A week ago, I promised that there would be 3 battle reports as a result of a recent all-day gaming session. The first two have already been published:
Well, it's time for the 3rd (and last) of this group of games. It's a slightly larger game of 7th Voyage that involves Jason and the Argonauts vs. a flock of Harpies!
The gods have punished King Phineas for some impiety by turning him blind, exiling him and sending harpies to plague him constantly by stealing or fouling his food (wow, these Olympians don't mess about, do they?!) However a seer has prophesied that the hero Jason has been chosen to end this punishment and drive off the bird-women monsters. Shame that Jason can't restore Phineas' sight as well...
We're going to play this as an almost-standard Steal mission, straight from the 7th Voyage rulebook. The main difference is that in our version, Phineas will be the "item" to be fought over, rather than a fabled and magical Gift of the Gods. Since he is blind, he may only make 1 move per turn (of 6") and then only if he is guided by a rescuer.
Phineas may not be attacked by the harpies because they've been tasked with tormenting him and not slaying him.
The Argonauts entered the table from the southern side in a fairly classical formation, with heavy infantry in the centre and skirmishers on both flanks.
- Jason the Argonaut (star, in the centre with the blue crest)
- Meleager (co-star Brother in Arms, back rank, blue armour and bare head)
- Antigone ("also starring" Amazon, with the long green dress, beside Jason)
- 5 veterans with shield, armour and spear or sword.
- 8 psiloi with javelins or bow.
The winged monsters set up in a ring around Phineas, centred on the ruined theatre in the middle of the table.
- Podarge, "also starring" harpy leader.
- 9 harpies with a mixture of sword, spear, bow and claws
Although the table had quite a bit of vegetation on it, the Argonauts decided to march straight up the middle, between the broken columns and towards the theatre. All of the action would occur in just this quarter of the battlefield.
"Stand aside, please!" called Jason to the harpies. His men may have felt uneasy at the dark shapes crouched on broken columns and ringing the ragged man who stood alone in the centre of the ruins, but the hero showed no sign that he was perturbed. "We're just going to collect Phineas and then we'll leave".
The harpies were clearly not impressed by this bravado; they had no intention of giving up their plaything! Uttering a series of awful screeches, the flock leaped into action. Some of the monsters took wing and flew overhead to look for an opening, whilst others rushed forwards and attacked the heroes. Laokoon, taken by surprise at the swiftness of this assault, fell immediately. Antigone was engaged by Podarge, the leader of the harpies, and immediately took a wound from the terrible creature's attack.
The men struggled to regain their composure, though Antigone the Amazon struck back at the harpy leader and drew blood. More harpies flew overhead and it looked as if the leaders of the heroes would be swiftly surrounded and cut off from their friends.
On the left flank, psiloi loosed arrows at one of the harpies, but came off worse when one of them was slain by the harpy's return shot.
Quickly, Argonaut reinforcements rushed forwards. Meleager took some of the pressure off Pheidippides, who had been holding 2 harpies at bay all on his own. This wasn't without cost, though; Meleager's new opponent promptly injured him. Apart from this, the tide started to swing, with both Jason and Pheidippides both managing to wound their opposite numbers. Also, in a bravura show of marksmanship, Phaleros threw a javelin high at one of the flying harpies and pierced the creature's wing.
Almost unnoticed, the 3 psiloi on the right flank ran past the columns and towards Phineas. Could they get there and rescue him before the harpies could react?
This was the moment that the harpies chose to play a "Weak Spot" event card. The monster facing Jason struck at him with a blow that was obviously intended to hamstring him. The clumsy strike missed, but it was obviously a feint as the harpy's next attack struck the hero in the arm and gashed him badly [sometimes this happens - the harpy missed the easy shot at the weak spot but then made the much harder, normal strike!].
The other harpies renewed their assault as well, killing the brave Pheidippides and moving to block the 3 young lads who were attempting to outflank them. Augeas ran up to assist Phaleros, just as the harpy he had injured landed in front of him, snarling with rage.
For the Argonauts, Amphion (the last hoplite reserve) ran along the line of the columns to try to relieve the pressure on their leaders. Encouraged by this. Meleager slashed at his opponent and drew blood from the foul monster.
In the chick fight in the centre, Antigone finally saw an opening and stabbed at Podarge. Stupefied, the harpy felt the spear bite deep; she slid off the Amazon's weapon and fell to the ground, mortally wounded.
At the back, one of the javelinmen distracted the harpy in front of him, whilst his colleague ran past and grabbed the startled Phineas by the elbow. "Come with me if you want to live!" the lad shouted - but already further harpies were taking to the skies in pursuit.
As Phineas and the psiloi ran and stumbled away from the theatre, the Argonauts struck back with renewed vigour. Antigone ran to cover the brave lad, whilst both Jason and Augeas slew their opponents. Another javelin-man ran up behind a third harpy and struck the creature a damaging blow from behind, whilst the Greek archers on the left flank finally achieved a hit on their opposite number.
The harpies gave chase to Phineas and his would-be rescuers, shrieking loudly. Still, with their leader dead they seemed to be a bit sluggish and not as many of them reacted as before.
Jason now ran to assist the pursued humans, but he was too late. Antigone spun round and impaled the harpy who was approaching her from behind; she left the creature dying in the dust. At the same time, the Greek archers scored further hits on the harpy with the bow and killed the monster outright.
This was the final straw for the remaining harpies. With 5 of their number down, the rest became shaken and most of them fled. In turn, that meant that the flock was wiped out and all of the remainder also took to their wings and made off. Jason and the Argonauts were victorious: Phineas was saved!
Although the final tally looks lop-sided (50% of the harpies dead in exchange for 2 hoplites and 2 psiloi), the game felt really close right up to the end. Casts without some form of star leader are very brittle when they start to take casualties!
The Argonauts' flanking manoeuvre always seemed like a forlorn hope; there were just too many unengaged harpies and they might have been able to block such a move. Surprisingly, it worked pretty much as intended - perhaps because the monsters just didn't have enough activations to chase the psiloi as well as fight the hoplites.
Could the harpies have made more use of their distinct characteristics (especially flying and screech)? Possibly they could have used the flying to outnumber and surround the small groups of humans one at a time, but as it was the screeching was very effective in bringing further harpies into the fight. It really did feel like fighting a flock of enraged birds!
(Wo)man of the match: Antigone, for sure! She single-handedly slew the harpies' leader and then finished off another monster. Jason struggled to deal with just one of the creatures and none of the other humans or any of the harpies were particularly distinguished in the fight. Credit to Agaios, the teenager who ran through the harpies in just a tunic to rescue Phineas, though.