Saturday, 15 December 2018

Scenarios for VSF

I just thought I'd put the first two scenarios for my VSF variant of Sellswords and Spellslingers on the blog, for anyone interested to try out.

Scenario 1

Player Briefing 
You are agents of Her Imperial Majesty, Queen of Great Britain, Empress of India etc., carrying out clandestine operations on behalf of HM Government.  Be aware that other government departments may have agents operating in your vicinity. This can be an inconvenience at times as these agents may get in the way of your operations. However, please note that it is not permitted to engage fellow Imperial agents in combat, no matter how annoying they may be. It is also frowned upon to allow fellow Englishmen (or even Colonials) to come to harm if you could reasonably prevent it.

 The renowned British archaeologist, Professor Mortimer-Whining, has successfully discovered the remains of a previously unknown, mysterious, stone-built settlement, deep in the jungle. Rumours say that the Professor had found an enormous stone structure, built on a scale previously unseen in this part of Africa. After 2 months of excavation he started his return journey to the coast with a train of porters carrying the artifacts that he had found during his dig.

The local tribes were much “put out” by the Professor’s unwanted interference with, what they considered to be, a holy site. Fearing for the safety of the Professor (and his mysterious artifacts), all agent of Her Imperial Majesty’s Government in the locality were been ordered to rush to intercept the Professor’s column. You all reached the Professor’s encampment at dusk, only to discover you were too late, the local tribes had attacked the column on the march and the porters had scattered in panic.
At first light you set off with the aim of rounding up as many of the porters as you can and salvage the artifacts.

Deployment: Deploy all PCs along the southern edge, then deploy foes randomly but not closer than 4” to any PC (if a foe appears closer than 4” from a PC, place it 4” away).

3 Elite Warriors
3 hordes of 3 Warriors  (1 In 3 hordes are warrior women with short bows).
12 Markers,  

Markers: As you search the area, the markers represent evidence of movement or sound in the undergrowth. Markers are revealed in the following ways:
By being spotted by a Player Character within 12”. Spend an activation and make a DL12 Terrain roll.
If a Player Character moves to within 4” of a marker it is automatically spotted.
1-2 = 1 porter
3-4 = Dummy
5-6 = 1 porter guarded by a warrior.

Porters: The porters are all too terrified to move of their own accord. They will follow the instructions of any PC in contact with them. Each PC can control up to 2 porters at a time. If a figure with accompanying porter/s suffers casualties from ranged combat, make a DL8 dodge roll, on a fail one porter is killed and his loot is lost.

Complications: The first time the card is drawn a hungry lion enters the table from the northern edge – the lion may attack natives as well as PCs.

Wandering Monster: If a wandering monster card is drawn, roll a d6.
1 or 2: 1-3 Apes
3 or 4: 1-3 Giant Lizards
5 or 6: 1-3 Giant Frogs

The game ends if PCs outnumber the natives in play, or if all PCs are off table or dead. Each porter escorted off the table is worth 2 Victory Points. Any porter controlled by a PC, but still on the table at the end of the game has a VP of 1. Each dead PC left behind is -1 VP.

Scenario 2

Player Briefing 2
You are agents of Her Imperial Majesty, Queen of Great Britain, Empress of India etc., carrying out clandestine operations on behalf of HM Government.  Be aware that other government departments may have agents operating in your vicinity. This can be an inconvenience at times as these agents may get in the way of your operations. However, please note that it is not permitted to engage fellow Imperial agents in combat, no matter how annoying they may be. It is also frowned upon to allow fellow Englishmen (or even Colonials) to come to harm if you could reasonably prevent it.

On returning from a 2 month expedition, the renowned British archaeologist, Professor Mortimer-Whining, was attacked by the local tribes. Whilst you (helped/hindered by agents of other government departments) were attempting to retrieve his lost archaeological artifacts, a group of villainous Zanzabari slavers raided the Professor’s camp.  They kidnapped the Professor’s daughter and stole the few artifacts that the porters hadn’t already run off with.

