumphed.  The hero and his winged steed led a further attack by the Knights Errant and the Dark Tower fell, its defences finally exhausted and overcome.  Victory (at a price) for Lyonesse!


Conclusion

As the leader of the defenders, I planned for the infantry and cavalry wings to hold up the attackers whilst the aerial wing obliterated its immediate opponents before using its incredible mobility to attack the remaining forces of Lyonesse from behind.  It didn't quite work that way, though, did it?  So, my bats and dragon refused to engage and the knights stomped all over my ghouls, whilst the terrified necromancer just stood and watched!  Bah, humbug!

Oh, well.  It was a well-deserved victory for the good guys.  We gave them a run for their money, I think.  The first two brigades of Lyonesse were pretty much stopped dead in their tracks, although the middle one very nearly reached the defender's stronghold.

And there's also this: as the knights went through the tower's innumerable chambers and rooms, they came to one that was far from sunlight and fresh air.  Huddled in a corner was what the victors at first took to be a pile of rags, but which turned out on closer inspection to be a person.  He flinched from lights and shrank from human touch; his speech was slurred and broken.  In all ways, the man seemed a shadow; barely a remnant of a human being.  It took the rescuers a long time to realise that this husk was all that was left of the captive hero, Roger the Castellan...

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Perilous Island 1: Tarzan and the Lady

Introduction

We've finally decided that we enjoy playing Pulp Alley so much that we're going to run a series of linked scenarios.  Fortunately for us, I already have a copy of the existing (and most excellent) Pulp Alley campaign book: Perilous Island.  We'll use that; it fits well with the type of leagues that I've created and played in our past games, though there will be some adaptations to the fluff to make it more based in or near Africa, at least to start with.

The background (condensed version)

Eminent archaeologist Lord Darrow goes off grid to search for a lost civilisation.  His daughter (Lady Elaine Darrow), also an archaeologist, is currently at a dig on the fringes of civilisation.  Various leagues attempt to enlist her aid in finding him.

As written, scenario 1 ("Hidalgo Fire") is set in the Mexican desert.  However, that seems an unlikely location for Tarzan and his apes, though the other leagues would be at home there.  Instead, we'll relocate Lady Elaine's expedition to the Congo jungle.  So, here we go...

Hidalgo Virunga Fire


This scenario revolves around Lady Elaine's campsite; she is the major objective.  Because we had 4 players, we increased the table size and doubled the number of minor objectives.  As well as Lady Elaine's tent, maid, luggage &c there were a number of other items of interest scattered about the table, thus providing plenty of opportunities for squabbles between the various leagues.

Placement is interesting: each league places 1 model in turn, with restrictions on how close they can be to an enemy or a plot point.  You can see in the picture above that the Nazis managed to surround the campfire, the Safari were concentrated in the north, Tarzan's forces were scattered through the west and south, whilst the Snake Cult hid in the trees to the east.  [Also note that not all the models are marked; some were in the part of the table that is out of the picture, whilst I swear that some were just too hard to find in the jungle when I examined the image!]


Early Moves

As might be expected from such a chaotic setup, the action swiftly dissolved into a series of semi-independent vignettes:


Stahl Helm had found a discarded fedora and whip; he was trying them on and had just about worked out how to make the hat fit over his helmet (2 successes scored out of 3 needed) when he was attacked by the cultists' giant snake.  The two of them fought and wrestled for most of the game with neither gaining any real advantage, much to the relief of the other two leagues.



Koko the gorilla tried to grab Lady Elaine's maid.  He almost had her, but she broke away and ran screaming through the forest and across the stream.



Captain Goode and Lady Constance both tried to pluck a rare purple orchid, but succumbed to the mind-numbing, soporific scent.  In the end, an ascari managed to retrieve the blossom and carry it off.



Caesar fought Ernst, the Nazi grenadier, for possession of an ancient dagger.  The simian lost, but his place was taken quickly by Koko, the gorilla.



Alain Quartermain approached the pit beast gingerly.  In a stroke of good fortune, the jungle terror was asleep; the hunter retrieved the camp's radio from its lair with ease.

The Lady run



Under the noses of the NazisTarzan charged in, picked up Lady Elaine and ran for cover.  She struggled a bit, but the feisty archaeologist was not strong enough to resist the jungle man [the plot point challenge was a test against might, which is one of Tarzan's best characteristics!]



