IntroductionI run a lot of games at the Helensburgh club. Roughly speaking, this is 1 game per week during school term times, so something like 30 sessions per year. Each of these has a cunningly contrived and balanced scenario that's designed to stimulate and interest all the players. None of my games are ever get thrown together at the last minute, just because real-life pressures mean that I haven't thought about it until the day before, no sirree!
Well, OK - that last bit is not totally true. Sometimes a scenario is underdeveloped and doesn't play out the way I'd hoped at all. This is not frequent, but here is an example; this didn't really work well in my view (though the players seemed happy enough, for all that). Note that I'm not trying to railroad my players into certain courses of action when I set up a game. However, it's important that both/all sides feel they have (a) something to do and (b) a reasonable chance of achieving their goals.
However, before they can achieve these goals the camp is raided in the night by a couple of large bull mammoths ("Mamut" and "Ogrom"). Amongst other destruction, the crate containing all the bottles of gin is smashed. Swearing revenge, Sir Reginald Utterly-Barking leads a small band to hunt down the animals, unaware that they are crossing the territory of a local tribe of ape-men to whom the mammoths are sacred!
So, this is a 3-way battle (the mammoths are a player side as well as the explorers and the "ape-men"):
- Explorers: 2 white men (1 with .577 express elephant gun and 1 with .303 rifle), 1 askari (with .303 rifle) and 4 native porters.
- Mammoths: 2 wooly mammoths ("Mamut" and "Ogrom")
- "Ape-men": 5 Neanderthal warriors with flint-tipped spears.
ObjectivesNote that these objectives were secret and known only to the appropriate faction:
- Explorers: kill the mammoths! For extra credit, collect trophies and use the native porters to carry them back to base camp.
- Mammoths: Each mammoth must drive off or kill all intruders who approach within 12" or who shoot at it. Otherwise, a mammoth won't itself move closer than 12" to models from other factions.
- Neanderthals: Drive off or kill the explorers! If the mammoths get in the way then by all means dispose of them (they aren't that sacred). But note that it'll take considerable luck for only 5 of you to hurt a mammoth...
Game 1: Ambush!As is often the case with my games of Lost Lands, we had time to run the scenario several times in our 2 hours of club time. This is what happened the first time around:
The native porters fled immediately, but the 2 white men and the askari all fired at the rapidly-approaching beast. Their hasty shots went wild...
Result: the explorers were obliterated. The Neanderthals hadn't even managed to cross the river (they're slower than average), so they slipped away quietly and left the field to the trumpeting mammoths.
Game 2: The Power of 3
Result: no casualties to any player forces, but the mammoths held the field (the Neanderthals withdrew as quietly as possible without even seeing either the mammoths or the humans).
Game 3: A Friend in Need...
Almost immediately, they encountered a PEF; this was resolved as a Smilodon (sabretooth). It looked as if the beast would attack the Neanderthals, but the explorers could also see it and one of them fired at the animal. Warily, the animal turned to face the humans instead.
Result: Another cultural misunderstanding that ended in a massacre. That seems to happen a lot in my games of Lost Lands, though in no way had I planned such an event. In this game, the mammoths just stayed where they were, grazing and letting the noisy humans fight it out.
ConclusionThis was designed as a 3-player scenario. However, in all of the games we played only 2 forces had any contact; the 3rd side might as well have not been there. That's not what I had intended at all.
I'm also a little unhappy with the one-sided results, particularly of the first 2 games. It's always difficult to balance a game where the technologies, resilience and abilities of each force are radically different from each other. This is very apparent when fielding rifle-armed hunters against large wild animals. At range, the hunters will almost always win, whilst in melee the mega-fauna cannot really lose. It's one of gaming's great perennial problems and if you have any solutions then I'd be delighted to hear them!