You feel it is your duty to pursue the ruffians, you can’t leave the Professor’s daughter in the hands of slavers (plus you have a suspicion that the artifacts stolen may include the Professor’s map to his mysterious site). Unfortunately your rivals have had the same idea. You track the Zanzabaris to a small village some distance to the south by a dried up river bed.. The inhabitants quite sensibly left at the news of the approaching brigands, you have apprehended one of them who confirmed that they saw a white woman and several boxes and chests being carried by the raiders. At dawn you intend to raid the village and liberate the unfortunate young lady, from the hands of the slavers. The Professor will undoubtedly pay for the return of his daughter, and if you can grab some artifacts, and hopefully the map, as well, so much the better.

Deployment: Deploy all PCs along the southern edge, then deploy foes randomly but not closer than 4” to any PC (if a foe appears closer than 4” from a PC, place it 4” away).

1 Slaver Chieftain
3 Slaver Thug, where X= number of players.
3 hordes of 3 Slavers, where X= number of players -1. 

The Slaver Chieftain and each Thug have a loot marker. It takes 1 action to check the marker (after the slaver is dead).
1 or 2 indicate a box/chest worth that number of VPs
3 = The map (3 VPs)
4 = Miss Mortimer-Whining (4 VPs)

Complications: The first time the card is drawn an elephant enters the table from the northern edge.
If the Elephant is shot and wounded it will become enraged with the shooter and charge.

Wandering Monster: If a wandering monster card is drawn, roll a d6.
1 or 2: 1-3 Apes
3 or 4: 1-3 Giant Lizards
5 or 6: 3 Pygmies with Blowpipes (If possible Pygmies will attempt to kidnap Miss Mortimer-Whining and escape off table.

The game ends when all loot markers are off table, or if all PCs are off table or dead. Each dead PC left behind is -1 VP.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

VSF Gentlemen in the Jungle

I had Henry over the other day to give my VSF variant of Sellswords and Spellslingers another trial run through. We played two games of the African set adventure I am planing to run at the Tring Wargames Club next week, so it was also a chance for me to test the scenario in advance of the public game. The aim is to try and recover bearers who have been chased off by an attack by local tribesmen. There are 12 markers on the table to be searched, which can be a dummy, a cowing bearer or a captured bearer guarded by a native warrior.

The first game did not go well, for the very first activation of the game my Hunter failed an activation roll, stepped on a poisonous snake and took a HP of damage! Everything went downhill from there. I got jumped on early and failed at least half of my activation rolls for the first four or five turns. Almost all the newly arriving monsters/reinforcements came on in my corner, at one point I had 2 large apes, 3 poisonous giant frogs and about a dozen tribesmen all within 6" of my PCs. I lost two PCs before I'd even located a bearer. Henry fared a little better at first, he was the first to find one of the bearers, but in a single turn every thing went wrong, one of his PCs got into bow range of the 3 warrior women, who then activated and stuck 3 arrows into the unfortunate gentleman, killing him outright! In the end we each escaped with 2 bearers, but lost 3 PCs between up, half of our party.

The table layout before the PCs entered from the closest edge. The red markers are the objectives to be searched.

Ambush, my scientist takes a wound.

My Soldier of Fortune spots something interesting in the bushes, but decides that the apes can keep it!

Henry's Gentleman Adventurer spots the first porter.

Henry's Soldier of Fortune drops riddled with arrows.

The second game went better, at least at first. We both had several turns with PCs making all 3 activation rolls, sometimes even getting 4 activations on occasion. The first warriors to try and close were shot down and we grabbed a porter each without too much bother. Then things started to go wrong and two hordes of warriors turned up just behind us. Henry's scientist took most of them out with a couple of his Exploding Globes (grenades), the rest were shot down or finished off in close combat.