The three other leagues (SafariCult and Nazis) made a tacit agreement to pursue Tarzan as he tried to escape with Lady Elaine.  Sir Henry (a fairly mighty man himself!) caught up with the jungle lord,  but wasn't able to wrestle the maiden free.

In the meantime, Herr Stengel went quietly about acquiring minor plot points for the Nazis.  He had already raided Elaine's tent; the softly-spoken German now persuaded her maid to come with him as well.


Boom!


At this point, the world seemed to explode!  Secret agents had planted bombs all around the campsite [scenario special event] and these went off all together.  In a slight change to the written scenario rules, we allowed 2nd and subsequent blast markers to be overlaid with each other to create an even bigger bang.  The other leagues really didn't want Tarzan to get away!

As enemy reinforcements were arriving, Tarzan broke free from Sir Henry and dashed through the flames. still carrying the semi-conscious Lady Elaine.  His danger sense served him well and he timed his run perfectly to avoid taking any injury from the land mines.  With one bound, he was free!



Ernst had been trapped between another explosion and an angry gorilla.  Surprisingly, he survived for longer than anyone had predicted initially, though in the end Koko flattened him and took the ancient dagger plot point.


Mopping up


Skeech, one of Tarzan's simians, had been chasing Jasham the sharpshooter for pretty much all of the game.  Neither was able to gain the upper hand: the cultist kept missing the nimble ape whenever he had a shot and the simian didn't have a decisive enough advantage in hand-to-hand combat.  However, in the final turn of the game, just when it didn't make any real difference any more, Skeech finally caught up with his foe and banged the man's head against a rock until he stopped moving.



Nadeem spotted an unusually large land snail crawling amongst the overgrown ruins.  He shinned up the pillar to retrieve the animal and, even though some ascaris shot at him, was successful in capturing this plot point [I just hope that the cult leader is a nature lover, else Nadeem might be in a bit of trouble for this.  He was sent out to retrieve Lady Elaine or her diary, after all!].



As Tarzan fled, something fell from Lady Elaine's grasp.  Sir Henry dived through the flames to grab her lost diary.  He was just able to clutch the precious book and protect it with his body before he fell unconscious from the smoke and heat.



Having backed off from the fight with Stahl Helm, the giant snake now went after Herr Stengel instead.  Although the serpent managed to knock the man down, it was too late to retrieve any plot points.  Instead, it slid away quickly when called by its master to retreat, leaving the German with his trophies.



A few more acts of petty revenge were carried out...



...by several leagues.  However, by this time everything was settled; nobody had any realistic chance of acquiring any more plot points.  All the survivors melted away into the undergrowth just as the authorities arrived to investigate the noises of battle.


Conclusion

That was a cracking start to our campaign!  I think all four players enjoyed it immensely (I know that I did) and we're looking forward to the next match already.

The next 2 scenarios in the Perilous Island campaign are designed for only two leagues, so we'll need to make some adjustments.  The simplest solution would be to have one pair of our four players play in scenario 2 and the other pair face each other in scenario 3.  I suppose that other arrangements could work as well.

Final scores were very close, but for the record:
  • Tarzan: 4 victory points, including Lady Elaine.  Tarzan delivers, the simians were disappointing and for once Koko wasn't strangled unconscious by the cultists' snake!
  • Safari: 3 victory points.  A solid performance, though somewhat unlucky to have 2 characters drugged unconscious by a flower.
  • Nazis: 3 victory points.  Herr Stengel went quietly about his business gathering evidence whilst other league members shot, wrestled and punched all manner of enemies.  A clever setup.
  • Snake Cult: 2 victory points.  The cult always seemed to be on the back foot in this game; their usually overwhelming numbers just weren't in evidence at any of the critical points.  In particular, the high priest grabbed an early plot point [Lady Elaine's luggage] and ran off with it, leaving his minions leaderless.  I hope he's happy with a set of women's clothing and a snail!

Sunday, 18 December 2016

HotT: Santa vs the Barbarians

Introduction

Once a year, sometime in December, I pull my Santa army out of storage and use it in a game of Hordes of the Things.  If you're interested then here are the previous reports:

As you can see from these battles, Santa and his friends have faced all manner of enemies, but today's fight would pit them against a new foe: a musclebound, unwashed, barely articulate mass of Conanesque Barbarians!



This would be a straight up fight, with no special rules or scenario plots.  On with the story...

