Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Frontier extends south to Cincycon

A good-natured batch of players game out another session of the Ohio Frontier Aflame using our Song of Drums and Tomahawks rules
Last weekend, I headed south a couple hours to Cincycon, which would be located at the Butler County Fairgrounds in Hamilton, OH (near Cincinnati). I'd scheduled so many conventions this school year that I was fresh out of personal days. That meant I had to teach a full day and then dash south. It also meant there would be no way I would be ready for my 6 pm game, in time. It was my fault for not confirming the time, though. I assumed selecting "Evening" for my start time meant 7 pm. Luckily, a friend was already there and they put a sign on my table informing people the start time had been moved to 7 pm.

Perhaps because of this (or what seemed to be lighter attendance on Friday evening), I had only four players out of my possible eight. I let them choose which of the four scenarios they wanted to play, and we sat down and began the rules explanation. Song of Drums and Tomahawks rules don't take long to pick up, so before long, the players were deploying and the first shots rang out. I had two lady players and two men, and the ladies chose to play the French side in the "Interrupted Raid" and "Rescue the Captives" scenarios.
A Huron hunting party returns through the palisade entrance, interrupting a raid by Rogers Rangers
Rogers Rangers got the jump on the Huron hunting party returning to the Indian village right away. The Huron player was rolling terrible for activations, allowing the Rangers to regroup (they start scattered throughout the village) and open fire on the Huron braves as they slowly filtered into the village. The Hurons charged into contact as they were able to, but the Ranger musketry wore them down. It ended up being more one-sided of a battle than usual -- in fact, it was the first Ranger crushing victory ever in this scenario.

Meanwhile, the Ranger's Stockbridge Indian allies were in a much bloodier battle atop the cliffs, as they sought to return home with Huron captives. Losses mounted on both sides, and both ended up having to make "below 50%" morale checks. The Stockbridge rallied quicker, though, while one or two key Huron braves fled the field. This allowed the Stockbridge to slowly whittle away at the remaining Indians until they alone held the clifftops. Far below, one Stockbridge warrior led the captives on a circuitous path to avoid any Hurons getting close enough to rescue them. With both scnearios ending with "British allied" victories, we did not bother counting up the victory points. The British side was declared the winner.
Stockbridge and Huron Indians fight to the death atop the cliffs in an attempt to rescue or maintain control of the captives from the raid on the Huron village
The next morning, we had six players, who decided to play the "Fatal Lacrosse Game," "Hurry, to the Blockhouse!" and the "Interrupted Raid" scenarios. I actually knew all of the players, so it was fun to watch the combatants banter back and forth as they competed. Good-natured jokes and taunts flew back and forth across the table just as often as musket shots. Jenny, who had played the previous evening to even out to four players, did the same again. She played the part of the Rangers and did not have near the success that they did last night. The Huron hunting party took vengeance for its defeat the previous evening, and all but one of the Rangers was killed in scalped. This racked up a huge amount of victory points for the French side.
A family of English settlers are escorted by frontiersmen, hoping to make it to safety at the local blockhouse
In the "Hurry, to the Blockhouse!" scenario, Steve's frontiersmen attempted to escort a settler family to the local blockhouse. He was able to quickly get a relief force from the blockhouse to join up with the family. However, when they turned around and began to retrace their steps, they ran into a solid firing line of Indian raiders. Steve's brother Mike played the Indians, and after exchanging a few shots from patches of wood on either side of the road, they both charged into hand-to-hand. I had never seen a game where two skirmish parties lined up in melee as neatly as Steve and Mike's troops did. Both sides lost men, but soon the Indians began to force the frontiersmen back. Just when their morale was about to break, a fresh party of Indians showed up near the wagon at the rear (reinforcements from the Huron victory on the neighboring board). I allow players in the Ohio Frontier Aflame to send reinforcements onto other tables if their games are over or well in hand. The new arrivals turned the tide, and the Indians reached the wagon and began to kill and scalp the family. Once again, this resulted in big points for the French side, and a defeat for the Frontiersmen.
Brutal, hand-to-hand fighting as frontiersmen struggle desperately to escort a family to the blockhouse
Rogers Rangers were big winners in Friday night's battle, but on Saturday were killed and scalped almost to a man
The final battle was the one inside the fort, inspired by the seizure of Forth Michilimackinac during Pontiac's Rebellion. The local Ojibwe Indians have used the ruse of a lacrosse game to follow an errant ball and storm into the fort. The battle between the attackers and the defending British is usually a brutal and bloody one. Kevin and Derek's game was no exception. The Ojibwe managed to kill three redcoats early on, but Kevin was able to pull his scattered garrison back into command range of his leader. He then began to use musketry to shoot down the attackers, half of whom were armed only with knives or tomahawks. The battle was a tense and close one -- with both sides being one away from the "Below 50%" morale checks. The British were forced to check first, which scattered their forces, again. Kevin bravely charged his leader into melee with the Ojibwe chieftain. It was a clever move -- if he killed him outright, the Indians would have to take two consecutive checks and would likely lose most, if not all, of their forces. The Ojibwe leader won the combat, though, and with it, the battle. This meant the French came out overwhelmingly on top by victory points.
My scratch-built cliffs are always atmospheric eye candy at our games
It was a great series of games, and the players seemed to have fun. We sold 13 copies of Song of Drums and Tomahawks rules, which continue to go over very well with players. I'm extremely happy with their success. I look forward to equal success in a week and a half at Drums at the Rapids -- our next convention stop. There we will run a game Friday night and Saturday morning in the shadow of the palisades of Fort Meigs. This reconstructed War of 1812 fort is an atmospheric place to visit, and I always enjoy wandering among its blockhouses and artillery emplacements after running my games. Anyone in the area on May 16 or 17 should stop by and check out both the game and the fort!
Come to Fort Meigs on May 16-17 to play in the next running of the Ohio Frontier Aflame using Song of Drums and Tomahawks rules!

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