In the meantime my scientist grabbed a porter and passed by the bulk of the foes to spot another porter guarded by a solitary warrior. Unfortunately when he tried to shoot the guard his pistol jammed!  Fortunately my hunter got into a position to take a shot and dropped the guard. The scientist scooped up the second porter and headed towards the table edge. As he neared the edge he failed an activation which brought three giant poisonous frogs on in the jungle close by. Fortunately he managed to slip past and escape with the porters.

By now the rest of the PCs were getting swamped by a flood of enemies. Mt Hunter was charged by a horde of 3 warriors but fortunately passed three activations and dropped them all with successive shots. Henry's Soldier of Fortune was not so lucky and went down in close combat, shortly followed by his Gentleman Adventurer.

My Hunter and Soldier of Fortune moved towards the table edge, covering Henry's scientist as he hustled a solitary porter off the table. At the last minute my Hunter doubled back to check a objective which turned out to be a porter with a guard. The Hunter took the warrior out, then she grabbed the ported and rushed off the table just as another horde of warriors started closing in.

This meant Henry got 1 porter, but lost 2 PCs, whilst I got 3 porters and saved all my PCs, so that game was a clear win for me!

My Scientist takes aim, but the gun jammed!

A mass of warriors start to close in, before an exploding globe takes most of them out.

My Hunter is charged by three warriors.

Bang! down.

Bang!...and the second.

Bang!....the third one falls to the ground.

My Soldier of Fortune holds off the attackers.


Saturday, 1 December 2018

1912 Balkans War with Chain of Command

I had Mark around the other day to play Chain of Command with my 1912 Greek and Turkish platoons. It was an attack/defend game, with the Turks defending a road junction.

Mark had the Turkish platoon and I took the Greeks. We both had a second senior officer, a machine gun, field gun and section of irregular militia in support.

Here is the table after the patrol phase (the colour is a little odd on these pictures).

 The view from the Greek side.

And from the Turkish side.

I started badly with the Greeks, my first roll only gave me the option to bring on a senior leader in that phase (which I declined to do). Mark brought on his irregular militia behind the hedge next to the junction and put them on overwatch. My next roll was 3 sixes, ending the first turn! (Which was quick seeing as our last 3 games of CoC never got to a second turn!). I brought the Italian Legion volunteers on my right flank then had first go in the new turn. Turn ending meant that Mark lost his overwatch, so I deployed a section of regulars in the centre, behind a hill with my senior leader and my field gun which started to pound the irregulars.

 The Turkish irregulars take position.

The Greek field gun "Open Fire!" 

 Watched by the senior leader the Greek regulars advance behind the hill.

On the right flank the Italian Legion take the field.

Mark deployed his field gun which started counter battery fire, bought on another section and started moving his irregulars across to counter my infantry advancing towards the wood on his right. My dice let me down for the next hour or so as my attacked slowed to a plod on the left. On the right the Italians were stuck behind the hill as Mark stuck a section of Albanians and a machine gun in front of them, so advancing in the open into that cross fire didn't appeal. I never got the activation dice I needed and my field gun seemed to be firing blanks. My only success was putting my machine gun in support of the Italians, which was doing a good job of knocking off a couple of Albanians and piling on some shock.
The Albanians show up.

Mark, on the other hand, seemed to get exactly the dice he needed. His field gun repeatedly blasted mine, regularly getting 4 or 5 hits on 6 dice! The shock was piling on and the crew dropping like flies. I had to pull my senior leader back to rally them and keep the gun in the fight. He moved the irregulars up to block my advance through the wood and deployed another section in their original position to add some long range rifle fire on my gun. Enough was enough, the gun crew broke, I threw silly dice for their rout and the ran off table taking their junior leader with them. My Force Morale now dropped to 6.

Suddenly the dice gods smiled on me and I started getting reasonable activation rolls. I brought the elite Evzones on to support the regulars and my irregulars militia popped up in the field next to my machine gun to add some more pain to the Albanians.
The Greek irregulars lurking amidst the crops.

