Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Beaver Wars in Ohio playtest: Turn 5

Inside the friendly confines of Jenny's house, the living room hosts two games (from left, Keith, Dave, Jenny, Mike)
The local pizzeria where we'd been doing our Saturday morning playtests was booked with birthday parties all month, so we had to look elsewhere. Jenny (Miami tribe player) offered up her place, and threw in a nice spread of chili, veggies, and more, to boot! What's more, we added a ninth player last turn -- Bruce, who would play the Honniasont tribe. This would be the first meeting he could actually show up and get in a game. That meant my Erie tribe was the fifth wheel. We had four battles, and as GM I'd volunteered to be the odd man out on days that everyone could show up. The good news is it meant I had more time to wander from table to table and photograph games. So, I hope you enjoy the pictures in this update -- there are a lot more than usual!
While the dining room hosts (from left) Steve, Andy, Bruce, and Joe (not pictured)
Once again, my players were very accommodating and send in their strategic card play by email. We ended up with the following order (taking my Erie out of the chain):
Susquehannock > Kickapoo > Seneca > Shawnee > Honniasont > Miami > Mohawk > Neutrals
Close up of some of my 28mm Indians
Humorously, the Susquehannock decided to attack the Kickapoo, who'd thought by playing a higher War card they'd get to be the Attacker for a change. The two had fought last turn and Andy's Kickapoo had "kicked the poo" out of Steve's Susquehannock. Steve wanted revenge, and the scenario they rolled up was "Hold Them at the Gates." The battlefield centers on the winding, palisaded passageway that was the entry to a Kickapoo town. It turned sharply against the Susquehannock early when their leader was shot down and a momentary panic scattered their forces. Steve's warriors bravely regrouped and tried to force their way into Andy's town, but the Kickapoo's blood was up and they slew their enemy mercilessly. The Kickapoo scored a Major Victory, racking up 14 Scenario Victory Points (SVP) vs. Steve's 2.
Neutral trading party escorts pack horses through a narrow defile, ready for an ambush
Our next battle saw my two co-authors on Song of Drums and Tomahawks rules slugging it out. Mike's Seneca tribe had yet to lose a battle, and attacked the campaign leader, Keith's Neutral tribe. The only battle Keith had lost so far was in the opening turn, which was actually a tie, but I called it based on the scenario outcome in his opponent's favor. They rolled up "Ambush the Traders," and Keith brought over a couple special terrain pieces to recreate a defile for his Neutral trading party to be marching through with a column of packhorses. It looked great, and added a lot of atmosphere to what was easily our most brutal, blood-soaked game of the day.
Another closeup of native Americans painted for war
Mike's Seneca crept up on their Iroquois cousins and began sniping at them, picking off a few of Keith's warriors. He made his mistake when he decided to charge in and take the fight to the hand-to-hand stage. Keith had purchased many of his warriors on his roster with the "Strong" trait, which gives them a bonus in melee. This turned the tide in Keith's favor, but not before many warriors fell on both sides. For a more blow-by-blow account of the game, check out Keith's blog here: OrcaFinn's Basement
The wily Shawnee hold the confined space between two bark-covered longhouses
Our third battle only proved the wiliness of our second-place Shawnee. He chose to attack the new guy, Bruce's Honniasont, knowing not only would he be less familiar with the rules, but his forces would be less built up from accumulating SVPs and Beaver Pelts. In the campaign, players receive a higher proportion of troops armed with firearms the more Beaver Pelts they accumulate. They also receive more upgrade points for traits depending on how many SVPs they've accumulated in the campaign. Bruce decided to throw Joe a curveball, though. He took his entire force (minus his leader) as Youths. This meant the Honniasont outnumbered the Shawnee 17-10 in figures. Bruce confessed to me that his plan was to swarm the enemy. Either way, he would certainly be throwing Joe off his game. None of us had faced an opponent who used this tactic, yet.
Honniasont Youths advance towards towards the more experienced Shawnee raiders
They'd rolled up the "Slaughter Among the Lodges" scenario, which has the battle take place entirely within the palisade of the Honniasont town. Seeing the teeming hordes, Joe took a page from Thermopylae and placed his smaller number of warriors in the gap between two bark-covered longhouses. He decided to snipe away at the enemy at long range. His plan looked like it was working, as one or two of Bruce's warriors fell. But there was a flaw in Joe's plan. The Shawnee are no Greek hoplites. Each time a Shawnee gunned down an enemy, he would have to make a scalp check. Failure meant he would move uncontrolled towards the spot of his downed foe and attempt to scalp him. This was a facet of Eastern Woodlands warfare. Indian braves would commit acts that Europeans thought foolhardy. Honor and prestige was incredibly important in Native American society.
The Honniasont gather to move en masse towards the Shawnee, who are sniping at them from long range
So, guess who failed the first Shawnee scalp check? Joe's leader! The Shawnee tried their best to follow up their leader so that he would not be swarmed under by a pack of Honniasont Youths, but that is exactly what happened. The game could have been lost for Joe right there, but he rolled very well on his Morale checks. He was able to re-engage the Honniasont and began to whittle away at their numbers. The Honniasont gave it a good try, but the more experienced Shawnee warriors came out on top with a 18-5 Major Victory.
A moment of drama as the Shawnee leader in the green shirt charges into the midst of the Honniasont Youths
The final game I got to see very little of (I confess, I was enthralled by Bruce and Joe's game, and wanted to be there to help the newbie with advice if he asked). Our host Jenny and her Miami were still unable to notch a victory. Her forces have been frustrated in the first five turns, and she fell in the "Who's a Thief?" scenario to the Mohawk, 16-3. Everyone was appreciative of Jenny's pot of chili, though, if not earning a win, she received ample praise for feeding 9 hungry gamers!
Kickapoo race to block off the entrance from the Susquehannock raiders
I plan for this playtest to go 10 turns, so we are at the halfway point, now. Here's our Leaderboard, which shows the Neutrals continuing to dominate the contest for the Ohio Valley in the late 17th century. A surprise rise in the ranks to third came from the Kickapoo, who'd racked up two Major Victories in two turns.

