Thursday 8 December 2016

Robin Hood and the Forest Road, part 2

<==  Part 1 is this way


In the first installment of this tale, we left the Sheriff of Nottingham about to knife a pinioned outlaw, whilst Robin Hood was beset by the Black Knight and distracted by Yorick the Jester.  What happens next?  Read on...

Ups and Downs

As the Sheriff stepped forwards, the desperate outlaw struggled violently with his captors.  His sudden energy took the soldiers by surprise and the forester broke free [Well, I didn't expect that!  As the Sheriff, I was fairly confident of winning this fight.  Nottingham had a combat score of 3, versus the archer's C2 - reduced to 0 by the presence of 2 extra enemies.  With a d6+3, all I had to do was score double the outlaw's d6+0 for him to be killed.  But it wasn't to be...].

Annoyed, the Sheriff lunged at the archer again.  This time, he didn't have his 2 crossbowmen to aid him, but even so the odds were still in his favour.  We threw the dice; the outlaw rolled a '6' (C2+6 = 8) and the Sheriff got a '1' (C3+1 = 4).  The Sheriff's combat score was doubled and so he fell down, dead.

There was a moment of stunned silence, followed by the (muted) singing by the outlaw players of a well-known Bob Marley song: "I shot the Sheriff!  But I didn't shoot no deputy..." .

As the Sheriff was a Leader, his force then had to take a morale test.  This scattered them even further than they were already; one or two ran away for good.  And it was all going so well for the authorities before that!

To cap this, the Sheriff's band was reduced to half strength very soon afterwards (next turn?), resulting in another morale check and a thinning of the ranks of those left.  At least Yorick and the Black Knight didn't run away!

At the edge of the river, Robin Hood broke off his combat with the Black Knight and ran towards the fight between Little John and Guy of Gisborne.  Little John had run straight into the centre of a group of enemy soldiers and even though he had felled a couple of them, the big outlaw was now surrounded, injured and fighting for his life.

This left Yorick and the Black Knight free to finish off the nearby outlaws, though they made heavy going of it even then.

The Sheriff's men-at-arms had been slowly shepherding a number of civilians towards the edge of the table.  When the double morale-check disaster struck, some of these civilians were very nearly off to safety (and thus would have scored 3 victory points each for the authorities).  Instead, they were now lost and abandoned in the forest as their guides fled!

Despite everything, Robin was too late to help his friend.  Little John fell to the ground, got up again and fought on briefly before Guy of Gisborne delivered a fatal blow that stretched the massive outlaw flat on the grass.

This loss took Little John's band below half strength; the resulting morale check caused most of his remaining outlaws to scatter or flee.

In a moment of hesitation, Robin ran for the forest [his warband had just been reduced to half strength when another outlaw was killed].  When he recovered his wits, he was perfectly placed to shoot at the Sheriff's men who were pursuing him.  Despite his acrobatic dodging, Yorick took one of Robin's arrows in the chest and died immediately.  Warned by this, the Black Knight ducked, the second arrow missed and he survived with nothing but his pride injured.

There were small skirmishes all over the table as the remnants of the 4 warbands hunted each other down.  Surprisingly, the losses from these little battles tended to be very even, thus reducing the forces even more - but no-one was prepared to concede; everyone still felt they had a chance to win the game.

Guy's squad was still above strength (barely!).  Some of his men started to usher the civilians away from the gory scene of Little John's fall when one of them spied movement in the nearby trees.  "It's the outlaw chief himself!" the man cried as he took off in pursuit.  The nearby knights were either more cautious or slower-witted; they weren't quite so quick off the mark.

The Fight

This was the prelude to what was probably the most prolonged and dramatic piece of derring do that I have ever seen in a wargame; easily worthy of an Errol Flynn movie!  Although there were a handful of other models still on the table, they all fought each other to extinction or joined in this last, great combat.  What you're about to see ended up involving the few remaining figures from all 4 warbands.

Here goes:

Robin is heavily outnumbered by Guy and his men

...but he doesn't give up easily!

One man-at-arms falls to Robin's sword

Robin is forced back, Guy pursues

The White Knight rejoins the melee

Robin is forced back again 
...and again

He shoots a quick arrow at Guy, but the knight's armour saves him from death

The White Knight steps up to protect his boss

Guy attacks again, but once more is driven to the ground

They're getting close to the river now.