Trying to manouvre around the wood and avoid the machine gun, I accidentally triggered a close combat by coming too close to the Turkish irregulars. As it was the start of Mark's turn when we realised (!) we decided to go back and fight the melee. I was glad we did as I inflicted 8 kills on his irregulars for 4 dead in my unit. The irregulars broke and ran away. Mark then threw 3 sixes, ending the second turn and routing them off the table with their junior leader! He redeployed his gun and infantry to face my new threat and we settled down to a long range fire fight for a couple of phases.
 The Greeks line the hedge.

As the Turks re position to face them.

I then got an activation roll which allowed me to activate everything on the table!  My Evzones and infantry poured fire into the units in front of then, scoring a lucky hit and downing one of Mark's Junior leaders taking his Force Morale to 4. On the right the combined fire from my machine gun  and irregulars pinned the Albanians. My Italians took a gamble and charged over the hill (if I got a low movement roll I'd be stuck in the open in front of the machine gun!). I rolled high and got in close enough to trigger a close combat. I scored 7 kills, wiping out the entire section (or at least what was left of it). Section destroyed and junior leader killed, that's two morale rolls knocking Mark's force Morale down, game over.
The Italians charge in to inflict the coup de grace!

It was a great, fun game, with a lot of laughter. It had swung back and forth and could have gone either way, at the mid-way point I certainly felt my Greeks were on a road to nowhere. The turning point had been that accidental melee, where I rolled ridiculously good combat dice! It just goes to show.

Monday, 19 November 2018

Victorian Gentlemen with Sellswords and Spellslingers

I’ve really enjoyed playing Sellswords and Spellslingers, both in a sort of D&D style fantasy setting (as per the rules) and in a less magic-dominated Middle Earth setting. I’ve also been looking at my collection of terrain thinking that bit would be great to play games in other settings, tropical jungles, blistering deserts or frozen arctic wastes. But somehow it doesn’t seem right to have the fantasy party, essentially existing at a medieval level of technology, flitting around the world (yes, I know it’s fantasy, but I still need it to make sense for me).

Looking at my collection of figures for these various geographic settings, they are mostly dating to the late nineteenth or early twentieth centuries. Setting games in the later Victorian era would have the transport infrastructure to whisk the adventurers around the globe, and if I add in a little science fiction, around the solar system as well! That would also allow for a bit of “magic” in the form of some advanced scientific “devices”. I’m going more Victorian Science Fiction (in the style of Verne and Wells) rather than Steampunk for this. Gentlemen (and gentlewomen) adventurers striving on behalf of Queen and Empire in Darkest Africa or the sands of Egypt , or even on the plains of Mars, against ferocious animals, fearsome natives and dastardly foreigners (usually of vaguely Germanic/Central European persuasion).

One of the prime objectives of S&S is the acquisition of cash, often gained by looting the bodies of fallen foes. As with my Middle Earth games, this does not feel as if it really fits with the VSF idea. After all, a gentleman who can afford passage around the world by steam liner, airship or whatever, is not likely to be interested in riffling the pockets of the Balkan bandit or African tribesman he has just overcome. I am going to have to give some thought to the scenarios, making the objectives the discovery of “clues”, “artifacts” or some such (sometimes portable, sometimes not).

I am also going to review the traits, simplify the choice and add a couple of new ones, like SCIENTIST and MISSIONARY.

I’m going to start off with various archetypal characters, Hunter, Soldier of Fortune etc, who will have some predetermined traits (about 10 to 12XP worth), which can be added to in order to individualise the player characters.

Sample PC Card

Here are a few pictures from a recent test game.

 The PCs enter the table, a Hunter, Gentleman Adventurer, Soldier of Fortune and a Missionary.

 A ferocious pygmy challenges the party.

 More pygmies lurk in the jungle.

 Three more rush forward.

 AMBUSH! A pygmy jumps out from the undergrowth and attacks the Missionary.

 The Gentleman Adventurer takes aim at a charging warrior.

 Whilst more pygmies close in on the party.