The Forces

In the red corner, trying to topple the festivities and loot & pillage Santa's workshop, we have:
  • Barbarians:  24AP of steroid-abusing narcissists with very little self-control.  This force is made up mostly of heroes and warbands with a few shooters as well.
  • Kung Fu: 24AP of inscrutable orientals.  A mix of heroes, blades and hordes, plus a cleric.
In the blue corner, defending all that is decent, right and proper:
  • Santa: 24AP of elves with firearms, polar bears, an animated toy cannon and hordes of snowmen.
  • Tileans: 24AP of Condottieri/mercenaries.  Pikes, crossbows, heavy cavalry, assassins and a flying machine.

The Game


From the outset, the attackers charged across the battlefield:
  • The Kung Fu army raced for the hill in front of Santa's house.
  • The Barbarians tried to close with their enemies as fast as possible (since the defenders had a lot of missile weapons!).  A single barbarian archer unit was sent to claim the other hill.
On the other hand, the defenders all edged forwards slightly, apart from the Tilean flying machine.  This made a huge, sweeping flank move and ended up on the other side of a forest, out of sight and out of mind.



As expected, Santa's shooters and artillery knocked backwards elements in the barbarian line.  This would make it much more difficult to mount any kind of coordinated attack.

Santa couldn't resist attacking the isolated barbarian archers on the hill.  It helped that flying elements are not penalised for being downhill of an opponent, but even then everyone was surprised when he wiped out the bowmen.  By far the most likely result would have been a simple recoil of the archers, which wouldn't really have bothered the barbarians one little bit.



Sensing a challenge, the barbarian general ran and leaped up the hill to confront the enemy's hero.  Some of his warband followed him, whilst others surged forward into the snowmen.

Here's the thing about hero vs hero fights in Hordes of the Things: unless there's a tie, the loser dies.  As a rough rule in HotT, the loser of a fight recoils unless their combat score is doubled [pretty much impossible in this situation] -  but not when it's a hero facing another hero.  Oh, no - I guess they're just too stubborn to retreat or something like that.

So, Santa and the Barbarian king fought each other.  The odds were in the barbarian's favour as he had support from some of his tribe.  He duly rolled a better combat score than Santa (just!) and the man in red went down.  Game over, man!

The loss of their leader caused Santa's followers to panic.  Some fled the field immediately, whilst many of the snowmen were slaughtered by rampaging barbarians.



On the other side of the board, the Kung Fu army charged down from their hill into the Tileans:
  • With some luck on their side, the orientals smashed down the units at both ends of the Tilean line.
  • Although the Tilean assassins tried a sneaky rear attack, they were put to flight easily by the Kung Fu reserve.


After this, it was only a matter of time before the eastern hordes rolled up the Tilean force.  By the time  the Tilean general fell, his army was in tatters and demoralised.  Nobody even noticed when the flying machine slipped away quietly!



Then it was just a question of mopping up, whilst deciding which force would get bragging rights from looting the toyshop!  A barbarian warband was first to reach Santa's house, but these impetuous warriors fell to the magical defences.



The Kung Fu priest attempted to break in to the workshop, but his efforts were all thwarted.  Finally, the barbarian heroine was the one to smash her way in, capturing the stronghold and finishing the game.  Mind you, by this time there was only a single defending element left on the table (a Tilean pike unit), so Santa's defeat was complete and somewhat inevitable!


Conclusion

I don't think that the defenders really had a plan in this game.  Either they should have moved aggressively for the 2 hills and used the height advantage to hold them against all comers, or else they should have stayed on their baseline and used their reasonably good firepower to disrupt and damage the attackers.  Instead, they advanced slowly to the point where the attackers could neutralise both of these potential advantages.

The big (indeed, huge) turning point was obviously when the barbarian chieftain confronted Santa.  I hadn't read the rules in detain at that point and consequently hadn't appreciated that:
  1. Santa would not be disadvantaged by being downhill.
  2. Hero-vs-hero fights are exceptionally deadly.
As leader of the barbarians, I didn't then have as much of an advantage as I thought I would - and the loser of this fight would have their general destroyed.  That would likely result in the loss of their command and, in due course, cost the entire game.  Truly a lot depended on this one combat!

Well, we know how it turned out.  But it could have gone the other way so easily...



Finally, here's a shot of the Tilean flying machine hiding behind the forest, just to prove that it did exist!