Tribe
Place
Victory Points
Neutrals
1st
26 points
Shawnee
2nd
24 points
Kickapoo
3rd
19 points
Mohawk
Tied 4th
18 points
Seneca
Tied 4th
18 points
Susqehannock
6th
11 points
Miami
7th
10 points
Erie
8th
8 points
Honniasont
9th
3 points
Another shot of Keith's cool-looking defile as mayhem gets ready to unfold

These points come from three categories: Prestige Points, which come from Major and Minor Victories or Minor Defeats; Beaver Pelts; and Scenario Victory Points (SVPs). Here are the leaderboards in each of these, in case anybody is interested.

Tribe
Prestige Points (PPs)
Neutrals (Keith Finn)
13 (4 MajV, 1 MinD)
Shawnee (Joe Merz)
12 (2 MajV, 3 MinV)
Seneca (Mike Stelzer)
9 (1 MajV, 3 MinV)
Kickapoo (Andy Swingle)
7 (2 MajV, 1 MinD)
Mohawk (Dave Welch)
7 (2 MajV, 1 MinD)
Erie (Mike Demana)
5 (1 MajV, 2 MinD)
Susquehannock (Steve Phallen)
4 (1 MajV, 1 MinD)
Miami (Jenny Torbett)
3 (1 MinV, 1 MinD)
Honniasont (Bruce Adamczak)

Tribe
Scenario Victory Points (SVPs)
Neutrals (Keith Finn)
82
Shawnee (Joe Merz)
72
Seneca (Mike Stelzer)
54
Kickapoo (Andy Swingle)
47
Susquehannock (Steve Phallen)
42
Mohawk (Dave Welch)
41
Miami (Jenny Torbett)
36
Erie (Mike Demana)
32
Honniasont (Bruce Adamczak)
5

Tribe
Beaver Pelts
Mohawk (Dave Welch)
34
Neutrals (Keith Finn)
30
Kickapoo (Andy Swingle)
24
Shawnee (Joe Merz)
24
Miami (Jenny Torbett)
21
Seneca (Mike Stelzer)
18
Susquehannock (Steve Phallen)
18
Erie (Mike Demana)
15
Honniasont (Bruce Adamczak)
14

Our next game should be April 23rd, so stay tuned for that!

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