 Another AMBUSH! This time the Soldier of Fortune who swiftly deals with his attacker.

 WANDERING MONSTERS - a band of great apes arrive.

 Inspired preaching, the Missionary avoids attack by her persuasive powers (failing that she will clobber them with her heavy bible!).

 But her words can't sooth the angry beast and she legs it as the apes give chase.

First draft of Devious Devices for the Scientist to use.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Ambush at Amon Hen: 54mm LOTR

Years ago, when I was running a games shop I used to take participation game to wargames shows based around the Ambush at Amon Hen, where the Fellowship of the Ring finally disintegrated and Boromir was slain. The game used 54mm figures that had been produced by Britains for the release of Peter Jackson’s trilogy of films. Whilst tidying up by loft storage the other day I can across the figures again and thought it would be fun to do something with them and Sellswords and Spellcasters would be the idea rules for a small scale skirmish.

I wanted to have a go at something more akin to Tolkien’s original version of events at Amon Hen from the novel, rather that that of Peter Jackson's film. The book essentially splits the action into three sequences of events. Firstly you have Frodo using the One Ring to escape the rest of the Fellowship to continue the quest to Mordor alone, a plan upset when Sam follows him and very nearly drowns himself. Not much gaming potential there.

Secondly there is Boromir’s redeemingly heroic, and ultimately fatal, defence of Merry and Pippin against the hordes of orcs. There is more of a game in this, but the presence of numerous orc archers are ultimately going to make this pretty one-sided, unless I go along with a film version of the hobbits and make them dead-eye, lethal snipers with a just handful of pebbles.

Thirdly you have Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas hunting orcs through the surrounding woods. I thought this would be an easier slice of the action to start off with. I decided to play around with the orc’s stats for this, the standard orc in S&S seemed a bit weak for the uruk-hai, but the orc brute was way too strong. Combining the two seemed to work, treating uruk-hai as DL10, HP 1 and DAM 1.

For the first game I created my three heroes using the standard party creation from S&S. I allowed the PCs to use the Buckler trait, more to represent a skill in parrying the opponent’s melee attacks rather than representing a physical shield.

Equipment: Sword, Knife

Equipment: Longbow, Short Sword (Long Knife)

Equipment: Axe, Mail Armour

I started with a simple scenario. 12 uruk-hai started randomly placed on the table, 3 hordes of 3 and 6 individuals. The game continues until the three heroes had crossed the table or killed 30 uruk-hai (or been killed themselves).

 The cast, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and the uruk-hai. 

 The battlefield at the start of the game.

 Viewed from the trio's starting edge.

 Aragorn and Gimli advance onto the table.

 Legolas moves forward and takes down his first uruk-hai.

 Gimli takes on a uruk-hai.

 One down, then two more rush forwards (Monster Frenzy card). Gimli takes a hit, which pierces his armour, but then cuts down the first uruk-hai.

 Legolas shoots two but misses the third. He fails 2 activations in his next turn and the uruk-hai charges into contact. Legolas is hit, but parries the blow and takes the orc down with his one activation.
 Aragorn starts forward towards an oncoming horde, but fails an activation and springs an ambush. He takes a wound but then kills the uruk-hai.

 Reinforcements arrive!

 Aragorn charges into the horde. He kills one, takes a hit but parries it, then kills a second uruk-hai.

 Gimli does a good job of slicing and dicing his way through a horde of uruk-hai.

 Having taken out a bunch of uruks, Aragorn and Gimli join forces as another mass of orcs descend upon them.

 In the meantime Legolas draws a bead on his 7th uruk-hai.

 As another uruk approaches, the elf pauses to adjust his hair, before sticking an arrow in the orc's head.

An overview of the action towards the end of the game. Gimli goes on to take another wound taking out the horde of 4 uruks around him which takes his total to 12! At the same turn Aragorn cuts down his 10th uruk, which takes to total kills to 30, winning the game for the heroes. But they are in a bad way, Aragorn and Gimli each have two wounds and Legolas has one.