The White Knight continues to force Robin backwards

Guy continues to add pressure 
A forester comes puffing up to distract Guy.

Another forester tries to join in 
...just as the first one is cut down

The White Knight is floored by Robin, but Guy steps up to engage Robin instead.

The last remaining outlaw runs in and stabs the fallen White Knight

Now it's Guy who is outnumbered.  Robin knocks him to the ground, but his armour holds (again) 
Guy gets back up, but he's surrounded and outnumbered.

He forces one of the foresters to step back a few paces

...and uses this slight respite to kill the other archer.

...before turning round and sweeping Robin's legs from under him

Before Robin can recover, Guy's sword is at his throat.  Robin yields and the last archer runs away.


That was, without a doubt, the most tense and exciting finish to any game that we have played for a long time!  Both sides were completely involved and felt that they had a very good chance of winning, right until the very last throw of the dice.  In the end, none of the civilians were taken off the board, but both sides scored very high for eliminating enemy models.  It has to be a marginal win to the authorities, though: they had 1 man left whereas the outlaws had none!

Man of the Match: Sir Guy of Gisborne, by my reckoning.  He defeated both Little John and Robin Hood.  His heavy armour saved him on numerous occasions as well; it's as if he had a charmed life.

Most Useless: This has to be Friar Tuck.  His brief appearance was anything but heroic!  Although the Sheriff of Nottingham came to an unlikely end and could therefore be considered for this award, , he had been quite an effective leader up to that point and therefore doesn't qualify.


  1. Yay the side of Law and order triumphed. Just as it should. Well done Sir Gisborne for showing the dastardly outlaws the correct way.

    One does not think this is the end of that despicable outlaw robin. 1 almost expects him to try to escape.

    1. Well, the bad guys (!) only just won this game. It really was touch and go all the way.

      Yes, I'm sure that the outlaws will be back some time :-) .

  2. We're going to need another friar.
    An internet search provided the ideal candidate; Friar Pedro Zaldivia.
    (Well worth a search, though Zaldivia aligns with the forces of law)

    Enough rambling, what a fantastic game it was.
    Throughout the events in part 1, the Sheriff's men seemed to be in complete control.
    The Sheriff's leadership kept his party one step ahead of Robin's, while Guy and his Knights were more than a match for Little John's outlaws.

    Unfortunately for him (and it doesn't get a lot less fortunate than an archer's blade through the gizzard) the Sheriff wasn't content to sit back and issue orders. His wish to play the hero fell flat, and set the game on an extremely busy trajectory.

    It's worth pausing here to heap praise where it's due.
    Hugh's fabulous figures, scenery, game-organising and playing host for the day made it all possible.
    The Song of Blades and Heroes rules also deserve great praise.
    They combine simple mechanisms, quick play and the feeling that the players are always involved in the game.

    2 leaders fighting man to man to resolve the battle is commonplace in dramatic tales: superheroes, swashbuckling and action movies spring to mind.
    I'm usually skeptical where it happens in games.
    Too often it's the result of a "Nobles can't die", or "Ordinary troops are merely speedbumps" rules.

    I'll assure the gentle reader that character figures are quite vulnerable (usually above average, but vulnerable) in the Song of Blades games. Witness the grizzly ends of Friar Tuck, the Sheriff and Little John for evidence.

    That's enough about one of my favourite sets of rules.
    I hope everybody enjoys reading the battle report as much as I enjoyed playing in it.

    1. Thanks, Steve. It was one of the best games we've had in a long time, I think. The outlaws did suffer from being slow and spread out at the start; perhaps they could have bunched up a bit more and tried to overwhelm just one part of the defenders at a time? Who knows?

  3. Slaughterhouse!
    What a fitting climax to yet another superb aar; this 'episode' read like the final scene of a movie.
    Very enjoyable read C6!

    1. The climax of the game felt very much like a movie as we were playing it; I take this to be a good thing!

      I couldn't quite believe that we'd fought to the last 2 models on the table, but the match was so finely balanced that no-one was prepared to concede, right up to the end!

  4. What a super end fight! I love the Song mechanics. I look forwards to a sequel!

    1. Thanks, Barks. It was a very exciting game to play and we'll certainly be using SoBH again :-) .