I don't normally run the same game 2 weeks running at the local club, but I've been trying out my "8th Voyage" house rules for Crooked Dice's 7th Voyage game. This time, I thought we'd delve into the realms of magic...
So, the scenario is going to be a standard Slay mission. Jason and the Argonauts have been tasked with hunting down and killing a powerful enchantress whom the locals accuse of all manner of misdemeanours. Mainly this comes down to the occasional seduction of handsome young men, but you know how superstitious these villagers can be, full of tales about the dangers of the forest and so on.
Anyway, our heroes have finally caught up with Circe at the site of a ruined bath, deep in the woods. She is only accompanied by a few nymphs, barely visible behind the foliage, so this shouldn't take long. After all, it's just one woman and a few teenage girls, versus a large number of Greek warriors. Mind you, some of those trees look a bit creepy. Weird - I could have sworn that one just moved - and not just swaying in the breeze either. Must be imagining things...
- Jason: star/hero (though more of a leader of men than a combat monster).
- Meleager: co-star/minor hero.
- Atalanta: co-star. In our game, she was given a powerful magic bow as well.
- 11 hoplites/veteran heavy infantry.
- 6 psiloi/light infantry.
Forces of Nature
- Circe: extremely powerful enchantress, with magic and hypnotic powers. She was given a magic item: the "All-Seeing Eye" - so she knew that the Argonauts were coming...
- 4 wood nymphs. Capable of seduction and with an ability to move instantly between trees.
- 4 treemen. More shrubs than mighty oaks, but still able to tear a man in half. These start the game concealed in plain sight; they are treated as part of the scenery until they either choose to act or until they randomly let their enthusiasm get the better of them and act anyway.
- 1 water elemental. An almost unstoppable force of nature. This doesn't start the game in play; it needs to be summoned first. Mind you, that shouldn't be at all tricky for a sorceress of Circe's abilities...
Jason, Meleager and a couple of Argonauts ran forwards towards the lone figure near the pool. This was easy money; what could go wrong? 4 warriors against one defenceless woman - the fight should be over in just a moment, right?
It seems that Circe had other ideas, though. She immediately summoned a huge figure of living water from the nearby reservoir, followed by calling down a pillar of fire on the heads of the impudent mortals who had disturbed her meditations.
Perhaps the second spell was a bit hasty, as the fire didn't strike the earth anywhere near where she intended it. Still, as a warning shot it was quite impressive! [Note: from this point on, we left the 'fire' templates where they fell, just to show the pattern of the action. Apart from the moment of summoning, these fireballs had no effect on game play. Though I did nearly run out of such markers by the end of the game...].
Most of the remaining hoplites were then ambushed! Bushes came alive and grabbed at them, whilst seductive spirits stepped from within the trunks of trees and whispered promised of delight in an attempt to entice them. Most of the hoplites were too steady to be affected by this surprise, but it did hinder them and prevent reinforcements from reaching the leaders immediately.
The water horse flowed forwards to engage Jason and his bodyguard, and a treeman approached the same group from behind.
At this point, a veritable horde of Argonauts rushed down the far side of the pool. Atalanta stopped to turn and shoot at a nymph, but missed [this turned out to be very much her thing all game long. Even with a magic great bow, she just couldn't hit anything much. Definitely not pulling her weight/points cost...]. Mind you, it looked as if Circe might be swamped by this body of soldiers even without the assistance of the famed archeress.
Never underestimate the power of an enchantress! Circe stepped back from the mens' rush and summoned one of her nymphs to her side. She turned to cast another pillar of fire on her pursuers [with rather more effect this time] and then effortlessly hypnotised a lone hoplite who thought he had the drop on her.
Another pillar of fire struck the Argonauts, slaying some and sending most of the rest running around with their clothes burning!
Meanwhile, Jason and his buddy were having a hard time against the forces of nature. Time and again, they were saved from serious injury only by the narrowest of margins (and stout armour!), but they were very much on the defensive.
Circe even had time to call down fire upon Atalanta; the strike wasn't exactly on target but it still set her alight.
Not everything was going against the Argonauts. They had slain a couple of the wood nymphs and had even managed to injure one of the treemen. However, the humans were now completely scattered across the landscape.
Circe continued to stoll through the glade ahead of her pursuers, throwing pillars of fire at any who came too close. Another lone Argonaut charged at her, but was immediately hypnotised before he could do any damage.
Meanwhile, the elemental contemptuously turned from the fight with Jason, leaving him to the tender mercies of a treeman. It moved to try to save the last of the nymphs from Meleager and Amphion, but it couldn't halt the slaughter. The water horse did take revenge by slaying the hoplite, however.
At this point, Circe's luck ran out. Jason knocked down the treeman he was fighting and then ran after the enchantress. He caught up with her just as Meleager and one scared hoplite arrived; together they attacked the witch!
Even when it seemed as if there was no hope, Circe was unstoppable! She ducked out from the middle of the scrum without so much as a scratch, then turned and invoked another blast of magic that left both Jason and Meleager burning. Circe wasn't friendless either; the water horse was sloshing along to her side as quickly as it could.
The enchantress was becoming tired, now. Meleager had panicked and run around until he burned to death and Jason was preoccupied with dousing the flames on himself. Despite this, there were still more Argonauts around.
Two hoplites managed to corner Circe and even though one of them was drowned by the water elemental, the other man stabbed straight and true [aided, if I remember correctly, by the sacrifice of an event card to gain +2 on the strike]. Circe finally took a wound - though this was only 1 of the 3 that would be needed to slay her. At least it was some consolation for the Argonauts...
At this point, we had to call the game because we were running out of time. Both casts had been reduced to 50% of their starting figures, though both had high morale values and had passed the required tests to avoid any further effect. Atalanta and Jason both managed to put out their fires and survived, but there weren't many hoplites left!
I think it's fairly obvious that Circe and her allies won this game! For the record, she gains 3VP for simply being alive [after all, it was a Slay mission], plus 2VP for dispatching Meleager [don't worry - I'm sure he'll be back, miraculously unhurt, for the next episode in the series]. So, a grand total of 5VP.
In contrast, Jason and the Argonauts gain 1VP for surviving [because of his Honourable trait - the VP gain cancels out some of the disadvantages] - and that's it!
Looking at the forces at the beginning of the game, it seemed as if the Argonauts had an overwhelming advantage. They outnumbered the enchantress' force by 2:1 - all they had to do was trap her in combat and sooner or later the sheer weight of attacks would have cut her down. Indeed, there was one turn where the hoplite rush might well have achieved this, if only they had won the initiative. Instead, Circe won that turn's initiative and moved away, out of their reach.
This game was intended as a playtest of my revised combat mechanics. For the most part, I think it worked well. I've added some extra house rules to cover artefacts that scatter [such as the pillar of fire spell] and also to permit defenders to turn to face their attackers under some circumstances [basically, when any initial surprise is over].
In addition, I'm having doubts about whether armour is too potent and/or strikes are too weak - although the casualty rate from this game seems to suggest that there's not really any imbalance here. The elemental did seem maybe a bit too invulnerable, for all that...
So, further tests will be needed. Who's up for another game?!