|The Sheriff's men, plus assorted rich merchants, churchmen and ladies|
England, 1193. The King, Richard I, has vanished overseas whilst returning from his crusade and his brother, Prince John, has seized power. Normans lord it over Saxons, peasants are opposed to the nobility, taxes, corruption and general dishonesty run rife and the land is in turmoil. In these dangerous times, merchants and clergy have begged for protection from the authorities whilst travelling through the more dangerous parts of the land.
Deep in Sherwood forest, the Sheriff of Nottingham and his ally Guy of Gisborne are escorting such a caravan along an overgrown track. As they reach a small bridge over a stream, the knight at the rear of the party notices that there isn't a sound coming from the trees - even the birds have stopped singing. His wariness almost pays off; he shouts "AMBUSH!" just as green-clad figures swarm from the undergrowth on both sides.
I've adapted a scenario from the Song of Arthur and Merlin rulebook (part of the Song of Blades and Heroes series, though both are separate, standalone games). This started off as a cattle raid, but I've substituted rich civilians for the cattle and changed the mechanics of how they move somewhat. See what you think:
The outlaws are split into 2 groups of about 300 points value each:
- Robin Hood and 7 (?) archers are in the trees to the north.
- Little John, Friar Tuck and 7 (?) archers are south of the track.
The authorities are also split into 2 commands of 300 points. Note that we removed the Rabble trait from the Sheriff's men-at-arms. In previous games this attribute made them exceptionally brittle; they died or ran away very quickly. They're still not great fighters, but not quite so easy to kill:
- The Sheriff of Nottingham, Yorik the jester, 1 minor knight (dressed in black), 4 crossbows/archers and 4 men-at-arms are at the front of the caravan.
- Sir Guy of Gisborne, 3 minor knights and 9 (?) men-at-arms are at the rear of the party.
- Neither side wishes to injure the civilians (they are too valuable!), so these models may not be targeted or injured in any way. Equally, the civilians are frozen with fear; they will not undertake any movement or other action of their own volition.
- A combatant from either force can move a civilian: if the combatant is in base contact with a civilian and the civilian is not in contact with an enemy combatant then both models may be moved together. Whilst doing this the combatant's move is reduced by 1 step to represent the extra effort of dragging the civilian, pleading with them or whatever else it takes to motivate them! So, if a model normally moves 'M' then he/she/it will move 'S' whilst accompanying a civilian.
- The authorities and 10 civilians are deployed in the centre of the table.
- The outlaws enter from 2 opposing sides of the table.
- 1 victory point is gained for each 50 points of enemy who are killed or flee [note that this is a maximum of 12vp since the combined forces of the enemy amount to 600 points. To gain the full 12vp, the enemy would have to be completely obliterated, though...]
- Each civilian is worth 3vp, but only if they can be escorted off the table. For the authorities, this has to be off either the edge where the path enters the table (i.e. where they have come from) or the opposite edge where the path leaves the table (where they are heading). The outlaws use the other 2 table edges (where they deployed) instead. Since there are 10 civilians, this gives a maximum of 30vp, easily outweighing the victory points which might be accrued for slaughter.
Initially, all sides moved somewhat sluggishly. Little John and his men advanced cautiously; Guy of Gisborne moved to confront him. From the other side of the stream, Robin Hood's men were even slower off the mark, though Robin did open the score by shooting down one of the men-at-arms.
The Sheriff directed his crossbowmen to harass the approaching outlaws, whilst he escorted the Bishop of Lichfield to safety. His leadership skills seemed to be working quite well this game, as the exchange of missiles was probably in the Norman's favour.
Despite the lack of close support from his own men, Guy went steaming straight towards the biggest, meanest-looking outlaw he could see. Initially, the fighting was inconclusive, though; Little John and the other outlaw forced Guy to step back.
Over the next few turns, the men-at-arms started to shepherd the civilians towards safety, though Guy's and the Sheriff's commands chose to go in different directions! The Sheriff realised that his soldiers were struggling without his leadership so he abandoned the bishop and returned to give them directions.
His commands were so successful that Robin Hood was first distracted by Yorick (the jester) and then knocked down and assaulted by the black knight and various others of the Sheriff's men. The nearby outlaws were slow to respond and for a while, Robin seemed to be in real trouble.
At the other end of the table, Friar Tuck finally puffed into sight, only to be confronted immediately by the yellow knight.
With one stroke, the knight beheaded the portly friar [gruesome kill!]. Not many outlaws were nearby, but those that were mostly blanched with fear and stepped back a few yards. Little John used the distraction to dodge past Sir Guy and head towards the civilians [in other words, he failed 1 die of his 3 dice morale test and therefore ran 1 move away from the grisly sight; Guy didn't manage to stop him with a free strike at the big man's back!]
Little John's initial charge bowled over one of the men-at-arms in the central group - but he was hotly pursued by Sir Guy. When the knight caught up, it was the outlaw who was outnumbered and knocked to the ground.
Elsewhere, things were going somewhat better for the outlaws. Robin's men rushed through the trees to his aid and turned the odds against his attackers.
Two of the Sheriff's crossbowmen managed to seize one of the outlaws. "Hold him tight, lads!" said the Sheriff, as he drew a long dagger from under his robe. He stepped forwards, wielding the weapon and snarling "This is the price for your banditry, outlaw scum!".
...and that's all I have time for this evening! Parental duties call and I have to go & fix a kid's computer. I'll put up Part 2 as soon as I can (it'll probably be a few days, though). In the meantime:
- Will the Sheriff kill any of his own men for cowardice (he has done this in every previous game we've played)?
- How will Robin fare against the dual threat of Yorick the Jester and the Black Knight?
- What exactly does Sir Guy have against Little John? He does seem rather fixated on pursuing the big outlaw.
- Who will "rescue" more of the civilians; the authorities or the outlaws?