In my last post, I promised that there would be 3 battle reports arising from my Saturday of gaming. I gave you Robin Hood in "Song of Blades and Heroes" already; this time it's 7th Voyage and a visit to mythical Ancient Greece!
The hunt for the Calydonian Boar is a strange tale from the Olympian age. Put simply, a monster boar was ravaging the district of Calydon in Aetolia. The local king sent out a summons for heroes that was answered by many, including the Argonaut Meleager and the huntress Atalanta. However, some of the others present objected to a woman taking part in a "man's" activity and this dissent spilled over into violence, resulting in a number of deaths. I'll not reveal the classical ending here - you can do your own research to find out who lived and who died. However, I will tell you that I believe Meleager fancied Atalanta (he certainly took her side), but she did not return his feelings!
The Hunt for the Calydonian Boar
This will be a standard Slay! mission from the 7th Voyage rulebook. I've decided on quite a small skirmish, so we're playing it at 100 ratings on each side. The original boar hunt involved 30 or 40 named heroes, but I'm going to rationalise this by claiming that the other hunters are spread out over a wide area; this scene represents just the climactic moment of the hunt.
- Meleager, "Brother in Arms" co-star.
- Atalanta, "Enchanting Beauty" co-star. She has the magical Horn of the Hunt, which makes her fearsome when it is blown. This could be used to scare any enemy extras, but importantly it means that she doesn't have to take fear tests herself when approaching the monster.
- Laokoon and Amphion, veterans with spear, armour and shield
- Eupythos, psiloi with bow
- The Calydonian Boar, monstrous beast. On its own this is worth more than the 2 co-stars; it's really nasty!
- 4 dissenters (psiloi with javelins).
It might seem odd that the boar is "allied" with men, but in reality they have shared aims (drive off/kill the heroes) and little else in common. Indeed, I was sorely tempted to make the dissenters subject to the boar's fearsome trait themselves, but in the end decided to avoid such a complication.
This skirmish was fought in a heavily wooded valley with a stream running through it. Underbrush and trees would prevent movement and provide cover, while the stream could be waded at half speed, or crossed at the fords without penalty.
The heroes advanced cautiously across the ford. There was no sign of the monster, though they could glimpse men hiding behind the trees up ahead. "It's only a pig" said Meleager. "I don't know why everyone is making such a fuss about this. Just how fierce could it be? Yes, I'm sure that it's bigger than average, but the whole "monster" thing is some peasant's exaggeration, if you ask me".
Just then, one of the dissenters jumped out of cover a good javelin's throw away. "Go back to your cooking and spinning, woman." he shouted. "We'll kill you if you come any further; you've no business here!" Atalanta drew an arrow and shot him dead.
Meleager cheered. "All riiight!" he crowed as he ran forwards to shield Atalanta. "My turn now, if you please, my lady". But it was Eupythos who shot dead the next enemy, after the dissenter foolishly peeked out of the tree in which he was hiding.
"Look out!" cried Atalanta, but it was too late. Amidst a crash of breaking branches, a gigantic pig charged out of the undergrowth straight at the heroes. It was as large as a horse - not as tall, perhaps, but longer and heavier and it had a wicked set of teeth set in an enormous jaw. The creature's bull rush bowled Meleager over and he was gored as he fell to the ground.
At the same time, one of the dissenters used Atalanta's distraction to throw a javelin at her. It hit the woman in the side and caused a painful flesh wound. [Wow, both co-stars reduced to a single remaining hit in the same turn. That's not good.].
This seemed like the perfect time for the heroic side to play a "High Drama" event card! They won the turn's initiative roll by 1 and gained 2 extra Audience Appreciation tokens from the event.
Atalanta scurried backwards, out of javelin range, while Laokoon ran forward to help fight the boar. While the creature's attention was on the newcomer, Meleager scrambled to his feet again.
Between them, the 2 hunters managed to knock the boar off its feet, at which point Laokoon stabbed it with his spear. If it bleeds, it can be killed, right?
Atalanta took her revenge on the dissenter who had injured her. As the man stood still, perhaps as shocked as the heroes by the sight of the monster, she shot him down.
But the beast wasn't finished yet! It sprang to its feet and delivered terrible wounds to both Laokoon and Meleager. Laokoon crumpled instantly in a heap, but Meleager swayed and stayed on his feet, pale as a ghost.
"Err, that can't be right. Meleager should be dead, shouldn't he?" I can hear you all thinking. Technically he had lost all his hits, but I quickly played a "Taking Your Time" event to draw out his death scene. Cunning, huh?
Amphion now charged at the boar, but he missed his footing and slipped. The creature was on him in a flash and had inflicted a mortal bite to the poor veteran. But Meleager, dazed as he was, took the opportunity to sink his sword into the monster's side [so that's 2 of its 3 hits gone now].
The dying hero sank to the ground as Atalanta blew her horn and ran forwards. The wounded boar used a "Flee" event card to put some distance between itself and the vengeful huntress, but it was still in bowshot range. Before it could reach cover, Atalanta had loosed another arrow at it. 3+ to hit, with 1 Audience Appreciation token that I could use to adjust the score - and I rolled a '1'. Some choice words went through my mind at that moment, I can tell you!
But then I remembered that Atalanta had 1 point of Luck, which could be used to re-roll a single dice once during the game. If ever there was a time to use a re-roll, this was it! The re-throw was a '6', so a palpable hit!
Now I just needed to wound the beast, needing a 5+. OK, so I rolled again: a '4'. Billions of blistering blue barnacles!!! Ah, but the Audience Appreciation token could be spent to add +1 to this, even after the roll was made. Hurrah - the boar was indeed wounded for the 3rd time and with that it expired. The game was won by the heroic side!
This was an exciting game and went right down to the wire before the heroic side scored a narrow victory. I did consider using 2 boars on the monster side to make it a rather bigger encounter, but in the end I think it worked well as a small skirmish.
One thing to note about very small skirmishes in 7th Voyage is that the morale tests for Shaken (50% casualties) and Wiped Out (75% casualties) can be devastating, especially as the former can trigger the latter if even a small number of extras flee . In this game, both sides passed all such tests, but that's not guaranteed.
- The event cards were very characterful and gave some interesting decisions (do I use this card now for a +2 on the next dice roll to keep my hero safe, or do I keep it until I can play it for the printed text?)
- The range of traits really do make a difference to the way that the extras play, let alone the stars. I don't think that many men would have charged the monster in this scenario, but my brave veterans with Martial Training did so.
Not so good Points
- Character design in 7th Voyage (and 7TV too, I imagine) is fiddly and requires much toing and froing in the rulebook. This would be helped enormously if there was an online tool for building your stars!
- I still feel that melee combat is a bit static (I use each action to try to hit, then you hit back with your actions. Repeat until someone is lucky enough to score damage). Yes, I know that there are options to push back or knock over an opponent - and we did use these occasionally. But they are choices and the default choice is usually just to go for a damaging blow instead.